It is a selection from the book Il tesoro delle parole morte (Argo, 2009, Lecce) by Brizio Montinaro which regards the Griko poetry from Salento, Apulia. Some of these poems were collected by Montinaro himself, whose mother is Griko.
My translation is inadequate and in progress. Any suggestion is welcome. I’ll provide the Greek text of the first poem only.
Mαχάιρι ᾽ναι τὰ μάτια σου,
σπαθιὰ τὰ δυό σου φρύδια
καὶ παὶζουνε με τὴν καρδιὰ
πολλῶ λογιῶ παιχνὶδια.
Knife your eyes
Swords your eyebrows:
They play with the heart
Games of great art.
That curl so fair
That is bending under your ear
Woven with silk thread,
The most beautiful of your whole head.
Ah had I that curl in my hand!
Out of joy I would fly to heaven’s land.
Here comes the sun, the moon, the star,
Here comes the maiden who breaks my heart apart.
Here is she who points a knife at me
And chases me away but I cannot but stay.
Your bosom hides two lemons
That send such a sweet scent.
Give at least one of them to us
To turn over in our hands.
“I hoe, I water, I do not offer lemons.
Go to the gardener, maybe there will be grace.”
Wherever you go, young man,
May the sun not burn you, and a cloud
May appear in the sky to protect you.
The wind came
And took away your scarf
And it removed my hat
Uncovering your fair neck.
That night happily I slept.
When you see me, as a viper you hide in the bush:
I am he who put your breasts upside down.
Girl of mine, it was night when we kissed.
By whom were we seen?
By the night, by the dawn, by the star and the moon.
The star bowed and told the sea,
The sea told the oar, the oar told the sailor,
And the sailor sang it at the door of his love.
I kissed red lips and they dyed my own,
I cleaned them with a cloth
And they dyed the cloth.
I washed the cloth in the river and it dyed the river
Which dyed the beach shore and it dyed the sea floor.
An eagle came down to drink and dyed its wings,
And the sun was half dyed and the moon in the full.
May I become a swallow and enter your room
And make my nest in your pillow.
And I wish I were a flea from here
To get like a hawk into your bed,
And nibble all that flesh,
And you’d let down your hand and catch me!
I sigh and burn,
And my heart drips blood.
But the pain is sweet
When I suffer for you.
As maiden I loved you, as woman I had you not,
Soon the time will arrive when as widow you’ll be mine.
Foolish was I to love you!
Like the wind you never stop.
Better had I loved a wall,
It would perhaps have stopped a moment.
Better had I loved a stone,
It would have softened and something I’d have had.
But I have loved you instead, the Galanto,
Who enchanted Martano with his canto.
I sent you four apples,
One with a bite,
And in the mid of the bite
I placed a kiss.
Who are the Griko people? They are South Italians who more or less directly descend from the Greeks of Magna Graecia (with some influence from Byzantium.)
What’s interesting is that some of them still speak a form of Greek, Griko, that developed from both Magna Graecia and Byzantine Greek (see on the map the location of the Griko speaking communities today.)
[Note on Magna Graecia. We remind readers that most coastal areas of South Italy had been colonized by Greek settlers since the 8th century B.C., and that Magna Graecia (ie, ‘Big Greece’, coastal South Italy) was to mainland Greeks a bit like America was to Europeans: a land of promise where opportunities were bigger, and where everything - to travellers from mainland Greece - appeared larger and more luxuriant: Syracuse, not Athens, was the largest Greek city in the Mediterranean during classical times. See the map below for the past and above for what is left of the Greek-speaking people today]
Montinaro, born from a Griko mother, wrote a few books on the Griko culture. Among his merits, that of having made known the beauty of the oral poetry of the Grikos.
I have his “Il tesoro delle parole morte” (Argo, 2009, Lecce) ['The treasure of the dead words']. I’ll summarize a passage from his introduction to the book:
The traveller in the South of Italy admires the temples of Paestum, the Greek wonders of Agrigento, Taormina and Syracuse. Parmenides of Elea was born in Magna Graecia, the school of Pythagoras flourished in Croton. Archimedes, Diodorus Siculos and other prominent Greeks were born in Sicily.
