Aristotle-Ethics II


The Mean


Now this discussion has shown that habit does make all the difference to our lives without being the only thing shaping those lives and without being the final form they take. The same discussion also points to a way to make some sense of one of the things that has always puzzled me most in the Ethics, the insistence that moral virtue is always in its own nature a mean condition. Quantitative relations are so far from any serious human situation that they would seem to be present only incidentally or metaphorically, but Aristotle says that “by its thing-hood and by the account that unfolds what it is for it to be, virtue is a mean.” (1107a, 7-8) This invites such hopeless shallowness as in the following sentences from a recent article in the journal Ancient Philosophy (Vol. 8, pp. 101-4): “To illustrate …0 marks the mean (e.g. Courage); …Cowardice is -3 while Rashness is 3…In our number language…’Always try to lower the absolute value of your vice.’ ” This scholar thinks achieving courage is like tuning in a radio station on an analog dial. Those who do not sink this low might think instead that Aristotle is praising a kind of mediocrity, like that found in those who used to go to college to get “gentlemen’s C’s.” But what sort of courage could be found in these timid souls, whose only aim in life is to blend so well into their social surroundings that virtue can never be chosen in preference to a fashionable vice? Aristotle points out twice that every moral virtue is an extreme (1107a, 8-9, 22-4), but he keeps that observation secondary to an over-riding sense in which it is a mean.

Could there be anything at all to the notion that we hone in on a virtue from two sides? There is a wonderful image of this sort of thing in the novel Nop’s Trials by Donald McCaig. The protagonist is not a human being, but a border collie named Nop. The author describes the way the dog has to find the balance point, the exact distance behind a herd of sheep from which he can drive the whole herd forward in a coherent mass. When the dog is too close, the sheep panic and run off in all directions; when he is too far back, the sheep ignore him, and turn in all directions to graze. While in motion, a good working dog keeps adjusting his pace to maintain the exact mean position that keeps the sheep stepping lively in the direction he determines. Now working border collies are brave, tireless, and determined. They have been documented as running more than a hundred miles in a day, and they love their work. There is no question that they display virtue, but it is not human virtue and not even of the same form. Some human activities do require the long sustained tension a sheep dog is always holding on to, an active state stretched to the limit, constantly and anxiously kept in balance. Running on a tightrope might capture the same flavor. But constantly maintained anxiety is not the kind of stable equilibrium Aristotle attributes to the virtuous human soul.

I think we may have stumbled on the way that human virtue is a mean when we found that habits were necessary in order to counteract other habits. This does accord with the things Aristotle says about straightening warped boards, aiming away from the worse extreme, and being on guard against the seductions of pleasure. (1109a, 30- b9) The habit of abstinence from bodily pleasure is at the opposite extreme from the childish habit of yielding to every immediate desire. Alone, either of them is a vice, according to Aristotle. The glutton, the drunkard, the person enslaved to every sexual impulse obviously cannot ever be happy, but the opposite extremes, which Aristotle groups together as a kind of numbness or denial of the senses (1107b, 8), miss the proper relation to bodily pleasure on the other side. It may seem that temperance in relation to food, say, depends merely on determining how many ounces of chocolate mousse to eat. Aristotle’s example of Milo the wrestler, who needs more food than the rest of us do to sustain him, seems to say this, but I think that misses the point. The example is given only to show that there is no single action that can be prescribed as right for every person and every circumstance, and it is not strictly analogous even to temperance with respect to food. What is at stake is not a correct quantity of food but a right relation to the pleasure that comes from eating.

Suppose you have carefully saved a bowl of chocolate mousse all day for your mid-evening snack, and just as you are ready to treat yourself, a friend arrives unexpectedly to visit. If you are a glutton, you might hide the mousse until the friend leaves, or gobble it down before you open the door. If you have the opposite vice, and have puritanically suppressed in yourself all indulgence in the pleasures of food, you probably won’t have chocolate mousse or any other treat to offer your visitor. If the state of your soul is in the mean in these matters, you are neither enslaved to nor shut out from the pleasure of eating treats, and can enhance the visit of a friend by sharing them. What you are sharing is incidentally the 6 ounces of chocolate mousse; the point is that you are sharing the pleasure, which is not found on any scale of measurement. If the pleasures of the body master you, or if you have broken their power only by rooting them out, you have missed out on the natural role that such pleasures can play in life. In the mean between those two states, you are free to notice possibilities that serve good ends, and to act on them.

It is worth repeating that the mean is not the 3 ounces of mousse on which you settled, since if two friends had come to visit you would have been willing to eat 2 ounces. That would not have been a division of the food but a multiplication of the pleasure. What is enlightening about the example is how readily and how nearly universally we all see that sharing the treat is the right thing to do. This is a matter of immediate perception, but it is perception of a special kind, not that of any one of the five senses, Aristotle says, but the sort by which we perceive that a triangle is the last kind of figure into which a polygon can be divided. (1142a, 28-30) This is thoughtful and imaginative perceiving, but it has to be perceived. The childish sort of habit clouds our sight, but the liberating counter-habit clears that sight. This is why Aristotle says that the person of moral stature, the spoudaios, is the one to whom things appear as they truly are. (1113a, 30-1) Once the earliest habits are neutralized, our desires are disentangled from the pressure for immediate gratification, we are calm enough to think, and most important, we can see what is in front of us in all its possibility. The mean state here is not a point on a dial that we need to fiddle up and down; it is a clearing in the midst of pleasures and pains that lets us judge what seems most truly pleasant and painful.

Achieving temperance toward bodily pleasures is, by this account, finding a mean, but it is not a simple question of adjusting a single varying condition toward the more or the less. The person who is always fighting the same battle, always struggling like the sheep dog to maintain the balance point between too much and too little indulgence, does not, according to Aristotle, have the virtue of temperance, but is at best selfrestrained or continent. In that case, the reasoning part of the soul is keeping the impulses reined in. But those impulses can slip the reins and go their own way, as parts of the body do in people with certain disorders of the nerves. (1102b, 14-22) Control in self-restrained people is an anxious, unstable equilibrium that will lapse whenever vigilance is relaxed. It is the old story of the conflict between the head and the emotions, never resolved but subject to truces. A soul with separate, self-contained rational and irrational parts could never become one undivided human being, since the parties would always believe they had divergent interests, and could at best compromise. The virtuous soul, on the contrary, blends all its parts in the act of choice.

