The Philosopher’s Conquest – A painting by Giorgio de Chirico

Παρασκευή, 26 Δεκεμβρίου, 2014

Giorgio de Chirico in his Rome flat, in 1938

Giorgio de Chirico in his Rome flat, in 1938


«One must picture everything in the world as an enigma, not only the great questions one has always asked oneself […]. But rather to understand the enigma of things generally considered insignificant. To perceive the mystery of certain phenomena of feeling.» Georgio de Chirico, Eluard Manuscript.

Giorgio De Chirico was born in Volos, Greece, to a Genovese mother and a Sicilian father. His father Evaristo, was an engineer working for the railways. Among other things, he designed the railway station of Volos.

Giorgio de Chirico, Philosopher's Conquest, 1914. Art Institute of Chicago.

Giorgio de Chirico, Philosopher’s Conquest, 1914. Art Institute of Chicago.

De Chirico is best known for the paintings he produced between 1909 and 1919, his metaphysical period, which are memorable for the haunted, brooding moods evoked by their images.

«[T]he first artist to dwell on […] seemingly arbitrary confrontations of inanimate objects, and if the symbolic meaning of recurring images like the bananas, clocks, gloves and artichokes remain unknown, they are obviously repositories of deeply personal and experiences. It is a world that is sui generis, unrelated to any ‘isms,’ and here one can sympathise with de Chirico’s defiant rejection of the rest of modern art.» John Ashbery, “A de Chirico Retrospective”

When I visited Chicago in 203, one of the paintings that struck me at the At Institute of Chicago was the «Philosopher’s Conquest». The gigantic clock gives the viewer an urgent message about the passage of time. As we are about ready to say goodbye to 2014 and welcome 2015, I want to present this painting and provide some relevant interpretations.

Before I proceed, it is important to emphasize that my interpretations are the ones of an enthusiast. In this sense they may also be totally arbitrary.

It is known that by the time he was well in his «metaphysical» period, de Chirico had read philosophy and that Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Heraclitus had a profound influence on him.


In this section I will try to identify the components that make up the painting.

In the next section I will try to make sense of the way de Chirico has put them all together.


The clock

The clock is positioned in the midpoint of the picture’s depth. De Chirico uses a clock quite often in his «metaphysical» paintings. The time shown does not seem to be significant. It is the time in abstract that is portrayed here.


The train

The train is in the background, quite visible and full of speed. As is the case with the clock, de Chirico often places a train in his «metaphysical» pictures.It is an object that brings the painter back to his childhood, when from his garden in Volos, he could see the trains passing by. Indirectly it is also a reference to his father, who was a railway engineer.


The ship

The ship on the other hand has sails, it appears not to be going anywhere. The painter may be building a contrast here between the slow, imperceptible movement of the ship and the fast and furious pace of the train. This is also the contrast between the remnants of the pre-industrial period and the industrial period.


The shadows

The two shadows are merged. Some suggest they belong to the painter’s mother and brother.

It is important to note that there are only shadows of people in the painting, and no people at all.

The huge space of the piazza is empty.

It is as if the people have been there, but they have now gone somewhere else.


The brick chimney

A phallic symbol, may be the absent father. May also be a symbol of rapid industrialization that exacerbates the alienation of people.


The tower

Another phallic symbol par excellence, the huge tower is half hidden by the clock. De Chirico placed huge towers in many of his metaphysical paintings.


The artichokes

De Chirico has used artichokes also in another of his paintings, «Melancholy of an afternoon».

It is not clear at all what the artichokes symbolize. Huge erect female breasts?

But why not something simpler?

It is possible that the painter liked artichokes and he wanted to juxtrapose them, as a source of earthy pleasure, to the horrible presence of the cannon and the balls.

What makes me think that this «straight» reading is false is the size of the artichokes.

They are huge, they almost protrude in front of the cannon. With the multitude of shadows and the spiky leaves they are almost menacing. Definitely not a source of pleasure.

As a matter of fact, now that I think of it, there is no source of pleasure whatsoever in this painting.


The cannon and balls

The symbol of the phallus is rather too obvious here. The year is 1914 and World War I is imminent, it may have laready started. I will risk it and suggest that the cannon and the two oddly placed balls are an allusion to war.


We should not forget that according to Heraclitus «War is the father of all».

The piazza

Last but not least, the empty space of the piazza.



The painting is silent.

There are no noises whatsoever. Even the train prodices no noise, as it is too far away to be heard.

Silence is partnered by emptiness. The vast spaces of the painting are empty.

There are people, only shadows.

It is as if something is going to happen, we do not know exactly what, but the cannon gives us a pretty good idea of what it is going to be. A was is coming.

It is melancholy that I feel, or is it anguish?

At moments like these, and this painting is about a moment, anguish allows us to access the truth of being.

Time is linked to death, and both are linked to melancholy, with a profound boredom (predating the matserpiece of Alberto Moravia) and with loneliness.

This is a painting of mood.

I am sad because time is passing by.

I am broody because I have an empty space in front of me, because I am alone, because I will die alone.

I am melancholic because the good moments have gone and I am facing the inevitability of death. The clock is not a clock, it is the opening of the gates to Hades.

The existential anguish of the individual is magnified by the dark presence of the cannon and the war that is coming. No way out. If you do not die of boredom, you will die in the military front.

So, what is the conquest the painter is talking about?

I claim it is the conquest of the fear of death.

