Poems 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 pack of very aggressive dogs (scary) & finally, with a breathless drop of my bag, hit modern Delphi. Its 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, & then across the Corinthian Bay to the mountains of the Peloponnese. Below me lay a modern greek-style 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 Ive 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 havent been bad at all, i guess delphis much lower than Lidoriki, & the days have been lovely – 20 degrees every day with no clouds at all. Its a far cry from the 4 degrees & raining I noticed Edinburgh was experiencing as I looked up the BBC website to find out Burnleys score – a 2-1 win away at West Ham!

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday were spent quite 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 away through town from my camp, past 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 plateauxs, with Delphi nestling on the northern slopes. Beside her are two precipitious cliffs called, by the ancients, the Phaedriades, & its between them that the spring flows. It is said to give its drinker powers of poety, so ive been glugging it like wine (as well as the wine). Here’s that pieces 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!


Ye Bards! this is what sunset should look like
From Delphi, blood-orange, immaculate –
I urge on ye to take this healthy hike
Up to the trench where Pegasus placed foot
& quench your thirst!
This Castalian Spring
Shall make ye poet first, & then a druid-king!

But only if ye persevere
Thro’ twenty years of training
Sing lyrics when the skies are clear,
Write renku when them raining,
Embrace the decades full austere
Ever be abstaining
From all the crude distractions of a life,
Whose only succor comes with thy true wife!

Deem women, where the muses dwell,
Heart, twinkle, touch & trust,
Art’s dewy dell more musty cell
When lusting them non-plussed…
My love lies with me as I write, without her I am dust!

A windy day, but yet again, no cloud on which to ponder
As hard past Hyampeia, yonder Nauplia, I wander,
As if I was Calondas with hot rejection burning
“You slew the Muses’ servant, fool, begone & no returning!”

By the gates of Grecian Italy & a stoumach-soothing spring
The rugs of crafting families were merrily hanging
Up well-built streets I pottered to the church which crowns the town
& there saw silver Parnassus on houses looking down

Of any poet-moment, man, nothing I’ve known makes par
For on these slopes Odysseus received his famous scar
& Lord Apollo brought a lyre for Orpheus to play
While visiting his aunties on a day just like today

Where one wee robin flutters, by trailing eight butterflies,
All on the winds of heaven to those snow-skiff’d slopes uprise…


I wrote that two days ago, over 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. Her summit, I think, was a mile or two away, but she 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. Till, then, though, 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. Opening with Black Betty soothed my nerves & suddenly I was everyones best mate. The place is a members bar for rock fans – everyone chips in to make the 280 euros a months rent, but you get to bring your own booze in! They’ve also started up a festival in Itea & have invited Saraswathi 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, a wee walk, glancing my last at Parnassus, & two wee hitches later I am on my way, at the mountain-backed town of…


The Band in Action at the gig

Im at the back with the hat on

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