This is arguably the best way to understand the active state of the soul that constitutes moral virtue and forms character. It is the condition in which all the powers of the soul are at work together, making it possible for action to engage the whole human being. The work of achieving character is a process of clearing away the obstacles that stand in the way of the full efficacy of the soul. Someone who is partial to food or drink, or to running away from trouble or to looking for trouble, is a partial human being. Let the whole power of the soul have its influence, and the choices that result will have the characteristic look that we call “courage” or “temperance” or simply “virtue.” Now this adjective “characteristic” comes from the Greek word charactÍr, which means the distinctive mark scratched or stamped on anything, and which is apparently never used in the Nicomachean Ethics. In the sense of character of which we are speaking, the word for which is Íthos, we see an outline of the human form itself. A person of character is someone you can count on, because there is a human nature in a deeper sense than that which refers to our early state of weakness. Someone with character has taken a stand in that fully mature nature, and cannot be moved all the way out of it.

But there is also such a thing as bad character, and this is what Aristotle means by vice, as distinct from bad habits or weakness. It is possible for someone with full responsibility and the free use of intellect to choose always to yield to bodily pleasure or to greed. Virtue is a mean, first because it can only emerge out of the stand-off between opposite habits, but second because it chooses to take its stand not in either of those habits but between them. In this middle region, thinking does come into play, but it is not correct to say that virtue takes its stand in principle; Aristotle makes clear that vice is a principled choice that following some extreme path toward or away from pleasure is right. (1146b, 22-3) Principles are wonderful things, but there are too many of them, and exclusive adherence to any one of them is always a vice.

In our earlier example, the true glutton would be someone who does not just have a bad habit of always indulging the desire for food, but someone who has chosen on principle that one ought always to yield to it. In Plato’s Gorgias, Callicles argues just that, about food, drink, and sex. He is serious, even though he is young and still open to argument. But the only principled alternative he can conceive is the denial of the body, and the choice of a life fit only for stones or corpses. (492E) This is the way most attempts to be serious about right action go astray. What, for example, is the virtue of a seminar leader? Is it to ask appropriate questions but never state an opinion? Or is it to offer everything one has learned on the subject of discussion? What principle should rule?–that all learning must come from the learners, or that without prior instruction no useful learning can take place? Is there a hybrid principle? Or should one try to find the mid-way point between the opposite principles? Or is the virtue some third kind of thing altogether?

Just as habits of indulgence always stand opposed to habits of abstinence, so too does every principle of action have its opposite principle. If good habituation ensures that we are not swept away by our strongest impulses, and the exercise of intelligence ensures that we will see two worthy sides to every question about action, what governs the choice of the mean? Aristotle gives this answer: “such things are among particulars, and the judgment is in the act of sense-perception.” (1109b, 23-4) But this is the calmly energetic, thought-laden perception to which we referred earlier. The origin of virtuous action is neither intellect nor appetite, but is variously described as intellect through-and-through infused with appetite, or appetite wholly infused with thinking, or appetite and reason joined for the sake of something; this unitary source is called by Aristotle simply anthropos. (1139a, 34, b, S-7) But our thinking must contribute right reason (ho orthos logos) and our appetites must contribute rightdesire (hÍ orthÍ orexis) if the action is to have moral stature. (1114b, 29, 1139a, 24-6, 31-2) What makes them right can only be the something for the sake of which they unite, and this is what is said to be accessible only to sense perception. This brings us to the third word we need to think about.




Katerina Anghelaki Rooke//translated by Manolis Aligizakis



Κατερίνας Αγγελάκη Ρουκ//Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη





Έχω κλείσει όλα τα παράθυρα

που έβλεπαν στον κήπο της σάρκας.

Τα παντζούρια μόνο άγγιζαν

τα κλαδιά της αγάπης

που έγερναν ξεραμένα

κι άγγιζαν το χώμα.

Μακριά στεκόμουνα

από τη θέα των  θνητών αστεριών

φυλαγόμουνα μήπως κι επιθυμήσω.

Και τώρα; Χωρίς τίποτα ν’ αλλάξει

υπήρξε μόνο μια στιγμή

όπου ένα εύγλωττο βλέμμα

περιέγραφε κάτι

ασύγκριτα πιο συναρπαστικό

απ’ τη δική μου πραγματικότητα







I closed all the windows

that looked to the garden of flesh

the shutters only touch

the tree branches of love

that hang loose

and touch the ground

I stay away from

the view of mortal stars

I hide myself just not to desire.

And now? With nothing changed

only one moment is left

when the keen eye

will describe something

incomparably more exciting

than my own reality


ANTHOLOGY of  NEOHELLENIC POETRY, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, BC, autumn 2017


Tasos Livaditis/translated by Manolis Aligizakis





Η φτωχή Ραχήλ, ωχρή, με ανίατα όνειρα, θεραπευόταν τώρα

ανάμεσα στα μαύρα δέντρα, όπως ένα τυφλός που με το φλάουτο

κάνει ν’ανθίζει το σκοτάδι ή όπως τα παιδικά παιγνίδια που μια

μέρα εξαφανίζονται σα να τα πήρε μαζί του το παιδί — καθώς

πέθαινε, περίλυπο, μέσα στον άντρα.






Poor Rachel, pale, with incurable dreams, now healing herself

among the black trees like the blind man who with his flute makes

the darkness bloom or like the childhood games that one day

suddenly vanish as though a child took them along — as it was dying

sorrowfully into adulthood.



