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GreeceCultureDionysios Solomos (1798-1857): The Immortal Legacy of Greece's National Poet

Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857): The Immortal Legacy of Greece’s National Poet

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DIONYSIOS SOLOMOS (1798-1857)
“Enclose Greece in your soul and you will feel it
within you yearn for every kind of greatness.”
By Dr. Nikos D. Kokkonis
ON FEBRUARY 9, 1857, Greece was in mourning. On this day our national poet Dionysios Solomos, the one who had written the song of songs for our homeland, was no longer alive.
THE REVOLUTION OF 1821 revealed to the poet the freedom, the virtue, and the soul of Greece. The brutality of the conqueror shocked him, and now the Count of Zakynthos becomes the Greek rebel. He chooses to express himself in elementary school and tries to conquer Greekness. The “Hymn to Liberty” and the “Ode to Byron” will soon see the light of day, the first verses of which have been indelibly imprinted in our memory since the school holidays:
“Freedom, stop for a while
to strike with the sword.
Now shut up and cry
to Byron’s body…”.
Lofos Strani
At a distance of about two kilometers from the city is the hill of Stranis. Here our national poet Dionysios Solomos, listening to the cannonades of Messolonghi, was inspired and wrote the Anthem. It is said that the place where the stele with the bust of the poet is located was the holly tree under which he wrote the Hymn.
“Hymn” (158 stanzas) is a wonderful poem. The poet wrote it at the age of 25 in May 1823, within a month. And he wrote it sitting in the shade of a tree on Stranis Hill in Zakynthos. Lofos, a park between olive trees and pines, offers a beautiful and panoramic view, with Messolonghi standing out in the background. I had the good fortune one summer to be there as a pilgrim, invited by the island’s teachers. There would not, I think, be a more appropriate point of historical reference for the “Hymn,” with the poet inspired by hearing the echo of the cannons of the fight, across the sea of ​​Tsilivi.
In the “Hymn” Solomon defines freedom, Greece, the faith of our nation and the history of the past and present. It gives meaning to the struggle of ’21, to the battles and massacres. He teaches the evils of discord and the good of unity. The trochaic rhythm, that is, the alternation of a stressed syllable with an unstressed one, made the text fast and alert:
“I know you from the edge
of the terrible sword
I know you by sight
who violently measures the earth…”
The ground floor of the Museum houses the Mausoleum which houses the bones of our two national poets, Dionysios Solomos and Andreas Kalvos.
The Hymn was soon translated into many foreign languages, and critics spoke of a new Simonides, Alcaeus, and Pindar. The fame of the poet spread throughout the world, and the “Hymn” strengthened the spirit of the struggle of ’21 and contributed to the effort of liberation.
Now the poet is gaining pan-Hellenic recognition. In 1849 he was decorated with the highest royal decoration (Golden Cross of the Order of the Savior) by Otto, “because with his poetry he stimulated the feelings of the people in the struggle for national independence.” Two years later, the poet’s health began to fail irreparably, with constant strokes.
ON SATURDAY FEBRUARY 9, 1857, Solomon breathed his last, two months before reaching 59 years of age. The rumor of his death spread across Greece in a flash. The ardent praiser of the Greek Revolution was no more. On that day Greece experienced the beginning of his immortality.
In 1865 the first 24 stanzas of the “Hymn” were established as the National Anthem of Greece. (Of these, the first two are sung in official ceremonies and accompany the raising and lowering of our flag.)
THIS WAS Dionysios Solomos. He who pioneered the systematic cultivation of the vernacular and paved the way for its use by later writers. The one who magnificently expressed our people’s struggle for freedom.
So let’s celebrate him this year at his 167th spiritual memorial as a hero. He was also an immortal of the 21st century. Others fought for our freedom with their sword, he with his pen. It was therefore worth establishing (in 2017) the 9th of February (the day of his memory) as the World Day of the Greek Language.
Let’s honor our language and our national poet with pride today!
Dr. Nikos D. Kokkonis, Ph.D.

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