By C.P. Cavafy, translated and read by Daniel Medelsohn
Half past twelve. The time has quickly passed
since nine o’clock when I first turned up the lamp
and sat down here. I’ve been sitting without reading,
without speaking. With whom should I speak,
so utterly alone within this house?
The apparition of my youthful body,
since nine o’clock when I first turned up the lamp,
has come and found me and reminded me
of shuttered perfumed rooms
and of pleasure spent — what wanton pleasure!
And it also brought before my eyes
streets made unrecognizable by time,
bustling city centres that are no more
and theatres and cafes that existed long ago.
The apparition of my youthful body
came and also brought me cause for pain:
deaths in the family; separations;
the feelings of my loved ones, the feelings of
those long dead which I so little valued.
Half past twelve. How the time has passed.
Half past twelve. How the years have passed.
Constantine Cavafy, the greatest Greek poet since antiquity, never published a complete book of his poems during his lifetime. But last week, we got a new look at his work in two volumes. For more than 10 years, the writer, critic and translator, Daniel Mendelsohn, has immersed himself in Cavafy’s work. The result: “C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems” and “C.P. Cavafy: The Unfinished Poems.” It is the first time Cavafy’s unfinished poems have been translated or seen in English. For more about the collections, click here.