Thursday, April 6, 2017

In an Old Book by Constantine P. Cavafy

In an Old Book

In an old book—about a hundred years old—
I found, neglected among the leaves,
a watercolour with no signature.
It must have been the work of a very powerful artist.
It bore the title “Representation of Love.” 

But “—of the love of extreme sensualists” would have been 
    more fitting. 

For it was clear as you looked at this work
(the artist’s idea was easily grasped)
that the youth in this portrait wasn’t meant
for those who love in a somewhat wholesome way,
within the limits of what is strictly permitted—
with his chestnut-brown, intensely colored eyes;
with the superior beauty of his face,
the beauty of unusual allures;
with those flawless lips of his that bring
pleasure to the body that it cherishes;
with those flawless limbs of his, made for beds
called shameless by the commonplace morality. 
(Translation by Daniel Mendelsohn)

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