Greek Poetry from The Greek Institute
The following are from a collection of poems, entitled ΕΡΩΣ ANIKATE – LOVE INVINCIBLE, to be published by the GREEK INSTITUTE. This volume will feature the poetry of contemporary Greek poets from Dionysios Solomos, Greece’s national poet, to George Seferis, Nobel poet laureate. For More Information, please visit: http://www.thegreekinstitute.org/
**All Greek poems below are re-published with permission from The Greek Institute to GreekBoston.com – Updated August 10, 2016.
The Enduring Values of the Olympic Games
In August of 2016, athletes from all parts of the world gathered in Rio to compete in the Olympic Games. They embodied the Olympic ideal – the perfection of body, mind and spirit.
In western Peloponnesos, in a valley rich with plane trees, wild olives, poplars, oaks and pines, between the Alpheios and Kladeos rivers, lies the ancient sanctuary of Olympia.
It was here that the Olympic Games began.
It was here that the ideal of noble competition found its complete expression, and for many centuries forged the unity and peace of the Greek world.
“We may sing of no contest greater than Olympia. Just as water is the most precious of all the elements, just as god the most valuable of all goods, and just as the sun shines brighter than any other star, so shines Olympia, putting all other games into the shades.”
Pindar, from the First Olympian Ode
At Olympia, the games were held in honor of Zeus, the father of all gods and men. Athletes competed in running, jumping, the javelin, the discus, wrestling, boxing and equestrian events. The winners received a crown of wild olive made from the sacred tree, the Kallistephanos Olive, which grew near the Temple of Zeus.
“If the Olympic Games were being held now, you would be able to see for yourself why we attach such great importance to athletics. No one can describe in mere words the extraordinary pleasure derived from them and which you yourself would enjoy if you were seated among the spectators feasting your eyes on the prowess and stamina of the athletes, the beauty of their bodies, their incredible dexterity and skill, their invincible strength, their courage, ambition, endurance, and tenacity. You would never stop applauding them.”
Lucian, 2nd century A.D.
“Here where the young Greeks competed for the wild olive wreath of peaceful victories, all is still peaceful.
Here where the body’s beauty blossomed, all is still beautiful.
Here where a gentle Zeus was worshipped, all is still gentle.”
The first man ever to win an Olympic event was Koroibos of Elis, who won the stadion foot race in the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. Nearly 2,700 years later James Connolly of the United States became the first modern Olympic medalist, winning the triple jump in 1896 in Athens.
The ancient Olympic ideals were rekindled in the nineteenth century, and the Olympic Games were revived.
The Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, proposed his idea of International Olympic Games to the International Congress for Athletics in Paris in 1894. He proposed:
“to create competitions at regular intervals at which representatives of all countries and all sports would be invited under the aegis of the same authority, which would impart to them a halo of grandeur and glory, that is the patronage of classical antiquity. To do this was to revive the Olympic Games. The name imposed itself; it was not even possible to find another.”
His proposal was unanimously approved.
Demetrios Bikelas, the first president of the International Olympic Committee, argued for Greece to host the games.
“When we came to the point of the unresolved question: where the first games of 1896 will take place, I asked to speak. I claimed the rights of Greece concerning the reinstitution of a Greek institution. It’s true, according to Victor Hugo’s expression, that all civilized people have Greece as their common grandmother, but for us she is our mother. We are a sort of uncles to the rest of nations. That is our advantage, if an advantage. That’s hence the claim to inaugurate the reestablished Olympic games on Greek soil.”
The first International Olympiad took place in April 1896 at the Panathenaikon Stadium in Athens. Athletes from 13 countries participated. The countries represented were The modern Olympics have been held every four years since 1896 – except in 1916, 1940 and 1944.
In 2004, then president of Greece, Kostes Stephanopoulos, remarked,
“Our country, the birthplace of the Olympics, hopes to return to the true values of sport and remind the world of the original Olympic ideals.” The tradition of the Sacred Truce will also be honored and Greece asked that the nations of the world end all hostilities during the Olympic Games.
In antiquity, for some time before and after the Games, a Sacred Truce, or ekecheiria, which literally means “a holding of hands”, was in effect. Originally established by King Iphitos of Elis, Kleosthenes of Pisa and Lykourgos of Sparta, the Sacred True brought a temporary end to all hostilities and allowed athletes, their families, and ordinary travelers to attend the Games without fear. During the approximately 1,200 years of the life of the Olympic Games, there were virtually no violation of the Truce.
Isocrates, the ancient orator and teacher wrote – “The founders of our great festival are justly praised for handing down to us the custom by which, having proclaimed a truce and resolved our quarrels, we come together in one place, where, as we make our prayers and sacrifices in common, we are reminded of the kinship which exists among us and are made to feel more kindly towards each other for the future, reviving our old friendships and establishing new ties.”
Today, the aims of the International Olympic Committee echo those of the ancient Greeks:
to promote the development of those physical and moral qualities which are the basis of sport
to educate young people through sport in a spirit of better understanding, helping to build a better and more peaceful world
to spread the Olympic ideal throughout the world, creating international goodwill and
to bring together the athletes of the world in a great festival of sport every four years.
The words of the Olympic Hymn were written by the great Greek poet, Kostes Palamas; the music by the Greek composer, Spiros Samaras. For the modern Olympics in 1896.
Ancient spirit, immortal, pure father
Of the beautiful, the great and the true,
Descend, appear and shine down here
In the glory of your own land and sky.
In the race and the wrestling and the discus
Shine in the strength of noble contests
And crown with an immortal branch
And build the body iron-strong and worthy.
