• Odysseus Elytis


Odysseus Elytis was born on 2 November 1911 in Heraklion, Crete. He was
a Greek poet and won the 1979 Nobel Prize for Literature. He attended the
University of Athens School of Law, but he dropped out to pursue his
literary career. Nicknamed "the sun-drinking poet’’, he was influenced by the
French poet Paul Éluard and began publishing verse in the 1930’s, notably in
"Nea grammata" magazine.

During the Second World War, Odysseus fought against the Italians in
One of his poems, “Asma hērōiko kai penthimo gia ton chameno
anthypolochago tēs Alvanias” (1945, “Heroic and Elegiac Song for the Lost
Second Lieutenant of the Albanian Campaign”), became an anthem to the
cause of freedom.

During and after the Greek Civil War, he stopped writing and publishing
poetry, returning to print in 1959 with “To Axion Esti”(“Worthy It Is”), a long
poem in which the speaker explores his soul and personality as well as the
identity of our country and people. This poem, set to music by Mikis
Theodorakis, became very popular and helped Odysseus earn the Nobel Prize.
Odysseus lived in Paris for a short time after the Greek military coup of 1967
until 1972, when he returned to Greece. He dies in Athens on 18 March 1996
at the age of 84.
In 1979, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Odysseus Elytis "for
his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with
sensuous strength and intellectual clearsightedness modern man's struggle
for freedom and creativeness".

Odysseus receiving the Nobel Prize

The swallow, one single swallow

by Odysseus Elytis

The swallow is but one single swallow, and the cost of Spring is dear
For the sun to return, much work is wanted.
It wants thousands dying at the Wheels.
It wants the living, too, to give their blood.

My God, master builder, you walled me inside the mountains!
My God, master builder, you walled me inside the mountains!

The body of the May was taken away by Mages.
They have buried it inside a tomb of the open sea
in a deep well they have it locked away
the darkness grew fragrant, and the whole abyss.

My God, master builder, even inside the lilac bloom Thou art there!
My God, master builder, even inside the lilac bloom Thou art there!

Ένα το χελιδόνι

Ενα το χελιδόνι κι η άνοιξη ακριβή
για να γυρίσει ο ήλιος θέλει δουλειά πολλή.
Θέλει νεκροί χιλιάδες να 'ναι στους τροχούς.
Θέλει κι οι ζωντανοί να δίνουν το αίμα τους.

Θε μου Πρωτομάστορα μ' έχτισες μέσα στα βουνά!
Θε μου Πρωτομάστορα μ' έκλεισες μες στη θάλασσα!

Πάρθηκεν από μάγους το σώμα του Μαγιού.
Το 'χουνε θάψει σ' ένα μνήμα του πέλαγου
σ' ένα βαθύ πηγάδι το 'χουνε κλειστό
μύρισε το σκοτάδι κι όλη η άβυσσος.

Θε μου Πρωτομάστορα μέσα στις πασχαλιές και Συ!
Θε μου Πρωτομάστορα μύρισες την Ανάσταση!