The Death of Digenis
Ακρίτας πάει και σο κυνήγ'
Out hunting, on the way to the hunting grounds,
Akritas met Charon at a crossroads.
- Charon, what've you got against me that you'll always following me?
They call me Akritas, and God have mercy on your warrior's soul.
- Hush thy boasting, my dear Akritas!
Come, let's wrestle on the silver threshing floor.
- If l should win, your black steed is mine,
but if you should win, take my soul and be gone.
They went and fought, and Charon won.
Akritas mounted his horse and rode to his beloved.
- Come, my dearest, come and make up my deathbed.
Put flowers by my head, flowers picked from a forest glade.
Translated by Michael Eleftheriou
Ακρίτας πάει και σο κυνήγ'
Ο θάνατος του Διγενή
Ακρίτας πάει και σο κυνήγ' και σα κυνηγοτόπεα,
τον Χάρον ατ' επάντεσεν άπαν' σο σταυροδρόμιν.
- Χάρε μ', ντό έχ'ς και με τ' εμέν και πάντα ν-ακ'λουθάς με;
Εμέν Ακρίτα λέγ'νε με, αϊλί και σον Ακρίταν.
- Για σους1, για σους Ακρίτα μου, βαρέα μην καυχάσαι,
παρ' έλα ν-ας παλεύγομεν πάν' σ' ασημένι' αλώνι.
- Αν ίσως και νικώ σε 'γώ, θα παίρω και το μαύρο σ',
αν ίσως και νικάς με 'συ, έπαρ' την ψη2 μ' και δέβα.
Εσκώθεσαν και πάλεψαν και νίκεσεν ο Χάρον.
Ακρίτας εκαβάλκεψεν, σην κάλην ατ' επήεν.
- Έβγα, καλή μ', και στρώσον με θανατικόν κρεβάτιν,
θέσον μ' άνθεα σην κεφαλήν και παρχαρί3 τσιτσέκια4.
1για σους: σώπασε! μη μιλάς!
3παρχάριν: χλοερός βοσκότοπος
4τσιτσέκιν: άνθος, τουρκ. çiçek
Songs on the death of Brave men
Of all the songs in the Digenis cycle, the best and most widely known - including the very few that researchers now recognize as properly ‘akritic’ - are those that relate to the death of the never-defeated hero. Βλ. τραγούδια Kostantis and Kostantas, Charon and the brave men, Last night I crossed rivers. Akritas goes hunting', Charon wore black, Digenis is dying.
In the popular imagination, it is unthinkable that such a hero should be subject to the common fate of common folk and be allowed to die. And, truth be told, there was little that was philosophical or meditative about the heroic mindset. A slave to his impulses and his strength, the hero will once again square up against an opponent and challenge him, even if he is Death himself. And the hero will throw himself into battle once again, the latest in an endless string of feats; this time, though, he will be defeated.
As a theme, Digenis’ death belongs to the older, rich oral narrative tradition which centred on the personality, life and achievements of the akritic heroes so beloved by the populace. However, the fact that the struggle with Charon is absent from all the variants of the written epic led a number of researchers to conclude that this theme is also absent from the popular imagination during the akritic era. It was also used to argue that the written epic pre-dated the songs.
The oldest and richest song-type, the one Nikolaos Politis considered a recap of Digenis Akritas’ feats and the type closest to the written epic, is represented in this collection by a Cypriot variation (see Charon wore black).
Some of the other songs included here are loosely linked to the traditions relating to the death of Digenis or with the epic cycle more generally (e.g. Kostantis and Kostantas). They include however names, verses and concepts linked to the Akritic cycle and besides the central theme of death, they also refer to other aspects of the hero’s everyday life, work, family and loves. Miranda Terzopoulou (2017)
Studio recording, 2004.