Resources for Loss

"The God Abandons Antony" by C.P. Cavafy, contributed by Olga Kerameos (2023)

Απολείπειν ο Θεός Αντώνιον

Σαν έξαφνα, ώρα μεσάνυχτ', ακουσθεί
αόρατος θίασος να περνά
με μουσικές εξαίσιες, με φωνές-
την τύχη σου που ενδίδει πια, τα έργα σου
που απέτυχαν, τα σχέδια της ζωής σου

που βγήκαν όλα πλάνες, μη ανοφέλετα θρηνήσεις.
Σαν έτοιμος από καιρό, σα θαρραλέος,
αποχαιρέτα την, την Αλεξάνδρεια που φεύγει.
Προ πάντων να μη γελασθείς, μην πεις πως ήταν
ένα όνειρο, πως απατήθηκεν η ακοή σου·

μάταιες ελπίδες τέτοιες μην καταδεχθείς.
Σαν έτοιμος από καιρό, σα θαρραλέος,
σαν που ταιριάζει σε που αξιώθηκες μια τέτοια πόλι,
πλησίασε σταθερά προς το παράθυρο,
κι άκουσε με συγκίνησιν, αλλ' όχι

με των δειλών τα παρακάλια και παράπονα,
ως τελευταία απόλαυσι τους ήχους,
τα εξαίσια όργανα του μυστικού θιάσου,
κι αποχαιρέτα την, την Αλεξάνδρεια που χάνεις.

The God Abandons Antony

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear an
invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, and voicesdon’t
mourn your luck that’s now succumbing,
your work that is failing, your plans that are
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.

Reprinted from C. P. CAVAFY: Collected Poems Revised Edition, translated by Edmund Keeley
and Philip Sherrard, edited by George Savvidis. Translation copyright © 1975, 1992 by Edmund
Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Princeton University Press.

C.P. Cavafy is known for his historical, philosophical and love poems. In “God abandons Antony” he seems to mix the distinct categories of historical and philosophical poems in order to give Antony, and subsequently the reader, advice on how to cope with loss. Mark Antony was the general of the army in Egypt when the Romans besieged Alexandria. According to the legend, right before Alexandria’s occupation, people heard an invisible musical procession go around the city that was interpreted as Dionysus, Antony’s guardian, abandoning him. Alexandria, which happened to be Cavafy’s own hometown, is used as a symbol for Antony’s achievements, hopes and dreams that he now has to say goodbye to. What I find special about this poem is that it makes us contemplate courage and when and if it is possible to demonstrate it when we see loss coming our way. Maybe the poet’s most remarkable message is not to let the loss of Alexandria devalue the greatness that there once was.

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