Letters to a Roman friend

Discussion in 'Music, Movies and Entertainment' started by qxr1011, Dec 19, 2017.

  1. qxr1011

    qxr1011

    It is windy nowadays, the ocean rages.
    Autumn nears, the leaves are catching fire.
    Postum, they’re more poignant, these changes,
    than the girlfriend’s changes in attire.

    At her knee or elbow, she will end it -
    anything beyond will be curtailed.
    Hence, this out of body marvel is more splendid:
    no embrace can happen, no betrayal.

    ________________

    I am sending you these books for your enjoyment.
    How’s the capital? Still sleeping with one eye?
    Caesar? What’s he up to? Still involved in
    his intrigues, his gluttony, and lies?

    I am in my garden, lanterns - blazing.
    With no lady, friends, and no assistance.
    Strong and meek have given up their place to
    buzzing noises of agreeing insects.

    ________________

    Here, an Asian merchant lies, - a smart one –
    he was diligent, but easy to dismiss.
    Caught malaria. He came up here to barter,
    for his work, but certainly not this.

    A legionnaire lies near him. He was bold.
    Brought glory to the Empire, persevered.
    He could’ve died in battle, but died old.
    There are no rules, dear Postum, even here.

    ________________

    Perhaps, a chicken is no bird to be admired,
    but those with chicken-brains must take precautions.
    If you were destined to be born in the Empire,
    it’s best to find some province, by the ocean.

    Away from Caesar and the blizzard, in your nook.
    No flattery, no rushing, constant fearing.
    You’re telling me the governors are crooks?
    But murderers are even less endearing.

    ________________

    Yes, I’ll endure the rain with you, hetaera,
    but don’t you think this haggling’s uncouth:
    a sesterce from the shielding body near you
    is like the shingles taken from the roof.

    You claim that I’m leaking? In my life,
    I’ve never made a habit leaving puddles.
    One day you will become somebody’s wife,
    and he will surely leak onto the covers.

    ________________

    We’ve lived past half. It’s fading into black.
    And, as an old slave by the tavern had declared:
    “We’ll notice only ruins, looking back.”
    A view barbaric surely, but still fair.

    I’ve strolled the hills. And now, this large bouquet.
    I’ll have to find a pitcher, give them water…
    My Postum, how is Libya today -
    or some place else? Continuing the war there?

    ________________

    Do you recall the procurator’s sister?
    The slender one, but round in the thighs.
    You used to sleep with her… She has become priestess.
    A priestess, Postum, talking to the skies.

    Come visit, I’ll bring out wine and bread.
    Or plums, perhaps. You’ll share your observations.
    I’ll make your bed with heavens overhead,
    and teach you names of all the constellations.

    ________________

    Dear Postum, soon, your friend, who liked addition,
    will pay off all the debts that piled slowly.
    Take out my savings from beneath the cushion, -
    there isn’t much there, just for rites and only.

    Then, ride your black mare out of town far enough
    to reach the house of hetaeras by the morning,
    and pay the price they once charged for their love,
    so that they make the same now for their mourning.

    ________________

    The laurel’s greens cause shudders in the air,
    The dust across the window, door - undone.
    The long deserted bed, abandoned chair.
    The fabric that absorbed the midday sun.

    There, with the wind, a boat beats in a welter.
    Behind a fence of pine trees, Pontus rises.
    There, on the cracking bench – Pliny the Elder.
    And thrushes chirp in thick locks of the cypress.

    March 1972

    JB
     
    Gambit likes this.
  2. Gambit

    Gambit

    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 proved worthy of 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.
     
  3. qxr1011

    qxr1011

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1977/02/17/on-cavafys-side/
     
  4. Gambit

    Gambit

  5. qxr1011

    qxr1011

    actually the link was not for the book, but for the Brodsky's article (he admired Cavafy)

    but i am sure the book should be nice
     
  6. Gambit

    Gambit

    The Brodsky article was insightful. I enjoyed reading it.