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Greece Yesterday and Today Modern Greek Literature Nick Kontaridis Prose The Short Story Novelette Novel Poetry Epic Poem Lyric Poetry The Sonette The Elegy The Language Question The demotic The Katharevousa Modern Greek Literature The Romantic School

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modern greek literature review

The Short Story




Epic Poem

Lyric Poetry

The Sonette

The Elegy

The Language Question

The demotic

The Katharevousa

Modern Greek Literature

The Romantic School

The School of the Ionian Islands

The New School of Athens


Rhigas Pherraios, Dionysios Solomos, Kostis Palamas, Myrtiotissa, Melissanthi, Zoe Kareli, Angelos Sikelianos, C. Kavafis, N. Kazantzakis, George Seferis, Odysseus Elitis, Yannis Ritsos.

Modern Greek Literature – Review
poets rhigas pherraios
Poets Rhigas Pherraios

The War Hymn

“How long, my heroes, shall we live in bondage,

alone like lions on ridges, on peaks?

Living in caves, seeing our children

Turned from the world to bitter enslavement?

Losing our land, brothers, and parents

Our friends, our children and all our relations?

Better an hour of life that is free

Than forty years of slavery!”

poets dionysios solomos
Hymn to Liberty

“I can see thee by the lightning

of the sword-blade flashing high;

I can see thee by the brightening

Of the swiftly glancing eye.

From the hallowed bones arising

Of Hellenic heroes free,

Now as ever valor prizing,

Hail, all hail sweet liberty!

Poets Dionysios Solomos
poets dionysios solomos5
Poets Dionysios Solomos

Epigram to Psara

On Psara’s blackened, charred stone

Glory silently walks all alone

mediating her sons’ noble deeds,

and wears a wreath on her hair

made of such few scattered weeds

on the desolate earth left to spare.

poets dionysios solomos6
Poets Dionysios Solomos

After a little while

I could not really tell,

Whether it was a sail

Or the sea’s foamy swell.

After kerchief and canvas

On the sea were lost,

Her friends shed a few tears

And I shed the most.

I don’t lament the boat,

The sail I don’t lament,

But I lament Xanthula

That far from us she went.

I don’tlament the boat,

The sail I don’t lament,

But I lament Xanthula

With hair golden-pale.

The Little Blonde Girl (Xanthoula)

At eventide I saw her,

The little girl golden-tressed,

When she took a boat

To go far to the West.

Its snow-white sail,

Swollen by the winds,

Was like a dove frail

With outspread wings.

The friends were standing by,

In joy, or in grief,

And she waved good-bye

With her white kerchief.

I stopped to see her greeting,

Her warm farewell,

Till in the distance fleeting

She was hidden by the swell.

poets dionysios solomos7
Poets Dionysios Solomos

To Mr. George De Rossi

When you come back to your father’s,

You’ll see only his tombstone,

Before which I write you, alone,

On this first day of May.

Our May flowers we will scatter

On his kind, innocent breast,

For tonight he went to rest

In Christ’s warm embrace.

He was clam, still, and quiet

Till the last hour, and peaceful,

Just as now he looks gleeful,

His soul having flown from him.

Yet, a moment before flying

Toward heaven’s realms up high,

He waved gently with a sigh

As if for a final blessing.

poets dionysios solomos8
Poets Dionysios Solomos

Such a figure full of beauty

At once a question brings:

“If this creature is an angel,

Why is she lacking wings?”

I had spoken this way

When before my very sight,

Other girls appeared clad

In the moon’s silvery light.

Holding hands they danced together,

All of them pretty and smart,

Each one trying with fervor

To win my poor heart.

Then I heard your lips say,

As you were addressing me:

“Do you like them? Tell me pray!”

And I said, “How ugly to see!”

The Dream

My soul, goddess of beauty,

Listen to what I’ve dreamed:

With you I was one night,

All to me so slendid seemed.

We two walked together

In a garden of small size,

All the stars shone brightly

And on them you kept your eyes.

I was asking them, “Stars say

If there among you lies

One that shines from above

Like my lovely lady’s eyes?

Say whether you ever saw

On others such pretty hair?

Such an arm, such a limb,

An angelic vision fair?

poets dionysios solomos9
Poets Dionysios Solomos

With faces tired and drawn.

My soul, this was my vision.

It is now up to you

To remembr me and make

This sweet dream come true.

The Dream (con.)

Then a truly angelic smile

Shone on your fair face,

That methought I espied

The sky open in embrace.

And then I took you aside

By a rosebush in bloom,

Slowly I let my head hide

Into your snow-white arms.

Every kiss you gave me,

Dear soul, with sweetness,

Made a new rose appear

On the bush, with swiftness.

