Volume 24, No.3 - Fall 1978
Editor of this issue: Kęstutis Girnius
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1978 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.



Sigitas Geda is among the most respected of the new generation of poets now writing in Lithuania. He was born in 1943 in Pateriai, a small farming village located near the southwestern Lithuanian town of Lazdijai, and studied history and philology at the University of Vilnius. Since graduating in 1966, he has devoted himself to writing poetry and contributing reviews and essays to various literary journals.

Geda's first book, Pėdos (Footprints, 1966), reconfirmed the Arcadian spirit and nature-oriented poetic tradition of Lithuanian folksong and written verse, a tradition overwhelmed for years by the demands of the imposed socialist realist aesthetic which managed to turn even the simplest lyric into leaden Stalinist propaganda. Pėdos also articulated perhaps more clearly than any other single book the new generation's search for an authentic Lithuanian poetic idiom, one which made use of simple folksong-like rhythms and which dealt with the things of the natural landscape and the concerns of the simple folk.

The agrarian romanticism which marks Pėdos is continued, though in a somewhat modified form, in Geda's second book, Strazdas (1967), a long poem which celebrates the legend of an 18th century Lithuanian poet-priest whose name, Strazdas, means "thrush". Perhaps because of that coincidence, but also because of a mystical bent in his verse, Geda treats Strazdas as a mythical being, nalf-man half-bird, who hovers protectively over his native land, dispensing love and insuring the fertility of the fields. It is an interesting story and concept, but unfortunately the poem's cultural and mythological specificity limits its effectiveness and readability in translation.

The sample poems I include here I have chosen from Geda's most recent book and poetic cycles. 26 rudens ir vasaros giesmės (26 Songs of Autumn and Summer, 1972) continues to portray Geda's close ties to the natural landscape, but does so through the movement away from folkloric elements to the use of complex rhythms, interweaving images, and ravelled themes. In these Songs, Geda celebrates the unity of all things and posits them as existing and overlapping in the rich continuum of life. In the Songs, the seen things of the landscape are blended and transformed poetically into new metaphorical configurations and image-patterns which are shaped by the poet's inner sense of the pervasive and inescapable oneness of the things of the world. It is poetry thus far unique in the history of Lithuanian letters, one which insures Geda a well-lighted place in the gallery of modern Lithuanian verse. I include five Songs of Summer.

Since 1972 Geda's major work has appeared primarily in the literary journal Pergalė, in the form of "cycles" dedicated to or focusing on the life, work, or legend surrounding real or mythical beings. In Nakties žiedai: septyni paskyrimai Fransua Vijonui (The Blossoms of the Night: Seven Dedications to Francois Villon) and Trys paskyrimai Fransua Vijonui (Three Dedications to Francois Villon), Geda uses specifics from the life of the 15th century French poet to fashion a series of poems of pensive moods and dark themes. I have included two of those poems, "The Dreams of Winter" and "A Conversation With Margo About the Torments of Hell". In Celės Pablui Pikasui (Flowers for Pablo Picasso), Geda presents a series of linguistically complex and thematically difficult poems which are curiously similar in mood and effect to Cubist paintings and which echo some of the themes of Picasso's work. I include "Great Drinking in the Valley," "The Girl by the Sea," and "In the New Archipelagos". The remaining three poems, "Ebbtide," "The Dream" and "The Offering" are from Kasandra (Cassandra), a cycle of poems which comments on the myth of the constrained truth-speaker, a figure who, perhaps especially in Geda's subjugated country where printed material is reviewed by publication licensing committees, might well stand as the symbol of the poet himself.

Those readers interested in other poems of Geda's from the books and cycles mentioned above might turn to the Geda section of my book Selected Post-war Lithuanian Poetry (Manyland Books, 1978) and to my Sigitas Geda: Songs of Autumn (The Slow Loris Press, 1978). Those interested in a fine scholarly explication of much of Geda's early work ought to turn to Prof. Rimvydas Šilbajoris' essay, "Sigitas Geda, Magician and Minstrel," which appeared in the Autumn 1973 issue of Books Abroad.


Near the flowing water shady sycamores 
and tangles of sun, the whiteness of the earth! 
the seam of grasses, and bewitching winds 
fluttering in flames, 
the pheasants...

look: the light of swallows 
covers the gentle earth, 
and that which was hidden 
now rises like a shining spirit:

the quick-tempered whiteness of the shady sycamores
and the homelessness of my kin -
the red fins of fish
gleam at me in the bottomless waters

and the ringing water
whitewashes me,
the abyss of the fields, expanding with the landscape
I see the girl, big-breasted, small,
stretched on the meadow stones,

the late-coming swallows! the grassy voice
of David in the shade of the pines,
the marshland spirit
the lord of the owls
and holy, lamented Mary of the waters,
with you, chanted the rock veins,
I conjure you —
with plant crowns,
with heaven...


