Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To Greece

I'm heading south for winter in a couple of days. A Christmas in Greece beckons. To get in the mood I have been listening to a CD given as a reward for a sumptuous summer barbecue. The recording is the setting of some of the poems of Nikos Kavvadias to music by Thanos Mikroutsikos, both famous in Greece but little known elsewhere (and certainly not by me). The music lets the poetry speak.

So, with many, many thanks to Konstantinos, here is the title track of the album, Ο Σταυρός του Νότου (The Southern Cross) with an English translation of Kavvadias' poem taken from here.


In the nor-wester the waves boiled;
we were both bent over the map.
You turned and told me how in March
you'd be in other latitudes.

A Chinese tatoo drawn on your chest;
however you burn it, it won't come off.
They said that you had loved her once
in a sudden fit of blackest fever.

Keeping watch by a barren cape
and the Southern Cross behind the braces.
You're holding coral worry-beads
and chewing bitter coffee beans.

I took a line on Alpha Centaurus
with the azimuth compass one night at sea.
You told me in a deathly voice:
"Beware of the stars of Southern skies".

Another time from that same sky
you took lessons for three whole months
with the captain's mulatto girl
in how to navigate at night.

In some shop in Nosy Be
you bought the knife - two shillings it cost -
right on the equator, exactly at noon;
it glittered like a lighthouse beam.

Down on the shores of Africa
for some years now you've been asleep.
You don't remember the lighthouse now
or the delicious Sunday sweet.

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