“Funeral Oration for Lord Byron” by Demetrios Galanos the Athenian

Excerpt from the book by Dr Miltiadis A. Spyrou “Dimitrios Galanos-His life and unknown work in India,” Athens 2023: ELINEPA Publications.


SIR, — The following Funeral Oration in, honour of Lord Byron was delivered in the Greek Church of Calcutta on Sunday the 17th of October, 1824, by the Rev. Father Ambrosius, the officiating priest. The prayers for the dead which preceded it and which are referred to in the Discourse itself do not, it is true, consist with the faith of Protestants. But overlooking this, the whole service should be regarded chiefly as the overflowing of a few grateful hearts for the benefits which his Lordship rendered and designed to render to their loved and venerated country. Considered in this point of view it does equal honour to themselves and the subject of their eulogy.
Although the Reverend Gentleman already mentioned delivered the oration, he does not lay claim to the merits of the composition. These are considerable. It is written not in the Modern, but in the Ancient Greek, and, although there is an exuberance of epithet, and at least one word occurs for which it may be difficult to adduce sufficient authority, yet it could only have been written by one who is familiar with the master spirits of ancient times. The author is, I understand, a Greek gentleman resident at Benares and of distinguished achievements in Sanskrit literature as well as in that of his native tongue. He has lived at that focus of Hindoo superstition and learning for the last twenty-five years, has conformed to the modes of life and to the religious prejudices of the natives by whom he is surrounded, and has translated into the language of Homer and of Plato some of the most valuable remains of Brahmanical learning. It is a matter of regret and surprise that he is so little known, and that the enlightened Government of this country have not conferred upon him their patronage and availed themselves of the advantages of his unwearied and valuable labours.
Calcutta, Oct. 21, 1824. W. A.

Λογίδριον Νεκρώσιμον
Πολλοί αλλογενείς, άνδρες μεγαλόφρονες και μεγαλόψυχοι, φιλέλληνες και φιλελεύθεροι, εβοήθησαν μετά προθυμίας, άλλοι μεν λόγω, άλλοι δε σώματι, κατά τούτον τον αγώνα υπέρ ελευθερίας, αυτονομίας, και ευνομίας της Ελλάδος. αλλ’ ὁ Λόρδος Βειρώνιος υπερβαίνει πάντας.
Αυτός ο ένδοξος και μέγας ανήρ, αυτός ὁ κορυφαίος των ποιητών, άφηκε και συγγενείς και φίλους, άφηκε και πάσαν άνεσιν και ανάπαυσιν, άφηκε και την ήσυχον ζωήν, και την μετά των Μουσών διατριβήν, άφηκε και τον γραφικόν κάλαμον και λαβών ρομφαίαν ήλθε μετά προθυμίας και χαράς αυτόκλητος εις ξένους ανθρώπους, δια χάριν και βοήθειαν της θείας ελευθερίας κατά της δαιμονικής τυραννίδος. Έλαβεν όπλα εις χείρας, έφανε φιλοκίνδυνος ο φιλήσυχος, και φιλοπόλεμος ο φιλόμουσος, και ήλθεν εις μέσον πολλών πόνων και καμάτων, εις μέσον πολυειδών κινδύνων και θανάτων. Ήλθε δε ουχί μόνος, αλλά μεθ’ όλου του εαυτού πλούτου. Ήλθεν ως φιλόκαλος και καλοκάγαθος, ίνα θύση την εαυτού ψυχήν, ίνα διασκορπίση και την εαυτού περιουσίαν, εις αντίληψιν και ανάστασιν της πεσούσης Ελλάδος, της μητρός των παλαιών Σοφών και των αρχαίων Ηρώων.
Η παρουσία τοιούτου ενδόξου και περιώνυμου ανδρός, το στρατιωτικόν αυτού σχήμα, οι ρητορικοί και συμβουλευτικοί αυτού λόγοι, τα ηρωικά και ελευθερικά αυτού φρονήματα, και τα πολλά προς τούτοις, ά έφερε, χρήματα, νέον θάρρος ενθουσιασμόν ενέσταξαν εις την καρδίαν απάσης της Ελλάδος.
Νέα ευθύς τάγματα συνεκροτήθησαν. Νέαι εκστρατείαι παρεσκευ-άσθησαν. Φρονήματα νέα και μεγάλα έλαβον οι γενναίοι παίδες της Ελλάδος. Ελπίδες νέαι και μεγάλαι ανεφάνησαν της παντελούς καταστροφής του Τυράννου. Σημεία αίσια ανέλαμψαν νέων τροπαίων και θριάμβων. Εν ένι λόγῳ, εκ της παρουσίας τοιούτου μεγάλου και χαριτοβρύτου ανδρός μεγάλη χαρά και αγαλλίασις και ελπίς ην καθ’ όλην την Ελλάδα. Οι δε εχθροι ακούοντες ανεταράττοντο, εξεθαμβέοντο, και απηλπίζοντο.
Αλλ’ ουαί! Εν μέσῳ τοιαύτης μεγάλης χαράς, εν μέσῳ τοιούτων και τοσούτων ελπιζομένων αγαθών απεσπάσθη αώρως ύπο του πικρού και ασπλάγχνου θανάτου αυτός ο ένδοξος και μέγας ανήρ αυτός ο ένθερμος και άδολος φίλος της Ελλάδος και της ελευθερίας! Η αλλαγή κλίματος της γης και η κακουχία της στρατιωτικής ζωής αιτίαι εγένοντο θανάτου τοιούτου πολυτιμητού υποκειμένου.
Άπασα η Ελλάς ευγνωμονούσα εθρηνολόγησεν, ως έπρεπε, και εμελανοφόρησε δια τον άωρον θάνατον αυτού του φιλέλληνος και φιλελευθέρου Άγγλου, αυτού του αείμηστου και αθανάτου ανδρός, και κατά το έθος της Εκκλησίας ημών νεκρώσιμοι τελεταί ετελέσθησαν καθ’ όλην την Ελλάδα ὑπέρ αναπαύσεως της ψυχής αυτού του μεγαλόψυχου ανδρός, ου το μεν Σώμα εστάλθη εις Αγγλίαν, ή δε Καρδία μένει εν Ελλάδι ίνα τεθή εν Μαυσωλείῳ, όπερ κατασκευασθήσεται μεγαλοπρεπώς εις σημείον ευγνωμοσύνης και εις μνημόσυνον αιώνιον.
Και ημείς δε οι ενταύθα πάροικοι μιμούμενοι την Ελλάδα την πατρίδα ημών κατά την ευγνωμοσύνην, ταύτην την Νεκρώσιμον Τελευτήν τελούμεν, θρηνωδούντες, και του Κυρίου καὶ θεού ημών δεόμεθα ταπεινώς, ίνα αναπαύση αυτόν τον φιλέλληνα και φιλάνθρωπον άνδρα, και ίνα κατατάξη αυτόν εν χόροις δικαίων.

