THE GREEK 15 / SYLLABES VERSE
The fifteen syllables verse is the national verse of Greeks, the most popular among the modern Greeks poets, “the deeper waving of our speech”, as the poet George Seferis wrote. Morphologically, in that iambic flow, it keeps for ten centuries, at least. Of course, not the only way to poetry, but we owe to that a great deal of respect. It is the verse of the Folk song in the Cretan literature [namely the poets Vitsenzos Kornaros(1553-1614 AD), George Hortatzis (1550-1660 AD),Marinos Bounialis(1645-1669 AD), Michael Dialynas called also as Dialynomichalis (1853-1927 AD), etc..], of Dionysius Solomos(1798-1857 AD), of Aristotelis Valaoritis (1824-1879 AD) and other poets, like Kostis Palamas (1859-1943 AD), Achilles Paraschos (1838-1895 AD), Alexandros Pallis (1851-1935 AD), Gerasimos Markoras (1826-1911 AD), Iakovos Polylas (1825-1896 AD), Demetrios Vikelas(1835-1908 AD), Aggelos Sikelianos (1884-1951 AD), George Seferis (1900-1971 AD), Nikos Gatsos (1911-1992 AD), Giannis Ritsos (1909-1990 AD) and others.
During the reign of Justinian, (482 – 565 A C.), Romanos the Melodist (6th Century AD) often used this kind of metric into his religious hymns and especially, as original verse turning (“houses”) for his famous “kontakia”- (hymns to God)
If Romanos believed that Greece is the home of rhyme from the epoch of Homer, we do not know, but we believe that he knew how the “fifteen syllables verses” could been created from two meters of iambic and four meters the lyrics and afterwards the tragic and comic poets. Even more from the works of the ancient Greeks in dactylic hexameter, we find verses that hide … fifteen syllables verses. (from the precious book of John Tzavara)
Our prolific writer, Plutarch (46-127 AD) from Boeotia (priest of Apollo), wrote during the year125 AD the interest treatise “On the non-metrical use now of Pythia” that, without knowing it himself began with two fifteen syllables verses.
The love of Byzantine emperors with poetry is well known. Leo VI the Wise (912 AD) composed the amazing from every aspect 11 Matutinal Lauds and his son Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (959 AD) composed 11 Matutinal Hymns (Exapostilaria), which are only sung on Sundays, before the Divine Liturgy. Deep connoisseur of poetry and metric, Constantine, he did not hesitate, as Romanos much before, to start these beautiful matutinal hymns of Sundays and their Hymns to Virgin Mary with two fifteen syllables verses with dissimilar rhymes.
After Emperor Constantine VII, appeared in the poetry a clergyman, Symeon, named the New Theologian (1022 AD) who, although “in measureless, meter made” wrote countless fifteen syllables verses in the multitude (9000) of his lyrics.
The iambic 15/syllable designated and as “prose” always fit to the popular words, in proverbs, jokes and expression of feelings. Many scholars poets used it for many reasons, some anonymously and others mentioning their names. Slowly that verse has been loved, became traditional and began to be found in many themes. In his metric structure were defined and enforced rules, mandatory: Section (breathing) after the eighth syllable, which creates two colons = hemistiches (8 + 7 syllables). The accentuation exists on syllables sixth, eighth, and, of course, in the penultimate. Rhythmically, they are accentuated the even syllables (2, 4, 6 etc…). The first two syllables have freedom of word’s accentuation Thus, such a verse may begin i.e. With: When … (i.e. with accentuation of the first syllable). Much later, “daring” poets, to avoid monotony, applied innovations to their 15/syllables poems. Our national poet Dionysios Solomos, himself and also the following, Kostis Palamas, have carried away by “outside influences” and led many of their verses in larger freedoms. Until 1940, some of our poets, following the recipe, escaped entirely, writing any more in free verses, liberated from meters.
The iambic 15/syllable, the traditional, has be honored with the supreme title of “national verse”, since, apart from its enormous history, could inspire our national poets, to create immortal writing works of that poetic kind.
With the iambic fifteen syllables verse paved the way for the Byzantine scholars to praise the heroic deeds of the defenders of byzantine borders. So, either spontaneously or influenced by European «romans», came to their lips and have been recorded poems with many verses which from 900 until 1200 AD constituted the so-called “Acritical circle”.(Akritikos Kyklos). They are the saved poems for Digenis Akritas, but also other, which painstakingly and with love have been gathered by great scientists, writers and folklorists. May be the Greeks well educated, before 1821 AD have showed some interest for these poems, but also renowned philhellenic poets have not come behind. For this, the movement of Riga Ferreos (1757-1798 AD), completed in 1798, brought it out the Frenchman Claude Foriel in1824, enhancing greatly the Greek Revolution. It is the first recognized collection of Greek poems entitled “Folk songs of modern Greece.”
In addition to the anonymous poets of Acritical cycle until the fall of Constantinople to the Franks (1204), were two scholars whose work is very important, so much for overall and the 15 / syllable verses. They are: Theodore Prodromos (1100-1170 AD) and John Tzetzis (1110-1180 AD).
The 15/syllables verses, so much in Acritical circle, and as in these two scholars are with dissimilar rhymes. Presumably, the creators want to avoid the rhyme, not because it will not impressed, but because it will influenced the listener or reader to the pre-recognition of the termination of the line, so he will lose the meaning and richness of other verses. Probably, also, with the lack of commitment by the rhyme, they will saw a greater possibility of choice: of words, imagery and expression.
During the 14th century the 15/syllable verse obtains a new identity and is updated with the introduction of the paired rhyme in the New Greek literature, beginning with Stephano Sachliki (1331-1391 AD), in Crete.
Since then and until now, the 21st century, where mainly is dominated the modern free-versed Poetry, the Greek poets left immortal monuments of Poetic Art, written with 15/syllable rhyming verses.
After the easily measured verse the poet Kostis Palamas has made the largest experiments into the 15/syllable verse and applied new rhythms with metric tricks. So slowly opened the door in the early 19th century, for “the sandy-bank of the free verse,” after he had “digest” very well the “rock” of 15/syllables verse.
The 20th century is very well established the free verse in Greek literature which are enriching with pure modernist material, the poets of this generation offering to Mother-Greece two Nobel Prizes of Poetry.
Scholar of Greek Poetry
Athens-Greece June 21, 2016