“Like the beautiful bodies of those who died young,
tearfully interred in a grand mausoleum
with roses by their heads and jasmine at their feet –
so seem those desires that have passed
without fulfilment; without a single night
of pleasure, or one of its radiant mornings.”
‘All those excessive, useless regrets…’
A collection of nostalgic, erotic poetry from one of the greatest Greek poets to have ever lived.
Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin’s 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.
C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933).
The Selected Poems of Cavafy is available in Penguin Classics.
The Penguin Little Black Classics series, for me, is an excellent place to discover new poets. So far, I have read Sappho, Catullus, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Save for Dickinson, these are all poets I wouldn’t otherwise have read or had any inclination to read.
This time, I took a chance on C. P. Cavafy. I’m not familiar with the name or the poet, but I liked the title of this collection, and it only cost 80p.
Verdict? I’ve found a new favourite poet. I could spend plenty of time in a bookshop, or even online, searching for the poems I want to read, or the kind of writers I like…and I’d probably leave empty-handed. This collection contained the kind of poems I’ve been searching for in one way or another.
I like poems written years ago that are about love between men. And this collection is a perfect exploration of that. But more than that, these poems are affectionate towards the act of writing love poetry and being a poet.
“Try to preserve them, poet,
your visions of love,
however few may stay for you.”
A lot of these poems are short and sweet. The author has a knack for observation as well as love. There’s a sense of place, and a sense of looking a little closer at our surroundings, and that in itself is a kind of love and appreciation. It made me want to notice details in unexpected places and put them in a poem.
In terms of the admiration of men, there’s a focus on the age of the men he describes. Most of the ages mentioned are around my age, so quite young. The collection they are extracted from cover a thirty-six year period of Cavafy’s life, which leaves plenty of room for nostalgic poems both about place and love.
If, like me, you want to dip into the pool of poets published in this series, then I definitely recommend this one, and there are some beautiful poems in here depicting male love that can be ever-more appreciated today.
Passionate, erotic, observant, nostalgic and full of a simple but deep sense of love.
“I have gazed so much on beauty
that my eyes overflow with it.”
Link to the book on Goodreads: Remember, Body…