C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems / Edition 1

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C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933) lived in relative obscurity in Alexandria, and a collected edition of his poems was not published until after his death. Now, however, he is regarded as the most important figure in twentieth-century Greek poetry, and his poems are considered among the most powerful in modern European literature. Here is an extensively revised edition of the acclaimed translations of Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, which capture Cavafy's mixture of formal and idiomatic use of language and preserve the immediacy of his frank treatment of homosexual themes, his brilliant re-creation of history, and his astute political ironies. The resetting of the entire edition has permitted the translators to review each poem and to make alterations where appropriate. George Savidis has revised the notes according to his latest edition of the Greek text. About the first edition: "The best [English version] we are likely to see for some time."—James Merrill, The New York Review of Books "[Keeley and Sherrard] have managed the miracle of capturing this elusive, inimitable, unforgettable voice. It is the most haunting voice I know in modern poetry."—Walter Kaiser, The New Republic

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Among the key books of our century and should be read by anyone who cares for poetry."Washington Post Book World
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691015378
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/8/1992
  • Series: Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation Series
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 958,398
  • Product dimensions: 5.49 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

An extraordinary literary event: the simultaneous publication of a brilliant and vivid new rendering of C. P. Cavafy’s Collected Poems and the first-ever English translation of the poet’s thirty Unfinished Poems, both featuring the fullest literary commentaries available in English—by the acclaimed critic, scholar, and award-winning author of The Lost.

No modern poet brought so vividly to life the history and culture of Mediterranean antiquity; no writer dared break, with such taut energy, the early-twentieth-century taboos surrounding homoerotic desire; no poet before or since has so gracefully melded elegy and irony as the Alexandrian Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (1863–1933). Now, after more than a decade of work and study, and with the cooperation of the Cavafy Archive in Athens, Daniel Mendelsohn—a classics scholar who alone among Cavafy’s translators shares the poet’s deep intimacy with the ancient world—is uniquely positioned to give readers full access to Cavafy’s genius. And we hear for the first time the remarkable music of his poetry: the sensuous rhymes, rich assonances, and strong rhythms of the original Greek that have eluded previous translators.

The more than 250 works collected in this volume, comprising all of the Published, Repudiated, and Unpublished poems, cover the vast sweep of Hellenic civilization, from the Trojan War through Cavafy’s own lifetime. Powerfully moving, searching and wise, whether advising Odysseus as he returns home to Ithaca or portraying a doomed Marc Antony on the eve of his death, Cavafy’s poetry brilliantly makes the historical personal—and vice versa. He brings to his profound exploration of longing and loneliness, fate and loss, memory and identity the historian’s assessing eye as well as the poet’s compassionate heart.

With its in-depth introduction and a helpful commentary that situates each work in a rich historical, literary, and biographical context, this revelatory new translation, together with The Unfinished Poems, is a cause for celebration—the definitive presentation of Cavafy in English.

Daniel Mendelsohn’s reviews and essays on literary and cultural subjects appear regularly in numerous publications, including The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. His previous books include the memoir The Elusive Embrace, a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, and the international best seller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Prix Médicis, and many other honors. Mr. Mendelsohn is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. He teaches at Bard College.