Postscript: When all goes out of the window

As a postscript, I would like to refer to the «transformation» of de Chirico’s style and paintings.

Giorgio de Chirico, Bather in the Sun, 1935. Galleria d' Arte Moderna, Torino

Giorgio de Chirico, Bather in the Sun, 1935. Galleria d’ Arte Moderna, Torino

The painting we see above is not a Renoir, it is a de Chirico! Unbelievable? Yes, but true!

How could the painter of «The Philosopher’s Conquest» paint this rather ordinary picture?

I can venture one hypothesis and hope to re-address the question in another post.

De Chirico must have suffered a traumatic experience that made him turn away from the «metaphysical» style he invented and regress to late impressionism, passing through an intermediate «fusion» state which is emplified by the «Warriors and Philosophers» painting.

«Only ruins remain and the beauty of the natural environment.» Lord Byron

Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece


Γύρισα στα ξανθά παιδιάτικα λημέρια,
γύρισα στο λευκό της νιότης μονοπάτι,
γύρισα για να ιδώ το θαυμαστό παλάτι,
για με χτισμένο απ’ τών Ερώτων τ’ άγια χέρια.
Το μονοπάτι το ‘πνιξαν οι αρκουδοβάτοι,
και τα λημέρια τα ‘καψαν τα μεσημέρια,
κ’ ένας σεισμός το ‘ρριξε κάτου το παλάτι,
και μέσ’ στα ερείπια τώρα και στ’ αποκαΐδια
απομένω παράλυτος· σαύρες και φίδια
μαζί μου αδερφοζούν οι λύπες και τα μίση·
και το παλάτι ένας σεισμός το ‘χει γκρεμίσει.


Ασάλευτη ζωή, 1904
‘Απαντα, τομ. Γ´, σελ. 72

Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece



Costis Palamas
Translated by A. Moskios


Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece

On the question of the Greek poet’s relation to his tradition, it has always seemed to me that the Greek poet has an advantage over his Anglo-Saxon counterpart who makes use of Greek mythology and sometimes even of Greek landscape. I remember years ago when I was writing a thesis on what I thought were English influences in the poetry of Cavafy and Seferis, I asked you about certain images that crop up in your landscape, for example, the symbolic meaning of the statues that appear in your work. You turned to me and said: «But those are real statues. They existed in a landscape I had seen.» What I think you were saying is that you always start with the fact of a living, actual setting and move from there to any universal meaning that might be contained in it.

An illustration of that from someone who is a specialist in classical statues came the other day from an English scholar who was lecturing about the statuary of the Parthenon. I went up to congratulate him after his lecture, and he said to me, as I remember: “But you have a line which expresses something of what I meant when you say ‘the statues are not the ruins—we are the ruins.’” I mean I was astonished that a scholar of his caliber was using a line from me to illustrate a point.

George Seferis
The statues are not the ruins—we are the ruins

From an Interview to “The Paris Review”, 2005 (epopteia)

Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece


«Unless we can relate it to ourselves personally, history will always be more or less an abstraction and its content the clash of impersonal forces and ideas. Although generalizations are necessary to order this vast, chaotic material, they kill the individual detail that tends to stray from the schema. . . . Afterwards all that remains of entire centuries is a kind of popular digest.»

Czesław Miłosz, Native Realm


Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece

Ruins come out of ruins. The story of the Acropolis is a good example. The original temple of Athena has been destroyed at least nine times in its two-and-a-half-thousand-year history. Burned by Heruli barbarians in ad 267, it was restored by Julian in ad 360, and then in 438 Christian priests hacked away at the nude sculptures and crowned the temple with a cross. The Ottoman Turks in 1456 replaced the cross with a minaret. There are still-bitter feelings about the damage done by the Venetians in 1687 when they bombed the Parthenon on September 26 under Francesco Morosini. Then there was also the sale of seventy-five sculptures by the Ottomans to Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to Greece, in 1802.

Adrianne Kalfopoulou, Ruin


Amfissa Castle, Greece

Amfissa Castle, Greece

You said: «…Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
The City

C.P. Cavafy

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard



Today is the day of Illumination and my mind goes to Arthur Rimbaud.

Rimbaud was born in Charleville, a provincial town of northeastern France in 1854.

When he was 21 he stopped writting and became an itinerant salesman, adventurer, opportunist.

Rimbaud's tombe in Charleville

Rimbaud’s tombe in Charleville

He lived a short life, but in a sense he also lived a full life.

He died of bone cancer  in 1891 in Marseille, at  the Hôpital de la Conception. He was only 37 years old.

He was burried in Charleville. His tombe stone reads «Pray for him».

Henri Fantin Latour. Rimbaud is second from the left, Verlaine is first from the left.

Henri Fantin Latour

«I am the saint, at prayer on the terrace . . . / /

I am the learned scholar in the dark armchair . . . / /

I am the walker on the great highway . . .

I gaze for a long time at the melancholy gold laundry of the setting sun.»

Illuminations, translated by John Ashbery (3)

The house where Rimbaud was born

Plaque at the house where Rimbaud was born

I rest my elbows on the table, the lamp illuminates these newspapers that I’m a fool for rereading, these books of no interest.
At a vast distance above my underground salon, houses take root, mists assemble. The mud is red or black. Monstrous city, endless night!
Further down, the sewers. At their sides, nothing more than the thickness of the globe. Maybe gulfs of azure, wells of fire. Perhaps at those levels moons and comets, seas and fables meet.

