Hymn to Liberty

The twenty-fourth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here and here.   Published in 1918, Hymn to Liberty  is a translation by Rudyard Kipling, of the first few stanzas of the poem that is the basis of the Greek National Anthem.  It was written by him at the request of the Greek Ambassador to England D. Kaklamanos.

The original poem consisted of 158 stanzas written by Dionysios Solomos in 1823 during the Greek War of Independence.

Abandoning its neutrality, Greece had entered World War I on the side of the Allies in 1917.  Conflict between Greeks favoring neutrality, led by King Constantine, and those favoring Allied intervention led by Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos.  Eventually the forces favoring intervention won out, and King Constantine was forced to abdicate in favor of his son King Alexander.  This all turned out to be disastrous after the War as Venizelos, a Cretan by birth, was a strong proponent of the Big (Megale) Idea which proposed Greek control of the regions in Asia Minor along the Mediterranean Sea that had Greek majorities.  After the War the Greeks seized Smyrna in Asia Minor which led to the disastrous, for Greece, Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922.  The Greeks were resoundingly defeated by the Turks under Kemal Ataturk, and 1.5 million Greeks were expelled from lands in Asia Minor that they had occupied since the beginnings of Greek recorded history.  A half million Turks and muslim Greeks were expelled from a Greece that they had lived in for almost half a millenium.  The sentiments of the poem are quite high minded, but it serves as an example that high minded sentiments are never a substitute for wisdom in governmental policy.

WE knew thee of old,

Oh divinely restored,

By the light of thine eyes

And the light of thy Sword.

From the graves of our slain

Shall thy valour prevail

As we greet thee again—

Hail, Liberty! Hail!

Long time didst thou dwell

Mid the peoples that mourn,

Awaiting some voice

That should bid thee return.

Ah, slow broke that day

And no man dared call,

For the shadow of tyranny

Lay over all:

And we saw thee sad-eyed,

The tears on thy cheeks

While thy raiment was dyed

In the blood of the Greeks.

Yet, behold now thy sons

With impetuous breath

Go forth to the fight

Seeking Freedom or Death.

From the graves of our slain

Shall thy valour prevail

As we greet thee again

Hail, Liberty! Hail!

Published in: on May 31, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
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  1. Those “population transfers” were in fact the second major episode of planned, deliberate genocide in the twentieth century, following straight on the slaughter of the Armenians, which had been carried out by Ataturk’s on Young Turk party in the pursuit of a Turkish “secular” nationalist state which he eventually built on rivers of Greek blood. The crimes of 1922-23 are too often treated as some sort of sad result of unconscious forces of nature. They were long-planned human deeds, which would have taken place even if the Greeks had not tried to recover their lost territories, and which were in effect the continuation of the Armenian genocide of the war years. The Greeks lost the war, but to treat them as being wrong on that ground alone strikes me as crassly unfair. And as for the half-million Turks thrown out of Greece, how can anyone imagine that they could have been kept there as the survivors of the slaughter poured in from the ancient Greek lands of the Troad, Bithynia, Cappadocia, Aeolia and Ionia? Incidentally, Hitler paid a lot of attention to what Ataturk was doing, and modelled his policy on his; being, in this, typical of the majority of German politicians of the period.

    • “The Greeks lost the war, but to treat them as being wrong on that ground alone strikes me as crassly unfair.”

      Rule one of warfare Fabio is not to start a war you can’t win. After viewing the fight put up by the Turks in World War I, the Greeks should have regarded a loss by them as completely predictable. As for atrocities there were more than enough on both sides, as eye witnesses like the British historian Arnold Toynbee attested at the time.

