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has accomplished for the ballads of Modern Greece, what Sir Walter Scott performed among us for the kindred poetry of the Scottish borders; and though we cannot help regretting that a Frenchman, with his poetical prejudices, should have undertaken the selection, and become the Scott of the Greek Minstrelsy, we can safely say that M. Fauriel has •executed his duty as an editor and translator with admirable zeal and fidelity; and with an enthusiasm in the cause of the Greeks and their ballads which is quite edifying. The first volume of the collection, containing the historical ballads, was published in the beginning of June; the second, which will be even more interesting than the present, will contain the love songs, the laments, and the romantic ballads of the Greeks, and is to appear shortly, if the first should be favourably received. There is a long introductory essay on the songs of Modern Greece, in which M. Fauriel has introduced some interesting details about the domestic life and warlike dispositions of its population. He seems particularly anxious to prove that most of the ballads are old— a thing which we are happy to say he has completely failed in establishing, except in the case of one or two pieces which celebrate the feats of some of the Greek chieftains and sailors who existed about two hundred years ago. We are glad that these songs are not old—because we would wish to believe that the energy with which ihey express the Grecian hatred to the Turks, and the spirit of patriotism and devotion which they breathe, belong rather to the days of awakening freedom; that they have sprung out of the struggles and successes of the present time, and were not composed to lull to rest past generations whom their stirring music could not uprouse.
The poetry of Modern Greece has a colour and a character peculiarly its own. There is something in the gentler songs that seems to reflect another heaven, and to taste of a softer and more delicious climate: while in the bolder compositions, the free mountain air and the wild scenery have given vigour and freshness to the inspirations of the poets. The names of Olympus, Pelion, and Pindus, are almost as celebrated in Modern Greek verse as in Ancient: and it is delightful to find that the earliest modern Greek poetry sprung up like their liberty, among these ancient and famous mountains. These names, which are sacred sounds to our ears, are repeated in most of their ballads: the influence of the magical language and localities of Greece is added to the charm of its poetry; and we feel for a moment as if we breathed the warm sunny air, and were surrounded by the dazzling waters and blue skies—the glittering marble temples, and fallen columns, and dusky palms of its enchanting landscapes.
The lively imaginations of the Greeks turn every thing into poetry. Their voluptuous climate inspires them with an intense love of Nature, and their happy and indolent life disposes them to enjoy every change on her face:—to burst out into song on the return of spring, and the blossoming of flowers. Their faculty of improvisation, (which they possess even in a more remarkable degree than the Italians,) joined to the natural music of their delicious language, make even their common talk a kind of poetry: and when their feelings are heightened or deepened by joy or sorrow, their " thoughts voluntary move harmonious numbers." There is a peculiar intensity in their attachment to home and to kindred, in their loves and hatreds, and in all their domestic affections. Love,—marriage,—exile,—death, are all celebrated or lamented in verse. The loss of a brother or a child produces a delirium of grief; and sorrow is exalted into poetry. The myriologues (or laments) which are uttered on these occasions have all the characters of inspiration: sometimes tenderness prevails over enthusiasm, and the death of an infant is compared to the withering of a bud, or to a tender flower, " no sooner blown than blasted:" but in general these compositions are of a more ambitious description, and are profusely figured with bold personifications, and gorgeously coloured with poetical images.
We have ascribed to the Greeks in general the faculty of improvisation; but there are certain vocations among which the faculty seems peculiarly to reside. The sailors and the tanners of Jannina, for example, are distinguished as the composers of hundreds of these songs; the shepherds are the poets of the beauties and the loves of the valleys, and the soldiers of the warrior-feats among the hills. The picturesque and precarious life—the love of wine and independence—and the inspiration of the air df Olympus and of Pindus,—which, though no longer the seat of gods and muses, keep still a portion of their old renown, make poets and musicians of these wild mountaineers, who seek to give a gaiety to feasts as rude and primitive as those recorded in Homer, by songs which they accompany, like his heroes, with the music of a lyre. These airs and songs are caught by the beggars and wandering minstrels, Who follow the village feasts throughout Greece; and the loves and combats of her hills and valleys are thus spread speedily over the whole face of the country.
The Greeks seem to have as singular a talent for the improvisation of music as of poetry. The air of each new song must also be new, and is sung or forgotten with the words that gave it birth. The poet is always obliged to furnish with his song an air of his own composition: a title to fame, of which Moore is in our country perhaps the only possessor. M. Fauriel tells us that he has heard many of these airs: the mountain music of the Greeks is drawn out into long and solemn cadences, like the plain chant of churches; and seems to have been intended to be repeated by the echoes of the rocks amidst which it was sung. There is a certain melancholy which throws its shade even over the Klephtic chants of victory and exultation: a sadness which may be traced in the music of all oppressed and conquered nations, and which is strikingly exemplified in the national melodies of Ireland.
There are in the Greek ballads many peculiarities of style and manner which remind us of those of Spain, in which the enmities and the misfortunes—the splendours and the fate of the Moors are celebrated. There is the same abruptness and dramatic effect, and the same obscurity in telling the story. But they resemble still more our -early Scottish ballads: and though describing the lives, and loves, -and adventures of men whom the Turks call robbers*—deal so often in feats of pure courage and boundless generosity—in a regard to
• The Greeks, who were formed into a militia by the Turks for the defence of their country, bore originally the title of Armatoloi (''kpitartthjA) armed men; 'but when they began to resist the robberies and tyranny of the Pachas, and became formidable from their numbers and bravery, the Annatolos received from his oppressors the name of Klephtes (K\«pn)s) rubber.
honour, which death itself cannot extinguish—in chivalrous devotion to women, and loyalty and hospitality to men—that the name which the Turks have fixed upon them has become a title of glory, and has changed, as the name of outlaw did on our borders and in our Highlands, into a word of fame and fearlessness. There is another peculiarity about these ballads which belongs also to those of the North: the chorus and the introductory verses are often independent of the subject of the ballad, and have no relation to the event which it celebrates; but are equally common to all songs as well as to that to which they have been appended.