However, if that traveller closes his eyes – while wandering in Aspromonte (Calabria) or in the land of Salento (Apulia) covered with centuries-old olive trees – he can still hear, carried by the wind, words such as: agàpi, dafni, podèa, vasilicò, alòni.
These are traces, just like the columns and the theatres, of another monument of the Hellenic culture: the Greek language.
These oral poems sing with great freshness the joys and sorrows of love, “with a look – we read in the back cover – that is still the darting gaze common to the boundless sea of Hellenism, and that was expressed by the rhythms of Sappho and Anacreon.”
Some of these poems will be presented in the next post translated into an English (hopefully not too horrible) version.
This blog is taking a vacation. A one month vacation.
Here is a conversation occurred over at Richardus.
It is about Love.
I paste, as usual, what I deem relevant to my blog themes.
Wow, Love! [Readers will think]
Wrong. No easy stuff … but fun, none the less.
“Aristophanes may search for his other half, but I search for my whole self.
Thrust into a hostile world, I trudge towards my inevitable grave in utter isolation, seeking an impossible solace, never knowing who I am.
Suddenly, I peer into the eyes of another and see myself. Here is my peace, my consolation, my defence.
I claim those eyes to be always with me as I am always with myself. Perhaps I procreate, but only incidentally.
Selfless caring for another is true love. With practice it may become as universal as its source.
Geraldine: I hear Tolstoy in this post and I’m not surprised.
Richardus: How would you unravel Christianity from Anna Karenin, Geraldine? I haven’t read War and Peace.
Geraldine: Your post reminded me more of how Tolstoy thought. For example you said:
“Suddenly, I peer into the eyes of another and see myself. Here is my peace, my consolation, my defence.”
Tostoy was conscious that the soul is godlike and unites all of us [italic by MoR]. The same soul lives in all of us. Emerson also refers to this in “The Over Soul.” The Hindu religion refers to this with the hands in prayer and the bow to each other: The God in me recognizes the God in you. Is this not what you mean?
To answer your question, I unravel Christianity in the novel in a simple way. Even though Toystoy had a profound insight into human suffering and behaviour his writing is morally severe. There is punishment and it is binary. I believe Levin is modeled after Tolstoy.
Anna defies or flaunts the rules of her society and receives a tragic end. Levin achieves fulfillment as a committed landowner and is involved in society. One protagonist lives outside of himself (if this sounds right) the other follows her own needs. Values, sacrifice, self-possession or self-control are scrutinized to the core.
In this work love is not light. It all suggest judgment.
Note I didn’t say that the love is not right. I do not know.
True love is so hard to find and to keep. You paint a lovely picture Richard, of an ideal. Beautifully expressed.
Man of Roma:
What is true love? Everybody is in search for Love, in his /her own way.
While I am studying for my Manius soap I now think of this:
1) on one hand we have sapientiae voluptas (or wisdom’s, knowledge hedonism, since real knowledge implies passion, joy, love, it implies trying to probe – with poetry? sacred books? philosophy? science? – the big mysteries of the universe: death, God etc.
But on the other hand we also have 2) corporis volutpas, ie bodily pleasure, not necessarily vile: at its best it is love for a human being; at its worst banal lust.
A man (don’t know about women, they are more mysterious to me the more I age) is imo torn between 1 and 2.
1) is the white horse in Plato’s Phedrus chariot (Plato influenced the Jews and the Christians), and 2) is the black horse, especially as for non-spiritual love. Who is riding the two-horsed chariot? It is our Reason.
Now men, I don’t know about women, are badly torn between 1 and 2. If they are not, throw stones at me because I am.
Torn between being a monk (of wisdom, at least tentative) and a libertine? Between ‘the Being’ & Love for a person in flesh? Hard to say.