Illuminations, translated by John Ashbery (4)

Benjamin Britten’s Illuminations (5)

Britten was deeply affected by the emotional intensity of these prose poems and decided to set them to music as soon as he had read them.  As the soprano Sophie Wyss, the dedicatee of the cycle, recalled:  “He was so full of this poetry he just could not stop talking about it, I suspect he must have seen a copy of Rimbaud’s works while he was recently staying with [W.H.] Auden in Birmingham.”

Britten chose a sentence from one of the poems as the motto for his cycle:  “J’ai seul la clef de cette parade sauvage” (“I alone have the key to this savage parade”).  This sentence also provides the “key” to Britten’s view of Rimbaud’s poetry:  only the artist, observing the world from the outside, can hope to make sense of the “savage parade” that is life.

Rimbaud's Litter Replica

Rimbaud’s Litter Replica

Patti Smith and Rimbaud

Draped in a mosquito net-like sheath, the “litter,” a sort of palanquin, is a recreation of that used to transport Rimbaud from Abyssinia to France for medical care, where he died just months later at the age 37. On the surface of the litter, Mr. Rimbaud’s last words are inscribed. In this way, the piece is a sick bed as well as a grave, complete with epigraph. (1)

This installation was part of Patty Smith’s «Camera Solo» exhibition back in 2011 at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.

«Oh arthur arthur. we are in Abyssinia Aden. making love smoking cigarettes. we kiss. but it’s much more. azure. blue pool. oil slick lake. sensations telescope, animate. crystalline gulf. balls of colored glass exploding. seam of berber tent splitting. openings, open as a cave, open wider, total surrender.»

Patti Smith, from «dream of rimbaud».

Rimbaud's fork and knife

Rimbaud’s fork and knife

Being Beauteous

Against a snowfall a Being Beauteous, tall of stature.  Whistlings of death and circles of muffled music make this adored body rise, swell and tremble like a spectre; wounds, scarlet and black, break out in the magnificent flesh.  The true colors of life deepen, dance and break off around the Vision, on the site.  And shivers rise and groan, and the frenzied flavor of these effects, being heightened by the deathly whistlings and the raucous music which the world, far behind us, casts on our mother of beauty, — she retreats, she rears up.  Oh! our bones are reclothed by a new, loving body.


O the ashen face, the shield of hair, the crystal arms!  The cannon on which I must hurl myself through the jumble of trees and buoyant air!

Illuminations, translated by George Hall (5)


Rimbaud in Africa

Rimbaud in Africa

Bob Dylan and Arthur Rimbaud

Suze Rotolo introduced Dylan to the works of Rimbaud:

«I came across one of his letters called «Je est un autre,» which translates into «I is someone else.» When I read those words the bells went off. It made perfect sense. I wished someone would have mentioned that to me earlier.»

Bob Dylan: «Chronicles, vol 1»

The literary characters, themes, and lines that have populated the world of Dylan’s musical landscape have been as deep and varied over the years as his references to history and the folk tradition. In his early years, Dylan was significantly touched by the American Beats—by Kerouac’s On the Road, and also by the poetry of Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti—and by French symbolists like Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Both Verlaine and Rimbaud are mentioned specifically in the Blood on the Tracks song “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” (6)

Ellen Willis writes that “[Dylan] had less in common with the left than with literary rebels—Blake, Whitman, Rimbaud, Crane, Ginsberg”—mostly poets—and later describes Dylan as a man whose admirers look at him as “a poet using rock-and-roll to spread his art.”(6)

Rimbaud in Aden (first man on the right)

Rimbaud in Aden (first man on the right)

The Escape
“My day is done: I am leaving Europe. The marine air will burn my lungs; unknown climates will tan my skin.” (A Season in Hell)

The year 1878… After stopping by several cities in Africa, Cyprus welcomes Rimbaud with its tranquillity. Here in Cyprus, he works as a supervisor at a stone quarry. He turns out to be a “man of action” totally leaving aside his personality of a “ man of thought”. He takes fancy in doing hard work. Poetry is dead for him. He never mentions his ‘previous’ life and his glorious days in Paris. No one, not even his employer, knows where he is from or who he is. Upon the inquiries concerning his past he replies, “absurd” and goes on “ridiculous, disgusting”. Rimbaud, has become somebody else. He is leading a tranquil and silent life in Cyprus, where he escaped from his past or maybe from himself. (7)


1. Patti Smith: Camera Solo, by Rena Silverman

2. Arthur Rimbaud, Wikipedia

3. Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud – review. Charles Bainbridge, The Guardian, 2011.

4. Visionary Materialism, by Adam Thirlwell

5. The Chamber Orchestra of Boston. May 2007. Program Notes by Jeremy Black.

6. The Weird and Wonderful Literary World of Bob Dylan. By Benjamin Wright.

7. A French Poet in Cyprus: Arthur Rimbaud. Il Paradiso di Beatrice.

Lord Byron’s «Giaour – A Fragment of a Turkish Tale»

Κυριακή, 8 Δεκεμβρίου, 2013


«Greece was the mostly sought Eastern country by travelers during the 19th century.» (1)

Lord Byron visited Greece for the first time in his 1809-1810 travels to the South of Europe.

While in Greece, he heard a story about a woman who experienced terrible death by been thrown into the sea alive inside a bag.

This story gave Lord Byron the material for his poem «The Giaour».

