Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The Mediterranean Sea

perceived from Sweden



Anders Dahlgren




The blue sea in the sign of the wheel barrow

Archaeologist on Despotiko


Golden Age

Early in my life I became interested in archaeology and as this was long before Indiana Jones swung his bullwhip on the screen, I guess it was my upbringing, the trips we made to the Mediterranean world that created this curiosity. To visit places like Troy and Pompeii in the early teens must have coloured my world and reading about archaeologists as Schliemann and Evans created dreams of a future as a “licensed treasure hunter”.

Later, I began to study archaeology at the university and initially put a lot of effort into these studies but gradually became absorbed by a feeling that the, ever so important, base that must be learnt would never straighten my question marks. How could “Early Minoan I, II, III” ever be able to tell me what the ceramist felt when he saw and created his object or glanced at the pretty girl that passed outside the pottery on her way to the marketplace?

The inspiring lecturers should have made me eager to study even harder, put the spade in the ground and dig deeper, find something no one else had found – but had quite the opposite effect. Perhaps as I felt that whatever object one unearthed it could merely indicate trade routes, how jewellery was designed, what weapons were used, how buildings shifted style and that “this is the most plausible interpretation of the material we have at hand, right now”.

However, as study progressed we approached material that made me somewhat hopeful again. To learn about cultures that had left written records where refreshing and being able to connect what we had before us: walls in Hattusha, temples in Athens and villas in Rome … with texts dealing with mythology, tragedies, satires, poetry was very exciting. Here, all of a sudden, where words that explained how people felt, thought, what they said to / about each other – thoughts written down many, many centuries ago. Words that gave me perspective and perhaps could give me the answer to whether we really have learned something during our journey!


Much later in my life I can see that if I had had the slightest aptitude for philology I rather should have embarked on this path instead of suspending my studies of archaeology and one, of several, themes I would have followed was man’s views on progress.

Did we initially live in a Golden Age (as Hesiod writes of in Works and Days) but gradually moved toward darker ages. Others argued the opposite and meant that the darkness that prevailed in the beginning, slowly grow to something more hopeful through human effort! A view that Lucretius painted with strong brushstrokes in De Rerum Natura!

The issue was discussed over and over by both the Greeks and Romans (and most certainly others before them) and interesting but also very amusing is to follow the squabble over whether it was this or that group that stood for progress, well, if there was any at all!

Some facetious individual meant that the person who stood for essential human cultivation must have been the chef, this since it was he who helped man to do what is good! Other, perhaps more, serious thinkers struck a blow for architects and developers or the rhetoric or philosopher – characters, they meant, must have been of crucial importance for the state of things.

Still others felt that there must have been the poet – now we’re getting somewhere – whom with his/her vivid descriptions of the world was calling out the best in people and thus in a most decisive way, stood for the future and mankind’s evolution.

Thus wrote Horace in Ars Poeticaabout Orpheus’ moulding of the savage man with his lyre and words:

The barb’rous natives of the shaggy wood
From horrible repasts, and ads of blood,
Orpheus, a priest, and heav’nly teacher, brought,
And all the charities of nature taught

So, dear poet and visitor continue with your deed in Orpheus’ spirit and know that you are making a vital difference to this world and mankind!

And even the following text may also help explain my passion:


Remembrance of places unvisited

For me, living in the frozen part of the world that the ancient Greeks (Pytheas of Massilia) and the Romans considered to be the end of the world (Scandinavia), warmer latitudes, such as those inhabited by the Greeks and Romans, have formed a constant temptation. Certainly influenced by several trips to primarily Turkey, Greece, Italy and France and later studies in classical archaeology, my thoughts often wanders to stunningly beautiful moments, towns, villages, views of the Mediterranean coast but, strangely enough, often to places that really only may be an illusion – and yet memories – since I’ve never visited them.

My “Grand Tour” began in early youth in the company of my culturally interested mother and stepfather and took us to places like Antioch, Ephesus, Pergamum, Troy, Istanbul, Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Pompeii, but also many cities, places without any obvious connection to neither the Classical Antiquity nor the Renaissance world – a journey that has continued in the company of my wife and children. And, yes, I have seen most cities in Europe which the privileged traveller from previous centuries should see during his educational “rite of passage”.

