The urchins down in the meadow

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Cite this page: Jason Koutoufaris-Malandrinos, “The urchins down in the meadow”, Archiopedia (June 2021), p. 256 (revision #1690), ISSN 2732-6012. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7323032The link is temporarily unavailable.

The urchins down in the meadow (Greek: Τα παιδιά κάτω στον κάμπο) is a Greek song, composed by Manos Hadjidakis, who wrote both the lyrics and the music.
The song exists in two official (and probably also in one folk) versions.

1. History

1.1. The first official version (1945)

The first version of the song was released as a score for the play Το καλοκαίρι θα θερίσουμε [We'll reap the fields in the summer] by Alexis Damianos. Its official name was Χορικὸ Δ’ εἰκόνας, Τύμπανο σὲ λὰ [Chorale of the Fourth Picture for drum in A] and it was performed at the end of the final act.
The play was first performed in 1945 by the United Artists, when the song was sung by a chorus of young EPONites, conducted by Mikis Theodorakis.[1]
The song sheet appeared in the first edition of the play in 1947.[2]
The song has been recorded only once by Litsa Sakellariou, featuring as a track on the album Ἅμα λευτερωθῇ ἡ Κρήτη [When Crete Is Freed] (1971). However, this recording is not included in official catalogue of Hadjidakis’s compositions, as it was not produced under the direction of the composer.
Kalamatianos, the 8th movement in For a Little White Seashell, Op. 1 (a later composition by Hadjidakis), is an instrumental variation of The urchins down in the meadow.

1.1.1. A folk version (mid-1950s)

According to a plausible (yet anonymous and unconfirmed) testimony, young day-trippers in the mid-1950s used to sing a different version of the song during their excursions, albeit without being aware of its original form or its composer.[3]
This folk version was performed by combining the tune of the 1945 version with shortened and differentiated lyrics.

1.2. The second version (1974)

Hadjidakis composed the score for Sweet Movie, a film by Dušan Makavejev, which was released in 1974. The score includes a new version of The urchins down in the meadow (in terms of both music and lyrics), with only the title and the first verse of each stanza (which is identical to the title) remaining intact.
As this version is the most widely known, the first version is sometimes ignored – even when it is relevant. For example, when, in 1986, the 1945 play where the original version of the song was first heard, was restaged at the Municipal Theater of Kavala, the lyrics of the first version were performed a cappella to the rhythm of the second version (perhaps inadvertently).[4]

1.2.1. Italian translation

The song was translated in Italian by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Dacia Maraini, who also translated the whole script of Sweet Movie.
In the Italian context, this has sometimes led to misconceptions. For example, Roberto Calabretto, Professor at the University of Udine, seems to believe that Pasolini and Maraini were the original lyricists. [5] Giordano Meacci suggests the same thing, while also claiming that the Italian translation was the one used in Sweet Movie.[6] Marcello Giannotti repeats the same errors.[7]
This misapprehension has also spread into the English-speaking blogosphere, where we can find, for example, a full analysis of “Pasolini’s poem [as] an introduction to anti-fascist pedagogy” (sic!).[8]

2. Lyrics

2.1. First version

First version Folk version
Greek (1945) English translation

by Jason Koutoufaris-Malandrinos (2021)

Greek (mid-1950s) English translation

by Jason Koutoufaris-Malandrinos (2021)

Τα παιδιά κάτου στον κάμπο

στήσαν όλα το χορό

και λυγάνε τα ποτάμια

και σταυρώνουν τον αητό.

The urchins down in the meadow

all began to dance

and rivers they bend

and eagles they crucify.

Πασχαλιάς ανθούν λουλούδια

Κι ο χορός καλά κρατά.

Lilac flowers are blooming

and the dance goes on.

Έλα κόρη μ’ έλα και τ’ αυγερινού

κοίτα στήσανε καρτέρι

χίλι’ αστέρια τ’ ουρανού.

Come, my daughter, come and see

how bodies heavenly

ensnared the morning star.

Τα παιδιά κάτου στον κάμπο

φωσφοράν τις λαγκαδιές

κυνηγάνε τα τσακάλια

καβαλάν τις αστραπές.

