The City - A Poem by Constantine P. Cavafy

The City - Photographic Portrait of Constantine P. Cavafy
Photographic Portrait of Constantine P. Cavafy

The poem of Constantine P. Cavafy (Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης) titled The City was written in 1894 in Alexandria, Egypt, and was published in 1910. He was born in Alexandria, in 1863. He was the ninth child of Petros – John Cavafy (Πέτρος – Ιωάννης Καβάφης), a prosperous importer-exporter, and Haryklia Fotiadis (Χαρίκλεια Φωτιάδη), who belonged to an old Phanariot family of great merchants and community commissioners of Constantinople (Istanbul). He practiced various professions until he was employed by the Egyptian State Irrigation Bureau where he worked for thirty years. He died on 29 April 1933 in the city that was born and loved, Alexandria.

Today his poetic work enjoys a global recognition and he is one of the most important 20th century poets.

Constantine P. Cavafy - The City

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

The City was written in 1894 in Alexandria, Egypt, and was published in 1910

Audio Part

  • The great Greek actress Ellie Lambeti, recites the poem The City in Greek language.
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The City (Η Πόλις)
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