I was chatting with my friend Yannis from Athens earlier this week and the subject got around to poetry. He asked if I was familiar with the poetry of C. P. Cavafy. I had to admit complete ignorance, so in a vain effort to educate me he sent links to a few of Cavafy’s poems on a website devoted to the great Hellenic poet.
I was immediately captivated by the first poem he sent: Ithaka – Cavafy’s thoughts on our life journey as filtered through the travels of Odysseus to his homeland.
Many of his poems are homo-erotic in nature and must have scandalized the society of his time. Gray, is an evocation of long-ago love recalled.
While looking at a half-gray opal
I remembered two lovely gray eyes—
it must be twenty years ago I saw them…
We were lovers for a month.
Then he went away to work, I think in Smyrna,
and we never met again.
Those gray eyes will have lost their beauty—if he’s still alive;
that lovely face will have spoiled.
Memory, keep them the way they were.
And, memory, whatever of that love you can bring back,
whatever you can, bring back tonight.
C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems.
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.
Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition.
Princeton University Press, 1992
I found myself remembering for a few moments a pair of eyes from my past. Thank you Yannis.
26 giugno – San Virgilio