Revolving Cranks

Revolving Cranks - Photographic Portrait of Andreas Embirikos
Photographic Portrait of Andreas Embirikos

Andreas Embirikos‘s poem Revolving Cranks is included in the poetry collection entitled Body of the Morning (Σώμα της Πρωίας), along with six more poems, written between 1935 and 1936. All the poems of the collection were included in the famous collective edition of Hinterland (Ἐνδοχώρα, 1934-1937), which was published in 1945 by Tetradio (Τετράδιο) publishing house, in 470 numbered copies.

Andreas Embirikos (September 2, 1901 – August 3, 1975) was an emblematic personality of Greek letters. Born in Brăila, Romania, he studied economics in Lausanne, philosophy and literature in London, while in Paris he was initiated into psychoanalysis. He dealt with poetry, prose and photography and practiced for many years the profession of psychoanalyst.

Universal man being, Andreas Embirikos was the rapporteur of Surrealism in Greece, a movement from which he never left – at least until his death.

Andreas Embirikos - Revolving Cranks

For Leonidas A. Embirikos

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
White on your body yellow on the smokestacks
For you have grown tired of the harbors’ foul waters
You who have loved the distant scattered isles
You who have raised the highest rebel flags
You who weave boldly through the most hazardous squalls
I hail you for yielding to the sirens’ charms
I hail you for never having feared the symplegades.

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
In the sea glittering with gulls
And I am in one of your cabins as you are in my heart.

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
Breezes that recognize us undo their hair
They too are coming forth with their folds clanging
Some in white and some in purple
Folds of heartbeats folds of joy
Of those betrothed and those already wedded.

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
Voices here and whales at your passage below
From your bilge children derive beatitude
From your face their resemblance to you
And you are like those that you and I know
For we know what a whale means
And how fishermen track down their prey.

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
Cowards are those who secretly deride you
Those who sell your nets and eat fat
While you are traversing marine prairies
And reach the feathery ports
With the jewels of the beautiful mermaid
Who still bears your kisses on her breast.

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
Your smoke is the tentacle of destiny
Which unwinds in the air and ascends
Like the dark hair of a sensuous celestial virgin
Like the muezzin’s lyrical cry
When your prow shines on the wave
As Allah’s word on the Prophet’s lips
As in his hand his bright unerring sword.

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
In the orbits of deep-folded furrows
Gleaming like orbits of triumph in your wake
Ditches of defloration quivering trails of pleasure
In the sunshine’s dazzle or underneath the stars
When cranks are turning faster and you sow
Foam to the right and to the left across the waters’ shudder.

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
I think that our journeys coincide
I believe that we two are alike
Our circles belong to the universe
We ancestors of hatched generations
Remorseless we weave and proceed
We spinning mills and factories
Plains seas and resorts
Where brave boys meet up with lasses
And later write on the sky the words
Armala Porana and Velma.

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
Apple trees are always blooming in our heart
With their sweet juices and the shade
That girls visit at noon
To taste love in our company
And later to behold the ports
With their high steeples and towers
That mainland maids sometimes climb
To have their hair dried.

O ocean-steamer you sing and weave
The harps of our abundant joy resound
With the wind’s whistling from stern to prow
With birds on the masts’ wires
With the echo of memories like spyglasses
Which I hold up to my eyes and see
The approach of islands and seas
The retreat of dolphins and quails
We hunters of dream enchantment
Of the destination that moves on but never stops
As daybreak never stops
Shudders never stop
Waves never stop
Ships’ foam never stops
Nor do our songs to the women that we love.

Translation: Nikos Stabakis

The poem by Andreas Embirikos, titled Revolving Cranks, is included in the Hinterland poetic collection of 1945

Audio Document

Andreas Embirikos reads the Revolving Cranks (From ‘Ο Εμπειρίκος διαβάζει Εμπειρίκο’ – «Διόνυσος» 1964).

  1. Stabakis, N. (2012). Surrealism in Greece: An Anthology. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
  2. Εμπειρίκος, Α. (2012). Ενδοχώρα [Hinterland]. Αθήνα: Άγρα.

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