A remarkable anthology of the major twentieth-century Greek poets has recently been published in Italy. The series in which the anthology Poeti greci del Novecento appears is one of the most prestigious in Italian publishing, the Meridiani. The editors are two leading figures of Modern Greek Studies in Italy. Nicola Crocetti is the director of the publishing house Crocetti Editore which is devoted to the translation into Italian of important works in modern Greek, publishing both great classic and contemporary authors. Filippomaria Pontani is, so to say, figlio d’arte, since he inherited from his father, Filippo Maria Pontaniâ€”the pioneer of Modern Greek Studies in Italyâ a passion for things Greek. He currently teaches ancient Greek at the University Ca’ Foscari in Venice.
Given these premises, the work could not be but excellent. The anthology offers a complete outline, organized chronologically, of the development as well as of the currents of modern Greek poetry of the twentieth century. The editors have rightly thought that in order to offer a clear and intelligent picture of the modern Greek poetical tradition of the twentieth century they had to start from the sources. Therefore, the anthology begins with a selection from the works of the poets of the nineteenth century who inaugurated the modern Greek poetical tradition.
Under the category Antefatti are presented authors from Solomos to Valaoritis, through whom it is possible to grasp both the beginnings of a renewed poetical tradition and those themes and problems that will continue to characterize modern Greek poetry in the twentieth century. After this outline of modern Greek poetry in the nineteenth century comes a meditated selection of authors, sometimes presented individually, sometimes gathered under thematic categories. The reader is thus introduced to Palamas, who can be considered a bridge between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, given the length of his life. His work has consecrated him as the national conscience of Greece in its darkest moments, as proved by the mass participation at his funeral in Athens during the Nazi occupation. After Palamas, well-known and little-known authors are presented, passing through Cavafy, Seferis, Elytis, Ritsos, up to Vayenas and Varveris, two interesting voices of these last years.
For each author, a biography, exegetical notes, and an essential bibliography are provided. This helps to better place the author in his cultural context and to guide the reader, who might be encountering some of these poets for the first time. The exegetical notes are concise and always clear and illuminating. After each biography comes a bibliography which presents the main editions as well as the most valid critical approaches to the author treated. The volume closes with a bibliografia generale, very useful both for the scholar and for the general reader, which presents a list of the most authoritative histories of modern Greek literature as well as the anthologies and the critical studies that have appeared in modern Greek, Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish.
The poetical texts are presented in Greek with facing Italian translations by Nicola Crocetti and Filoppomaria Pontani; some of the translations are by Filippo Maria Pontani, coming from his published as well as unpublished works. The translations stand out for their clarity and sobriety as well as for their ability to transmit into Italian the poetical message of the Greek original. The introduction by Filippomaria Pontani offers an illuminating survey on the development of modern Greek poetry, underlying the main themes pertaining mostly to the history of modern Greece as well as those themes that find their ultimate origin in the great classical tradition. The result of such an approach is an outlook that stresses the universal destiny of modern Greek poetry and of modern Greek culture in general, since it finds its sources of inspiration at the beginning, and hence perennially at the center of Western culture.
by Paolo Di Leo
SOURCE Journal of Modern Greek Studies
Dionysios Solomos (8 April 1798 – 9 February 1857) was a Greek poet from Zakynthos. He is best known for writing the Hymn to Liberty (Greek: Ὕμνος εἰς τὴν Ἐλευθερίαν, Ýmnos eis tīn Eleutherían), of which the first two stanzas on music by Nikolaos Mantzaros became the Greek national anthem in 1865. He was the central figure of the Heptanese School of poetry, and is considered the national poet of Greece – not only because he wrote the national anthem, but also because he contributed to the preservation of earlier poetic tradition and highlighted its usefulness to modern literature. Other notable poems include Ο Κρητικός (Τhe Cretan),Ελεύθεροι Πολιορκημένοι (The Free Besieged) and others. A characteristic of his work is that no poem except the Hymn to Liberty was completed, and almost nothing was published during his lifetime.
Hymn to Liberty – Dionysios Solomos
We knew thee of old,
Oh, divinely restored,
By the light of thine eyes
And the light of thy Sword.
From the graves of our slain
Shall thy valour prevail
As we greet thee again —
Hail, Liberty! Hail!
Long time didst thou dwell
Mid the peoples that mourn,
Awaiting some voice
That should bid thee return.
Ah, slow broke that day
And no man dared call,
For the shadow of tyranny
Lay over all:
And we saw thee sad-eyed,
The tears on thy cheeks
While thy raiment was dyed
In the blood of the Greeks.
Yet, behold now thy sons
With impetuous breath
Go forth to the fight
Seeking Freedom or Death.
From the graves of our slain
Shall thy valour prevail
As we greet thee again —
Hail, Liberty! Hail!
SOURCE (the free encyclopedia. Rudyard Kipling created this seven-stanza English translation, which was first published in the Daily Telegraph on October 17, 1918)
Rime Improvvisate, Solomos’ improvised poems in Italian
Letter (Zante, 1822) from Lodovico Strani(s) to Ugo Foscolo,published as the introduction to Solomos‘ first collection of poetry (Rime Improvvisate, 30 sonnets in Italian), published by Strani(s) in Corfu, 1822.
SWEET and free the soul, like she is gone, / and they raised in smile the wounded front.
Have you as many has the East and as many the West wishes.
Chasm of quake bringing forth flowers that tremor in the air.
