A nun was frying fish and a voice,
A squeaky little voice, kept telling her over and over:
- Stop cooking, old maid,
And Constantinople will turn Turkish,
And Muhabbet1 will enter the City astride his mount.
- When the fish leap out of the pan
And come back to life, then the Turk will enter in
And Constantinople will be Turkish.
Well, the fish leapt out, they came back to life
And the Emir2 entered the City astride his mount.
Translated by Michael Eleftheriou
1 Sultan Mehmed II, known as Fatih Sultan Mehmed or Mehmed the Conqueror
2 Emir: general
Καλογριά μαγέ- μαγέρευε ψαράκια στο τηγάνι
και μια φωνή, ψιλή φωνή, απάνωθέ της λέγει.
- Πάψε, γριά, το μαγερειό κι η Πόλη θα τουρκέψει
κι ο Μουχαμπέτης1 θε’ να μπει στην Πόλη καβαλάρης.
- Όταν τα ψάρια πεταχτούν και βγουν και ζωντανέψουν,
τότε κι ο Τούρκος θε’ να μπει κι η Πόλη θα τουρκέψει.
Τα ψάρια πεταχτήκανε, τα ψάρια ζωντανέψαν
κι ο αμιράς2 εισέβηκεν στην Πόλη καβαλάρης.
1 Μουχαμπέτης ή Μουχαμέτης: ο Μωάμεθ
2 Αμιράς: Στρατηγός, ηγέτης (από το αραβικό amir ή τουρκοπερσικό emir)
A slow table song belonging to the historical songs category, being one of the laments created after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This shocking and globally-significant event caused an enormous upheaval in the Greek and, generally, Orthodox world. The loss of Christendom's Eastern stronghold plunged the Greek people into mourning. No one wanted to believe that the City of Constantine had been taken by the Ottomans, and that the Muslims were desecrating the god-guarded king of cities beloved of the Virgin Mary. No one could have known then that this city, which had withstood so many sieges and had never previously fallen, except for the period in which the Crusaders stripped it bare (1204–1261), was now in Turkish hands. No one could get their heads around that awful truth!
The folk poet captures this critical moment in Greek history with outstanding originality and élan, producing a dramatic verse in which narrative alternates with dialogue. It depicts an old nun receiving a divine message -”Constantinople will turn Turkish”- while she is frying fish. But even this ‘woman of God’ cannot believe the awful tidings. She cannot accept this voice of destiny and historic fate, unless it sets the established natural order on its head. Only if the fried fish come back to life will she believe that "the Turk will enter in and Constantinople will turn Turkish”. Given the way ordinary folk think, the Fall is only explicable in terms of divine intervention; only if God is seen to have lent a hand will they accept the catastrophe that has befallen their people. Which is why the change in the status quo which had held sway in Byzantium for over a millennium is attributed to divine will, and the transfer of power, along with the empire’s mythic capital, into the hands of the victor, “Mehmed”, to a divine decision. In the end, this Turk "the Emir entered the city astride his mount” and was hailed down the centuries as "the Conqueror” of the city of cities.
This ten-line masterpiece from the Sea of Maramara in Eastern Thrace, whose melody is directly linked to Orthodox ecclesiastical music, expresses the disaster that had befallen the Greek people, who mourn the world these historical events brought to an end, with veiled passion and emotion. It succeeds in conveying an entire world view clearly and briefly, using minimal means far from rhetoric and verbosity, as it describes a turning point in the history of the world.
Theodor Kondaras (2022)
Live recording from the concert t Songs of Asia Minor with Domna Samiou at the Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall, on 8/3/2005.
Based on Simon Karas' recording which belongs to the Association for the Dissemination of Greek National Music.