Nikos Gatsos is poet and writter with a name quite well-known in Hellas. Even now , before write these words , from a quick view that i had to his biography, i doubt that his works will ever be of any intrest to me.
However, some months ago i found a poem , that when i saw that it is signed by him , i was wondering if its the same person or just a synonym. I found this poem great as it is based and inspired by
Albrecht Dürer`s famous painting RITTER TOD UND TEUFEL. Amidst the miserable, grey and utterly boring poetry of post-WW2 writters. This poem is for sure an exception.
Also, after the poem i added notes to some references that the readers outside Hellas might not understand.
THE KNIGHT AND DEATH (1513)
Just so, I see you motionless
traveling through the years with the horse of Akritas(1) and the lance of Ai-Giorgi(2)
I would put beside you
with the dark shapes that stand eternally beside you
until a place where you are extinguished eternally with them
until you become a fire in the great Chance where you were born
I would put beside you
an orange from the snow-covered fields of the moon
I would unfold for you the veil of an evening
with red Antares(3) singing of the young men
with the River of Sky overflowing into August
to weep with the North Star and freeze
I would spread out meadows
waters that never watered the lilies of Germany
and I would ornament the iron you wear
with a sprig of basil and a handful of mint
with the arms of Plapoutas(4) and the sword of Nikitaras(5)
But I, who saw your descendants like birds
split open on a spring day the sky of my country
and I saw the cypress trees of the Morea(6) stop breathing
there on the fields of Nauplion(7)
before the waiting embrace of the wounded sea
where the eons wrestled with the crosses of gallantry
I would place now beside you
the bitter eyes of a youth
and the closed eyelids
in the mud and the blood of Holland.
This dark land
will someday become green again
The iron hand of Götz will overturn the caissons
It will mound them with sheaves of barley and rye
And in the dark oaks with the dead loves
there where time turned a young leaf to stone
in the breasts where trembled a tear-stained rose
a star will shine silent as a spring daisy
But you will remain motionless
with the horse of Akritas and the lance of Ai-Georgi you will travel through the years
a restless hunter from the race of heroes
with those dark shapes that stand eternally beside you
until a day when you will vanish eternally with them
until you become again a fire in the great Chance where you were born
until in the caves of the river
the heavy hammers of patience resound again
not for ornaments and swords
but for pruning hooks and plows.
Nikos Gatsos 1947
1. Akritas. Soldier belong in a military class responsible for guarding the borders of the empire during the Byzantine times
3.Red Antares. For more info see here
4. Plapoutas. Greek hero of the revolution against the Turks in 1821
5. Nikitaras. The same like 4
6. Morea. The name in the middle ages of Peloponnese. Region in South Hellas.
7. Nauplion. Historical city in South Hellas. The first capital of Hellas after the revolution of 1821.