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.
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)
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.
[…] poets. Cavafy was born in Alexandria to Greek immigrant parents. I’ve featured his poems, The City and God Abandons Antony, previously on this blog. I’ve had Cavafy on my mind since my mother […]
[…] was reminded also of “The City”, C.P. Cavafy’s poetic illustration of the wherever-you-go-there-you-are theme The poem begins with: “You […]
I didn’t know this poet, thanks. It is very relevant nowadays: best poetry never ceases to be relevant.
C.P Cavafy’s poetry is so relevant. He gives the most wonderful advice and the best commentary on life in his poetry.
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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 🙂
Yes, we cannot escape much. Espeically, if we, ourselves, are at the root of our problems.
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