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Dangerous Thoughts

1 février 2010
Here is another poem from Cavafy.

Said Myrtias (a Syrian student in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Konstans and the Emperor Konstantios; in part a heathen, in part christianized):

Dangerous Thoughts
“Strengthened by study and reflection.

I won’t fear my passions like a coward;


I’ll give my body to sensual pleasures,


to enjoyments I’ve dreamed of,


to the most audacious erotic desires,


to the lascivious impulses of my blood,


with no fear at all, because when I wish—


and I’ll have the will-power, strengthened


as I shall be by study and reflection—


when I wish, at critical moments I will recover

my spirit, ascetic as
it was before.”

See, dear, I guess you should try a bit of this also… I know you would have talent to practice eroticism at a level of a fine art.
But this guy, Cavafy is not exactly fit to your "case". He was an homosexual, Cairo (in ancient times, Alexandria) was the city associated with the bankruptcy in his family by bad speculation.


But still, I admit that his inventiveness and subtlety using languages, elements in history and myths with wild imagination, appeals a lot, for similar spirits. I am happy your meditation on translation cross, in some ways, my concerns on this aspect… On relationship between so different cultures and also so different beings, human ? Are you still human, Yezi ? Am I a monster ? Who knows  ?

Here is another poem, to pin the nail. It is called :  Despair…

He lost him completely. And he now tries to find

his lips in the lips of each new lover,
he tries in the union with each new lover
to convince himself that it’s the same young man,
that it’s to him he gives himself.
 
He lost him completely, as though he never existed.
He wanted, his lover said, to save himself
from the tainted, unhealthy form of sexual pleasure,
the tainted, shameful form of sexual pleasure.
There was still time, he said, to save himself.
 
He lost him completely, as though he never existed.
Through fantasy, through hallucination,
he tries to find his lips in the lips of other young men,
he longs to
feel his kind of love once more.


Do not be mistaken, this is therapy, my dear, not infamy. I urge you not to idealize tragic submission to sad destiny, not to renounce liberty. I ask you to consider that proper exercise of own given liberty is to permit to think for yourself, for your personal pleasure and happiness.. Do not permit that your thinking for others can eat your own life, because they, these others, think firstly for themselves and to their own advantage, and they will eat you up !

This is what’s happening to you now. Wake up, please, my dear ! Regaining freedom to think leads to freedom to live. Imposed values, proposed duties are your fatum only to the extent you do not reconsider those. People you serve would only arrange differently if your were not there to serve them. But who is still there to serve you ?

OK, for same price, see also this one, called :

Longing

Like the beautiful bodies of those who died before they had aged,


sadly shut away in a sumptuous mausoleum,


roses by the head, jasmine at the feet—


so appear the longings that have passed


without being satisfied, not one of them granted

a night of sensual
pleasure, or one of its radiant mornings

I must admit that this one is more like it. Like what ? Like I really like it !

One night

The room was cheap and sordid,
hidden above the suspect taverna.
From the window you could see the alley,
dirty and narrow. From below
came the voices of workmen
playing cards, enjoying themselves.
 
And there on that common, humble bed
I had love’s body, had those intoxicating lips,
red and sensual,
red lips of such intoxication
that now as I write, after so many years,
in my lonely house, I’m
drunk with passion again.

This is what I call recalling !!! Or, more properly, remembering. On this site : Official website of the Cafavy archives English translation is very good. Why I know that ? This writer was deeply anglicized, having studied in England in his youth, influenced by Shakespeare, Browne and others, wrote first verses in English.

YJ

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