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. 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, leaving his wife behind. His parents divorced when Andreas was 13.

In Italy, young Andreas made his first steps in literature and wrote some anti-war poems. During that period, the poet 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 going to be his guiding light throughout his life.

Kalvos learned about the death of his mother when he went to Zurich to visit Foscolo. This occurrence 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 in 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 into 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. He later published his second collection of poems, the Odes.

In August 1836, Andreas Kalvos was appointed a tutor at the Ionian Academy of Corfu. He lived there until 1851. Then, he moved to Louth, Lincolnshire in England, to teach at 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 on by Kostis Palamas, another formidable poet and scholar. Today, he is considered a lyric poet who glorified the Greek Revolution and contributed a lot to the flourishing of Greek poetry. According to his will, his dead body has been moved and buried in his homeland, Zakynthos.