War in the Poetry of George Seferis
by C. Capri-Karka
George Seferis, the greatest modern Greek poet, was the recipient of the 1963 Nobel Prize for literature. In his unique poetry he condemns war, convinced that there is an alternative to pain and suffering: he suggests that men “should consider where they are going.” Wars do not stop because our wish to stop them is not strong enough; humankind, throughout the centuries, tolerates and accepts the insanity of war.
Seferis goes deep into human motivation and sees war not only as a conflict of interests and nations or as the work of impersonal forces but also as a conflict in human relations resulting from human weakness, greed, dishonesty and selfishness. War, as reflected in his poetry, is the ultimate complication of the tragic human condition. It would, however, be a mistake to see in Seferis only his tragic sense of life and miss his message, his belief in balance and measure. He believes that the violation of this balance constitutes hubris in the Aeschylean sense and war is presented in his poetry as such a hubris.
Seferis’ position is very clear: man’s relation to his fellow man is too often that of the wolf and the sheep. The same is true, on a larger scale, with nations. As long as in societies the law of domination of the strongest over the weak (in other words, the law of the jungle) continues to prevail, wars will be perpetuated. The only alternative for a peaceful coexistence of nations, Seferis thinks, is for people to use justice and Logos. “The value of man has always been in his refusal to accept the law of destruction.”