XII: A Sonnet from Parnassus

The last few days have been memorable. Setting off from Itea I hiked through a vast olive grove, which looks like a wavy, green sea from up high. Pausing in steep, wee Chrissos, I stocked up on supplies & carried on hauling myself ever higher, off into the rough country, past a pack of very aggressive dogs (scary) & finally, with a breathless drop of my bag, hit modern Delphi. It is a compact little place, with not a few hotels & gift shops, but hardly tacky at all. I set up camp just to the west of the town, over a little rise so I wouldn’t be seen, with a magnificent view stretching all the way down to Itea & across the Corinthian Bay to the mountains of the Peloponnese. Below me lay a Grecian theatre, & behind rose the lower flanks of Parnassus; sheer & craggy they’ve been perfect for my morning scrambles. These were assisted by some quality Nike Air I found while ‘tatting’ for my camp – the best trainers I’ve had in years (thanks Hermes). Another bit of tat was a dead v-shaped tree, rotted to nothing at the root, which I used as firewood. At first I had to burn away the v, then start burning the long arms in half, a process which took all my stay at Delphi.

The nights haven’t been bad at all, Delphi sits much lower than Lidoriki, & the days have been lovely – 20 degrees each one with no clouds at all. It’s all a far cry from the 4 degrees & raining I noticed Edinburgh was experiencing as I looked up the BBC website to find out Burnley score – a 2-1 win away at West Ham! Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday were spent locally; cooking food on an open fire, lying naked in the sun, sampling the tasty-as-hell Greek kebabs (only 2 euros) & filling my water bottles at the Castalian Spring. This was a short walk through town from my camp, pass’d the ruins of Ancient Delphi, which were alright but not as cool as those of Olympia. The setting is magnificent; a great green gorge divides two plateaus, with Delphi nestling on the northern slopes. Beside are two precipitous cliffs called, by the ancients, the Phaedriades, & it’s between them that the spring flows. It is said to give its drinker powers of poetry, so I’ve been glugging it like wine (as well as the wine). Here is a sonnet that ambrosial elixir helped create:

Well, this is the heart-swell of poetry!
From holy Parnassus, uprolling sheer,
What magi-waters of empyrean
Pulse down from such a theatre of stone
& somewhere, in the depths of my studies,
I see a sketch of those gargoyle faces
I think, perhaps, Hobhouse, in Byron’s ‘Life’
Who, too, came up to taste this ancient spring
& there began his famous ‘Pilgrimage’
Tho’ mine is ended here… I sup the mead
A hint of minerals, revitalised,
I swear to all the Muses I shall be
A poet still, & if they ride with me
To England, I shall build them temples there!

Also in the vicinity lies the town of Arachova, a gorgeous place, very Swiss, bustling with life & very steep steps. It’s a few K on from Delphi, & higher, & was as close to Parnassus as I was going to get. the summit, I think, was a mile or two away, but the mountain formed a wonderful mass of rising stone & seeing it was the long hoped for crown-jewel-moment of my Odyssey. Being here has enlivened my verse & given it a new purpose, which I will be fetching back to Britain with me. Before then I have to travel to the north of Greece, & Thessalonika airport, starting with my DJ slot down in Itea. The last time I was Dj-ing I got assaulted by four bouncers, but last night went swimmingly. The band were alright, a couple of hours of rock classics, & then it was me.

band-in-itea.jpg

ME-IN-itea
I am far left

Opening with Black Betty soothed my nerves & suddenly I was everyone’s best mate. The place is a members bar for rock fans; everyone chips in to make the 280 euros a month’s rent, but you get to bring your own booze in! They’ve also started up a festival in Itea & have invited Saraswati along next August on the strength of our Linkey Lea video. The organisers, a lovely middle-aged couple, even gave me a bed (& a fucking bath!) last night, plus bags full of food this morning. Then, after a wee walk, glancing my last at Parnassus, & two wee hitches later I am on my way, at the mountain-backed town of…

Amfisa
04/12/2011

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