Treasure Island

Constantine P. Cavafy

(29 April 1863 – 29 April 1933 / Alexandria)

A Prince from Western Libya


Aristomenis, son of Menelaos,
the Prince from Western Libya,
was generally liked in Alexandria
during the ten days he spent there.
As his name, his dress, modest, was also Greek.
He received honors gladly,
but he did not solicit them; he was unassuming.
He bought Greek books,
especially history and philosophy.
Above all he was a man of few words.
It got around that he must be a profound thinker,
and men like that naturally don't speak very much.

He was neither a profound thinker nor anything else—
just a piddling, laughable man.
He assumed a Greek name, dressed like the Greeks,
learned to behave more or less like a Greek;
and all the time he was terrified he would spoil
his reasonably good image
by coming out with barbaric howlers in Greek
and the Alexandrians, in their usual way,
would make fun of him, vile people that they are.

This was why he limited himself to a few words,
terribly careful of his syntax and pronunciation;
and he was driven almost out of his mind, having
so much talk bottled up inside him.

Submitted: Friday, March 23, 2012

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  • Douglas Scotney (2/5/2013 7:59:00 PM)

    Fancy, imagine being embarrassed to not be a Greek. There's another poem, 'Philhellene', with a similar theme. I thought for a while he was putting Jesus into that category. Saviour, however, had wider applications in those days apparently. (Report) Reply

  • Elena Sandu (6/26/2012 6:28:00 AM)

    Thank you for sharing Cavafy's poems. In the original tongue may be more music, we usually loose a lot in translations, but I shall never mind it I am so happy for being able to read his poems wise, kind and very modest a treasure to the soul.. (Report) Reply

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