They were aborning all night,

Till the early light of dawn

Which found us looking pale

poets kostis palamas
Poets Kostis Palamas


Here the sky is everywhere, on all sides shines the sun, and something like the

honey of Hymettus is all around; out of the marble grow lilies unwithering;

divine Mount Pentelicon flashes, begetter of an Olympus.

The digging axe stumbles on beauty; in her boson Clybele holds gods, not

mortals; when the shafts of twilight strike her, Athens gushes violet blood.

Here are the temples and the groves of the sacred olive, and in the slowly

shifting crowd, like a caterpillar on a white flower,

a host of deathless relics live and reign with myriad souls; the spirit flashes

even in the earth; I feel it wrestling with the darkness in me.

poets kostis palamas11
Poets Kostis Palamas

The Grave

On the grave on which the Black Horseman takes you, be careful not toaccept anything from his hand;And, if you feel thirsty, do not drink the water of oblivion in the world below, my poor plucked spearmint!Do not drink, lest you forgot us fully, forever; leave marks so as not to lose the way,And being light and small like a swallow, with no warrior’s weapons clashing round your waist,See how you can trick the Sultan of the Night; slip away gently, secretly, and fly to us up to here;Come back to this empty house, O our precious boy; turn into a breath of wind, and give us a sweet kiss.

poets kostis palamas12
Poets Kostis Palamas

Olympic Hymn

Ancient immortal spirit, pure father of beauty, of greatness and

of truth, descend, be revealed as lightning here within the glory

of your own earth and sky at running and wrestling and at

throwing illuminate in the noble Agons' momentum and crown

with the unfading branch and make the body worthy and ironlike.

Planes, sees and mountains shine with you like a white-and-purple

great temple, and hurries at the temple here, your pilgrim every nation,

o ancient, immortal Spirit.

poets myrtiotissa 1883 1967
Poets Myrtiotissa (1883-1967)

I love you. I can say nothing deeper, more simple or greater.

Here, before your feet, I scatter, full of longing, the rich-petalled

blossom of my life.

O, my swarm of bees! Suck from it sweet, the pure perfume of my hart!

See, I offer you my two hands, clasped for you to lean your head softly upon.

And my hart is dancing, is all envy, and begs to be, like them, a pillow for your head.

And for a bed, my love, take the whole of me, extinguish upon me the flame of your fire.

While I, close to you, hear life flowing away to the beat of your heart …

I love you. What more, my precious love, can I tell you that is deeper, more simple, or greater?

poets melissanthi 1910
Poets Melissanthi (1910-          )

Melissanthi, pseudonym of Hebe Skandhalakis, was born in in 1910. She received her diplomas from various institutes in Athens for the study of English, French, and German, and has since translated much from these languages, in particular from Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Author of nine books of poetry and a play for children, she received the award of the Athens Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1936 for Return to the Prodigal, and the Palamas Award in 1946 for Lyrical Confession. An essentially lyrical poet, she suffered a religious crisis and turned to an expression of metaphysical agony which nonetheless emphasizes her belief in man and his ability to realize his basic goodness and love.

poets melissanthi 191015
Poets Melissanthi (1910-          )


Every time I sinned a door half opened, and the angels

who in my virtue had never found me beautiful,

tipped over the full amphora of their flower souls;

every time I sinned, it was as though a door had opened,

and tears of sweet compassion dripped among the grasses.

But if the sword of my remorse chased me from heaven,

every time I sinned a door half opened, and though men

thought me most ugly, the angels thought me beautiful.

poets melissanthi 1910 ancient shipwrecked cities
Ancient shipwrecked citiestell us of the omnipotence of Silence,of her sudden overwhelming floods within their walls;the snows of time are heaped on her breast;in a slow movement voyaging,the icebergs of millenniums proceed…All set out from the primordial space of Silenceand return to her once more;

All the weighed on her bronze shield,our words, our footsteps,and our most deeply hidden thoughts.Nothing can be lost,not a secret tear, not a leaf of a tree,not a single raindrop on the grass.

Her holy Night fills up with sacrilegious ears and eyes.The slaughter of the innocence steams in the meadows- where the mirror of the moon has been misted over-ransom for the profane guiltof knowing and existing.

Poets Melissanthi (1910-          )Ancient Shipwrecked Cities
poets zoe kareli
Poets-Zoe Kareli

Zoe Kareli the sister of Nikos Pendzikis, was born on July 22 (August 4), 1901 in

Thessaloniki, and received the education of a girl of good family according to her class

and period by being tutored in English, German, French and Italian, in singing and

drawing. Widiwed in 1953, she spent a year and a half with one of her two sons in

Australia. She has translated Eliot’s Familly Reunion and The Coctail Party, and has

herself written poetic drama.

