A mother mourns her son
May of 1936. A mother, in the middle of a street, laments for her
dead, killed child. AIl around, demonstrators, tobacco workers on
strike, pass by her and over her, like human waves during their
powerful protest. She keeps on lamenting."
"I wrote Epitaph, - Yannis Ritsos states some
years later (1978) -, at a time when aIl the intellectual movements
around the world were creating diversions from tradition... as a
fortification of our national, racial identity through purely folklore
.For me my senses, my basic auditory perception, come from the people.
And this is what came out of me. It is what I sang, danced, and listened
to, since I was a child."
The initial form of the poem was printed on the Athenian newspaper RIZOSPASTIS*,
on May 12 of 1936, by the title LAMENTATION. Its' first publication
on a book volume followed, by the title EPITAPHIOS (1936). ln
1956, the second and final publication was presented.
Theodorakis, who set the poem to music, in Paris on the year 1958, has
written about it:
"As we are, more or less, part of EAM** and we belong to the
Communist party, and as the elections of 1958 were approaching, we decided
to celebrate them in advance, in our own homes It was like as if we
had a presentiment about the 28% that EDA**" was going to receive
Il was during those days, that I started receiving from Yannis Ritsos,
one after another, the books he began republishing upon his retum from
exile. I remember his dedication to me, on the volume of EPITAPHIOS:
"This book was bumt by Metaxas"****, in 1938, under the
columns of Zeus the OIympian" *****...
Il was raining outside and I stayed in the car. By coincidence, I had
taken the copy of EPITAPHIOS with me and, while I was browsing
through the pages, I felt a deep, strong desire to set the poem to music.
... When I retumed home, I wrote down some of the songs and I rehearsed
them on the piano. I wanted to sing them that night to our group of
friends, mainly to see their reactions. And so il happened...
... I made three copies of EPITAPHIOS and mailed them to Yannis
Ritsos, Vyron Sarnios and Manos Chatzidakis.
In a short while spring was about to come which is the most beautiful
season in Paris."
from the book POETRY SET TO MUSIC by Mikis Theodorakis
The newspaper of the Greek Communist Party
** Greek initiaIs for National Liberation Front, a group created during
the Second World War by Communists, to fight against the Germans "
*** Greek initials for the Communist Party, at the time
**** Dictator, Prime Minister of Greece before and during the Second World
***** ancient monument in the centre of Athens