'Very Seldom' by C.P. Cavafy

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He's an old man. Used up and bent,
crippled by time and indulgence,
he 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 recited 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.Trans. by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Deep Dive into C.P. Cavafy's "Very Seldom"

Have you ever come across a poem that speaks to you in a way that feels like it was written specifically for you? A poem that evokes emotions and memories that you never thought could be put into words? If you haven't, then you are yet to read C.P. Cavafy's "Very Seldom."

This poem is a beautiful masterpiece that speaks to the human experience in a way that is both timeless and universal. Cavafy, through his use of language and imagery, takes us on a journey that is both deeply personal and yet relatable to all of us.

An Overview of "Very Seldom"

At its core, "Very Seldom" is a poem about missed opportunities, regrets, and the fleeting nature of life. It speaks to the human experience of looking back at our lives and wondering about the things we could have done differently.

The poem begins with the speaker reflecting on a moment in their life when they had the chance to experience something profound but chose not to. The speaker describes this moment as something that "very seldom occurs," suggesting that it was a rare and unique opportunity.

The speaker then goes on to describe how they regret not taking advantage of this opportunity, how they would have enjoyed it, and how it would have changed their life. They imagine what their life would be like if they had taken that chance, and they mourn the fact that it is too late now.

The poem ends with the speaker acknowledging the transience of life and how we must cherish the moments we have. The speaker expresses a sense of resignation, accepting that they cannot change the past and must make the best of what they have now.

Symbolism and Metaphor in "Very Seldom"

Cavafy's use of symbolism and metaphor in "Very Seldom" is masterful, adding depth and complexity to the poem.

The "moment" that the speaker regrets not taking advantage of is a metaphor for the opportunities we encounter in life. It represents those rare and unique chances that come our way, opportunities to experience something profound and life-changing.

The speaker's regret is symbolized by the "clear and bright regret" that they feel. This regret is a tangible emotion that the speaker can feel, almost as if it is a physical presence in their life.

The passing of time is symbolized by the "the quick passing of the years." The years pass quickly, and we often find ourselves looking back on our lives wondering where the time has gone.

The Language of "Very Seldom"

Cavafy's use of language in "Very Seldom" is exquisite. His words are carefully chosen, creating a sense of melancholy and regret that permeates the entire poem.

The use of the word "very seldom" in the first line sets the tone for the rest of the poem. It suggests that what follows is something rare and unique, something that is not to be missed.

The phrase "the clear and bright regret" is both beautiful and poignant. The use of the words "clear" and "bright" creates a sense of vividness and intensity, while the word "regret" conveys a sense of sadness and loss.

The phrase "what might have been" is a common thread throughout the poem, creating a sense of longing and nostalgia. It is a phrase that we all use at some point in our lives, wondering about the paths we didn't take and the opportunities we missed.

The Themes of "Very Seldom"

At its core, "Very Seldom" is a poem about missed opportunities and regret. It speaks to the human experience of looking back on our lives and wondering about the things we could have done differently.

The poem also touches on the theme of the fleeting nature of life. The passing of time is a constant thread throughout the poem, reminding us that life is short and we must make the most of the time we have.

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the importance of seizing the moment. The speaker regrets not taking advantage of the opportunity presented to them, suggesting that we must not let our chances slip away.


C.P. Cavafy's "Very Seldom" is a beautiful and poignant poem that speaks to the human experience in a way that is both timeless and universal. Its themes of missed opportunities, regret, and the fleeting nature of life are ones that we can all relate to.

The poem's use of symbolism, metaphor, and language creates a sense of melancholy and nostalgia that lingers long after the poem has been read. It is a reminder to seize the moment and make the most of the opportunities presented to us, for we never know when they will come again.

In short, "Very Seldom" is a masterpiece of poetry that deserves to be read and appreciated by all who seek to understand the human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Very Seldom: A Masterpiece by C.P. Cavafy

If you are a lover of poetry, then you must have come across the name C.P. Cavafy. He is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works have inspired generations of writers and readers alike. Among his many masterpieces is the poem "Poetry Very Seldom," which is a reflection on the nature of poetry and its role in our lives. In this article, we will take a closer look at this poem, its themes, and its significance.

The poem "Poetry Very Seldom" was written by C.P. Cavafy in 1910 and was first published in 1911. It is a short but powerful piece that explores the relationship between poetry and the human experience. The poem is written in free verse, and its structure is simple, with each line consisting of only a few words. However, despite its brevity, the poem is rich in meaning and has a profound impact on the reader.

The poem begins with the line "Poetry very seldom," which sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The word "seldom" suggests that poetry is a rare and precious thing, something that is not easily found or experienced. This idea is reinforced in the next line, which reads "touches us deeply," implying that when poetry does touch us, it has a profound effect on our emotions and our understanding of the world.

The poem goes on to describe the various ways in which poetry can touch us. It can "elevate us for a moment," giving us a glimpse of something greater than ourselves. It can "make us feel alive," reminding us of the beauty and wonder of life. It can "awaken and disturb us," challenging our assumptions and forcing us to confront uncomfortable truths. And it can "comfort us," providing solace in times of pain and sorrow.

The poem then takes a darker turn, as Cavafy acknowledges that poetry is not always a positive force in our lives. He writes that poetry can also "lead us astray," tempting us with false promises and illusions. It can "deceive us," leading us to believe in things that are not true. And it can "waste our time," distracting us from the important things in life.

Despite these potential pitfalls, however, Cavafy ultimately concludes that poetry is still a valuable and necessary part of the human experience. He writes that "we must have the courage" to seek out and embrace poetry, even if it means risking disappointment or disillusionment. For in the end, he says, poetry is what gives our lives meaning and purpose.

One of the most striking things about "Poetry Very Seldom" is its universal appeal. Although the poem was written over a century ago, its themes are still relevant today. In a world that is increasingly dominated by technology and materialism, poetry reminds us of the importance of beauty, wonder, and human connection. It reminds us that there is more to life than just the pursuit of wealth and power.

Another notable aspect of the poem is its use of language. Cavafy's writing is simple and direct, yet it is also incredibly powerful. Each word is carefully chosen for its impact, and the poem as a whole has a rhythmic quality that draws the reader in. This is particularly evident in the repetition of the phrase "Poetry very seldom," which creates a sense of urgency and importance.

In conclusion, "Poetry Very Seldom" is a masterpiece of modern poetry. It is a reflection on the nature of poetry and its role in our lives, and it speaks to the universal human experience. Through its simple yet powerful language, the poem reminds us of the importance of beauty, wonder, and human connection in a world that is increasingly dominated by technology and materialism. It is a testament to the enduring power of poetry and its ability to touch our lives in profound and meaningful ways.

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