Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March

by Constantine P Cavafy

julcaehlFear grandeurs, O soul.
And if you cannot overcome
your ambitions, pursue them with hesitation
and caution. And the more you advance,
the more inquisitive, careful you must be.

And when you reach your peak, Caesar at last;
when you assume the form of a famous man,
then above all beware when you go out in the street,
a conspicuous ruler with followers,
if by chance from the mob approaches
some Artemidorus*, bringing a letter
and says hastily 'Read this immediately,
these are grave matters that concern you,'
do not fail to stop; do not fail to push aside
all those who salute and kneel
(you can see them later); let even the Senate
itself wait, and immediately recognize
the grave writings of Artemidorus.

Vincenzo Camuccini, "Morte di Cesare", 1798,
Greek Original (for any of you who know Greek):

Μάρτιαι Ειδοί
Τα μεγαλεία να φοβάσαι, ω ψυχή.
Και τες φιλοδοξίες σου να υπερνικήσεις
αν δεν μπορείς, με δισταγμό και προφυλάξεις
να τες ακολουθείς. Κι όσο εμπροστά προβαίνεις,
τόσο εξεταστική, προσεκτική να είσαι.

Κι όταν θα φθάσεις στην ακμή σου, Καίσαρ πια·
έτσι περιωνύμου ανθρώπου σχήμα όταν λάβεις,
τότε κυρίως πρόσεξε σαν βγεις στον δρόμον έξω,
εξουσιαστής περίβλεπτος με συνοδεία,
αν τύχει και πλησιάσει από τον όχλο
κανένας Αρτεμίδωρος, που φέρνει γράμμα,
και λέγει βιαστικά «Διάβασε αμέσως τούτα,
είναι μεγάλα πράγματα που σ' ενδιαφέρουν»,
μη λείψεις να σταθείς· μη λείψεις τους διαφόρους
που χαιρετούν και προσκυνούν να τους παραμερίσεις
(τους βλέπεις πιο αργά· ας περιμένει ακόμη
κ' η Σύγκλητος αυτή, κ' ευθύς να τα γνωρίσεις
τα σοβαρά γραφόμενα του Αρτεμιδώρου.

Constantine P Cavafy

(1863 - 1933)

[Cavafy]Cavafy, one of the most prominent Greek poets, was born on April 29, 1863 and died on the same date in 1933 in Alexandria (Egypt). Here's a short biographical note by the poet himself:

I am from Constantinople by descent, but I was born in Alexandria -- at a house on Seriph Street; I left very young, and spent much of my childhood in England. Subsequently I visited this country as an adult, but for a short period of time. I have also lived in France. During my adolescence I lived over two years in Constantinople. It has been many years since I last visited Greece.

My last employment was as a clerk at a government office under the Ministry of Public Works of Egypt. I know English, French, and a little Italian.

Constantine P. Cavafy, also known as Konstantin or Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, orKavaphes (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης) (April 29, 1863 – April 29, 1933) was a renowned Greek poet who lived in Alexandria and worked as a journalist and civil servant. In his poetry he examined critically some aspects of Christianity, patriotism, and homosexuality, though he was not always comfortable with his role as a nonconformist. He published 154 poems; dozens more remained incomplete or in sketch form. His most important poetry was written after his fortieth birthday.

After finding this poem, I did some research on Cavafy, who seems to be a very interesting poet.  Cavafy, a homosexual, wrote many sexually explicit poems. W. H. Auden noted as much in his introduction to the 1961 volume The Complete Poems of C. P. Cavafy when he wrote, "Cavafy was a homosexual, and his erotic poems make no attempt to conceal the fact." Auden added: "As a witness, Cavafy is exceptionally honest. He neither bowdlerizes nor glamorizes nor giggles. The erotic world he depicts is one of casual pickups and short-lived affairs. Love, there, is rarely more than physical passion. . . . At the same time, he refuses to pretend that his memories of moments of sensual pleasure are unhappy or spoiled by feelings of guilt."

More about Cavafy will be posted this week.

*Julius Caesar - Act 2, Scene 3 by William Shakespeare

SCENE III. A street near the Capitol.

   Enter ARTEMIDORUS, reading a paper

ARTEMIDORUS
    'Caesar, beware of Brutus; take heed of Cassius;
    come not near Casca; have an eye to Cinna, trust not
    Trebonius: mark well Metellus Cimber: Decius Brutus
    loves thee not: thou hast wronged Caius Ligarius.
    There is but one mind in all these men, and it is
    bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal,
    look about you: security gives way to conspiracy.
    The mighty gods defend thee! Thy lover,
    'ARTEMIDORUS.'
    Here will I stand till Caesar pass along,
    And as a suitor will I give him this.
    My heart laments that virtue cannot live
    Out of the teeth of emulation.
    If thou read this, O Caesar, thou mayst live;
    If not, the Fates with traitors do contrive.

    Exit

4 comments:

jaygeemmm said...

As always, interesting learning, Prof! Thanks, this is cool stuff.

Peace <3
Jay

JoeBlow said...

Jay: I'm glad you are enjoying it.

fan of casey said...

Joe: One of my favorite roman scenes:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K8_jgiNqUc

Strike him centurion, very roughly . . .

JoeBlow said...

FOC: What a great clip! I never knew a guy named Biggus Dickus, but I do know one named Little Dick (technically, it's Dick Junior, but I always think of him as Little Dick, LOL).