Perhaps these trips created images that unconsciously have been transferred to environments that I only have read about. Places described and sung of in both poetry and prose and in breathtaking scenes in films like Mediterraneo, Nuovo Cinema Paradisoand La Gloria De Mon Père. And since I’m running a website dedicated to the Mediterranean world and through this work am in constant contact with poets and authors with links to this milieu, I’ve been richly rewarded and have been able to quench my thirst for (and most certainly so been influenced by) the Mediterranean through an endless stream of wonderful texts linked to the stunning “Blue Sea” received on an almost daily basis from contributors from all over the world.

But, can illusory experiences then really create remembrance of places unvisited?

One of the unvisited places that often materialize in my “memory” and is so richly painted that I almost sense that I must have seen this city, is Alexandria. A city sung of by amazing poets and writers such as Constantine P. Cavafy, Naguib Mahfouz and not the least Lawrence Durrell in his tetralogy The Alexandria Quartet.

Durrell’s suite (Justine, 1957, Balthazar, 1958, Mount Olive, 1958 and Clea, 1960) presents four different perspectives on experiences and characters in Alexandria around the Second World War. The portrayal is outstandingly strong and the city, houses, streets, sea, desert and not least the people are painted in colours so powerful that they are both tempting but also frighten me. I wish that I could have been there during the period the author depicts and so would have been able to experience this melting pot. But what sins would I have performed and where would my stride have brought me? Had I been able to leave the city as a whole person?

In Mafouz novel Miramar, events in a small guesthouse in Alexandria are reflected about a decade later than in Durrell’s novels. Mafouz uses a similar narrative technique as Durrell as we may follow contemporary events depicted by different individual’s perspective. The story is centred on the beautiful servant girl Zohra at the guesthouse Miramar, a girl, perhaps a bit too handsome for her own good as she is worshiped by many admirers. Several guests at the Miramar are craving for Zohra’s love and four of them recount the story, give their version of the very same period and events. Wonderful reading on human features such as love, jealousy and painful decisions!

I read Durrell’s tetralogy for the first time when I was about 16-17 years old (Mafouz, Miramar somewhat later) and was absolutely, totally mesmerized. The Alexandria Quartet has since then been reread and like e.g. Thomas Mann’s and Marcel Proust’s novels the text rather requires “habitual visits” to explore environments and characters in order to perceive the magnitude, to try to understand or just let oneself be diverted for yet another moment.

Although I’ve travelled in the Levant I’ve not seen the classic or modern Tyre, a city which has been “sung about” by, among others, the English author and poet D. H. Lawrence. Perhaps it is not so much the site here as the picture painted by Lawrence that has etched into my “memory” – an impression, a situation that could have happened anywhere, around any water at any time. But this poem is linked to the Mediterranean I have come to love and so reinforces the illusory memory of Tyre and the woman who “pours water over her body” …

The Man of Tyre

D. H. Lawrence (1885 -1930)

The man of Tyre went down to the sea
pondering, for he was Greek, that God is one and all alone and ever more shall be so.

And a woman who had been washing clothes in the pool of rock
where a stream came down to the gravel of the sea and sank in
who had spread white washing on the gravel banked above the bay,
who had lain her shift on the shore, on the shingle slope,
who had waded to the pale green sea of evening, out to a shoal,
pouring sea-water over herself
now turned, and came slowly back, with her back to the evening sky.

Oh lovely, lovely with the dark hair piled up, as she went deeper, deeper down the chan­nel, then rose shallower, shallower,
with the full thighs slowly lifting of the water wading shorewards
and the shoulders pallid with light from the silent sky behind
both breasts dim and mysterious, with the glamourous kindness of twilight between them
and the dim blotch of black maidenhair like an indicator,
giving a message to the man –

So in the cane-brake he clasped his hands in delight
that could only be god- given, and murmured:
Lo! God is one god! But here in the twilight
godly and lovely comes Aphrodite out of the sea
towards me!

So, what do I try to say with these thoughts? When I talk about remembrance of unvisited placesis it then not only memories created by good reading? Maybe so, or rather – absolutely so! But when the very same streets, silhouettes, and even smells and sounds appears again and again when one hears of a particular “unvisited place”, one must admit that the author has created images that are so rich that the remembrance becomes almost as great as – or surpass? – reality!

