|[Alexandria] Thursday 9 pm
8 March 1883
|My dearest Constantine Fotiadé,
I received your letter 26th ultimo on Tuesday and I thank you for the eloquent extract from Goethe. The stormy weather we have lately experienced, has been succeeded by hot southerly winds, and today there is a strong khamseen blowing: a delightful change I think.
I am glad to see you like Arvers’ sonnet. I have rarely read anything so beautiful, and you will agree, I feel sure, that in so narrow a compass it comprises the ideal of romantic writing. ¯ The motto I have chosen for “Truth” is from St. John chap. xviii
37.... “Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice.
38 Pilate saith unto Him, what is Truth?” ¯
The phrases you wish me to translate, I would render as follows:
“Terrible est le tourbillon des vents” = Terrible is the vortex of the winds, or terrible is the whirlwind.
“Une bonne femme est plus introuvable qu’un Corbeau blanc” = It is more difficult to find a good woman than a white raven.
“La nasse du pêcheur” = The fisherman’s net.
“fléau” = calamity (sometimes I believe this French word is used in the same sense as the English “plague”).
I trust you will have received, ere this reaches you, both Magazines ¯ the number for March has not yet come to hand.
I finished The Adventures of Philip last week and am now reading Esmond, which is rather flat.
I have also got hold of a book called Self-Culture and written by Prof. Blackie of Edinburgh. It is a marvel of cleverness and in a clear, tho’ concise, way sets forth a string of rules whereby a student should guide himself in the attainment of physical and moral privileges.
In one of your letters you say you feel my absence: this is fully reciprocated by me ¯ It is now over 7 months that I have been separated from you, and yet I think ’tis years when I look back on the time elapsed. You know the dictum:
“Time travelleth at divers paces with divers persons”.
With best love I am, dear Constantine,
P.S. I enclose copy of the “Prelude”, as it now stands in my Scribbling-books. ¯
|From John C. Cavafy|
To Constantine Cavafy
Transcribed and edited by Katerina Ghika