Thanks to the Internet, I recently discovered a long poem published almost two centuries ago, and written by an avid French Philhellene called Pierre-Antoine Lebrun who visited Greece in 1820, when the country was still under Turkish occupation.
I'd like to translate here a few verses, although I'm sure there are older and better translations of his work. As the poet approached the coasts of Greece aboard the ship "Themistocles", he felt a great enthusiasm and wrote in praise of this country:
Sparta was there, hidden.
And I, high up on the mast
Towards her, towards her mountains, my eyes brought in haste
And stared focused, with tension and with thirst
I looked for her all over, her name I whispered
I laughed and I cried. Freedom, glory
Leonidas, Helena, legend and history
Greece with her arts, her wise men, her heroes
Was rising in front of me on the horizon of the waves
I was facing Greece and could not believe it!
The more I felt her approaching…
At a moment like this someone else would have lost his memory!
O my heart, how you beat with this remembrance alone!
As he’s about to set foot on the land, he’s thinking:
I’m Greek just like them
Yes, this is my country
And yes, like them, I’m returning to the beloved coast
I know all the streets, I’m familiar with all the names.
(From Le Voyage de Grece by Pierre-Antoine Lebrun. The extract of the poem above translated by Lito Seizani in 2013).