Greece Yesterday and TodayModern Greek Literature Nick Kontaridis
Prose The Short Story Novelette Novel Poetry Epic Poem Lyric Poetry The Sonette The Elegy The Language Question The demotic The Katharevousa Modern Greek Literature The Romantic School The School of the Ionian Islands The New School of Athens Poets Rhigas Pherraios, Dionysios Solomos, Kostis Palamas, Myrtiotissa, Melissanthi, Zoe Kareli, Angelos Sikelianos, C. Kavafis, N. Kazantzakis, George Seferis, Odysseus Elitis, Yannis Ritsos. Modern Greek Literature – Review
Poets Rhigas Pherraios The War Hymn “How long, my heroes, shall we live in bondage, alone like lions on ridges, on peaks? Living in caves, seeing our children Turned from the world to bitter enslavement? Losing our land, brothers, and parents Our friends, our children and all our relations? Better an hour of life that is free Than forty years of slavery!”
Hymn to Liberty “I can see thee by the lightning of the sword-blade flashing high; I can see thee by the brightening Of the swiftly glancing eye. From the hallowed bones arising Of Hellenic heroes free, Now as ever valor prizing, Hail, all hail sweet liberty! Poets Dionysios Solomos
Poets Dionysios Solomos Epigram to Psara On Psara’s blackened, charred stone Glory silently walks all alone mediating her sons’ noble deeds, and wears a wreath on her hair made of such few scattered weeds on the desolate earth left to spare.
Poets Dionysios Solomos After a little while I could not really tell, Whether it was a sail Or the sea’s foamy swell. After kerchief and canvas On the sea were lost, Her friends shed a few tears And I shed the most. I don’t lament the boat, The sail I don’t lament, But I lament Xanthula That far from us she went. I don’tlament the boat, The sail I don’t lament, But I lament Xanthula With hair golden-pale. The Little Blonde Girl (Xanthoula) At eventide I saw her, The little girl golden-tressed, When she took a boat To go far to the West. Its snow-white sail, Swollen by the winds, Was like a dove frail With outspread wings. The friends were standing by, In joy, or in grief, And she waved good-bye With her white kerchief. I stopped to see her greeting, Her warm farewell, Till in the distance fleeting She was hidden by the swell.
Poets Dionysios Solomos To Mr. George De Rossi When you come back to your father’s, You’ll see only his tombstone, Before which I write you, alone, On this first day of May. Our May flowers we will scatter On his kind, innocent breast, For tonight he went to rest In Christ’s warm embrace. He was clam, still, and quiet Till the last hour, and peaceful, Just as now he looks gleeful, His soul having flown from him. Yet, a moment before flying Toward heaven’s realms up high, He waved gently with a sigh As if for a final blessing.
Poets Dionysios Solomos Such a figure full of beauty At once a question brings: “If this creature is an angel, Why is she lacking wings?” I had spoken this way When before my very sight, Other girls appeared clad In the moon’s silvery light. Holding hands they danced together, All of them pretty and smart, Each one trying with fervor To win my poor heart. Then I heard your lips say, As you were addressing me: “Do you like them? Tell me pray!” And I said, “How ugly to see!” The Dream My soul, goddess of beauty, Listen to what I’ve dreamed: With you I was one night, All to me so slendid seemed. We two walked together In a garden of small size, All the stars shone brightly And on them you kept your eyes. I was asking them, “Stars say If there among you lies One that shines from above Like my lovely lady’s eyes? Say whether you ever saw On others such pretty hair? Such an arm, such a limb, An angelic vision fair?
Poets Dionysios Solomos With faces tired and drawn. My soul, this was my vision. It is now up to you To remembr me and make This sweet dream come true. The Dream (con.) Then a truly angelic smile Shone on your fair face, That methought I espied The sky open in embrace. And then I took you aside By a rosebush in bloom, Slowly I let my head hide Into your snow-white arms. Every kiss you gave me, Dear soul, with sweetness, Made a new rose appear On the bush, with swiftness. They were aborning all night, Till the early light of dawn Which found us looking pale
Poets Kostis Palamas Athens Here the sky is everywhere, on all sides shines the sun, and something like the honey of Hymettus is all around; out of the marble grow lilies unwithering; divine Mount Pentelicon flashes, begetter of an Olympus. The digging axe stumbles on beauty; in her boson Clybele holds gods, not mortals; when the shafts of twilight strike her, Athens gushes violet blood. Here are the temples and the groves of the sacred olive, and in the slowly shifting crowd, like a caterpillar on a white flower, a host of deathless relics live and reign with myriad souls; the spirit flashes even in the earth; I feel it wrestling with the darkness in me.
