Γιώργης Παυλόπουλος «Το άγαλμα και ο τεχνίτης»
Σαν έκλεινε το μουσείο
αργά τη νύχτα η Δηιδάμεια
κατέβαινε από το αέτωμα.
Κουρασμένη από τους τουρίστες
έκανε το ζεστό λουτρό της και μετά
ώρα πολλή μπροστά στον καθρέφτη
χτένιζε τα χρυσά μαλλιά της.
Η ομορφιά της ήταν για πάντα
σταματημένη μες στο χρόνο.
Τότε τον έβλεπε πάλι εκεί
σε κάποια σκοτεινή γωνιά να την παραμονεύει.
Ερχόταν πίσω της αθόρυβα
της άρπαζε τη μέση και το στήθος
και μαγκώνοντας τα λαγόνια της
με το ένα του πόδι
έμπηγε τη δυνατή του φτέρνα
στο πλάι του εξαίσιου μηρού της.
Καθόλου δεν την ξάφνιαζε
κάθε φορά που της ριχνόταν.
Άλλωστε το περίμενε, το είχε συνηθίσει πια.
Αντιστεκόταν τάχα σπρώχνοντας
με τον αγκώνα το φιλήδονο κεφάλι του
και καθώς χανόταν όλη
μες στην αρπάγη του κορμιού του
τον ένιωθε να μεταμορφώνεται
σιγά σιγά σε κένταυρο.
Τώρα η αλογίσια οπλή του
την πόναγε κάπου εκεί
γλυκά στο κόκαλο
και τον ονειρευότανε παραδομένη
ανάμεσα στο φόβο της και τη λαγνεία του
να τη λαξεύει ακόμη.
Translated by K.J.Koukas:
George Paulopoulos- The statue and the sculptor
As the museum was closing
late in the night Deidamia
came down from the pediment.
Tired from the tourists
she had her hot bath and then
hours in front of the mirror
she brushed her golden hair.
Her beauty was forever
‘trapped’ in time.
Then she saw him there again
in some dark corner lurking.
He came behind her silently
and grabbed her waist and breast
and ‘trapping’ her loins
with his one leg
he tamped his strong heel
and the side of her splendid thigh.
This did not surprise her at all
He threw himself at her all the time.
Besides she expected it, she was used to it by now.
She resisted as though she pushed
with her elbow his sensual head
and as her whole self got lost
in the gripping of his body
she felt him transforming
slowly slowly into a centaur.
Now his horse-like back
hurt her somewhat there
sweetly on the bone
and she dreamt of him surrendered (to him)
between her fear and his lust
as he lusted after her still.
I recently decided to go back in time and revisit some poems I looked at during my school years. I grew up in Greece and studied a lot of Greek poets. We would always focus on Greek authors, Greek poets, Greek history… etc. By the time I got to university I wanted something different so I disregarded anything to do with Greece. I had already discovered authors such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and poets such as Robert Browning but wanted to find more. Despite my ‘stand against’ anything Greek related it was inevitable for me to revisit a bit of my schooling. I will admit that I did like some of the poetry we studied and had to learn. Some have stuck with me and for the past few months I have been going through them. I have rediscovered poets such as; K.P. Kavafi, Odysseas Elitis, Giannis Ritsos and many more. While I was at home (over Christmas) I found my old text books from school, I was looking through them and found more poems, some that I had completely forgotten about.
This particular poem ‘The statue and the sculptor’ by George Paulopoulos is one of those that have just stuck with me. I could not remember who the poet was, but I did remember that the poem was about a statue coming alive after the museum closed for the day. (something like Night at the museum I guess!) When I was looking through my text book I found the title and I knew instantly that this was it. I have no clue why this particular one stuck with me. Is it because of my interest in Ancient history? Due to my degree? Who knows.
I have tried my best to translate this poem and I hope it works for the non-speaking-
West Pediment- Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs. Temple of Zeus. (found online)
Greek-poetry-fanatics out there. Before I start rambling about the poem let me give you some background to who the statue is meant to be and the mythology behind her. The statue is the nymph Deidamia and the whole story is the one depicted on the west pediment of Zeus’ temple in Olympia. It tells the story of the battle between the centaurs and the Lapiths. According to mythology the Lapiths were a people in Thessaly who lived near Pelion. The centaurs were creatures with the upper body of humans and the lower body of horses. The king of the Lapiths was getting married to the nymph Deidamia and amongst the guests were the centaurs. It is said that at the wedding celebration the king of the centaurs, Euripion, had a bit too much to drink and sexually attacked Deidamia. As you can imagine that did not go down well and a battle between the Lapiths and the centaurs commenced. This particular poem depicts the centaur Euripion violently embracing Deidamia.
As far as I remember from my school years and what I gather from reading it again after so many years is that the depiction of the battle depicts the battle between ‘spirit and animalistic passion’ towards something or someone who is god-like beautiful.
Life, the beauty of youth and the precious emotion of love remain for eternity, protected by the harsh passing of time. Deidamia waking up and becoming alive after the museum closes shows that her beauty has been ‘shielded’ and ‘preserved’ in the manner of being a statue. The sculptor, who is anonymous, made sure to preserve her beauty and offers her the possibility of immortality. He gives her the possibility to harness this youth for eternity, giving her a life away from the discreet eyes of the public.
Deidamia every night, after the closure of the museum, is able to release herself from the centaur’s tight embrace and is free to enjoy moments of peace, freedom and quietness. She is able to relax by having a bath and brush her golden hair… or does she? It can be argued that even though the night bathing and brushing of her hair might seem as means of relaxation, they are in fact a means of preparation for his reception. It is believed by some (according to my notes) that the centaur’s lust for our beloved nymph plays a key role to her immortal beauty and preservation. The sculptor, the man who carved the beauty of this young woman, is the one that is lurking in the dark corner, waiting for the opportune moment to grab her and lay his hands on his beautiful creation. He is the one who slowly turns into a centaur. He imitates the centaur from the myth and the scene on the pediment. He wants nothing more than to hold this beauty close to him. The sculptor’s passion for his creation is thus shown.
It is shown that she is used to his attacks, does this mean that she knows she belongs in his violent embrace? Her return to the Centaur is inevitable. She knows that she was created in his embrace and according to the story of the battle between Lapiths and Centaurs she eventually ends aggressively attacked by the Centaur. Her place is with the Centaur and in the end she will be in his tight embrace. Thus her freedom is brief, enough for her to have a bath and brush her hair. Her return to the Centaur’s embrace is immortal and repetitive as this happens every night. Both the Centaur and the sculptor want to be by her side.
Now according to my notes and from what I remember from my readings and research of this poem, the element of love and passion can be witnessed in this poem. The love and passion between the sculptor and his creation and between Deidamia and the Centaur. Some say that without passion and love there would be no meaning in life. As already mentioned it could be said that the sculptor and the Centaur are linked and both want to have Deidamia’s love. In addition, if the Centaur owns her body for eternity (by claiming it through his lust), then the sculptor owns her soul which he claimed with his creation of her and shielding her beauty forever.
I have no clue whether any of my rambling makes any sense to you. But I thought I should share this poem and my thoughts and ‘old school notes’. It is a good poem and it has stuck with me for a long time. I hope you enjoy it as much I do.
Battle between the Lapiths and Centaurs. Painting created by Luca Giordano
[any information about background and comments for the poem I consulted with my old school reports/notes from my-then-teacher and some little facts online]