The Dead Brother’s Song
(Lyrics by Tania Christoforatou,
inspired by a 1000-year old Greek folk poem)
I lived with my brothers and my sister
and then I moved like a twister
I’d been riding on a dark cloud; I’d been a ghost rider
I’d been this life’s outsider
Mother, you had nine sons and an only daughter
beautiful like the sun, her voice clearer than water
We were living happily all together in a quiet place,
at a quiet pace, out of time and space…
Matchmakers came from Babylon asking her to go get married far away
Everyone said no, but I said “It is okay”
“we’ll travel abroad, we’ll travel around,
we’ll see other places, away from this town”
“What will happen” asked my mother “if I fall sick on the bed
if I fall ill, if I fall dead?”
“Who will go get my daughter back
who will fill up her lack?”
It was then that the knot was tied; it was then that the rivers dried;
it was the moment I regret until now; it was then that I took the sacred vow:
I swore to the sky, I swore to the earth,
that in case an illness, an urgency or death,
would hit our house, my brothers, my mother
I wouldn’t let her a moment to suffer
I would ride my horse, as fast as the wind
to bring back our sister for her to be relieved.
With these words of mine, everyone was convinced
and my sister was married and left for the east.
But without her, our life turned dark and there ceased every feast.
Days were coming and going and our sorrow increased.
Then, a leap-year flew in with the black wings of disease
and my brothers were swept over like yellow leaves at the breeze.
I soon followed their way towards the tomb
and our mother was left alone in despair and gloom.
She was weeping and wailling and pounding her chest,
through the soil of my grave I heard her voice repeating a request:
“How are you going to keep your promise, my son,
now that darkness has covered the light of sun?”
Her grieving voice grabbed me through my gravestone
and pulled me out, as a frozen hand, bone by bone.
I was mounted on a dark cloud by the same force
and it dashed forward as a wild horse.
We rode in the day, we rode at night
and I found my sister combing her hair under the moonlight.
I asked her to come with me back to our mother
She asked in dismay, “Why, my brother,
why have you come at this time of the night?
Is it for merriment, is it for happiness
is it for sorrow, is it for sadness?
If it’s for joy let me wear a nice dress
Or let me dress in black if it’s for distress.”
“Come, sister, now, as quickly as possible”
I grabbed her and sat her on the horse back
And the cloud rashed towards our mother’s broken heart.
On the way back, we heard ravens talking in human voice
saying that no one would rejoice
if he saw a beautiful girl pulled over by a freaking dead.
These words striked terror into her heart
and she asked me if I heard what the ravens said.
I told her to close her ears to words without any sense
And she asked me in panic why I smelled of incense,
where my beauty had gone, where I’d lost all my hair.
Didn’t know what to answer, I was in dispair.
We finally arrived at the graveyard church
where the crows were nesting on a tall silver birch
My grave was here and my mother was near.
We got off the horse and she ran to her full of fear.
They embraced and dropped dead without shedding a tear.
The curse was broken and I felt relief and pain
and another force dragged me down to the dark earth domain
And my soul calmed down and my heart felt no fear
‘cause the oath was completed and the debt disappeared…
you can read the poem in Greek here