TASOS LIVADITIS-SELECTED POEMS, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, Vancouver, 2014

Yannis Ritsos/translated by Manolis Aligizakis




Κοντοστεκόταν στις βιτρίνες των μικρομάγαζων. Δεν είχε

τίποτα ν’ αγοράσει, μόνο που έτσι ακουγόταν καλύτερα

πίσω απ’ την πλάτη του η θάλασσα. Τότε είδε

τους τρεις λιμενεργάτες με τα μαύρα κασκέτα

που κουβαλούσαν βλαστημώντας σ’ ένα γυάλινο φορείο

ένα τεράστιο δασύτριχο ψάρι με κατακίτρινα μάτια.





He stopped short in front of window displays of small shops. He didn’t

want to buy anything, only this way the sea was

heard better behind his back. Then he saw

the three longshoremen with black caps

who cursed while carrying on a glass stretcher

a huge thick-haired fish with stark yellow eyes.



YANNIS RITSOS-SELECTED POEMS, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, BC, 2013

Tasos Livaditis//Τάσος Λειβαδίτης



ΜΕΓΑΛΟΙ βάρβαροι δρόμοι, στις αυλές έσφαζαν τ’ άκακα ζώα,

πίσω απ’ τις κολόνες οι δανειστές κοίταζαν χαιρέκακα την πόλη,

έμποροι και πλανόδιοι μάντεις, πάντα κακών, και γυναικόπαιδα

μαύρα στην αγορά

την ώρα που μες στο κύπελλο, που σήκωνε ο συνεπαρμένος να πιεί

έπεφτε άξαφνα

το κλειδί της βασιλείας.



LONG barbarous roads; in the backyards they slaughtered

the harmless animals; behind the columns lenders gazed the city

spitefully; merchants and travelling seers always of bad omens

and black women and children in the agora

at the hour when inside the cup that the enraptured raised to

drink, suddenly the key of kingdom fell.



~Tasos Livaditis-Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2014



Τάσος Λειβαδίτης//Tasos Livaditis

Tasos Livaditis_Vanilla



Ή μάλλον γιά νά `μαι πιο συγκεκριμένος όλα ξεκίνησαν απ’
αυτό το ρολόι, ένα ρολόι ηλίθιο και φαλακρό, εγώ τί έφταιξα —
απλώς καθόμουν τ’ απογεύματα ήσυχος στον καναπέ κι έτρωγα
τις θείες μου σε νεαρή ηλικία, αλλά μια μια, για να μη φανεί απότομα
η γύμνια του τοίχου ή μια φορά στο δρόμο έφτυσα αίμα, τόσο η
πόλη ήταν ακαλαίσθητη
και μόνον η έλλειψη κάθε ενδιαφέροντος για τους άλλους είναι
που έδωσε στη ζωή μας αυτό το ατέλειωτο βάθος.



Or perhaps to be more accurate it all started by
this clock a stupid bald headed clock, it wasn’t my fault —
every afternoon I simply sat quietly on the sofa and ate my
young unties, however but one by one so that the emptiness
of the wall wouldn’t show or another time in the street I spat
blood so much the city was inelegant
that only the lack of interest for others gave our lives
this endless depth.


~Τάσου Λειβαδίτη-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Tasos Livaditis-Selected Poems/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis

Dimitris Liantinis//Δημήτρης Λιαντίνης



Πριν οκτώ χρόνους έφυγε ο άνδρας μου Δημήτρης Λιαντίνης. Ήταν η πρώτη Ιουνίου 1998 όταν εξαφανίστηκε από το σπίτι μας και το επαγγελματικό πανεπιστημιακό του περιβάλλον. Και όχι απρόσμενα και απροσδόκητα. Το μόνο που δεν γνώριζα ήταν η μέρα και η ώρα.
Σχέδιο φυγής, αρχιστρατηγικό, όπως μου έλεγε, που το ετοίμαζε με απόλυτη ακρίβεια χρόνους πολλούς.
Άδειασε το πρώτο συρτάρι του γραφείου του και τοποθέτησε μέσα όσα σημαντικά έκρινε, όσα μου επέτρεψε να γνωρίζω για την τελευταία του πράξη. Άλλα με γλώσσα σαφή, άλλα με αινιγματική και μυθοπλαστική. Του μύθου όμως του φιλοσοφικού (πλατωνικός μύθος) που λέγει με σύμβολα όσα έχει απορία ο νους να εκφράσει με ορισμούς. Μου άφησε γραπτές εντολές και δικαιοδοσίες, εξουσιοδοτήσεις, το ημιτελές βιβλίο του για τον Καβάφη, που το έγραφε στο τέλος της δεκαετίας του 80 και ποτέ δεν περάτωσε, το ποιητικό του έργο που εκδίδω σήμερα, ένα ακόμη βιβλίο γραμμένο στις αρχές της δεκαετίας του 90, που ποτέ δεν εξέδωσε, και το πιο σημαντικό και διαφωτιστικό της πράξης του· ένα κείμενο που έγραψε την παραμονή της αναχώρησής του, στις 31 Μαίου 1998.
Πάνω στο γραφείο του υπήρχε ένα γράμμα προς την κόρη μας Διοτίμα. Το μόνο κείμενο που έδωσα μέχρι σήμερα στη δημοσιότητα, και αυτό την πρώτη εβδομάδα της εξαφάνισης, θέλοντας τότε να προστατεύσω την τιμή του απέναντι στα ανόσια σχόλια κάποιων δημοσιογράφων για το πρόσωπό του.