She shared the Second State Prize in Poetry in 1955, was awarded the Palmes

Academique by france’s Ministry of Education in 1959, won the First State Prize in

Poetry in 1978. Karelli has been remarkably consistent in her existentialist attitude.

Whatever she has written has been a quest for a way out of man’s modern impasse, for

redemption from the feeling that the soul has been ravaged and devastated, that a

promise for justice has been broken. The fate of modern man, she believes, is to live in

a constant but creative doubt-not a passive and enervating doubt, but one that, by

indicating the duality of man’s struggle, takes on existentialist value. Her themes

become concernedwith the split personality of the person of sensibility tormented to

filnd his integrity and to create centers of continuity. The tone of her poetry, in

consequence, has neither the resilience of feminity nor the inflexibility of masculinity

but conbines the passionate turmoil of feminine sensilbility with the tough abstraction

of masculine thought.

poets zoe kareli18
PoetsZoe Kareli

From Diary

To begin life anew?

It isn’t a matter of most beauteous

And ecstatic youth, not even one

Of man’s significant wisdom.


Spitit and essense, the complete presence,

Reality and fantasy side by side.

poets zoe kareli worker in the workshops of time
As we brought the shape,a worker, a blower of glass,felt his love profoundlyfor the materialinto which he blew his breath.

At times crystal or like pearl,mother-of-pearl, precious ivoryor opal with misty colorsdrifting toward azure.All these were materials that become shapes,erotic shapes of whatever existswithin time.

The shape, receptacle of time,enclosed it erotically,an offering to time,expectation and acceptance both,that form which is an embrace of time,the singular shape he wrought

Out of his own essence,his own imagination.

But as his material handcaressed the final shape afterward,he understood the materiality of timeas his own handtogether with the shapeand the precious, erotic materialwere transformed into the diaphanous meaning of time.All together,but particularly he.

Poets-Zoe KareliWorker in the Workshops of Time
poets angelos sikelianos 1880 1951
PoetsAngelos Sikelianos(1880-1951)

Angelos Sikelianos was born in 1880 in Lefkas, one of the Ionian islands, and died in Athens in 1951. For many years he roamed throughout the length and breadth of Greece, confirming his knowledge andmastery of Greek tradition and the demotic tongue. The central action of his life was the formation of the Delphic Festivals in 1927 and 1930. Ath Delphi, where the Amphictyonic Council (the first League of Nations) used to meet, Sikelianos hoped to found a cosmic center where, through a dedication to a religious view of life without dogms, the nations of the world might meet to insure peace and justice. Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and Suppliantswere lavisly mounted, Olympic contests were held on the heights of Mt. Parnassos, Byzantine music was played, Greek demotic songs were delivered and danced, and an international university was planned. The author of nine books of poetry and of seven poetic dramas, Sikelianos was a poet in the grand tradition, a Years-like figure, a prophet and seer, a man of high vision and noble actions, one who had assimilated the cultural traditions of his own nationand those of the modern world, a revolutionary democrat and mystic who acted beyond the particular political creeds and religious faiths of the world. His vision was pantheistic and panhellenic, and his poetry, with its wide rhetorical sweep and unequaled command of language, encompassed both the lyric (of which he was a modern master), the philosophic poem, and in his later years, the poetic drama.

poets angelos sikelianos 1880 195122
PoetsAngelos Sikelianos(1880-1951)


Blazing, laughing, warm, the moon watched over the

vineyards, and the sun was still parching the bushes,

as it set in the dead calmness. The angry grass was

heavily sweating milk in the warm stillness; and you

could hear the grape-pickers whistle among the

young vines that climbed up the many wide steps of

the hillside; the robins were shaking their wings on

the river’s banks; the heat-haze spread over the

moon a spider-web kerchief.

poets constantine kavafis 1863 1933
Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)

Constantine Kavafis was born in Constantinopole in 1963 and died in Alexandria in 1933. Except for three years in England, two years in Constantinopole, a few months each in Paris and Athens, he spent his entire life in the Alexandria he loved, employed for twenty years as a common clerk in the Department of Irrigation. He wrote only three or four poems a year, published some of them in broadsheets for private use, and not until he was forty-one d he bring out his first book, a slim volume of only fourteen poems not for sale, reissued five years later with the addition of only seven poems. His main work, collected after his death, totals some forty-six erotic, some forty-one contemplative, and some sixty-seven historical poems. Written on a demotic base, but with a mixture strangely his own from Ancient, Byzantine, and Medieval Greek, his poems (often with Hellenistic setting) are brief, neither emotional nor lyrical, but dramatic, narrative, objective, realistic, a recounting of facts and episodes in a tone of voice which is dry, precise, deliberately prosaic and, above all, ironic-the undisputed founder and master of modern Greek poetry, and one of the first poets of the modern world .

poets constantine kavafis 1863 193326

When you set out on the voyage to Ithaca,

pray that your journey may be long,

full of adventure, full of knowledge.

