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Epirus | Arta | Arta

Greek Traditional Folk Song: Of the Bridge at Arta

Acting against the laws of Nature means commiting "Hubris." Building a bridge over water, a building where nature provided for level cultivable land, a ship to cross the seas, this is "Hubris." It takes Lustration Sacrifice (ceremonial purification) for Hubris to be pardoned; such sacrifice of humans, and later of animals in the place of humans, has been the main means of lustration from deepest antiquity until nowadays.

Even today, it is believed that for a house to be built and be good-fated it takes the sacrifice of a rooster. The foundations of the houses are sprinkled with the blood of a newly-killed rooster. It  is obvious that here we see the same attitude of the Greek people from Mythological times until today. How is it possible to build a bridge without some Lustration Human Sacrifice? "No bridge shall stand without a human lustration sacrifice."  Not the sacrifice of just anybody, but the sacrifice of the one who is responsible for the hubristic act, the Chief Mason. And because the sacrifice of the Chief Mason himself defeats the purpose and no bridge would ever be materialized, it should be the sacrifice of his nearest and most beloved kin, the sacrifice of his well-figured beautiful wife. "And sacrifice no orphan nor traveler, no stranger will suffice, save only the Chief Mason's lovely wife."

Of the Bridge at Arta

Forty-five masons and apprentices sixty
were building a bridge across Arta's river
All day long they founded it, at night it would fall.
The masons grieve and the apprentices all weep:
"What a shame for all our efforts, a waste of all our toil
That what we build each day would collapse at night!"

A little bird flew by and perched across the river
It did not chatter and cheep as a bird, nor chirped as a swallow
It sang and spoke in a human voice:
"No bridge shall stand without a human lustration sacrifice
And sacrifice no orphan nor traveler, no stranger will suffice
Save only the Chief Mason's lovely wife
who comes late in the morning and belated at noon and brings him, by-and-by, his lunch."

The Chief Mason listens and is shocked as stricken to death
He sends a message to his well-figured wife by the nightingale
To slowly dress, and slowly change, and tarry with the lunch
That she be late to come and late to cross the bridge at Arta.
But the bird misheard and flew and told her differently:
"Swiftly dress, and swiftly change, and hurry with the lunch
That you be swift to go and swift to cross the bridge at Arta."

There she appears strolling down the bright sunlit path
The Chief Mason saw her and his heart was broken
From afar she waves to them and from nearby she greets them:
"Good day, and health to you all, apprentices and masons!
But what is wrong with the Chief Mason and he has such a mournful demeanor?"
"His ring he dropped into the first foundation chamber;
and who can go in and come out and who can find and fetch it?"
"Building Meister, take heart, for I will go and fetch it
I'll go in, come out, and your ring I'll bring."

She neither got down far, nor did she reach halfway down
"Pull, my dear, the chain; pull up the chains.
I've turned it inside out, yet nothing have I found."
One mason slaps on mortar with his trowel; another slaps lime;
The Chief Mason heaves and drops a giant boulder.

"Alas, poor is my fate and my destiny accursed!
Sisters three we were, and doomed we were all three.
One built over the Danube, one the Euphrates river
And me, the youngest, I build the bridge at Arta.
‘May the bridge shake, like the rifles do,
May crossing pedestrians fall, like the tree leaves do’"

"Maiden, change your word and give another curse
for you have a one dear brother who may cross this bridge."
And she changed her word and pronounced another:
May the bridge shake, like the wild mountains do
May crossing pedestrians fall, like the wild birds do
for I have a brother abroad who may cross this bridge."

Translation from the Greek original: Michael Tziotis
Editing: Sharon Turner