Έζησα πολλά και περίεργα αυτούς τους οκτώ χρόνους. Ώρες – ώρες ένιωθα να ξεχειλίζει η αδικία, όπως η γη στον κατακλυσμό. Της πληγής μου και της απορίας μου τον ψίθυρο αποκήρυσσε αμίλητη η προστασία του που γένναγε την ευκρασία στην αλλαγή από το σκοτάδι στο φως και αντίστροφα. Και το σκοτάδι έχει μέσα του φως. Το λυκαυγές.
Ό,τι οι δυο μας ζήσαμε 26 χρόνους ήταν το δρύινο σκαρί του Οδυσσέα, σημαδεμένη μοίρα, δαιμονικό (με την αρχαιοελληνική σημασία του όρου «δαίμων») παραμύθι. Είτε οι χρόνοι μας ήταν γελαστοί είτε λυπημένοι. Σπουδάσαμε την ευτυχία μας ζωγραφίζοντας μέρες και νύχτες στο δρόμο της μεγάλης επιστροφής. Ήταν η ιστορία μιας θάλασσας, όπως εκείνης των Κεχρεών, που κατακλύζει την ακρογιαλιά, το βράχο στο μπούρτζι, το δάσος αντίκρυ, το κορίτσι στον απέναντι λόφο που κοιμάται στο φως του φεγγαριού, την αντάρα της βροχής, τη θύελλα του ίμερου. Αγωνιστήκαμε να μεταλλάξουμε το θυμό της καταστροφής σε πνοή δημιουργίας. Και όλα με την ίδια αταραξία και βεβαιότητα του ίδιου θανάτου, που όταν θα ερχότανε, θάταν μόνο ένα άλλο παιγνίδισμα, ένας απλά διαφορετικός ήχος στην απεραντοσύνη του πελάγους.

Ο Λιαντίνης δημοσίευσε οκτώ βιβλία. Το τελευταίο ήταν η Γκέμμα. Το καταληκτικό αλλά και αποκαλυπτικό για τους σοβαρούς ερμηνευτές κεφάλαιο (π), σελ. 255, με τίτλο «Sonne über Austerlitz» είχε στο χειρόγραφό του αρχικά το παρακάτω περιεχόμενο:

«Καθώς ο Οκταβιανός Αύγουστος, γέροντας εβδομήντα δύο χρονώ, γύριζε αλλόφρονας στο παλάτι, χτύπαγε το κεφάλι του στους τοίχους*, και φώναζε: – Κοϊντιλιανέ Βάρε, δος μου πίσω τις λεγεώνες μου!
Δόστε μου πίσω τους συντρόφους! Στο Νυμφαίο του Ελικώνα μου! Τον Ηράκλειτο, τον Εμπεδοκλή, το Νίτσε, τον Πλάτωνα, το Δάντη, το Σολωμό, τον Αισχύλο!
Δόστε μου πίσω το έχει μου! Τους δοξασμένους πρίγκιπες των χρωμάτων και του χρόνου. Τον Ορλώφ, τον Κούλιναν, το Σάχη, το Μεγάλο Μογγόλο, τον Τίφανυ, το Φλωρεντίνο, τον Αστέρα του Νότου.
Δόστε μου πίσω τις αναπνοές μου, στον κήπο ανατολικά! Τη Λου, τη Λαμπιδούσα, τη Μυρτάλη, τη Μαριέ, την Ευτζενική, την Υπεριώδη, τη Διοτίμα.
Γιατί η διαφορά, η τρομερή, εστάθηκε ότι οι ποιητές, που μοιάζαν την αλήθεια, είπανε ψέματα.
Εγώ όμως, που μοιάζει με τα ψέματα, έζησα την αλήθεια.»

* στις καλυδώνιες πέτρες του παλατιού, χτύπαγε το κεφάλι στα σφηνώματα.

Στο τυπογραφείο άφησε τελικά μόνο τις δύο τελευταίες παραγράφους. Γιατί;…

Τα ποιήματά του ο Λιαντίνης τα έγραψε από το 1971 μέχρι τα μέσα της δεκαετίας του 80. Στην ερώτησή μου, γιατί δεν τα εκδίδει, μου απαντούσε: Γράφω και δημοσιεύω πλέον ποίηση μέσα από τον πεζό επιστημονικό λόγο. Αυτά θα μείνουν σε σένα, στα κατάλοιπά μου. Πίστευε ότι η αληθινή ποίηση είναι αυτόνομη πηγή ζωής. Αγάπημά της διαλεχτό η μορφή. Το έργο της, ανεπανάληπτο, έχει μέσα του την εντελέχειά της. Ο δημιουργός νικάει το θάνατο με το έργο του.
Με έμαθε ότι ο γνήσιος ποιητής ζει την αλήθεια, ότι ο ποιητής φανερώνει την αλήθεια, ότι ο ποιητής πεθαίνει, ότι η φανερωμένη αλήθεια έρχεται στο φως μετά το «θάνατό» του, ότι ο ποιητής ανασταίνεται, ότι τον τραγικό ποιητή συμπληρώνει ο αναστημένος ποιητής.

Οι ποιητικές του συλλογές είναι δύο. Οι ώρες των άστρων και Η όγδοη μέρα. Δημοσιεύω τα ποιήματα στο πολυτονικό σύστημα, όπως ακριβώς υπάρχουν στα χειρόγραφά του.

Το πλέον όμως σημαντικό ποιητικό του κείμενο είναι από έποψη μορφής και ουσίας εκείνο που έγραψε την παραμονή της εξαφάνισής του (31. Μαίου 1998) και που το ίδιο μιλάει για την τελευταία του πράξη. Αρκεί ο μελετητής του να διαθέτει ικανότητα ερμηνευτική και εκπαιδευμένη αντίληψη.
Το αποκαλύπτω για πρώτη φορά σήμερα και αφήνω τον ίδιο να μιλήσει για το «τέλος» της πράξης του εντελεχειακά.


