ARCHiPELAGOS / Passages
VI. IN A HARBOUR’S TAVERN
Verses Whatever • O Nicólas o Psarás / Nicolas, the Fisherman
There was in Transylvania / Nearby Far Away Land
A king known as Shrinkand, / Emperor of Circusania;
He had as sceptre a katanea / That he used to cut prosciutto,
You know, he liked no subjeutto / If not discussed in a manneread
Which had this majestic airhead / Smiling and laughing muchutto.
Sometimes he fished in the seas / Using hooks of copper-ass
Had always one thing to pass / Through his mind thoroughly higho:
It was that colossal radio / The sun described in his marches
Exerted over those shroudches / Influence utterly strongany,
Only a narrow headongany / Would still put deep into problemsome
If baths in seeds helped one really come / To cure one’s fever in Germany.
The colour of his hair was aureate / Just like a sulfurous flowerous
A colour slightly, somewhat spurious / But beautifully neuralgic.
And as his forehead was magic / Made his lucky star brilliant,
One day, a chastic lady-ant / Of supercunning conclavities
Started with such trivialities / To captivate his two eye bulbs,
They went just like two sea shellbs / In search of promontorities.
Down to the Cape of Good Hope / If by chance hope has a cape, babe,
Was where he saw in the astrolabe / That his courage was Herculean;
But his face rather cerulean / I don’t know what was so fateful
About this cerulean faceia, / Clinging to the Muse Engratia
He left on the steamboat Magnificul.
Never was he seen back from lands / Where he had been […]
• João de Deus (1830 – 1896): one of the greatest Portuguese poets of his generation. • Due to insistent requests, João set out to write a satyric drama à la Euripides’ Cyclops, featuring Silenus and his satyrs, Odysseus and the Cyclops; eventually what he wrote were Verses Whatever with satiric misspellings… Before the tragic Nicolas, the Fisherman, our… dilogy starts in Transylvania, with King Shrinkand, Emperor of Circusania. (Instead of a tetralogy or trilogy, we have a… dilogy, which means not only a series of two related works, but also ambiguous or equivocal speech). Once upon a time, our hero felt the irresistible urge to act like Odysseus with Herculean, albeit cerulean, vigour in search of promontorities. He was last seen at the Cape of Good Hope – if by chance good hopes have capes (what about bad hopes, if there are any?) – and is deemed as the desired by the Transylvanians… • Satyrs (σάτυροι) in Greek mythology: ithyphallic companions of Dionysus with goat-like (tragic) features and often permanent erection. The Roman equivalent of a satyr was a faun or faunus. The satyrs loved wine and women, and were ready for every physical pleasure. They roamed to the music of pipes and bagpipes, cymbals and crotals, chased maenads (bacchants), or danced with nymphs. Their chief was Silenus, a minor deity of fertility. • The satyr play, one of the three forms of drama together with tragedy and comedy, was a short, lighthearted tailpiece of the tetralogy each tragedian presented in the Dionysian festivals, performed after each trilogy of tragedies. The only complete surviving satyric drama is Cyclops.
