Athens, June 2018

Athens, June 2018

Greek poetry






'Desires'
Like beautiful bodies of the dead who have not grown old
and they shut them, with tears, in a magnificent mausoleum,
with roses at the head and jasmine at the feet-
that is how desires look that have passed without fulfillment; without one of them having achieved a night of sensual delight, or a moonlit morning.

Constantine P. Kavafy (1863-1933)

From EROTOCRITOS (lines543-552)
Vizentzos Cornaros (16th-17th Century)

'Eros'
Observe how Eros works his magic spells,
And how all love-sick mortals he compels.
He quickens their desire and gives it might,
And teaches them to wrestle in the night.
He cheapens gold, to blemish he gives charm. And to the weakling lends a warrior's arm; He makes the coward dare, the sluggard race, The awkward he endows with every grace.Love made Rotokritos to hold his ground And to defy the ten who gathered round.

'love'
THE BLOOD of love has robed me in purple
And joys never seen before have covered me in shade. I've become corroded in the south wind of humankind
Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose.
On the open sea they lay in wait for me,
With triple-masted men-of-war they bombarded me,
My sin that I too had a love of my own
Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose.
Once in July her large eyes
Half-opened, deep down my entrails, to light up
The virgin life for a single moment
Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose.
And since that day the wrath of ages
Has turned on me, shouting out the curse:
"He who saw you, let him live in blood and stone"
Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose.
Once again I took the shape of my native country,
I grew and flowered among the stones.
And the blood of killers I redeem with light Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose. 
From The Axion Esti, by Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996)
'Nights I stay awake without hope'
Nights I stay awake without hope
Lonely I walk the streets.
In front of the bars of your window
I spend my sad hours.

How I long to meet you again,
To find our old joy once more,
To give you my kisses again
So my black saddness will leave me

But there where you are in a strange place,
Who knows where you wander now?
I wonder if you still think of me
Or suffer for someone else.
Rebetiko by Yannis Papaioannou












'Ιθάκη'
Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη,
να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος,
γεμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμάτος γνώσεις.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον θυμωμένο Ποσειδώνα μη φοβάσαι,
τέτοια στον δρόμο σου ποτέ σου δεν θα βρείς,
αν μέν' η σκέψις σου υψηλή, αν εκλεκτή
συγκίνησις το πνεύμα και το σώμα σου αγγίζει.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον άγριο Ποσειδώνα δεν θα συναντήσεις,
αν δεν τους κουβανείς μες στην ψυχή σου,
αν η ψυχή σου δεν τους στήνει εμπρός σου.

Να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.
Πολλά τα καλοκαιρινά πρωϊά να είναι
που με τι ευχαρίστησι, με τι χαρά
θα μπαίνεις σε λιμένας πρωτοειδωμένους·
να σταματήσεις σ' εμπορεία Φοινικικά,
και τες καλές πραγμάτειες ν' αποκτήσεις,
σεντέφια και κοράλλια, κεχριμπάρια κ' έβενους,
και ηδονικά μυρωδικά κάθε λογής,
όσο μπορείς πιο άφθονα ηδονικά μυρωδικά·
σε πόλεις Αιγυπτιακές πολλές να πας,
να μάθεις και να μάθεις απ' τους σπουδασμένους.

Πάντα στον νου σου νάχεις την Ιθάκη.
Το φθάσιμον εκεί είν' ο προορισμός σου.
Αλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξίδι διόλου.
Καλλίτερα χρόνια πολλά να διαρκέσει·
και γέρος πια ν' αράξεις στο νησί,
πλούσιος με όσα κέρδισες στον δρόμο,
μη προσδοκώντας πλούτη να σε δώσει η Ιθάκη.

Η Ιθάκη σ' έδωσε το ωραίο ταξίδι.
Χωρίς αυτήν δεν θάβγαινες στον δρόμο.
Αλλο δεν έχει να σε δώσει πια.

Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε.
Ετσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα,
ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν.

Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης (1911)

'Ithaca'
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path, if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter, if you do not carry them within your soul, if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when, with such pleasure,
with such joy you will enter ports seen for the first time; stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral,
amber and ebony, and sensual perfumes of all kinds, as many sensual perfumes as you can; visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old, rich with all you have gained on the way, not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road. She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience, you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.


Konstantinos P. Kavafys (1911)








PSALM AND MOSAIC
FOR A SPRINGTIME IN ATHENS


Odysseas Elytis

(translated by Nanos Valaoritis)

Spring violet fragment
Spring down of a dove
Spring multicoloured dust

On the open books and papers
A warm little breeze was blowing
With gupsies it caught up
Like Kites
In the air
And birds trying out their new rudders

...................................................................