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Read an Excerpt

The CityYou said: “I'll go to some other land, I'll go to some other sea.There's bound to be another city that's better by far.My every effort has been ill-fated from the start;my heart-like something dead-lies buried away;How long will my mind endure this slow decay?Wherever I look, wherever I cast my eyes,I see all round me the black rubble of my lifewhere I've spent so many ruined and wasted years.”You'll find no new places, you won't find other shores.The city will follow you. The streets in which you pacewill be the same, you'll haunt the same familiar places,and inside those same houses you'll grow old.You'll always end up in this city. Don't bother to hopefor a ship, a route, to take you somewhere else; they don't exist.Just as you've destroyed your life, here in thissmall corner, so you've wasted it through all the world.[1894; 1910] IthacaAs you set out on the way to Ithacahope that the road is a long one,filled with adventures, filled with discoveries.The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,Poseidon in his anger: do not fear them,you won't find such things on your wayso long as your thoughts remain lofty, and a choiceemotion touches your spirit and your body.The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,savage Poseidon; you won't encounter themunless you stow them away inside your soul,unless your soul sets them up before you.Hope that the road is a long one.Many may the summer mornings bewhen-with what pleasure, with what joy-you first put in to harbors new to your eyes;may you stop at Phoenician trading postsand there acquire the finest wares:mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,and heady perfumes of every kind:as many heady perfumes as you can.Many Egyptian cities may you visitthat you may learn, and go on learning, from their sages.Always in your mind keep Ithaca.To arrive there is your destiny.But do not hurry your trip in any way.Better that it last for many years;that you drop anchor at the island an old man,rich with all you've gotten on the way,not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.Ithaca gave you the beautiful journey;without her you wouldn't have set upon the road.But now she has nothing left to give you.And if you find her poor, Ithaca didn't deceive you.As wise as you will have become, with so much experience,you will understand, by then, these Ithacas; what they mean.[1910; 1911] Hidden (1908)From all I did and from all I saidthey shouldn't try to find out who I was.An obstacle was there and it distortedmy actions and the way I lived my life.An obstacle was there and it stopped meon many occasions when I was going to speak.The most unnoticed of my actionsand the most covert of all my writings:from these alone will they come to know me.But perhaps it's not worth squanderingso much care and trouble on puzzling me out.Afterwards-in some more perfect society-someone else who's fashioned like mewill surely appear and be free to do as he pleases.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Poet—Historian
A Note on Pronunciation of Proper Names

Poems 1905—1915

The City
The Satrapy
But Wise Men Apprehend What Is Imminent
Ides of March
The God Abandons Antony
As Much As You Can
King Demetrius
The Glory of the Ptolemies
The Retinue of Dionysus
The Battle of Magnesia
The Seleucid’s Displeasure
Alexandrian Kings
The Steps
Herodes Atticus
Sculptor from Tyana
The Tomb of Lysias the Grammarian
Tomb of Eurion
That Is He
Manuel Comnenus
In the Church
Very Rarely
In Stock
Morning Sea
Song of Ionia
In the Entrance of the Café
One Night
Come Back
Far Off
He Swears
I Went

Poems 1916—1918
Since Nine–
In the Presence of the Statue of Endymion
Envoys from Alexandria
Nero’s Deadline
Safe Haven
One of Their Gods
Tomb of Lanes
Tomb of Iases
In a City of Osrhoene
Tomb of Ignatius
In the Month of Hathor
For Ammon, Who Died at 29 Years of Age, in 610
Aemilian Son of Monaës, an Alexandrian, 628—655 A.D.
Whenever They Are Aroused
To Pleasure
I’ve Gazed So Much–
In the Street
The Window of the Tobacco Shop
In Evening
Below the House
The Next Table
Remember, Body
Days of 1903