The urchins down in the meadow

bring light to the vales

and jackals they chase

and mount they lightning bolts.

Έλα κόρη μ’ έλα κι άναψε φωτιά

κοίτα τόσα παλικάρια

τραγουδάν τη μπαρμπαριά.

Come, my daughter, come and see

how many brave lads

sing the Barbary.

Έλα γέρο σύρε πρώτος το χορό

Ένα τσούρμο παλικάρια

Τραγουδούν τη λεβεντιά

Come, old man, take the lead

A bunch of brave men

sing the leventia.

2.2. Second version

Greek (1974) English translation

by Amy Mims (1974)

Italian translation

by Pasolini and Maraini (1974)

Τα παιδιά κάτω στον κάμπο

δεν μιλάν με τον καιρό

μόνο πέφτουν στα ποτάμια

για να πιάσουν τον σταυρό.

The urchins down in the meadow

Aren’t on speaking terms with time

They just jump into the rivers

To grab the Twelfth Night cross.

I ragazzi giù nel campo

Non si curano del tempo

Ma si buttano dentro i fiumi

Per pescare la croce premio

Τα παιδιά κάτω στον κάμπο

κυνηγούν εναν τρελό

τον επνίγουν με τα χέρια

και τον καίνε στον γυαλό.

The urchins down in the meadow

Like to chase a crazy man

They strangle him with their hands

And burn him alive on the beach.

I ragazzi giù nel campo

Dan la caccia ad un pazzo

Poi lo strozzano con le mani

E lo bruciano in riva al mare.

Έλα κόρη της σελήνης

κόρη του αυγερινού.

Να χαρίσεις στα παιδιά μας

λίγα χάδια του ουρανού.

Come daughter of the moon

Daughter of the morning star

To bestow upon our children

Some caresses from the heavens.

Vieni figlia della Luna

Della stella mattutina

Che regala a questi ragazzi

Le carezze del gran cielo!

Τα παιδιά κάτω στον κάμπο

κυνηγάνε τους αστούς

πετσοκόβουν τα κεφάλια

απο εχθρούς και απο πιστούς.

The urchins down in the meadow

Chase all the city-slicker

Shacking people’ heads to pieces

Both enemies’ and faithful friends’.

I ragazzi giù nel campo

Dan la caccia ai borghesi

Tagliano a pezzi

A pezzi le teste

Dei nemici e dei fedeli

Τα παιδιά κάτω στον κάμπο

κόβουν δεντρολιβανιές

και στολίζουν τα πηγάδια

για να πέσουν μεσα οι νιές.

The urchins down in the meadow

Cut little sprigs of rosemary

To decorate the water-wells

And make the young girls leap in.

I ragazzi giù nel campo

Colgono rami e rosmarino

E camuffano buche e pozzi

Per acciuffare le ragazze

Τα παιδιά μες τα χωράφια

κοροιδεύουν τον παπά

του φοράνε ολα τα άμφια

και τον παν στην αγορά.

The urchins out in the fields

Are poking fun at the old priest

Dressing him up in all his robes

They drag him to the marketplace.

I ragazzi giù nel campo

Dan la caccia ad un ricco

Gli fan togliere i denti d'oro

E li portano al mercato.

Έλα κόρη της σελήνης

έλα και άναψε φωτιά.

Κοίτα τόσα παλικάρια

που κοιμούνται στη νυχτιά.

Come daughter of the moon

Daughter of the morning star

To bestow upon our children

Some caresses from the heavens.

Vieni figlia della Luna

Della stella mattutina

Che regala a questi ragazzi

Le carezze del gran cielo!

Τα παιδιά δεν έχουν μνήμη

τους προγόνους τους πουλούν

και οτι αρπάξουν δεν θα μείνει

γιατι ευθύς μελαγχολούν.

The urchins have no memory

They sell their own ancestors

But whatever they grab won’t last

For straightaway they grow gloomy.

I ragazzi giù nel campo

Non possegono memoria

Perciò vendono gli antenati

Poi son presi da tristezza.