How wonderful that words can create a world of images that may develop a kind of memories. Not memories in the sense Proust describes and exemplifies with his Madeleine cake (memories of real, perceived moments that occurs stimulated by the tastes, smells, images, sounds or other impressions) but memories created as a conglomerate of the author’s words and images plus sensations from similar places you’ve actually experienced!

What could better describe the feelings I possess for places in the Mediterranean world that I both have visited, but also those that I just have some kind of “read-only-memory” from but hope to be able to visit someday – to finally quote these words. Words dedicated to the famous sea that I’ve come to love so dearly …

Middle of the World

D. H. Lawrence (1885 – 1930)

This sea will never die, neither will it grow old,
nor cease to be blue, nor in the dawn
cease to lift up its hills
and let the slim black ship of Dionysos come sailing in
with grape-vines up the mast, and dolphins leaping.

What do I care if the smoking ships
of the P. & O. and the Orient Line and all the other stinkers
cross like clock-work the Minoan distance!
They only cross, the distance never changes.

And now that the moon who gives men glistening bodies
is in her exaltation, and can look down on the sun,
I see descending from the ships at dawn
slim naked men from Cnossos, smiling the archaic smile
of those that will without fail come back again,
and kindling little fires upon the shores
and crouching, and speaking the music of lost languages.

And the Minoan Gods and the Gods of Tiryns
are heard softly laughing and chatting, as ever;
and Dionysos, young, and a stranger
leans listening on the gate, in all respect

Post-script: Blue is the colour at


For a poem to be accepted by the editor of Mediterranean, the blue must have been picked up from a palette used to paint an impression from the Mediterranean world and nowhere else ...



On the shores of the Mediterranean sea - contributions by Hatto Fischer


- in reference to the Paros poems written about
‘dialogue with silence’ in July 2008


Heavy beats force the sun to cast aside shades
while women run towards the open sea where men
throw their loves like far flung fishing nets
into the water drenched in the blue of the sky
no longer tainted by purple strains dripping
from dirty mouths after having drunk too hastily
in order to forget and so they never notice
what has never been inscribed on pergament paper
shall leave poets in search of a voice in history
heard at high noon like a whisper in-between pine trees
when winds cool the air to let bodies stretched out
experience time as a day stretched towards eternity.




Behold the crystal ball
no ship has ever rounded
the earth if it has forgotten
how its harbour was called
now lit not by welcoming lanterns
but by a ravishing fire
started up by invaders
who made the most
of its weakness –
a harbour not finding
a peaceful relation to a world
never really at rest
since those men departed
and never to return.


Caretta caretta


Strange the talk of stones
along the shores
where thousand feet
of Caretta carettas
draw into the sand
beautiful tracks
while on their way
to the sand dunes
where they hatch their eggs
and when completed
show incredible wisdom
by leaving the new born ones
with memory
where to find the sea.


Bachelard’s poetic dreams


A sea shell poised
to curl up again
lets the next wave
spill over its body
as yet another century
resounds in footsteps
to measure history
in light years
within a poetic space
of the shell
designed simply
to echo the waves
rushing forward
to meet shorelines
of civilization.


Mountains of silence


Mountains hover in silence
look down at the bay
where restive water has calmed down
as if whales came to sleep
by resting their heads on ancient stones
inscribed by passages of time
till suddenly the wind picks up again
to lift the red balloons of children
ever higher up into the blue sky
till their laughter mixes with the cries
of ghost like figures stumbling upon the beach
to remind with their wounds
here fought in ancient times men
as if they would never die
and only screams of women
meant scratches on cave walls
where no historian would see
what has been left behind
due to wild desire gone on fire.


Dance at night


Every night
I whisper a poem
into your ear
about how the stars
look down at you.
They sense what love
stems from your heart,
and how you guide
your hand to help
wherever you can
a hopeless man
whether in Damascus
or else in the streets of Athens.


I yearn to see you dance
by the candle light,
and shall wait
till you grab my hand
to take me down
to the beach
where we shall look
at the stars above
to remind all desire
is due to the Mediterranean Sea
being always there
at each nuctural turn.


Published Feb. 2013








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