Poets Kostis Palamas The Grave On the grave on which the Black Horseman takes you, be careful not toaccept anything from his hand;And, if you feel thirsty, do not drink the water of oblivion in the world below, my poor plucked spearmint!Do not drink, lest you forgot us fully, forever; leave marks so as not to lose the way,And being light and small like a swallow, with no warrior’s weapons clashing round your waist,See how you can trick the Sultan of the Night; slip away gently, secretly, and fly to us up to here;Come back to this empty house, O our precious boy; turn into a breath of wind, and give us a sweet kiss.
Poets Kostis Palamas Olympic Hymn Ancient immortal spirit, pure father of beauty, of greatness and of truth, descend, be revealed as lightning here within the glory of your own earth and sky at running and wrestling and at throwing illuminate in the noble Agons' momentum and crown with the unfading branch and make the body worthy and ironlike. Planes, sees and mountains shine with you like a white-and-purple great temple, and hurries at the temple here, your pilgrim every nation, o ancient, immortal Spirit.
Poets Myrtiotissa (1883-1967) I love you. I can say nothing deeper, more simple or greater. Here, before your feet, I scatter, full of longing, the rich-petalled blossom of my life. O, my swarm of bees! Suck from it sweet, the pure perfume of my hart! See, I offer you my two hands, clasped for you to lean your head softly upon. And my hart is dancing, is all envy, and begs to be, like them, a pillow for your head. And for a bed, my love, take the whole of me, extinguish upon me the flame of your fire. While I, close to you, hear life flowing away to the beat of your heart … I love you. What more, my precious love, can I tell you that is deeper, more simple, or greater?
Poets Melissanthi (1910- ) Melissanthi, pseudonym of Hebe Skandhalakis, was born in in 1910. She received her diplomas from various institutes in Athens for the study of English, French, and German, and has since translated much from these languages, in particular from Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Author of nine books of poetry and a play for children, she received the award of the Athens Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1936 for Return to the Prodigal, and the Palamas Award in 1946 for Lyrical Confession. An essentially lyrical poet, she suffered a religious crisis and turned to an expression of metaphysical agony which nonetheless emphasizes her belief in man and his ability to realize his basic goodness and love.
Poets Melissanthi (1910- ) Atonement Every time I sinned a door half opened, and the angels who in my virtue had never found me beautiful, tipped over the full amphora of their flower souls; every time I sinned, it was as though a door had opened, and tears of sweet compassion dripped among the grasses. But if the sword of my remorse chased me from heaven, every time I sinned a door half opened, and though men thought me most ugly, the angels thought me beautiful.
Ancient shipwrecked citiestell us of the omnipotence of Silence,of her sudden overwhelming floods within their walls;the snows of time are heaped on her breast;in a slow movement voyaging,the icebergs of millenniums proceed…All set out from the primordial space of Silenceand return to her once more; All the weighed on her bronze shield,our words, our footsteps,and our most deeply hidden thoughts.Nothing can be lost,not a secret tear, not a leaf of a tree,not a single raindrop on the grass. Her holy Night fills up with sacrilegious ears and eyes.The slaughter of the innocence steams in the meadows- where the mirror of the moon has been misted over-ransom for the profane guiltof knowing and existing. Poets Melissanthi (1910- )Ancient Shipwrecked Cities
Poets-Zoe Kareli Zoe Kareli the sister of Nikos Pendzikis, was born on July 22 (August 4), 1901 in Thessaloniki, and received the education of a girl of good family according to her class and period by being tutored in English, German, French and Italian, in singing and drawing. Widiwed in 1953, she spent a year and a half with one of her two sons in Australia. She has translated Eliot’s Familly Reunion and The Coctail Party, and has herself written poetic drama. She shared the Second State Prize in Poetry in 1955, was awarded the Palmes Academique by france’s Ministry of Education in 1959, won the First State Prize in Poetry in 1978. Karelli has been remarkably consistent in her existentialist attitude. Whatever she has written has been a quest for a way out of man’s modern impasse, for redemption from the feeling that the soul has been ravaged and devastated, that a promise for justice has been broken. The fate of modern man, she believes, is to live in a constant but creative doubt-not a passive and enervating doubt, but one that, by indicating the duality of man’s struggle, takes on existentialist value. Her themes become concernedwith the split personality of the person of sensibility tormented to filnd his integrity and to create centers of continuity. The tone of her poetry, in consequence, has neither the resilience of feminity nor the inflexibility of masculinity but conbines the passionate turmoil of feminine sensilbility with the tough abstraction of masculine thought.
