Constantine P. Cavafy

Here I am, way into my middle years, and somehow I had never even heard of the poet Constantine Cavafy, or his gorgeous, poignant elegy of 1911, "The God Forsakes Antony." What happened was, I was listening to and researching Leonard Cohen's "Alexandra Leaving," co-written with Sharon Robinson, and discovered it was based on the tone and verbiage of Cavafy's poem, which is not so much a lament for what is lost but an encouragement for those who remain. He refers to Alexandria, Egypt. Here it is:
The God Forsakes Antony

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

- Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)


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