Aug 28, 2011

Arta's Bridge (Το γεφύρι της Άρτας) "They built all day--each night it fell"

As I have mentioned before, I am an architect so I get to visit many old, abandoned houses. In one of these houses I found 10-15 old postcards. One of them is this one, which was sent on 25 February 1974. It shows the most famous old bridge in Greece, which is situated in Arta. It crosses the Arachthos river (Άραχθος). The bridge is famous because of an urban legend that is connected with its construction. It is said that every day 60 apprentices and 45 craftsmen, under the leadership of the Chief Engineer, tried to build the bridge, but its foundations would collapse every night. Finally a bird with a human voice informed the Chief Engineer that in order for the bridge to remain standing, he must sacrifice his wife. As the wife was being built in the foundations of the construction, she uttered curses that concluded with blessings.
Up until now, whenever someone crosses this Bridge, becomes silent and shy as a tribute to the wife of the Chief Engineer. The legend has it, that her sacrifice made the construction of the Bridge possible, reversing the curse into a wish for the generations to come. The Bridge finally connected the two riversides of Arahthos river. Apart from the physical connection of the river, this Bridge is also what connects Arta with its historical past, its living present and hopefully its future.

This postcard is from my parents' collection and shows Arta's bridge from a different angle.

The ballad of Arta's Bridge

Masons forty-five and apprentices sixty
A bridge were building across Arta's river
They built all day--each night it fell.
The builders lament and the apprentices all weep: "A shame for all our efforts, a waste of all our work
That what we build each day should fall down every night!"
A little bird came by and sat across the river
It sang not like a bird, nor like a swallow does
But sang and spoke like people do:
"No bridge shall stand without a human soul
And no orphan, no traveler or stranger will suffice
Save only the chief mason's lovely wife
who later comes and brings him, by-and-by, his meal."
The chief mason hears and stops as though stricken
He sends a message to his beauty with the nightingale
To slowly dress, and slowly change, and tarry with the meal
That she be late and late she cross the bridge at Arta.
The bird, though, disobeyed and told her this:
"Swiftly dress, and swiftly change, and swiftly take the meal
swiftly go and cross the bridge at Arta."
These she goes and disappears, off the whitewashed path
The chief mason sees her and it breaks his heart
"A good day, and health to you, apprentices and masons
But what is it with the chief mason's stern demeanor?"
"His ring he dropped into the first deep chamber;
and who can go and who can find and fetch it?"
"Meister, take heart, and I will go and get it
I'll go in, come out, and your ring I'll bring."
She neither got down far, nor did she reach the middle
"Pull, my dear, the chain; pull up the chains.
I've turned it inside out, yet nothing I have found."
One slaps on mortar with his trowel; another the asbestos;
The chief mason heaves and drops a giant stone.
"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 as for me, the youngest, I build the bridge at Arta.
‘May the bridge shake, like the rifles do,
May the pedestrians fall, like the leaves of a tree do’

"Daughter, change your word and give another curse
Lest your one dear brother pass."
And she changed her word and pronounced another:
May the bridge shake, like the wild mountains do
May the pedestrians fall, like the wild birds do’
And if my brother's in strange lands, may chance not make him cross."


No comments:

Post a Comment