The nightingales of the east

Below is (most of – I don’t know why the last two lines are missing) a traditional Greek song of sorrow, sung by the famous folksinger Chronis Aidonidis.

You can hear Nektaria Karantzi singing the whole song here, but without accompaniment.

It reminds me of the great debt we owe to Greece, and to the Byzantine world at large.

Τα αηδόνια της Ανατολής και τα πουλιά της Δύσης
Κλαίγουν αργά, κλαίγουν ταχιά, κλαίγουν το μεσημέρι
Κλαίγουν την Αδριανούπολη την πολύ κουρσεμένη
Όπου την εκουρσέψανε τις τρεις γιορτές του χρόνου
Του Χριστουγέννου για κερί, και του Βαγιού για Βάγια
Και της Λαμπρής την Κυριακή για το Χριστός Ανέστη.

THE nightingales of the east, and little birds of the west,
Sing sorrowfully at eve, at morn, and at mid-day.
They sing sorrowfully for Adrianoupolis, so grievously plundered,
Who once plundered there, on the three high feasts of the year,
Seeking but a candle at Christmas, but a branch upon the day of Palms,
And for but a “Christ is Risen!” upon Easter Day.

A Nightingale

“The nightingales of the east, and little birds of the west, Sing sorrowfully at eve, at morn, and at mid-day.”

The “Gentleman’s Magazine” of 1837 provided a verse translation:

EACH nightingale of Vlakia,
And, in the west, each bird,
At eve, and morn, and at mid-day,
With plaintive note is heard,

Bewailing Adrianopolis,
And her disastrous fate!
Since now no more the three great feasts
She dares to celebrate.

No more are tapers lighted up
On the birth-day of our Lord:
Nor, henceforth, will a single branch
The day of palms afford.

No more, on Easter-day, each voice
Of greeting in her streets,
“Our Christ is risen:” “True he’s risen:”
Those blessed words repeats.

Adrianoupolis, now Edirne in Turkey, hard by the Thracian border with Greece (map), fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1365, passing under Islamic culture and rule.


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