18 December 2012

The Miserable Banality of Old Age

C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933), Collected Poems, tr. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992):
An Old Man 
At the noisy end of the café, head bent
over the table, an old man sits alone,
a newspaper in front of him. 
And in the miserable banality of old age
he thinks how little he enjoyed the years
when he had strength, eloquence, and looks. 
He knows he's aged a lot: he sees it, feels it.
Yet it seems he was young just yesterday.
So brief an interval, so very brief. 
And he thinks of Prudence, how it fooled him,
how he always believed -- what madness --
that cheat who said: "Tomorrow. You have plenty of time." 
He remembers impulses bridled, the joy
he sacrificed. Every chance he lost
now mocks his senseless caution. 
But so much thinking, so much remembering
makes the old man dizzy. He falls asleep,
his head resting on the café table.