constantine p cavafy

—Why did our two consuls and the praetors
come out today in their crimson embroidered togas;
why did they don bracelets with so many amethysts
and rings resplendent with glittering emeralds;
why do they hold precious staffs today,
beautifully wrought in silver and gold?

-

Because the barbarians are arriving today,
and such things dazzle barbarians.

—  From Waiting for the Barbarians by Constantine P. Cavafy
Ithaca

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you. 

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge. 

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches. 

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage. 
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.

– constantine p. cavafy (trans. rae dalven)

Ithaka by Constantine P. Cavafy

When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy -
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

In the Evening

It wouldn’t have lasted long anyway—
the experience of years makes that clear.
Even so, Fate did put an end to it a bit abruptly.
It was soon over, that wonderful life.
Yet how strong the scents were,
what a magnificent bed we lay in,
what pleasure we gave our bodies.
 
An echo from my days given to sensuality,
an echo from those days came back to me,
something of the fire of the young life we shared:
I picked up a letter again,
and I read it over and over till the light faded away.
 
Then, sad, I went out on to the balcony,
went out to change my thoughts at least by seeing
something of this city I love,
a little movement in the street and the shops.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1916)

tr.  Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Ithaca

This is the poem I read when I want to quit:

When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy -
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

~Constantine P Cavafy

Like beautiful bodies of the dead, who had not grown old
and they shut them with tears, in a magnificent mausoleum,
with roses at the head and jasmine at the feet –
that is how desires look that have passed
without fultillment; without one of them having achieved
a night of sensual delight, or a moonlit morn.
—  Desires by Constantine P. Cavafy.
As you set out for Ithaca
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.
—  “Ithaca” by Constantine P. Cavafy
vimeo

CITY Teaser (2012)

“CITY” directed by Vasilios Papaioannu (USA/HD/2012), Experimental, 3 min

*Official Selection London Greek Film Festival 2012

*Official Selection Miden Video Art Festival 2013:

“CITY” constitutes a cinematic interpretation of Constantine Cavafy’s poem ‘The City’ (1910). Through the reiteration of a vicious circle that our existence has become, the modern man is locked up inside the city. Everyday is equal to the previous one and the more we are catapulted into this pitiful life the more we start blending the sounds of it into a single abrasive mechanical noise. Our sight becomes poor and blurry and each time a new day comes the same attributes will appear, more accentuated, more intensive with the striking force of a geometric progression. As Cavafy states in the conclusion of his poem:

You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

The impossibility to escape from this urban vicious circle demonstrates our inability to face reality at an early age. It is the recognition of a failure later on in our lives and a human misconception of a hope that became idle through time. The slow pace of a point of view throughout the streets of the city, the black and white scenario and the flickering of an image that is close to shut off while approaching to a necessary stop, are visual pieces of this hope.

When the Watchman Saw the Light

Winter, summer, the watchman sat there looking out
from the roof of Atreus’ palace. Now he has
good news to report. In the distance he saw the fire light up.
And he’s happy; besides, the drudgery’s over now.
It’s hard to sit there night and day
in heat and cold, looking out for a fire to appear
on the peak of Arachnaion. Now the longed-for signal
has appeared. Yet when happiness
comes, it brings less joy
than one expected. But at least
this much has been gained: we’ve rid ourselves
of hope and expectation. Many things will happen
to the house of Atreus. No need to be wise
to guess this now the watchman
has seen the light. So let’s not exaggerate.
The light is good; and those coming are good,
their words and actions also good.
And let’s hope all goes well. But
Argos can do without the house
of Atreus. Ancient houses are not eternal.
Of course many people will have much to say.
We should listen. But we won’t be deceived
by words such as Indispensable, Unique, and Great.
Someone else indispensable and unique and great
can always be found at a moment’s notice.

The City | Constantine P. Cavafy


You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried like something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
The city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

(tr. Edmund Keely)

The Windows

In these darkened rooms, where I spend
oppresive days, I pace to and fro
to find the windows. – When a window
opens, it will be a consolation. –
But the windows cannot be found, or I cannot
find them. And maybe it is best that I do not find them.
Maybe the light will be a new tyranny.
Who knows what new things it will reveal.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1903)

tr. George Barbanis & Rae Dalven

Constantine P. Cavafy

Constantine P. Cavafy (/kəˈvɑːfɪ/;[1] also known as Konstantin or Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, or Kavaphes; Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης; April 29 (April 17, OS), 1863 – April 29, 1933

via @Wikipedia

Walls

Without consideration, without pity, without shame
they have built great and high walls around me.

And now I sit here and despair.
I think of nothing else: this fate gnaws at my mind;

for I had many things to do outside.
Ah why did I not pay attention when they were building the walls.

But I never heard any noise or sound of builders.
Imperceptibly they shut me from the outside world.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1896)

tr. George Barbanis

Nero's Deadline

Nero wasn’t worried at all when he heard
the utterance of the Delphic Oracle:
“Beware the age of seventy-three.”
Plenty of time to enjoy himself still.
He’s thirty. The deadline
the god has given him is quite enough
to cope with future dangers.
 
Now, a little tired, he’ll return to Rome—
but wonderfully tired from that journey
devoted entirely to pleasure:
theatres, garden-parties, stadiums…
evenings in the cities of Achaia…
and, above all, the sensual delight of naked bodies…
 
So much for Nero. And in Spain Galba
secretly musters and drills his army—
Galba, the old man in his seventy-third year.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1903)

tr. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Aimilianos Monai, Alexandrian, A.D. 628-655

Out of talk, appearance, and manners
I will make an excellent suit of armor;
and in this way I will face malicious people
without feeling the slightest fear or weakness.
 
They will try to injure me. But of those
who come near me none will know
where to find my wounds, my vulnerable places,
under the deceptions that will cover me.
 
So boasted Aimilianos Monai.
One wonders if he ever made that suit of armor.
In any case, he did not wear it long.
At the age of twenty-seven, he died in Sicily.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1898/1916)

tr.  Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

“The Rest I Will Tell to Those Down to Hades”

“Indeed,” said the proconsul, closing the book,
“this line is beautiful and very true.
Sophocles wrote it in a deeply philosophic mood.
How much we’ll tell down there, how much,
and how very different we’ll appear.
What we protect here like sleepless guards,
wounds and secrets locked inside us,
protect with such great anxiety day after day,
we’ll disclose freely and clearly down there.”

“You might add,” said the sophist, half smiling,
“if they talk about things like that down there,
if they bother about them any more.”


Constantine P. Cavafy

Interruption

We interrupt the work of the gods,
hasty and inexperienced beings of the moment.
In the palaces of Eleusis and Phthia
Demeter and Thetis start good works
amid high flames and dense smoke. But
always Metaneira rushes from the king’s
chambers, disheveled and scared,
and always Peleus is fearful and interferes.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1901)

tr.  Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Satrapy

What a misfortune, though you are made
for fine and important works
this unjust fate of yours always
denies you encouragement and success;
that base customs should block you;
and pettiness and indifference.
And how frightful the day when you yield
(the day when you give up and yield)
and you leave on foot for Susa,
and you go to the monarch Artaxerxes
who graciously gives you a place in his court,
and offers you satrapies and such.
And you accept with despair
these things you do not want.
Your soul seeks other things, weeps for other things;
the praise of the people and the Sophists,
the hard-won, invaluable Well Done;
the Agora, the Theater, and the Laurels.
How can Artaxerxes give you these?
Where will you find these in a satrapy?
And without these, what life can you live?

Constantine P. Cavafy (1910)

tr. Rae Dalven