The «Giaour» is Byron’s only narrative poem, and the first of four Turkish tales that he wrote.

It is also a poem that in a way contributed the birth of the «vampire», albeit a vampire different from the one we are accustomed in the 21st century.


George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron

George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron, was born on 22 January 1788 in London.

In July 1823, Byron left Italy to join the Greek insurgents who were fighting a war of independence against the Ottoman Empire.

On 19 April 1824 he died from fever at Messolonghi, in modern day Greece.

His death was mourned throughout Britain. His body was brought back to England and buried at his ancestral home in Nottinghamshire.

Byron had enormous influence on the romantic movement and European poetry. One of the poets greatly influenced by Byron was Goethe.

He is also the only English  poet Bertrand Russell included in his History of Western Philosophy.



«Romantic Orientalism, then, became part of the larger movement of British Romanticism, which was further enthused by Napoleon‟s invasion of Egypt (1798–1799) and Greece‟s War of Independence (1821–1828). To Romantic travelers, scholars, artists and men of letters the Orient constituted a distant world which conveniently suited their search for the exotic and sublime experiences.» (1)

In his book «Orientalism», Edward Said observes: “Popular Orientalism during the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth attained a vogue of considerable intensity”

Apparently Byron was not driven to orientalism by accident. In «Interrogating Orientalism», the editors observe (3):

In late August 1813, Byron had advised his friend Tom Moore to read Antoine Laurent Castellan’s Moeurs, usages, costumes des Othomans (1812) for poetic materials:

«Stick to the East; the oracle, Stael, told me it was the only poetic policy. The North, South, and West, have all been exhausted; but from the East, we have nothing but Southey’s unsaleables. . . . The little I have done in that way is merely a “voice in the wilderness” for you; and, if it has had any success, that also will prove that the public are orientalizing, and pave the path for you. (Letters and Journals 3:101)»

adding that «the public are orientalizing.»

Following his own advice, he dashed off and published three more «Turkish tales» before the next year was out — The Bride of Abydos (published in December 1813 and reissued in ten further editions of 1814  and 1815), The Corsair (published in February 1814 — selling ten thousand copies on the first day — and reissued in eight or more editions through 1815), and Lara (published in August 1814, with five or six subsequent editions in the next couple of years). (6)

Eugene Delacroix: Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha

Eugene Delacroix: Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha, 1827, The Art Institute of Chicago

The Giaour

The word «giaour» means foreigner or infidel, and in this Moslem context Byron’s hero is a Christian outsider, in a situation enabling contrasts of ideas about love, sex, death, and the hereafter.

The Giaour was started in London between September 1812 and March 1813, first published by John Murray in late March 1813, and finally completed December 1813, after having, in Byron’s words, “lengthened its rattles” (BLJ III 100) from 407 lines in the first draft to 1334 lines in the twelfth edition. (4)

According to one of Byron’s letters, the story in the poem was a tale he’d overheard “by accident recited by one of the coffee-house story tellers who abound in the Levant,” and he blamed the fragmented style on a “failure of memory,”

The narrative is built around a doomed love triangle, composed of the Giaour, a nameless Christian, Hassan and one of his wives, Leila. Leila « breaks her bower, » goes out into the world of men and taking the Giaour as a lover, lashes out against the values that structure her society. Hassan attemps to reestablish the balance by confining her to a space even smaller than the harem : a canvas bag which is then summarily thrown over the side of a boat unbeknownst to its crew and the reader, to whom this episode is recounted through the eyes of a fisherman. The Giaour takes his revenge, ambushing Hassan in a mountain pass, then, crushed by his part in Leila’s death, spends the rest of his days spurning the solace offered him by a man of the cloth, representative of orthodoxy. (7)


The heroine of the poem, Leila is a silent and passive heroine.

Another Leila in Byron’s Don Juan has a similar profile (8)

Delacroix (5)

Following a visit to England in 1825, Eugène Delacroix, the leading Romantic painter in France, based this painting on the poem The Giaour (pronounced jor) written by English poet Lord Byron in 1813. The subject—passions avenged on the faraway Greek battlefield—is perfectly suited to the Romantic vision of exotic locales and unleashed emotion.

In the painting, a Venetian (my note: according to others, Giaour was a Christian without more specifics, but it does not really matter, does it?) known as the Giaour—a Turkish term for infidel—fights the Muslim Hassan to avenge the death of his lover, who was killed by Hassan after fleeing his harem. The stark setting and aggressive movements place the focus of the painting on these two main characters. Weapons poised, the enemies face off in mirrored poses: the Giaour in swirling white with bloodshot eyes, Hassan facing his opponent with his weapon raised. The dynamic motion and emotion of the composition, which looks back to the Baroque style of Peter Paul Rubens, is further heightened by the artist’s use of high-keyed colors and bold and loose brushwork. Delacroix’s handling of pigments was influenced by a mid-19th-century color theory that stated that a spot of color will appear to be surrounded by a faint ring of its complement. In Delacroix’s painting, the adaptation of this effect is seen in the artist’s use of complementary colors, rather than the addition of black pigment, to create shadows.

The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan was included in an exhibition at the Parisian Galerie Lebrun to benefit the Greeks and their war of liberation from the Ottoman Turks (1821–1832). This political cause inspired numerous Romantic artists, writers, and musicians, and was the subject of one of Delacroix’s best-known paintings, The Massacre at Chios. The latter painting was based on an actual incident in the Greek wars of independence, unlike the Art Institute’s painting, which is derived from a work of fiction. Both are examples of Orientalism in Romantic painting, in which depictions of the Middle East and North Africa emphasize the exotic appeal of the lands and their people.