! see the dreariness of the high skies
and the wormwoods, my white body
that tilts suddenly along
the shining vertical
toward the woman near the silent abyss...

they start to interweave,
and light-filled
ricks of shadows
echo in the water:
a bluebottle with breasts, and the stone,
o bluebird!
I grow restless

when the spirit that holds the seas 
gently brightens:

the tall poplars the cricket song 
that skirts the oceans,

and a white metamorphosis
in the earth's light -
the night blossom of sad power..,

and from the snowdrifts of the eternal horizon

in the clearing of blackthorns I carry
an oblong seashell...
hold back the sea with their beaks...

gold covers the world, berry-stalks, -
they droop
in the endless night,
and near my head glows
the blue oriole ember...

my body sings...
o it's quiet quiet,
the bluebottle, o the blossom,
o the stone...


The distant September star died,
and I still long to see
the jasmine,
lead me home
through the bright west wind, heaven

in the shadow of the speckled falcon — 
the winged sheep of childhood -
the shepherd of mosses, the blackthorn 
of dreams, the wreathed blossoming rock 
that rustles in silence...

the world of deep abysses and chalk 
for the angry silence without shore, 
and who now will protect the field girl, 
the grove grew over her breasts,

look, sister, see the dream
of the penguin, we will search for others:
there beneath the noble snails
the bodies of the ashberries will pale,
the thistles will rise,

in the blue northern light
the panting fall the rye-flower,
with her — her reflections -
the white-bellied deer...
the eaglet, the lamb eternally gentle
spirits, animus
and hunger...
and afterwards everyone
is covered with fog -
the silent fanning of the long night...


In the bright night, when souls waken,
in the darkness untangled by foxbats,
in the greatness of twilights,
in all the windless abysses in the high swollen
cold of the forests,

where women walk silently
with ravens (the timorous birds
hold their breasts
with narrowed wings!), having ripped up
the harmony of the earth,

the unfloundering roads
run through the freedom of the eternal rhododendrons:

they bow toward Rome: the bony elephants,
the horned terrapin, the loose-haired
stocky hawk kneeling near
the river,
o sweet-flag, half my lace
in death tangles
in the greenbrier

the silence of the white night I'll speak —
Nothingness envelops the waters -
the silver abyss of the bullrush thicket -
the toad the voice of the alder,
the snow
lamb woolly Mary the eyes
of fish the deep heavy sleep
of the jasmine...


And once, as the withering milkweeds
and moon stuck in my eyes,
the foaming earth, the landscape
sunk in the silver smoke, the lambs I could not see,

when silence wearied having grown 
the blue rose of my dreams, 
silence embraced the white sands 
and the ocean sky, there is no earth, 
only a spirit of the blossoming hemp 
of the night, 
swallows, a shell 
lying near the sea, the tall 
blossom-covered awakened god 
playing in the sun -

snails and pigeons
are also gods -
the giant white bleaks and

the tulip horn, green ferns 
with people-heads, the white 
crows, the snow's azure-beaks 
Adam and Eve through the dream 
seek the blossoming penguin, 
but fish frolic, and the small 
man catches the sleeping 
white-winged dove, nudes 
grown over with red flowers 
carrying the squirming weasel, 
the perfect oval 
and the purple snow-hen 
glitter in the olives...

the frog flies on the swallow
carrying a golden shell,
waving with jasmines -
the spirit -
the cormorant, the dead
of the world the Providential cow -
the hundred-breasted sea...


The flame flares in the Lord's hearth,
and the old bent woman,
having opened the door, near the empty hole
scratches a cross with her bony hand,
oh, once again sad days flicker before my eyes...

A star like a ruby reflects in the water
in the yard, runs restless-hearted through
the village, cries out, and near it
flutter the cowled wings of disaster,
oh, once again sad days flicker before my eyes...

That last oppressive coming of the night,
the dog barks and grunts, and you see:
in the white shawl of death fragile
traveler, do you lie in your grave?
oh, once again sad days flicker before my eyes.,.

And it's so bright, it's as if I see with
the eyes of another, 1 hear something like
skylark twitters on the other side,
above the shores of the endless seas,
oh, once again sad days flicker before my eyes...


Once I wore Cod's halfboots,
now I go to serve in hell,
good-bye Margo! it's night, the eight
roadside crosses, the wafting smell of water
where the fishes spawn, preparing for their journey,
and the bones of the old nag, and the ember,
and the plaster angel, like you dear Margo,
and I am Beelzebub's brother, and left-handed

I cross myself, and from this hill
I turn toward paradise promising not to return
until on the black and hair-covered palm
of these hopeless vagrant hours
crazed Apollo will want to play
with the golden leaves... the green oaks...
don't laugh at the women, Villon,
with what whores do you lie in hell?

Margo, l see my spirit waiting
near the whorehouse gates, among the mad
glittering and strange screams,
and death happily strings us together
like perches on one long thread:
and the one the five devils won't nuzzle,
and the one who wants it but won't offer,
and the one I butchered with my knife.