PoetsZoe Kareli From Diary To begin life anew? It isn’t a matter of most beauteous And ecstatic youth, not even one Of man’s significant wisdom. …………………….. Spitit and essense, the complete presence, Reality and fantasy side by side.
As we brought the shape,a worker, a blower of glass,felt his love profoundlyfor the materialinto which he blew his breath. At times crystal or like pearl,mother-of-pearl, precious ivoryor opal with misty colorsdrifting toward azure.All these were materials that become shapes,erotic shapes of whatever existswithin time. The shape, receptacle of time,enclosed it erotically,an offering to time,expectation and acceptance both,that form which is an embrace of time,the singular shape he wrought Out of his own essence,his own imagination. But as his material handcaressed the final shape afterward,he understood the materiality of timeas his own handtogether with the shapeand the precious, erotic materialwere transformed into the diaphanous meaning of time.All together,but particularly he. Poets-Zoe KareliWorker in the Workshops of Time
PoetsAngelos Sikelianos(1880-1951) Angelos Sikelianos was born in 1880 in Lefkas, one of the Ionian islands, and died in Athens in 1951. For many years he roamed throughout the length and breadth of Greece, confirming his knowledge andmastery of Greek tradition and the demotic tongue. The central action of his life was the formation of the Delphic Festivals in 1927 and 1930. Ath Delphi, where the Amphictyonic Council (the first League of Nations) used to meet, Sikelianos hoped to found a cosmic center where, through a dedication to a religious view of life without dogms, the nations of the world might meet to insure peace and justice. Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and Suppliantswere lavisly mounted, Olympic contests were held on the heights of Mt. Parnassos, Byzantine music was played, Greek demotic songs were delivered and danced, and an international university was planned. The author of nine books of poetry and of seven poetic dramas, Sikelianos was a poet in the grand tradition, a Years-like figure, a prophet and seer, a man of high vision and noble actions, one who had assimilated the cultural traditions of his own nationand those of the modern world, a revolutionary democrat and mystic who acted beyond the particular political creeds and religious faiths of the world. His vision was pantheistic and panhellenic, and his poetry, with its wide rhetorical sweep and unequaled command of language, encompassed both the lyric (of which he was a modern master), the philosophic poem, and in his later years, the poetic drama.
PoetsAngelos Sikelianos(1880-1951) Thalero Blazing, laughing, warm, the moon watched over the vineyards, and the sun was still parching the bushes, as it set in the dead calmness. The angry grass was heavily sweating milk in the warm stillness; and you could hear the grape-pickers whistle among the young vines that climbed up the many wide steps of the hillside; the robins were shaking their wings on the river’s banks; the heat-haze spread over the moon a spider-web kerchief.
Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933) Constantine Kavafis was born in Constantinopole in 1963 and died in Alexandria in 1933. Except for three years in England, two years in Constantinopole, a few months each in Paris and Athens, he spent his entire life in the Alexandria he loved, employed for twenty years as a common clerk in the Department of Irrigation. He wrote only three or four poems a year, published some of them in broadsheets for private use, and not until he was forty-one d he bring out his first book, a slim volume of only fourteen poems not for sale, reissued five years later with the addition of only seven poems. His main work, collected after his death, totals some forty-six erotic, some forty-one contemplative, and some sixty-seven historical poems. Written on a demotic base, but with a mixture strangely his own from Ancient, Byzantine, and Medieval Greek, his poems (often with Hellenistic setting) are brief, neither emotional nor lyrical, but dramatic, narrative, objective, realistic, a recounting of facts and episodes in a tone of voice which is dry, precise, deliberately prosaic and, above all, ironic-the undisputed founder and master of modern Greek poetry, and one of the first poets of the modern world .
