Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The works of Constantine P. Cavafy were not published during the poet’s lifetime. At least, they cannot be said to have been published in the conventional sense. Frequently revising his early poems and suppressing those he thought were inferior, Cavafy shared much of his poetry with only his closest friends, often distributing his works in the form of privately printed broadsides, pamphlets, or small volumes. At the time of his death of cancer at the age of seventy, the poet left behind sixty-eight poems arranged thematically in two small books, a folder of sixty-nine additional poems printed on broadsides, and a large number of poetic drafts in various stages of completion. Two years after Cavafy’s death, his literary executor, Alexander Singopoulos, issued a volume containing 153 of Cavafy’s poems, all that the poet himself considered to be his finest work.
Passions and Ancient Days is an edition of twenty-one additional poems that the editors, Cavafy scholars Edmund Keeley and George Savidis, have judged to be of quality equal or superior to those appearing in Singopoulos’s edition. At times, Cavafy seems to have suppressed these poems because they were dramatically different in tone and subject matter from his other work. (This seems to have been the case, for instance, with “King Claudius,” Cavafy’s only surviving poem on a Shakespearean theme.) At times, reading this book of rejected work, one thinks that the poet appears to...
(The entire section is 1658 words.)
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