3. Analysis (second version)

Hadjidakis described the song’s second version as “the triumph of [his] internal anarchy”.[9]

Eftychia Papanikolaou, Associate Professor of Musicology at Bowling Green State University, has explored the interrelation between the song’s second version and Sweet Movie in the following way:
The innocence associated with children comes in sharp contrast to the song’s text—the poem does not describe innocent, childish pranks; on the contrary, the lines recount acts of anger, malice, and disillusionment. Makavejev strategy is clear: documentary evidence provides the answer to complacency. Silence and hypocrisy are death, and Makavejev refuses to be silent about it. He does not narrate, but the music does, with immense eloquence. Even more disturbing than the sight of rotten corpses is the aural pairing of this hauntingly beautiful, lyrical melody with images of death. Are the perpetrators of the Katyn massacre the same children (urchins, as the translator prefers) who escalated from pranksters to villains? Is this a warning for the rest of us? Or, is the music simply there as an aesthetic medium to placate our senses and annul some of the horror the viewer is meant to experience?
In the very final sequence of the film, the theme is reprised, sung by a chorus of children. This time the lyrics (and especially the children’s voices) have an eerie quality of foreboding when paired with the images of the corpses of those Anna Planeta has ostensibly killed, who also happen to be the people she has seduced: that is, the sailor from the historic battleship Potemkin (another Soviet reference) and also the four little boys we have seen her victimize by her seductive strip tease. Wrapped in plastic shrouds, the boys’ bodies lie parallel on the bank of the river where she used to sail. They start to move and gradually, as if trapped in a cocoon, they struggle to come out. During this nonverbal sequence, the children and the sailor eventually come back to life. (Incidentally, with life, also light and color return on the screen.) And that’s the end of the movie”.[10]

Ewa Mazierska, Professor of Contemporary Cinema at the University of Central Lancashire, observes that:

the music underscores the elegiac mood of this episode, but also internationalises Katyn, as Hadjidakis was a Greek composer who worked on many non-Greek films, including America, America (1963) by Elia Kazan”.[11]

4. Trivia

4.1. Larissean youth as a probable source of inspiration

Achilleas Tragoudas, editor-in-chief of Eleftheria (the oldest newspaper published in Larissa), relates that, during a personal meeting with Hadjidakis in 1986, the composer told him that some Larissean young boys were the original inspiration of the song and that the word “meadow” in the title is actually a reference to the Thessalian plain.
Hadjidakis recounts that he visited Larissa, when We'll reap the fields in the summer was touring in 1945. There he was assaulted by a group of (para)militaries and was left lying on the ground, covered in blood. Some sex workers from a nearby brothel nursed him back to health and gave him shelter. While recovering from his wounds, Hadjidakis was being visited by several young Larissean EPONites, who were eager to help and accompany him. Hadjidakis concludes:
I never forgot those lads. Neither my gratitude and my desire to say ‘thank you’. I did it eventually, when I wrote the music and the lyrics of a song that I named after them: The urchins down in the meadow. This song is written for those boys in Larissa in ‘45”.[12]

Nevertheless, if the song was already included in Damianos’s play before the incident in Larissa, how could it have been inspired by Hadjidakis’s Larissean friends? Is Tragoudas’s report unreliable? Did Hadjidakis fell victim of his own memory? Or did the song undergo unknown developments between 1945 (when it was performed orally and unattestedly) and 1947 (when it was published in the form that we know today)?
We do not know. But let us uphold the general law of anecdotes: Se non è vero, è molto ben trovato!

4.2. Nikos Gatsos and the song

If the use of similar words and images is any indication, the first version of The urchins down in the meadow seems to be in an intertextual dialogue with a stanza from Amorgos, a poem by Nikos Gatsos that was published four years before the song (1943) and it was later set to music by Hadjidakis himself. However, we have no proof as to whether this intertextuality was deliberative, latent or accidental. The similarities can be observed in the following table.

The urchins down in the meadow Amorgos
Greek (1945) English translation by Jason Koutoufaris-Malandrinos (2021) Greek (1943) English translation
Τα παιδιά κάτου στον κάμπο
φωσφοράν τις λαγκαδιές
κυνηγάνε τα τσακάλια
καβαλάν τις αστραπές.

