Memory

Moero
Greek
c. 300 B.C.

 

Now mighty Zeus was raised in Crete, and not one
of the blessed gods knew about him. In every limb he grew strong,
while doves looked after him in a holy cave
bringing ambrosia from Ocean’s streams,
a mighty eagle, ever drawing nectar from a rock,
in its beak carried a drink for wise Zeus.
After defeating his father Cronus, wide-seeing Zeus
made the eagle immortal and settled it in heaven.
Just so did he bestow honour on the trembling doves
who are the messengers of summer and winter.

Denial

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 120th birthday.

Giorgos Seferis
Greek
1900 – 1971

 

On the secret seashore
white like a pigeon
we thirsted at noon;
but the water was brackish.

On the golden sand
we wrote her name;
but the sea-breeze blew
and the writing vanished.

With what spirit, what heart,
what desire and passion
we lived our life: a mistake!
So we changed our life.

The Odyssey — a Modern Sequel, Extract 1

In honor of Greek Independence Day, we present this work by a giant of Greek literature.

Nikos Kazantzakis
Greek
1883 – 1957

 

Then flesh dissolved, glances congealed, the heart’s pulse stopped,
and the great mind leapt to the peak of its holy freedom,
fluttered with empty wings, then upright through the air
soared high and freed itself from its last cage, its freedom.
All things like frail mist scattered till but one brave cry
for a brief moment hung in the calm benighted waters:
“Forward, my lads, sail on, for Death’s breeze blows in a fair wind!”

Tram and Acropolis

Nikos Engonopoulos
Greek
1907 – 1985

 

le soleil me brule et me rend lumineux

through the monotonous rain
the mud
the ashen atmosphere
the trams pass
and through the deserted marketplace
• deadened by the rain –
they proceed towards
the
terminals

my thought
filled with emotion
follows them lovingly until
they reach
there where the fields begin
where the fields are drowned by the rain
at the terminals

what sorrow it would have been – my God –
what sorrow
if my heart was not consoled
by the hope of marble
and the prospect of a bright sunray
which shall give new life
to the splendid ruins

exactly like
a red flower
amid green leaves

Hymn to Roma

Melinno
Greek
c. 150 B.C.

 

Hail to Roma, the war-god’s daughter
Warrior queen in a golden girdle,
Your Heaven here on earth, eternal
And unassailable.

On you alone, our ancient of days,
Fate has bestowed this royal glory
Of unbroken rule, sovereign strength
To lead where all follow.

For under your yoke, by your strong reins,
The great back of earth and foam-white seas
Are bent; without a falter your steer
The cities of all men.

But time’s great span can topple us all;
Life sways us one way, then another
You alone sail on fair winds of rule
And never alter course.

For you alone have borne strong warriors,
Great spearman, springing up unbidden
Like Demeter’s fruitful ears of corn,
A crop of mortal men.

Ithaca

C.P. Cavafy
Greek
1863 – 1933

 

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.

Preveza

Kostas Karyotakis
Greek
1896 – 1928

 

Death is the bullies bashing
against the black walls and roof tiling,
death is the women being loved
in the course of onion peeling.

Death the squalid, unimportant streets
with their glamorous and pompous names,
the olive-grove, the surrounding sea, and even
the sun, death among all other deaths.

Death the policeman bending over
to weigh, a “lacking” portion,
death the harebells on the balcony
and the teacher with the newspaper.

Base, Guard, Sixty-man Prevezian Rule.
On Sunday we’ll listen to the band.
I’ve taken out a savings booklet,
my first deposit drachmas thirty one.

Walking slowly on the quay,
“do I exist?” you say, and then: “you do not!”
The ship approaches. The flag is flying.
Perhaps Mr. Prefect will be coming.

If at least, among these people,
one would die of sheer disgust
silent, bereaved, with humble manners,
at the funeral we’d all have fun.

Thourios

Rigas Feraios
Greek
1757 – 1798

 

Until when are we, oh brave young men, going to live in constraint,
Lonely like likons, on the ridges of the mountains?
Better have an hour of free life
Than forty years of slavery and prison.

Shall we dwell in caves, just looking out at the branches,
Leaving from the world into the bitter slavery?
Better live one hour in freedom
Than forty years in slavery and prison.

Do we lose our brothers, homeland, and parents,
Our friends, children, and all of our kin?
Better live one hour in freedom
Than forty years in slavery and prison.

You work all day, and no matter what he tells you,
He strives again, only to drink your blood.
Soutzos, as well as Mourouzis, Petrakis, Skanavis
Grikas and Mavrogenis, mirror is for your reflection.