Ithaca When you set out on the voyage to Ithaca, pray that your journey may be long, full of adventure, full of knowledge. Of the Laestrygones and the Cyclopes and of furious Poseidon, do not be afraid, for such on your journey you shall never meet if your thought remain lofty, if a select emotion imbue your spirit and your body. The Laestrygones and the Cyclopes and furious Poseidon you will never meet unless you drag them with you in your soul, unless your soul raises them up before you. Pray that your journey may be long, that many may those summer morning be when with what pleasure, what pleasure, what untold delight you enter harbors for the first time seen; that you stop at Phoenician market places to procure the godly merchandise, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony and voluptuous perfumes of every kind, as lavish an amount of voluptuous perfumes as you can; that you venture on to many Egyptian cities to learn and yet again to learn from the sages. Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933) But you must always keep Ithaca in mind. The arrival there is your predestination. Yet do not by any means hasten your voyage. Let it best endure for many years, until grown old at length you anchor at your island rich with all you have acquired on the way, having never expected Ithaca would give you riches. Ithaca has given you the lovely voyage. Without her you would not have ventured on the way. She has nothing more to give to you now. Poor though you may find her, Ithaca has not deceived you. Now that you have become so wise, so full of experience, you will have understood the meaning of an Ithaca.
The City You said, “I will go to another land, I will go to another sea. Another city shall be found better than this. Each one of my endeavors is condemned by fate; my heart lies buried like a corpse. How long now in this is withering shall my mind remain. Wherever I turn my eyes, wherever I gaze, I see here only the black ruins of my life where I have spent so many years, worn thin and fallen to ruins.” New places you shall never find, you’ll not find other seas. The city still shall follow you. You’ll wander still in the same streets, you’ll roam in the same neighborhoods, in these same houses you’ll turn gray. You’ll always arrive at this same city. Don’t hope for somewhere else; no ship for you exists, no road exists. Just as you’ve ruined your life here, in this small corner of earth, you’ve worn it thin the whole world round. Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
As Much As You Can And if you cannot make your life as you want it, as least try this as much as you can: do not disgrace it in the crowding contact with the world, in the many movements and all the talk. Do not disgrace it by taking it, dragging it around often and exposing it to the daily folly of relationships and associations, till it becomes like an alien burdensome life. Thermopylae Honor to those who in their lives are committed and guard their Thermopylae. Never stirring from duty; just and upright in all their deeds, but with pity and compassion too; generous whenever they are rich, and when they are poor, again a little generous, again helping as much as they are able; always speaking the truth, but without rancor for those who lie. And they merit greater honor when they foresee (and many do foresee) that Ephialtes will finally appear, and in the end the Medes will go through. Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
An old Man At the back of the noisy café bent over a table sits an old man; a newspaper in front of him, without company. And in the scorn of his miserable old age he ponders how little he enjoyed the years when he had strength, and the power of the word, and good looks. He knows he has aged much; he feels it, he sees it. And yet the time he was young seems like yesterday. How short a time, how short a time. And he ponders how Prudence deceived him; and how he always trusted her -- what a folly! -- that liar who said: "Tomorrow. There is ample time." He remembers the impulses he curbed; and how much joy he sacrificed. Every lost chance now mocks his senseless wisdom. ...But from so much thinking and remembering the old man gets dizzy. And falls asleep bent over the café table. Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
The First Step The young poet Evmenes complained one day to Theocritus: "I've been writing for two years now and I've composed only one idyll. It's my single completed work. I see, sadly, that the ladder of Poetry is tall, extremely tall; and from this first step I'm standing on now I'll never climb any higher." Theocritus retorted: "Words like that are improper, blasphemous. Just to be on the first step should make you happy and proud. To have reached this point is no small achievement: what you've done already is a wonderful thing. Even this first step is a long way above the ordinary world. To stand on this step you must be in your own right a member of the city of ideas. And it's a hard, unusual thing to be enrolled as a citizen of that city. Its councils are full of Legislators no charlatan can fool. To have reached this point is no small achievement: what you've done already is a wonderful thing." Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
PoetsNikos Kazantzakis(1883-1957) Nikos Kazantzakis was born in Heracleion, Crete, in 1883, and died in Feiburg, Germany, in 1957. He studied law at the University of Athens, philosophy under Henri Bergson at the College de France, and literature and art in Germany and Italy.In 1919 he served briefly in the Ministry of Public Welfare, and in 1947 he was appointed Director of Translations from the Classics for UNESCO. The greatest man of letters of modern Greece, Kazantzakis wrote some nine novels (of which Zorba the Greek, The Greek Passion, /freedom or Death, The Last Temptation of Christ, St. Francis, and The Rock Garden are available in English), five books of travel, sixteen poetic dramas, three philosophical treatises (including The Saviors of God: Spiritual Excersises, availlable in English translation by Kimon Friar), and his great epical poem of 33,333 lines, The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, hailed unanimously as a world masterpiece immediately on its American publication in a translation by Kimon friar. In addition, he was thranslated into modern Greek Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Goethe’s Faust, Darwin’s Origin of Species, and innumerable other books.