      • Arnold Toynbee was a monster, who merrily discarded all the evidence for Armenian mass murder. He simply wanted the Turks to win and did not care to what extent he prostituted his trade of historian to do so. There was as much honesty in him as in, say, Duranty of the NYT. In fact, that is a rare instance of a whole family that is tainted, father to child, never able to recognize the truth even by chance. Toynbee’s son became the most slavish Stalinist in Britain, and his granddaughter is today the living embodiment of everything that is wrong about upper-class leftism. They are despicable people. As for what Turkey did in WWI, I would remind you that only a couple of years earlier the Balkan alliance had trashed them out of Europe, and that Kemal Pasha’s eventual success was due mainly to the catastrophic squabbles of Britain and France. Kemal was by no means the darling of all the Turkish people, and when he reached Istanbul – which he only did because the Allies had given up on it – he had to indulge in some pretty Stalinist-before-Stalin tactics in order to insure the city’s loyalty. (One of the people who fled on that occasion was the grandfather or great-grandfather of the current mayor of London.) Kemal, like all the enemies of the Allies between 1918 and 1923, exploited their mutual hatred to come through in between and destroy their successes. (I am writing a book on the period 1918-1923. Provisional title: “The bloodstained olive branch: false peace, real defeat, and the collapse of an alliance”.)

      • “Arnold Toynbee was a monster, who merrily discarded all the evidence for Armenian mass murder.”

        That simply is not true Fabio:


  2. He wrote that in 1916, when he was paid to write it, by the British government, which was taking good care that the word of the slaughter should spread far and wide. (E.F Benson wrote a better account, for the same “customer” – http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10881/10881-h/10881-h.htm:). When he was on his own, he produced this crime:http://louisville.edu/a-s/history/turks/WesternQuestion.pdf – which not only happily placed Greeks and Turks on the same level, not only refused to draw any connection between the Armenian and the Greek massacres when the fact is that the same ideology, the same party, and largely the same people who were guilty of both, but he actually had the nerve to claim that Muslims were just as much heirs of the Classical civilization as Byzantine Greeks – a statement that, if a first-year student had made it in my presence, would garner a Z-minus and a suggestion that chemistry or biology or ANY OTHER STUDY would have suited him more than history. Toynbee was as dishonest as he was self-righteous, and there is nothing surprising about his producing a war propaganda tract – if he actually produced it, and did not just place his name to someone else’s work – that he did not actually take seriously. He would not be the only one; quite a few lovers of Germany suddenly discovered the virtues of democracy and France in 1914, only to revert to type when victory was won and Clemenceau could be cast as the coming danger for England.

    • Other sites decry Toynbee as anti-Turk Fabio. Toynbee wrote his blue book on the Armenian Massacre while working for the Political Intelligence Department of the British Foreign Office during the War. The Turks denounced his work as propaganda which it was not, but rather a careful and judicious study which established Turkish guilt in regard to the Armenian massacres beyond question. I do not believe that it is reasonable to question either that Toynbee wrote the work or that he did it for money, since Toynbee had already started a highly successful academic career prior to the war. (His writings on Greek atrocities cost him money since it led to his loss of the Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History which had been endowed by wealthy Greeks angered by his writings.0 What is much more reasonable is that Toynbee wrote what he believed the evidence indicated and that his views on Greek atrocities against the Turks, which are quite well established beyond Toynbee’s testimony, you find uncongenial. This is no way mitigates Turkish guilt for both the Armenian and Greek massacres, but it does indicate that in regard to the Greeks, the atrocities were not committed only by the Turks.

      • I refer you to the previous 300 years of Greek history. If Toynbee saw no difference between the revolt of the oppressed, robbed, raped, enslaved, butchered natives, certain for reasons that went back to Manzikert, nay. to the Yarmak, that Turks and freedom could not exist in the same country, and the murderous vengeance of these same oppressors, intending to destroy the very memory of their victims, he deserves a lower place in Hell than the worst of his heroes. The destruction, the uprooting, the cancellation from the face of the earth, of the Anatolian Greeks, is a crime and was intended as such from the beginning. What is more, it has a direct and close connection with the horrors soon to be unleashed in Germany. It was in Germany, under the influence of German theories of nation and race, that the Young Turk party was formed, and it was the Germans, in turn, who watched with care and interest how an ally broke and overturned their own Versailles. It was not just that Hitler said “Who remembers the Armenians now?”; it is that everyone around him knew exactly what he meant, and that they rightly regarded the butcher Ataturk as a pattern. As for Ataturk, he never stopped being a genocidal butcher. His last act on the international stage was to murder and expel 200.000 Arabs from Alexandretta and Antioch and fill the territory with Turkish settlers, inventing for it the fantasy name “Hatay” – based on his absurd notion that the Hittites were Turks. A butcher from beginning to end, and the first, together with Lenin, of the twentieth century’s genocide makers.

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