Greek Independence Day
Dances of Zalongo*
-- by Alexander Karanikas
When you listen with an ashen heart
To the voices, voices,
From the restless winds;
And you hear at night, again at dawn,
A chorus of lamenting girls
Lost in the mothering sea;
And when you glimpse our blue-eyed tears
Worn like pearls by the mist
As by a lovely weeping ghost
Haunting empty, empty time;
Think of our dance, the bitter dance
Of the fair ladies of Zalongo,
Of the dead ladies of Zalongo,
Cry not for us who have cried enough
To make Sahara’s endless sand
Bloom like a king’s garden in May.
Like roses we wilted,
We women of Zalongo,
Lost wives and mothers,
Daughters of Zalongo,
Who would rather die with our love
Than live with a tyrant
In our home, our land,
By the side of our clear, our Suliot mount.
One by one and one by one
As time kills days and hours
The enemy murdered our brace desires,
Swept down from Pindus slopes
With heroes on his pikes,
And grimly sought our flesh
To quench his lust inflamed.
And two by two and two by two
We climbed with babes at breast,
Singing the song of Zalongo,
To cliff, the wind-made cliff,
Have we food for a supper of tears
To nurse our little babes?
We have bountiful tears and warm
To feed our hapless babes.
Have we courage to take our lives
On the crown of rain-wet rocks?
We have courage to splash our hearts
On the gleaming rocks below,
For they are the rocks
Our feet stood on and our lips sang on
When we grew tall
As the beautiful maidens of Zalongo,
We looked to the north and saw no north,
Just clouds of our despair;
We looked to the west and saw no west,
The sky was still and bare;
We looked to the south and saw no south,
The sun was all aglare.
We looked to the east; we saw the east.
The enemy was there!
The enemy was there!
We had found a road with our Suliot song
Where none could follow,
For who can follow death,
So gather your woes for the dance, my love,
And darken your baby’s eyes
With the shade of one last kiss.
Then take my hand in your soft hand
And place your foot near mine.
Now sing while the first of us to go
Leads round and round till she
Leaps from the cliff as a flute song ends,
On a high, piercing cry.
And this is how we danced the dance
Of Zalongo, Zalongo,
We fair ladies of Zalongo.
*A cliff in Epirus where on December 18, 1803, fifty-seven Greek Suliot women leapt to their death to avoid being captured by the forces of Ali Pasha.
Dr. Alex Karanikas, of Chicago, is a noted educator, author, and actor. He is a graduate of Harvard and Northwestern. A professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago for many years, Professor Emeritus Karanikas taught courses there on the novels of Kazantzakis, Greek-American literature, and literary criticism. He is the author of a number of scholarly works, including poetry: When a Youth Gets Poetic, In Praise of Heroes, Tillers of a Myth: The Southern Agrarians as Social and Literary Critics (winner of a national award), Elias Venezis (co-authored with Helen Karanikas), Hellenes and Hellions, Modern Greek Characters in American Literature, Nashville Dreams, and Stepping Stones. Along with his many and distinguished professional activities, he has been an active member in the Greek-American community for decades.
|He has served on the editorial committee of the Greek Star, has been a national board member of the United Hellenic American Congress, a co-chair of the National Bicentennial Symposium,”The Greek Experience in America,” sponsored by the Modern Greek Studies Association and the University of Chicago, a national secretary for the American Council for a Democratic Greece (New York, 1947), a district officer of the Order of AHEPA, and a member of the Greek Orthodox Church of America. Dr. Karanikas served as a film consultant for two PBS series dramas: “King of America,” and “My Palikari,” projects on Greek Immigration to the U.S.