Gericault: Portrait of Lord Byron

Gericault: Portrait of Lord Byron


As an article in BBC informs us,

«Byron was one of the first authors to write about vampires and his image even inspired the look of the monsters.» (2) The following is an extensive quote from the article:

Dr Matt Green is a lecturer at the University of Nottingham. The Gothic expert said: «The vampire first comes into English literature around the end of the eighteenth century.

«One of the first poems the vampire features in is by Lord Byron. It’s a poem called The Giaour (a Turkish word for an infidel or nonbeliever).

«At one point the giaour is cursed by his enemy to become a vampire and to prey and feed on his descendents.»

The poem goes: «Bur first, on earth as Vampire sent, Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent: Then ghastly haunt thy native place, And suck the blood of all thy race.»

«At this stage the vampire in Byron’s poem and in English literature is more a zombie figure. He comes out of the ground and he eats those around him and then goes back into the ground. He can’t wander far from his place of birth and his family.»

That perception was about to change and Byron would be central to it.

The university lecturer said: «It’s not until a couple of years later that the vampire becomes this cosmopolitan, seductive figure. That has to do with Byron as well.»

Eugene Delacroix, Combat Between Giaour and Pasha, 1827, Art Institute of Chicago

Eugene Delacroix, Combat Between Giaour and Pasha, 1827, The Art Institute of Chicago

Excerpts of the poem

The maid for whom his melody,
His thousand songs are heard on high,
Blooms blushing to her lover’s tale:
His queen, the garden queen, his Rose,
Unbent by winds, unchilled by snows,
Far from winters of the west,
By every breeze and season blest,
Returns the sweets by Nature given
In soft incense back to Heaven;
And gratefu yields that smiling sky
Her fairest hue and fragrant sigh.


Eugene Delacroix, The combat of the Giaour with the Pasha, 1835, Petit Palais, Paris, France

The foam that streaks the courser’s side
Seems gathered from the ocean-tide:
Though weary waves are sunk to rest,
There’s none within his rider’s breast;
And though tomorrow’s tempest lower,
‘Tis calmer than thy heart, young Giaour!
I know thee not, I loathe thy race,
But in thy lineaments I trace
What time shall strengthen, not efface:
Though young and pale, that sallow front
Is scathed by fiery passion’s brunt;
Though bent on earth thine evil eye,
As meteor-like thou glidest by,
Right well I view thee and deem thee one
Whom Othman’s sons should slay or shun.

Eugene Delacroix, The Giaour over the dead Pasha

Eugene Delacroix, The Giaour over the dead Pasha

Not thus was Hassan wont to fly
When Leila dwelt in his Serai.
Doth Leila there no longer dwell?
That tale can only Hassan tell:
Strange rumours in our city say
Upon that eve she fled away
When Rhamazan’s last sun was set,
And flashing from each minaret
Millions of lamps proclaimed the feast
Of Bairam through the boundless East.
‘Twas then she went as to the bath,
Which Hassan vainly searched in wrath;
For she was flown her master’s rage
In likeness of a Georgian page,
And far beyond the Moslem’s power
Had wronged him with the faithless Giaour.
Somewhat of this had Hassan deemed;
But still so fond, so fair she seemed,
Too well he trusted to the slave
Whose treachery deserved a grave:
And on that eve had gone to mosque,
And thence to feast in his kiosk.

Alexandre-Marie Colin, The Giaour

Alexandre-Marie Colin, The Giaour

‘Yes, Leila sleeps beneath the wave,
But his shall be a redder grave;
Her spirit pointed well the steel
Which taught that felon heart to feel.
He called the Prophet, but his power
Was vain against the vengeful Giaour:
He called on Allah – but the word.
Arose unheeded or unheard.
Thou Paynim fool! could Leila’s prayer
Be passed, and thine accorded there?
I watched my time, I leagued with these,
The traitor in his turn to seize;
My wrath is wreaked, the deed is done,
And now I go – but go alone.’

Eugene Delacroix: Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha (detail)

Eugene Delacroix: Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha (detail)

Yet died he by a stranger’s hand,
And stranger in his native land;
Yet died he as in arms he stood,
And unavenged, at least in blood.
But him the maids of Paradise
Impatient to their halls invite,
And the dark Heaven of Houris’ eyes
On him shall glance for ever bright;
They come – their kerchiefs green they wave,
And welcome with a kiss the brave!
Who falls in battle ‘gainst a Giaour
Is worthiest an immortal bower.


»Tis twice three years at summer tide
Since first among our freres he came;
And here it soothes him to abide
For some dark deed he will not name.
But never at our vesper prayer,
Nor e’er before confession chair
Kneels he, nor recks he when arise
Incense or anthem to the skies,
But broods within his cell alone,
His faith and race alike unknown.
The sea from Paynim land he crost,
And here ascended from the coast;
Yet seems he not of Othman race,
But only Christian in his face:
I’d judge him some stray renegade,
Repentant of the change he made,
Save that he shuns our holy shrine,
Nor tastes the sacred bread and wine.

