Formulated Thoughts: Poetically Speaking

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And it is through his use of dialogue that Romanos achieves the interweaving of corresponding planes of time and place—past, present, future, Hades, earth, Paradise—which both widens and deepens our whole conception of the theme. This close integration of form and content, typical of the best of Romanos, is not an abstract convention, but a poetic response to the diversity of forms actually current in Greek liturgical singing of the time. This kind of usage suggests the irregular but indispensable refrain of oral tradition.

Turning now to the laments for the fall of Constantinople, we find, in addition to the predominantly narrative ballads which open and close with a direct address, rather in the self-conscious manner of a Broadside ballad, an important development in the use of dialogues. There are two types of lament which show traces of three-part form.

First, in a historical ballad from Karpathos about the earthquake which ravaged the island on 26 June , the poet begins with an appeal to his mind and heart to prove equal to the task of telling the terrible story—which he proceeds to relate in detail—and concludes with a brief prayer to God to avert such catastrophe in the future and a strengthened appeal to his own mind and heart Michaelidis-Nouaros A.

Although presented in a more lively manner, this technique is not essentially different from that of numerous Byzantine historical and religious laments. Among the ritual laments, however, there are several which show a more dynamic use of this form. Theros More universal and fundamental than the three-part form is the refrain. DAr Awake, my fair one, awake, awake, tightly embrace my body like a cypress tree, awake, sweetly kiss two coral lips. Awake, awake, speak to the girl you loved. When sung, each fifteen-syllable line of these laments may be followed by a refrain of eight or five syllables.

But the most significant and characteristic feature in the structure of the modern folk laments is use of dialogue and antiphony. Tarsouli Be quiet, mother, do not weep and do not complain, for I will come back in May with the swallows … to see who grieves for me, who weeps for me. Laog The variety is infinite, showing how vital the belief still remains in the intercourse between the world of the dead and the world of the living.

But the dialogue is not restricted to this type of dirge. It may involve two mourners, like the following version of a well-known Epirot lament which I recorded from Alexandra Tsipi in , in which a mother urges her daughter, five days a bride and then widowed, to stop weeping and marry again, and receives an angry refusal in reply. Five days married, she goes, a widow, to her mother.


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With the ritual garlands in her apron, she wept for her husband. You are young and fair, and you can wed again. I have lost my first husband, dear as my own two eyes.

1. Life and Works

Whose is the coffin? Who will quench for you this fire which has engulfed you? Evgenoula, your dearly beloved one, has died …. Politis Finally, in a Tsakonian lament already referred to in chapter 6, of penetrating quality and power, we find a rare combination of antiphony and choral refrain.

Collected Papers, Volume 2: Knowledge, Rationality, and Morality, 1978-2010

One woman takes the part of the girl, another the part of the mother, while the rest form the chorus; they enact a kind of drama at the girl's wake. Daughter : Hide me, mother, hide me, so that Charos cannot me! Chorus : Woe to you, woe to you! Mother : I will not hide you, I give you to Charos as company! Chorus : Woe to you!

Alas, what an evil fate! They have survived, not because they have been consciously preserved—in the archaising laments of Byzantine learned poetry they were almost extinct—but because antiphony is still imbedded in the ritual performance, with more than one group of mourners, sometimes representing the living and the dead and singing in response to each other.

The collective rather than individual performance also explains the continued importance of the refrain; and why the three-part form, as belonging primarily to the soloist, is the least universal today. Continuity has been strongest and most spontaneous in popular tradition. Antithetical style is a fundamental and integral part of the structure and thought of the lament, though by no means exclusive to it.

A study of its use and function will provide an opportunity to trace developments through a cross-section of archaising, religious and popular laments both in poetry and prose, and thereby to determine to what extent it became a literary affectation, and to what extent it remained rooted in the vernacular language and popular tradition.

In an antiphonal lament at the end of the Seven against Thebes , it is possibly Antigone and Ismene who together weep for the fate of their brothers, Eteokles and Polyneikes, each slain by the other. Antigone : Stricken, you struck. Ismene: Killing, you were killed.

All these stylistic features find more formalised expression in the rhetorical funeral oration and in the later prose laments. A fragment from a funeral oration by Gorgias of Leontinoi fifth century B. How different you were when you left me, and how different you are now you have come back, child! Ah, wretched sport of riding horses! You did not even die an ordinary death. Nor has death preserved your fine looks … Your soul has departed, and I cannot find you in this corpse. When, my child, will your wedding be? When shall I arrange your wedding, horseman and bridegroom? Bridegroom without a wedding, horseman without fortune.

Your bridal chamber, child, is the grave, your wedding hymn the funeral dirge, your nuptial songs these wailings. I hoped to kindle a different fire from this, my child, but envious Fortune has extinguished it and you together, lighting instead for you torches of evil. Ah, what a cruel torch-bearing is this!

Your marriage torches have become a funeral. If we turn now to the prose style of the early Paschal homilies, of the Byzantine funeral oration, and of the liturgy, we shall see that it owes much to the rhetorical style of the classical and late antique periods. The lamp of our eyes has been quenched. The seal of incorruptibility has been broken.

The bond of moderation has been tom apart. The support of the weary has been shattered, the treatment of the sick taken away. When you were with us, even night was as good as day, under the spiritual light of pure life. But now, day itself will be turned into darkness and gloom. Death is being driven out from among men, and Hades is laying aside his age-old dynasty … The presence of life has vanquished the force of death. O Lord my God, I will sing to you a funeral hymn and a burial song, for by your burial you have opened to me the gateway of life, and by your death you have put Death to death.

Immortals are mortal, mortals are immortal, living their death and dying their life. Son of the Virgin, God of the Virgin, and creator of the world, yours is the suffering, yours the depth of wisdom. You know what you were and what you have become.

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You accepted suffering, and you deigned to come to save mankind. You have borne for us our sins, like a lamb; you, by putting them to death by your sacrifice, Saviour, have saved all mankind. The independent survival of antithetical thought and antithetical style in a different context, associated with a more popular tradition of lamentation, is attested by the funerary inscriptions. Le Bas-Wadd. At nineteen years I was still a virgin, then I married. When I completed my twentieth year, I was with child, then I died.

Fate came and released the unfulfilled Prosodos. Although closely dependent on the love novels of the late antiquity in structure, theme and tone, it stands out among the Greek romances, ancient as well as Byzantine, both for its bold eroticism—which, conveyed largely through the dream sequences of the narrator, Hysimias, has the effect of overshadowing the conventional intricacies of plot—and for its extravagant imagery, which has flashes of brilliance not unlike the imagery of the folk songs.

Hearing of the marriage planned for Hysmine by her parents, Hysminias vows that he will kill himself and wed in Hades. You will return to Aulikomis, your homeland, a splendid bride for a splendid bridegroom.

Royally the marriage hymn will sound forth for you. But I shall make my way to Hades; leading the Furies' dance, I shall sing out against my whole misfortune. Your good father, Sosthenes, will chant the nuptial lay, mine the burial song. Yes, while your father sings you a sweet melody, sweet bride, my father, wretched Themisteus, will strike up the dirge for his dead son. Your father will dance the wedding song, while mine, unhappiest of all fathers, will sing alone the bitter, plaintive funeral hymn.

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This season gives me grief, and this year gives me sorrow. All the months vex me, and all the weeks. What is to become of poor me, and what am I, the stranger, to do? I seek a friend close to my heart to give me comfort, but I find no one, and what is to become of me, the stranger? I took the path of dawn, and the path leads me ….