At times the Woman, for a Man, may take us to God, to the Spirit, to the Being, like Beatrice did with Dante, or Polia with Polyphilo (ie, lover of Polia, in Francesco Colonna’a palatial neoplatonical Renaissance Comedy (Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream) – the anti-Dante – since the 2 lovers finally get united in their love – thanks to Polia – before the Cosmic Venus; yes, no Madonna there, but Venus at her highest level of purity).
Now our flight in such chariot towards Platonic Good, the Ideas (or the Christian God, or the neoplatonic cosmic Venus etc.) goes up when reason and the white horse prevail. It tends to flap flap flap down to bodily vile stuff when corporis voluptas, bodily desire, is stronger.
As for myself, num 2 is very powerful. My flight is often low, non-spiritual, my quest vile, although my desire for num 1 – for Good, God and so forth – is never ending, and is bugging me all the time, and each time I flap flap flap a bit higher, I do feel better.
Ok. I am very confused (plus verbose). Asta la vista babies
Well, now Roma, since you seek to distinguish hormonal and spiritual love, I must re-read the Symposium to see what is said there on the subject.
You raise also the matter of Christianity, for which love is the beginning the middle and the end.
Then we have love by love by internet, whose progenitor is love by letter-writing, yet less considered, or maybe less the product of reason.
There is a common thread which I must seek. I may be a little while.
You remind me, MoR, of a blond Adonis I knew at school into whose arms a succession of beauties fell, unregretting.
We mortals listened to him in awe. It was a boys’ school, so our knowledge of female anatomy was rudimentary and, shall we say, of a more academic nature. We envied the time he spent on his special study and the joy and adoration he left in his wake.
He went on to become a doctor, the better to develop his talents.
Man of Roma:
I’ll be verbose as usual.
Dear Richardus, sweet Celtic Geraldine:
I was in a boys’ school too, for the reason that, in my Liceo Classico, the headmaster, an absolute moron, decided to create, right on that darn year, one class of just girls and another of just boys (us, alas). So, our knowledge of women was also very academical. And, among us, we also had a brown-haired green-eyed Adonis. So beautiful he was, Tommaso, that he made our ‘female vacuum’ (if one can say that) even more painful: since, each time a girl approached our buddies’ group he quickly seduced her – she was powerless before Him, so she knelt down, and was lost in love – and nothing was left to us.
This occurred again and again.
Oh boy, what absolute starvation for a couple of (very formative btw) years, ie btw 15 and 17. It made us ALL very shallow for a long while as for the other gender: id est, when we met ANYTHING that faintly reminded us of the human female (in an age range btw 13 to 98), she, to us, was just flesh, flesh, flesh. Well, at that age, hormones were active. I, for example, couldn’t easily conceive a girl-friend in the sense of a real ‘friend’. Then I evolved I guess (and hope lol).
Yes, Richard, Plato is the Great Teacher of us Christians. Christ I guess did his part, but Plato is the supreme Magister of us all in the West. Forget Aristotle imo. But let us not neglect Pythagoras, Plato’s real mentor (even if dead long before Plato’s time) according to Plato himself and to many scholars, together with Socrates of course, of which little we know, and in any case Socrates was Pythagoras’ pupil also.
Now, what fascinates me [all readers here now taking a nap, I know] is the link Orpheus-Pythagoras. What a great theme!!
Which leads us into 2 sparkling directions: pre-Celtic North Europe, and India!
But that is a story I’ll try to unfold in the Manius plot.
Manius btw seems that it will be published – I was toasting yesterday with wifey – both in Italian (paper book) and in English (e-book: this version needs bigger editing, it is clear). I just have to finish it in 8 months time in a plausible and entertaining – and hopefully deep enough – way. Hard work, and contrary to my nature, whimsical & undisciplined. But in any case.
Blogger Love, you’ve mentioned.
The Love I developed for you Anglo-Saxons & similar, I guess I owe all to that,. To sweet Richard, Philippe, Mr C, Geraldine, and to ALL the American people, ALL of them etc. You people brought me -I forgot how – into discovering Ancient Britannia, fascinating to me to the extent that I now dream of it, like Giorgio in the plot (who in fact is me, obsessed by the theme).
