Monday, May 11, 2009


Escape from Oneself

C.P. Cavafy, The City (tr. George Valassopoulo):

You said: "I shall go to some other land, I shall go to some other sea.
Another city there must be, better than this.
My every effort here is a sentence of condemnation against me,
and my heart—like a corpse—lies buried.
How long shall my mind remain smothered in this blight?
Wherever I turn my eye, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life
where I spent and spoiled and ruined so many years."

Fresh lands you shall not find, you shall not find other seas.
The city shall ever follow you.
In streets you shall wander that are the same streets and
grow old in quarters that are the same
and among these very same houses you shall turn grey.
You shall always be returning to the city. Hope not;
there is no ship to take you to other lands, there is no road.
You have so spoiled your life here in this tiny corner
that you have ruined it in all the world.

The same (tr. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard):

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.

The same (tr. Evangelos Sachperoglou):

You said, "I'll go to another land, I'll go to another sea.
Another city will be found, a better one than this.
My every effort is doomed by destiny
and my heart—like a dead man—lies buried.
How long will my mind languish in such decay?
Wherever I turn my eyes, wherever I look
the blackened ruins of my life I see here,
where so many years I've lived and wasted and ruined."

Any new lands you will not find; you'll find no other seas.
The city will be following you. In the same streets
you'll wander. And in the same neighborhoods you'll age,
and in these same houses you will grow gray.
Always in this same city you'll arrive . For elsewhere—do not hope—
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
Just as you have wasted your life here,
in this tiny niche, in the entire world you've ruined it.

The same (tr. Lawrence Durrell):

You tell yourself: I'll be gone
To some other land, some other sea,
to a city lovelier far than this
Could ever have been or hoped to be—
Where every step now tightens the noose:
A heart in a body buried and out of use;
How long, how long must I be here
Confined among these dreary purlieus
Of the common mind? Wherever now I look
Black ruins of my life rise into view.
So many years have I been here
Spending and squandering and nothing gained.

There's no new land, my friend, no
New sea; for the city will follow you,
In the same streets you'll wander endlessly,
The same mental suburbs slip from youth to age,
In the same house go white at last—
The city is a cage.
No other places, always this
Your earthly landfall, and no ship exists
To take you from yourself. Ah! don't you see
Just as you've ruined your life in this
One plot of ground you've ruined its worth
Everywhere now—over the whole earth?

Related post: Crossing the Seas.

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