Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Mythistorema is a poem about the continuity of past and present as it is preserved in personal experience and cultural memory. More specifically, it is about the attempt to discover the heroic past of ancient Greece in the modern landscape. For Seferis, this attempt is a contemporary odyssey, an imaginative journey through the Greek experience, both ancient and modern, which consists of a shared spiritual and historical experience of suffering and disaster. Kimon Friar’s translation of the title of this work “The Myth of Our History,” suggests that the poem is the story of this shared experience, part myth and part history.
Memory and imagination are the vehicles of this journey, which is really an act of understanding. The narrator’s quest in search of the origins of his Greek identity unifies the poem’s imagery of the sea, which can be, like life, both embittering and soothing. Seferis has commented that “the bows of ships have a special place in the imagery of our childhood, as perhaps do the shapes of footballs or the photos of deceased relatives for other people.” When the narrator tries to recall friends who have sailed away, both memory and imagination fail him; only while sleeping in cellars that smell of tar, like the hold of a ship, does he come close to them and “the breathing wave.” His true search, however, is for the life of imagination wedded to experience, which the friends represent: “we search for them...
(The entire section is 892 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Mythistorema Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!