Which poem or song best represents Greece in your opinion?

By: | Post date: 2016-10-30 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Modern Greek, Music

I’m going with the Birds of the Netherworld. stixoi.info: Του κάτω κόσμου τα πουλιά

It’s got a lot of what makes Modern Greek culture so rich:

  • Cryptic, magical dread. The lyricist based it on a nightmare he had; but the song was released in 1974, during the death-throes of the Greek dictatorship—so people assumed what they would about it.
  • A firmly entrenched notion of the Netherworld, continuing from pagan times, as opposed to Christian Heaven and Hell
  • Casual mentions of antiquity and the landscape; not as obeisance, but simply as inheritance
  • And the dark sorrows of the land, that the tourists miss, beneath those gleaming beaches
  • And all against the stern modal 9/4 thud of the verse, and lament of the chorus.

You can have your Dylans; I’ve always thought the Greek art-bouzouki scene did a far greater job of true poetry in its lyrics, even when it wasn’t subording actual Nobel prize winners like Odysseas Elytis. The fact that Greece continues to keep singers, songwriters, and lyricists separate really helps there.

The translations at http://stixoi.info are horrid. Here’s mine.

Time, envenomed, lingers
in the alleys of the Netherworld to find you.
And out of work for thirteen centuries, he seeks
your ark—and to drink your blood.

Flagellators and the Clashing Rocks await you.
A maiden keeps watch amidst the gold.
The Cyclades are hanging from her ears.
And her bed is the Killer’s den.

Hidden are the secret words in the seashell.
Hidden is the magic of the sea in the North Wind.
One day the oil lamp will go out in the house,
and then you will find neither door nor lock.

The birds and peacocks of the Netherworld
are making you a dress of light and night.
Men gnash and grind their teeth:
They leap, they run, and seize you half-way.

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