The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Miniature” is a free-verse poem of fourteen lines. The title, especially in Greek, denotes a small-scale drawing of the type that Yannis Ritsos is known to have drawn on hundreds of stones and on the backs of Greek cigarette boxes. While the title self-consciously limits the size of the poem, it is deceptive in that it does not indicate its scope.

The poem captures an awkward moment in which two people who are about to have tea are unable to connect. A woman of indeterminate age stands at a table, slicing lemons. The slices, with sections like spokes, are compared to the wheels of a carriage in a fairy tale. A young officer is sitting nearby, “buried” in his armchair. A tangible distance separates them. Instead of looking at her, he lights a cigarette with a trembling hand.

Time stands still, in the “heartbeat” of a clock. The moment passes, and it is “too late” to act upon the unspecified “something” that has been “postponed.” The chance for the two to connect has been lost. Instead of facing each other, they escape into a mundane activity: “Let’s drink our tea.”

The poem concludes with a series of rhetorical questions. At first glance, these seem unrelated to what has happened, or rather to what has not happened, since the focus of the poem is on the absence of action. “Is it possible, then, for death to come in that kind of carriage?” Evidently, there has been a death, as though life not...

(The entire section is 437 words.)