Devastated by Cavafy

I adore the poetry of Constantine P. Cavafy, the poet originally from Alexandria who made a habit of writing in demotic Greek in the early 20th Century. Often he drew on history for many of his poems, but he also wrote about personal experiences, about love, sex, long lost passion that still lived long in his bones and heart and mind and escaped through his pen. Last night I stayed up until 3:00 in the morning reading some off his poems aloud.

One poem in particular stunned me and kept me up long after I closed the book. You should know that Cavafy was a man who loved men and loved being physically intimate with men. Like many men in history (and today) he kept that fact hidden from most of the world. He needed to hide his true feelings. Only in his unpublished works and among his friends was he open about his sexuality. Many of his poems were published after his death in 1935.

Perhaps he wrote the following poem with you in mind.

Hidden Things

From all I did and all I said
let them not try to find out who I was.
An obstacle stood before me and transformed
my acts and my way of life.
An obstacle stood before me and stopped me
so often from what I was going to say.
My most unnoticed acts
and my most veiled writings–
only from these will they know me.
But maybe it’s not worth it to devote
so much care and effort to knowing me.
Later–in a more perfect society–
someone made like me
will certainly appear and act differently

(from The Collected Poems of C. P. Cavafy–A New Translation by Aliki Barnstone )

Read more at the Cavafy official site.

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  1. Jane on September 3, 2009 at 3:20 am Reply

    It is me in at least one way – or at least used to be. Hiding my true, inner self from me and God and as many others as possible.

    It is also my 15 year old niece who rocks my world! This girl is an ally to her very bones. She is part of the reason why I live out loud now. I want to be a woman with integrity and honesty for her – someone she can look up to. (Want pressure? Let a 6 year old name you as a hero.) She also doesn’t hide who she is – no matter what it is. She’s my hero.

    Thanks for sharing Peterson. That will keep me thinking for a while.

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