Showing posts from March, 2010

One of Their Gods

by C.P. Cavafy
When one of them moved through the marketplace of Selefkia
just as it was getting dark—
moved like a young man, tall, extremely handsome,
with the joy of being immortal in his eyes,
with his black and perfumed hair—
the people going by would gaze at him,
and one would ask the other if he knew him,
if he was a Greek from Syria, or a stranger.
But some who looked more carefully
would understand and step aside;
and as he disappeared under the arcades,
among the shadows and the evening lights,
going toward the quarter that lives
only at night, with orgies and debauchery,
with every kind of intoxication and desire,
they would wonder which of Them it could be,
and for what suspicious pleasure
he had come down into the streets of Selefkia
from the August Celestial Mansions.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)



by C. P. Cavafy

He’d been sitting in the café since ten-thirty
expecting him to turn up any minute. Midnight had gone, and he was still waiting for him. It was now after one-thirty, and the café was almost deserted. He’d grown tired of reading newspapers mechanically. Of his three lonely shillings Only one was left: waiting that long, he’d spent the others on coffees and brandy. And he’s smoked all his cigarettes. So much waiting had worn him out. Because alone like that for so many hours, he’d also begun to have disturbing thoughts about the immoral life he was living.
But when he saw his friend come in- weariness, boredom, thought all disappeared at once.
His friend brought unexpected news. He’s won sixty pounds playing cards.
Their good looks, their exquisite youthfulness, the sensitive love they shared were refreshed, livened, invigorated by the sixty pounds from the card table.
Now all joy and vitality, feeling and charm, they went-not to the homes of their respectable families (…

For Cavafy

byBruce Williams
The poems are sad and short: love half-remembered,
history--beautiful, closed and Greek.
But what I like best
is the blank three-quarters page,
white as a statue's marble eyes--

a space to write or cry.

If you’d like to read poems by C. P. Cavafy, please go to this page I created.

“Che Fece .... Il Gran Rifiuto”

I am posting three translations of the poem which, to my ear, have different nuances, if not meanings. There is a difference between "undermines life," "afflicts him night and day," and "drags him down all his life." I wish I knew Greek. I included the Greek text.

“Che Fece .... Il Gran Rifiuto”*
by C. P. Cavafy

For some among us there comes up a day
when either the great Yea or the great Nay
must needs be spoken. He who has the Yea

ready within him, straightway stands revealed
and, giving it utterance, passes to his field
of self-expression. He who did not yield

assent, never repents. If Nay or Yea
were asked again, he would repeat his Nay,
though that right word afflicts him night and day.

Translated by John Cavafy
(Poems by C. P. Cavafy. Translated, from the Greek, by J. C. Cavafy. Ikaros, 2003)


For some people the day comes
when they have to declare the great Yes
or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes
ready within him; …

Θερμοπύλες / Thermopylae

Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης
Τιμή σ' εκείνους όπου στην ζωή των
όρισαν και φυλάγουν Θερμοπύλες.
Ποτέ από το χρέος μη κινούντες·
δίκαιοι κ' ίσιοι σ' όλες των τες πράξεις,
αλλά με λύπη κιόλας κ' ευσπλαχνία·
γενναίοι οσάκις είναι πλούσιοι, κι όταν
είναι πτωχοί, πάλ' εις μικρόν γενναίοι,
πάλι συντρέχοντες όσο μπορούνε·
πάντοτε την αλήθεια ομιλούντες,
πλην χωρίς μίσος για τους ψευδομένους.

Και περισσότερη τιμή τους πρέπει
όταν προβλέπουν (και πολλοί προβλέπουν)
πως ο Εφιάλτης θα φανεί στο τέλος,
κ' οι Μήδοι επι τέλους θα διαβούνε.
Thermopylae Constantine P. Cavafy (1903)
Honor to those who in their lives
have defined and guard their Thermopylae.
Never stirring from duty;
just and upright in all their deeds,
yet with pity and compassion too;
generous when they are rich, and when
they are poor, again a little generous,
again helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hatred for those who lie.