«Έ συ, αρχηγέ της φύσης! Τιμημένε και πολυκράτη.
Με τα πολλά ονόματα στον εσπερινό και στον όρθρο.
Ύπατε και τιμητή στις φρουρές και στα κάστρα του χρόνου.
Και ισχυρέ δήμαρχε των συνελεύσεων της αγοράς.
Που κυβερνάς με το δίκιο το άγιο, και τον ίσιο νόμο.
Χαίρε! Στρατηγέ και δορυκτήτορα.
Ζώνεσαι τα αμφίστομα ξίφη στον τελαμώνα.
Και πολεμάς τούς απελάτες στα σύνορα. Πέρα μακριά.
Στα μαγνητικά πεδία και τις αντλαντκές βαρύτητες.
Καμαρώνω τη δύναμη και τα γκέμια σου.
Κρατάς τις πληγές του κεραυνού στο χέρι.
Όπως ο καπετάνιος το δοιάκι του καραβιού.
Ανοίγεις το δρόμο δύσκολα μέσα από την αλαλησιά της αγαμίας.
Αναμερίζοντας τον πανικό του χάους.
Και κυβερνάς στη γραμμή του κράτει.
Το πλοίο των άστρων και το ποτάμι του σύμπαντος.
Έχεις υπουργό το Βοριά. Ξεπαστρευτή και Νυκτέλιο.
Για τους σήψαιμους, και για τους θράσιους.
Έχεις και του θρόνου σου σύμβουλο το δαδούχο τον Ήλιο.
Αγνέ αθλητή του δέκαθλου και του φωτός.
Φιλιώνεις το νερό και τη φάγουσα φλόγα. Πλέκεις στεφάνι.
Στο ανώφλι της αυγής από αστραπή κι από νύχτα.
Κι όλα τ’ αγκαλιάζει η στοργική μοναξιά σου.
Περιστέρια και φίδια, καρπούς και ηφαίστεια,και νησιά και ίσκιους.
Το άχ! Και το δυόσμο.
Μόνο οι μωροί μη σε νιώθουν.
Οι άδικοι και οι ταγμένοι του φθόνου.
Ποτέ δε σε φτάνει η γκρεμισμένη ματιά τους.
Η μολυσμένη ανάσα τους.
Των χεριών τους οι κάκτοι.
Ο αραχνεώνας του νου τους.
Εσένα οι αμίαντοι καλοδέχουνται ξένο.
Σιωπηλοί όταν πίνουν το στόμα της θάλασσας.
Και τρώνε μαζί με τους μήνες.
Αγγίζουν τη χλαμύδα σου στο σβήσιμο της αστραπής.
Και το χέρι τους πετρωμένο ελάφι σε δείχνει.
Γνώριμε άγνωστε.

Ο Λιαντίνης δεν έχει πει όμως ακόμη το δικό του νόημα και περιεχόμενο στην τελευταία λέξη της Γκέμμας «αλήθεια». Κάποτε οι δείχτες του χρόνου θα γελάνε με πολλά ανεδαφικά και επιπόλαια που γράφτηκαν και ειπώθηκαν για την ζωή του, την κοινή μας πορεία και την πράξη του .
Όμως και τότε δεν θα έχει αλλάξει κάτι.
Νικολίτα Γεωργοπούλου – Λιαντίνη
Κηφισιά, 1 Ιουνίου 2006

Eight years ago Dimitris Liantinis passed on. It was June the 1st 1998 when he disappeared from our home and his professional world. His disappearance wasn’t unexpected, I only didn’t know the date and time of day.
An escape plan that of a general as he often said to me, one he was preparing in detail and for a lot of years.
He emptied the top drawer of his desk and placed in it what he considered important, what he wanted me to know regarding his last course of action. Some of his comments were crystal clear others enigmatic and mythopoetic. The philosophical myth that describes with symbols what the mind can’t express with terminology. He also left me with instructions, requests, right to do as I wish regarding a book about Constantine Cavafy he left half-finished, which he was writing the last years of 1980 but never completed, his poetry work which is published this year, another book he wrote during the `90ies but never published and his most significant clarifying note regarding his last action; a comment he wrote the night before he departed, May 31st 1998.
On the desk he left a letter for our daughter Diotima, the only material I released to the media during the first week after his disappearance in order to protect his honour opposite the impious comments of some news reporters regarding Liantinis.
I went through a lot and strange events during those eight months. At times I felt the overflowing injustice not different than the deluge. His silent absence served as having a soothing effect and a wonder on my wound, his absence that gave birth to the benevolent feeling we sometimes have when light succeeds darkness and vise-versa. Even darkness has light in it: the twilight.
What Dimitris and I lived together, 26 years of marriage was the of oak tree craft of Odysseus, the marked Fate, a demonic (with the ancient Greek meaning of the word demon) fable. Our years were sometimes smiling other times sorrowful. We studied happiness by painting for days and nights the great return. It was the story of the sea, like the sea of Kechrees- Korinth that floods the seashore, the rock of Bourtsi, the opposite forest, the girl who sleeps under the moonlight on the opposite hill, the wrath of rain, the storm of sexual arousal. We fought to transcend the anger of destruction into the breath of creativity and all this with the calmness and certainty of the same death which whenever it would come it would be nothing but a game, simply a different sound in the endlessness of the sea.
He wrote all his poems between 1971 and 1985. To my question why he wouldn’t publish them he would answer “I write and publish poetry through my scientific prose. These poems will be left to you. He believed that true poetry has its own spring life as it is an exquisite form of expression; its purpose, irreplaceable, has in it its final completeness: the creator turns into an immortal.
Liantinis learned that the true poet experiences truth and reveals the truth; he learned that the poet dies and reveals the truth after his death; that the tragic poet is completed by the re-risen poet. He wrote two poetry collections: The Hour of the Stars and The Eight Day which are included in this publication.
However his most important poem in content and substance is the one he wrote on March 31st 1998 the night before he left; this poem speaks of his final course of action. I reveal this poem for the first time today and I let it speak to the discerning reader of the final completeness, of Dimitris Liantinis’ last course of action.


Hey, you leader of nature! Honored master of everything
with many names in the evening vespers and in the matins
consul and censor in the guards and castles of time and
powerful mayor in the meetings of the agora.
You who with justice govern the holy and right law
hail to You! General and holder of the spear
you criss-cross two swords in your bandolier and
you fight the frontiersmen at the borders. Far away
in the magnetic field and in the gravity of the Atlantic
I admire the power and your reins.
You hold the wound of thunderbolt in your hand
like a captain holds the tiller of the boat
you draw a difficult path through the silence of celibacy
putting aside the panic of chaos and
you control along the line of the sustainable
the ship of the stars and the river of the universe.
You have the North Wind as your minister: killer and nocturnal
for the septiaemic and the audacious and
you have the torchbearer Sun as your throne advisor.
Pure athlete of the decathlon and the light
you make friends of the water and the devouring fire. You fashion a wreath
on the cornice of dawn made of the lightning and the night.
Your loving loneliness embraces everything
doves and snakes, fruits and volcanos and islands and shadows
the ah! And the mint.
Only that the fools don’t sense you
the unjust and the dedicated to hatred
never let their tumbled glance reach you
their infected breath
the cactuses of their hands
the spider webs of their minds.
Your chaste people welcome the foreigner
when silently they drink the mouth of the sea and
eat along with the months
they touch your chlamys in the blowing out of the lightning and
their hands, petrified does, show you.
Familiar and unknown.


