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Time – A Yannis Ritsos Poem

October 29, 2013
By

Ritsos perfectly captures his home town of Monemvasia

DSC_0131We have immersed ourselves in the poetry of Yannis Ritsos, acknowledged as one of the great Grecian poets of the last century, and are reliving our recent trip to Peloponnesian towns in Greece through him.

“Time” is taken from his collection of 36 poems in the book Monovasia which has been published with the companion long poem “The Women of Monemvasia.” Both capture the detail and historical essence of what we saw when in Ritsos’s home town of Monemvasia.

Time

By Yannis Ritsos

(Definitely il miglior fabbro)

Tanneries, wine factors, cotton mills – what celebrated

silks,

what leather and what aromatic wines in great demand both

in the East and the West. This region

betrays nothing of its ancient magnificence. Rust lampposts,

houses riddled with thousands of holes, time-eaten

balustrades, fallen balconies,

a carved window frame, a large wardrobe in a demolishedDSC_0082

cellar,

limestone anthemions, scratched icon paintings, arches –

the nobility of Byzantine architecture thoughtfully

supplemented

with prickly pears and tall yellow thorns. How many wars,

sieges, pillages, slaughtered priests, stolen icons,

boiling oil, catapults, cannons. In the end

they surrendered the keys and received in return crimson

cloth trimmed with gold

and beautiful battle steeds – on white, two red, two black.

Now

only a few fishermen remain and, of course, the dead. In the

evenings

we see them leaning over the moon’s lintel shaking

a velvety worn-out mantle. One morning

we found their violet glass buttons amid the withered daisiesDSC_0687

and now and then a red sandal beside two bones and a

trucke’s inner tube.

From Yannis Ritsos, Monovasia (Athens: Nostos, 1987), translated by Kimon Friar and Kostas Myrsiades.

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