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to meet the wants of Greeks studying the English, it is a valuable manual for the acquisition of the Greek language. The Greek-French lexicon of Scarlatus Byzantinus is the most complete, as far as relates to the higher Greek especially; and hence it supplies the deficiencies of that of Lowndes. The French-Greek dictionary of Rangabes, Samourcases, and Nicolaides Lebadeus, is constructed upon the basis of that of the French Academy; it is, probably, the most satisfactory of the whole series. But in order to learn many of the words used by the people, and which rarely find their way into print, except in the collections of proverbs or popular songs, one must have recourse to more ancient works, such as the “ Lexicon Triglosson,” published some fifty or sixty years since. Even with the aid of this, the meaning of a popular word or phrase will often be sought in vain. This difficulty is enhanced by the differences of dialect prevailing in the several districts. It can be overcome only by the assistance of the oral explanations of a native. But an Athenian can by no means understand all the terms occurring in a Laconian lament or a Thessalian song. This, it will be remembered, is only true of the popular ballads.
The brief and necessarily imperfect view that we have taken of the present literature of Greece, may perhaps lead some to a more just appreciation of the richness of its contents. Its progress, we do not hesitate to say, has been unparalleled, if the short period during which the nation has had a political existence, and the difficulties, both moral and physical, attending every step of improvement, be taken into account. Twenty-five years
repose, after a war almost of extermination-and these years, too, disquieted by intestine commotion and foreign interference—are surely not a long period to allow for the regeneration of Greece, after the degrading influence of twenty centuries of subjection. An impartial mind will be rather surprised at the extent of what has been done, than disappointed at the failure of some perhaps too sanguine expectations.
“Religious, Martial, or Civil ditties; which, if wise men and prophets be not extremely out, have a great power over disposition and manners, to smoothe and make them gentle from rustic harshness and distempered passions.”
MILTON on Education.
A FORCIBLE writer has somewhere characterized the rich ballads of Spain as “Iliads without a Homer.” The description is no less appropriate to those of modern Greece. Nowhere have warlike deeds been more frequent; nowhere have they been better appreciated. Under a poetic disguise is conveyed a faithful transcript of the social history of its population. Here we are to look for traces of ancient customs, and for superstitions half extinct. From the popular poetry of any nation we can judge with certainty of the prevailing tastes, and the grade of civilization. For in the ballad the individuality of the author is merged in the mass of those who appropriate not only his sentiments, but his expressions. The poet is merely the spokesman of the people; and the popularity of his production is a proof that it is consonant with their way of thinking. But the songs of Greece possess an additional claim to interest, in the fact that they contain the only record of many incidents of her history for several centuries preceding the hour of her resuscitation. An oppressed race naturally resorts to them to express without restraint the story of its sufferings, and to recount the exploits of its brave champions that foreshadow a coming deliverance. Unfortunately the record is but fragile, rarely or never committed to writing, and scarce outliving the generation that gave it birth. Twenty or thirty years is the ordinary span of even the most widely-known ballad. The valorous deeds or the misfortunes of a new hero engross the sympathies of all; and his no less noted predecessor must give way before his rising renown. Thus, doubtless, have a thousand fragments of historic lore been forever lost to the world. A writer,* through whose instrumentality attention was first drawn to modern Greek ballads, supposes that of near one hundred and fifty specimens contained in his collection, but one can be as old as the end of the sixteenth century, and that has been preserved ever since in writing. The others are handed down orally; and the most ancient ascertained is about one hundred and fifty years old. The majority relate to occurrences at the end of the last and the commencement of the present century.
The popular songs of Greece may be arranged in several distinct categories. The first comprises the large and varied class of Heroic or Kleftic poems, in which the adventures of the klefts are related at length, and with a general adherence to strict accuracy of fact, except in certain portions, which contain a conventional form of exaggeration. These pieces are the most interesting in a merely historical point of view. Next comes the class of Romantic poems, peculiar for the most part to the islands, where the imagination has received a different tinge, from contact with the Western European mind. More curious than these are those songs composed for special domestic events, forming in the minds of the people an essential accompaniment to the celebration of the marriage rite, or sung in mournful strains over the corpses of the dead. The former are, for the most part, handed down from generation to generation, with little deviation from a stereotype form, in each particular district.