Thousands of sounds innumerous, in great creation’s depths; / The East was starting it, ending it the West. / Some from the East and from the West some; / Every sound had a joy, every joy a love.
Complaint waste of time in whatever one might lose.
Joy in my eyes I wish to see, the much beloved, / Cruel dream revealed into the shroud shut.
Open always, always watching, the eyes of my soul.
Small light and far in darkness great and desolate.
To depth from depth falls until was no one left; / there of came forth invincible.
Probes you the stone you hold, and holds itself a voice.
In this world flows and in worlds beyond arrives.
Γλυκειὰ κι’ ἐλεύθερ’ ἡ ψυχὴ σὰ νά τανε βγαλμένη, / κι’ ὑψώναν μὲ χαμόγελο τὴν ὄψι τὴ φθαρμένη.
Ἔχε ὅσες ἔχ’ ἡ Ἀνατολὴ κι’ ὅσες εὐχὲς ἡ Δύσι.
Χάσμα σεισμοῦ ποὺ βγάν’ ἀνθοὺς καὶ τρέμουν στὸν ἀέρα.
Χιλιάδες ἦχοι ἀμέτρητοι, πολὺ βαθιὰ στὴ χτίσι· / ἡ Ἀνατολὴ τ’ ἀρχίναγε κ’ ἐτέλειωνέ το ἡ Δύσι. / Κάποι ἀπὸ τὴν Ἀνατολή, κι’ ἀπὸ τὴ Δύσι κάποι· / κάθ’ ἦχος εἶχε καὶ χαρά, κάθε χαρὰ κι’ ἀγάπη.
Παράπονο χαμὸς καιροῦ σ ὅ,τι κανεὶς κι’ ἂν χάσῃ.
Χαρὰ στὰ μάτια μου νὰ ἰδῶ τὰ πολυαγαπημένα, / ποὺ μὤδειξε σκληρ’ ὄνειρο στὸ σάβανο κλεισμένα.
Πάντ’ ἀνοιχτά, πάντ’ ἄγρυπνα, τὰ μάτια τῆς ψυχῆς μου.
Ὀλίγο φῶς καὶ μακρινὸ σὲ μέγα σκότος κ’ ἔρμο.
Σὲ βυθὸ πέφτει ἀπὸ βυθὸ ὣς ποὺ δὲν ἦταν ἄλλος· / ἐκεῖθ’ ἐβγῆκε ἀνίκητος.
Σ’ ἐλέγχ’ ἡ πέτρα ποὺ κρατεῖς, καὶ κλεῖ φωνὴ κι’ αὐτήνη.
Στὸν κόσμο τοῦτον χύνεται καὶ ‘ς ἄλλους κόσμους φθάνει.
from the second draft, * Fragments 9, 15, 22, 23, 32, 33, 36, 41, 43, 49 & 52
Η ημέρα της Λαμπρής, ∆ιονυσιος Σολωμος
Καθαρότατον ήλιο επρομηνούσε
της αυγής το δροσάτο ύστερο αστέρι,
σύγνεφο, καταχνιά, δεν απερνούσε
τ’ ουρανού σε κανένα από τα μέρη,
και από εκεί κινημένο αργοφυσούσε
τόσο γλυκό στο πρόσωπο τ’ αέρι,
που λες και λέει μες της καρδιάς τα φύλλα
«γλυκειά η ζωή κι ο θάνατος μαυρίλα».
Χριστός ανέστη! Νέοι, γέροι και κόραις
όλοι, μικροί, μεγάλοι ετοιμασθήτε,
μέσα στις εκκλησιές τες δαφνοφόραις
με το φως της χαράς συμμαζωχθήτε,
ανοίξατε αγκαλιές ειρηνοφόραις
ομπροστά στους Αγίους, και φιληθείτε,
φιληθείτε γλυκά χείλη με χείλη,
πέστε Χριστός ανέστη, εχθροί και φίλοι.
Δάφναις εις κάθε πλάκα έχουν οι τάφοι,
και βρέφη ωραία στην αγκαλιά οι μαννάδες,
γλυκόφωνα, κοιτώντας ταις ζωγραφι-
σμέναις εικόνες, ψάλλουνε οι ψαλτάδες,
λάμπει το ασήμι, λάμπει το χρυσάφι
από το φως που χύνουνε οι λαμπάδες,
κάθε πρόσωπο λάμπει απ’ τ’ αγιοκέρι,
οπού κρατούνε οι Χριστιανοί στο χέρι.
The Day of Easter, by Dionysios Solomos
The last cool star of dawn was
foretelling the brightest sunshine;
no cloud, no drift of mist was travelling
across any part of the sky.
Coming from there, the breeze
blew so sweetly across the face,
so gently, that it seemed
to whisper to the depths of the heart:
‘Life is sweet and death is darkness.’
‘Christ is Risen!’ Young and old, maidens,
everyone, little and great, prepare!
Inside the laurel-covered churches,
gather in the light of joy!
Open your arms and with them offer peace,
that the icons of the saints may see.
Embrace and kiss other sweetly, lip on lip,
let friend and foe proclaim, ‘Christ is Risen!’
Laurels are placed on every tomb,
beautiful babes are held in mothers’ arms,
the choristers sing sweetly
as they come before the icons.
Bright is the silver, bright is the gold,
under the light of the Easter candles.
Each face alights before the holy candles,
that Christians bear in hand.
From the blog of Canon Patrick Comerford,who is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.