Days of 1908 The Canon
He was out of work that year,
so he lived off card games,
backgammon, and borrowed money.
He was offered a job at three pounds a month
in a small stationery store,
but he turned it down without the slightest hesitation.
It wasnt suitable. It wasnt the right pay for him,
a reasonably educated young man, twenty-five years old.
He won two, maybe three dollars a daysometimes.
How much could he expect to make out of cards and backgammon
in the cafés of his social level, working-class places,
however cleverly he played, however stupid the opponents he chose?
His borrowingthat was even worse.
He rarely picked up a dollar, usually no more than half that,
and sometimes he had to come down to even less.
For a week or so, sometimes longer,
when he managed to escape those horrible late nights,
hed cool himself at the baths, and with a morning swim.
His clothes were a terrible mess.
He always wore the same suit,
a very faded cinnamon-brown suit.
O summer days of nineteen hundred and eight,
from your perspective
the cinnamon-brown suit was tastefully excluded.
Your perspective has preserved him
as he was when he took off, threw off,
those unworthy clothes, that mended underwear,
and stood stark naked, impeccably handsome, a miracle
his hair uncombed, swept back,
his limbs a little tanned
from his morning nakedness at the baths and on the beach.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by James Merrill