Translations and notes

Translations of and additional comments on the Greek subjects of the Odes and Rapsodies albums.

Notes by Pericles Kondos


Odes contains the following tracks:

1. 40 Pallikaria (40 Young men).

40 young men form Levadeia go to conquer Tripolitsa. In their way they meet an old man. "Good day to you, old man", "Welcome, my youths; where are you going, young men? Where are you going, my youths?" "We are going to conquer Tripolitsa."

This is one of the best-known traditional songs, and refers to an incident during the last years of 18th century or early 19th; Lebadeia is in central Greece, Tripolitsa in the center of the Peloponnese. The geography does not make sense, but I have read that the song refers to a small village near Lebadeia, called Drombolitsa, which is abandoned now and only confused with Tripolitsa because of the similar names. The poem is longer: The 40 were caught by the authorities, and when the old man heard it, he went to the bey of the place and demanded their release: "I am Tzavellas, the leader of the klephts, and if you don't give them to me, I will burn your village." (Klephts were the guerrilla fighters against the Ottomans.)

2. Neratzoula (Little Bitter-Orange Tree)

"Bushy Neratzoula, where are your flowers, neratzoula? Where is your former beauty? Where is your beauty?" (there are different words for the two "beauty"s) "The North Wind blew and shook them off, neratzoula. I beg you, my North Wind, blow quietly, neratzoula."

The repetition of a word (here "neratzoula") is quite usual in folk songs, although it is simply parenthetic and is not connected with the rest of the phrase. After all, the North wind stuff is told by the tree to the passer-by.

3. Choros tis Photias (Fire Dance).

Original composition.

4. I Kolokotronei (The Kolokotronis family).

"The sun shines on the mountains; it shines on the valleys. That's how the klepht family of the Kolokotronis shines, who have the large amounts of silver, the silver swords. They don't deign to set foot on the ground. They go to church on horseback; they worship the icons on horseback; they take the sacred bread from the priest's hand on horseback."

The Kolokotronei were so important that they didn't simply have riches; they had *THE* riches. The use of the definite article emphasizes their singular place in the folklore, as does their outrageous behavior in church, which among other things is impossible, since people worship the icons by bowing and kissing them; how could they do it while riding a horse?). Kolokotronis was an important family of klephts, several generations of them were famous, and the most famous was Theodore Kolokotronis who was the greatest hero of the War of Greek Independence in the 1820's, but they were not particularly rich. But there are many legends about the family. According to one of them, the name (which sounds as if it contains the words kolos (meaning ass) and kotroni (meaning stone) came from an incident when one of them was shot in the ass during a battle and since the spectacle was not exactly dignified he sat on a stone to hide his bloodied ass!

5. To potami (The river)

"River, {tzanem} my river {hai, hai}, my river, when you swirl and beat and wave, take me, tzanem my river, hai hai, take me with your waves and your turns, my river."

The words in {} have no meaning in Greek (tzanem sounds Turkish), but as usual, they are there for the sound, plus you have constant repetitions.

6. I rizes (The roots)

Composed by Vangelis.

7. Miroloi. (Lament)

"Little white fisherman's boat, why are you decorated?" "His mother has decorated me, and she sends me into the black earth." "Don't cover me, sky; don't press me, soil; because I am not done enjoying my youth yet" "Which sky, which sea, which fountain doesn't turn dark? Which mother loses her child and doesn't melt from sorrow?"

Oh boy I'm not sure who says what to whom here. It seems somebody asks the boat; the boat answers, and then the dead fisherman asks the sky and the earth not to be buried, and then somebody makes the general remark that the entire nature mourns the guy and a mother whose child dies will melt from sorrow. I left the word construction as close to the original as possible.

8. O Menousis

Menousis, Mpirmpilis and Mehmet-aga, went to the wine-seller's to eat and drink. While they were eating, while they were drinking, somebody started talking about beautiful women. "What a beautiful wife you have, Mehmet-aga!" {There is a mistake here, because the song is about Menousis and his wife; it should be Menousi-aga, the "aga" simply a polite addition and not the actual title of Aga.} "Where have you seen her? How do you know her and speak about her?" "I met her yesterday by the well while she was drawing water, and I asked her for a little kiss and she gave it to me" {see note below} Menousis, drunk, went to his house and killed her. Next morning, sober, he was lamenting her: "Get up, my duck; get up, my goose, get up and change your clothes, so that the youths will see you and rejoice!"

NOTE: Vangelis has taken liberties here; the words should be: "I met her yesterday by the well while she was drawing water, and I asked her for water and she gave me, and I gave her my handkerchief and she washed it, and I asked her for a little kiss and she gave it to me", and later, it should be "so that the youths will see you and burn [presumably from desire], and I will see you and rejoice" and the kissing part is doubtful; because according to the standards of the time he would have been quite justified in killing her if she had kissed another guy and he bragged about it, and of course he wouldn't want other young men to enjoy her beauty! (I read recently that in folk poetry, giving a handkerchief and having it washed was a euphemism for having sex). The song must refer to a real incident, and the existence of the Turkish Mehmet-aga means it was before 1820.