Of the Laestrygones and the Cyclopes

and of furious Poseidon, do not be afraid,

for such on your journey you shall never meet

if your thought remain lofty, if a select

emotion imbue your spirit and your body.

The Laestrygones and the Cyclopes

and furious Poseidon you will never meet

unless you drag them with you in your soul,

unless your soul raises them up before you.

Pray that your journey may be long,

that many may those summer morning be

when with what pleasure, what pleasure, what

untold delight you enter harbors for the first time seen;

that you stop at Phoenician market places

to procure the godly merchandise,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony

and voluptuous perfumes of every kind,

as lavish an amount of voluptuous perfumes as you


that you venture on to many Egyptian cities

to learn and yet again to learn from the sages.

Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
poets constantine kavafis 1863 193327
Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)

But you must always keep Ithaca in mind.

The arrival there is your predestination.

Yet do not by any means hasten your voyage.

Let it best endure for many years,

until grown old at length you anchor at your island

rich with all you have acquired on the way,

having never expected Ithaca would give you riches.

Ithaca has given you the lovely voyage.

Without her you would not have ventured on the way.

She has nothing more to give to you now.

Poor though you may find her, Ithaca has not deceived you.

Now that you have become so wise, so full of experience,

you will have understood the meaning of an Ithaca.

poets constantine kavafis 1863 193328
The City

You said, “I will go to another land, I will go to another sea.

Another city shall be found better than this.

Each one of my endeavors is condemned by fate;

my heart lies buried like a corpse.

How long now in this is withering shall my mind remain.

Wherever I turn my eyes, wherever I gaze,

I see here only the black ruins of my life

where I have spent so many years, worn thin and fallen to ruins.”

New places you shall never find, you’ll

not find other seas.

The city still shall follow you. You’ll wander still

in the same streets, you’ll roam in the same neighborhoods,

in these same houses you’ll turn gray.

You’ll always arrive at this same city. Don’t hope for somewhere else;

no ship for you exists, no road exists.

Just as you’ve ruined your life here, in this

small corner of earth, you’ve worn it thin the whole world round.

Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
poets constantine kavafis 1863 193329
As Much As You Can

And if you cannot make your life as you want it,

as least try this

as much as you can: do not disgrace it

in the crowding contact with the world,

in the many movements and all the talk.

Do not disgrace it by taking it,

dragging it around often and exposing it

to the daily folly

of relationships and associations,

till it becomes like an alien burdensome life.


Honor to those who in their lives

are committed and guard their Thermopylae.

Never stirring from duty;

just and upright in all their deeds,

but with pity and compassion too;

generous whenever they are rich, and when

they are poor, again a little generous,

again helping as much as they are able;

always speaking the truth,

but without rancor for those who lie.

And they merit greater honor

when they foresee (and many do foresee)

that Ephialtes will finally appear,

and in the end the Medes will go through.

Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
poets constantine kavafis 1863 193330
An old Man

At the back of the noisy café

bent over a table sits an old man;

a newspaper in front of him, without company.

And in the scorn of his miserable old age

he ponders how little he enjoyed the years

when he had strength, and the power of the word, and good looks.

He knows he has aged much; he feels it, he sees it.

And yet the time he was young seems

like yesterday. How short a time, how short a time.

And he ponders how Prudence deceived him;

and how he always trusted her -- what a folly! --

that liar who said: "Tomorrow. There is ample time."

He remembers the impulses he curbed; and how much

joy he sacrificed. Every lost chance

now mocks his senseless wisdom.

...But from so much thinking and remembering

the old man gets dizzy. And falls asleep

bent over the café table.

Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
poets constantine kavafis 1863 193331
The First Step

The young poet Evmenes complained one day to Theocritus:

"I've been writing for two years now and I've composed only one idyll.

It's my single completed work. I see, sadly, that the ladder of Poetry is tall,

extremely tall; and from this first step I'm standing on now I'll never climb

any higher." Theocritus retorted: "Words like that are improper, blasphemous.

Just to be on the first step should make you happy and proud. To have reached this

point is no small achievement: what you've done already is a wonderful thing.

Even this first step is a long way above the ordinary world. To stand on this step

you must be in your own right a member of the city of ideas. And it's a hard, unusual

thing to be enrolled as a citizen of that city. Its councils are full of Legislators no

charlatan can fool. To have reached this point is no small achievement:

what you've done already is a wonderful thing."

