Raising the sun over Greece

I am finding it difficult to write at the moment, partly due to the fact it’s winter and that always slows me down, and partly due to having a lot going on in my life recently. There are many things I want to blog about though that, come the spring, I hope to be able to cover: visits to Crete, Osios Loukas and Naxos; Minoan palaces and artefacts; and an account of my recent pilgrimage to Mt Athos, amongst other things. In the meantime, here’s a translation of a poem I came across recently thanks to my Greek tutor. It’s by a twentieth century poet called Angelos Sikelianos who had a house at Delphi and in 1927 tried to revive a Delphic festival.

The poem was written in 1945 as Greece was emerging from the war and the Nazi occupation and expresses the hope of a restoration of the country. Of course at that stage, the Civil War had not started and little did Sikelianos realise that the country had to suffer even more before it could start to renew itself. The central image of raising the sun has a very personal resonance for me in these dark days of winter.

“Spiritual March”

“Forward: help raise the sun over Greece;
forward, help raise the sun over the world!
Do you see its wheel stuck deep in the mud
And do you see its axle stuck deep in blood!
Forward, lads, you can’t raise the sun on your own
push with your knees and chest, let’s get it out of the blood
Look, let us lean on it, blood-brothers!
Forward, brothers, let it surround us with its fire!
Forward, forward, let its flame enfold us, my brothers!

Forward, creators!… Support your forward movement
With heads and feet, don’t let the sun sink!
Help me too, brothers, so I don’t sink with it…
What else can I do, it’s above me and inside me and around me,
I can’t do anything but revolve in a sacred vertigo with it!…

Thousands of bulls’ rumps support its base:
a double-headed eagle above me shakes
its wings and its cry roars
in my head, beside me and inside my soul,
and the far off and near-at-hand are all one to me now!…
Unprecedented, deep harmonies surround me! Forward, comrades,
Help me raise it, so that the Sun Spirit can come into being!

The new Word is approaching and will colour everything
in its new flame, mind and body, pure steel…
Our earth has been fertilised enough with human flesh…
Let us not let our rich and fertile lands
dry out from this deep blood bath,
richer and deeper than the first autumn rains!
Tomorrow each of us will go out with twelve pairs of oxen
to plough this blood-drenched earth…
May the bay tree flower over it and the tree of life spring up,
and our Vineyard stretch out to the ends of the earth…

Forward, lads, you can’t raise the sun on your own…
Push with your knees and chest, let’s get it out of the mud;
Push with your chest and knees, let’s get it out of the blood;
Push with hands and heads, so that the Sun Spirit blazes forth!”

 

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Winter trees in mist

A few shots taken just before Christmas on a walk in the local area. By climbing a hill I managed to get above the low lying mist to catch the sun breaking through, back lighting the trees and creating very atmospheric scenes.

 

Autumn colours at Stourhead

I’ve just got round to reviewing and processing photographs I took at Stourhead Gardens in October. The gardens were planned and built over a 40 year period in the mid-late 18th century by the Hoare family and are arranged around an artificial lake. Neoclassical buildings a grotto and follies are carefully located in this fascinating landscape. As you walk around the lake the vista is constantly changing, as you see the landscape from new angles, and of course so is the light. For photographers, it is endlessly challenging to try and capture it. But the best time of year to visit is the autumn when the colours of the trees are at their best. My visit didn’t quite coincide with peak autumn, but it wasn’t far off.

I have photographed this stand of trees many times and they always appear different: in some light conditions they just glow.

I really liked the dappled light beneath this old tree, but I couldn’t quite capture that elusive soft quality of the light filtering through the leaves:

I liked the circular pattern in this bush, implied by its reflection in the water.

Temple of Apollo in the background next to some of the most stunning tree colours and framed by the dark trunks in the foreground.

 

The tree on the left in the picture is a Tulip tree that was planted in 1791 and is probably my favourite tree in the gardens. I am always amazed that the people who were responsible  for planting the tree never saw it in its full glory, but they did it anyway, almost as a gift for future generations to enjoy. What beautiful legacies are we leaving for future generations?

Close up of the trunk of the above Tulip tree:

Looking across towards the Pantheon through the branches of the Tulip tree:

And finally a semi-abstract shot looking through the branches at the lake:

Jacarandas in southern Spain

Visiting Seville and Cadiz in June we kept seeing trees with wonderful blue flowers. It took us a little while and a bit of Googling to work out they are jacarandas. Why have I never come across these beautiful trees before?

This lovely specimen in the gardens of the Alcazar in Seville;

Outside the Alcazar in Jerez de la Frontera:

Close up:

Mushrooms in Seville

The Metropol Parasol in Seville – called the ‘Mushrooms’ by the locals – is a surreal sight that dominates La Encarnacion Square. It was designed by a German artist and installed in 2011. I love its honeycomb structure and how it changes in light and shade as you walk underneath it

 

It does overpower the Encarnacion church on the corner of the square, but on the other hand it gives a wonderful viewing point for it.