Monday, April 08, 2013


by Constantine P. Cavafy

At the noisy end of the café, head bent
over the table, an old man sits alone,
a newspaper in front of him.

And in the miserable banality of old age
he thinks how little he enjoyed the years
when he had strength, eloquence, and looks.

He knows he’s aged a lot: he sees it, feels it.
Yet it seems he was young just yesterday.
So brief an interval, so very brief.

And he thinks of Prudence, how it fooled him,
how he always believed—what madness—
that cheat who said: “Tomorrow. You have plenty of time.”

He remembers impulses bridled, the joy
he sacrificed. Every chance he lost
now mocks his senseless caution.

But so much thinking, so much remembering
makes the old man dizzy. He falls asleep,
his head resting on the café table.

(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

Constantine P. Cavafy, (29 April 1863 – 29 April 1933 / Alexandria, Egypt) also known as Konstantin or Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, or Kavaphes was a renowned Greek poet who lived in Alexandria and worked as a journalist and civil servant. He published 154 poems; dozens more remained incomplete or in sketch form. His most important poetry was written after his fortieth birthday. You can read his poems on his site Here 

"I am from Constantinople by descent, but I was born in Alexandria—at a house on Seriph Street; I left very young, and spent much of my childhood in England. Subsequently I visited this country as an adult, but for a short period of time. I have also lived in France. During my adolescence I lived over two years in Constantinople. It has been many years since I last visited Greece. My last employment was as a clerk at a government office under the Ministry of Public Works of Egypt. I know English, French, and a little Italian.”

Constantine Cavafi is considered one of the finest European and modern Greek poets. His poetry is taught at schools in mainland Greece and Cyprus, and across universities around the world. E.M. Forster knew him personally and wrote a memoir of him, contained in his book "Alexandria". Forster, Arnold Toynbee, and T.S. Eliot were among the earliest promoters of Cavafy in the English-speaking world before the Second World War. In 1966, David Hockney made a series of prints to illustrate a selection of Cavafy’s poems, including In the dull village.

(These photos are for illustrations purpose only. As fotos são apenas ilustrativas)

de Constantine P. Cavafy

No meio do café ruidoso, sem ninguém,
por companhia, está sentado um velho. Tem
à frente um jornal e se inclina sobre a mesa.

Imerso na velhice aviltada e sombria,
pensa quão pouco desfrutou as alegrias
dos anos de vigor, eloqüência, beleza.

Sabe que envelheceu bastante. Vê, conhece.
No entanto, o seu tempo de moço lhe parece
ser ainda ontem: faz tão pouco, faz tão pouco...

Medita no quanto a Prudência dele rira;
em como acreditara sempre na mentira
do “Deixa para amanhã. Há tempo.” Que louco!

Pensa nos ímpetos que teve de conter,
nas alegrias frustras por seu tolo saber,
que cada ocasião perdida agora escarnece.

Porém, tanto pensar, tanta recordação,
põem o velho confuso, e sobre a mesa, então,
daquele café, debruçado, ele adormece.

Poemas Seleção, estudo crítico,notas e tradução de José Paulo Paes
José Olympio Editora – edição 2006.

Constantine P. Cavafy ( 29 de abril de 1863- 29 de abril de 1933 / Alexandria, Egito) também conhecido como Konstantínos Kaváfis, foi um renomado poeta grego, que viveu em Alexandria e trabalhou como jornalista e funcionário público. É considerado um dos maiores nomes da poesia em idioma grego moderno. Cavafy publicou 154 poemas reelaborados durante a vida inteira, unindo citações eruditas à fala cotidiana. Suas mais importantes poesias foram escritas depois dos seus quarenta anos. (Ler mais sobre Cavafy Aqui)


  1. What a great poem - I hope I'm not that old man in a few years. There's a happy medium between living exclusively for today and living just for tomorrow.

  2. That's a moving poem, kind of sad. A reminder for us to live life as best we can, perhaps?

  3. Al, it is a beautiful poem indeed.
    I also hope I'm not that old lady in a few years... There's much wisdom and insight in your words: "There's a happy medium between living exclusively for today and living just for tomorrow." Thank you!

  4. Great poem of Kaváfis, a little sad, don't you think? I remember of this: The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which mean never losing your enthusiasm. ~Aldous Huxley

  5. Ms M., my eyes were filled with tears when I read this sad poem for the first time. Yes, I thought the same you said, "a reminder for us to live life as best we can". To me, particularly, was a reminder to don't procrastinate...

  6. Carraol, really it's a sad poem. A kind of regretfulness poem.
    The advice of Aldous Huxley is very wise and we must to try don't lose the enthusiasm!
    Did you know that I like so much Huxley? Principally his book Point Counter Point ( Contraponto). Thanks!