Eugene Delacroix-939428

To love the softest hearts are prone,
But such can ne’er be all his own;
Too timid in his woes to share,
Too meek to meet, or brave despair;
And sterner hearts alone may feel
The wound that time can never heal.
The rugged metal of the mine,
Must burn before its surface shine,
But plunged within the furnace-flame,
It bends and melts – though still the same;
Then tempered to thy want, or will,
‘Twill serve thee to defend or kill;
A breast-plate for thine hour of need,
Or blade to bid thy foeman bleed;
But if a dagger’s form it bear,
Let those who shape its edge, beware!
Thus passion’s fire, and woman’s art,
Can turn and tame the sterner heart;
From these its form and tone are ta’en,
And what they make it, must remain,
But break – before it bend again.


My spirit shrunk not to sustain
The searching throes of ceaseless pain;
Nor sought the self-accorded grave
Of ancient fool and modern knave:
Yet death I have not feared to meet;
And the field it had been sweet,
Had danger wooed me on to move
The slave of glory, not of love.
I’ve braved it – not for honour’s boast;
I smile at laurels won or lost;
To such let others carve their way,
For high renown, or hireling pay:
But place again before my eyes
Aught that I deem a worthy prize
The maid I love, the man I hate,
And I will hunt the steps of fate,
To save or slay, as these require,
Through rending steel, and rolling fire:
Nor needest thou doubt this speech from one
Who would but do ~ what he hath done.
Death is but what the haughty brave,
The weak must bear, the wretch must crave;
Then let life go to him who gave:
I have not quailed to danger’s brow
When high and happy – need I now?


‘I loved her, Friar! nay, adored –
But these are words that all can use –
I proved it more in deed than word;
There’s blood upon that dinted sword,
A stain its steel can never lose:
‘Twas shed for her, who died for me,
It warmed the heart of one abhorred:
Nay, start not – no – nor bend thy knee,
Nor midst my sins such act record;
Thou wilt absolve me from the deed,
For he was hostile to thy creed!
The very name of Nazarene
Was wormwood to his Paynim spleen.
Ungrateful fool! since but for brands
Well wielded in some hardy hands,
And wounds by Galileans given –
The surest pass to Turkish heaven
For him his Houris still might wait
Impatient at the Prophet’s gate.
I loved her – love will find its way
Through paths where wolves would fear to prey;
And if it dares enough, ’twere hard
If passion met not some reward –
No matter how, or where, or why,
I did not vainly seek, nor sigh:
Yet sometimes, with remorse, in vain
I wish she had not loved again.
She died – I dare not tell thee how;
But look – ’tis written on my brow!
There read of Cain the curse and crime,
In characters unworn by time:
Still, ere thou dost condemn me, pause;
Not mine the act, though I the cause.
Yet did he but what I had done
Had she been false to more than one.
Faithless to him, he gave the blow;
But true to me, I laid him low:
Howe’er deserved her doom might be,
Her treachery was truth to me;
To me she gave her heart, that all
Which tyranny can ne’er enthral;
And I, alas! too late to save!
Yet all I then could give, I gave,
‘Twas some relief, our foe a grave.
His death sits lightly; but her fate
Has made me – what thou well mayest hate.
His doom was sealed – he knew it well
Warned by the voice of stern Taheer,
Deep in whose darkly boding ear
The deathshot pealed of murder near,
As filed the troop to where they fell!
He died too in the battle broil,
A time that heeds nor pain nor toil;
One cry to Mahomet for aid,
One prayer to Allah all he made:
He knew and crossed me in the fray –
I gazed upon him where he lay,
And watched his spirit ebb away:
Though pierced like pard by hunters’ steel,
He felt not half that now I feel.
I searched, but vainly searched, to find
The workings of a wounded mind;
Each feature of that sullen corse
Betrayed his rage, but no remorse.
Oh, what had vengeance given to trace
Despair upon his dying face I
The late repentance of that hour,
When penitence hath lost her power
To tear one terror from the grave,
And will not soothe, and cannot save.

Thomas Phillips: Lord Byron in Albanian dress

Thomas Phillips: Lord Byron in Albanian dress


(1) Romantic Orientalism-LU Lecture, Naji B. Oueijan, Notre Dame University-Lebanon

(2) BBC Lord Byron’s image inspired modern take on vampires

(3) Interrogating Orientalism, edited by Diane Long Hoeveler and Jeffrey Cass, The Ohio State University Press


(5) The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan, The Art Institute of Chicago

(6) The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Lord Byron, from The Giaour: A Fragment of a Turkish Tale

(7) A domesticated villain – Lord Byron’s The Giaour, DesOrient

(8) A Comparison Between two Turkish Heroines in Lord Byron’s Poetry: Leila in «The Giaour» and Leila in Don Juan, Mona Sulaiman Farraj Albalawi

House by the Sea, Paros, Greece, painting by NM

House by the Sea, Paros, Greece, painting by NM

Casa sul Mare 
Il viaggio finisce qui:
nelle cure meschine che dividono 
l’anima che non sa più dare un grido.
Ora i minuti sono uguali e fissi
Come i giri di ruota della pompa.
Un giro: un salir d’acqua che rimbomba.
Un altro, altr’acqua, a tratti un cigolio.

casa sul mare2

 Il viaggio finisce a questa spiaggia
Che tentano gli assidui e lenti flussi.
Nulla disvela se non pigri fumi
La marina che tramano di conche
I soffi leni: ed è raro che appaia
Nella bonaccia muta
Tra l’isole dell’aria migrabonde
La Corsica
 dorsuta o la Capraia. 
House by the Sea, Paros, Greece, detail -  painting by NM

