Constantine P Cavafy Short Poems | Poetry

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Constantine P Cavafy | Short Famous Poems and Poets

 
by Constantine P Cavafy

Very Seldom

 He's an old man.
Used up and bent, crippled by time and indulgence, he slowly walks along the narrow street.
But when he goes inside his house to hide the shambles of his old age, his mind turns to the share in youth that still belongs to him.
His verse is now recited by young men.
His visions come before their lively eyes.
Their healthy sensual minds, their shapely taut bodies stir to his perception of the beautiful.
Trans.
by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard


by Constantine P Cavafy

Desires

 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 --
this is what desires resemble that have passed
without fulfillment; with none of them having achieved
a night of sensual delight, or a bright morning.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Apollonius Of Tyana In Rhodes

 Apollonius was talking about
proper education and conduct with a young
man who was building a luxurious
house in Rhodes.
"As for me" said the Tyanian at last, "when I enter a temple however small it may be, I very much prefer to see a statue of ivory and gold than a clay and vulgar one in a large temple".
-- The "clay" and "vulgar"; the detestable: that already some people (without enough training) it deceives knavishly.
The clay and vulgar.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Morning Sea

 Let me stop here.
Let me, too, look at nature awhile.
The brilliant blue of the morning sea, of the cloudless sky, the yellow shore; all lovely, all bathed in light.
Let me stand here.
And let me pretend I see all this (I really did see it for a minute when I first stopped) and not my usual day-dreams here too, my memories, those images of sensual pleasure.
trans.
by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard


by Constantine P 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.


by Constantine P Cavafy

In Church

 I love the church: its labara,
its silver vessels, its candleholders,
the lights, the ikons, the pulpit.
Whenever I go there, into a church of the Greeks, with its aroma of incense, its liturgical chanting and harmony, the majestic presence of the priests, dazzling in their ornate vestments, the solemn rhythm of their gestures- my thoughts turn to the great glories of our race, to the splendor of our Byzantine heritage.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Monotony

 One monotonous day is followed
by another monotonous, identical day.
The same things will happen, they will happen again -- the same moments find us and leave us.
A month passes and ushers in another month.
One easily guesses the coming events; they are the boring ones of yesterday.
And the morrow ends up not resembling a morrow anymore.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Anna Dalassené

 In the golden bull that Alexios Comnenos issued
to prominently honor his mother,
the very sagacious Lady Anna Dalassené—
distinguished in her works, in her ways—
there are many words of praise:
here let us convey of them
a beautiful, noble phrase
"Those cold words 'mine' or 'yours' were never spoken.
"


by Constantine P Cavafy

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.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Supplication

 The sea took a sailor to its depths.
-- His mother, unsuspecting, goes and lights a tall candle before the Virgin Mary for his speedy return and for fine weather -- and always she turns her ear to the wind.
But while she prays and implores, the icon listens, solemn and sad, knowing that the son she expects will no longer return.


by Constantine P Cavafy

He Vows

 Every so often he vows to start a better life.
But when night comes with her own counsels, with her compromises, and with her promises; but when night comes with her own power of the body that wants and demands, he returns, forlorn, to the same fatal joy.


by Constantine P Cavafy

As Much As You Can

 Even if you cannot shape your life as you want it,
at least try this
as much as you can; do not debase it
in excessive contact with the world,
in the excessive movements and talk.
Do not debase it by taking it, dragging it often and exposing it to the daily folly of relationships and associations, until it becomes burdensome as an alien life.


by Constantine P Cavafy

I Went

 I did not restrain myself.
I let go entirely and went.
To the pleasures that were half real and half wheeling in my brain, I went into the lit night.
And I drank of potent wines, such as the valiant of voluptuousness drink.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Of The Shop

 He wrapped them carefully, neatly
in costly green silk.
Roses of ruby, lilies of pearl, violets of amethyst.
As he himself judged, as he wanted them, they look beautiful to him; not as he saw or studied them in nature.
He will leave them in the safe, a sample of his daring and skillful craft.
When a buyer enters the shop he takes from the cases other wares and sells -- superb jewels -- bracelets, chains, necklaces, and rings.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Priest At The Serapeum

 My dear old father,
who always loved me the same;
my dear old father I lament
who died the day before yesterday, just before dawn.
Jesus Christ, it is my daily effort to observe the precepts of Thy most holy church in all my acts, in all words, in all thoughts.
And all those who renounce Thee I shun.
-- But now I lament; I bewail, Christ, for my father although he was -- a horrible thing to say -- a priest at the accursed Serapeum.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Aemilianus Monae Alexandrian 628 - 655 A.D

 With words, with countenance, and with manners
I shall build an excellent panoply;
and in this way I shall face evil men
without having any fear or weakness.
They will want to harm me.
But of those who approach me none will know where my wounds are, my vulnerable parts, under all the lies that will cover me.
-- Boastful words of Aemilianus Monae.
Did he ever build this panoply? In any case, he did not wear it much.
He died in Sicily, at the age of twenty-seven.


by Constantine P Cavafy

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.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Che Fece ... Il Gran Rifiuto

 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; and saying it, he goes from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.
He who refuses does not repent.
Asked again, he'd still say no.
Yet that no-the right no- drags him down all his life.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Addition

 I do not question whether I am happy or unhappy.
Yet there is one thing that I keep gladly in mind -- that in the great addition (their addition that I abhor) that has so many numbers, I am not one of the many units there.
In the final sum I have not been calculated.
And this joy suffices me.


by 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.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Return

 Return often and take me,
beloved sensation, return and take me --
when the memory of the body awakens,
and an old desire runs again through the blood;
when the lips and the skin remember,
and the hands feel as if they touch again.
Return often and take me at night, when the lips and the skin remember.
.
.
.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Voices

 Ideal and beloved voices
of those who are dead, or of those
who are lost to us like the dead.
Sometimes they speak to us in our dreams; sometimes in thought the mind hears them.
And with their sound for a moment return other sounds from the first poetry of our life -- like distant music that dies off in the night.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Return

 This little house sows the degrees
By which wood can return to trees.
Weather has stained the shingles dark And indistinguishable from bark.
Lichen that long ago adjourned Its lodging here has now returned.
And if you look in through the door You see a sapling through the floor.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Days Of 1903

 I never found them again -- the things so quickly lost.
.
.
.
the poetic eyes, the pale face.
.
.
.
in the dusk of the street.
.
.
.
I never found them again -- the things acquired quite by chance, that I gave up so lightly; and that later in agony I wanted.
The poetic eyes, the pale face, those lips, I never found again.


by Constantine P Cavafy

Hidden

 If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
as if the stone has 
swallowed it.
If you tuck the name of a loved one under your tongue too long without speaking it it becomes blood sigh the little sucked-in breath of air hiding everywhere beneath your words.
No one sees the fuel that feeds you.