Friday, 17 April 2015

In the Dives…

In the dives                                                                           and bordellos
of Beirut I wallow.                                                   I didn’t want to stay
in Alexandria; not I.                                                 Tamides has left me:
he’s gone with the mayor’s son                                         just to get
a Nile villa                                                                and a house in town.
It wouldn’t do to stay                                              in Alexandria —
In the dives                                                               and bordellos
of Beirut I wallow.                                                   In cheap debauch
I squander my life.                                                   All that saves me
like a lasting beauty,                                               like a lingering scent
that stays on my flesh,                                             is for two years I had
Tamides my own,                                                    that magnificent boy,
and not for a house                                                  or a villa on the Nile.


The above is my translation of a poem by Cavafy. It was not included by the young Greek girls who read some of Cavafy’s poems, in both the original and in David Connolly’s excellent new English translations (published in Athens by Aiora), so I was going to read it, in both languages, myself, but somehow there wasn’t time. So, since it has been a few days since I wrote a blog entry, here it is now. And here’s a picture of Cavafy himself; ‘The old poet of the city’, as Lawrence Durrell called him in his Alexandria Quartet:


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