Letters to a friend...




THIS PAGE HAS MY WRITINGS FROM MAY TO AUGUST,2005.
MY WRITINGS SINCE THEN ARE POSTED AT:

A Curious Mind W(o/a)nders...- http://ayanwonders.blogspot.com/

Friday, July 08, 2005

Two classics by Cavafy

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Maybe you've read Constantine Cavafy, reputed as one of modern Greek's finest poets.

Following are the English translations of two of his most acclaimed poems. They are classics in the Greek language and have meanings at many layers.

The first poem (The god forsakes Antony) is based on Plutarch's story and is an advice to Marcus Antonius (Anthony) on the last night before the fall of the great city of Alexandria, a poem on how one might face a great loss.

The second one (Ithaka) provides an interesting perspective on the necessity for ideals and goals, and the importance of the journey. It is one of my personal favourites.

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The god forsakes Antony
-Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)
(Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard )

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

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Ithaka
-Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)
(Translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard)

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, 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, Cyclops,
wild 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 your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing 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 learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

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