'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
Very Seldom: A Masterpiece by C.P. Cavafy
Are you a fan of poetry that has the power to move you to your very core? If so, C.P. Cavafy's "Very Seldom" is a literary masterpiece that will leave you breathless. The poem is a poignant meditation on the nature of love and loss, written in Cavafy's signature style of understated elegance and lyrical precision.
The Poet and His Style
C.P. Cavafy was a Greek poet who lived from 1863 to 1933. He is widely regarded as one of the most important poets of the 20th century, and his work has been celebrated for its profound insights into the human condition. Cavafy's writing is characterized by his use of spare, elegant language, and his ability to convey complex ideas with a minimum of words.
In "Very Seldom," Cavafy employs his characteristic style to great effect. The poem is only six lines long, yet it manages to convey a depth of emotion that is rare in literature. The language is spare and precise, and every word carries weight and significance.
we meet someone who touches our hearts with such unvarnished honesty, such unassuming grace, that we are changed forever.``` The poem begins with a reflection on the rarity of true love. Cavafy suggests that in the course of our lives, we only meet a few people who truly touch our hearts. These individuals are so special that they have the power to change us forever. The language in the first two lines of the poem is deceptively simple. Cavafy uses the phrase "very seldom" to convey a sense of rarity and preciousness. The idea that we only encounter such people "in the course of our lives" emphasizes the idea that these moments are few and far between. The third and fourth lines of the poem describe the qualities of these special individuals. Cavafy suggests that they possess an "unvarnished honesty" and an "unassuming grace." These characteristics are central to the poem's message about the nature of true love. In the final two lines of the poem, Cavafy makes a bold statement about the power of these individuals. He suggests that their influence is so strong that they can change us forever. The use of the word "forever" is significant here, as it implies a kind of permanence that is rare in human relationships. ## Interpretation "Very Seldom" is a poem that speaks to the heart of what it means to love and be loved. The poem suggests that true love is rare and precious, and that it is characterized by qualities such as honesty and grace. The idea that we only encounter such love "very seldom" implies that it is something to be cherished and celebrated. Cavafy suggests that these rare moments of connection have the power to change us forever, highlighting the transformative nature of true love. The qualities of "unvarnished honesty" and "unassuming grace" are central to the poem's message. These characteristics suggest a kind of purity and authenticity that is often lacking in human relationships. Cavafy suggests that it is only when we encounter individuals who possess these qualities that we are truly able to experience the transformative power of love. The final two lines of the poem are particularly powerful. The idea that these individuals can change us "forever" suggests a kind of permanence that is rare in human relationships. It implies that the love and connection we feel with these individuals is enduring and meaningful. ## Conclusion In "Very Seldom," Cavafy has crafted a masterpiece of understated elegance and emotional depth. The poem speaks to the heart of what it means to love and be loved, and it does so with a simplicity and precision that is rare in literature. The poem's message about the rarity and transformative power of true love is one that resonates deeply with readers. It suggests that love is something to be cherished and celebrated, and that it has the power to change us forever. Overall, "Very Seldom" is a beautiful and powerful poem that speaks to the universal human experience of love and loss. It is a testament to Cavafy's skill as a poet, and it is a work that will continue to touch the hearts of readers for generations to come.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Very Seldom: A Poem of Life's Fleeting Moments
C.P. Cavafy's poem "Very Seldom" is a poignant reflection on the fleeting nature of life and the importance of seizing the moment. In this 14-line poem, Cavafy captures the essence of human existence, reminding us that life is short and that we must make the most of every opportunity that comes our way.
The poem begins with the speaker reflecting on a moment in the past when he was "filled with great desire." This desire, we are told, was for something that was "rare and precious." The speaker does not specify what this desire was for, but it is clear that it was something that he deeply wanted and that he felt was worth pursuing.
However, the speaker then tells us that this desire was "very seldom" fulfilled. This phrase is repeated twice in the poem, emphasizing its importance. The repetition also creates a sense of regret and sadness, as if the speaker is lamenting the fact that he did not seize the opportunity when it presented itself.
The second stanza of the poem shifts the focus from the past to the present. The speaker tells us that he is now "old and grey" and that he has "lost the power" to pursue his desires. This is a common theme in Cavafy's poetry – the idea that time is fleeting and that we must make the most of the present moment.
The final lines of the poem are perhaps the most powerful. The speaker tells us that he now realizes that the moments of desire and fulfillment are "very seldom" and that we must "seize them" when they come. This is a message that resonates with all of us – the idea that life is short and that we must make the most of every opportunity that comes our way.
One of the most striking things about "Very Seldom" is its simplicity. The poem is only 14 lines long and contains no complex metaphors or obscure references. Yet, despite its simplicity, the poem is incredibly powerful. It captures the essence of human existence in a way that is both universal and timeless.
Another notable aspect of the poem is its use of repetition. The phrase "very seldom" is repeated twice in the poem, creating a sense of emphasis and urgency. The repetition also creates a sense of regret and sadness, as if the speaker is lamenting the fact that he did not seize the opportunity when it presented itself.
The poem is also notable for its use of imagery. The speaker describes his desire as something that was "rare and precious." This creates a sense of longing and desire in the reader, as if we too are searching for something that is rare and precious.
Overall, "Very Seldom" is a powerful and poignant reflection on the fleeting nature of life and the importance of seizing the moment. It is a reminder that life is short and that we must make the most of every opportunity that comes our way. The poem's simplicity, repetition, and imagery all contribute to its power and universality. It is a poem that speaks to all of us, regardless of our age or background, and reminds us of the importance of living life to the fullest.
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