There is in all their songs a certain Oriental colouring which has been derived from the Eastern poetry and marvels. The armour of the Klephts is always represented as dazzling with gold and jewels, and the housings of their horses are lustrous with brocade, and their' feet shod with silver. Birds are feigned to speak with human voices, and the poet listens and interprets the delicate language which they warble. Horses reply to their riders—and if this is not to be ascribed to some obscure tradition about the horses of Achilles, we may fairly
Sut it down to the influence of the Turkish fictions upon the poetry of lodern Greece. The expressions, too, are often singularly bold, abrupt, and figurative, and the style has all the characters of Oriental poetry.
It would be delightful if we could trace as distinctly the influences of their own ancient poetry and superstitions upon their modern ballads, as the effects of those of the Turks. There are still, however, remains of the old popular belief, but changed and distorted by modern ignorance. Thessaly is still renowned in Modern Greece as the abode of powerful magicians, who could draw down the moon from heaven, and distill from its dews " a vaporous drop profound" with which to work their enchantments. If in the mythology of Ancient Greece every tree had its Hamadryad, every river its God, and every stream its Nereid, the inhabitants of Modern Attica have peopled the springs, the rocks, the caverns, and the mountains, each with its guardian spirit. The Modern Greek, though forgetting the religion of his ancestors, unconsciously remembers their .observances: he is lapt into Elysian dreams by the haunted stream; and in the sigh of the gale, and the silence of the caves, and the murmur of the melodious river, he feels the influence of that genius which inspired or overawed his fathers. He approaches a running water with the love and devotion of a Greek of old times:
Grateful for his beloved child's return.
Wordsworth, Excursion, b. vi.
The Fates exist no longer: but the plague is personified by three women,—of whom one records the name of the victim, the second wounds him with the fatal shears, and the third sweeps him away. The Eumenides are replaced in the superstitions of Modern Greece by the Synchoremeni, (Ivy^npifiivii,) who preside over the small-pox, and whose name, like that of the Furies, expresses the possibility of being appeased by prayers. There are traces also in the halls of the Morea of* the Oreads, Graces, and Satyrs, though confused and indistinct: and the terrible name of Charon occurs often in their poetry, though he has lost the form, as well as the attributes, which formerly distinguished him, and conducts the dead to their dark dwelling under the shape of a bird of evil omen and sable wing.
We here close this long introduction to illustrate the remarks we have made, by some specimens of the Modern Greek poetry: only premising that we have, perhaps, been more successful in copying the rudeness than the spirit of the compositions. We have imitated some of them in the measure of the Spanish ballads translated by Mr. Frere, as corresponding the most exactly of our metres to the Greek originals; and one we have attempted in a kind of verse which has been consecrated to themes of a kindred energy* by a poet, to whom, in this place, we must not do more than hint a reference.
THE DREAM OF DEMOS.
Have not I told thee, Ocmos, have not I told thee thrice,
The cuckoo sines upon the hills, the partridge m the woods,
We have alluded to the Oriental character which sometimes mingles with 'heir poetry: a Klepht, who has been wounded in the plains, thus charges his comrade to convey the news of his fall to his brethren on the mountains:
"If my companions ask of me, tell not that I am gone—
The two following pieces are of the same description:
"Why are the mountains of Goura sad? Is it the hail that hath smote them? is it the rude winter? It is not the hail that hath smitten them—it is not the rude winter: it is the sabre of Kontoghiannis, who fighteth summer and winter."
"Diplas never feared the fight: he hath warriors who devour powder like bread, and balls like meat: who slay the Turks like kids, and their Agas like lambs."
The Greeks embellish all their songs with images of Nature. The following passage, for example, has evidently been inspired by pure love of the country, its birds, and fresh airs, and green trees:
"The sun was setting when Demos spake: Make my tomb, my soldiers, and make it wide and deep; that even there I may rise to the combat. But leave on my right a casement, that there the swallows
* Lochiel's Warning.
may come to tell me of the return of Spring, and the nightingale ling to me in the sweet month of May."
The following wish is in the same spirit of longing after Nature:
O were I on the lofty hills, amid the foliage deep!
Where the little lambs feed far away from the wild rams and the sheep!"
We have spoken of the dramatic effect of some of these ballads: here are two of them which will justify, we think, what we have ventured to say upon the subject. The first is particularly interesting, as relating an adventure of Spyros Skyllodemos, a Greek chief, who in 1806 was taken prisoner by Ali Pacha, and escaped as recorded in the ballad: in the last will be found an allusion to Charon, which will shew the character tinder which he is regarded by the Modern Greeks:
.Skyllodemos sat beneath the firs,
And Irene at his side,
O maiden fair," he cried,
Doth shew his paly fire;
When the Pleiads shall retire."
To serve thee with the red wine?
And 1 come of an Archon's line."
Two weary travelling men,
And they stood near Demos then.
Then up spake Skyllodeme,'
'' Ye are welcome, welcome, voyagers,
But how do ye know my name?"
"Where have ye seen my brother?"
At his hands, at his feet another."
"Where flyest thou, son of my mother?
All in his arms he clips: