21 Days/21 Poems: The City by C.P. Cavafy

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Today’s theme for 21 Days/21 Poems is well… “wherever you go there you are”.  I’m feeling a bit fed up with myself today.  This poem, The City by C.P.Cavafy, compliments my mood perfectly :).  Ah, I feel better already. Cavafy is adorably harsh.

The City

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

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

Source: The Official Website of the Cavafy Archive


  1. I actually beg to differ. I’m writing a paper on my experience, analysis, and understanding of this poem, and I don’t find the narrator of the piece to be harsh. The first person being quoted uses words like “black,” “dead,” “moulder,” and “destroy,” while the narrator uses words like “gray,” and “grow old.”
    To me, this just seems to be an objective piece of advice about not running away from your problems because they will follow you, especially if you’ve admitted to being the one who wasted or destroyed their life.


  2. A great poem that reminds us that we can never really escape anything. Or at least that is what it makes me think, if only because it is relevant :)


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