Worthy it is!/Axion Esti!

Milos,Sarakiniko-an out of this world sparkling white rock cove.

Time to look straight at Summer's eyes!
Unrelenting sun, a blessed sea and the emptiness of the wild rocks.
Time to fill up depleted batteries with my all time favorite hymn to everything beautiful and hurtful in this small corner of the globe.

Odysseus Elytis 
"Worthy it is!" "Axion Esti" in Greek, the epic poem by Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996) Elytis was a major poet of the '30s generation,one of the two Greeks Nobel laureates.
He was awarded the Nobel for Literature in 1979 "for his poetry,which,against the background of Greek tradition,depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clear-sightedness modern man's struggle for freedom and creativeness"
Axion Esti is a momentous poem encompassing millenia. It is structured like the Bible,starting with Genesis and ending with the glorious "Hail to this little, enormous world!"
Mikis Theodorakis,the top composer of that generation, transformed it into an oratory for two single singers, a narrator and the chorus.
It still is one of the best known and beloved poems/songs in Greece.

I first heard it during the dictatorship years...in secret of course as it was prohibited. 
Summer of 1972 it was ,in a deserted beach in Santorini facing the blue rocks of far away Anafi.
It was a revelation!
Everything was there: war, death, birth, love, history, the islands, the mountains, rivers,blood...
I mean, if I was allowed to take one and only one poem with me to a deserted planet ,"Axion Esti" would have been it.

The words "axion esti" "worthy it is"  are the first words of a praise to Mary Mother of Christ. ("Worthy it is to praise thee... etc")
The specific icon "Axion Esti" is kept in Athos monastery communities in northern Greece. Elytis used the structuring of the praise hymn to write the last part of his poem.

I love it all,but my favorite part is the final one, Doxastikon
(Doxa meaning glory in Greek).
 I dared-and Elytis spirit I hope will forgive my folly-to translate some of the verses in English,as I haven't been able to find any translation in the Internet...
It is extremely difficult to keep the whole meaning of some words,so I took some liberties and translated the feeling they convey.

I thank the guy who uploaded the video in YouTube.

Worthy is the Light
and the first,etched in stone,wish of man
The vigor of the animal that guides the sun
The plant that twittered and gave birth to Day

(Worthy is)
The Earth that plunges and then raises its neck,
like a stone horse ridden by the open sea
A myriad of little blue voices
and a huge white head of Poseidon

(Worthy is)
The shepherd winds officiating in the rites,
heaving the sea in their embrace like the Mother of God,
The winds who blow and set the oranges on fire
who whistle upon the mountaintops and rush down.

The smooth cheeked apprentices of tempest,
the runners who crossed the heavenly miles,
Hermes' with pointed hats,
and the black smoke as their caduceus.

Maistros ,Levante,Garbis
(names of different winds in Greek sea argot)

Worthy is the wooden table
The blond wine with a spot of sun
Water's sparkles dancing on the ceiling
and in the corner a philodendron plant in readiness

Stone fences and waves hand in hand
A footprint gathering wisdom off the sand
A cicada who convinced thousands of others
Consciousness all dressed in light like Summer

The islands with the soot and the ship's paint
The islands with the white spondylus of Zeus
The islands with the deserted shipyards
The islands with the potable blue volcanoes,
sailing against the summer winds,
sailing with all sails open,
foaming on all sides with purple shells and sunflowers.

Sifnos, Amorgos, Alonnisos,
Cos, Ios,Sikinos

Last summer in Milos on a full moon night
Hail the Burning one and hail the Nonburnable
Hail the Unrepentant with the front-bow sword
Hail She who walks and all scars are erased
Hail She who wakes and all miracles happen
Hail the Wild one of the deep water Paradise
Hail the Saint of the deserted islands
Hail the Mother of dreams
Hail the Seaborne
Hail the bearer of anchors and the five pointed stars.
Hail She, who dyes the wind in gold with her unbound hair
Hail She, who subdues the demon with her sweet voice
Hail She, who edits the monthlies of gardens
Hail She, who wears the belt of the Serpent Constellation
PS. Sorry for not translating the whole last part. I couldn't possibly do the verses any justice....


  1. What a marvelous poem. So thought-provoking. I wonder what many of the lines mean...this poem is the sort that an instructor could probably spend a lot of time on, explaining each line, how they inter-relate to others, and the larger meaning.

    Very interesting and cool, Desi! Thank you for sharing this! (I want to look at the YouTube video but I will have to wait since Steve is playing Black Ops fps!)

  2. By the way, the full moon picture you took is so wonderful that it could be the heart of a poem all by itself! :)

  3. Thank you so much for your own beautiful words in the translation of this amazing poem. I am fortunate to have discovered it.
    motherofall, November 24, 1911

  4. Thanks for translating this! I stumbled across this poet while wikipedia-hopping. Glad I found it.

  5. Very much thanks for translating this !!!!