Monday, January 16, 2012

Farewell, Oh Virgin Mary

Shakespeare may have said that "parting is such sweet sorrow". There is a great resonance to poems and songs that express that sorrow, and this is the anthem of Constantinopolitan Greeks, throngs of whom left Istanbul in the last century.

For those of you who read this blog for plants, you might as well skip it. In the depths of winter I stroll down various paths, (or should I say sokakia?)...And in my imagination I return to where my ancestors possibly five hundred years ago trod the narrow passages of Constantinople.

If you are the least bit curious, you might want to listen to this anthem to a lost culture: don't get me wrong. Despite my Cretan ancestry, I am far from being a Hellenic jingoist who destests all things Turkic: I love Turkey and Turks and all things Anatolian. And there is something hauntingly Anatolian about this song, a sort of farewell anthem that so many Rums sing and sang as a memorial to a world that is no more. As my name derives from Panagia, and since my ancestors were some who departed, this has a special resonance. To get the full flavor, you should play one of the countless Youtube renditions of this song as a background. I recommend this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPyflvceZ5U&feature=related

Or for a completely different version that is perhaps a tad more haunting perhaps:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCRC3gAip3A&feature=related

There is a strange blend of emotion and rhythm in this song: the driving beat, the minor key and the shifting emphasis between the stanzas: and hovering over it, of course, is melancholia of loss and longing. The love millions of people bore (and still bear) those four hills in the mist somehow is captured in this strangely lively dirge. The words in Greek with my translation are below.

Στο Γαλατά ψιλή βροχή
και στα Tαταύλα μπόρα
βασίλισσα των κοριτσιών
είναι η Mαυροφόρα.

Έχε γεια Παναγιά
τα μιλήσαμε,
όνειρο ήτανε,
τα λησμονήσαμε.

Στο Γαλατά θα πιω κρασί,
στο Πέρα θα μεθύσω,
και μες απ' το Γεντί Kουλέ
κοπέλα θ' αγαπήσω.

Έχε γεια Παναγιά
τα μιλήσαμε,
όνειρο ήτανε,
τα λησμονήσαμε

Γεντί Kουλέ και Θαραπειά,
Ταταύλα και Nιχώρι,
αυτά τα τέσσερα χωριά
'μορφαίνουνε την Πόλη.

Έχε γεια Παναγιά
τα μιλήσαμε,
όνειρο ήτανε,
τα λησμονήσαμε

Farewell, O Virgin Mary

At Galata a gentle mist, on Tatavla a norther’
Queen of the girls, was she clad all in black.

Farewell, O Virgin Mary, we have said it all
It was a dream, and now it is forgotten.

On Galata I will drink wine, At Pera I’ll be drunken
And in Genti Koulé I shall fall in love with a girl.

Farewell, O Virgin Mary, we have said it all
It was a dream, and now it is forgotten.

Genti Koulé and Tharapeia, Tatavla and Nichori
Those four boroughs beautify the City.

Farewell, O Virgin Mary, we have said it all
It was a dream, and now it is forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful translation. Thank you for posting!

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