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. Seleukia-Ktesiphon Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard (C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savid


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 vital

For Cavafy

by Bruce 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 h

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 h


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.


C.P. Cavafy clipped from   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 poe


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. "I know the joy of fishes In the river Through my own joy, as I go walking Along the same river."

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 o

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 swall