C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems

C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems

by Daniel Mendelsohn
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


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

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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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

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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.

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.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
April 16, 1960
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A., Classics, University of Virginia, 1982; M.A., Classics, Princeton University, 1989; Ph.D., 1994

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