Poems by Constantin Cavafy


 
 
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constantin cavafy

Understanding


The years of my youth, my sensual life --
how clearly I see their meaning now.

What needless repentances, how futile....

But I did not understand the meaning then.

In the dissolute life of my youth
the desires of my poetry were being formed,
the scope of my art was being plotted.

This is why my repentances were never stable.
And my resolutions to control myself, to change
lasted for two weeks at the very most.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1918)

 

An old man


At the back of the noisy café
bent over a table sits an old man;
a newspaper in front of him, without company.

And in the scorn of his miserable old age
he ponders how little he enjoyed the years
when he had strength, and the power of the word, and good looks.

He knows he has aged much; he feels it, he sees it.
And yet the time he was young seems
like yesterday. How short a time, how short a time.

And he ponders how Prudence deceived him;
and how he always trusted her -- what a folly! --
that liar who said: "Tomorrow. There is ample time."

He remembers the impulses he curbed; and how much
joy he sacrificed. Every lost chance
now mocks his senseless wisdom.

...But from so much thinking and remembering
the old man gets dizzy. And falls asleep
bent over the café table.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1897)

 

The god forsakes Anthony

 
When suddenly, at the midnight hour,
an invisible troupe is heard passing
with exquisite music, with shouts --
your fortune that fails you now, your works
that have failed, the plans of your life
that have all turned out to be illusions, do not mourn in vain.
As if long prepared, as if courageous,
bid her farewell, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all do not be fooled, do not tell yourself
it was a dream, that your ears deceived you;
do not stoop to such vain hopes.
As if long prepared, as if courageous,
as it becomes you who have been worthy of such a city,
approach the window with firm step,
and with emotion, but not
with the entreaties and complaints of the coward,
as a last enjoyment listen to the sounds,
the exquisite instruments of the mystical troupe,
and bid her farewell, the Alexandria you are losing.


Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

 

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