Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Daniel Mendelsohn
Cavafy : The Life of a Poet


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader
Page 2

The writings of those early years indicate that Cavafy was struggling to find an artistically satisfying way in which to unite the thematic strands that would come to characterize his work, of which the consuming interest in Hellenic history was merely one.

That interest, it is crucial to emphasize, rather strikingly disdained the conventional view of what constituted "the glory that was Greece"—which is to say, the Archaic and Classical eras—in favor of the long post-classical phase, from the Hellenistic monarchies through late antiquity to the fall of Byzantium.

There was, too, the poet's very strong identity as a product of the Greek diaspora, an Orthodox Christian and the scion of that once-distinguished Phanariote family who saw, in the thousand-year arc of Byzantine history, not a decadent fall from idealized classical heights—the standard Western European attitude, crystallized by Gibbon—but a continuous and coherent thread of Greek identity that seamlessly bound the antique past to the present.

And finally, there was homosexual sensuality. However tormented and secretive he may have been about his desire for other men, Cavafy came, after a certain point in his career, to write about that desire with an unapologetic directness so unsensational, so matter-of-fact, that we can forget that barely ten years had passed since Oscar Wilde's death when the first of these openly homoerotic poems was published. As the poet himself later acknowledged, he had to reach his late forties before he found a way to unify his passion for the past, his passion for "Hellenic" civilization, and his passion for other men in poems that met his rigorous standards for publication.


First Page ||| Next Page

Cf. Cavafy's poems - Bilingual versions, Green, Cavafy - The supreme modern poet of nostalgia, Cavafy in print, Cavafy resources

More about New Hellenism / Constantinople

The Greek Word Library

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Learned Freeware

Reference address :