Collected poems

by C.P. Cavafy

Paper Book, 1992





Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.


Presents a complete collection of the modern Greek poet's work, including his unfinished poems, which explores themes of longing and loneliness, fate and loss, memory and identity, throughout the history of Greek civilization.

User reviews

LibraryThing member antiquary
Cavafy is one of the two or three greatest poets I know for writing poems that embody a past historic moment --historical fiction in verse, but very well done. He is especially good on Alexandria, where he lived, comparable to Durrell. He does include some homoerotic verse, on which Auden comments
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with intelligent scepticism in his introduction, but overall I think he is a very fine writer.
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LibraryThing member languagehat
The translations are on the academic side, but the poetry is superb.
LibraryThing member Carl_Hayes
I'm not a big reader of poetry, but Cavafy's work has an appealing plain but direct style. This is a library book, so I only dipped and dabbled. Will probably buy a copy at some point, when I can spend more time delving into the classical/post-classical Greek/Roman/Byzantine history that dominates
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his work.
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LibraryThing member Cacuzza
My only preference over this would be to have the bilingual version.
LibraryThing member janerawoof
I skipped around in this collection. The notes were a big help, since many poems referred to incidents in ancient Greek or Byzantine history that were new to me. I did know a few. My favorite poems were "Candles" and "Ithaka".
LibraryThing member leslie.98
Cavafy's poetry often strikes a chord with me. I like the form of his poetry as well as the content & felt that Mendelsohn did a good translation. Of course, I am unable to read the original Greek so I can't really judge!

I did skip the prose poems at the end of the volume but spent some time
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looking at the extensive notes on the historical & mythological persons mentioned or implied in the poems. Having been a fan of all things Greek from an early age (my 11th birthday to be exact!), I was familiar with most of the people from ancient times but the notes were still interesting and informative.

Although I think that the two poems most familiar to me before reading this volume, Ithaca and Waiting for the Barbarians, were the best, I did discover several others that I liked almost as much such as As Much As You Can, Second Odyssey and Safe Haven. I was pleasantly surprised by some of Cavafy's pastoral poems such "Rain" and "Morning Sea". I also

The love poems often showed the stigma he felt being homosexual, calling it an "illicit pleasure" among other terms. Poems such a He Asked About the Quality, The 25th Year of His Life and Hidden indicate a life lived "in the closet" as we now call it. While well crafted (and some of the passages about desire were decidedly erotic even to me!), these had less resonance with me.
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Cavafy ranks up there for me just because, but he's also multi-layered. Read him at your peril - you might get smitten.
LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
To read a poet only in translation, is to suffer a great loss. In spite of the strong recommendation by W.H. Auden, at the beginning of this collection, I have always felt that. None the less, in the "Alexandria quartet" by Lawrence Durrell, the quotes seem so apposite that I acquired this
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collection. I do not know how accurate, Rae Dalven translated the poems, but I have turned to this volume time and again, to read a poem or two. I recommend this book, perhaps because the poems that Dalven translated have a poetic effect on me, whether or not, the originals could have affected me the same way, had I the Greek to deal with them.
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LibraryThing member Bessarion42
I was required to learn a little Cavafy when I took Modern Greek in school, but he only made a partial impression on me at the time. It was this book which made me fall in love. When I read it, I have the sensation of finding a book I had written myself but somehow never read... I don't have the
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poetic skill in English or Greek, but the thoughts fit with my thoughts. I'm concerned that if I learned Cavafy's works too well, that feeling might slip away and never be recovered. And so Cavafy became my favorite poet, but I also carefully refrain from becoming too much of an expert. It is a book I pick up again once a year or so, especially if I start to think that I don't enjoy poetry after all. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
While living in Alexandria Cavafy wrote lyrical poetry featuring Greek culture and its past. This collection contains both narrative poems about the past and more personal lyrics often concerned with homosexual love. The style and tone is expressed in simple dry language that is unique to Cavafy.
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He is one of my favorite poets.
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LibraryThing member therebelprince
So, to be clear, I'm not giving Cavafy's poems 2 stars; my opprobrium is reserved for Daniel Mendelsohn's dishearteningly dead translations. Yes, Cavafy was writing free verse in the modernist vein. Yes, his poetic tone often borders on conversational. But Mendelsohn has decided to ignore the
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rhythmic torrents of the great poet's work, to select the most mundane word in any situation, to replace the feeling with the cerebral, rather than let the two walk hand in hand. The conversational, perhaps, has become colloquial.

It is certainly impressive for Mendelsohn to have translated all of Cavafy's poems (this edition is a "highlights reel" from the full two-volume collection). This should not be taken as a slight on his lifetime of work or his command of Greek! (Who am I to make such judgments?) Yet dedication alone, however admirable, is not achievement. Perhaps it's an American thing - or a generational one! Mendelsohn's collection has been rapturously received by American institutions, and I suspect there is something appealing, to those soaked in the American literary tradition, in the understated ordinariness of this verse.

As one who does not have Greek, it would be folly to discuss the art of translation in this context. So allow me to compare just two lines from Cavafy's most famous poem The City to try and express the intangible something which I find to be missing from DM's translation.

Here is DM:
"You'll always end up in this city. Don't bother to hope
for a ship, a route, to take you somewhere else;
they don't exist."

Here Edmund Keeley:
" You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road."

Rae Delven:
"Always you will arrive in this city. Do not hope for any other–
There is no ship for you, there is no road."

Theoharis C. Theoharis:
"Always you will end up in this city.
For you there is no boat - abandon hope of that -
no road to other things."

And finally Lawrence Durrell, consciously "transplanting" rather than "translating", in a version from the appendices to his Justine:
"The city is a cage.
No other places, always this
Your earthly landfall, and no ship exists
To take you from yourself."

Four versions of Cavafy I would enjoy reading. And none of them Mendelsohn's.
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