Poems 1919—1933
The Afternoon Sun
To Stay
Of the Jews (50 A.D.)
Aboard the Ship
Of Demetrius Soter (162—150 B.C.)
If Indeed He Died
Young Men of Sidon (400 A.D.)
That They Come–
Anna Comnena
Byzantine Noble, in Exile, Versifying
Their Beginning
Favour of Alexander Balas
Melancholy of Jason, Son of Cleander: Poet in Commagene: 595 A.D.
I Brought to Art
From the School of the Renowned Philosopher
Maker of Wine Bowls
Those Who Fought on Behalf of the Achaean League
For Antiochus Epiphanes
In an Old Book
In Despair
Julian, Seeing Indifference
Epitaph of Antiochus, King of Commagene
Theater of Sidon (400 A.D.)
Julian in Nicomedia
Before Time Could Alter Them
He Came to Read–
The Year 31 B.C. in Alexandria
John Cantacuzenus Triumphs
Temethus, an Antiochene: 400 A.D.
Of Colored Glass
The 25th Year of His Life
On the Italian Seashore
In the Boring Village
Apollonius of Tyana in Rhodes
Cleitus’s Illness
In a Municipality of Asia Minor
Priest of the Serapeum
In the Taverns
A Great Procession of Priests and Laymen
Sophist Departing from Syria
Julian and the Antiochenes
Anna Dalassene
Days of 1896
Two Young Men, 23 to 24Years Old
Greek Since Ancient Times
Days of 1901
You Didn’t Understand
AYoung Man, Skilled in the Art of the Word–
in His 24th Year
In Sparta
Portrait of a Young Man of Twenty-Three Done by His Friend of the Same Age, an Amateur
In a Large Greek Colony, 200 B.C.
Potentate from Western Libya
Cimon Son of Learchus, 22 Years Old, Teacher of Greek Letters (in Cyrene)
On the March to Sinope
Days of 1909, ’10, and ’11
Myres: Alexandria in 340 A.D.
Alexander Jannaeus, and Alexandra
Beautiful, White Flowers As They Went So Well
Come Now, King of the Lacedaemonians
In the Same Space
The Mirror in the Entrance
He Asked About the Quality–
Should Have Taken the Trouble
According to the Formulas of Ancient Greco-Syrian Magicians
In 200 B.C.
Days of 1908
On the Outskirts of Antioch

Poems Published 1897—1908
Contents of the Sengopoulos Notebook

An Old Man
Old Men’s Souls
The First Step
Che Fece . . . Il Gran Rifiuto
The Windows
Waiting for the Barbarians
The Funeral of Sarpedon
The Horses of Achilles


The Poet and the Muse
Word and Silence
Vulnerant Omnes, Ultima Necat
Good and Bad Weather
Timolaus the Syracusan
Athena’s Vote
The Inkwell
Sweet Voices
Elegy of the Flowers
Hours of Melancholy
Ode and Elegy of the Streets
Near an Open Window
A Love
The Death of the Emperor Tacitus
The Eumenides’ Footfalls
The Tears of Phaëthon’s Sisters
Ancient Tragedy
Horace in Athens
Voice from the Sea
The Tarentines Have Their Fun
The Funeral of Sarpedon


The Beyzade to His Lady-Love
Dünya Güzeli
When, My Friends, I Was in Love . . .
Song of the Heart
To Stephanos Skilitsis
Correspondences According to Baudelaire
[Fragment of an untitled poem]
“Nous N’osons Plus Chanter les Roses”
Indian Image
Pelasgian Image
The Hereafter
The Mimiambs of Herodas
Azure Eyes
The Four Walls of My Room
Alexandrian Merchant
The Lagid’s Hospitality
In the Cemetery
Priam’s March by Night
Displeased Theatregoer
Before Jerusalem
Second Odyssey
He Who Fails
The Pawn
In the House of the Soul
La Jeunesse Blanche
Distinguishing Marks
Chaldean Image
Julian at the Mysteries
The Cat
The Bank of the Future
Impossible Things
Death of a General
The Intervention of the Gods
King Claudius
The Naval Battle
When the Watchman Saw the Light
The Enemies
Artificial Flowers
September of 1903
December 1903
January of 1904
On the Stairs
In the Theatre
The End of Antony
27 June 1906, 2 P.M.
Hearing of Love
“The Rest Shall I Tell in Hades to Those Below”
That’s How
Homecoming from Greece
Theophilus Palaeologus
And I Got Down and I Lay There in Their Beds
Half an Hour
House with Garden
A Great Feast at the House of Sosibius
The Bandaged Shoulder
It Was Taken
From the Drawer

Prose Poems

The Regiment of Pleasure

Poems Written in English
[More Happy Thou, Performing Member]
Leaving Therápia
Darkness and Shadows

Further Reading
Index of Titles

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  • Posted August 19, 2014

    Great collection of the poet's most important poems. The transla

    Great collection of the poet's most important poems. The translation is excellent.

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