Cavafy: Poems

English (this page) Greek

Polytonic Greek text and translations presented by the Classics Reader Clicking here you move to the page for downloading Classics Reader
Click here to position the text of the book at the top of this page. Please wait while the applet and the contents of the book are loading. (This is only a demo; there are no delays in the stand-alone program.) Some introductory information regarding Cavafy and his work follows after the book, below.

Please note: The above is only a Java applet, in which features such as “find word” are not functional. To obtain the stand-alone program in which such functions have been implemented and are working, as well as to see what else will be included in the future, go to the downloading page.

Constantine P. Cavafy
  Constantine P. Cavafy (April 29, 1863 – April 29, 1933) was a Greek poet who lived most of his life and produced his poetry in Alexandria, Egypt. He worked first as a journalist, and then for the British-run Egyptian Ministry of Public Works for 30 years, while Egypt was still a British protectorate. Initially his poetry was known only among his friends and a close circle of poets in Alexandria. In 1903, Gregorios Xenopoulos published a favorable review of Cavafy’s work in Greece, but the poet did not gain recognition there until after the 1920’s. Since his death, his reputation has grown worldwide, and today he is considered one of the most important Greek poets. His poetry, which is part of the modern Greek curriculum at high schools in Greece, revolves around religion, historical events — especially of the antiquity — and homosexual love, his own sexual preferences being homosexual. The following is an autobiographical note of his:

I am from Constantinople by descent, but I was born in Alexandria — at a house on Seríph 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 bit of Italian.

Cavafy’s work comprises 154 published poems, and dozens more incomplete ones. His poems exhibit skilled craftsmanship, much of which is unfortunately lost in translation. He was a perfectionist, obsessively rewriting every single line of his poetry. He followed a free iambic form, with verses that rarely rhyme, and usually consist of between 10 and 17 syllables. When he does make use of rhyming, this usually implies irony. He drew his themes from personal experience, and from his vast knowledge of history, especially of the Hellenistic era (last three centuries BC, after Alexander’s death), although he often described pseudo-historical events.

Known Issues regarding the Classics Reader

Why is the text printed in this funny fashion, with letters appearing to “push” each other, until they all fall in place?

That behavior is observed only in the Java applet of this page (not in the stand-alone program), and occurs because each letter is an image (a GIF). Web browsers (as well as the Java engine that’s responsible for displaying those GIFs on your screen) show images in a random order when they have to show more than one of them on the same page. Thus, character images appear on a first-loaded-first-displayed basis, until they are all in place. However, once an image is loaded it doesn’t need to be reloaded when re-printed, unless you jump out of this page; that’s why this funny behavior diminishes as you scroll down the text. However, this problem does not exist in the stand-alone program, because that one runs locally on your computer.

Why is this weird font used for classical texts? Why does the circumflex look strange? Why don’t the letters look more like the usual ancient Greek letters of classical literature or the Bible?

The font employed by Classics Reader is the standard Times Roman font used in Greek literature in Greece, to print both modern and classical texts. The circumflex is correct according to that tradition. The reader who wonders about this issue is probably more familiar with fonts used in western Europe and the USA to print classical and biblical Greek texts. There is no reason why the latter tradition should be preferred over the former. Note that west European and American fonts for ancient Greek texts cannot be “closer to the original”, because ancient texts were hand-written by scribes, so their appearance depended on the scribe’s handwriting; it was only relatively recently that typography standardized what is now recognized as “ancient Greek font” in the West.

Sometimes, when using the scrollbars of the browser (not the Classics Reader’s own ones), some line or lines appear misprinted in the Reader’s text.

This is a problem created by the browser, and it appears occasionally when scrolling up or down, while a Java applet attempts to paint in its own rectangle. To refresh the text, click on the Chapter selection (the middle of the three choice-boxes) and select the same chapter that you are currently reading. Once again, this problem does not exist in the stand-alone program.

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