Thursday, May 11, 2006

"The God Abandons Antony"

When suddenly at the midnight hour

you hear the invisible troupe passing by

with sublime music, with voices --

don't futilely mourn your luck giving out, your work

collapsing, the designs of your life

that have all proved to be illusions.

As if long prepared, as if full of courage,

say good-bye to her, the Alexandria who is leaving.

Above all don't fool yourself, don't say it was

a dream, how your ears tricked you.

Don't stoop to such empty hopes.

As if long prepared, as if full of courage,

as is right for you who are worthy of such a city,

go stand tall by the window

and listen with feeling, but not

with the pleas and whining of a coward,

hear the voices -- your last pleasure --

the exquisite instruments of that secret troupe,

and say good-bye to her, the Alexandria you are losing.

C.P. Cavafy

I started composing this post almost a month ago and then abandoned it. Here it is at last without the links because they are probably expired.

I first ran across a C.P. Cavafy poem in Andrew Carrolls free book of poems distributed for The American Poetry & Literacy Project. Songs of the Open Road? (Carroll deserves his own post…I had written him about becoming involved in the project beyond the scope of donation and he wrote me a letter enclosing a few copies of the book. His other projects and interest in letters of the unsung make for entralling reading). The poem was Ithaka a benediction for the beginning of a voyage (…Fear not the Lastroygynians…) and reminding the traveler that he will always have home in is heart. A cliché perhaps when summarized but made elegant in Cavafy’s verse. We met again when I read J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians for a class. The title was taken from Cavafy’s most well known poem of same name. A new translation of Cavafy by Aliki Barnstone (in collobartion with her father Willis) is out and was reviewed recently in Washington Post by Michael Dirda, who I often turn to when looking for what to read next.


scruffylooking said...

Why has Dex abandoned us again?

Dexter said...

I was just thinking the next post should be Bill Abandons Blog. Working on a quick one.