Yiannis Ritsos, is considered one of the five great Greek–poets of the twentieth century ( Monemvasia 1909-Athens 1990). Yiannis Ritsos spent many years in sanatoriums, prisons or in political exile while producing dozen of volumes of lyrics and dramas.
Beginning as a follower of the updated demotic tradition, Ritsos went through a phase of militant, doctrinaire poetry, as in Trakter [Tractors] and O Epitaphios [Funeral Procession] – a work symbolically burned by the fascist government of Metaxas at the foot of the Acropolis. Because his writing was frequently political in nature, Ritsos endured periods of persecution from his political foes.
During the Nazi Occupation of Greece (1941-1944) and the subsequent Civil War (1946-1949), Ritsos fought with the communist guerillas. After their defeat Ritsos was arrested and spent nearly four years in prison camps. In 1950 O Epitaphios set to music by Mikis_Theodorakis, became the anthem of the Greek left.
Despite all his difficulties, Ritsos finally achieved a personal, humanitarian medium devoid of anger and recrimination. In long poems like his celebrated Romiosyni (1947), Moonlight Sonata (1956) and most of his later volumes, Ritsos writes with compassion and hope, celebrating the life, toil, and dignity of the common man in an unadorned and direct language. In 1967, Ritsos was arrested again by the Greek junta and exiled, and was prohibited from publishing until 1972. By the end of his life, and contrary to all odds, Ritsos had published 117 books, including numerous plays and essays.
One of his most important works is Moonlight_Sonata:
I know that each one of us travels to love alone,
alone to faith and to death.
I know it. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t help.
Let me come with you.