Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (Kolkata, 18 April 1809 – Kolkata, 26 December 1831) was a Bengali philhellene educator and poet of Portuguese descent and perhaps the first nationalist poet of Modern India.
He studied Greek philosophy, drama and classical literature and was influenced by the Greek values of liberty and justice which left a strong impact on his poetry and work. His emotional connection between Greece and India has a special place in his work, as both countries struggled at the same time for their independence from foreign yoke.
Derozio wrote a series of poems dedicated to ancient Greece, like, “Thermopylae”, “Greece”, “The Greeks at Marathon”, “Sappho” and others. His poem, “Address to the Greeks” was written in January, 1826, when the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Turks was at its peak.
ADDRESS TO THE GREEKS
STRIKE, strike, as your fathers of old would have done;
Unite, and the field with your liberty’s won:
O! shrink not to meet the high Moslem’s jurreed,*
The flash of his sabre, the tramp of his steed.
Achaian! rouse, rouse thee, the larum has peal’d;
To arms! or thy fate and thy country’s are seal’d;
One blow — ’tis for all that is dear to thy heart —
And wilt thou not strike it, but lettered depart ?
O! say, shall the Moslem in victory’s car,
Pass proudly?— Ye mountains! your floodgates unbar—
His rest be, old Ocean! beneath thy wild wave,
And gore from his heart shall empurple his grave.
Bold Theban! thy foeman his bosom has bared.
To war thou art welcomed — nay more — thou art dared.
Refuse not the summons — ^go forth to the strife.
And shout in the battle, ‘War! War! to the knife!’
O Greece! is the day of thy glory gone by?
When ‘Freedom’ the watchword was— ‘Death’ the reply—
When said the high matron, ‘ Yon field must be won;
Return with thy shield, or upon it, my son! ’
Is Sparta forgot — are her children no more?
Those hearts that were heroes in ages of yore- –
Or if they’re remembered, is’t but as a namc?
No! No! — they are beacons to light you to fame.
What banner is waving so wide on your tower?
What gonfalon’s streaming despite of your power?
O shame! ’tis the crescent that flashes so fair —
Down, down with it, Grecians! and plant your own there —
Bring out from the Haram the Mussulman’s slave,
The bride that he bought with a heart she ne’er gave;
She’ll bless you for breaking the chain that enthrals
Her life of lone sadness in pleasureless halls.
The Osmanlie’s daughter may shed o’er the bier
Of him she call’d ‘Father’ a soft single tear!
Yet joy shall soon flash from her dark gazelle eyes,
Because with her sire her captivity dies.
But heed her not yet — be your daring deed done —
The fight must be fought, and the field must be won;
Till then your frown dark on her beauty shall be,
Like the prow of the Corsair on Coron’s bright sea.
Arise ! quench your watchfires— no longer delay —
Your swords should be naked — their sheaths cast away:
The ground that ye tread, by your fathers was trod;
Their blood shed for freedom has hallowed the sod.
Beam, islands of Graecia! Beam, Hella’s blue tide,
With smiles that ye wore in the day of your pride;
The souls that ye bear shall be glorious and free.
As bright as your skies, and as pure as your sea!
Acknowledgement: We thank Priyadarshi Dutta for providing the source.
This post is also available in: Ελληνικα (Greek)