BY C. P. CAVAFY
TRANSLATED BY EDMUND KEELEY AND PHILIP SHERRARD
You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried like something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.
My first introduction to Cavafy was as the Poet of the City from Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. And then fairly soon after as the poet whose "Waiting for the Barbarians" became the inspiration for the Nobel Laureate J.M. Coatzee's early standout of the same name: Waiting for the Barbarians.