Poets Constantine Kavafis (1863-1933)
poets nikos kazantzakis 1883 1957
PoetsNikos Kazantzakis(1883-1957)

Nikos Kazantzakis was born in Heracleion, Crete, in 1883, and died in

Feiburg, Germany, in 1957. He studied law at the University of Athens,

philosophy under Henri Bergson at the College de France, and literature

and art in Germany and Italy.In 1919 he served briefly in the Ministry of

Public Welfare, and in 1947 he was appointed Director of Translations

from the Classics for UNESCO. The greatest man of letters of modern

Greece, Kazantzakis wrote some nine novels (of which Zorba the Greek,

The Greek Passion, /freedom or Death, The Last Temptation of Christ, St.

Francis, and The Rock Garden are available in English), five books of

travel, sixteen poetic dramas, three philosophical treatises (including The

Saviors of God: Spiritual Excersises, availlable in English translation by

Kimon Friar), and his great epical poem of 33,333 lines, The Odyssey: A

Modern Sequel, hailed unanimously as a world masterpiece immediately

on its American publication in a translation by Kimon friar. In addition, he

was thranslated into modern Greek Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Dante’s

Divine Comedy, Goethe’s Faust, Darwin’s Origin of Species, and

innumerable other books.

poets nikos kazantzakis 1883 195733
O Sun

O Sun, my quick coquetting eye, my red-haired hound,

sniff out all quarries that I love, give them swift chase,

tell me all that you've seen on earth, all that you've heard,

and I shall pass them through my entrails' secret forge

till slowly, with profound caresses, play and laughter,

stones, water, fire, and earth shall be transformed to spirit

and the mud-winged and heavy soul, freed of its flesh,

shall like a flame serene ascend and fade in sun.

PoetsNikos Kazantzakis(1883-1957)
poets nikos kazantzakis 1883 195734
From Odysseus, A Drama

And you abandon your fortune to the suitors

and do not dare utter a word in protest!

They’re after your mother like a dogs in heat,

and you stare at the sea, and expect the

hands of an old man to come and save you!

Do you want to be like him? Then buckle

his sword and go to the palace to kill!

Ah, if he were to put his foot here again

your island would shake with terror,

and the suitors would keep quiet like deer

that have scented a lion’s breath;

and they would pay with black blood

For their ignoble and most indecent feasts!


Greetings to you, my Lords; where are you going?

The doors are barred, and in my wide courts,

O bridegrooms, in the wedding’s about to begin!

Eh you woman, go crouch in the corner,

take care-an arrow may wound you,

lady, in tumult of the massacre!-

I’m Odysseus, and my faithful bow

has recognized me, it dances in my hand

and the string sings like a swallow full of joy!

And in my tight grip death shines calm,

like a thunderbolt in a just man’s hand!

PoetsNikos Kazantzakis(1883-1957)
poets george seferis 1900 1971
PoetsGeorge Seferis (1900-1971)

George Seferis, pseudonym of George Seferiadhis, was born in Smyrna in 1900

and in 1926 entered the Ministry of Foregn Affairs. He was formerly the Royal

Greek Embassador to England. In 1961 he was awarded the William Foule

Poetry Prize in England, and in 1963 the Nobel Prize in Literature. The author of

eight books of poetry and two of critical essays, he is a poet of evocative

symbols and metaphysical distinctions who has superbly translated Eliot’s The

Waste Land and other poems. All of his mature poetry is written in a free verse

of great sinuousness, rhythmical yet modulated, which never rises in tone or

diction beyond the “conversation between intellectual men”, as Ezra Pound has

it. His is a poetry of understandmentand hesitation, dealing with recurring themes

of expatriation and the disintegration of the modern world. His poetry is

brooming and contemplative, precise yet subtle in thought ang image. He has

often attempted to define what Greece is as a “state of being”. Yet in the center

of each poem is the poet himself, looking back into the mythological past of his

country and her symbols, retracting her history, and telling a story which has the

independent validity of imaginative finction.

poets george seferis 1900 1971 the house near the sea
The houses that I had they took from me. The timeshappened to be unpropitious: war, destruction, exile;sometimes the hunter hits the migratory birds,sometimes he doesn’t hit them. Huntingwas good in my time, many felt the pellet;the rest circle aimlessly or go mad in the shelters.

Don’t talk to me about the nightingale or the lark or the little wagtailinscribing figures with his tail in the light;I don’t know much about housesI know they have their own nature, nothing else.New at first, like babieswho play in gardens with the tassels of the sun,they embroider coloured shutters and shinning doors over the day.When the architect’s finished, they change,they frown or smile or even grow resentfulwith those who stayed behind, with those who went awaywith others who’d come back if they couldor others who disappeared, now that the world’s become an endless hotel.

