|[ 1882 November, 7 ]||Letters
|Alexandria 7 November ’82
I’m glad to see
My letter of 12th ultimo,
Hath reached you safe, albeit slow.
Make no amends, ¯ I’ll none from thee.
I’ll answer yours of twenty nine
October, not in prose but “worse”.
The Muse directs ecstatic verse,
The thoughts are hers, ¯ the rhymes are mine.
Fly, letter, fly! God speed thee home!
Mind not the winds nor lashing seas;
Knowing thine errand, strive with these
And prove that love hath masterdom.
I hope you will not call this gam-
mon, for the metre’s fault ¯ if any ¯
Is rapid rhymes. Have you read Tenny-
son’s poem “In Memoriam”?
This metre’s his. With hesitation
Do I attempt it; ’tis so nice
In move; ¯ meseems I walk on ice,
And, like a skater, dread prostration.
But if I find that I am bored,
And cannot in this style proceed;
Another rhythm, in case of need,
I’ll choose, nor let my Muse be floored,
Nor yet her glories be diminished.¯
Enough, however, of such levity;
To business now with haste and brevity:
For the exordium is finished.
“Poeta nunquam fit sed natus.”
This is a strange diaporésis,
But serves my purpose, as a thesis
To introduce “KáâÜöç êñÜôïò,” ¯
Which I’ll henceforth adopt with you.
It is a very striking motto
Sublime, aristocratic, ¯ not to
Say rather arrogant, tho’ true.
I cannot dress the Persian fable
In any of the styles of poetry,
So as to do it justice. Though I try
Daily, I find I am unable.
I read in yesterday’s Gazette: ¯
“Ninet, to avoid forgetfulness,
Writes in the European Press
And wants to cut a figure yet.
But since this man is grown injurious,
And talks and brags and is so troublish,
Tomorrow certain facts we’ll publish
In his career, which will prove curious.
Peace and complete obliteration
From Egypt’s soil when cast away,
Would best become thee, John Ninet
Of base, inglorious reputation.
And art thou impudent enough
To talk of writing pamphlets?.. Ay,
We’ll give thee such a wipe i’ the eye,
As very soon shall stop thy stuff,
And make it quite unsaleable.¯
We’ve never seen before so base a cur!
Note, on the morrow of the massacre
In June, his bearing did so tell
On the French Consul, that when he
The praise of Araby began,
The consul rose: ‘No more, my man!’
And turned him out all-publicly.” ¯
The letter that you sent for Stephen
Schilizzi, some three weeks ago,
By Aristides has been to
His brother Alexander given.¯
You say you must complain of paucity
Of news: ¯ if such be th’ appellation
Of your replete communication
What may you call my vain verbosity?
Between the two there’s no analogy.¯
Your letters are past commendation;
Now ’tis your wit, now some quotation
That charms; or haply genealogy
Reveals a “factum” interesting.¯
In re. acquaintances, I know
A Captain Marryat, Major Snow,
The latter very fond of jesting.
And now to books. ¯ I much regret
I cannot give you information
Of Abraham or generation.
When I wrote last I did forget
On my exactness that you reckoned,
And thus omitted then to say,
That of the work of Bossuet
I now possess but vol. the second.
In this the history you read
And growth of empires, up to date
Of Charlemagne, say Charles the Great,
Beginning with Scyth and Mede.
Sinadinos are as they were,
And no one says they are more wealthy.
Banque Générale, ’tis said, is healthy,
And all the former clerks are there;
That is, as far as I discern, ¯
The truth ’tis difficult to know.
Of Ralli and Sinadino,
Nothing trustworthy can I learn:
They ship some lots of Grain and Cotton
But on a very minor scale. ¯
To goad Stivala, I avail
Of every hour; he’s not forgotten
Your numbers August and July;
My presence makes him needs remember.
Next mail I’ll forward on, November:
The others ¯ patience ¯ by and bye.
The Zervudachis have some while
Been here. I meet them pretty often:
I bow ¯ and their grim faces soften
In what is meant to be a smile. ¯
But Vahrenhorst is still away;
I cannot trace his whereabouts,
Of these there are so many doubts. ¯
His house, you know, ’s a heap of clay. ¯
To latin origin ascribe
Word “gallinaceous”, and translate
Its meaning, as the learned state:
“Relating to the chicken tribe”.
“Gallina”, latin, stands for “hen”. ¯
“You must allow large discount on”
Is a correct expression,
Thou wisest and the best of men!
With this I think I end the series,
And trust I’ve satisfied your queries.
I hope this letter, ¯
Tho’ it could have been better, ¯
May amuse you a little: More anon. ¯
I am heavy at head, and my eyes are like lead,
So I’ll bid thee “goodnight”, and retire to my bed,
|From John C. Cavafy|
To Constantine Cavafy
Transcribed and edited by Katerina Ghika