▪ Tragic (< tragos, “male goat”): I) relating to or resembling a goat; IIa) relating to tragedy; b) tragic, majestic, solemn; c) (negative meaning) boastful, pompous. ▪ Tragedy (τραγῳδία) means goat ode (τράγων ῳδή); tragoudi (τραγούδι), deriving from tragedy, means song in modern Greek, because the Hellenes used to sing the best arias of the old tragedies. Goats don’t sing, of course; thus we presume that, before the differentiation of the dramatic forms, actors and chorus members were dressed with goat skins, resembling satyrs, for the show was given in honour of Dionysus. Later tragedy was enriched with splendid garments; consequently the term tragic was enriched; as tragic speech degraded becoming bombastic, negative connotations were also added. • Transylvania: a historical region located in what is today the central part of Romania. It is known for the scenic beauty of its Carpathian landscape and its rich history. It has been associated in the West with vampires, due to Bram Stoker‘s famous novel Dracula and its many film adaptations. • Katana (katanea): a traditional Japanese sword used by the samurai. It is characterized by its curved, single-edged blade with a long grip to accommodate two hands. • Copperas (copper-ass): ferrous sulphate. • Cape of Good Hope: a rocky promontory on the Atlantic coast of South Africa. There is a misconception that it is the southern tip of Africa, the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The southernmost point, in fact, is Cape Agulhas, about 150 km to the southeast. However, when following the western side of the African coastline from the equator southwards, the Cape of Good Hope marks the point where a ship begins to travel more eastward than southward. The first modern rounding of the cape in 1488 by the explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a milestone in the Portuguese attempts to establish direct trade relations with the East. Cape of Good Hope is a euphemism adopted later, as Dias called it Cabo das Tormentas (Cape of Storms), due to the high seas he encountered. The Portuguese were not the first to round the Cape. According to Herodotus, the Phoenicians may have carried out a clockwise periplus of Africa circa 600 BCE. Eudoxus of Cyzicus (fl. ca. 130 BCE), a Greek navigator for the Hellenistic Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, found the wreck of a ship in the Indian Ocean that appeared to have come from Gades (today’s Cádiz in Spain). He attempted twice to circumnavigate anti-clockwise the continent but unsuccessfully.
By daybreak they have all returned
sailing their boats into the dock,
but Nicolas, the fisherman – fisherman,
has not yet shown up back on land – back on land.
On the seashore a woman stands,
a mother all dressed up in black,
she is the one who is concerned – so concerned,
the mother of poor Nicolas, the fisherman.
They hesitate who’ll talk to her,
inform her about her son’s fate,
tell her that Nicolas has drowned – he has drowned
and he will not return to land anymore.
Many months have already passed,
Nicolas’ mother is still there,
nothing but hope in her heart – in her heart,
she’s still expecting he’ll be back – back on land.
• Giorgos Mitsakis (1921 – 1993): a skillful Greek composer and lyricist of many rebetiko and laïko (popular) songs. As a bouzouki player, he was nicknamed the master. • Vasilis Tsitsanis (1915 – 1984): an extraordinary songwriter and bouzouki player who rose to prominence as one of the leading Greek composers of his time. He is regarded as one of the founders of modern rebetiko and laïko songs, paving the way for great composers such as Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis. • Rebetiko: the urban popular song of the Greeks, especially the poorest and marginalized, from the late 19th century to the 1950s. Musically speaking, it is a synthesis of the music of the Greek mainland and islands, Byzantine ecclesiastical chant, the modal traditions of Oriental art and café music, plus several elements of European music. Thus the melodies of most rebetiko songs follow one or more musical modes, but have been harmonized in a manner which corresponds neither with conventional European harmony, nor with the monophonic Oriental art music. There are two schools of rebetiko: that of Smyrna, the older one, including also the music of Constantinople and other Ottoman cities, played on instruments such as lyra or violin, qanun or santur; and the new one, that of Piraeus, encompassing also the music of Athens, Thessaloniki, and other Greek cities, with bouzouki being the central instrument. • Laïkó: Greek popular song, especially what followed after the commercialization of rebetiko in the 1950s. • Bouzouki: a plucked musical instrument of the lute family, played in Greece, Lebanon, Syria, and lately Ireland. The Arab buzuq has movable frets tied to the neck and can produce the microtonal intervals used in several musical modes. In Greece it was modified according to the Neapolitan mandolin, acquiring stable metallic frets that produce the tempered intervals, and quickly became the central instrument of rebetiko. Its name may come from the Persian tanbur e bozorg, a large tanbur-style lute. The bouzouki is similar to the tanbur, thaboura, and ancient pandura that possibly originated in Assyria. A marble relief, dating from 330–320 BCE, shows a Greek muse playing a pandura. The tzourás and baglamás are smaller versions of the bouzouki. The Irish bouzouki, with a flatter back and different tuning, is a recent development, when the Greek instrument was introduced into Irish music around 1965.