C.P. Cavafy, “I Went”

Let out a long breath -
went, went and gnawed,
only partially tasting.
Thinking, thought I found a light,
went to the brilliant night
drinking a gallery of wine,
toasting a victory savored elsewhere.

Comment:

I’ve saved a few phrases from the Keeley/Sherrard translation but I haven’t turned this into a full poem yet. I might have changed this poem in terms of theme entirely. It may be the case Cavafy’s indulgence and drinking is the life of the mind, that a victory actually was won from his hedonism. The “half-real” in the Keeley/Sherrard becomes the “brilliant night” and makes our confident hero like a “champion of pleasure.”

The direction I went was more cynical. Sometimes we put on airs of confidence and force ourselves into things we don’t understand. I’ve used only the past tense and participles to not so subtly tell where we end up. We hope taste can nourish, inform and allow us a judgment, but we need more than we’re allowing ourselves, even if we’re talking about time and space. That leads to half-baked thoughts and realizations, a plethora of images that are mere indulgences, and finally a “victory” that has nothing to do with what one might want to accomplish.

I’m not sure the direction I went tells us anything we don’t already know. A good question is whether all confidence is false confidence. If you know the result, why do you need to have faith? At the same time, there’s something like truth – maybe the right belief – that we need to be the best we can be.