This posting originated on Blog.Com on August 16, 2009.
Today, as I was walking along the beach in Venice, I started thinking about sand castles. Then I saw this gem of a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy (1863-1933). If you have ever read Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, you will remember Cavafy as the “poet of the city” who is not named but whose spirit pervades Alexandria, the city where he was born and lived much of his life. In his own words:
I am from Constantinople by descent, but I was born in Alexandria—at a house on Seriph Street; I left very young, and spent much of my childhood in England. Subsequently I visited this country as an adult, but for a short period of time. I have also lived in France. During my adolescence I lived over two years in Constantinople. It has been many years since I last visited Greece. My last employment was as a clerk at a government office under the Ministry of Public Works of Egypt. I know English, French, and a little Italian.
Here is one of my favorite poems of his:
Che fece …. il gran rifiuto
To certain people there comes a day when they must say the great Yes or the great No. He who has the Yes ready within him immediately reveals himself, and saying it he goes against his honor and his own conviction. He who refuses does not repent. Should he be asked again, he would say no again. And yet that no— the right no—crushes him for the rest of his life.