This Love, dear dear Richard, gave me so much inspiration and happiness.
I read the elegance of you people’s words, I look at the pics you people publish (your houses, your windows so different from ours: they must allow more light, ours less) with so much Love (I now sound corny, I know). And well, yes, it is again the white and the black horse (hyperborea, the American & the British-isles type of Woman), and Reason, the Charioteer, sometimes (or often) faltering in its guide.
But this is the way we are, humans who are not only human, since perhaps there’s some extra sparkle (from somewhere where we came from and are bound to return).
As marvellous Geraldine so gently has told us – in her Irish Celtic, untouched-by-the-Romans, pure, Nordic Female’s words …
Bisogna essere coraggiosi, e battersi per le proprie idee, qualsiasi esse siano.
“Sono un uomo medio” diceva il Maestro, “e ho maturate delle convinzioni che non sono disposto a barattare”.
Beh, al puritanesimo di mio padre – my readers are mainly Anglo-Saxon from the US so to them I say: puritanism has its pros, call them inner strength, endurance or capacity of suffering, all admirable – preferisco tuttavia la mia cara mamma, di patina toscana ma di animo profondamente romano: bonaria e amante di ciò che è bello, nel modo giusto (in brief: to my father’s puritanism, which has its pros, I though prefer my mum, a Roman with a Tuscan skin and lover of all that is beautiful in life.)
E questo è il senso del mio blog (this is the meaning of my blog): uno streben, uno striving (o tendere) verso l’armonia più naturale (anche se frutto di dura conquista) della classicità.
Iride di luce, messaggera?
Quindi, e visto che parlavamo di coraggio (e intelligenza, che non manca nemmeno ai calvinisti però) ho scoperto da poco Iridediluce (Fiorella Corbi), una giovane blogger italiana nativa del sud (Salerno, Campania.)
Vissuta “alle falde del Vesuvio che ne hanno influenzato – lei dice – il vulcanico carattere” Iride vive adesso in Toscana.
Ovviamente non si può essere d’accordo su tutto (speaking for example of sex and love only? C’mon…) Ma che bel nome: dea, messaggera degli dei e incarnante l’arcobaleno!
Questo filmato, che devo a lei, è parte della cultura in cui più mi riconosco (the following movie that I owe her is part of the culture I like to be part of), di origine classica più che cristiana.
Proprio come gli antichi (exactly like the Ancients):
il tema del mio blog e di tutti i blog che dovessi mai scrivere in questa vita, e in tutte le altre possibili vite (the theme of my blog and of ALL blogs I might happen to write in this life and in all possible future lives) ….
A man-to-man thing, after the previous post on how different women and men can be.
Roma, aprile 2004. Le 6 di una mattina fredda ma luminosa. Guardo i tetti di Roma. Sono seduto nella mia terrazza. E’ quasi l’alba e ho freddo.
Avevo risentito il mio amico la sera prima al telefono dopo tanti anni di silenzio. Scrivo velocemente a matita sul primo pezzaccio di carta che trovo parole che ho in testa, per paura di dimenticarle.
Parole buttate là, piene di emozione, forse anche un po’ selvagge.
Roba da anni 50s-60s, da epoca remota e superata?
Che volete che vi dica, era l’Italia del dopoguerra, giudicherete voi.
Al mio fratello maggiore
Amico mio, compagno
di scorribande felici
nella fase più piena della vita,
alle 6 di un mattino romano,
la fredda brezza che corre
sui tetti di una città pagana,
io te, compagno mio e fratello,
qui vengo a celebrare
come in un rito antico,
schizzando con la matita
rapide su un foglio
parole vive e non lavorate.
Mi hai insegnato a godere della vita
l’aspetto primordiale e forte;
io, con più timore,
cresciuto in un mondo femminile,
il lato virile mi hai insegnato,
quello con gli attributi,
che hai sempre avuto,
non lo dimenticare!
