Friday 29 April 2022


 Today is the birthday in 1863 (and deathday exactly 70 years later) of the Alexandrian Greek poet Constantin Cavafy.  Above is David Hockney's image of Cavafy in his native city, and below is the poem that clearly inspired one of Leonard Cohen's finest songs, 'Alexandra Leaving' (and was itself in part inspired by Antony and Cleopatra and thereby Plutarch).  

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 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.


  1. Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage...

  2. Without her you wouldn't have set out...

  3. The poem "Ithaca" is read at every commencement of Wilson College, a (historically/predominantly) women's college in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

    Somewhere around the house is a collection of essays by Cavafy. I was impressed by the proximity of an essay on St. Simeon Stylites to one on "the pleasure brigade". I shall have to listen to Leonard Cohen's song.

    1. Thanks George – I must keep an eye open for Cavafy's essays.