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Thread: Konstantinos Kavafis:My Favourite Poems

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    Post Konstantinos Kavafis:My Favourite Poems

    Ionian Song

    Just because we have broken their statues,
    just because we have driven them out of their temples,
    the gods did not die because of this at all.
    O Ionian land, it is you they still love,
    it is you their souls still remember.
    When an August morning dawns upon you
    a vigor from their life moves through your air;
    and at times an ethereal youthful figure,
    indistinct, in rapid stride,
    crosses over your hills.



    THERMOPYLAE


    Honor to those who in the life they lead
    define and guard a Thermopylae.
    Never betraying what is right,
    consistent and just in all they do
    but showing pity also, and compassion;
    generous when they are rich, and when they are poor,
    still generous in small ways,
    still helping as much as they can;
    always speaking the truth,
    yet without hating those who lie.

    And even more honor is due to them
    when they foresee (as many do foresee)
    that in the end Ephialtis will make his appearance,
    that the Medes will break through after all.


    Ithaka

    As you set out for Ithaka
    hope your road is a long one,
    full of adventure, full of discovery.
    Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon-don't be afraid of them:
    you'll never find things like that on your way
    as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
    as long as a rare excitement
    stirs your spirit and your body.
    Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
    wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
    unless you bring them along inside your soul,
    unless your soul sets them up in front of you.


    Hope your road is a long one.
    May there be many summer mornings when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
    may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
    to buy fine things,
    mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    sensual perfume of every kind-
    as many sensual perfumes as you can;
    and may you visit many Egyptian cities
    to learn and go on learning from their scholars.


    Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
    Arriving there is what you're destined for.
    But don't hurry the journey at all.
    Better if it lasts for years,
    so you're old by the time you reach the island,
    wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
    not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
    Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
    Without her you wouldn't have set out.
    She has nothing left to give you now.


    And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.



    Dangerous things

    Said Myrtias (a Syrian student
    in Alexandria; in the reign of
    Augustus Constans and Augustus Constantius;
    in part a pagan, and in part a christian);
    "Fortified by theory and study,
    I shall not fear my passions like a coward.
    I shall give my body to sensual delights,
    to enjoyments dreamt-of,
    to the most daring amorous desires,
    to the lustful impulses of my blood, without
    any fear, for whenever I want --
    and I shall have the will, fortified
    as I shall be by theory and study --
    at moments of crisis I shall find again
    my spirit, as before, ascetic."


    The god forsakes Antony

    When suddenly, at the midnight hour,
    an invisible troupe is heard passing
    with exquisite music, with shouts --
    your fortune that fails you now, your works
    that have failed, the plans of your life
    that have all turned out to be illusions, do not mourn in vain.
    As if long prepared, as if courageous,
    bid her farewell, the Alexandria that is leaving.
    Above all do not be fooled, do not tell yourself
    it was a dream, that your ears deceived you;
    do not stoop to such vain hopes.
    As if long prepared, as if courageous,
    as it becomes you who have been worthy of such a city,
    approach the window with firm step,
    and with emotion, but not
    with the entreaties and complaints of the coward,
    as a last enjoyment listen to the sounds,
    the exquisite instruments of the mystical troupe,
    and bid her farewell, the Alexandria you are losing.



    Nero's Term

    Nero was not worried when he heard
    the prophecy of the Delphic Oracle.
    "Let him fear the seventy three years."
    He still had ample time to enjoy himself.
    He is thirty. More than sufficient
    is the term the god allots him
    to prepare for future perils.

    Now he will return to Rome slightly tired,
    but delightfully tired from this journey,
    full of days of enjoyment --
    at the theaters, the gardens, the gymnasia...
    evenings at cities of Achaia...
    Ah the delight of nude bodies, above all...

    Thus fared Nero. And in Spain Galba
    secretly assembles and drills his army,
    the old man of seventy three.



    As much as you can

    Even if you cannot shape your life as you want it,
    at least try this
    as much as you can; do not debase it
    in excessive contact with the world,
    in the excessive movements and talk.

    Do not debase it by taking it,
    dragging it often and exposing it
    to the daily folly
    of relationships and associations,
    until it becomes burdensome as an alien life.



    POSEIDONIANS


    "The Poseidonians forgot the Greek language
    after so many centuries of mingling
    with Tyrrhenians, Latins, and other foreigners.
    The only thing surviving from their ancestors
    was a Greek festival, with beautiful rites,
    with lyres and flutes, contests and wreaths.
    And it was their habit toward the festival's end
    to tell each other about their ancient customs
    and once again to speak Greek names
    that only few of them still recognized.
    And so their festival always had a melancholy ending
    because they remebered that they too were Greeks,
    they too once upon a time were citizens of Magna Graecia;
    and how low they'd fallen now, what they'd become,
    living and speaking like barbarians,
    cut off so disastrously from the Greek way of life."