E cazzo vivaddio gli attributi!
In un mondo spompato
pieno di gente vuota stanca fasulla,
sei sempre stato esempio,
caro fratello mio,
di forza e di coraggio,
molto più che mio padre;
tu, e i miei zii materni,
i carissimi e amati
fratelli di mia madre.
A mio padre,
che pure ha significato tanto,
devo altre cose,
ma tu sei stato molto per me,
un anno in più vuol dire,
quando si è giovanissimi:
aiuta a stabilire il primato
che sempre ti ho riconosciuto.
E qui, in questa piccola terrazza
della città di Roma,
di fronte ai templi antichi
della nostra cultura primigenia,
io qui ti onoro,
fratello mio maggiore;
io qui ti celebro,
quel primato ancora riconoscendo
che non fu solo d’età.
A questo punto vino rosso berrei
(ma è mattino presto…)
il vino rosso forte, toscano,
di quelle serate d’inverno
della nostra campagna.
In cui tu,
la carne arrostita sulle braci,
i piaceri dionisiaci consegnavi
della carne, del vino
e delle femmine prese per i capelli,
e dolcemente, fortemente,
La brezza ora è più calda.
Le parole cominciano a mancare.
amico caro, forte mio compagno
e fratello maggiore,
di averti comunicato
le mie emozioni al brusco risveglio
dopo una telefonata.
Nota. L’avevo sentito la sera prima al telefono. Non ci eravamo rivisti da anni.
Per questo mi sono svegliato di soprassalto alle 5:30, con la testa piena di quella gioia, e che gioia (gli anni dell’infanzia e dell’adolescenza li conoscete tutti): noi li passammo insieme ogni singola estate nella campagna aretina degli anni 50s-60s.
Emozioni, anche dolori.
Ma tutto vissuto con esuberanza ed intensità quasi violente.
Aveva la casa di fronte alla mia ma quando ci vedemmo oltre i muri la prima volta (io solo, lui con la nonna, una cara signora d’altri tempi, avevamo 3-4 anni) non ci piacemmo affatto. Lui mi sembrava perfettino, troppo ben pettinato.
Poi un giorno sua madre lo portò da noi ufficialmente (le due mamme erano molto amiche). Contrariati cominciammo a tirare i sassi a un barattolo messo su un tavolo di pietra, così, tanto per vincere la scontrosità. Aveva un anno più di me.
Il gioco del tiro al barattolo fece scattare tutto. Da allora non ci siamo più lasciati, anche se con intervalli. I nostri cervelli sapevano volare insieme, e ridevamo, ridevamo, ridevamo a crepapelle. Aveva una mente bizzarra, umoristica, piena di idee.
Qui sotto ho 18 anni. Dì li in poi ci fu il primo intervallo. Lungo.
Adesso che siamo vecchi o quasi ci sentiamo ancora più vicini e non ci saranno intervalli.
Credo che sia la voglia di finire l’avventura meravigliosa cominciata insieme, anche con tutte le altre persone care accanto a lui e accanto a me, che ci rendono la vita più umana (e ci consolano delle sue miserie).
Quando si è giovanissimi [see translation following] e ci si imbatte per strada in una ragazza che è il nostro tipo se ne rimane come folgorati, e il dolore è tanto più acuto quanto più difficile (o impossibile) è la soddisfazione di tale desiderio, improvviso e assoluto.
[When we are extremely young and we stumble upon a girl in the street who is our type we are like struck dumb and our pain is all the more acute the more difficult (or impossible) is the satisfaction of our desire, sudden and absolute.]
Un brano di Jack Kerouac rende bene questa vitalità disperata tipica della primissima gioventù (da “On the road” che sfogliavo giorni fa; mi sembra di ricordare che anche J. D. Salinger abbia scritto qualcosa di simile):
[A passage by Jack Kerouac renders well this desperate vitality typical of early youth (from "On the Road" I was leafing through days ago; I think I remember J.D. Salinger wrote something similar too)]:
“I had bought my ticket and was waiting for the LA bus when all of a sudden I saw the cutest little Mexican girl in slacks come cutting across my sight. She was in one of the buses that had just pulled in with a big sigh of airbreaks; it was discharging passengers for a rest stop. Her breasts stuck out straight and true; her little flanks looked delicious; her hair was long and lustrous black; and her eyes were great big blue things with timidities inside. I wished I was on her bus. A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world”.
