Zakynthos Andreas Kalvos

The poet Andreas Kalvos from Zakynthos: Andreas Kalvos (1792 -1869) was one of the greatest Greek writers of the 19th century and a profound multilingual scholar. The parents of Kalvos were totally mismatched: his mother, Andriani Roukani, belonged to the upper classes, while his father, Ioannis Kalvos, was a middle-class bohemian. In 1802, his father took Andreas and his younger brother Nicholas to Livorno, Italy, to further their education but he left his wife behind. His parents divorced when Andreas was 13.

There young Andreas made his first steps in literature and wrote some anti-war poems. During that period, Kalvos lived for a while in Pisa, Italy, working as a secretary. Later on, he moved to Florence, the artistic and intellectual capital of Europe at that time. Then he worked as a copyist for Ugo Foscolo, an expatriate from Zakynthos and a highly revered poet of that period. From Foscolo, Kalvos adopted the liberalism and neoclassicism that was to be his guiding light throughout his life.

Kalvos learned about the death of his mother when he went to Zurich to visit Foscolo. The death of his mother affected him profoundly. An argument with Foscolo followed and Kalvos ended up giving Italian lessons and translating Italian and Greek religious books. His personal life that period was riddled with pain and anguish. His wife Teresa Thomas, whom he had married in 1819, died one year later. His simultaneous love affair with his student Susan Ridout fizzled out.

The struggle of Greece for independence seemed to have fired a new spirit to his poems and gave a new meaning to his life. In 1824, the first part of his Greek poems, the Lyre, was published in Paris. It was immediately translated into French and became an instant success. Then he published his second collection of poems, the Odes.

In August 1836, Andreas Kalvos was appointed a tutor in the Ionian Academy of Corfu. There he lived till 1851. Then he moved to Louth, Lincolnshire in England, to teach to the local school. He married Charlotte Wadams in 1853, a forty-year-old woman who owned the private school Kalvos was teaching at. In November 1869, he died in Louth.

Kalvos was not recognized as a great poet during his lifetime. His poems were later to be discovered and commented by Kostis Palamas, another poet, and scholar. Today, he is considered a lyric poet who glorified the Greek Revolution and has contributed a lot in the flourishing of Greek poetry. According to his will, his dead body has been moved and buried in his homeland, Zakynthos.