Diary of the Plague Year: Day 19 3 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry C.P. Cavafy (1863 – 1933)

C.P. Cavafy


Days of 1909, 1910 and 1911

The son of a put-upon, dirt-poor sailor
(from some island in the Aegean),
He worked as a blacksmith’s apprentice. He had rags
for clothes, his pitiful working boots were in tatters,
his hands filthy with rust and oil.

In the evening, when the shop closed,
if there were something he especially wanted,
a necktie with a rather high price-tag,
a necktie to wear on Sundays,
or if he caught a glimpse of a nice blue shirt
in the shop window and hankered after it,
he’d sell his body for a shilling or two.

I wonder if Alexandria, in all its glory, in all the long
of its ancient days, had ever seen a youth more exquisite,
more perfect than this boy – who went utterly to waste.
For of course, no statue or portrait
was ever made. Stuck there in that grimy blacksmith’s
worn down by the wrack and strain of work,
and by the working man’s rough pleasures, the boy went
quickly to ruin.


Remember Body

Little Black Classics No. 43



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