Valleys, mountains and seas glow with you
Like a white-purple, great temple
And all nations hasten here, your worshippers=
Ancient Spirit, immortal.
Οὐράνια κρίνα εἶναι τὰ χέρια σου
κι’ εἶναι εὐλογία τὸ κίνημά τους,
κι’ ἀφήνουν καὶ σκορποῦν ὁλόγυρα
τὸ οὐράνιο μοσχοβόλημά τους.
Μὴ σὲ πλανέσει ἡ καλοσύνη σου,
καὶ μὴ θαρεῖς δική σου χάρη,
τὸ λίγο οὐράνιο μοσχοβόλημα
πὤχω ἀπ’ τὰ δυό σου χέρια πάρει.
Γεώργιος Δροσίνης (1859-1951)
Heavenly lilies are your hands,
and their moving is a blessing,
and they leave and spread all around
their heavenly fragrance.
Let your kindness not deceive you,
and do not think of your own grace,
the little heavenly fragrance
I’ve taken from your two hands.
Georgios Drosinis (1859-1951)
Κοντά σου δὲν ἀχοῦν ἄγρια οἱ ἀνέμοι.
Κοντά σου εἶναι ἡ γαλήνη καὶ τὸ φῶς.
Στοῦ νοῦ μας τὴ χρυσόβεργη ἀνέμη
ὁ ρόδινος τυλιέται στοχασμός.
Κοντά σου ἡ σιγαλιὰ σὰ γέλιο μοιάζει
ποὺ ἀντιφεγγίζουν μάτια τρυφερὰ
κι’ ἂν κάποτε μιλᾶμε, ἀναφτεριάζει,
πλάϊ μας κάπου ἡ ἄνεργη χαρά.
Κοντά σου ἡ θλίψη άνθίζει σὰ λουλούδι
κι’ἀνύποπτα περνᾶ μὲς τὴ ζωή.
Κοντά σου ὅλα γλυκὰ κι’ ὅλα σὰ χνούδι,
σὰ χάδι, σὰ δροσούλα, σὰν πνοή.
Μαρία Πολυδούρη (1902-1930)
Near you the winds do not sound wildly.
Near you there’s the calmness and the light.
In our mind’s gold threaded distaff
folds our rose-colored thoughtfulness.
Near you quietude looks like laughter
where tender eyes are shining back
and if we talk at times, somewhere near us
lazy joy flutters its wings.
Near you sadness blooms like a flower
and unsuspectingly passes through life.
Near you all is sweet and all is like a down,
like a caress, like dew, like a breath.
Maria Polydouri (1902-1930)
Σὰν σώματα ὡραῖα νεκρῶν ποὺ δὲν ἐγέρασαν
καὶ τἄκλεισαν, μὲ δάκρυα, σὲ μαυσωλεῖο λαμπρό,
μὲ ρόδα στὸ κεφάλι καὶ στὰ πόδια γιασεμιὰ—
ἔτσ’ οἱ ὲπιθυμίες μοιάζουν ποὺ ἐπέρασαν
χωρὶς νὰ ἐκπληρωθοῦν· χωρὶς
ν’ ἀξιωθεῖ καμιὰ
τῆς ἡδονῆς μιὰ νύχτα, ἢ ἕνα πρωΐ της φεγγερό.
Κ.Π. Καβάφης (1863-1933)
Like beautiful bodies of the dead who did not grow old
and they’ve shut them, with tears, in a brilliant mausoleum,
with roses at the head and jasmine at the feet—
thus desires appear when they have passed
without being fulfilled; not one of them being worthy
of one night of pleasure, or one morning of brightness.
C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933)
Μέσα Στὶς Θαλασσινὲς Σπηλιὲς
Μέσα στὶς θαλασσινὲς σπηλιὲς
ὑπάρχει μιὰ δίψα ὑπάρχει μιὰ ἀγάπη
ὑπάρχει μιὰ ἔκσταση,
ὅλα σκληρὰ σὰν τὰ κοχύλια
μπορεῖς νὰ τὰ κρατήσεις στὴν παλάμη σου.
Μέσα στὶς θαλασσινὲς σπηλιὲς
μέρες ὁλόκληρες σὲ κοίταζα στὰ μάτια
καὶ δὲ σὲ γνώριζα μήτε μὲ γνώριζες.
Γιῶργος Σεφέρης (1900-1971)
In the Sea Caves
In the sea caves
there is a thirst, there is a love,
there is an ecstasy,
all are hard like seashells,
you can hold them in your palm.
In the sea caves
entire days I looked into your eyes
and I did not recognize you, nor did you recognize me.
George Seferis (1900-1971)
Κι’ Ὅταν Φτάσει Ἡ Ἄνοιξη
Κι’ ὅταν φτάσει ἡ ἄνοιξη
κι’ ἔρθουν τὰ πουλιὰ
καὶ γυρίσουν τ’ ἄνθη,
σὰν ἕναν καιρὸ
θὰ σὲ περιμένω.
Κι’ ὅταν ἔρθει πάλι
καὶ τὸ καλοκαίρι
μὲ τὸ μαϊστράλι,
σὰν ἕνα καιρὸ
θὰ σὲ περιμένω.
Μὰ ὅταν τὸ φθινόπωρο
θἄρθω νὰ σὲ βρῶ·
δὲ θὰ περιμένω.
Κωνσταντίνος Χατζόπουλος (1868-1920)
And When Spring Arrives
And when spring arrives
and the birds come
and the flowers return,
as in a past time
I’ll wait for you.
And when summer arrives
with the sea breeze,
as in a past time
I’ll wait for you.
But when autumn
returns again humid
I’ll come to find you;
I won’t wait.
Konstantinos Hatzopoulos (1868-1920)