The God Abandons Antony

By C.P. Cavafy

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.

 

the-god-abandons-antony

(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

About this poem:

“There is a strong interdependency of texts as well as voices operating in this poem. Cavafy took his title from Plutarch’s Life of Antony and built the poem out of Plutarch’s historical narration. (Plutarch describes a bacchanalia winding past Antony’s house just before the fall of Alexandria and reads this as a sign of Antony’s abandonment by Dionysus.) Cavafy also reads Plutarch through the powerful lens of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (act 4, scene 3). The Shakespearean inheritance doesn’t lead Cavafy away from his personal feeling for Alexandria but toward that feeling, and the story becomes the vehicle of its dramatic expression. The poem itself enacts a ritual action.”

From: Hirsch, Edward. How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry (Harvest Book) (p. 137). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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