Erotokritos as discussed in Roumeli

There is a very interesting discussion thread about this poem that I stumbled across recently.

Click here to have a look. It includes discussion about translation and some You Tube links. Here is what Paddy has to say about it in Roumeli:

Unknown outside Greece because of the deep vernacular that enshrouds it and its daunting length for a translator-though many, including me, have longingly toyed with the idea-it is one of the great epic poems of Europe. In Crete, this tremendous metrical saga plays the part of the Homeric cycle in Dorian times. Everyone knows it, all can quote vast tracts, and, astonishingly, some of the old men in the mountains, though unable to read and write, could, and still can, recite the whole poem by heart; when one remembers that it is nearly a thousand lines longer than the Odyssey, this feat makes one scratch one’s head with wonder or disbelief. They intone rather than recite it; the voice rises at the caesura and at the end of the first line of a couplet, and drops at the end of the second; now and then to break the monotony, the key shifts. During our winter vigils, it continued for hours; every so often another old man would take over; listening, I occasionally dropped off for an hour or two, and woke to find Erotokritos in the thick of yet another encounter with the Black Knight of Karamania. (He symbolized, at the time the poem first saw the light, the threat of the Ottomans; Turkey had already conquered the rest of Greece, and was soon to submerge Crete itself.) The rhythmic intoning might sway on till daybreak, with some of the listeners rapt, others nodding off or snoring.”

Musically it gets quite passionate as evidenced by these two samples:


Apparently the Erotokritos was written in about 1587. Here are some translated verses:

Of all the gracious things upon this earth
It is fair words that have the greatest worth,
And he who uses them with charm and guile
Can cozen human eyes to weep or smile.

— V. Kornaros, Erotokritos I 887-90 (Stephanides)

Begin your lesson now. It is a rule
That he who starts in time soon leaves the school.

— V. Kornaros, Erotokritos II 1871-2 (Stephanides)

There are full many, sweet, whose tongues are bland,
Who hide a poison phial in the hand.

— V. Kornaros, Erotokritos III 141-2 (Stephanides)

You straighten easily a fresh-cut stake,
Yet when it dries it will but split and break.

— V. Kornaros, Erotokritos III 279-80 (Stephanides)

True is that adage: “He who yields to rule
by woodenheads, becomes himself a fool.”

— V. Kornaros, Erotokritos III 967-8 (Stephanides)

Well said by the prudent who discover:
The heaviest pain lighter ones cover.

— V. Kornaros, Erotokritos III 1287-8 (Ragovin 1, p. 14)

Man shapes his plans as he intends and deems,
And not because of visions and of dreams;
The future is not yet, dreams cannot sway,
Man’s destiny this, that, or any way;
As each one makes his bed, so does he sleep;
The foolish only trysts with shadows keep.

— V. Kornaros, Erotokritos IV 139-144 (Stephanides)

Anyone who wants the great things of this life
Yet does not know he is only travelling the road,
And prides himself on his nobility and boasts of his wealth
-I dismiss him as a nobody, to be thought of as mad,
For these things are flowers which come and go,
They are changed by time, and time often takes them away.

— V. Kornaros, Erotokritos IV 601-6 (Bryans, p. 89)

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