O Sun O Sun, my quick coquetting eye, my red-haired hound, sniff out all quarries that I love, give them swift chase, tell me all that you've seen on earth, all that you've heard, and I shall pass them through my entrails' secret forge till slowly, with profound caresses, play and laughter, stones, water, fire, and earth shall be transformed to spirit and the mud-winged and heavy soul, freed of its flesh, shall like a flame serene ascend and fade in sun. PoetsNikos Kazantzakis(1883-1957)
From Odysseus, A Drama And you abandon your fortune to the suitors and do not dare utter a word in protest! They’re after your mother like a dogs in heat, and you stare at the sea, and expect the hands of an old man to come and save you! Do you want to be like him? Then buckle his sword and go to the palace to kill! Ah, if he were to put his foot here again your island would shake with terror, and the suitors would keep quiet like deer that have scented a lion’s breath; and they would pay with black blood For their ignoble and most indecent feasts! …………… Greetings to you, my Lords; where are you going? The doors are barred, and in my wide courts, O bridegrooms, in the wedding’s about to begin! Eh you woman, go crouch in the corner, take care-an arrow may wound you, lady, in tumult of the massacre!- I’m Odysseus, and my faithful bow has recognized me, it dances in my hand and the string sings like a swallow full of joy! And in my tight grip death shines calm, like a thunderbolt in a just man’s hand! PoetsNikos Kazantzakis(1883-1957)
PoetsGeorge Seferis (1900-1971) George Seferis, pseudonym of George Seferiadhis, was born in Smyrna in 1900 and in 1926 entered the Ministry of Foregn Affairs. He was formerly the Royal Greek Embassador to England. In 1961 he was awarded the William Foule Poetry Prize in England, and in 1963 the Nobel Prize in Literature. The author of eight books of poetry and two of critical essays, he is a poet of evocative symbols and metaphysical distinctions who has superbly translated Eliot’s The Waste Land and other poems. All of his mature poetry is written in a free verse of great sinuousness, rhythmical yet modulated, which never rises in tone or diction beyond the “conversation between intellectual men”, as Ezra Pound has it. His is a poetry of understandmentand hesitation, dealing with recurring themes of expatriation and the disintegration of the modern world. His poetry is brooming and contemplative, precise yet subtle in thought ang image. He has often attempted to define what Greece is as a “state of being”. Yet in the center of each poem is the poet himself, looking back into the mythological past of his country and her symbols, retracting her history, and telling a story which has the independent validity of imaginative finction.
The houses that I had they took from me. The timeshappened to be unpropitious: war, destruction, exile;sometimes the hunter hits the migratory birds,sometimes he doesn’t hit them. Huntingwas good in my time, many felt the pellet;the rest circle aimlessly or go mad in the shelters. Don’t talk to me about the nightingale or the lark or the little wagtailinscribing figures with his tail in the light;I don’t know much about housesI know they have their own nature, nothing else.New at first, like babieswho play in gardens with the tassels of the sun,they embroider coloured shutters and shinning doors over the day.When the architect’s finished, they change,they frown or smile or even grow resentfulwith those who stayed behind, with those who went awaywith others who’d come back if they couldor others who disappeared, now that the world’s become an endless hotel. PoetsGeorge Seferis (1900-1971)The House Near the Sea
The greatest sun on one sideand the new moon on the otherdistant in memory like those breasts.Between them the chasm of the starry nightdeluge of life. The horses on the threshing-floorsgallop and sweatupon scattered bodies.All are going thereand that woman whomyou saw beautiful, in a momentis bending, can endure no longer, has knelt.The millstones are grinding them alland all become stars. Eve of the longest day. Poets - George Seferis Summer Solstice All have visionsyet no one will admit it;They go thinking they’re alone.The large rosehad always been thereby your side deeply in sleepyours and unknown.But only now that your lips’ve touched iton the outermost leaveshave you felt the dancer’s dense weightfalling into the river of time-the dreadful splash.Don’t waste the breath this respitehas granted you.