Έλα κόρη μ’ έλα κι άναψε φωτιά
κοίτα τόσα παλικάρια
τραγουδάν τη μπαρμπαριά.
The urchins down in the meadow
bring light to the vales
and jackals they chase
and mount they lightning bolts.

Come, my daughter, come and see
how many brave lads
sing Barbary.
Να τραγουδήστε τη Mπαρμπαριά όπως ο ξυλουργός κυνηγάει τους σκίνους
Όπως περνάει η όχεντρα μες απ’ τα περιβόλια των κριθαριών
Mε τα περήφανα μάτια της οργισμένα
Kι όπως οι αστραπές αλωνίζουν τα νιάτα.
And sing Barbary as the woodsman hunts for the lentisk
As the adder passes through barley fields
With its proud and angry eyes
And as the lightning threshes youth.

4.2.1. Barbary

The word Barbary (Greek: Μπαρμπαριά, i.e. the Barbary Coast), which is included in both texts, deserves special attention. What does it mean to “sing Barbary”? Of course, Barbary Coast has always been considered as a par excellence place of exoticism and its alleged pleasures can be sung and praised.[13] But the word “Barbary” could allude to a song bearing that name.
Now, on the one hand, Georgios I. Thanopoulos is certain that “Barbary” in Amorgos is the title of a certain folk song, famous in Arkadia (where Gatsos was born).[14] Nonetheless, this folk song does not focus on Barbary Coast and the specific verse where Barbary is mentioned, is ommitted in most versions.[15] In addition, “Barbary” is not used as its title – not even in the source cited by Thanopoulos.[16]
On the other hand, Kseni Skartsi mentions that Gatsos alludes to a “love song of the time”.[17] But which song would that be? I speculate that the song referred-to by both Hadjidakis and Gatsos could be Ἕνα τραγούδι ἀπ’ τ’ Ἀλγέρι [A song from Algiers], popularly known as Μπαρμπαριά [Barbary]. The song was written by Apostolos Kaldaras, a famous rebetis, and it was first recorded in 1948. I note beforehand that recording activities had ceased for the period 1940-1946 and therefore the fact that Kaldaras’s song was recorded five years after Amorgos and three years after The urchins down in the meadow should not raise eyebrows. After all, the influence of Rebetiko on Hadjidakis and Gatsos is a truism not worth mentioning.
Even so, any conjecture cannot be taken but with a grain of salt.

4.3. Alki Zei and the song

Alki Zei, Greek author and the wife of Giorgos Sevastikoglou, who was the stage director of the We'll reap the fields in the summer production in 1945 (where the first version of the song was played for the first time), was buried to the accompaniment of the second version.
The song (in yet another –artistically licentious– version) is also referred to in her award-winning book Ο ψεύτης παππούς [Grandpa the liar] as the protagonist’s favorite.[18]

