|[ 1882 October, 1 and 2 ]||Letters
|[Alexandria] 1 October 1882
Sunday 9.55 pm
My dear Constantine,
I reply to your letter 18th ultimo to hand today. Thanks for your appreciation of the “Rivers of Babylon” and the Greek version, which is very welcome.
Your objection to the verses “Let nought” etc. is a very good one. I intend to cancel the stanza altogether in favour of another. The metre is original. At first I thought of using
“ U – U – // U – U – U – +
U – U – U – :
U – U – // U – U – U – ..
U – U – // U – U – U – :
U – U – U – ..
U – U – // U – U – U – +”
but on second thoughts (which are always better) I gave up the idea, as the one actually used is better adapted to quick motion and change of subject. I don’t remember having read Lord Byron’s poem. Do you mean “Belshazzar’s feast”? That is written in verses of three iambics and stanzas of 8 lines with alternate rhymes.
You say in your letter that the dinner at Coralia’s consisted of “four plates” (?) etc. Do you mean this as a joke? Don’t think I am hypercritical. We all make similar mistakes. Thanks very much for these details ¯ they are very interesting and amusing: especially your account of Parnis Effendi, Lord Dufferin’s speech to the Sultan, Ferdinand de Lesseps, and the skit in the Monde Parisien about Grévy.
The war is practically over and all rebel garrisons have surrendered. The only troublesome task left to the British Soldiery is the complete suppression of the nomad Bedouin tribes that still infest some parts of the interior.
You must know that the greater part of the Arabs, both here and in the villages, decline to believe in the defeat and imprisonment of Araby, and ascribe the existence of British arms in Cairo, and the festivals lately held there, to the making up of the differences between the Khedive and Araby in a peaceful manner. It would be very easy to undeceive them.
“For to see a man swing
At the end of a string,
With his neck in a noose, is a very rare thing.”
(I quote from memory and am not sure about the last line). I read in the Times, the other day, that there is only one course of procedure with Araby left to England, i.e., to hang him. I hope they’ll do it here. What a sell if they let him go Scot free! It is not at all unlikely. ¯ The English are such fools sometimes!
I always bear in mind the plans we planned together at Haïdar Pasha, and you may rest assured that I am not likely to forget a promise so earnestly made.
Mr. Davis is still in England and will not return before November ¯ in the meantime Mr. Taylor guides the flock and like a true shepherd did not desert in the hour of need and danger. In other words (vel prosaically) went through bombardment and all with a courageous spirit constantly stimulated with deep libations of Scotch Whisky and “Old Tom”: whereby his nose hath grown fully an inch longer and rejoiceth in purple hues!
As far as I can ascertain St. Sabas is O.K. and the Patriarch is away (impromptu rhymes, I assure you).
Poor Stopford! as you surmise, it can be no other but our school-fellow, for I remember clearly that his father was at one time the pastor of Dawlish.
You conceited little fellow, suppose it should turn out that this prelate Meletius, was some insignificant patriarch, who did nothing worth recording: ¯ where are you then?
I am not sure that my letters are worth keeping and nobody but you would find any interest in the perusal of same. Yours I keep religiously in a brown-paper register, labelled “Letters from Constantinus Fotiadès Cavafy” and safely locked up in the drawer of my desk at the Office. I take them out every now and then, and it is but the bare truth to say that I read them again with as much interest as when first received.
The English word for “ðëÜôáíïò” is “plane-tree”.
Mme. Petrocochino and son returned three days ago.
Joyce, the father, has been here some time. Joyce, the son, arrived the day before yesterday from Trieste: both are in a calm state of donothingness. Arthur Joyce is, and always was, Engineer at the Water works: he remained here all the time, and prides himself exceedingly upon having done so.
The genealogical notes you send are simply: valueless ¯ and worthy of your searching and classifying genius.
I duly received extracts from Express and Queen and by this time you will find receipt of same acknowledged in a previous letter.
Paul’s dictionary, it would be in vain to search for, as the Conseil and Inspectorate have removed to another locale (the new building designed as the General Post Office on the sea and in the vicinity of the Caffè Paradiso) and everything, Peter tells me, has been turned upside down in a rare state of confusion and “Arab-fashion-proceeding-to-work” way. (There goes a long adjective for your exclusive edification and amusement).
Mr. Gerard, as I have already written in one of my letters, is the same Gerard who had a case on, in May, against Jones and Izzard for unlawful dismissal. He is a Civil Engineer trying to do something with somebody, but with what success I know not, for I see very little of him, and ¯ what is more ¯ don’t care to see much of him.
Mr. Collins has not yet returned and, I believe, intends to winter and pass Christmas in England. Nor has Mr. Hawthorne yet made his appearance, so that the firm of Messr. Collins and Hawthorne remains a blank, with doors shut, and one panel broken by the looters.
Mr. Moss is at present in Cairo. He left on Friday last by the 10 o’clock train a.m. and was only allowed to book as far as Benha, owing to the explosion of an ammunition-train on the line having caused considerable damage to the Cairo station. The trains don’t go at full speed for fear of running down the natives returning to their respective villages and who make the line their highway. Mr. Moss therefore only reached Benha at 8 o’clock in the evening, where they passed the night: started again at 9 on Saturday morning and finally got to Cairo at noon same day. He returns here on Tuesday next and will shortly leave for England.
And now I am sorry to say I must come to a full stop. It is half past eleven and tomorrow is Monday. So farewell, and goodnight! I wonder what you are doing at this present moment: who shall say?
Tell Aleko that when his brother James gets under the bedclothes he exclaims: “ÃåéÜ óïõ MáñéÜ”, and there is such magic in the word, that it at once calls to my mind his honest face and fierce moustachios. Give him my love and believe me
2 October 1882
I have this moment received your letter 24th ultimo, Alexander’s same date and mamma’s 25th, for all of which I thank you. I note carefully the contents of yours but have no time to reply in full.
I will go and meet Aristides tomorrow morning. Tell Aleko that I will avail of the very first opportunity to get a letter from Mr. Moss recommending him warmly to Lafontaine. I will write in extenso next mail.
Yours in haste
|From John C. Cavafy|
To Constantine Cavafy
Transcribed and edited by Katerina Ghika