C.P. Cavafy was born in Alexandria, Egypt on April 29, 1863 and died in the same city on April 29, 1933. He descended from an old Greek family from Constantinople, then the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Cavafy was educated in England and spent some of his young adulthood in that country. Some of his early work was in English and French, as well as in Greek.
Cavafy's preoccupations dealt with the world of the senses and that of history. He was aware particularly of the directions taken by Hellenic civilization through time and the peoples and cultures it affected. Hellenism was for him one of the universal expressions of world culture, perhaps one of the most refined.
In 1919 the English writer E.M. Forster visited Cavafy in Alexandria and then enthusiastically introduced his work to the English-speaking world. English literary circles were sensitive to Cavafy's poetic sensibility, so much so that T.S. Eliot came to refer to him as the Poet. There are four major English translations of Cavafy's opus.
In this English literary context must be seen the periodic revivals of interest in Cavafy's work. We are experiencing one such revival due to the interest of the late Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the crystalline verses of the poet: during her funeral was read the poem "Ithaca," the first of thirteen of Cavafy's poems which are reproduced in this collection.
A note on the translator: The verses reproduced in this site are from the last important translation of Cavafy's complete works. This was translated into English from the original Greek by Memas Kolaitis, a gifted translator and poet. Kolaitis's sensibility was developed much like that of Cavafy; the translator studied in England and lived in Alexandria for over 25 years. He was a friend of the poet, indeed was the only one of his translators who knew him. Both were trilingual (Greek-English-French), the cadence of this translation relecting this fact.
- A. D. Caratzas
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