In realtà al personaggio di “On the road” le cose poi vanno bene perché i due si ritroveranno casualmente nello stesso autobus e ne nascerà una storia, ma la descrizione della pugnalata è intensa e comunque credo sia esattamente ciò che ciascuno di noi, uomo o donna, ha provato più volte dai 10-12 anni in poi.
[Actually things ended up well for Kerouac's character since the two will accidentally meet in the same bus and a love affair will ensue, although the description of the 'stab' is intense and in any case I believe it is exactly what each of us, man or woman, has experienced several times from 10-12 years of age onwards.]
I just can’t write one of my usual posts. My mind is blurred.
Because my sanctuary, the only place where I can find peace and concentration (my study room,) is a mess.
I am getting crazy. Lunatico.
As I said these more-than-100 retrieved tomes which belonged to grandpa (a blessing and a suffering) have generated chaos in my life. 1/5 of them are permanently damaged by water – together with precious pictures and family documents.
[See below my father and my mother in 1946, the day of their marriage. Two other pictures of their marriage are gone (!!).
My mother cried all the time during the ceremony. Her father, hit by a bus one month earlier, had just passed away. They married nonetheless. The war had just ended and people were eager to live, which is why we are the boomer generation, it is well known]
Trying so hard to rearrange my refuge I’ve fought against my nature and have gone to Ikea. Ikea to me is biggest pain in the neck ever. I have bought two big bookcases. I have assembled them at home yesterday. Oh it takes a real engineer to do it, not a computer systems engineer, a ridiculous creature who deals with immaterial rationality and invisible bits.
Ikea being such a pain I decided to treat myself like a royalty before going. Thus:
1) I bought a New Testament both in Greek and in Latin;
2) I bought Dante’s Divine Comedy translated into English by Allen Mandelbaum;
3) I called Marina.
“Hey Marina, come have lunch with me, will you?”
“Ciao professore. Sì evviva! Villa Borghese va bene?” [Hi teacher. Wow yes! Villa Borghese ok?]
Brown hair, brown eyes, very outspoken, Marina is a beaming Italian beauty and the Sabrina Ferilli type of Roman woman (see the Roman actress on the left.)
But what most counts to me is that she’s been one of the best, most devoted, most sympathetic IT pupils I’ve ever had in the course of the last 15 years. There are tons of affection & respect between us.
Flavia, the character in our last dialogues, is 60% my wife but 40% Marina.
The two are similar and, if my wife is a bit closer to Minerva and Juno, Marina has among the rest this special quality my wife hasn’t. She laughs the Roman laughter, one of the best specimen I’ve ever heard, no kidding.
Flavia’s ancient Roman laughter is heard in the room. It is loud, slightly crass but luminous, as it should be and as I hope it will ever ever be in the future, somewhat like a sympathetic, warm BIG HUG to the world.
[my mother laughed in the same way btw]
During a sunlit lunch at Villa Borghese, with umbrella pine trees majestically surrounding us (see VB at the top,) in front of a sumptuous tray of mixed antipasti – fusilli, olives, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmisan etc., washed down with full bodied Chianti – we kept on chatting cheerfully while both vino and ver sacrum (sacred spring) were gradually intoxicating the air.
When the right time arrived I took my cell phone out of my jacket and started to play the moron (I’m good at that, you know.) And then it happened.
We laughed. Especially she laughed. Well, not one of her best laughs – she saw I was there with my cell phone – yet a sound, sympathetic Roman laughter which is revealing a bit of our city’s culture with all its pros and cons (any laughter being revealing of any culture, ça va sans dire.)
Click on the bold words below. And enjoy
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