To Cavafy: Inspired by Hockney

Two Young Men, 23 to 24 Years Old
by Constantine Petrou Cavafy

He’d been sitting in the café since ten-thirty
expecting him to turn up any minute.
Midnight went by, and he was still waiting for him.
It was now after one-thirty, and the café was almost deserted.
He’d grown tired of reading newspapers
mechanically. Of his three lonely shillings
only one was left: waiting that long,
he’d spent the others on coffees and brandy.
He’d smoked all his cigarettes.
So much waiting had worn him out. Because
alone like that for so many hours,
he’d also begun to have disturbing thoughts
about the immoral life he was living.

But when he saw his friend come in—
weariness, boredom, thoughts vanished at once.

His friend brought unexpected news.
He’d won sixty pounds playing cards.

Their good looks, their exquisite youthfulness,
the sensitive love they shared
were refreshed, livened, invigorated
by the sixty pounds from the card table.

Now all joy and vitality, feeling and charm,
they went—not to the homes of their respectable families
(where they were no longer wanted anyway)—
they went to a familiar and very special
house of debauchery, and they asked for a bedroom
and expensive drinks, and they drank again.

And when the expensive drinks were finished
and it was close to four in the morning,
happy, they gave themselves to love.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

I read that his work loses in the translation so I include the original:

 

Aπ’ τες δεκάμισυ ήτανε στο καφενείον,
και τον περίμενε σε λίγο να φανεί.
Πήγαν μεσάνυχτα— και τον περίμενεν ακόμη.
Πήγεν η ώρα μιάμισυ· είχε αδειάσει
το καφενείον ολοτελώς σχεδόν.
Βαρέθηκεν εφημερίδες να διαβάζει
μηχανικώς. Aπ’ τα έρημα, τα τρία σελίνια του
έμεινε μόνον ένα: τόση ώρα που περίμενε
ξόδιασε τ’ άλλα σε καφέδες και κονιάκ.
Κάπνισεν όλα του τα σιγαρέτα.
Τον εξαντλούσε η τόση αναμονή. Γιατί
κιόλας μονάχος όπως ήταν για ώρες, άρχισαν
να τον καταλαμβάνουν σκέψεις οχληρές
της παραστρατημένης του ζωής.

Μα σαν είδε τον φίλο του να μπαίνει— ευθύς
η κούρασις, η ανία, η σκέψεις φύγανε.

Ο φίλος του έφερε μια ανέλπιστη είδησι.
Είχε κερδίσει στο χαρτοπαικτείον εξήντα λίρες.

Τα έμορφά τους πρόσωπα, τα εξαίσιά τους νειάτα,
η αισθητική αγάπη που είχαν μεταξύ τους,
δροσίσθηκαν, ζωντάνεψαν, τονώθηκαν
απ’ τες εξήντα λίρες του χαρτοπαικτείου.

Κι όλο χαρά και δύναμις, αίσθημα κι ωραιότης
πήγαν— όχι στα σπίτια των τιμίων οικογενειών τους
(όπου, άλλωστε, μήτε τους θέλαν πια):
σ’ ένα γνωστό τους, και λίαν ειδικό,
σπίτι της διαφθοράς πήγανε και ζητήσαν
δωμάτιον ύπνου, κι ακριβά πιοτά, και ξαναήπιαν.

Και σαν σωθήκαν τ’ ακριβά πιοτά,
και σαν πλησίαζε πια η ώρα τέσσερες,
στον έρωτα δοθήκαν ευτυχείς.

 

(Από τα Ποιήματα 1897-1933, Ίκαρος 1984)

 

Constantine Petrou Cavafy Official Website of the Cavary Archive
A friend on Flickr suggested I read some Cavafy, and while doing some research I found the Cavafy Archive to read the poems but I also discovered some David Hockney etchings for 14 of the poems. I realized I had an image already that seemed to fit one of those 14 poems. I hope to create some more images to go with Cavafy poems having been inspired to mix poetry and photos by several other Flickr friends.

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