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Unconsummated affairs

September 12, 2013

Alexandra Leaving (click here) led me to two more Cavafy poems. Longings (1904) was included as a Poem on the Underground in 2005. Remember, body … (1916) is in a newish translation by Aliki Barnstone. Regretful but tranquil about what didn’t happen – rejoicing in what did.


Like the beautiful bodies of those who died before growing old,
sadly shut away in a sumptuous mausoleum,
roses by the head, jasmine at the feet—
so appear the longings that have passed
without being satisfied, not one of them granted
a night of sensual pleasure, or one of its radiant mornings.

By Constantin Cavafy (translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard)

Remember, Body …

Body, remember not only how much you were loved,
not only the beds where you lay,
but also those desires for you,
shining clearly in eyes
and trembling in a voice—and some chance
obstacle thwarted them.
Now when everything is the past,
it almost looks as if you gave yourself
to those desires as well—how they shone—
remember—in the eyes that looked at you,
how they trembled for you in the voice—remember, body.

by C. P. Cavafy (translated by Aliki Barnstone)

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