PoetsGeorge Seferis (1900-1971)The House Near the Sea
poets george seferis summer solstice
The greatest sun on one sideand the new moon on the otherdistant in memory like those breasts.Between them the chasm of the starry nightdeluge of life.

The horses on the threshing-floorsgallop and sweatupon scattered bodies.All are going thereand that woman whomyou saw beautiful, in a momentis bending, can endure no longer, has knelt.The millstones are grinding them alland all become stars.

Eve of the longest day.

Poets - George Seferis Summer Solstice

All have visionsyet no one will admit it;They go thinking they’re alone.The large rosehad always been thereby your side deeply in sleepyours and unknown.But only now that your lips’ve touched iton the outermost leaveshave you felt the dancer’s dense weightfalling into the river of time-the dreadful splash.Don’t waste the breath this respitehas granted you.

poets odysseus elytis 1912
PoetsOdysseus Elytis (1912- )

Odysseus Elytis, pseudonym for Odysseus Alepoudhelis, was born in Hracleion, Crete in 1912, of a well-known industrial family, and studied law and political science at the University of Athens. In the period between 1940 and 1941 he served as a second lieutenant on the Albanian front in the Greek-Italian war. In 1938 he represented Greece at the eleventh International Congress of Writers at Geneva, and in 1950 at the first International Congress of Art Critics in Paris. He has spent many years in France and several months touring the United States in 1961 under the auspices of the State Department. The author of five books of poetry, his work marks the joyous return to nature, to summer and the sea, to the blaze of the noonday sun over the aegean, to the praise of adolexcence and its sentiments. His second book was entitled Sun the First, as one might refer to the emperor. Though his poetry is rhythmical in effect, he is more interested in the plastic use of language and imagery, both of which still reflect his earlier preoccupation with surrealism. His experience on the Albanian front during the war brought greater depth and sobriety to his poetry and resulted in one of the best elegies written about the war. He was awarded the State Award in Poetry in 1960 for Worthy It Is.

poets odysseus elytis 1912 aegean
LoveThe network os islandsand the prow of its foamand the gulls of its dreamson its highest mast a sailorwhistles a song.

LoveIts songand the horizons of its voyageand the sound of its longingon its wettest rock the bridewaits for a ship.

Loveits shipand the nonchalance of its windsand the jib sail of its hopeon the lightest of waves an islandcradles the arrival.

Playtings, the watersin their shadowy flowspeak with their kisses about the dawnthat beginshorizoning--

PoetsOdysseus Elytis (1912- )Aegean
poets odysseus elytis 1912 aegean40
And the pigeons in the cavesrustle their wingsblue awakening in the sourceof a daysun--

The northwest wind bestows the sailto the seathe hair’s caressin the insouciance of its dreamdew-cool—

Waves in the lightrevive the eyeswhere life sails towardsthe recognitionlife—

The surf a kiss on its caressed sand-LoveThe gull bestows its blue libertyto the horizonwaves come and gofoamy answer in the shell’s ear.

Who carried away the blonde and sunburnt girl?The sea-breeze with its transparent breathtilts dream’s sailfar outlove murmurs its promise--Surf

PoetsOdysseus Elytis (1912- )Aegean
poets yiannis ritsos 1909
PoetsYiannis Ritsos (1909- )

Yiannis Ritsos, was borne in Monemvasia, a town of Peloponnesos, in 1909, fell ill at the age of eighteen months of tuberculosis and spent many years in various sanatoriums. His heritage is a tragic one, for both his mother and elder brother died of tuberculosis and his father and sister died insane. Because of his left-wing activities, he spent the years 1948-52 in various detention camps in Greece. The author of twenty-three books of poetry, three volumes of Collected Poems (1961-64), of two plays and a poem for dance, he won the State Award in Poetry for 1956 for Moonlight sonata.

poets yiannis ritsos
Moonlight Sonata

Let me come with you. What a moon there is tonight!

The moon is kind – it won’t show that my hair turned white.

The moon will turn my hair to gold again. You wouldn’t understand.

Let me come with you.

When there’s a moon the shadows in the house grow larger,

invisible hands draw the curtains, a ghostly finger writes forgotten words in the

dust on the piano – I don’t want to hear them. Hush.

Let me come with you a little farther down, as far as the brickyard wall,

to the point where the road turns and the city appears concrete and airy,

whitewashed with moonlight, so indifferent and insubstantial so positive, like

metaphysics, that finally you can believe you exist and do not exist,

that you never existed, that time with its destruction never existed.

Let me come with you.

