A lot of these are going to be Modern Greek. This included.
Nikolaos Politis’ 1914 collection of Greek folk song was defining, not only for Greek folklore studies, but for the formation of Modern Greek identity. Generations learned how to be Greek from the songs published in the collection; and generations missed out on hearing the actual tunes.
In discussion with Turks here, we’ve noticed that while Turkish and Greek music are very similar, there is a sense of abandon in Turkish, and a sense of restraint in Greek song. Politis was aware of that too, and there was one song in particular he registered his disapproval of. In its excess of feeling, he said, this cannot have been Greek in origin. It must have come from the east.
Like Dionysus himself, you might say:
It is obvious that this is nothing but an image in the form of hyperbole depicting the wondrous redness of the beloved maiden’s lips. Of course, this hyperbole appears to belong rather to an Asian poet, and is alien to the restraint of Greek folk poetry.
It has indeed an excess of feeling. It is wonderful. I put it up on my website 15 years ago: Red Lip.
Κόκκιν’ αχείλι φίλησα κι έβαψε το δικό μου
Και το μαντίλι το ’συρα κι έβαψε το μαντίλι.
Και στο ποτάμι το ’πλυνα κι έβαψε το ποτάμι.
Κι έβαψε η άκρη του γιαλού κι η μέση του πελάγου.
Κατέβη ο αϊτός να πιεί νερό κι έβαψαν τα φτερά του.
Κι έβαψε ο ήλιος ο μισός και το φεγγάρι ακέριο.
I kissed my love’s red lip; her lip, it reddened mine.
I wiped mine with a cloth; the cloth, it went all red.
I washed it in the stream; the stream, it went all red.
Red now the seashore’s edge, red the midst of the main.
The eagle came to drink; its wings, they went all red;
red now is half the sun, red now the moon entire.
Googling the lyric, I found that it was set to music in 1989. (Remember, Politis didn’t bother recording the tunes.)
It’s a red letter day when the first comment you see on a YouTube page is not only not stupid, it’s in fact from the singer-songwriter:
A friend pointed the traditional verses out to me. In two days I composed the tune and the parts, then I sang it in the recording. I was 25 years old. Thank you for uploading it. Nikos Grapsas.