I have so much beheld –

C. P. Cavafy

I have so much beheld beauty
that my vision is filled with it.

Contours of the body. Red lips. Sensual limbs.
Locks almost plucked from Greek statues –
always lovely, although uncombed,
that rest a little over pale brows.
Figures of love, such as my poetry
wanted… in the nights of my youth,
furtively in those nights encountered .…

[Published 1917]

Original Greek Poem

Forlorn

C. P. Cavafy

Wholly lost. And so now he seeks
in the lips of each new lover
the lips of the man; in union with every
new lover he seeks to deceive himself
that it is the same young man that he is prone to.

Wholly lost, as if he had never existed.
Because he wanted – said he – he wanted to be saved
from the disgraced, the diseased pleasure;
from disgraced – shame’s pleasure.
There was a chance yet – he said – to be saved.

Wholly lost, as if he had never existed.
In imagination, in illusions
in the lips of other lads his lips he seeks;
he tries to feel again that love of his.

[Written and published 1923]

Original Greek Poem

Passing

C. P. Cavafy

The things he meekly imagined when a pupil, are open,
exposed before him. And he gets around, and all-nights,
and strays. And as is (for our art) right,
pleasure exults in
his blood, fresh and warm.
His body is bested by
lawless erotic rapture; and his young
limbs succumb to it.
And so a plain boy
becomes worthy of our notice, and through the High
World of Poetry for a moment this passes too –
the shapely boy with his blood fresh and warm.

[Written 1914; Published 1917]

Original Greek Poem

Lovely and white flowers that well fitted

C. P. Cavafy

He entered the coffee shop where they used to go together. –
Here his friend three months ago had told him,
‘We are broke. We are two poor
boys – reduced to the cheap dives.
I’m telling you straight, I can’t go out
with you. Another man, listen, wants me.’
The other man had promised him two suits, and some
silk handkerchiefs – To reclaim him,
he rent the world, and found twenty pounds.
He returned to him for the twenty pounds;
but also, besides that, for the old friendship,
for the old love, for the deep feeling between them. –
The ‘other man’ was a liar, a good-for-nothing;
a single suit had he made him, and
even that reluctantly, after a thousand pleas.

But now he wants neither the suits,
nor the silk handkerchiefs at all,
nor twenty pounds, nor twenty pence.

On Sunday they buried him, at ten in the morning.
On Sunday they buried him: it’s almost a week now.

In his meagre coffin he put flowers for him,
lovely and white flowers that well fitted
his beauty and his twenty-two years.

When in the evening he went – he had an errand,
a pressing task – to the coffee shop where
they used to go together: a knife to his heart
the black coffee shop where they used to go together.

[Published 1929]

Original Greek Poem