26 April 2012

C. P. Cavafy: Three translations of "The City"

Constantine Petrou Photiades Cavafy (1863 - 1932)
Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day! In addition to carrying around the poems Poets House are handing out today, many written by 3rd and 6th graders from PS 89 and I. S. 289 about the neighborhood, I also have Edmund Keely's Essential Cavafy, one of my favorite 'little books.' Here is Cavafy's "The City," first, the original, from the Cavafy Archive website then two translations.

Note from George Kalogeris: "In the original, all the rhymes are full rhymes, the pattern is a-b-b-c-c-d-d-a, and the first and last line of each stanza rhymes variations of the word for “sea” (thalassa) and for “wasted” (xalassa)."

Η Πόλις
Είπες· «Θα πάγω σ’ άλλη γη, θα πάγω σ’ άλλη θάλασσα.
Μια πόλις άλλη θα βρεθεί καλλίτερη από αυτή.
Κάθε προσπάθεια μου μια καταδίκη είναι γραφτή·
κ’ είν’ η καρδιά μου — σαν νεκρός — θαμένη.
Ο νους μου ως πότε μες στον μαρασμόν αυτόν θα μένει.
Όπου το μάτι μου γυρίσω, όπου κι αν δω
ερείπια μαύρα της ζωής μου βλέπω εδώ,
που τόσα χρόνια πέρασα και ρήμαξα και χάλασα.»

Καινούριους τόπους δεν θα βρεις, δεν θάβρεις άλλες θάλασσες.
Η πόλις θα σε ακολουθεί. Στους δρόμους θα γυρνάς
τους ίδιους. Και στες γειτονιές τες ίδιες θα γερνάς·
και μες στα ίδια σπίτια αυτά θ’ ασπρίζεις.
Πάντα στην πόλι αυτή θα φθάνεις. Για τα αλλού — μη ελπίζεις—
δεν έχει πλοίο για σε, δεν έχει οδό.
Έτσι που τη ζωή σου ρήμαξες εδώ
στην κώχη τούτη την μικρή, σ’ όλην την γη την χάλασες. 

The City

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried like something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you've destroyed it everywhere in the world

from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems (Princeton University Press, 1992)   
translated By Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

The City

    You said: “I’ll go to another land, I’ll go to another sea.
I'll find a city better than this one.
My every effort is a written indictment,
and my heart — like someone dead — is buried.
How long will my mind remain in this decaying state.
Wherever I cast my eyes, wherever I look,
I see my life in black ruins here,
where I spent so many years, and ruined and wasted them.”

You will not find new lands, you will not find other seas.
The city will follow you. You will roam
the same streets. And you will grow old in the same neighborhood,
and your hair will turn white in the same houses.
You will always arrive in this city. Don’t hope for elsewhere -
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you have wasted your life here,
in this small corner, so you have ruined it on the whole earth.

translated by Aliki Barnstone

The City

    You said: “I’ll go to some other land, I’ll go to some other shore.
There’s bound to be another city that’s better by far.
My every effort has been ill-fated from the start;
my heart — like something dead — lies buried away;
How long will my mind endure this slow decay?
Wherever I look, wherever I cast my eyes,
I see all round me the black rubble of my life
where I’ve spent so many ruined and wasted years.”

You’ll find no new places, you won’t find other shores.
The city will follow you. The streets in which you pace
will be the same, you’ll haunt the same familiar places,
and inside those same houses you’ll grow old.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t bother to hope
for a ship, a route, to take you somewhere else; they don’t exist.
Just as you’ve destroyed your life here, here in this
small corner, so you’ve wasted it through all the world

from C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems (Knopf, 2009)
translated by Daniel Mendelsohn

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