The poem “Mr. Stratis Thalassinos Describes a Man” is a five-part poem in which the Nobel Prize-winning Greek poet George Seferis describes the stages of the life of a man: child, adolescent, young man, and man. These stages of life can be seen as the development of all people, keeping in mind that the poet, writing in June, 1932, was not cognizant of later, less gender-identified language. Translated from the original Greek, the poem has a narrative style, does not include rhyme, and features recurring images of the Greek physical landscape, as well as references to Greek mythology and the Greek Orthodox Church.
Seferis was born in Smyrna (now zmir), Asia Minor, which was then inhabited by Greeks, and was later raised in Athens. He went to law school in France and prepared for a dual career as poet and diplomat. As a thirty-year-old man on assignment in London, Seferis wrote this poem to describe the dreams and aims of youth as they matured into adulthood.
Although Seferis was known later as a nationalistic poet, his youthful poems vibrate with a sensuality and awareness of the physical body, of nature and the effects of natural elements on human life. In this poem the combination of abstract ideas and concrete images makes his poetry accessible to people of any culture and from any age. This universality is one of the reasons for which Seferis was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1963. In his acceptance speech Seferis described his work: “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?” Seferis deserves a place among the great poets of the twentieth century because he read and translated Paul Valéry, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Henry Miller, and Lawrence Durrell and added his voice to theirs.