House by the Sea, Paros, Greece, detail – painting by NM

Tu chiedi se così tutto svanisce
In questa poca nebbia di memorie;
se nell’ora che torpe o nel sospiro
del frangente si compie ogni destino.
Vorrei dirti che no, che ti s’appressa
l’ora che passerai di là dal tempo;
forse solo chi vuole s’infinita,
e questo tu potrai, chissà, non io.
Penso che per i più non sia salvezza,
ma taluno sovverta ogni disegno,
passi il varco, qual volle si ritrovi.
Vorrei prima di cedere segnarti
codesta via di fuga
labile come nei sommossi campi
del mare spuma o ruga.
Ti dono anche l’avara mia speranza.
A’ nuovi giorni, stanco, non so crescerla:
l’offro in pegno al tuo fato, che ti scampi.
casa sul mare1
Il cammino finisce a queste prode
che rode la marea col moto alterno.
Il tuo cuore vicino che non m’ode
salpa già forse per l’eterno.
House by the Sea, Naoussa, Paros, Greece

House by the Sea, Naoussa, Paros, Greece

House by the Sea (translated by William Arrowsmith)
Here the journey ends: 
in these petty cares dividing
a soul no longer able to protest. 
Now minutes are implacable, regular
as the flywheel on a pump. 
One turn: a rumble of water rushing. 
Second turn: more water, occasional creakings.
Here the journey ends, on this shore
probed by slow, assiduous tides.
Only a sluggish haze reveals 
the sea woven with troughs
by the mils breezes: hardly ever
in that dead calm
does spiny Corsica or Capraia loom
through islands of migratory air.
You ask: Is this how everything vanishes,
in this thin haze of memories?
Is every destiny fulfilled
in the torpid hour or the breaker’s sigh?
I would like to tell you: No. For you
the moment for your passage out of time is near:
transcendence may perhaps be theirs who want it,
and you, who knows, could be one of those. Not I.
There is no salvation, I think, for most,
but every system is subverted by someone, someone
breaks through, becomes what he wanted to be.  
Before I yield, let me help you find
such a passage out, a path
fragile a ridge or foam
in the furrowed sea.
And I leave you my hope, too meager
for my failing strength to foster
in days to come. I offer it
to you, my pledge to your fate, that you
break free.  
My journey ends on these shores
eroded by the to-and-fro of the tides.
Your heedless heart, so near, may even now
be lifting sail for the eternities.


1. The poem «Casa sul Mare» is in the collection «Ossi di Seppia – Cuttlefish Bones». It was published with the original poems and the english translation by Norton in 1992.

2. The critic and Montale’s friend Sergio Solmi observes about the «House by the Sea» that the poem adumbrates a theme dear to Montale, «the sense of a failed and enclosed life, despairing now of being equal to its original idea… escape from the ‘limbo of maimed existences’, succeed in living fully and saving itself».

3. «For you the moment for your passage out of time is near»: is the «passage out of time» the poetic interpretation of «death»?

Objects that tell a story: (2) A poetry book in English

Παρασκευή, 17 Μαΐου, 2013

«During the First World War Hoelderlin’s hymns were packed in the soldier’s knapsack together with cleaning gear».

Martin Heidegger, «The Origin of the Work of Art».

Demonstration in Athens, March 1942

Demonstration in Athens, March 1942

Today’s object is not available to me.

As a matter of fact, I have never seen it.

Today’s object has no photograph that I can show you.

Military Academy of Athens

Military Academy of Athens

Today’s object has been destroyed.

Today’s object is a poetry book in English.

Today’s object is a book without a title.

At some unknown point in time, it became a possession of my uncle George.

Allied forces in Gazi, Athens, 1944

Allied forces in Gazi, Athens, 1944

This might have been the result of a gift or a loan or a purchase.

But it is not important to dwell on that.

It was sometime before or during the second world war that George got hold of it.

Greek Civil War 1944-1949

Greek Civil War 1944-1949

Shortly after the Germans withdrew from Greece in October 1944, another War started, the Greek Civil War that lasted until 1949.

At that time George was an officer of the Greek Army, and served at the front line.

Map of Grammos

Map of Grammos

It was during a long engagement of the Greek Army with the communist – supported «Democratic Army of Greece» in the Northwestern area near Konitsa, called «Mastorohoria», that the story with the poetry book unfolded.

George had taken the book with him.

During one of the skirmishes with the enemy, George’s unit had to cross in a haste the river Sarantaporos; in the process he lost the book.

Pyrsogianni - Πυρσογιαννη

Pyrsogianni – Πυρσογιαννη

When George’s unit took the offensive again, they crossed the river going north, and succeeded to push their opponents further to the north.

During this successful offensive, at the end of an operation they went by a machine gun bunker.

There was smoke coming out of it.

As a standard procedure, they had to go in and ensure that it was safe.

Sarantaporos River, Northern Greece

Sarantaporos River, Northern Greece

They went in and found that all inside were dead.

In the middle of the burning debris and the dead bodies, the officer in charge found a and picked up bloodstained book.

Much to his surprise, inside the book he saw an inscription with George’s name.

After the officer finished his inspection of the burned bunker he came out carrying the poetry book in his hands and went straight to George.

Plagia (Zerma)

Plagia (Zerma)

«George, is this your book?» he asked.

George took the book in his hands: «Yes, it is mine»

«Do you want to take it?» the officer asked.