PoetsOdysseus Elytis (1912- ) Odysseus Elytis, pseudonym for Odysseus Alepoudhelis, was born in Hracleion, Crete in 1912, of a well-known industrial family, and studied law and political science at the University of Athens. In the period between 1940 and 1941 he served as a second lieutenant on the Albanian front in the Greek-Italian war. In 1938 he represented Greece at the eleventh International Congress of Writers at Geneva, and in 1950 at the first International Congress of Art Critics in Paris. He has spent many years in France and several months touring the United States in 1961 under the auspices of the State Department. The author of five books of poetry, his work marks the joyous return to nature, to summer and the sea, to the blaze of the noonday sun over the aegean, to the praise of adolexcence and its sentiments. His second book was entitled Sun the First, as one might refer to the emperor. Though his poetry is rhythmical in effect, he is more interested in the plastic use of language and imagery, both of which still reflect his earlier preoccupation with surrealism. His experience on the Albanian front during the war brought greater depth and sobriety to his poetry and resulted in one of the best elegies written about the war. He was awarded the State Award in Poetry in 1960 for Worthy It Is.
LoveThe network os islandsand the prow of its foamand the gulls of its dreamson its highest mast a sailorwhistles a song. LoveIts songand the horizons of its voyageand the sound of its longingon its wettest rock the bridewaits for a ship. Loveits shipand the nonchalance of its windsand the jib sail of its hopeon the lightest of waves an islandcradles the arrival. Playtings, the watersin their shadowy flowspeak with their kisses about the dawnthat beginshorizoning-- PoetsOdysseus Elytis (1912- )Aegean
And the pigeons in the cavesrustle their wingsblue awakening in the sourceof a daysun-- The northwest wind bestows the sailto the seathe hair’s caressin the insouciance of its dreamdew-cool— Waves in the lightrevive the eyeswhere life sails towardsthe recognitionlife— The surf a kiss on its caressed sand-LoveThe gull bestows its blue libertyto the horizonwaves come and gofoamy answer in the shell’s ear. Who carried away the blonde and sunburnt girl?The sea-breeze with its transparent breathtilts dream’s sailfar outlove murmurs its promise--Surf PoetsOdysseus Elytis (1912- )Aegean
PoetsYiannis Ritsos (1909- ) Yiannis Ritsos, was borne in Monemvasia, a town of Peloponnesos, in 1909, fell ill at the age of eighteen months of tuberculosis and spent many years in various sanatoriums. His heritage is a tragic one, for both his mother and elder brother died of tuberculosis and his father and sister died insane. Because of his left-wing activities, he spent the years 1948-52 in various detention camps in Greece. The author of twenty-three books of poetry, three volumes of Collected Poems (1961-64), of two plays and a poem for dance, he won the State Award in Poetry for 1956 for Moonlight sonata.
Moonlight Sonata Let me come with you. What a moon there is tonight! The moon is kind – it won’t show that my hair turned white. The moon will turn my hair to gold again. You wouldn’t understand. Let me come with you. When there’s a moon the shadows in the house grow larger, invisible hands draw the curtains, a ghostly finger writes forgotten words in the dust on the piano – I don’t want to hear them. Hush. Let me come with you a little farther down, as far as the brickyard wall, to the point where the road turns and the city appears concrete and airy, whitewashed with moonlight, so indifferent and insubstantial so positive, like metaphysics, that finally you can believe you exist and do not exist, that you never existed, that time with its destruction never existed. Let me come with you. Poets Yiannis Ritsos
From Romiosini These trees cannot adjust to lesser sky,these stones cannot adjust beneath the tread of strangers,these faces cannot adjust unless they feel the sun,these hearts cannot adjust unless they live in justice. This landscape is as harsh as silence,it hugs to its breast the scorching stones,clasps in its light the orphaned olive trees and vineyards,clenches its teeth. There is no water. Light only.Roads vanish in light and the shadow of the sheepfold is made or iron. Trees, rivers, and voices have turned to stone in the sun’s quicklime.Roots trip on marble. Dust-covered lentisk shrubs.Mules and rocks. All panting. There is no water.All are parched. For years now. All chew a morsel of sky to choke down their bitterness. Poets - Yiannis Ritsos
PoetsNikos Gatsos(1915- ) Nikos Gatsos was born in a small village in Arcadia and took his degree from the School of Letters at the University of Athens. From early childhood he grew up in the heroic traditions of his countryside, made vivid for him by the ballads and folksongs of the region. He is the author of only one longish poem, Amorgos, but it has had a disproportionate influence among the writers of his generation. In Amorgos, the practice of surrealism, the rhythms of the Bible, and the traditions of Greek folk ballads were combined for the first time in a strange, arresting, and elegiac manner. Profoundly influenced by the Ionian philosopher Heracleitos, Gatsos believes that the essence of life and art is to be found in nothing static, but in an eternal flux. In the brooding long lines of his Iamentations, however, there is always to be found the sprig of basil or rosemary, symbols of hope and resurrection, joyful melancholy.