Along a wire that flashed with fire
On a streetcorner with Caryatids
A tram Screeched by
The sun in the empty terrain scraped with tongs
The nettles and the snail-marked grass....





OUR LAND
Yannis Ritsos, translated by Edmund Keeley

We climbed the hill to look over our land:fields poor and few, stones, olive trees.
Vineyards head toward the sea. Beside the plow a small fire smoulders. We shaped the old man's clothes into a scarecrow against the ravens. Our days are making their way toward a little bread and great sunshine.
Under the poplars a straw hat beams.
The rooster on the fence. The cow in yellow.How did we manage to put our house and our life in order with a hand made of stone? Up on the lintel there's soot from the Easter candles, year by year: tiny black crosses marked there by the dead returning from the Resurrection Service.
This land is much loved with patience and dignity. Every night, out of the drywell, the statues emerge cautiously and climb the trees.


'love'
THE BLOOD of love has robed me in purple
And joys never seen before have covered me in shade. I've become corroded in the south wind of humankind
Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose.
On the open sea they lay in wait for me,
With triple-masted men-of-war they bombarded me,
My sin that I too had a love of my own
Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose.
Once in July her large eyes
Half-opened, deep down my entrails, to light up
The virgin life for a single moment
Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose.
And since that day the wrath of ages
Has turned on me, shouting out the curse:
"He who saw you, let him live in blood and stone"
Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose.
Once again I took the shape of my native country,
I grew and flowered among the stones.
And the blood of killers I redeem with light Mother far away, my Everlasting Rose. 
From The Axion Esti, by Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996)
TEMPTATION

Dionysios Solomos

(translated by Rae Dalven)
Love dances with yellow-haired April;
it is nature's good, sweet season,
and in the swelling shadows enfolding dew and musk
are langorous bird songs yet unheard.
Clear, sweet, graceful waters
pour into the musk-scented abyss,
taking its musk and leaving its freshness,
all revealing the wealth of their source to the sun,
darting here, there, like nightingales.
So too life gushes forth on earth, and sky and wave.
But on the waters of the lake, white and still,
still as far as the eye can see and clear to the depths,
the butterfly which makes its fragrant bed within the heart
of the wild lily, sports with is small strange shadow.
"Lovely dreamer, tell me what you have seen this night?"
"A night full of wonder, a night sown with magic!
No movement on earth or skies or seas,
not even as much as the bee makes near the tiny flower.
Around something motionless, whitening in the lake,
only the full moon moved
and a graceful girl rises clothed in its light."
LIFE IMMOVABLE
Kostis Palamas, translated by Philip Sherrard...."In the sun-glad nakedness
of the Athenian day
If you should imagine
Something beast like unclothed,
Something like a leafless
No shade conferring tree,
An unchiselled marble,
A body slender, lean,

Something bare, uncovered,
In the open space
Which but two eyes of flame
Show to be alive;
Something which from the satyrs
Descends, and is wild,
And its voice is silver,
Do not flee; it is I,

The satyr. Like the olive tree
I am rooted here,
And with my pipe's refrain
I make the breezes faint.
I play and see! there mate,
Worship and are worshipped,
I play and see! there dance
Man, element, beast."
Constantine Cavafy (Konstantinos Kavafis)
"...And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean."
one of the most distinguished Greek poets, was born on April 29, 1863 and died on the same date in 1933 in Alexandria (Egypt).