Notes by Pericles Kondos


Rapsodies contains the following tracks:

1. Ti Ipermaho Stratigo (To the defending female general) (Music).

The hymn is part of the "Cheretismi" (literally "Greetings", but here meaning "Hail Mary"s). In the early 7th century Konstantinople was besieged by the Avars while emperor Heraclius was missing fighting the Persians (to recover the Holy Cross, says the propaganda) and legend says that the Virgin Mary appeared on the walls of the city as a huge female warrior and wherever she passed the besiegers died, so they lifted the siege. The patriarch of Konstantinople immediately composed a big poem-hymn consisting of 24 stanzas (each starting from one letter of the Greek alphabet) praising her and the very same night they sang it in churches without sitting throughout the night (So it was called "O Akathistos Ymnos", the non-sitting hymn). No, I don't believe it either, but it's a nice story. Anyway, now the poem embellished with lots of extra stuff is sung every Friday during the Lent (6 letters every day for the first 4 Fridays and the entire poem during the 5th), and this services are called "Cheretismi"; this is the basic hymn (not part of the poem though). So it is both happy and martial. The words are omitted by Vangelis but they are along the lines "Let's thank the defending [she-]general because she saved her city from disaster, and since you are so powerful, liberate me from all kinds of dangers so that I will yell to you "Hail, unmarried bride". ["Unmarried Bride" is an oxymoron in Greek (Nymphe Anympheute), and it's a name for V.M. because according to Orthodox teaching she didn't get married to Joseph.]

2. Oh, glyky mou Ear (Oh, my sweet spring [the season])

This is sung during the Thursday before Easter and it is supposed to be the lament of virgin Mary when she saw the dead Jesus.

(Words:) The perfume-bringing women were sprinkling the grave with perfumes, having come very early in the morning; and your all-holy mother was lamenting, seeing you, Word, dead. And the young girl [this still means the V.M., never mind how old she was!] cried, with warm tears, and emptying her insides - "Oh, my sweet spring, my sweetest child, where has your beauty set?" [The word used is special for the setting of the sun, so the beauty of Jesus has set like the sun. And of course, Jesus was the Word, as in the beginning of John's gospel]. All the generations [of men] were praising your burial [unintelligible words after that] "Oh, my sweet spring", etc.

3. Ton Nymphona sou blepo (I see your bridal chamber).

This is sung the Sunday before Easter and refers to the parable of the stupid virgins who were invited to a wedding but because the groom was late they burned the oil from their lamps so they could not join the procession afterwards, when the groom came, while the clever virgins still had their oil. (Of course they had taken advantage of the fact that they could see from the light of the stupid ones, and anyway the fault was the groom's, since he was late, but I understand it means that a good Christian should always be prepared because you never know when the second coming will be here.)

Words: I see your bridal chamber decorated, my Savior; but I have no clothes [appropriate] to come inside. Please, make the clothes of mysoul shine, oh Lightgiver, and save me.

4. Rapsodia (Rhapsody)

Probably a Vangelis composition.

5. Tin oreotita tis Parthenias sou (The beauty of your Virginity).

Words: [When Gabriel saw] the beauty of your virginity and the super-shining of your chastity, surprised he cried to you, mother-of-god: (But we don't learn what Gabriel said, at least here.)

6. Christos Anesti (Christ is risen)

This is the basic Easter hymn. Background: Easter is the biggest religious holiday in Greece, much bigger than X-mas; also it is later than the Catholic Easter, so the weather is good enough for the celebration to be outdoors. The liturgy is at midnight, and everybody has a big candle. At some point the lights go off, and the priest lights his candle from the lamp-that-never-goes-off and then the priest lights the candles of the nearby persons and they give the light to others and soon everybody has a lit candle and tries to avoid turning into an auto-da-fe from the candles of the neighbors, and at exactly midnight the priest starts singing the "Christos Anesti" hymn, the bells start ringing like mad, fireworks go off, and everybody starts kissing everybody around him, and then when people go home the head of the family uses the candle to make a cross with smoke at the lintel of the front door (to keep evil from entering) and lights the lamp in front of the icons with the same candle, and the lamp is supposed to stay on till next year - I mean of course an oil lamp. And for the next 40 days, the greeting is not Good morning or whatever, but "Christos Anesti", to which one is supposed to answer "Alithos Anesti" (Truly he has risen).

WORDS: Christ is risen from the dead, having beaten Death by [his own] death and having given the gift of life to those in the graves.

7. Asma asmaton (The song of songs).

Well, I shouldn't dare translate a work of the bible that I like as a work of art, but just to give you an idea of what parts of the book are included, plus it is a "poetic" modern Greek translation so it might not be exact:

How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are!
Your look is sweet and tender like a pigeon's.
None of the beautiful women can compete with you.
You are like a lilly, and they are like thorns.
Your red lips are like a red thread.
Your pink cheeks behind your veil look like a pomegranate that was cut in two.
Your two breasts look like twin gazelles that went out to graze among the lilly flowers.
Kiss me, kiss me with all the kisses you have in your mouth make me drunk with the sweetest wine of your embrace and your name is perfume, myrrh spilled on the floor.
You are the fragrance of all the perfumes together Yes, when you touch me I get more drunk than when I drink.
My man, you only deserve to be loved.
Beautiful, flawless you are my beloved.
(Double sigh)
You have stolen my heart, my beloved, my sister with a single glance from you, with a single pearl on your neck.
Your two sweet lips drip honey; honey and milk slowly flow under your tongue.
You are a closed garden, full of flowers, my beloved.
A spring with flowing water, A paradise of coolness, a paradise of fragrances your every [unintelligible] Cinammon, sweet-reed, nard and saffron, and sweet-smelling roots, and incense, and myrrh, and aloe, and every perfume you can name, smells on you.
Rise, North Wind; Come, South Wind, blow on my branches, to scatter my fragrances everywhere.
Rise, North Wind; Come, South Wind, blow on my branches, to scatter my perfumes everywhere.
And let my man come down, to the garden that belongs to him, to taste whatever fruit he wants from its branches, to taste whatever fruit he wants from *MY* branches.
(Faraway voice)
Beautiful, sweet like a pigeon's, none of the beautiful women....
(voice disappearing) / albums / Translations and notes