08 January 2009

Lady 'Reen, the Little Bird, and the Pirate

The Skleroi's lovely lady 'Reen and Doukas' Areti,

and Goldilocks, three fairest maids ever in Napoli,
went out one day to take a walk, they went to take a bath.

Katsi Rini, was the name mother Skleraina used,
her father said, "My 'Rini, go. I worry for your care.
To help us all, I have a plan, I'll set up lookouts three.
The first I'll put uo on the mount, the second by the sea,
the third and best I'll place below to guard the gate for thee."

And so the story moves along and so the crisis breaks:
the tower on the mountain cries, "A sail, there comes a sail,
it cuts the white foam on the waves, it nears the platan tree!"

The tower on the sea cries out, "And now two fustas sail,
they've set their prows right toward the baths, they come onto our shore."
The tower cried, the third and best, "O maidens, be aware!"

Areti she changed her steps and 'Rini turned around,
and Goldilocks threw down her bag, and ran back into town.
some crawled in the window, and some dashed in the gate,
the darling of the Skleroi froze and waited for her fate.

The Turkish youth, he swept her up, clad in her golden hair,
he fiercely seized her fair white hand, he took her to his ship,
he kissed her mouth amidst her cries, he wrapped her in his arms.

The bird flew fast and sat him down, he perched high on the mast,
it did not call out like a bird or twitter like a swallow,
it only cried and spoke aloud, it cried out like a child.

What dreadful thing, Skleraina dear, you suffer, on this day
with dearest 'Rini, best-belov'd, your sweetly-perfumed child,
where goes the brother, there, you see, the sister 'Rini goes.

It's not a crime, it's not a shame, it's not a route to hell
if brother hold his sister close pressed up against his chest,
but like a bride he kisses her, he sees her like a man.

"Hark, hark, o hark, Turkopoulo, what does the small bird say?
It's just a bird and yet it cries, a bird and still it speaks!
I say to you, Turkopoulo, who are you, what's your name?
I had a brother long ago, he loved to travel far,
some told us once that he had died, some told us he had drowned,
some told us he became a Turk in places hot with sand."

"Tell me, o tell me, maiden mine, how does your lineage run?
"What can it matter now to you how does my lineage run?
since now it brings anathema, it brings the hurricane."

"Tell me, o tell me, lovely girl, your birth and your descent?"
"My father is from Napoli, my mother from Corinth,
The name Skleros is known by all, they call me Lady 'Reen."

"My sister, hold me out your purse, and hold me out your shoe."
The purse he filled with florins gold, her shoe he filled with coins,"
"Go, 'Rini, you go home at once, go find our family dear,
and I will follow close behind to see how you will wed."

She kissed him like a brother dear, again she pressed his brow,
he kissed her like a sister dear, and then she took her bath.


This old folksong was collected in Nauplion in the 19th century. There is no way the geography of Nauplion can be reconciled to the narrative. The jogging translation fairly reflects the jogging of the Greek. The theme of brother-sister incest appears frequently in narratives of the Ottoman and post-Ottoman period, reflecting anxieties raised by the Ottoman child tax (which was never in effect in Nauplion). The little bird is a persistent inhabitant of Greek folktales and songs. The names Skleros and Doukas are known from the Byzantine period.

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