By C. P. Cavafy
(Translated by Daniel Mendelsohn)
Half past twelve. The time has quickly passed
since nine o'clock when I first turned up the lamp
and sat down here. I've been sitting without reading,
without speaking. With whom should I speak,
so utterly alone within this house?
The apparition of my youthful body,
since nine o'clock when I first turned up the lamp,
has come and found me and reminded me
of shuttered perfumed rooms
and of pleasure spent—what wanton pleasure!
And it also brought before my eyes
streets made unrecognizable by time,
bustling city centres that are no more
and theatres and cafés that existed long ago.
The apparition of my youthful body
came and also brought me cause for pain:
deaths in the family; separations;
the feelings of my loved ones, the feelings of
those long dead which I so little valued.
Half past twelve. How the time has passed.
Half past twelve. How the years have passed.
Constantine P. Cavafy was a widely admired Greek poet born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1863. Following a few years with his family in Liverpool, England as a youth, he returned to and lived out his life in Alexandria.
He worked as a journalist, then as a public servant throughout his life while writing his poems. At first, he was recognized only in the Greek community of Alexandria, but later in his life became known in Greece itself. His poems were published privately until after his death in 1933 on his 70th birthday.
His home in Alexandria is now a museum where some of his original manuscripts and sketches on on view.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Good Life on Olive Avenue