A Soldier and a Tree
Στρατιώτης και δεντρί
A young man, a fine young lad
went off in search of a castle, Greek lass of mine.
And though he found no castles and no villages to stay in,
he found a tree, Greek lass of mine.
- Oh, tree of mine, dear cypress so tall,
where am I to stay, where am I to spend the night?
- Here's my root to tether your steed,
here are my branches, hang up your arms,
and here's my shadow.
Translated by Michael Eleftheriou
Στρατιώτης και δεντρί
Ν-ένας άγουρος κι εν' άξιον παλικάρι
κάστρα γύ- κάστρα γύριβι, Ρωμιοπού- Ρωμιοπούλα μου.
Κάστρα κι αν δε βρει, χουριά να πάει να μείνει,
βρίσκ' ένα, βρίσκ' ένα δεντρί, Ρωμιοπού- Ρωμιοπούλα μου.
- Ν-αχ δεντρίτσι μου, ψηλό μου κυπαρίσσι,
πού να μείνω ιγώ και πού να ξιβραδιάσω;
- Να κι η ρίζα μου κι δέσι τ' άλογο σου,
να κι οι κλώνοι μου, σκάλωσι τ' άρματα σου,
να κι ο ίσκιος μου.
The old heroic topic of the weary warrior who dozes off under a tree has sometimes led researchers to classify this heavily symbolic and well-known song as akritic, linking its plot with the episode in the Epic in which Digenis retreats to the shadow at the foot of a tree to rest after his wedding and a series of difficult feats: ‘... and I found a tree's shade and lay back against its root’.
However, its ambiguous symbolisms link it in the popular imagination with the ritualistic ‘expatriation’ that marriage as rite of passage represents, literally as well as metaphorically; this is why it is sung throughout Greece as a wedding song. It may well present us the most varied example of oral musical creativity, which with different initial verses and a different melody, rhythm and mode is used to accompany almost every stage in the marriage rite, bestowing a new ‘akritic’ meaning on the words, which are no longer about geographical borders and war. As Eleni Psyhogiou argues so well in her related study1, the song is now about the social, psychological and sexual boundaries, which the inexperienced couple must transcend to complete their passage into married adulthood. Miranda Terzopoulou (2017)
1E. Psychogiou, Τα «ακριτικά» ως τελετουργικά τραγούδια μύησης: η περίπτωση του γαμπρού-στρατιώτη, in Ακρίτες της Ευρώπης. Ευρωπαϊκή ακριτική παράδοση: από τον Μεγαλέξαντρο στον Διγενή Ακρίτα, Hellenic Folklore Research Centre, Academy of Athens, 2004, pp. 152-185.
Domna Samiou taped this song in 1976 in Paliouri, Evros, along with others destined for the Musical Travelogue with Domna Samiou - Thrace, Evros in 1976, she was making for Greek State Television.