Euros Bowen (Μπόουεν): A Philhellene Welsh Poet αγγλικά/ λογοτεχνία

by Fr. Anastasios D. Salapatas

The poet and his work
Euros Bowen was born in Treorci in South Wales on 1904. The place he was born and brought up is very well known for its coal mines and its great contribution to the British Industrial Revolution and Development. His father was a protestant pastor and had influenced greatly Euros’ future life and philosophy. This is why he decided to study Theology in various Welsh Colleges as well as in Oxford. During his studies he became a member of the Anglican Communion and eventually he was ordained a Priest. He had served the same Parish (Llangywair with Llanuwchllyn) almost for the whole of his pastoral life and he didn’t like moving out of his Parish, not even for holidays. After his retirement he had moved to Wrexham, where he remained until his death in 1988.
When he retired he became a completely different person. He started going around Europe, always on his own, as his wife didn’t like travelling. One of his most beloved areas of travel was the Mediterranean. He mostly liked looking around the archaeological and Byzantine sites, which he found in abundance in Greece, Cyprus, Constantinople, Asia Minor and the Greater Hellas (south Italy and Sicily).
By going around, seeing and talking to people in the Greek lands, Euros was greatly inspired. He was obviously bearing in him all the intellectual and cultural richness as well as the spiritual virtue of the Celtic people, which together with his Christian identity and commitment he could transform into poetry all his inner feelings and moods. His poetic words are full of inspiration and sincerity, clear impressions and enthusiasm.
The language that he had originally used in his poetry was his mother tongue, Welsh. This ancient Celtic language is evidently poetic and certainly has the ability of expressing high thoughts in a special way. The poet himself had translated part of his poetry into English, in order to share with the international readership the essence of his wisdom and inspiration.
Euros Bowen is regarded as the greatest modern Welsh-speaking poet. He won many welsh prizes for his literary contribution. He published 14 volumes of poetry, as well as other works and translat

Classical Hellenic elements
Bowen’s poetry is filled with classical Hellenic (Greek) elements. One of his poetic collections (actually a whole book) is devoted to the Minoan civilisation. In most of his other published works we find whole poems, sentences and various words refer to the classical Hellenic spirit.
The poet is clearly inspired by this culture and he is trying to make his interest and his respect well known. Thus, he presents in his own dynamic way, the spiritual feeling and the cultural vibration that he had felt by approaching the soil and the stones, the legends and the visions, the creativity and the literary and artistic production of an ancient people, which is still alive and even thriving today, as an invincible symbol of immortality and beauty.
Two of his most characteristic poems on classical Hellenic themes are presented below. The first one is entitled “Mycenae”. Bowen himself comments: “The original is written in free ‘cynghanedd’. The sun at the height of summer at this famous site in southern Greece and the fort’s ancient history of wealth and royal murders constitute a pattern of gold and blood”.

No grass allured,
no passion there,
except for the gold of the sun
spreading now
in the azure of day
and the passage of its blood
along the crest
patterned with history
over the stony ground,

Gold and blood

than the oils of the gnarled olive-trees,
Gold and blood
younger than death
in the guise of oblivion,
Gold and blood
more fearsome
than the guardian arms
of all the compact woe
of the bare cairn
within the Gates of Lions,
Gold and blood
of greater power
than the face-masks
binding the ascent
of the fossil speech
of cellared bodies,
Gold and blood
more famished
in that place
than the step and gesture
of Agamemnon’s nostalgic hour,
Gold and blood
a greater thirst
than the wrath
that quickens the seed
of Clytemnestra’s dark fever,
Gold and blood
of violent destiny
in a place
where no passion stirs,
where no grass is allured.

The second poem takes us to Crete. Its title is “On this Mountain”. The poet has again written a short comment, which is: “To the left of the road from Herakleion to Phaestos (pronounced Phestos) the mountain ridge overlooking the plain of Mesará forms a picture which is said to be the face of Zeus”.

Seeing is believing, so they say,
and here was seeing in the haze of this mountain,
between the restorations of Knossos
and Phaestos and its centuries,
the inheritor of the gifts of heaven and earth, –
Zeus, from his concealing at birth in Dicti’s cave,
and his nursing then in the cave of Idi,
at last setting his image
here in this earth, so they say,
in the mystery of the Isle of Crete.
Not everyone believes like Nietzsche
that God is dead,
because seeing is believing,
and so God himself is seen,
his forehead, his nose, his beard
lying on the mountain’s ridge,
the picture unmistakably above
with its glance over all the fruitfulness
of the plain of Mesará
acknowledging the earth as his possession,
the lemons, the oranges and the tangerines,
the strip’s vines and the fecund olive trees.

Those who have tasted Bowen’s poetic talent they remain for ever admirers of his excellent way of looking at our world. He has been an outstanding representative of his welsh literary heritage, who has opened his vision to the Hellenic and other civilisations and by doing that he has produced an extraordinary kind of work, which has now become part of the universal poetic legacy.