i.m. C. P. Cavafy, poet


I am from Constantinople, a Byzantine by descent,

The last, the very last, Byzantine nobleman

My family lived in Constantinople before the Turks took the city in 1453.

I was born and died in the same place, Alexandria,

Egypt, on the same day, April 29th, 1863, and 1933.

I am homosexual. I died of cancer of the larynx.

I was silenced but noboby knew the difference.

There were many years between my visits to Greece

But I always loved my Hellenic inheritance..

I lived much of my childhood in England.

My last employment was as a government clerk .

I can write in Greek, English and French.

I self-published my poetry but it was unpopular

And unfashionable. I made no money from poetry.

In my poems I explore the psychology of individuals,

amidst the legacy of Greek culture, especially

Ithaca, homosexuality and Greek philosophy.

Throughout my life, and even now, I suffer

From an all-pervasive existential nostalgia.

Now my poems are taught in schools in Greece

One of my most famous poems is  

Waiting for the Barbarians

Which could be about Constantinople

In the years before the Ottoman conquest.

Or could it be about the human tendency to prevaricate?

Who knows?

      What’s the point of senators making laws now?

      Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

These are the sorts of words I used. I asked many questions.

Including: Do we need barbarians, even invisible ones,

To be threatening the gates of our cities? I think we do

If we want to stay alive. Be the less-deceived.  


A View on the Middle Ages: The Last Defenders of Constantinople ...                                                            the last defenders of Constantinople 

◄ Destitute

After Virgil ►


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John Marks

Sun 31st May 2020 22:22

Thank you Mortimer. I am so glad you liked it. Few do.

Honor to those who in the life they lead
define and guard a Thermopylae***.
Never betraying what is right,
consistent and just in all they do
but showing pity also, and compassion;
generous when they are rich, and when they are poor,
still generous in small ways,
still helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hating those who lie.
And even more honor is due to them
when they foresee (as many do foresee)
that in the end Ephialtis** will make his appearance,
that the Medes* will break through after all.

C.P. Cavafy

*** - Thermopylae is a place in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. The Hot Gates is "the place of hot springs" and in Greek mythology it is the cavernous entrances to Hades"

** - Ephialtes was the son of Eurydemus of Malis. He betrayed his homeland, in hope of receiving some kind of reward from the Persians, by showing the Persian forces a path around the allied Greek position at the pass of Thermopylae, which helped them win the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE

* The Medes (/miːdz/, Old Persian Māda-, Ancient Greek: Μῆδοι, Hebrew: מָדַי Madai) were an ancient Iranian people who spoke the Median language and who inhabited an area known as Media between western and northern Iran.


Sun 31st May 2020 16:43

A beautiful poem, genius is really never honored in his lifetime.


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