Liantinis yet hasn’t said his meaning and his explanation of truth, the last word of GEMMA. At some time the fingers of time will laugh with the lot of unsubstantiated and foolish reports written and said about his life, about our common path and his final course of action.
However even then nothing will be changed.

~Nikolitsa Georgopoulos-Liantinis, Kifisia, 1st of June 2006

Odysseus Elytis//Οδυσσέας Ελύτης




Εκεί που πρώτα εκατοικούσε ο ήλιος
που με τα μάτια μιας παρθένας άνοιγε ο καιρός
καθώς εχιόνιζε απ’ το σκούντημα της μυγδαλιάς ο αγέρας
κι άναβαν στις κορφές των χόρτων καβαλάρηδες.

Εκεί που χτύπαγεν η οπλή ενός πλάτανου λεβέντικου
και μια σημαία πλατάγιζε ψηλά γη κι ουρανό
που όπλο ποτέ σε πλάτη δεν εβάραινε
μα όλος ο κόπος τ’ ουρανού
όλος ο κόσμος έλαμπε σαν μια νεροσταγόνα
πρωί, στα πόδια του βουνού.

Τώρα, σαν από στεναγμό Θεού ένας ίσκιος μεγαλώνει.

Τώρα η αγωνία σκυφτή με χέρια κοκαλιάρικα
πιάνει και σβύνει ένα ένα τα λουλούδια επάνω της
μες στις χαράδρες όπου τα νερά σταμάτησαν
από λιμό χαράς κείτουνται τα τραγούδια
βράχοι καλόγεροι με κρύα μαλλιά
κόβουνε σιωπηλοί της ερημιάς τον άρτο.

Χειμώνας μπαίνει ώς το μυαλό. Κάτι κακό
θ’ ανάψει. Αγριεύει η τρίχα του αλογόβουνου

τα όρνια μοιράζουνται ψηλά τις ψύχες τ’ ουρανού.


There where the sun used to dwell
where time was opening with the eyes of a virgin
as the wind was snowing from the nudging almond tree
and horse riders were lit on the peaks of grass

There where the hoof of a splendid maple tree struck
and a flag was high flapping earth and water
where weapons never burdened the backs
but all the tiredness of the sky
the whole world shone like a waterdrop
in the morning at the feet of the mountain

Now, as if from God’s sigh a shadow spreads

Now a stooping agony with bony hands
takes and wipes out onto herself one by one the flowers
in the crevasses where waters stopped from
the famine of joy the songs recline;
monks of rocks with cold hair
silently break the bread of desolation.

Winter cuts reaching the bone. Something evil
will be ignited. The mountain-horse’s hair goes wild

Vultures on high share the sky’s crumbs.

~Translated by Manolis Aligizakis

Tasos Livaditis//Τάσος Λειβαδίτης




Ανέβαινα απ’ ώρα τη σκάλα, μου άνοιξε μια γριά με μια μαύρη
σκούφια, “εδώ έχουν πεθάνει πολλοί” μου λέει “γι αυτό ό,τι κι αν
πεις δεν ακούγεται”, τότε είδα κάποιον που σερνόταν κάτω απ’ τον
καναπέ, “τί ψάχνει;” ρώτησα, “ο Χριστός” μου λέει “θα `ρθει κι
άλλες φορές”, η γυναίκα έριχνε τα χαρτιά, τρόμαξα καθώς είδα το
χέρι της ν’ ανεβαίνει, “θα χάσεις πολλές φορές το δρόμο” μου λέει,
“μα πώς θα τον χάσω” της λέω “εγώ είμαι ανήπηρος και δεν περ-
πατάω, άλλος σέρνει το καροτσάκι”, “κι όμως θα τον χάσεις” μου
λέει, “είσαι μια πουτάνα” της λέω “να με ταράζεις άγιον άνθρωπο
—κι εσύ, αφού κανένας δε σε θέλει, γιατί κουνιέσαι;”, “δεν κουνιέ-
μαι εγώ” μου λέει “το καντήλι τρέμει”, την λυπήθηκα, “σε ξέρω”
τής λέω “δέν αποκλείεται, μάλιστα, να `χουμε ζήσει πολύν καιρό
μαζί”, η ώρα ήταν επτά ακριβώς, κοίταξα το ρολόι μου κι έδειχνε
κι εκείνο το ίδιο, “τώρα αρχίζει” σκέφτηκα με απόγνωση, κι η
γριά με συρτά βήματα πήγε και μαντάλωσε την πόρτα.



I was going up the stairs for a while when an old woman with a black
hood opened the door “everyone has died here” she says to me
“whatever you say nobody listens”; then I saw someone crawling
under the sofa “what is he looking for?” I asked “Christ” she says to me
“will come a few more times”; the woman started to read the cards
I was scared when I saw her hand pointing at me “you will lose
your way many a time” she says to me “how can I lose it” I say
“I’m crippled, I don’t walk, someone else pulls the cart”, “you will still
lose it”, “you are a whore” I say to her “and you disturb me, a holy man
—and you, if no one wants you why do you tease me?”, “I don’t tease
you, it’s the candle that flickers”; I felt sorry for her. “I know you”
I say to her “in fact it’s possible that we lived together long time ago”
the time was exactly seven o’clock; I looked at my watch and it showed
the same time “now she’ll start again” I thought in despair and
the old woman with slow steps went and locked the door.



