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Cupids playing with a lyre_ Roman fresco from Herculaneum_edited_edited_edited_edited_edit

Εν κατακλείδι


Και τώρα φίλοι μου είν' αργά
μια καληνύχτα στη μαμά
και λίγη στάχτη στα μαλλιά
καιρός να πούμε αντίο

Σκεπάσανε όλους τους νεκρούς
με αρρωστιάρικους ψαλμούς
Κλόουν με σοβαρούς σκοπούς
γυμνοί μέσα στο κρύο

Κατά τ' άλλα εσείς
που 'σαστε υγιείς, και αξιοπρεπείς
βοηθήστε μας και λίγο
Δώστε μας πνοή, στέγη και τροφή
μια ιδέα στεγανή που να μη μπάζει κρύο

Πουλάμε σώμα και ψυχή
δώστε μας λίγη προσοχή
Στα υπόγεια μαύροι ποντικοί
λουφάζουνε δύο-δύο

Παίρνουμε σβάρνα τους γιατρούς
αδύνατοι μπροστά στους δυνατούς
και συναντάμε ξέμπαρκους θεούς
που χάσανε το πλοίο


And now, my friends, it’s late
A goodnight to mum
and a bit of ash on [our] hair
time to say goodbye

They’ve covered all the dead
in sickly chants
Clowns with serious purposes
naked in the cold

Yet you all,
healthy and dignified as you are
please help us too, a little
Give us life, shelter and food
A watertight idea that lets no cold in

We sell [our] body and soul
grant us some attention
In the basements, black rats
holing up in pairs

We visit doctor after doctor
weak before the strong
and we meet stranded gods
who have missed [their] ship


A farewell that is mostly found in song lyrics and literature, αντίο is a direct borrowing of Italian addio, meaning ‘to God’. It is not used in everyday life, except for dramatic break-ups.

κατά τ’ άλλα

The phrase means ‘other than that’, or ‘in other respects’. It is also used to shift to another topic, or as a means to denounce hypocrisy in a sarcastic manner.

Πονάει λίγο το πόδι μου, κατά τ’ άλλα είμαι εντάξει. – My leg hurts a bit, other than that I’m fine.

Κατά τ’ άλλα, πώς πάει η δουλειά; – So, on other news, how’s work?

Τρώει ψάρι, κατά τ’ άλλα είναι χορτοφάγος. – He eats fish yet he’s supposed to be a vegetarian.


The noun signifies a single action of exhaling, and is therefore used to also mean ‘a gust or waft or wind’. Metaphorically, it may also refer to life. With the addition of the prefix ανα-, which shows repetition, it means ‘breath’ or ‘breathing’.

παίρνουμε σβάρνα

The agricultural tool called harrow, is known in Greek as σβάρνα. The phrase παίρνω σβάρνα is a rather informal way to say ‘to knock over or sweep away with great force’, or ‘to consecutively visit objects or persons of the same group – one after another’.

Το ποτάμι πήρε σβάρνα όλα τα δέντρα. – The river swept all the trees away.

Έχει πάρει σβάρνα τα μπαρ για να τη βρει. – He’s been searching pub after pub to find her.


The word ξέμπαρκος originally referred to a sailor who is in-between jobs, in other words, has finished a trip and is currently on land waiting to be recruited again. It comes from μπάρκο, which came to mean ‘a sailor’s recruitment, trip or time of service on a ship’, borrowed from Italian barco ‘boat’. The English verb ‘to embark’ has a similar root, coming from French barque ‘boat’.

The prefix ξε- cancels whatever follows it, so the adjective in its original meaning describes a currently unrecruited sailor. When used metaphorically, it means someone isolated or not fitting in with their surroundings.

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