Friday, 1 September 2017

A misty morning in September
ushers in autumn in Askeaton

A misty morning ushers in the month of September and the beginning of autumn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

September arrived as a misty morning, and the sun took some time to break through the haze that covered the Rectory gardens until mid-morning.

The rain was so heavy yesterday that the Desmond Rowing Club cancelled rowing on the River Deel in the evening. There is no doubt that summer is over and that autumn has arrived.

It has been a fresh autumn day, with bright sunshine. Hopefully the sun stays for the weekend, and the Askeaton Regatta, which has already been postponed once, can go ahead on Sunday afternoon [3 September 2017].

But there is a noticeable change in temperature. The T-shirts have gone back into the wardrobe, probably to stay there until I head back to Greece in April.

I was writing this morning about how I had returned from Athens last week with a box-set of four CDs, 40 χρόνια Μαρία Φαραντούρη, subtitled The Very Best of Maria Farantouri, that includes a collection of 80 songs recorded by Maria Farantouri, many of them from her close work with the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.

But one of the songs missing from this collection is Τον Σεπτέμβριο θυμάμαι (Ton Septémvrio Thimámai, ‘I remember in September’), which she recorded to a setting by Theodorakis, first written for a translation by the Greek writer and poet Vasilis Rotas of Brendan Behan’s poem, ‘The Captains and the Kings.’



Τον Σεπτέμβριο θυμάμαι Στίχοι, Brendan Behan και Βασίλης Ρώτας; μουσική, Μίκης Θεοδωράκης

Το Σεπτέμβριο θυμάμαι όταν άδειαζαν οι πάγκοι
κι έπαψ’ ή βουή του κόσμου, πήγαν τα παιδιά για τσάι.
Άσε μας θεέ ψηλά, να θυμόμαστε τ’ απλά
τώρα που έχουν πια πεθάνει
όλοι που μας αγαπάνε, λοχαγοί και βασιλιάδες.

Πέρα στην παλιά μας Κύπρο και στην Κένυα την καημένη
όλοι εκεί βασανισμένοι μαύροι κι άσπροι από τους άσπρους.
Και στα ξωτικά τα μέρη κι όπου ρίξουμε το μάτι
το κουδούνι του σχολείου στο μισό Μπέλφαστ σημαίνει
κι αχ, ή Αγγλία μας ή καημένη, λοχαγοί και βασιλιάδες.

Σκόνταψα σ’ ένα βραχνά μου και στο πάρκο κει του Ουΐνδσορ,
τι θαρρείτε κει πώς ηύρα, περπατώντας στο σκοτάδι;
Μισοδαγκωμένο μήλο και το πιο αστείο απ’ όλα
χαραγμένα πέντε δόντια
πέντε δόντια από παιδάκι, λοχαγοί και βασιλιάδες.

The translation is part of the translation by Vassilis Rotas of Brendan Behan’s play, The Hostage, which was staged in Athens 55 years ago, in late 1962. Immediately after that staging, four songs were released by Dora Giannakopoulou.

By the songs attracted the wrath of the Greek censors. Theodorakis decided to bypass the censors and to make the songs available to a wider audience and to release the words through the newspaper Avgi, inviting to readers to bring along a blank tape.

Later, Alekos Patsifas recorded the first album with full orchestra with the composer. An album was recorded with Maria Farantouri in 1966, but because of the colonels’ junta it took another seven years before it was released.

The song tells of a young English soldier is being held hostage in a Dublin brothel in reprisal for an IRA prisoner who is to be hanged in a Belfast prison. The hostage falls in love with an Irish maid servant, but his death will put an end to love and to life.

Vassilis Rotas presents the militant progressive spirit as a challenge to nationalist insanity and religious fanaticism that demand the sacrifice of an innocent victim.


Διονύσης Σαββόπουλος - Τον Σεπτέμβριο θυμάμαι

The song has become a regular part of the repertoire of Greek singers and performers on stage and on television, such as Dionysis Savvopoulos a popular singer-songwriter from Thessaloniki.

Savvopoulos has been politically active throughout his career in music, and he was briefly imprisoned by the colonels and beaten in 1967 for his political convictions.


A bilingual version of ‘I remember in September’ by Alexia and Dimitris Tsopanellis

A bilingual version of ‘I remember in September,’ has been recorded in English and Greek by Alexia and Dimitris Tsopanellis.



An English language version, set to the music by Mikis Theodorakis, was recorded by Julie Dennis with other Theodorakis composition in Munich in 1995.

The Captains and the Kings, by Brendan Behan

I remember in September, when the final stumps were drawn,
And the shouts of crowds now silent, and the boys to tea have gone
Let us, oh Lord above us, still remember simple things
When all are dead who love us, oh the Captains and the Kings
When all are dead who love us, oh the Captains and the Kings.

We have many goods for export, Christian ethics and old port,
But our greatest boast is that the Anglo-Saxon is a sport
When the darts game is finished, and the boys their game of rings
And the draughts and chess relinquished, oh the Captains and the Kings
And the draughts and chess relinquished, oh the Captains and the Kings.

Far away in dear old Cyprus, or in Kenya’s dusty land
Where we bear the white man’s burden in many a strange land
As we look across our shoulder, in West Belfast the school bell rings
And we sigh for dear old England, and the Captains and the Kings
And we sigh for dear old England, and the Captains and the Kings.

In our dreams we see old Harrow, and we hear the crow’s loud caw
At the flower show our big marrow takes the prize from Evelyn Waugh
Cups of tea and some dry sherry, vintage cars, these simple things
So let’s drink up and be merry, oh the Captains and the Kings
So let’s drink up and be merry, oh the Captains and the Kings.

I stumbled in a nightmare all around Great Windsor Park
And what do you think I found there as I wandered in the dark?
’Twas an apple half-bitten, and sweetest of all things
Five baby teeth had written of the Captains and the Kings
Five baby teeth had written of the Captains and the Kings.

By the moon that shines above us in the misty morn and night
Let us cease to run ourselves down, and praise God that we are white
And better still are English, tea and toast and muffin rings
Old ladies with stern faces, and the Captains and the Kings
Old ladies with stern faces, and the Captains and the Kings.

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