Greek Notes (Part One of Two)
Feature by Willard Manus

(My book THIS WAY TO PARADISE--DANCING ON THE TABLES is a memoir of the 35 years my wife and I spent in the Greek islands. While tidying up my files recently, I discovered a batch of stories, quotes and jottings that didn't make it into the book but might make for entertaining--or even enlightening--reading nonetheless. Here they are, in no particular order.)

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The novelist Patrick White on Greece: "Greece is an increasing obsession in spite of the fact that the people are frequently maddening and that one can see no real hope for them or ultimate solution to their problems. They have this terrible innate desire to destroy themselves, just as they have destroyed or attempted to destroy so many of their great people from Socrates down. But one continues to do all one can for them."

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Excerpt from a rizitiko ballad sung by villagers in the White Mountains of Crete: "When will starry nights come round again, that I can take up my gun?"

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The Cretan-born writer Nikos Kazantzakis said this to his wife about Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass: "Whitman is a great joy. This is a great work and we shall read it together regularly. It's all wind, sea, light, joy."

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Later, Kazantzakis wrote these lines in his epic poem, The Odyssey: "God is not a song that flies through the air and fades away, but a rough, hot gullet full of nerves and blood."

Another Kazantzakis quote: "The destiny of the Greek race is terrifying and mysterious, as though upon this parcel of earth the spirit can be watered only with tears and blood."

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Here is another view of Greece, written by the poet Kenneth O. Hanson:

"First of ALL it is necessary

To find yourself a country

Which is not easy.

It takes much looking

After which there must be rocks and water

And a sky that is willing

To take itself for granted

Without being overbearing.

There should be fresh fish

In the harbor, fresh bread

In the local stores.

The people should know

How to suffer without

Being unhappy, and how to be happy

Without feeling guilty. The men should be named Dimitrios, John or Evangelos

And all the women should be

Named Elena or Anthoula.

The newspapers should always

Lie, which gives you something

To think about. There should be

Great gods in the background

And on all the mountain tops.

There should be lesser gods

In the fields, and nymphs

about all the cool fountains.

The past should be always

Somewhere in the distance

Not taken too seriously

But there always giving perspective.

The present should consist of the seven

Days of the week forever.

The music should be broken-hearted

Without being self-indulgent.

It should be difficult to sing.

Even the birds in the trees should

Work for a dangerous living.

When it rains there should be

No doubt about it. The people

Should come from the villages

And go out to sea, and go back

To the villages. There should be

Farmers and sailors, with only

A few poets. The olive trees

And the orange trees and the cypress

Will change your life, the rocks

And the lies, and the gods

And the strict music. If you go there

You should be prepared to leave

At a moment's notice, knowing

After all you have been somewhere."

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(Part Two of GREEK NOTES will run in the Sept/Oct issue)