I never had you, nor I suppose will I ever have you. A few words, an approach, as in the bar the other day—nothing more. It’s sad, I admit. But we who serve Art, sometimes with the mind’s intensity, can create—but of course only for a short time— pleasure that seems almost physical. That’s how in the bar the other day— mercifully helped by alcohol— I had half an hour that was totally erotic. And I think you understood this and stayed slightly longer on purpose. That was very necessary. Because with all the imagination, with all the magic alcohol, I needed to see your lips as well, needed your body near me.
Reprinted from C. P. CAVAFY: Collected Poems Revised Edition, translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, edited by George Savvidis.
This series of etchings showing intimate scenes between men was inspired by the writings of Greek Egyptian poet Constantin Cavafy (1863-1933). Since his days at the Royal College of Art, Hockney had admired Cavafy's vivid, unapologetic evocations of homosexual desire. Hockney printed the portfolio in London with Maurice Payne.
Era pobre e sórdida a alcova, escondida por cima da equívoca taberna. Da janela via-se a ruela suja e estreita. De baixo subiam as vozes de uns operários que, jogando às cartas, matavam o tempo.
E ali, numa cama mísera e vulgar possuí o corpo do amor, possuí os lábios sensuais e rosados de embriaguez - rosados de tanta embriaguez que, mesmo agora, quando escrevo, passados tantos anos, sozinho em casa, volto a embriagar-me.
He left the office where he’d taken up a trivial, poorly paid job (eight pounds a month, including bonuses)— left at the end of the dreary work that kept him bent all afternoon, came out at seven and walked off slowly, idling his way down the street. Good-looking; and interesting: showing as he did that he’d reached his full sensual capacity. He’d turned twenty-nine the month before.
He idled his way down the main street and the poor side-streets that led to his home.
Passing in front of a small shop that sold cheap and flimsy things for workers, he saw a face inside there, saw a figure that compelled him to go in, and he pretended he wanted to look at some colored handkerchiefs.
He asked about the quality of the handkerchiefs and how much they cost, his voice choking, almost silenced by desire. And the answers came back the same way, distracted, the voice hushed, offering hidden consent.
They kept on talking about the merchandise—but the only purpose: that their hands might touch over the handkerchiefs, that their faces, their lips, might move close together as though by chance— a moment’s meeting of limb against limb.
Quickly, secretly, so the shopowner sitting at the back wouldn’t realize what was going on.
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)
It certainly resembles him, this small pencil likeness of him.
Quickly done, on the deck of the ship; an enchanting afternoon. The Ionian Sea all around us.
It resembles him. Still, I remember him as handsomer. To the point of sickness—he was that sensitive, and it illumined his expression. Handsomer, he appears to me, now that my soul recalls him, out of Time.
Out of Time. All these things, they’re very old— The sleuth, and the ship, and the afternoon
Dentro do Senado, porque tanta inacção? Se não estão legislando, que fazem lá dentro os senadores?
É que os Bárbaros chegam hoje. Que leis haveriam de fazer agora os senadores? Os Bárbaros, quando vierem, ditarão as leis.
Porque é que o Imperador se levantou de manhã cedo? E às portas da cidade está sentado, no seu trono, com toda a pompa, de coroa na cabeça?
Porque os Bárbaros chegam hoje. E o Imperador está à espera do seu Chefe para recebê-lo. E até já preparou um discurso de boas-vindas, em que pôs, dirigidos a ele, toda a casta de títulos.
E porque saíram os dois Cônsules, e os Pretores, hoje, de toga vermelha, as suas togas bordadas? E porque levavam braceletes, e tantas ametistas, e os dedos cheios de anéis de esmeraldas magníficas? E porque levavam hoje os preciosos bastões, com pegas de prata e as pontas de ouro em filigrana?
Porque os Bárbaros chegam hoje, e coisas dessas maravilham os Bárbaros.
E porque não vieram hoje aqui, como é costume, os oradores para discursar, para dizer o que eles sabem dizer?
Porque os Bárbaros é hoje que aparecem, e aborrecem-se com eloquências e retóricas.
Porque, sùbitamente, começa um mal-estar, e esta confusão? Como os rostos se tornaram sérios! E porque se esvaziam tão depressa as ruas e as praças, e todos voltam para casa tão apreensivos?
Porque a noite caiu e os Bárbaros não vieram. E umas pessoas que chegaram da fronteira dizem que não há lá sinal de Bárbaros.
E agora, que vai ser de nós sem os Bárbaros? Essa gente era uma espécie de solução.
You said: "I'll go to another country, go to another shore, find another city better than this one. Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead. How long can I let my mind moulder in this place? Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look, I see the black ruins of my life, here, where I've spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally."
You won't find a new country, won't find another shore. This city will always pursue you. You will walk the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods, will turn gray in these same houses. You will always end up in this city. Don't hope for things elsewhere: there is no ship for you, there is no road. As you've wasted your life here, in this small corner, you've destroyed it everywhere else in the world.