The ruins of Greece – Τα ερείπια (χαλάσματα) της Ελλάδος

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“Only ruins remain and the beauty of the natural environment.” Lord Byron

Amfissa Castle, Greece
Amfissa Castle, Greece

ΧΑΛΑΣΜΑΤΑ

Γύρισα στα ξανθά παιδιάτικα λημέρια,
γύρισα στο λευκό της νιότης μονοπάτι,
γύρισα για να ιδώ το θαυμαστό παλάτι,
για με χτισμένο απ’ τών Ερώτων τ’ άγια χέρια.
Το μονοπάτι το ‘πνιξαν οι αρκουδοβάτοι,
και τα λημέρια τα ‘καψαν τα μεσημέρια,
κ’ ένας σεισμός το ‘ρριξε κάτου το παλάτι,
και μέσ’ στα ερείπια τώρα και στ’ αποκαΐδια
απομένω παράλυτος· σαύρες και φίδια
μαζί μου αδερφοζούν οι λύπες και τα μίση·
και το παλάτι ένας σεισμός το ‘χει γκρεμίσει.

ΚΩΣΤΗΣ ΠΑΛΑΜΑΣ

Ασάλευτη ζωή, 1904
‘Απαντα, τομ. Γ´, σελ. 72

Amfissa Castle, Greece
Amfissa Castle, Greece

RUINS

I RETURNED TO MY GOLDEN PLAYGROUNDS,
I RETURNED TO MY WHITE BOYHOOD TRAIL,
I RETURNED TO SEE THE WONDROUS PALACE,
BUILT JUST FOR ME BY LOVE’S DIVINE WAYS.
BLACKBERRY BUSHES NOW COVER THE BOYHOOD TRAIL,
AND THE MIDAY SUNS HAVE BURNED THE PLAYGROUNDS,
AND A TREMOR HAS DESTROYED MY PALACE SO RARE,
AND IN THE MIDST OF FALLEN WALLS AND BURNED
TIMBERS, I REMAIN LIFELESS; LIZARDS AND SNAKES
WITH ME NOW LIVE THE SORROWS AND THE HATES;
AND OF MY PALACE A BROKEN MASS NOW REMAINS

Costis Palamas
Translated by A. Moskios

 

Amfissa Castle, Greece
Amfissa Castle, Greece

INTERVIEWER
On the question of the Greek poet’s relation to his tradition, it has always seemed to me that the Greek poet has an advantage over his Anglo-Saxon counterpart who makes use of Greek mythology and sometimes even of Greek landscape. I remember years ago when I was writing a thesis on what I thought were English influences in the poetry of Cavafy and Seferis, I asked you about certain images that crop up in your landscape, for example, the symbolic meaning of the statues that appear in your work. You turned to me and said: “But those are real statues. They existed in a landscape I had seen.” What I think you were saying is that you always start with the fact of a living, actual setting and move from there to any universal meaning that might be contained in it.

SEFERIS
An illustration of that from someone who is a specialist in classical statues came the other day from an English scholar who was lecturing about the statuary of the Parthenon. I went up to congratulate him after his lecture, and he said to me, as I remember: “But you have a line which expresses something of what I meant when you say ‘the statues are not the ruins—we are the ruins.’” I mean I was astonished that a scholar of his caliber was using a line from me to illustrate a point.

George Seferis
The statues are not the ruins—we are the ruins

From an Interview to “The Paris Review”, 2005 (epopteia)

Amfissa Castle, Greece
Amfissa Castle, Greece

 

“Unless we can relate it to ourselves personally, history will always be more or less an abstraction and its content the clash of impersonal forces and ideas. Although generalizations are necessary to order this vast, chaotic material, they kill the individual detail that tends to stray from the schema. . . . Afterwards all that remains of entire centuries is a kind of popular digest.”

Czesław Miłosz, Native Realm

 

Amfissa Castle, Greece
Amfissa Castle, Greece

Ruins come out of ruins. The story of the Acropolis is a good example. The original temple of Athena has been destroyed at least nine times in its two-and-a-half-thousand-year history. Burned by Heruli barbarians in ad 267, it was restored by Julian in ad 360, and then in 438 Christian priests hacked away at the nude sculptures and crowned the temple with a cross. The Ottoman Turks in 1456 replaced the cross with a minaret. There are still-bitter feelings about the damage done by the Venetians in 1687 when they bombed the Parthenon on September 26 under Francesco Morosini. Then there was also the sale of seventy-five sculptures by the Ottomans to Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to Greece, in 1802.

Adrianne Kalfopoulou, Ruin

 

Amfissa Castle, Greece
Amfissa Castle, Greece

You said: “…Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
The City

C.P. Cavafy

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Will write a little more before soccer game begins ,while my green beans simmer away with tomatoes , olive oil, onions & herbs ,Greek style till meltingly tender to be eaten with good crusty bread & a slice of Feta. So——am so glad I discovered you —have no one to speak Greek with am thirsting for the language , love Sefaris , Milosz, etc. have not read Palamis & want to & like that you post the Greek as well as English . Many ,many thanks. You sound like a most interesting ,many-faceted person.

    Sent from my iPad

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