16 Apr


Christ.  Especially at certain times of the year, this can be among the most melancholy places on earth — beautiful, the mountains around still snow-capped, but not for the suicidally inclined poet or the sensitive generally.  After the exuberant spring of Attica especially…  It’s in the low 50s at most, 40s at night and there’s this constant, what I can only call British drizzle falling all the time, like somebody with a spray can standing next to you every time you venture out and continuously coating you with a fine mist.

I’m here to go into Albania on Friday (everyone still says “into”), to be the first member of my family to celebrate Easter in our village in sixty years.  And I’m staying at a hotel that has this glorious turquoise pool in the central courtyard, but it’s not open for swimming, and I like cold water and cold weather swimming, but, according to the receptionists: “δεν είναι ο καιρός κατάλληλος,” the weather is not appropriate.  And I looked at them with a straight face and said: “Guys, I’m an Epirote too, ok, and even in August the weather is exactly like this.”  They just stared at me, with that soft smile…  People here are so odd.  So tough, in the middle of all this wildness, and yet so sweet and soft-spoken — like Native Americans sometimes, they remind me.  My father was like that.

(For other Greeks, we’re just a little too “heavy” — which, given where it comes from I consider a compliment.)

One of the most beautiful evocations of the melancholy — of the melancholy and stoic — ethos of Jiannena and Epiros generally is the this poem by Michales Ganas, Γυάλινα Γιάννινα, “Jiannena of Glass,” with a video put together by Vassilike Besiou.  Her choice of musical accompaniment — the keening, rocking back-and-forth melody typical of the region (all Epirotiko music sometimes seems to have grown out of funeral dirges) and simple polyphony or second voice drone — is perfect for her purposes.  Under the video are the verses of the poem itself, in English, Greek and in a probably amateurish Spanish translation I did for a friend of mine — a “this is where I’m from” gesture… ” on my part.  The poem is odd both thematically and structurally in Greek even; excuse the clumsiness of the English translation as well.

“What snow these shoulders had born, no one ever knew.  No one ever knew.  No one.”


Jiannena of Glass

On a night like this, many years earlier,

Someone walked alone,

I know not how many muddy miles.

He walked alone,

a dark and cloudy night without stars.

Walked on and on.

At dawn, he reached Jiannena.

At the first inn, he ate and slept,

three days and three nights.

He was woken up by the snow, falling softly.

He stood in the window and listened to the clarinets.

He listened to the clarinets,

blurry one moment, at his side the next,

distant and blurry one moment, the next right at his side,

as the wind carried them.

And he heard that crystal-clear voice.

From somewhere close.

A cry, like she was being killed.

But no other noise, nothing else.

It was snowing.  All that night it snowed in Jiannena.

At dawn he paid what he owed and returned to his village.

He must have been around fifty, with grey hair,

and three unmarried daughters.

A widow of four years.  Around fifty.

A widow of four years, with his black cape around his shoulders.

Ah, what snow they had born,

What snow these shoulders had born, no one ever knew.

No one ever knew.

No one.

Γυάλινα Γιάννινα
Μια τέτοια νύχτα πριν από χρόνια
Κάποιος περπάτησε μόνος
Δεν ξέρω πόσα λασπωμένα χιλιόμετρα
Κάποιος περπάτησε μόνος

Νύχτα και συννεφιά, χωρίς άστρα
Πήγαινε το δρόμο δρόμο

Ξημερώματα, μπήκε στα Γιάννενα
Στο πρώτο χάνι έφαγε και κοιμήθηκε τρία μερόνυχτα
Ξύπνησε απ’ το χιόνι που έπαιφτε μαλακά
Στάθηκε στο παράθυρο και άκουγε τα κλαρίνα
Και άκουγε τα κλαρίνα
Πότε θαμπά και πότε δίπλα του
Πότε θαμπά
Και πότε δίπλα του
Όπως τα ‘φερνε ο άνεμος

Και άκουσε μετά τη φωνή πεντακάθαρη
Από κάπου κοντά την άκουσε
Σαν αλύχτημα και σαν να την έσφαζαν τη γυναίκα
Κι ούτε καυγάς, ούτε τίποτα άλλο
Όλη νύχτα στα Γιάννενα χιόνιζε

Ξημερώματα, πλήρωσε ότι χρωστούσε και γύριζε στο χωριό του
Στα πενήντα του θα ‘τανε
Με γκρίζα μαλλιά και τρεις θυγατέρες, ανύπαντρες
Χήρος τέσσερα χρόνια
Στα πενήντα του θα ‘τανε

Χήρος τέσσερα χρόνια
Με τη μαύρη κάπα στις πλάτες
Αχ, το τι χιόνι σήκωσαν
Τι χιόνι σήκωσαν τούτες οι πλάτες
Κανένας δε το ‘μαθε…
Κανένας δε το ‘μαθε…

Jiannena de vidrio

Una noche como esta hace ya muchos anos,

Alguien camino solo, ni se cuantas leguas fangosas,

Noche nublada, sin estrellas,

andaba camino camino.

Al amanecer, entro en Yianena.

En la primera posada, comio y durmio

tres dias, tres noches,

Lo desperto la nieve, que caia ligera,

Se paro en la ventana

y escuchaba los clarinetes.

Y escuchaba los clarinetes,

un momento lejanos y mudos,

y despues cercanos.

En un momento lejanos y mudos,

y en otros cercanos, a su lado,

segun los traia el viento.


Y escucho despues la voz cristalina,

de una parte cerca,

como gemido, como si la estuvieran matando.

Sin lucha ni pelea, sin nada.

Nevaba.  Toda la noche en Yianena nevaba.

Al amanecer pago lo que debia

y regreso a su pueblo.

Debia tener como cincuenta anos,

canoso ya, y con tres hijas, solteras.

Viudo hace cuatro anos,

a los cincuenta,

Viudo de cuatros anos,

con la capa negra en los hombros.

Ay, cuanta nieve han portado…

Cuanta nieve portaron esos hombros,

esas espaldas, nadie lo supo nunca.

Nadie supo nunca.



Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

One Response to “Jiannena”

  1. Rafael April 19, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    Christos Anesthi! Happy Easter Niko and family.

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