And more honor is due to them
when they foresee (and many d…


C.P. Cavafy

With no consideration, no pity, no shame,
they have built walls around me, thick and high.
And now I sit here feeling hopeless.
I can’t think of anything else: this fate gnaws my mind—
because I had so much to do outside.
When they were building the walls, how could I not have noticed!
But I never heard the builders, not a sound.
Imperceptibly they have closed me off from the outside world.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992

If you’d like to read more poems by C. P. Cavafy, please go to this page I created.



In Honour Of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

Laybrother of the Society of Jesus

by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say; And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field, And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day. On Christ they do and on the martyr may; But be the war within, the brand we wield Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled, Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.
Yet God (that hews mountain and continent, Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment, Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more) Could crowd career with conquest while there went Those years and years by of world without event That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

I dedicate this to my friend Tom Marshall, S.J., who died on March 11, 2010.
A laybrother of the Society of Jesus,
a Zen priest in both the Soto and Rinzai lineages,
and my hero.

May he rest in peace.

More poems by GM Hopkins, S.J.


by Stanley Moss

In writing, he moved from the word I, the word once a serpent curled between the rocks, to he, the word once a hawk drifting above the reeds, back to we: a nest of serpents. Of course the hawk attacked the serpents. She became a cloud, nursed us, mothered us, scrubbed us with rain. I, once a serpent, know the Chinese character for he is a standing figure, the sign for she is a kneeling figure, the word cloud is formed by two horizontal waves above a plain, and that in writing Chinese you must show feeling for different parts of the word. Writing contains painting and painting writing. Each is bird and sky to the other, soil and flower.


by Hafiz

Once a young woman asked me, “How does it feel to be a man?” And I replied,
“My dear, I am not so sure.” Then she said. “Well aren’t you a man?”
And this time I replied,
“I view gender as a beautiful animal That people often take for a walk on a leash, And might enter in some odd contest To try to win strange prizes.
My dear, A better question for Hafiz Would have been,
‘How does it feel to be a Heart?’
For all I know is love, And I find my heart Infinite And everywhere!”

from The Way of Chuang Tzu

A point of view from The Way of Chuang Tzu
via Thomas Merton:

Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu
Were crossing Hao river
By the dam.

Chuang said:
"See how free
The fishes leap and dart:
That is their happiness."

Hui replied:
"Since you are not a fish
How do you know
What makes fishes happy?"

Chuang said:
" Since you are not I
How can you possibly know
That I do not know
What makes fishes happy?"

Hui argued:
"If I, not being you,
Cannot know what you know
It follows that you
Not being a fish
cannot know what they know."

Chuang said:
"Wait a minute!
Let us get back
To the original question.
What you asked me was
'How do you know
What makes fishes happy?'
From the terms of your question
You evidently know I know
What makes fishes happy.

Monet Refuses the Operation

by Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say that there are no haloes around the streetlights in Paris and what I see is an aberration caused by old age, an affliction. I tell you it has taken me all my life to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels, to soften and blur and finally banish the edges you regret I don't see, to learn that the line I called the horizon does not exist and sky and water, so long apart, are the same state of being. Fifty-four years before I could see Rouen cathedral is built of parallel shafts of sun, and now you want to restore my youthful errors: fixed notions of top and bottom, the illusion of three-dimensional space, wisteria separate from the bridge it covers. What can I say to convince you the Houses of Parliament dissolve night after night to become the fluid dream of the Thames? I will not return to a universe of objects that don't know each other, as if islands were not the lost children of one great continent.  The world is flux, and light become…

The Alchemist in the City

by G. M. Hopkins

My window shews the travelling clouds,
Leaves spent, new seasons, alter'd sky,
The making and the melting crowds:
The whole world passes; I stand by.

They do not waste their meted hours,
But men and masters plan and build:
I see the crowning of their towers,
And happy promises fulfill'd.

And I - perhaps if my intent
Could count on prediluvian age,
The labours I should then have spent
Might so attain their heritage,

But now before the pot can glow
With not to be discover'd gold,
At length the bellows shall not blow,
The furnace shall at last be cold.

Yet it is now too late to heal
The incapable and cumbrous shame
Which makes me when with men I deal
More powerless than the blind or lame.

No, I should love the city less
Even than this my thankless lore;
But I desire the wilderness
Or weeded landslips of the shore.

I walk my breezy belvedere
To watch the low or levant sun,
I see the city pigeons veer,
I mark the tower swallows run