Almanac Poetry: ‘An Old Man’ – C.P. Cavafy

Constantine P. Cavafy (1863 – 1933) was a Greek poet who lived in Alexandria and worked as a journalist and civil servant. He published 154 poems; dozens more remained incomplete or in sketch form. His most important poetry was written after his fortieth birthday.

 

 

 

 

An Old Man

 

At the noisy end of the cafe, head bent
over the table, an old man sits alone,
a newspaper in front of him.

 

And in the miserable banality of old age
he thinks how little he enjoyed the years
when he had strength, eloquence, and looks.

 

He knows he’s aged a lot: he sees it, feels it.
Yet it seems he was young just yesterday.
So brief an interval, so brief.

 

And he thinks of Prudence, how it fooled him,
how he always believed – what madness –
that cheat who said: “Tomorrow. You have plenty of time.”

 

He remembers impulses bridled, the joy
he sacrificed. Every chance he lost
now mocks his senseless caution.

 

But so much thinking, so much remembering
makes the old man dizzy. He falls asleep,
his head resting on the cafe table.

 

C.P. Cavafy

 

 

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Comments

  1. Kevin Densley says

    A fine poem, indeed!

  2. Colin Ritchie says

    It conveys a lot, especially as one is getting older. There are a number of different translations of this poem – all very good – and it was difficult to select the best one,.

  3. That’s great, I’m doing some work with older people and some of their comments and reflections tie into these words so aptly. Do as much as you can whilst you can.
    Thx for sharing.

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