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One of Their Gods

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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)







Ένας…

TWO YOUNG MEN, 23 TO 24 YEARS OLD

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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…

Walls

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.

Walls

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