Wednesday, July 8, 2009

when god abandons ...

Elocution later. First, read this wonderful poem by Cavafy.
The god abandons Antony

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
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.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

- Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard
Cavafy was an Greek poet in early 1900s. He abandoned the usual notions of
ideals and morality. This one, The God Abandons Antony, is remarkable on two fronts. First, the title ... N. made a remark when he pointed out this poem to me long time ago: "I mean, imagine, when even God, I mean, The God, when The God is abandoning him. The God is whom you reach out for when everyone else abandons you and now even Him ... Shocking!". Can't dispute. Shocking.

The second: the reason I oft visit this poem is the bold tone in which he puts forth his message. Quitting is inevitable - not always, but sometimes and then, it becomes only a matter of time. It takes strength to realise this and even more courage to accept it. Cavafy doesn't mince words in accepting this. He, however, suggests the reader (or Antony, if he could read future) to take the next step boldly and pitch death against his dignity, his identity, his Himself.

On the face of it, the poem is about ... (copied from
Anthony, in Cavafy's poem is, of course, Marcus Antonius, Cleopatra's lover. The poem refers to Plutarch's story (Read it) that, when Anthony was besieged in Alexandria by Octavian, the night before the city fell into enemy hands, he heard an invisible troupe leaving the city. He heard the sounds of instruments and voices making their way through the city. Then, he passed out; the god Bacchus (Dionysus), Antony's protector, was deserting him. It is obviously a poem with many layers of meaning; but, I see it as a poem / lesson on how someone must face a great loss (Alexandria being a symbol for a beloved city, woman, past glory, but, above all else, life itself). It is a beautiful lesson on how to face death.
The reader does not have to belive in God. This poem applies to more things in life than merely death. Atheist, mono-theist, poly-theist - does not matter; symbolise God as whatever or whomever one reaches out to when evvvry other shutter is down.

When there is nothing, what remains ? Abyss or Yourself ? Que sera sera.

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