Poets Yiannis Ritsos
poets yiannis ritsos43
From Romiosini

These trees cannot adjust to lesser sky,these stones cannot adjust beneath the tread of strangers,these faces cannot adjust unless they feel the sun,these hearts cannot adjust unless they live in justice.

This landscape is as harsh as silence,it hugs to its breast the scorching stones,clasps in its light the orphaned olive trees and vineyards,clenches its teeth. There is no water. Light only.Roads vanish in light and the shadow of the sheepfold is made or iron.

Trees, rivers, and voices have turned to stone in the sun’s quicklime.Roots trip on marble. Dust-covered lentisk shrubs.Mules and rocks. All panting. There is no water.All are parched. For years now. All chew a morsel of sky to choke down their bitterness.

Poets - Yiannis Ritsos
poets nikos gatsos 1915
PoetsNikos Gatsos(1915- )

Nikos Gatsos was born in a small village in Arcadia and took his degree from the School of Letters at the University of Athens. From early childhood he grew up in the heroic traditions of his countryside, made vivid for him by the ballads and folksongs of the region. He is the author of only one longish poem, Amorgos, but it has had a disproportionate influence among the writers of his generation. In Amorgos, the practice of surrealism, the rhythms of the Bible, and the traditions of Greek folk ballads were combined for the first time in a strange, arresting, and elegiac manner. Profoundly influenced by the Ionian philosopher Heracleitos, Gatsos believes that the essence of life and art is to be found in nothing static, but in an eternal flux. In the brooding long lines of his Iamentations, however, there is always to be found the sprig of basil or rosemary, symbols of hope and resurrection, joyful melancholy.

poets nikos gatsos 191545
PoetsNikos Gatsos(1915- )


With their country tied to their sails and their oars hung on the wind

The shipwrecked slept tamely like dead beasts on a bedding of sponges

But the eyes of seaweed are turned toward the sea

Hoping the South Wind will bring them back with their lateen sails newly painted

For one lost elephant is always worth much more than two quivering breasts of a girl

Only if the roofs of deserted chapels should light up with the caprice of the Evening star

Only if birds should ripple amid the masts of the lemon trees

With the firm white flurry of lively footsteps

Will the winds come, the bodies of swans that remained immaculate, unmoving and tender

Amid the streamrollers of shops and the cyclones of vegetable gardens

When the eyes of women turned to coal and the hearts of the chestnut hawkers were broken

When the harvest was done and the hopes of crickets began

And indeed this is why, my brave young men, with kisses, wine, and leaves on your mouths

I would want you to stride naked along the riversides

poets nikiphoros vrettakos 1911
PoetsNikiphoros Vrettakos (1911- )

Nikiphoros Vrettakos, born in Sparta in 1911, worked as a common laborer in Athens until he was given a post in the Ministry of Labor. The author of twenty-one books of poetry, he is a pure singing voice, writing spontaneously without much attention to form, impelled by an almost naïve religious devotion and a deep sentiment for the ills of down trodden humanity. His hatred of injustice and his desire to better the world often leads him to moralize in the midst of song. Christian and democratic in his views, he believes and asserts in his poetry that art must be expression of love and goodness, that these form the beauty of civilization as a higher ordering of human relations, a kind of divine law, a “deathlessness of art”. He has twice won the State Award for Poetry: in 1940 for the Grimaces of Man, and in 1956 for poems, 1929-1951.

poets nikiphoros vrettakos 191148
An Almond Tree

An almond tree with you beside it.But when did you two blossom?Standing by the windowI look at you and weep.

My eyes can’t bear suchmirth. God, give meall the cisterns of heavenand I’ll fill them for you.


Love is in my heart like an almond tree branchin a glass of water. The sun caresses itand is filled with birds.The best nightingale utters your name.

The Strange Presence

As if God had molded you out of unused earth,light and water, you are beautiful,strangely so.

Your hands resemblean assembled people mediatingupon your breast. Your neck is a columnsupporting a frieze. Your laugha piece camp. The sun alightson your upright forehead, strangely.

Your hair is a tamed storm. And your eyes arethe wisdom of silence, the harmony of the storm,the “love one another”.

Poets Nikiphoros Vrettakos (1911- )
poets nikiphoros vrettakos 191149
There is no Solitude

There is no solitude where a man isdigging or whistling or washing his hands.There is no solitude where a treestirs its leaves. Where an anonymousinsect finds a flower and sits,where a brook is reflecting a star,where holding his mother’s breastwith his blissful little lips openan infant sleeps, there is no solitude

Without you

Without you doveswouldn’t find water.

Without you Godwouldn’t switch on the light in his fountains.