5. Notes

  1. Φώντας Τρούσας [Fontas Troussas], Αλέξης Δαμιανός: «Το καλοκαίρι θα θερίσουμε» [Alexis Damianos: “We'll reap the fields in the summer”], Lifo, 10.06.2015.
  2. The book at WorldCat.
  3. ΑΓΗΣ/agis (username), Re: Τα παιδιά κάτω στον κάμπο (Το καλοκαίρι θα θερίσουμε) [The urchins down in the meadow (We'll reap the fields in the summer)], Forum comment,, 12/01/2012.
  4. Το καλοκαίρι θα θερίσουμε [We'll reap the fields in the summer] by Alexis Damianos, Municipal Theater of Kavala, 27/04/1986.
  5. Roberto Calabretto, Pasolini e la musica: l'unica azione espressiva forse, alta, e indefinibile come le azioni della realtà, Cinemazero, Pordenone, 1999, pp. 218: “Dalla collaborazione con Dacia Maraini nascono, invece, I ragazzi giù nel campo e C'è forse vita sulla terra: due testi adattatati sulla musiche composte dal musicista greco Manos Hadjiakis per il film di Dusan Makavejev Sweet Movie ”.
  6. Giordano Meacci, Improvviso Il Novecento. Pasolini Professore, Minimum fax, Roma, 1999, pp. 377-378: “Nel 1974, per la colonna sonora del film Sweet movie di Dusan Makavejev, Pasolini e Dacia Maraini compongono due testi di canzone, «I ragazzi giù nel campo» e «C’è forse vita sulla Terra?», musicati da Manos Hadjidakis e interpretati da una giovane cantante poco conosciuta, Daniela Davoli”.
  7. Marcello Giannotti, L'enciclopedia di Sanremo: 55 anni di storia del festival dalla A alla Z, Gremese Editore, Roma, 2005, p. 68: “[Daniela Davoli] [a]rriva al Festival a 19 anni dopo aver cantato I ragazzi giù nel campo, brano scritto da Pier Paolo Pasolini e Dacia Maraini per il film Sweet movie - Dolcefilm, di Dusan Makavejev”.
  8. Victor, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Poem “The Urchins Down In The Meadow” – Immanent (Innocent) Fascist Condition And, On The Other Hand, Fascist Ideologies, Acting-Out Politics (blog), 11/03/2015.
  9. Γιώτα Συκκά [Giota Sykka], Κινηματογραφικά τραγούδια του Χατζιδάκι [Songs that Hadjidakis wrote for films], Kathimerini, 28/05/2006.
  10. Eftychia Papanikolaou [Ευτυχία Παπανικολάου], Interrogating the Sensuous in Hadjidakis's Soundtrack for Dusan Makavejev's Sweet Movie, in Γιώργος Βλαστός [Giorgos Vlastos], Ελληνική Μουσική Δημιουργία του 20ου αιώνα για το λυρικό θέατρο και άλλες παραστατικές τέχνες [Greek Twentieth-century Musical Output for The Lyric Theatre and Other Performing Arts], Σύλλογος Οι Φίλοι της Μουσικής [Friends of Music Society], Athens, 2009, pp. 42-47: 43-44.
  11. Ewa Mazierska, “Makavejev's uses of history in Innocence Unprotected, Sweet Movie and Gorilla Bathes at Noon”, Studies in Eastern European Cinema 5(1), 2014, p. 16-30: 25.
  12. Αχιλλέας Τραγούδας [Achilleas Tragoudas], Οι γυναίκες των οίκων ανοχής και τα «παιδιά του κάμπου»… [The women in the brothels and "the urchins down in the meadow"...], Eleftheria, 17/04/2016.
  13. Let us remember that, already in Romantic and Victorian eras, “the very name ‘Barbary Coast’ [...] had connotations of strangeness and exoticism that held great appeal for writers and their readers” (Ronald H. Fritze, Travel Legend and Lore: An Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, 1998, p. 32).
  14. Γεώργιος Ι. Θανόπουλος [Georgios I. Thanopoulos], «Προσέγγιση της Αμοργού του Γκάτσου μέσα από τον δρόμο της λαϊκής παράδοσης» [“Approaching Gatsos’s Amorgos through the path of folk tradition”], Parnassos. Literary Journal of the Parnassos Literary Society 41, 1999, pp. 103-123: 106-107.
  15. Like, e.g., a well-known recording of the song by Domna Samiou.
  16. Επαμ. Γ. Παπαμιχαήλ [Epam. G. Papamichail], Τραγούδια Βουρβούρων της Κυνουρίας [Songs from Vourvoura of Cynouria], Laographia: A Newsletter of the Greek Folklore Society 5, 1915, pp. 561-576: 569 (No 15).
  17. Ξένη Σκαρτσή [Kseni Skartsi], Ο Νίκος Γκάτσος και η Αμοργός , in Ξένη Σκαρτσή [Kseni Skartsi] (ed.), Ποίηση και Κρίση [Poetry and Crisis], Μανδραγόρας [Mandragoras], Athens, 2013, pp. 25-40: 35.
  18. Τελευταίο αντίο στην Άλκη Ζέη [People pay last respects to Alki Zei], Athens News Agency - Macedonian Press Agency, 03/03/2020.

6. External links