C.P. Cavafy Quotes

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge.

And if you can’t shape your life the way you want, at least try as much as you can not to degrade it.

Have Ithaka always in your mind. Your arrival there is what you are destined for. But don’t in the least hurry the journey.

My life has been awaiting you. Your footfall was my own heart’s beat.

To certain people there comes a day when they must say the great Yes or the great No.

From all I did and all I said let no one try to find out who I was.

Arriving there is what you are destined for

Honor to those who in the life they lead
define and guard a Thermopylae.
Never betraying what is right,
consistent and just in all they do
but showing pity also, and compassion;
generous when they are rich, and when they are poor,
still generous in small ways,
still helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hating those who lie.
And even more honor is due to them
when they foresee (as many do foresee)
that in the end Ephialtis will make his appearance,
that the Medes will break through after all.

What shall become of us without any barbarians? Those people were a kind of solution.

One candle is enough. Its gentle light will be more suitable, will be more gracious when the Shades arrive, the Shades of Love.

The days of the future stand in front of us Like a line of candles all alight Golden and warm and lively little candles.

Body, remember not only how much you were loved, not only the beds you lay on, but also those desires glowing openly in eyes that looked at you, trembling for you in voices.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you. Wise as you have become, with so much experience, you must already have understood what these Ithacas mean.

Return often and take me, beloved sensation, return and take me – When memory of the body awakens, and old desire again runs through the blood; when the lips and skin remember, and the hands feel as if they touch again.

If you are one of the truly elect, be careful how you attain your eminence.

Don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now, work gone wrong, your plans all proving deceptive — don’t mourn them uselessly. As one long prepared, and graced with courage, say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving. Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say it was a dream, your ears deceived you: don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.


When you set out for Ithaca, ask that your way be long

Guard, O my soul, against pomp and glory. And if you cannot curb your ambitions, at least pursue them hesitantly, cautiously. And the higher you go, the more searching and careful you need to be.

From my most unnoticed actions,
my most veiled writing –
from these alone will I be understood.

That we’ve broken their statues, that we’ve driven them out of their temples, doesn’t mean at all that the gods are dead. O land of Ionia, they’re still in love with you, their souls still keep your memory.

A month passes by and brings another month. Easy to guess what lies ahead: all of yesterday’s boredom. And tomorrow ends up no longer like tomorrow.

Roses by the head, jasmine at the feet so appear the longings that have passed without being satisfied, not one of them granted a night of sensual pleasure, or one of its radiant mornings.

Of what’s to come the wise perceive things about to happen. Sometimes during moments of intense study their hearing’s troubled: the hidden sound of things approaching reaches them, and they listen reverently, while in the street outside the people hear nothing whatsoever.

Days to come stand in front of us like a row of lighted candles— golden, warm, and vivid candles. Days gone by fall behind us, a gloomy line of snuffed-out candles; the nearest are smoking still, cold, melted, and bent. I don’t want to look at them: their shape saddens me, and it saddens me to remember their original light. I look ahead at my lighted candles. I don’t want to turn for fear of seeing, terrified, how quickly that dark line gets longer, how quickly the snuffed-out candles proliferate.

Give me artificial flowers – porcelain and metal glories – neither fading nor decaying, forms unaging. Flowers of the splendid gardens of another place, where Forms and Styles and Knowledge dwell. I love flowers made of glass or gold, true Art’s true gifts, their painted hues more beautiful than nature’s, worked in nacre and enamel, with perfect leaves and branches.