Constantine Cavafy the poet

The Famous Greek Poet Constantine Cavafy: Constantine Cavafy is a prominent figure in Greek literature. Most of his literary works belong to the 20th century era. He published a lot of his poems when he was alive and many of them were translated in English, so he soon gained world reputation. His best known poems include Ithaca, inspired by Greek mythology and the specifically the trip of Ulysses, Waiting for the Barbarians and Thermopylae.

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Cavafy was born in 1863 in Alexandria, Egypt, to Greek parents. Cavafy's father was a prosperous businessman and his business earned him the British nationality. At the age of 7, Cafavy lost his father and then he and his family moved to Liverpool, where they lived till 1877. But due to financial problems, the family again had to move back to Alexandria. Political disturbances in Alexandria, in 1882, forced the family once again to move to Constantinople. It was only in 1885 that Cavafy finally returned to Alexandria, his birth land, where he built his career as a civil servant and poet.

Cavafy's first occupation was that of a journalist, although not much is known about his journalistic endeavours. He served the British Government in Alexandria as a civil servant and at the same time he published his poems that were meant to be read by a handful of his most dear friends. Most of these poems received critical commendations only from Alexandria's literary circles. It is strange to note that he was not that welcomed in the literary society of Athens at that time because of the creative difference that he had with the Athenian poets.

Themes of his poetry outlines ambiguous notions about future, indulgence in mortal pleasures, concerns about the spiritual character of human beings, exploration of homosexuality and a constant yearning sense of nostalgia. In most of Cavafy's poems, it is noted that there is a subtle hint at homosexuality that gives us the most accepted notion that he was a homosexual. Such progressive themes were not acceptable as it differed a lot from the conventional Greek poetry of that time.

But this did not deter him from continuing his work. Cavafy's perfectionist attitude made him rewrite every single line of his poem till they were polished and ideally suitable for expressing his opinions, thoughts and views in a free iambic form. A unique factor of these poems is that the verses do not rhyme as most of them have somewhere between 10 to 17 syllables. His vast knowledge of Hellenistic history compelled him to write poems consisting of themes from that time.

Cavafy during his lifetime had basically classified his work into three sections. They were the historical poems, where most of his ideas and concepts were imbibed from the history of Alexandria and also from his exclusive knowledge about Byzantine and Hellenic history. He would also put forth mythological references in his poems to express the dilemma that is so commonly faced by mortals and immortals. In his sensual poems, the emphasis lies on the vulnerability of human emotions while enduring and recollecting actions of the past, present and future. His philosophical poems closely resemble to monologues where the poet himself gives an account of experiences and circumstances that govern an individual's life.

Constantine Cavafy passed away in 1933, on the day of his 70th birthday, suffering from larynx cancer. His huge body of literary work has gained since then a lot of admiration and popularity among critics. Today he is one of the most famous Greek poets worldwide.

Read Poems by Constantine Cavafy

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