  7. I think it is very sad poem and reflects what many people feel....But, I think one should live in 'the moment' and enjoy whatever you can while being mindful that all we have is now, for sure, and that THAT can be taken away in a second.....I don't believe in regrets....It is a waste of time and energy and there is nothing you can do to change what has already happened or what has already taken place. All you can do is live in the "now"---whatever that means. And for some people---as we age---our "now" is very hard...Try to find things that can make your time here a little better....A little easier...A little more fun, if you can. Try to find a good laugh, if you can! Sometimes a laugh is more healing than anything except maybe a good cry. And they are very close, if you think about it. Nurture the child in you.

  8. Naomi you always says so meaningful and special words! Certainly all who reads your comment will be grateful for your positive and good words as I do. Yes, I agree with you: "Try to find a good laugh", "Nurture the child in you" is really a great and constructive attitude for sure. Thank you!

  9. Poema lindo, melancólico como pode ser a velhice de quem está só. beijos,chica

  10. As we age living becomes a more delicate dance.

  11. You must be in my mind!!!
    I've been thinking a lot about this lately.
    I must be having a mid-life crisis!
    It's like George Bernard Shaw said:
    "Youth is wasted on the young"

  12. It means too that it's never too late for anything. I had never heard about this poet before. Thks for sharing.

  13. Chica, você tem razão. Um dos grandes problemas da velhice é a solidão, o desamparo e a falta de apoio nessa fase da vida. Abraços.

  14. So true Tabor! I do hope that the dance will be lightweight, free and loose, as we said in Portuguese: "leve, livre e solta."

  15. Letitia, we both have much synchrony, isn't? I've been thinking about the age thing a lot lately... but I'm afraid that I'm a "bit" beyond the midlife crisis...LOL! Thanks for the great Bernard Shaw's quote!

  16. Thérèse, love your words that "it's never too late for anything." Thanks for your positive and livener thoughts!

  17. Cavafy's poems are very emotional and they reached our core.

    Just amazing synchronicity, Karin! Our comments arrived at the same instant.

  18. Great introduction to a poet I'm unfamiliar with. My life has always intersected with those of the Greek persuasion. My best friend was Greek. An artist to the bone. She would have understood that poem. She died young at the age of 44 and had regrets.

  19. What a thoughtful poem.
    I really like what OldLady of the Hills said, and will remind myself to live in the now.

  20. Hi Sonia! Thanks for this interesting post about the poet Cavafy, the poem is really nice! I'll go to the site for a good reading of his poems.
    Greetings from Turin!

  21. How very poignant and how sad the many chances we miss that could enrich our lives. Perhaps we should be more like Robert Frost and take that road less traveled...

  22. Hi Pasadena Adjacent, I am sorry that your best friend died so young... very sad...

    The only modern Greek poet I know is Cavafy and the first time I hear about Cavafy was on the tetralogy "The Alexandria Quartet", by Lawrence Durrell. I loved these 4 books, it's wonderful. The link is Here.
    Thanks for your comment.

  23. Hi Terry,
    Yes, it's a thoughtful and moving poem. I agree with Naomi too.
    Thanks for your comment.

  24. Hi Pietro,
    I am glad you like the poem. The site is very complete and has all his poems. Thanks for your comments.

  25. Hi Janice, I agree with you, the poem is very poignant.
    I was curious and Googled to read the poem of Robert Frost about the "road less traveled". Yes, "The Road Not Taken" is really beautiful. Thanks, I did not know yet this poem.

  26. Very interesting and thought provoking. I have never heard of this poet, thanks for sharing this interesting post that has us all thinking about "seizing the day!" Now who said that one?

  27. S o many
    o bvious words for the
    n ight of happiness when your
    i nner beauty
    a wakes the poetry in your eyes

    What a blog!!!

    Greetings from Greece.
    Yannis Politopoulos

  28. Hi Brenda, the poem is sad and poignant, but all of these comments I received were meaningful indeed. "Carpe diem" is a phrase from a Latin poem wrote by the Roman poet Horace (65 BC – 8 BC), an it is popularly translated as "seize the day". The Roman poet Ovídio (43 BC - AD 17/18), used the word in the sense of enjoy, seize, use. Thanks for your visit and comment.(Info via Wikipedia).

  29. Thank you, Yannis Politopoulos for your visit and comment. I am glad I have a visit from Greece. I would love to know your gorgeous country!

  30. I did not know this poet but will read more from him. It is true that life goes very fast so we must keep this in mind and forget all the negativity around us and enjoy what we have.

  31. Yes, I agree with you Vagabonde. The life goes so fast and we must enjoy the blessing we have. Thanks for your comment.

  32. Adorei o poema Sonia,
    e as fotos também muito boas.

  33. I love the poem. It's just how I feel as well, that I've wasted too much time being cautious. Must show it to Cushion ;)


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