Tasos Livaditis (Anastasios Panteleimon Livaditis) was born in Athens April 20, 1922, son of Lissandros Livaditis and Vasiliki Kontoloulou. He was enrolled in the Law School of the University of Athens. German occupation interrupted his studies and his involvement with the Resistance and the political party EPON. His father, bankrupt by this time died during the occupation years and while the poet was exiled in Makronisos his mother also died. In 1946 he got married to Maria Stoupa, the valuable companion of his life and they had a daughter, Vassiliki. That same year he made his first literary appearance with the publication of his poem The Hatzidimitri Song in Elefthera Grammata. In 1947 he coordinated the release of the literary magazine Themelio. The years 1948-1952 he was exiled in Moudros, Saint Stratis, Makronisos along with all leftist artists and thinkers, Yannis Ritsos, Aris Alexandrou, Manos Katrakis, and many others. In 1952 his poetry books Battle at the Edge of the Night and This Star is for all of us were noticed. Three years later he was taken by the police because of his book It Blows in the Crossroads of the World but he was acquitted. His book Women with Equine Eyes, 1958, was a landmark in his literary career and his turn into the introverted and existential poetry of his middle life. In 1961 he went on a country tour along with Mikis Theodorakis who presented his poems set in music and Tasos Livaditis interacted with the audience reciting his poems and talking to them. The same year he collaborated with Kosta Kotzias in the writing of the script and the poems for the Alekos Alexandrakis film Neighbourhood of Dreams which was the turning point of Greek cinema but which was censored by the police. Livaditis co-operated with the newspaper Avgi from 1954-1980 with the exception of seven years during the dictatorship of the four colonels and with the magazine Art Review1962-1966 where he published a few political reviews and critiques. During the dictatorship 1967-1974 he translated various Greek literary works for commercial magazines in order to earn his living while he reminiscent the old days of the struggle and he reflected at the harshness of modern day life something he couldn’t accept a stand that reflected in his poetry of those days and in particular in his book Night Visitor. In 1986 he published his book Violets for a Season which is considered his swan song. He died in Athens, October 30th 1988 of an abdominal aneurism. The rest of his hand written poems were published after his death in a book titled Autumn Handwritings.
He was the recipient of the First Poetry Prize in the World Youth Poetry Festival of Warsaw 1953, the First Poetry Prize of the City of Athens, 1957; the second National Literary Prize for poetry 1976; the First National Literary prize for poetry 1979.
Livaditis was a founding member of the Company of Writers.
His verses were set in music by Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Loizos, George Tsagaris and other Greek music composers.

~Τάσου Λειβαδίτη-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Tasos Livaditis-Selected Poems/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis

George Seferis//Γιώργος Σεφέρης

George Seferis_cover

George Seferis’ Speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1963 (Translation)

I feel at this moment that I am a living contradiction. The Swedish Academy has decided that my efforts in a language famous through the centuries but not widespread in its present form are worthy of this high distinction. It is paying homage to my language – and in return I express my gratitude in a foreign language.

I hope you will accept the excuses I am making to myself. I belong to a small country. A rocky promontory in the Mediterranean, it has nothing to distinguish it but the efforts of its people, the sea, and the light of the sun. It is a small country, but its tradition is immense and has been handed down through the centuries without interruption. The Greek language has never ceased to be spoken. It has undergone the changes that all living things experience, but there has never been a gap. This tradition is characterized by love of the human; justice is its norm. In the tightly organized classical tragedies the man who exceeds his measure is punished by the Erinyes. And this norm of justice holds even in the realm of nature.

«Helios will not overstep his measure»; says Heraclitus, «otherwise the Erinyes, the ministers of Justice, will find him out». A modern scientist might profit by pondering this aphorism of the Ionian philosopher. I am moved by the realization that the sense of justice penetrated the Greek mind to such an extent that it became a law of the physical world. One of my masters exclaimed at the beginning of the last century,

«We are lost because we have been unjust» He was an unlettered man, who did not learn to write until the age of thirty-five. But in the Greece of our day the oral tradition goes back as far as the written tradition, and so does poetry. I find it significant that Sweden wishes to honour not only this poetry, but poetry in general, even when it originates in a small people. For I think that poetry is necessary to this modern world in which we are afflicted by fear and disquiet. Poetry has its roots in human breath – and what would we be if our breath were diminished? Poetry is an act of confidence – and who knows whether our unease is not due to a lack of confidence?

Last year, around this table, it was said that there is an enormous difference between the discoveries of modern science and those of literature, but little difference between modern and Greek dramas. Indeed, the behaviour of human beings does not seem to have changed. And I should add that today we need to listen to that human voice which we call poetry, that voice which is constantly in danger of being extinguished through lack of love, but is always reborn. Threatened, it has always found a refuge; denied, it has always instinctively taken root again in unexpected places. It recognizes no small nor large parts of the world; its place is in the hearts of men the world over. It has the charm of escaping from the vicious circle of custom.

I owe gratitude to the Swedish Academy for being aware of these facts; for being aware that language which are said to have restricted circulation should not become barriers which might stifle the beating of the human heart; and for being a true Areopagus, able «to judge with solemn truth life’s ill-appointed lot», to quote Shelley, who, it is said, inspired

Alfred Nobel, whose grandeur of heart redeems inevitable violence. In our gradually shrinking world, everyone is in need of all the others. We must look for man wherever we can find him. When on his way to Thebes Oedipus encountered the Sphinx, his answer to its riddle was: «Man». That simple word destroyed the monster. We have many monsters to destroy. Let us think of the answer of Oedipus.

