I decided that since I was criticizing other people’s translations, I should put my own work up for scrutiny. So herewith my version of Cavafy’s “Very Rarely” [Polí spaníos], followed by whatever others I can turn up. Comments (as always) welcome.
He’s an old man. Bent over and worn out,
disabled by the years and by his dissipations,
with a soft step he crosses the back alley.
And yet when he enters his house in order to hide
his old age and the shape he’s in, he meditates
on the measure he himself still has of youth.
The young men are repeating his lines now.
Within their lively eyes his visions pass.
Their healthy, sensual minds,
their firm and well-proportioned flesh
are stirred by his own showing forth of what is beautiful.
He is an old man. Exhausted and bent,
broken by years, and by excesses,
walking slowly, he goes up the road.
Yet, when he enters his house in order to hide
the state he is in, and his old age,
the portion he still claims of youth.
Adolescents now recite his verses.
Through their bright eyes his visions pass.
Their healthy, hedonistic brain
their well drawn firm flesh
by his revelations of beauty are affected.
An old man—used up, bent,
crippled by time and indulgence—
slowly walks along the narrow street.
But when he goes inside his house to hide
the shambles of his old age, his mind turns
to the share in youth that still belongs to him.
His verse is now quoted by young men.
His visions come before their lively eyes.
Their healthy sensual minds,
their shapely taut bodies,
stir to his perception of the beautiful.
—tr. Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard