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The Sea in the Erotókritos Wim F. Bakker and Dia M. L. Philippides It may surprise the reader of the Erotókritos to learn that the poem does not contain many actual mentions of the sea. The Western prototype on which the Greek romance is based (the Provençal romance Paris et Vienne, transmitted either through the verse translation into Italian by Albani or through an Italian prose translation)l contains, as is usual in such adventure stories, extensive travel on the sea.2 Furthermore, the Erotókritos is the work of a Cretan poet, Vitséntzos Kornáros. Living in a town close to the coast, would he not have been likely to refer often to the medium surrounding his island? Words for the sea, however (θάλασσα, Ï€Î-λαγος, γιαλός, βυθός, τα βάθη, and τα βαθιά) occur in the approximately 10,000 verses of the Erotókritos a total of less than fifty times.3 These occurrences are clustered together in fewer than thirty passages, and most of them contain imagery of the sea used figuratively in connection with battles or the major theme of the love story. The real sea actually appears in only two passages.4 In fact, the rarity with which the real sea appears in the Erotókritos contrasts sharply with its more frequent presence in other works of the Cretan Renaissance.5 Did the poet of the romance have his reasons for using this element so sparingly?6 This short study attempts to ascertain the function of the motif of the sea in relation to the structure of the entire work. The first time that the sea is mentioned is in A 639—644. After being charmed by Erotókritos' singing to her at night, Aretousa learns of his skill in combatting ten of the king's men sent to discover the hidden identity of the singer. According to the narrator, she confesses to her nurse, Frosini, that her mind is all at sea, in deep and murky waters (A 641-642): Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 6, 1988. 97 98 Wim F. Bakker and Dia M. L. Philippides πάντα'ναιονουςτσησταβαθιά,πάντασταμπεϕδεμÎ-να καιπάντασταθολάνεϕάκ'ειςτ'ανεκατωμÎ-να... Reference to the sea returns in A 1623-1642. At the house of Erotókritos Aretousa has just seen her picture and the verses for the songs that reveal to her the identity of her secret admirer. Frosini tries to warn her against the dangers of this love. Aretousa admits the correctness of her nurse's reasoning, but adds that it is easy to talk when you are standing safely on the shore; being in love is similar to sailing on a ship on a stormy sea; the lack of concern shown by the onlookers is contrasted to the active fear of the person on board. Who else could speak of the dangers so accurately as he? Îαιγνίδιμάσεφαίνεται,τοδοϕμεφουσκωμÎ-νη από μακϕά τη θάλασσα κι άγϕια και θυμωμÎ-νη 1630 μεκϕματαάσπϕακαιθολά,βϕυγιάανακατωμÎ-να, καιταχαϕάκιαάντεκτυποϕνκιαφϕίζουνÎ-νανÎ-να καιτοκαϕάβιαμπώθουσιμεμάνηταμεγάλη στηφουσκωμÎ-νηθάλασσασεμιαμεϕάκ'ειςάλλη κ' εκείνους το' ανακατωμοϕς και ταϕαχÎ-Ï‚ γϕοικοϕμε 1635 καιδίχωςφόβοαπόμακϕάγελώνταςτσιθωϕοϕμε· μακείνοςπουσταβάθητηςείναικαικιντυνεϕγει καιναγλυτώσηαπ'τησκληϕάξετϕÎ-χεικαιγυϕεϕγει, αυτόςκατÎ-χεινασουπήκιαπόκϕισηναδώση ίντά 'ναι ο φόβος του γιαλοϕ, αν είναι και γλυτώση, 1640 καιτωνκυμάτωοπόλεμοςκαιτωνανÎ-μωημάχη, και δε γνωϕίζει το κακό κιανείς, α δεν του λάχη. (A 1629-1642) Aretousa expresses herself here through the generic plural εμείς. Although she certainly implies that she is the person out at sea, she still keeps her distance, ranging herself with the onlookers—the εμείς—on the shore.7 When the passage continues in A 1675—1678, however, Aretousa already speaks more directly: "Love has placed me in deep waters" (. . . και μ' όλο που η αγάπη / μ' Î-βαλε σε βαθιά νεϕά ... : A 1675—1676). There is no longer any question of keeping at a distance. The motif of the sea reappears in B 555—562. Erotókritos arrives at the forum in his white, gold, and silver cloak to take part in the joust. Of all the warriors Aretousa has eyes only for him, seeing him through the mist of her feelings as a bright star like the one by which a sailor steers his ship, in fear and trembling, when a storm overtakes him at night (B 555-558):8 Κιωσάνοναϕτηςστηχιονιάκαιστηνπολλήναντάϕα, όντετηνϕκτακυβεϕνάμεφόβοκαιτϕομάϕα, Erotókritos 99 πάντατουÎ-ν'άστϕοσυντηϕά,στηστϕάτατηνοδεϕγει, μ'εκείνοσάζειτάϕμενα,μ'εκείνοτιμονεϕγει... After the jousting which takes up most of Book B, in Γ 151 — 158 Frosini tries to talk Aretousa out of her love for Erotókritos, warning her that because of their different status their affair is doomed. She says: "My child, if only you could have a dream and see on what a deep and angry sea you are entering, you would then act as bravely as possible, save yourself, and give up your love for Erotókritos" (Γ 155-158...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 97-116
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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