An apple tree sows its blossomsin the wind; in your apronyou bring water from the skythe glow of wheat, and above youa moon of sparrows

Poets Nikiphoros Vrettakos (1911- )
poets nikiphoros vrettakos 191150
from Murky Rivers

Love is the mountainand the night with its stars.Love is the seaand the day with its sun.And the little sparksthat fly from the chimneyof the house and the eyesof the little bird even thoseare love.

If I Were

If I were to offer you a lilyI would be addinga stemto the Evening Star.

Poets Nikiphoros Vrettakos (1911- )
poems from greek cyprian poets
Kypros Chrysanthis Lefkosia

For miracles and a flood is the time,of commemorative lamps the rosy flames;and, Lefkosia, the twilight framesyour sky like a fate sublime.

Your castles were filled by an ancient tale,much as for flowers the bees of springblessings and perfumes bringsuch as the prayers of a maiden unveil.

Come, empty the jug, stranger-friend,filled with the rosy-grape wish.Cyprus’ pride is the stead.

As if for a beautiful archaic head,o friend, the hymn for our isle finish,that’s blooming, no longer wilted by conquerors’ tread.

Petros Sophas Resolution

You’ve gathered all the patiencefrom the beggars’ traysand have tied it a knot in your handkerchief.You’ve sat so many timesat the threshold of Springhearing but the same dirge.You were looking at the skyfor hours on end so many nightswith no star filling your palm.What are you still waiting for?Take the beggar’s empty traysand make them a tambourine.Take a sound from the dirge of Springand make the song of Tomorrow.Tighten your empty handand strike to open your way.

Poems from Greek Cyprian Poets
poems from greek cyprian poets yiannis k papadopoulos
Let’s say

Let’s say that now we are first facing the light of the world,that our ships never set sail for troyand the Mycenean kings didn’t go hunting lions,for the artisans to engrave their golden memories on the metal immortality.Let’s say that the Persians haven’t yet cometo ask for our landand the buzzards at marathon haven’t counted their bodiesand the shells in the sea of Salamishaven’t clung to the sunken triremes;

That Pheidias’ handsare the tiny hands of this newborn baby awaited by the unwrought marbles of our country.

Let’s say that the masterpieces of Aeschylus and Sophoclesare still these bright sparks

In the eyes of the youth who passes by;that the golden age is that fair wheatwe sow in sweat with the vision of Threshing;that the leaves of this wild tree we are now graftingwill some day shine like silverat the flowering of Platonic thought.Let’s say that now we are first facing the light of the worldand let’s say only that the others call us Greeks.

Poems from Greek Cyprian PoetsYiannis K. Papadopoulos
poets nikolaos kontaridis
Do not Wonder, Passerby

Do not wonder, passerbyin the meaningless pathways of life.Only lead the footsteps there,where the night pours the holy lightand the stars never cease to shine.

Have the thread of truthas your trustful guide,quickly feel what the world is,what purpose you have in life.

Destroy images of ruined gods,raise the big idea,become its standard-bearer and go to openthat unravels itself to you.

Do not wonder, passerby,in the meaningless pathways of life.Only lead your footsteps therewhere a man becomes a man.

Do not Cry

Do not cry over lost joys,migratory birds,that have flown away from you… Somewhere,somewhere life blossomswith more beautiful flowers.If storms throw youon to deserted seashoresa thousand times over,do not cry.The storms ragewill quickly pass.If the night’s darknessengulfs feathered dreams,do not cry.Somewhere,somewhere the sun will risewith brighter sunshine.

Poets Nikolaos Kontaridis
poets nikolaos kontaridis54
It Is Not Easy

It is not easy

To take a paintbrush

And draw a man.

With words

To illustrate

The deepness of his soul.

With colour

To add passion

To his life.

With persistence, gather

The ruins

Of his dreams.

Yellow rose petals of a stripped blossom

That lose themselves and disappear

In the abyss of time.


I am

A migratory breath,

A feather in the wind,

A bird without a voice

In a barren desert.

I eagerly wait

For the flight of my soul

In an endless domain

And time

Without an end.

There and only there

The winds will silence,

The storms will cease

And life will journey

To the eternally open sea.

Poets Nikolaos Kontaridis
poets nikolaos kontaridis55
Poets Nikolaos Kontaridis


We, who were once children

And created imaginary words


Palaces and towers in dreams

We, who partook the experience

Of our ancestors

And courageously we sought

Everything worthy and great

We, who wore the lion’s skin

Who made our heart of steel

Who filled our existence with anxieties

Who took long journeys

We, who the bitter taste of life

Knew well

And became wise

With the gray temples

We, who are the children of our fathers

The fathers of our children

Drops of rain

Of infinity

We, peace

Desire only

As our fathers demanded it

As our children will demand it.