Kostis Palamas

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Kostis Palamas was one of the greatest poets Greece has ever produced. He was part - along with Ioannis Polemis, Georgios Drosinis and Nikos Kampanis - of the 1880s revivalist movement in Greek poetry.

Though he came from a well-to-do Mesolonghi family, Palamas was born in Patra on January 13, 1859. At age 5, he lost his mother who died during chilbirth; at age 7, he also lost his father. Palamas was brought up by his uncle, Dimitrios Palamas, in Mesolonghi, where he started studying law.

In 1876, he moved to Athens and was admitted to the Athens University Law School, however, soon the young Palamas abandoned law in favour of literature and poetry. His first work, "Love Epics", was written in the archaic Katharevousa version of the Greek language. The rest of his works would be written in the language of the common people.

In 1886, Palamas published his work "Songs of my Homeland". He married that same year to his childhood sweetheart, Maria Valvi. The couple came to have three children and the death of the youngest, at age 5, would touch him for the rest of his life.

In 1889, Palamas won a prestigious poetic contest with his work "Hymn to Athena". In 1892, he would publish "The Eyes of my Soul".

In 1897, Palamas was made Secretary of Athens University. The position provided him with a comfortable standard of living so he was able to give himself more fully to his poetry. The next few years were the most prolific of the poet's life. Works during this period include:

  • 1898 - "The Tomb"
  • 1900 - "The Salutations of the Sun-born"
  • 1904 - "The static Life"
  • 1907 - "Twelve Sayings of the Gypsy"

As well as his prose work "The Death of the young Man"

At age 70, Palamas became President of the Athens Academy of which he was a founding member. The last few years of Palamas' life were private ones, spent with close friends and family, away from the public limelight. That did not diminish the public's love for the poet and his works and when Palamas died on February 27, 1943, they turned out in vast numbers for his funeral, singing his songs. When, at one point, the occupying Germans sought to accompany the funeral procession as an honour guard, the people defiantly broke into the forbidden Greek National Anthem: a fitting way to see off the poet who epitomised the Greek soul and spirit.