Friday, July 25, 2008

Poetry Friday: The God Abandons Antony

The God Abandons 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

I know this poem is about death and losing and gods deserting you. I know it's about doomed Antony, of historic fame as told by Plutarch, and of literary fame, as made immortal by Shakespeare. But there is something so defiant and joyous in the rhythms of it that I can't help reading it aloud and feeling that I, too, have been given "this kind of city" on some rare days.

Listen to the exquisite music of that strange procession.

The Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee and Franki today, at A Year of Reading.


  1. "go firmly to the window" Sara this sounds so much like you! I could just keep reading this poem over and over. It inspires courage.

  2. Thanks for sharing this poem. Its exquisite music is sad and haunting.

  3. OH! This one took my breath away. I'm going to tattoo "As one long prepared, and graced with courage" on the back of my hand. THAT is how I'd like to face disappointment, how I'd like to live.

  4. I like Cavafy's poem about Ulysses... That's the only Cavafy poem I know, but this one affects me in a similar way. Like the others have said, I like its courage, its poise come what may.

  5. Oh, the part about not fooling yourself, not saying anything was a dream or a mistake, but saying it's OVER, that is SO HARD.

    Words worth keeping. I think a bracelet etched with the words "Graced with courage" might be a good reminder.

  6. I can see why this would be a favorite. It is like a benevolent hand pushing you forward, making you face whatever it is you need to face with grace. I thinnk this might become one of my favorites, too.

  7. When I go, I definitely want to "go firmly to the window."

  8. Love the tone of the poem. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. Hi Sara, I nominated you for an award:

    :-) writer2b

  10. BTW I don't know if you know this Leonard Cohen song based on the poem.
    Alexandra Leaving


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