Many highly gifted and magnanimous strangers, friends of the Greeks and of liberty, have zealously aided them in their struggle for freedom, independence and good laws, some by their writings, and others by their deeds and by their personal valour; but Lord Byron excelled them all.
This distinguished nobleman, the prince of poets, forsook kindred and friends, retirement and ease, a life of tranquillity and the society of the Muses. Laying aside the author’s graphic pen, he took up the sword, and volunteered his services, with promptitude and joy, in a foreign land and amongst strangers, for the advancement of Heaven-born Freedom against Demon-Tyranny. He took arms in his hands: A lover of quiet, he courted danger; a votary of the Muses, he engaged in war, and exposed himself to many perils and hardships, to danger and death in various forms. He came not alone but with the whole of his wealth. Possessed of honor and affluence, he came to sacrifice his life and expend his fortune, to rescue and raise fallen Greece, the mother of ancient sages and heroes.
The presence of this renowned and noble personage, his martial aspect, his eloquent and prudent discourses, his heroic and generous sentiments, and moreover, the great treasures which he brought to the cause, inspired the heart of all Greece with fresh courage and enthusiasm.
Forthwith, new battalions were raised and new expeditions planned. The noble sons of Greece undertook new and mighty enterprises. New and great hopes were cherished of effecting the total overthrow of the Tyrant. Auspicious signs of new victories and triumphs shone forth. In a word, from the presence of this illustrious and munificent stranger, great joy, exultation, and hope overspread all Greece; while the enemy when it reached their ears were overwhelmed with confusion, consternation, and despair.
But, alas! In the midst of this great rejoicing, in the midst of so much expected good, this noble and distinguished hero, this sincere and ardent friend of Greece and of liberty, was prematurely snatched from us by the cruel hand of death. Change of climate and the hardships of a military life occasioned the death of this inestimable man.
The whole of Greece, penetrated with gratitude, has, as was fit, lamented and mourned the untimely fate of this Englishman, the friend of the Greeks and of liberty, of never-dying and imperishable fame. Agreeably to the rites of our Church funeral solemnities have been performed throughout the whole of Greece for the repose of the soul of this magnanimous hero, whose body has been removed to the land of his ancestors but whose heart remains in Greece to be deposited in a splendid Mausoleum to be erected as a mark of our gratitude, and as an everlasting memorial to his name.
We also, sojourners in this place, imitating Greece, our native county in gratitude, perform this Funeral Service, deeply lamenting our loss, and humbly praying our Lord and God to give repose to the soul of this friend of the Greeks and of mankind, and appoint it to the abodes of the just.
Finally, brethren, let us thrice repeat with all our hearts and with one accord:

Cover photo: Statue of Lord Byron in the “Garden of the Heroes”, Sacred town of Messolonghi.