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Sunday, 11 June 2017

Mirologia (Greek songs of lamentation, of farewell and separation); Μοιρολόγια & Αποδημία


A good description of the Greek mirologia, from "Ellinikos Laikos Politismos", Ekdoseis "Gnosi", Athens, 1982 (page 229):


The book was a team effort (eight authors); the section on mirologia was written by Eva Kesisoglou.

She makes the point that the mirologia songs are not always laments for the departed, but can also be about separation from friends, songs of xeniteia and emigration (many Greeks had to endure long periods of absence from their homeland, Αποδημία, working in foreign parts, dreaming of home, separated from their wives and loved ones left behind in villages and towns).

She says that several researchers have emphasised that the songs of xeniteia belong to the same cycle of Greek demotic folk-songs as the laments for the dead.

"Death brings consolation, Haros brings oblivion;
The parting of the living brings no consolation..."

It seems she must have been discussing the topic with Ioannis Nikolaides, who published very similar observations in his essay in human geography, "Zagori, Dokimio Anthropogeografias", Ioannina, 1982:


 Pages 9 and 10, above


Page 35, above


Pages 38 (see from second paragraph) and 39

He goes on to stress that there was no consolation for the typical Zagori household, above all for the women from Zagori (always being left behind by their husbands, departing  for most of the year, or much longer, to earn their living in foreign parts).


Eagerly awaited:

LAMENT FROM EPIRUS, Christopher King, forthcoming from W. W. Norton and Company


On Nicki Maher and her research


Find some old English translations of Greek dirges here


See also, a review by Diana Wright of  Margaret Alexiou's, The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition. Second edition. Revised by Dimitrios Yatromanolakis and Panagiotis Roilos


Some excerpts, from Diana Wright's section on Modern survivals:

"Where possible, Alexiou demonstrates the evidence for the continuation of specific occurrences while not arguing for continuity: she finds little information from the Byzantine period generally...

Ritual lamentation is eroding, irregularly, in Greece as social conditions change. Alexiou suggests that the constant and characteristic unity of poetry and ritual in Greek tradition, essential to the continuity of lamentation since antiquity, will continue in some other form, possibly popular poetry. It is appropriate in this context to mention the powerful "Epitaphios" of Yannis Ritsos, set to music by Mikis Theodorakis, which juxtaposes the forms and poetry of traditional mourning with political catastrophe. Its continued power and widespread familiarity since its composition in 1936 is evidence for there being little split between popular and formal poetry (and music) in modern Greece, unlike the traditional split between the literary inheritance from Byzantium and ritual poetry and lament. Modern poetry has found one of its most fertile sources in the traditional forms and, in allying them to the classical tradition, guarantees future continuity...

Beginning with illustrations from Homer and the tragic dramatists, Alexiou shows how Byzantine konta/kia used the antiphonal form in dialogue to convey scriptural truths. The use of dialogue and antiphony is the most characteristic feature of modern laments, such as this one Alexiou recorded in 1963 (148):

Five days married, she goes, a widow, to her mother.

With the ritual garlands in her apron, she wept for her husband.

----Be quiet, daughter, do not weep and do not complain.

You are young and fair, and you can wed again.

----What are you saying, wretched mother, how can I wed again?

I have lost my first husband, dear as my own two eyes."





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