Μέσα στην κούνια κάθεται
The girl is sitting on the swing, no dove was ever prettier,
spreads and flaps her pure white wings, and fans the air around us.
Now stir yourself and bend your limbs to make your blossom scatter,
to wither up your cruel heart and cause your lips to shrivel.
Get going there, my tongue, and start to sing some lofty praises
of the red carnations and the silver-petalled violas.
There’s one, there’s two, there’s three, and with one other four,
a marvellous life we have, we lucky bachelors.
A pair of dainty silver hands took hold of both the swing ropes
with fingers that were pencil thin and finger-nails of ivory.
Dear nightingales, peacocks and carolling canaries,
for heaven’s sake don’t wake that lovely bird of mine.
May the beam be made of steel, the rope of stoutest iron.
I pray the man who fathered her may live to sire another.
The sun is setting in the west, the day is almost over,
the little bird who’s dear to me is nowhere to be seen.
Residing in this neighbourhood there is a pretty dove-bird.
If we come back a year from now we’ll find her with a soul-mate.
The sun is setting now before your open windows
and, mischief ’s daughter, you are dyeing your arched eyebrows.
Μέσα στην κούνια κάθεται
Μέσα στην κούνια κάθεται μια ν-άσπρη περιστέρα
κι απλώνει τσι φτερούγες τση, για να μας κάνει αέρα.
Κουνήσου και λυίσου να πέσει τ’ άνθι σου,
να μαραθ’ η καρδιά σου και τ’ αχειλάκι σου.
Άρχισε γλώσσα μ’ άρχισε να τσι παινέσεις όλες
τσι κόκκινες γαριφαλιές και τσ’ ασημένιες βιόλες.
Το ένα δύο τρία και τ’ άλλο τέσσερα
ζωή που την περνούμε εμείς τα λεύτερα.
Πιάσανε το κουνόσκοινο χέρια μαλαματένια,
δαχτύλια κοντυλόσυρτα και νύχια φιλντισένια.
Αηδόνια και παγώνια και καναρίνια μου
μη μου τήνε ξυπνάτε την πάπια χήνα μου.
Σίδερο νά ’ναι το σκοινί και το δοκάρι ατσάλι
κι εκείνος που την ήκαμε να ζει να κάμει κι άλλη.
Ο ήλιος βασιλεύει κι η μέρα σώνεται
κι εμένα το πουλί μου δε φανερώνεται.
Εδώ σ’ αυτή τη γειτονιά είν’ ένα περιστέρι
του χρόνου να ξανάρθομε να τό ’βρομε με ταίρι.
Ο ήλιος βασιλεύει στα παραθύρια σου
κι εσύ διαβόλου κόρη βάφεις τα φρύδια σου.
In modern Greek ethnology the swing figures is a simple ritual widely practiced in a multitude of versions, irrespective of the socio-cultural or religious context. Under different local names swings are set up throughout the Easter period, but particularly during the first three days of Easter week, and of the feast of Saint George as well as on certain other festive spring occasions. Normally, the rituals are held in the open countryside, though also in the villages and even in individual homes. Usually it is only the girls who sit on the swings, while the young men push them. The custom is accompanied by its own songs and erotic couplets containing a powerful element of a lyrical and adulatory nature.
‘Swings’, that is a ritual ‘hoisting’ or ‘suspension’ enacted as part of country festivals, has been a custom to many cultures since earliest times. We know of the αιώρα (for ‘hoisting’ or ‘suspension’) of girls during the ancient Anthesteria, the three-day Feast of Flowers held in Athens at the beginning of Spring. It must always have been, as it still is, an entertaining past-time of ritualistic and magical character. It is, as it were, a fresh-air spring-cleaning procedure even an invocation of the winds beneficial to agriculture. Modern Greek superstition is explicitly linked to the swing and other magical expediencies for the securing of good health, fertility and abundance.
Apart from their magico-religious content, swings served an obvious social function. First of all, they provided village lads and lasses with a rare opportunity to see one another legitimately at those quarters, to make their marriage choices, to declare mutually by means of songs, whose erotic symbolism established the appropriate mood, their preferences and feelings. More than that however, the festivity was the occasion for the exercise of the marriage strategies of the community while the songs, reflecting social realities and expressing popular ideology, formed the necessary prescriptive framework for the doings and initiatives of its younger participants. Miranda Terzopoulou (1998)
Studio recording, 1997.
Instructed by Sofia Korre from Komiaki, Naxos, in 1997.