ΤΩΝ ΕΒΡΑΙΩΝ

 

(50 μ.Χ.)

 

 

Ζωγράφος και ποιητής, δρομεύς και δισκοβόλος,

σαν Ενδυμίων έμορφος, ο Ιάνθης Aντωνίου.

Aπό οικογένειαν φίλην της Συναγωγής.

 

«Η τιμιότερές μου μέρες είν’ εκείνες

που την αισθητική αναζήτησιν αφίνω,

που εγκαταλείπω τον ωραίο και σκληρόν ελληνισμό,

με την κυρίαρχη προσήλωσι

σε τέλεια καμωμένα και φθαρτά άσπρα μέλη.

Και γένομαι αυτός που θα ήθελα

πάντα να μένω· των Εβραίων, των ιερών Εβραίων, ο υιός.»

 

Ένθερμη λίαν η δήλωσίς του. «Πάντα

να μένω των Εβραίων, των ιερών Εβραίων—»

 

Όμως δεν έμενε τοιούτος διόλου.

Ο Ηδονισμός κ’ η Τέχνη της Aλεξανδρείας

αφοσιωμένο τους παιδί τον είχαν.

 

                           Κ. Π. Καβάφης

Of the Jews

 

(A.D. 50)

 

 

Painter and poet, runner and discus-thrower,

beautiful as Endymion, Ianthis Antoniou.

From a family friendly to the synagogue.

 

“My most honourable days are those

when I forsake aesthetics pursuits,

when I abandon hellenism, with its

beauty and harshness, its overriding dedication

to perfectly formed and perishable white limbs,

when I become he whom I would wish

always to remain—of the Jews, of the holy Jews, a son.”

 

Very passionate his statement “always

to remain of the Jews, of the holy Jews—”

 

But he remained nothing of the sort.

The Hedonism and Art of Alexandria

kept him their devoted child.

 

                            C. P. Cavafy
Translated by Pavlos Andronikos

 

Published in Antipodes 21 (1987), p. 15.

 

I have always liked this poem, even though I have not always been particularly fond of Cavafy’s poetry. This one spoke to me as a teenager in that I identified with Ianthis, for he is pulled in opposite directions by two cultures just as I was.

I looked at a number of translations of the poem, but thought they didn’t really do justice to the all important last five lines.
(For alternative translations go to http://www.cavafy.com/poems/content.asp?id=150&cat=1.)

When I did the translation I was aware that the pronoun “whom” in the 9th line really should have been “who” from the point of view of strict grammar, but “who” just didn’t sound right to my ear. Nowadays it is “whom” that sounds wrong to me. Take your pick!

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