Poetry - the right poetry - at the right time, in the right place, conveys a powerful and noble message, which prose simply cannot achieve.
At the same time, poetry conveys a revealing message about the level of the person who cites it.
The President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, visited the Acropolis, the first day since the lockdown that it has been open to the public, accompanied by the worthy Minister of Culture and Sports, Lina Mendoni.
In her statements, the President recited the following: “‘The marbles shone in the sun,’ as in the verse of George Seferis," adding: "and with the care of our unique cultural monuments…and the strict, of course, observance of health measures, we will all emerge a little taller together."
The poem published by George Seferis in 1935, Μυθιστόρημα – Novel, follows:
Just a little more
And we shall see the almond trees in blossom
The marbles shining in the sun
The sea, the curling waves.
Just a little more
Let us rise just a little higher.
What incredible beauty, profundity, and inspiration!
This poem was used by a Greek political leader one other time that I am aware of - a story I want to share with you:
The late Konstantinos Mitsotakis, when he was the leader of the official opposition, was to deliver a speech in Parliament.
A friend of mine suggested that he end his speech with something that would elevate the speaker and inspire the audience. He wanted to add Seferis' words "...a little more, to get a little higher."
However, he was met with strong opposition from Mitsotakis' advisers.
Eventually, the matter reached the president himself, who decided to use it.
And indeed, when Mitsotakis reached that point in his speech, Parliament burst into louder applause than anywhere else in his speech. People were excited, inspired, thirsty to go “a little higher."
When I was the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs with Responsibility for Hellenes Abroad, the former President of the Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, invited me to accompany him on his visit to Armenia, where there is a large Greek community.
It is a visit I will never forget. Especially the visit to the monument dedicated to the genocide of their Armenian ancestors by the Turkish state.
During that trip, I had the opportunity to see how the former President worked and conducted himself first hand.
I was impressed by his humility, his intelligence, and his knowledge, among other things, of poetry.
With the same ease he spoke in depth, for example, about ancient Greece – and fortunately, because the Armenian President also knew it well – as well as about European and American history, philosophy, and as I already noted, poetry.
He also knows the international laws that govern Turkish claims against us as few do.
I am glad that the new President of the Hellenic Republic is also showing signs of being a worthy representative of our presidential institution and culture. A few days ago, she expressed her support for the rights of homosexuals to live their lives as they choose, and, yesterday, she made her poetic gesture, touching the best in all of us.
Yes, "Just a little more/Let us rise just a little higher."