Monday, 9 April 2012

3 poems from C P Cavafy


On this wine bowl - pure silver
made for the house of Herakleidis,
where good taste is the rule -
notice these graceful flowers, the streams, the thyme.
In the centre I put this beautiful young man,
naked, erotic, one leg still dangling
in the water. O memory, I begged
for you to help me most in making
the young face I loved appear the way it was.
This proved very difficult because
some fifteen years have gone by since the day
he died as a soldier in the defeat at Magnesia.


It's like him, of course,
this little pencil portrait.

Hurriedly sketched, on the ship's deck,
the afternoon magical,
the Ionian Sea around us.

It's like him. But I remember him as better looking.
He was almost pathologically sensitive,
and this highlighted his expression.
He appears to me better looking
now that my soul brings him back, out of Time.

Out of Time. All these things are from very long ago -
the sketch, and the ship, and the afternoon.


From his village near the outskirts of town,
still dust-covered from the journey in,
the peddler arrives. And "Incense!" "Gum!"
"The best olive oil!" "Perfume for your hair!"
he hawks through the streets. But with all the hubbub,
the music, the parades, who can hear him?
The crowd shoves him, drags him along, knocks him around.
And when he asks, now totally confused, "What the hell's going on here?"
someone tosses him the huge palace lie:
that Antony is winning in Greece.

C P Cavafy (1863 - 1933)

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