Two Poems

Constantine P. Cavafy

In the Dives

In the dives     and whorehouses

of Beirut I wallow now.     Didn't want to stay

in Alexandria,     Tamides left me;

took off with the son     of the Governor to come by

a Nile villa,     a big house in town.

Wouldn't be right for me     to stay in Alexandria.—

In the dives     and whorehouses

of Beirut I wallow now.     In the cheap, debased

low life I lead.     One thing saves me,

like singular beauty,     like a fragrance

that sticks to my skin,     and that's the two years

Tamides was all mine,     loveliest of young men,

all mine and not for a house     or a villa on the Nile.

Returning Home from Greece

Well, we're just about there, Hermippos.

Day after tomorrow, I expect. Like the captain said.

At least we're sailing in our own sea,

the waters of Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt,

beloved waters of our homelands.

Why so quiet? In your heart of hearts,

as we were moving away from Greece

weren't you happy, too? But let's not kid ourselves—

that just doesn't reflect the Greeks we are.

So it's high time we admitted the truth:

we're Greeks, too—what else are we?—

however with affections and emotions out of Asia,

however with affections and emotions

occasionally striking the Greeks of Greece as strange.

It's not fitting for us, Hermippos, for philosophers like us

to look like some of our petty despots

(remember how we laughed at them

when they'd drop by our academies)

behind whose appearance,

flashily Hellenized and (I should talk!) Macedonian,

a little bit of Arabia showed through now and then,

a little bit of Media could not be held in check,

and with what comical ploys the poor things

tried to keep it from being noticed.

Ah, no, such fakery does not befit us.

Such pettiness is not worthy of Greeks like us.

Of the Syrian and Egyptian blood

that runs through our veins, let's not be ashamed,

let's honor it and glory in it.

translated from the Greek by George Economou