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Yannis Ritsos: Peace

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Yannis Ritsos
Translated by Kimon Friar

The dreams of a child are peace
The dreams of a mother are peace
The words of love under the trees are peace

The father who returns at dusk with a wide smile in his eyes
with a basket in his hands full of fruit
and the drops of sweat on his brow
which are like drops on a jug as it cools its water on the windowsill,
are peace

When wounds heal on the world’s face
and in the pits dug by shellfire we have planted trees
and in hearts scorched by conflagration hope sprouts its first buds
and the dead can turn over on their side and sleep without complaining
knowing their blood was not spilled in vain,
this is peace.

Peace is the odour of food at evening
When an automobile stopping in the street does not mean fear
When a knock on the door means a friend
And the opening of a window every hour means sky
Feasting our eyes with the distant bells of its colours,
this is peace.

Peace is a glass of warm milk and a book before the awakening child
When wheat stalks lean toward one another saying: the light, the light
And the horizon’s wreath overbrims with light,
This is peace.

When death takes up but little room in the heart
And chimneys point with firm fingers at happiness
When the large carnation of sunset
can be smelled equally by poet and proletariat,
this is peace.

Peace is the clenched fist of men
it is warm bread on the world’s table
it is a mother’s smile.
Only this.
Peace is nothing else
And that ploughs that cut deep furrows in all earth
Write one name only:
Peace. Nothing else. Peace.

On the backbone of my verses
The train advancing toward the future
Laden with wheat and roses
Is peace.

My brothers
all the world with all its dreams
breathes deeply in peace.
Give us your hands, brothers,
This is peace.

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