~From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969


Γιῶργος Σεφέρης – Ὁμιλία κατὰ την ἀπονομὴ του Νόμπελ Λογοτεχνίας στη Στοκχόλμη


Τούτη την ώρα αἰσθάνομαι πως είμαι ο ίδιος μία ἀντίφαση. Ἀλήθεια, η Σουηδικὴ Ἀκαδημία, έκρινε πως η προσπάθειά μου σε μία γλώσσα περιλάλητη επὶ αιώνες, αλλὰ στην παρούσα μορφή της περιορισμένη, άξιζε αυτὴ την υψηλὴ διάκριση. Θέλησε να τιμήσει τη γλώσσα μου, και να – εκφράζω τώρα τις ευχαριστίες μου σε ξένη γλώσσα. Σας παρακαλώ να μου δώσετε τη συγνώμη που ζητώ πρώτα -πρώτα απὸ τον εαυτό μου.
Ανήκω σε μία χώρα μικρή. Ένα πέτρινο ἀκρωτήρι στη Μεσόγειο, που δεν έχει άλλο ἀγαθὸ παρὰ τὸν αγώνα του λαού, τη θάλασσα, και το φως του ήλιου. Είναι μικρὸς ο τόπος μας, αλλὰ η παράδοσή του είναι τεράστια και το πράγμα που τη χαρακτηρίζει είναι ότι μας παραδόθηκε χωρὶς διακοπή. Η ἑλληνικὴ γλώσσα δεν έπαψε ποτέ της να μιλιέται. Δέχτηκε τις αλλοιώσεις που δέχεται καθετὶ ζωντανό, ἀλλὰ δεν παρουσιάζει κανένα χάσμα. Άλλο χαρακτηριστικὸ αὐτής της παράδοσης είναι η ἀγάπη της για την ἀνθρωπιά, κανόνας της είναι η δικαιοσύνη. Στην ἀρχαία τραγωδία, την οργανωμένη με τόση ακρίβεια, ο άνθρωπος που ξεπερνά το μέτρο, πρέπει να τιμωρηθεί απὸ τις Ερινύες.
Όσο για μένα συγκινούμαι παρατηρώντας πώς η συνείδηση της δικαιοσύνης είχε τόσο πολὺ διαποτίσει την ελληνικὴ ψυχή, ώστε να γίνει κανόνας του φυσικού κόσμου. Κι ένας απὸ τους διδασκάλους μου, των αρχών του περασμένου αιώνα, γράφει: «… θα χαθούμε γιατί αδικήσαμε …». Αυτὸς ο άνθρωπος ήταν ἀγράμματος. Είχε μάθει να γράφει στα τριάντα πέντε χρόνια της ηλικίας του. Αλλὰ στην Ελλάδα των ημερών μας, η προφορικὴ παράδοση πηγαίνει μακριὰ στα περασμένα όσο και η γραπτή. Το ίδιο και η ποίηση. Είναι για μένα σημαντικὸ το γεγονὸς ότι η Σουηδία θέλησε να τιμήσει και τούτη την ποίηση καὶ όλη την ποίηση γενικά, ακόμη και όταν ἀναβρύζει ἀνάμεσα σ᾿ ένα λαὸ περιορισμένο. Γιατί πιστεύω πως τούτος ο σύγχρονος κόσμος όπου ζοῦμε, ο τυραννισμένος απὸ το φόβο και την ανησυχία, τη χρειάζεται την ποίηση. Η ποίηση έχει τις ρίζες της στην ανθρώπινη ανάσα – και τί θα γινόμασταν άν η πνοή μας λιγόστευε; Είναι μία πράξη ἐμπιστοσύνης – κι ένας Θεὸς το ξέρει άν τα δεινά μας δεν τα χρωστάμε στη στέρηση εμπιστοσύνης.
Παρατήρησαν, τον περασμένο χρόνο γύρω απὸ τούτο το τραπέζι, την πολὺ μεγάλη διαφορὰ ανάμεσα στις ανακαλύψεις της σύγχρονης ἐπιστήμης και στη λογοτεχνία. Παρατήρησαν πως ανάμεσα σ᾿ ένα ἀρχαίο ελληνικὸ δράμα κι ένα σημερινό, η διαφορὰ είναι λίγη. Ναι, η συμπεριφορὰ του ανθρώπου δε μοιάζει να έχει αλλάξει βασικά. Και πρέπει να προσθέσω πως νιώθει πάντα την ανάγκη ν᾿ ακούσει τούτη την ανθρώπινη φωνὴ που ονομάζουμε ποίηση. Αυτὴ η φωνὴ που κινδυνεύει να σβήσει κάθε στιγμὴ απὸ στέρηση αγάπης και ολοένα ξαναγεννιέται. Κυνηγημένη, ξέρει ποὺ νά ῾βρει καταφύγιο, απαρνημένη, έχει το ένστικτο να πάει να ριζώσει στοὺς πιο απροσδόκητους τόπους. Γι᾿ αυτὴ δεν υπάρχουν μεγάλα και μικρὰ μέρη του κόσμου. Το βασίλειό της είναι στις καρδιὲς όλων των ανθρώπων της γης. Έχει τη χάρη ν᾿ αποφεύγει πάντα τη συνήθεια, αυτὴ τη βιομηχανία. Χρωστώ την ευγνωμοσύνη μου στη Σουηδικὴ Ακαδημία που ένιωσε αυτὰ τα πράγματα, που ένιωσε πως οι γλώσσες, οι λεγόμενες περιορισμένης χρήσης, δεν πρέπει να καταντούν φράχτες όπου πνίγεται ο παλμὸς της ανθρώπινης καρδιάς, που έγινε ένας Άρειος Πάγος ικανὸς να κρίνει με αλήθεια επίσημη την άδικη μοίρα της ζωής, για να θυμηθώ τον Σέλλεϋ, τον εμπνευστή, καθὼς μας λένε, του Αλφρέδου Νομπέλ, αυτοῦ του ανθρώπου που μπόρεσε να εξαγοράσει την αναπόφευκτη βία με τη μεγαλοσύνη της καρδιάς του.
Σ᾿ αυτὸ τον κόσμο, που ολοένα στενεύει, ο καθένας μας χρειάζεται όλους τους άλλους. Πρέπει ν᾿ αναζητήσουμε τον άνθρωπο, όπου και να βρίσκεται.
Όταν στο δρόμο της Θήβας, ο Οιδίπους συνάντησε τη Σφίγγα, κι αυτὴ του έθεσε το αίνιγμά της, η απόκρισή του ήταν: ο άνθρωπος. Τούτη η απλὴ λέξη χάλασε το τέρας. Έχουμε πολλὰ τέρατα να καταστρέψουμε. Ας συλλογιστούμε την απόκριση του Οἰδίποδα.