Constantine P. Cavafys


Odysseas Elytis (1911-1996)
Descendant of an old family of Lesbos, he was born in Heraclion (Candia) on the island of Crete, November 2, 1911. Some time later his family settled permanently in Athens where the poet finished his secondary school studies and later visited the Law School of the Athens University. His first appearance as a poet in 1935 through the magazine "Nea Grammata" ("New Culture") was saluted as an important event and the new style he introduced - though giving rise to a great many reactions - succeeded in prevailing and effectively contributing to the poetical reform commencing in the Second World War's eve and going on up to our days.
In 1937 he visited the Reserve Officer's Cadet School in Corfu. Upon the outbreak of the war he served in the rank of Second Lieutenant, first at the Headquarters of the 1st Army Corps and then at the 24th Regiment, on the advanced fire line. During the German occupation and later, after Greece was liberated, he has been unabatedly active, publishing successive collections of poetry and writing essays concerning contemporary poetry and art problems. He has twice been Programme Director of the Greek National Radio Foundation (1945-46 and 1953-54), Member of the National Theatre's Administrative Council, President of the Administrative Council of the Greek Radio and Television Service as well as Member of the Consultative Committee of the Greek National Tourist's Organisation on the Athens Festival. In 1960 he was awarded the First State Poetry Prize, in 1965 the Order of the Phoenix Brigade and in 1975 he was proclaimed Doctor Honoris Causa of the Philosophical School of the Thessaloniki University and Honorary Citizen of the Town of Mytilene.
During the years 1948-1952 and 1969-1972 he settled in Paris. There, he listened to philology and literature lessons in the Sorbonne and got acquainted with the pioneers of the world's avant-garde (Reverdy, Breton, Tzara, Ungaretti, Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Giacometti). Starting from Paris he travelled and visited subsequently Switzerland, England, Italy and Spain. In 1948 he was the representative of Greece at the "International Meetings of Geneva", in 1949 at the Founding Congress of the "International Art Critics Union" in Paris and in 1962 at the "Incontro Romano della Cultura" in Rome. In 1961, upon an invitation of the State Department, he traveled through the U.S.A.; and - upon similar invitations - through the Soviet Union in 1963 and Bulgaria in 1965.
Elytis' poetry has marked, through an active presence of over forty years, a broad spectrum. Unlike others, he did not turn back to Ancient Greece or Byzantium but devoted himself exclusively to today's Hellenism, of which he attempted - in a certain way based on psychical and sentimental aspects - to build up the mythology and the institutions. His main endeavour has been to rid his people's conscience from remorses unjustifiable, to complement natural elements through ethical powers, to achieve the highest possible transparency in expression and to finally succeed in approaching the mystery of light, "the metaphysic of the sun" - according to his own definition. A parallel way concerning technique resulted in introducing the "inner architecture", which is clearly perceptible in a great many works of his; mainly in the Axion EstiIt Is Worthy. This work - thanks to its setting to music by Mikis Theodorakis - was to be widely spread among all Greeks and grew to be a kind of the people's new gospel. Elytis' theoretical ideas have been expressed in a series of essays under the title (Offering) My Cards To Sight. Besides he applied himself to translating poetry and theatre as well as creating a series of collage pictures. Translations of his poetry have been published as autonomous books, in anthologies or in periodicals in eleven languages.

Kostis Palamas(1859-1943)
Palamas is one of the best known and loved Greek poets of the 20th century. Born in Patras, he received his primary and secondary educations in Mesologhi. In the early 1880s, he worked as a journalist and literary critic. He published his first collection of verses, "The Songs of My Fatherland," in 1886. After the publication of his second collection of poems, "Iambs and Anapaests" in 1897, he was named secretary general of the University of Athens, a position he held until 1926, his year of retirement. He died during the German occupation of Greece in 1943.


PIKRA (GRIEF)
from Heartaches of the Lagoon
by Kostis Palamas
translated by A. Moskios
MY EARLY UNFORGETTABLE YEARS I LIVED THEM CLOSE TO THE SEA,
THERE BY THE SHALLOW AND CALM SEA, THERE BY THE OPEN AND BOUNDLESS SEA.

AND EVERY TIME THAT MY BUDDING, EARLY LIFE COMES BACK TO ME,
AND I SEE THE DREAMS AND HEAR THE VOICES OF MY EARLY LIFE THERE BY THE SEA,

YOU, OH MY HEART, FEEL THE SAME OLD YEARNING: IF I COULD LIVE AGAIN, CLOSE TO THE SHALLOW AND CALM SEA, THERE BY THE OPEN AND BOUNDLESS SEA.

WAS IT REALLY MY DESTINY, WAS IT MY FORTUNE, I HAVEN'T MET ANOTHER A SEA WITHIN ME AS SHALLOW AS A LAKE, AND LIKE AN OCEAN BOUNDLESS AND BIG.

AND, LO! IN MY SLEEP A DREAM BROUGHT HER CLOSE AGAIN TO ME,
THE SAME THERE SHALLOW AND CALM SEA, THE SAME THERE BOUNDLESS AND OPEN SEA.

YET, THRICE BE ALAS! A GRIEF WAS POISONING ME, A POWERFUL GRIEF, A GRIEF THAT YOU DID NOT LIGHTEN, MY DREAM OF MY GREAT EARLY LOVE, MY HOME BY THE SEA.

WHAT STORM, I WONDER, WAS RAGING IN ME, AND WHAT WHIRLWIND, THAT COULDN'T PUT IT TO REST, OR LULL IT TO SLEEP
MY WONDERFUL DREAM OF MY HOME BY THE SEA.

A GRIEF THAT IS UNSPOKEN, AN UNEXPLAINED GRIEF, A POWERFUL GRIEF, A GRIEF NOT QUENCHED EVEN WITHIN THE PARADISE OF OUR EARLY LIFE CLOSE TO THE BOUNDLESS SEA





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