‘The City’ – C.P. Cavafy


You said:  “I’ll go to some other land, I’ll go to some other sea
There’s bound to be another city that’s better by far.
My every effort has been ill-fated from the start;
my heart-like something dead-lies buried away;
How long will my mind endure this slow decay?
Wherever I look, wherever I cast my eyes,
I see all around me the black rubble of my life
where I’ve spent so many ruined and wasted years.”
You’ll find no new places, you won’t find other shores.
The city will follow you.  The streets in which you pace
will be the same, you’ll haunt the same familiar places,
and inside those same houses you’ll grow old.
You’ll always end up in this city.  Don’t bother to hope
for a ship, a route, to take you somewhere else; they don’t exist.
Just as you’ve destroyed your life, here in this
small corner, so you’ve wasted it through all the world. 

“To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” 

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, while ye may, go marry:

Princess Shikishi Poem – 式子内親王の詩


Winter Becoming Spring

In spring too
what first stands out —
Mount Otowa —
from the snow at its peak
the rays of the sun appear.

Here deep in the hills,
my pine door would never know
that springtime had come —
but for a broken trickle
of jewels of melted snow.

Though warblers
have not called,
in the sound of cascades
pouring down rocks
spring is heard.


With spring manifest
on moss-grown, decaying eaves,
the plum tree
of my house, unaged,
emits its fragrance.

Even when
my watching you today
becomes the past,
plum near the eaves,
do not forget me!

The Expatriate

I am, therefore I think. 

I think I have grown tired of these walls, so I walk out on the veranda to a fresh view. 

The walls are gone.  My perspective has changed.  My protection shed. 

The hair on my body dances from the breath of the gentle breeze.

 I did not know they could dance.

 I see the sun orange and red calling me.  But in what land does it lay to rest? 

I know you, my neighbor.  You enter a castle, but by simply entering are not made king.  You have told me what is there, but have not become.  I have so many neighbors.   Do you understand?