Ζωγράφος και ποιητής, δρομεύς και δισκοβόλος,
«Η τιμιότερές μου μέρες είν’ εκείνες
Ένθερμη λίαν η δήλωσίς του. «Πάντα
Όμως δεν έμενε τοιούτος διόλου.
Κ. Π. Καβάφης
Of the Jews
Painter and poet, runner and discus-thrower,
“My most honourable days are those
Very passionate his statement “always
But he remained nothing of the sort.
C. P. Cavafy
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 www.cavafy.com/poems.)
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! Clearly the English language is in the process of changing the forms of the relative pronoun. I have noticed that in recent times many English speakers use “which” in every situation and avoid “who” and “whom” completely.