Since Nine O'Clock

C. P. Cavafy - 1863-1933
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 cafés 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.

More by C. P. Cavafy

Caesarion

In part to verify a date,
and in part just to pass the time,
last night I picked up a volume
of Ptolemaic inscriptions and began reading.
Those endless poems of praise and flattery
all sound the same. All the men are brilliant,
great and good, mighty benefactors;
most wise in all their undertakings.
The same for the women of the dynasty, all the Berenices
and Cleopatras, wonderful, each and every one.

When I managed to find the date in question,
I'd have put the book aside had a brief mention
of King Caesarion, an insignificant note really,
not suddenly caught my eye...

Ah, there you stood, with that vague
charm of yours. And since history has devoted
just a few lines to you, I had more freedom
to fashion you in my mind's eye...
I made you handsome, capable of deep feeling.
My art gave your face an appealing,
dreamlike beauty. In fact, I imagined you
so vividly last night, that when my lamp
went out—I let it go out on purpose—
I actually thought you had come into my room;
you were there, standing before me,
just as you would have looked in defeated Alexandria,
pale and tired, ideal in your sorrow,
still hoping for mercy from those vicious men
who kept on whispering 'too many Caesars.'

Craftsman of Wine Bowls

On this wine bowl          of pure silver—
destined for the home          of Heracleides,
where discerning taste          and elegance reside—
I've engraved flowers,          streams and thyme,
and in their midst          a handsome youth,
naked and erotic,          dangling his leg
in the water still.          I prayed, memory,
that I'd find in you          an ally strong enough to render
the face of this youth,          whom I loved, just as it once was.
It will not be easy,          as it has been
some fifteen years          from the day he fell,
a soldier,          in the battle of Magnesia.