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    Post Re: Konstantinos Kavafis:My Favourite Poems

    EYTYXEITE!
    Bravo Alkman! A very good choice in order to introduce Kavafis!
    "...Keep Ithaka always in your mind!"

    Έστωσαν οι Θεοί αρωγοί Υμών!
    Quote Originally Posted by Alkman
    Ionian Song

    Just because we have broken their statues,
    just because we have driven them out of their temples,
    the gods did not die because of this at all.
    O Ionian land, it is you they still love,
    it is you their souls still remember.
    When an August morning dawns upon you
    a vigor from their life moves through your air;
    and at times an ethereal youthful figure,
    indistinct, in rapid stride,
    crosses over your hills.



    THERMOPYLAE


    Honor to those who in the life they lead
    define and guard a Thermopylae.
    Never betraying what is right,
    consistent and just in all they do
    but showing pity also, and compassion;
    generous when they are rich, and when they are poor,
    still generous in small ways,
    still helping as much as they can;
    always speaking the truth,
    yet without hating those who lie.

    And even more honor is due to them
    when they foresee (as many do foresee)
    that in the end Ephialtis will make his appearance,
    that the Medes will break through after all.


    Ithaka

    As you set out for Ithaka
    hope your road is a long one,
    full of adventure, full of discovery.
    Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon-don't be afraid of them:
    you'll never find things like that on your way
    as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
    as long as a rare excitement
    stirs your spirit and your body.
    Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
    wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
    unless you bring them along inside your soul,
    unless your soul sets them up in front of you.


    Hope your road is a long one.
    May there be many summer mornings when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
    may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
    to buy fine things,
    mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    sensual perfume of every kind-
    as many sensual perfumes as you can;
    and may you visit many Egyptian cities
    to learn and go on learning from their scholars.


    Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
    Arriving there is what you're destined for.
    But don't hurry the journey at all.
    Better if it lasts for years,
    so you're old by the time you reach the island,
    wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
    not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
    Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
    Without her you wouldn't have set out.
    She has nothing left to give you now.


    And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.



    Dangerous things

    Said Myrtias (a Syrian student
    in Alexandria; in the reign of
    Augustus Constans and Augustus Constantius;
    in part a pagan, and in part a christian);
    "Fortified by theory and study,
    I shall not fear my passions like a coward.
    I shall give my body to sensual delights,
    to enjoyments dreamt-of,
    to the most daring amorous desires,
    to the lustful impulses of my blood, without
    any fear, for whenever I want --
    and I shall have the will, fortified
    as I shall be by theory and study --
    at moments of crisis I shall find again
    my spirit, as before, ascetic."


    The god forsakes Antony

    When suddenly, at the midnight hour,
    an invisible troupe is heard passing
    with exquisite music, with shouts --
    your fortune that fails you now, your works
    that have failed, the plans of your life
    that have all turned out to be illusions, do not mourn in vain.
    As if long prepared, as if courageous,
    bid her farewell, the Alexandria that is leaving.
    Above all do not be fooled, do not tell yourself
    it was a dream, that your ears deceived you;
    do not stoop to such vain hopes.
    As if long prepared, as if courageous,
    as it becomes you who have been worthy of such a city,
    approach the window with firm step,
    and with emotion, but not
    with the entreaties and complaints of the coward,
    as a last enjoyment listen to the sounds,
    the exquisite instruments of the mystical troupe,
    and bid her farewell, the Alexandria you are losing.



    Nero's Term

    Nero was not worried when he heard
    the prophecy of the Delphic Oracle.
    "Let him fear the seventy three years."
    He still had ample time to enjoy himself.
    He is thirty. More than sufficient
    is the term the god allots him
    to prepare for future perils.

    Now he will return to Rome slightly tired,
    but delightfully tired from this journey,
    full of days of enjoyment --
    at the theaters, the gardens, the gymnasia...
    evenings at cities of Achaia...
    Ah the delight of nude bodies, above all...

    Thus fared Nero. And in Spain Galba
    secretly assembles and drills his army,
    the old man of seventy three.



    As much as you can

    Even if you cannot shape your life as you want it,
    at least try this
    as much as you can; do not debase it
    in excessive contact with the world,
    in the excessive movements and talk.

    Do not debase it by taking it,
    dragging it often and exposing it
    to the daily folly
    of relationships and associations,
    until it becomes burdensome as an alien life.



    POSEIDONIANS


    "The Poseidonians forgot the Greek language
    after so many centuries of mingling
    with Tyrrhenians, Latins, and other foreigners.
    The only thing surviving from their ancestors
    was a Greek festival, with beautiful rites,
    with lyres and flutes, contests and wreaths.
    And it was their habit toward the festival's end
    to tell each other about their ancient customs
    and once again to speak Greek names
    that only few of them still recognized.
    And so their festival always had a melancholy ending
    because they remebered that they too were Greeks,
    they too once upon a time were citizens of Magna Graecia;
    and how low they'd fallen now, what they'd become,
    living and speaking like barbarians,
    cut off so disastrously from the Greek way of life."

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