We live in the presence of death,
that's why we drink in the Lord's valley,
it was a holy day when death came,
the leaves of the elder tree were covered with dust,
and the locomotives wailed, dark crowds
waved at them with small flags, and
God was born again; a donkey,
from our imperfect souls, supported.
by the landscape, said to him:
the doors of the world revolve... Wait,
the olive trees... Into the dark seas
we swam singing, the resorts
were packed, in Marseille,
where dragons rule, transistors,
and John sat
in the halo of whoredom,
the pale angel of apocalypse
promised him a plot of land... O the beauty
of singing in the valley, toil,
death will conquer the earth,
night is the brightest goddess,
but our ruin is more beautiful
and has the clearest face... The military salute's
wreaths and hothouses, the cabbages'
realistic landscape
and everything else we brought unwillingly
into the Lord's bright kingdom of flame...

O beautiful noble girl of my soul, 
this is the death hour of your dreams.


While the child grew, on earth exploded
two of God's eyes blossoming sprouts,
sing, sing, and if you meet a man
don't kill him, smile at him pleasantly,
the rolling golden gravel of the sea,
who will repeat your endless dream,
and on this earth you had melted
the heart of the coltsfoot, and the sprouts
of the cold night promise us longing and pain
and many blossoms, which turn blue in the dark,
oh the melancholy of blood, chalk,

this age, for your white race
the snails glittered on the shore
or your long tears, white
silk, a purple spirit,
when in May, in the bones of the olive tree,
you'll recognize your ancestor it's sad,
sad, and everything else is cropped and bordered,
like the blood-stalk, the giant's blossoms
in the shade you well remember,
and everything else disappeared
and dribbles from the echoes of flame.

What is death in Ethiopia, flower or sun, 
or your body, or breast once 
swollen with milk, the eternal equator 
spattered with whimsical blossoms, 
girl of the fields, of the yellow stones, 
weave a white mantilla for the nightingale, 
you are the blossom's, the white anemone's, 
the field carnation's, the eternal brine's, 
the new stalk wakes up and hungers, 
and many stars shine above our heads 
and will wash our hearts with gold.


Save the grass hazelhens fly there, 
this world is red, the blue tint 
of the cracked black archipelagos, 
archipelago ago aguma...

Save the grass hazelhens fly there, 
this world is red, the blue tint 
of the cracked black archipelagos, 
archipelago ago aguma...

Save the child weeping beneath the window, 
this world is red, the blue tint 
of the cracked black archipelagos, 
archipelago ago aguma,..

Save the woman like the tomato patch 
this world is red, the blue tint 
of the cracked black archipelagos, 
archipelago ago aguma,..

Save the butterfly while it flies blind, 
this world is red, the blue tint 
of the cracked black archipelagos, 
archipelago ago aguma,,.

Save the dog the snow burns in drifts, 
this world is red, the blue tint 
of the cracked black archipelagos, 
archipelago ago aguma...

Save the clock what does time say, 
this world is red, the blue tint 
of the cracked black archipelagos, 
archipelago ago aguma...

Save the sea it turns blue, whispers, 
this world is red, the blue tint 
of the cracked black archipelagos, 
archipelago ago aguma...


The yellow sea swept in food,
oblong shells, pearl necklaces,
and two hyacinth skulls
that stared with blue eyes: devils
began this long feast,
you shined with the ruby clarity
of starry nights, dreamed, longed,
o traveler of the earth's edge,

like the Inca, Maya, or Aztec -
the exploded head of the blue-bottle,
the world's wide oceans echo, ebb
with doubled words, and sick and green
you have not yet glowed
in the trembling of the heart, o night,
having touched the clearness of May
with foaming rose shawls, echoing farewells,

and bullrushes glittered there
on the high banks, and pearl eyes, -
the world's days are foreign, and prayers
at midnight will steal your voice,
traveler, o child of bright loins,
death's dreams, hyacinths
bellow in the sand, you can shell
the sea-mollusk half-way on your journey...


In the white silence, which rings like the sea,
you were a ripened rose, and in dreams
olive clusters, and shading your eyes
you saw how on the road in the blue distance
shine the heart's northern lights... the anger of the night,
death's pains and forgotten words
repeated by the Incas and Letts
and those who walk in silence to death,

into the tilted purple of Athens,
and the marble, and the straight profile
of a girl of Roman refrain,
old crystal, dark as a storm,
you heard: the anemone will open
then die, and your heart
will echo like a song
in your mouth, and the goblet

in your hand reflects the Acropolis,
when the sky shatters, in the distant night,
and old names long
and trembling echo and glitter... you
had no other dream,
piles of roses and hours,
the white Etruscan moss and winds,
saddened sister, chip of marble...


Pick the words from the bloodroot, -
the fern spreads in the white fire,
tell me which lemon trees will wither,
death already fans the flames,
from where does the water of summer come,
why do the seas glitter and when should I write -
heart, the red gentians blossom! -
olive buds... your words

are strewn on the ground... in the white fire
lips whisper rock and bone,
children will all be reborn
in the shadowed depths, in the dream,
through the last feasting of my blood
crown the word,
give us the newly-silvered
olive smells and the colors of the heart...

those grasslands glinted beneath the dust
like eyes, and yellow queen
of the bluewhite scales, paler
than clouds, than A, than I, than O,
intercede for my fire, this nest of words,
rip it and tear it,
let my hopes and dreams
shatter now
in the soulless depths of the sea...