The latter have little in common, and are the spontaneous offspring of a lively imagination, excited by the sad emotions of the occasion.
* C. Fauriel, Chants Populaires de la Grèce Moderne (Paris, 1824),
PRINCIPLES OF GREEK POETRY.
Before entering upon a more particular notice of these classes of poems, it is important to understand the principles on which they are composed. It is admitted by all that the rhythm of the Greek language has undergone a very considerable, if not a total, metamorphosis. The distinction between long and short syllables, which was the basis of the ancient poetry, having, with the lapse of ages, been completely lost in the common pronunciation, a new principle of versification was introduced, conforming to the highly scientific arrangement of the accents with which the language was provided. Who was the first to adapt himself to the alteration, it is, perhaps, too late to ascertain. In the middle of the twelfth century almost all poetical works were so written, even though their language might be completely ancient in character. The verse in most common use is the heroic, composed of fifteen syllables, and divided into two hemistichs, the former consisting of eight, and the latter of seven syllables. The fundamental foot is the iambus; and, consequently, the accent falls generally upon the even syllables. Some variation from this, however, is allowed ; and trochees frequently appear, especially in the commencement of either half line.
The principal accents must fall on either the sixth or the eighth syllable of the first, and on the sixth of the second hemistich. This is the, metre employed in almost all kleftic songs, and in many the lyrical productions. There are a variety of other metres more or less comme
monly used. To appreciate that extensive collection of ballads which relate to the warlike exploits of the klefts, it is indispensable to have some acquaintance with their adventurous temperament and insecure mode of life. As the nam2—changed, by a mere aspiration, from the classic word for robber-sufficiently indicates, the klefts were a class of freebooters, supporting themselves by forced contributions levied upon the villages of the districts they infested. But their deeds of rapine did not subject them to that weight of indignation which so lawless a course of life might naturally call forth, as they were regarded in the light of a political party rather than as robbers and outlaws. Young men who could not endure the restrictions they suffered at home, and longed for freedom and
repose; men in the prime of life, who through a succession of years had been the victims of oppression, and whom outrageous act of arbitrary violence had rendered impatient of the yoke they had been meekly bearing: such were the materials from which Colocotroni, Liakos, and others formed their invincible bands. There were men of all ages, ranks, and conditions ; but one feeling animated them all, and that was hatred to the Turks, and to those who patiently submitted to their tyranny. Retiring to the mountains, they led, under the generalship of some experienced captain, a life of independence, subject, nevertheless, to the greatest hardships and privations. Safety, or an opportunity of plunder, frequently necessitated the execution of marches of surprising length and difficulty. At times the stock of provisions was almost exhausted, and the kleft was compelled to put up with the scantiest fare, and subsist on the roots of such wild plants as would satisfy his hunger. But then, again, the elders of a village presented large sums, and furnished provisions to the band, to secure immunity from plunder. Occasionally, too, some rich bashaw fell into their hands, and was not released until he had paid a heavy ransom. The Greeks were generally exempted from these levies, except when want pressed heavily. The monks, however, were, from their indolence and wealth, special objects of dislike; and the klefts were not slow in turning to their own use the accumulated stores of the monastery; while the parish priest was rarely incommoded, farther than being forced to read prayers, or say the last offices for their dead.
At length, tired of the constant annoyance which a band of resolute men could inflict upon their provinces, the Pashas would send proposals of peace, and engage to employ the klefts as a body of hired troops. With the change of occupation, their name was changed to Armatoloi, or militia-men. An opportunity was now afforded the Turks of compassing by treachery the destruction of their new and formidable allies. It was rarely lost. Those who escaped the massacre of their chiefs, joined by fresh recruits, were soon again wild klefts upon the mountains, inflicting deeper wounds upon their enemies, and animated by hatred yet more deadly against the