George did not take the book.

He left it there.

Επερχομενης καλπαζουσης της Καθαρας Δευτερας, αποδιδομαι ελευθερως εις περιηγησιν εις τον γλωσσο-εννοιολογικον μετα-σημασιολογικον χωρον, εναγωνιως αποζητων την αποδομητικην αποκαταστασιν της απολυτης ανεπαρκειας του γλωσσικου εργαλειου. Και να τονισω μετα στεντοριου φωνης οτι κατεληξα εις το συμπερασμα οτι δεν μου αρεσει ο Βιτγκενσταιν.


Καθαιρω = απαλλασσω απο κατι βλαβερο.

Συνωνυμος ο εξαγνισμος.

Δυστυχως δεν αρκει το να πατε σε χαμαμι δια να εξαγνισθειτε.

Αν υποθεσομε οτι ειναι εφικτος ο εξαγνισμος σας.

Σας θυμιζω οτι οσοι καηκαν στην Ιερα Πυρα της Ιερας Εξετασεως επασχαν απο την ουτοπικη ελπιδα οτι μπορει να εξαγνισθουν. Ερχοντουσαν λοιπον οι καλοι ανθρωποι της Εξετασεως και τους ελεγαν «που πατε πουλακια μου; δεν εχει δρομο για σας, δεν εχει οδο, στην Πυρα!!!!!»

Ο Στρατηγος Θεοδωρος Παγκαλος

Χαμαμ – Λουτρο με ατμους

Καθαρτηριος ο τοπος στον οποιον θα πεταξωμεν τους χαρταετους. Αλλα και ο χωρος εις τον οποιον συντελειται καθαρσις.

Καθαρτηριον = τοπος εις τον οποιον συνανων, ωστιζονται ψυχες προσδοκουσες οτι θα εισελθουσιν εις την Βασιλειαν των Ουρανων, ηγουν οτι εις τον Παραδεισον.

Ομως αφελεις συνοδοιποροι, που βαδιζετε;


Με τι προσοντα θα πατε στον Παραδεισο;;;

Για την Κολαση ειμαστε οι περισσοτεροι.

Φαγωμεν πιωμεν….

Hopi_Indian_Arizona-1024x768 (1)

Καθαρση = η πραξη ή το αποτελεσμα του να απαλλαξομε τον τοπον, την χωραν, τους εαυτους μας, απο κατι βλαβερον. Αβεβαιως αλλα αμετανοητως,  ο νους συνειρμικα ακουμπα την υπεροχον εικονα της Ελλαδος ανευ Μνημονιου. Καθαρσις, Εγερσις, Αναστασις!!!!!

Καθαρτικον = ουσια ητις υποβοηθει την κενωσιν του οργανισμου.


Τουτων ρηθεντων, ποια η διαφορα καθαρσεως και απολυμανσεως;

Εις ποιον βαθμον κινδυνευομεν απο τα μιασματα;

Μιασμα = μολυσμενος αερας


Θεωρια μιασματος = η θεωρια συμφωνα με την οποια η πανουκλα, η χολερα και λοιπες μολυσματικες ασθενειες ωφειλονται εις τον μιασματικον αεραν.

Μιασματα = εις την μετεμφυλιακην Ελλαδα. Οι κομμουνισται, οι συνοδοιποροι, τα κομμουνια, οι ανταρτες, οι σλαβοφιλοι. ΜΑζι με αυτους πανε πακεττο και οι ομοφυλοφυλοι, οι αθιγγανοι, οι Εβραιοι, οι αλλοθρησκοι, γενικως και ειδικως οσοι δεν ειναι ακριβως ιδιοι με την ¨καθαρη» ελληνικη φυλη.


Με ποια ερμηνευτικα εργαλεια θα προσεγγισομε την παραλληλον πορειαν της καθαρσεως της χωρας και της απολυμανσεως που κηρυσσει η Χρυση Αυγη;;;;;

Ειναι απλο. Η καθαρση προϋποθετει επιγνωση αμαρτιας και οικειοθελους παραστρατηματος.

Θεοδωρος Παγκαλος

Θεοδωρος Παγκαλος

Ενω η απολυμανση αποτελει διαδικασια που ειναι τυφλη.

Πορευομεθα λοιπον ως τυφλοι προς την Καθαραν Δευτεραν;;;;;

Η πορευομεθα με αυτογνωσιαν και αυτοσυντριβην;;;;;


Παιδιά, ήρθε η ώρα να αντιμετωπίσετε την Αλήθεια.

Ποτε δεν ειναι αργα.

Και οποια – διερωτωμαι – η σχεισις της καθαρσεως με την εξομολογησιν;;;;;;

Αμαρτια εξομολογηθεισα αμαρτια ουκ εστι.


Μετανοειτε αμαρτωλοι!!!!!

Η κρισις της Ελλαδος αποτελει ευκαιριαν δια ομαδικην εξομολογησιν και καθαρσιν.

Καλη Καθαρη Δευτερα, και μην ξεχνατε!!!!! Με τον ειναι ή τον αλλο τροπο, οι συντριπτικα περισσοτεροι οδευομεν προς την κολασιν.


Εμπιστευτικες πληροφοριες αναφερουν οτι οι ιθυνοντες ελαβαν τον Νομο του Παρετο και απο 80/20 τον εκαναν 1/99.

Οποτε χαλαρωστε, και απολαυστε τον αμαρτωλον βιον!!!!!