PoetsNikos Gatsos(1915- ) Amorgos With their country tied to their sails and their oars hung on the wind The shipwrecked slept tamely like dead beasts on a bedding of sponges But the eyes of seaweed are turned toward the sea Hoping the South Wind will bring them back with their lateen sails newly painted For one lost elephant is always worth much more than two quivering breasts of a girl Only if the roofs of deserted chapels should light up with the caprice of the Evening star Only if birds should ripple amid the masts of the lemon trees With the firm white flurry of lively footsteps Will the winds come, the bodies of swans that remained immaculate, unmoving and tender Amid the streamrollers of shops and the cyclones of vegetable gardens When the eyes of women turned to coal and the hearts of the chestnut hawkers were broken When the harvest was done and the hopes of crickets began And indeed this is why, my brave young men, with kisses, wine, and leaves on your mouths I would want you to stride naked along the riversides
PoetsNikiphoros Vrettakos (1911- ) Nikiphoros Vrettakos, born in Sparta in 1911, worked as a common laborer in Athens until he was given a post in the Ministry of Labor. The author of twenty-one books of poetry, he is a pure singing voice, writing spontaneously without much attention to form, impelled by an almost naïve religious devotion and a deep sentiment for the ills of down trodden humanity. His hatred of injustice and his desire to better the world often leads him to moralize in the midst of song. Christian and democratic in his views, he believes and asserts in his poetry that art must be expression of love and goodness, that these form the beauty of civilization as a higher ordering of human relations, a kind of divine law, a “deathlessness of art”. He has twice won the State Award for Poetry: in 1940 for the Grimaces of Man, and in 1956 for poems, 1929-1951.
An Almond Tree An almond tree with you beside it.But when did you two blossom?Standing by the windowI look at you and weep. My eyes can’t bear suchmirth. God, give meall the cisterns of heavenand I’ll fill them for you. Peace Love is in my heart like an almond tree branchin a glass of water. The sun caresses itand is filled with birds.The best nightingale utters your name. The Strange Presence As if God had molded you out of unused earth,light and water, you are beautiful,strangely so. Your hands resemblean assembled people mediatingupon your breast. Your neck is a columnsupporting a frieze. Your laugha piece camp. The sun alightson your upright forehead, strangely. Your hair is a tamed storm. And your eyes arethe wisdom of silence, the harmony of the storm,the “love one another”. Poets Nikiphoros Vrettakos (1911- )
There is no Solitude There is no solitude where a man isdigging or whistling or washing his hands.There is no solitude where a treestirs its leaves. Where an anonymousinsect finds a flower and sits,where a brook is reflecting a star,where holding his mother’s breastwith his blissful little lips openan infant sleeps, there is no solitude Without you Without you doveswouldn’t find water. Without you Godwouldn’t switch on the light in his fountains. An apple tree sows its blossomsin the wind; in your apronyou bring water from the skythe glow of wheat, and above youa moon of sparrows Poets Nikiphoros Vrettakos (1911- )
from Murky Rivers Love is the mountainand the night with its stars.Love is the seaand the day with its sun.And the little sparksthat fly from the chimneyof the house and the eyesof the little bird even thoseare love. If I Were If I were to offer you a lilyI would be addinga stemto the Evening Star. Poets Nikiphoros Vrettakos (1911- )