Demetrios Capetanakis: The Isles of Greece

Demetrios Capetanakis (1912 – 1944)                          

The Isles of Greece

The sun is not in love with us,
Nor the corrosive sea;
Yet both will burn our dried-up flesh
In deep intimacy.

With stubborn tongues of briny death
And heavy snakes of fire,
Which writhe and hiss and crack the Greek
Myth of the singing lyre.

The dusty fig-tree cries for help,
Two peasants kill a snake,
While in our rocky heart the gods
Of marble hush and creek.

After long ages all our love
Became a barren fever,
Which makes us glow in martyrdom
More beautiful than ever.

Yet when the burning horses force
Apollo to dismount
And rest with us at last, he says
That beauty does not count.

~ ~ ~
Demetrios Capetanakis was born in Smyrna (now Izmir in Turkey) on 22 January 1912. He was educated at Athens University, where he studied political science and economics and published several philosophical works.
From 1934 to 1936, he studied at Heidelberg University under Karl Jaspers, where he obtained a PhD.
In 1939, with a British Council scholarship, Capetanakis came to England to study at the University of Cambridge under Dadie Rylands at King's College. It was there that he met John Lehmann, the subsequent editor of New Writing and of Penguin New Writing, who became a close friend and after Capetanakis's death the publisher of Capetanakis's poetry.
Capetanakis left Cambridge in 1941 to join the press office of the Greek embassy in London; but before that he already showed signs of the leukemia which eventually killed him. 
He died at Westminster Hospital, London, on 9 March, 1944.

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