September 1st, 1939.
Cicalas burst the air, a heat-haze quivers
on the pale plain, the glittering olive-trees.
The aerodrome vibrates, Mount Parnes shivers,
the tamarisks squirm like flames waved in a breeze.
In that fierce blaze the scorched rock-garden shimmers,
even the white verandah dazzles our sight.
We step inside, where Dresden china glimmers
and ivories gleam in this green-shaded light.
I became peeved outside. Too hot … As hot as
Dante’s Inferno. Now I can indulge
coolly in nick-nacks. Tanagra terra-cottas
smile from their shelves, archaic vases bulge
seductively. My host displays his treasures, –
rare coins, fine books, quaint bits of this and that.
We settle down and reminisce of pleasures
had here and there… But Madame will not chat.
There is an awkward silence. Harsh and tireless
choirs of cicalas make a shattering din.
Madame is restless, crosses to the wireless,
twiddles the knobs, and gets, at last, Berlin.
Meine Entscheidung hab’ ich jetzt getroffen
die Polen auszurotten. Then Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!
Did I hear right? Or am I ganz besoffen?
This to the Reichstag… Well, it’s done in style.
We do not speak, nor look at one another;
between us now a deep cold gulph has sprung.
My hosts are German… It is hard to smother
excited words that throng upon the tongue…
Now I am calm, and contemplate a glaucous
columnar cypress by the garden fence.
I hardly hear the individual raucous
shouts of the Fuehrer, but I know the sense.
My hostess says, Gott sei Dank! Du bist Schotte.
Du bist kein Feind. Technically not so,
in view of 1707, I thought. But not a
symptom of contradiction did I show.
Vous allez revenir après la guerre,
they said, and beamed, but with a hopeless look.
En peu de temps, I answered, je l’espère,
And wrote in Doric in their visitors’ book:
Κόλπῳ ἐν Ἀδριακῷ καὶ αἱμασιαῖσιν Ἑκάλας
Σκωτὸς Γερμανοῖν συγγενόμαν ϕιλικῶς.
Νῦν δ’ ὁ χρόνος δεινός, καὶ ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἵσταται ἀκμᾶς
εἰράνα πόλεμός θʹ · ἁ δὲ μενεῖ φιλία.