'Half An Hour' by C.P. Cavafy

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I never had you, nor will I ever have you
I suppose. A few words, an approach
as in the bar yesterday, and nothing more.
It is, undeniably, a pity. But we who serve Art
sometimes with intensity of mind, and of course only
for a short while, we create pleasure
which almost seems real.
So in the bar the day before yesterday -- the merciful alcohol
was also helping much --
I had a perfectly erotic half-hour.
And it seems to me that you understood,
and stayed somewhat longer on purpose.
This was very necessary. Because
for all the imagination and the wizard alcohol,
I needed to see your lips as well,
I needed to have your body close.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Half An Hour by C.P. Cavafy: A Poetic Exploration of Time and Desire

Half an hour. Just thirty minutes. That's the amount of time the speaker in C.P. Cavafy's poem "Half An Hour" has to wait until he can see his beloved again. But in those thirty minutes, so much can happen. Memories flood his mind, desires surge through his body, and time seems to both stand still and fly by. In this 14-line poem, Cavafy masterfully explores the themes of time and desire, using vivid imagery and language to create a deeply affecting portrait of a man's longing for his lover.

The Poem

Let's start by taking a closer look at the poem itself:

"He'll be here in half an hour.
I'll lie down a bit.
He's very punctual, and he won't be late.
It's just that I can't wait.
At the end of the street a funeral procession –
the widow's son following the coffin;
then at the corner, by the traffic light,
a woman in a kerchief selling quinces;
then, in the distance, a young man
coming towards me,
handsome in his Sunday suit,
a bouquet of red flowers in his hand.
He'll be here in half an hour.
I lie down and think of him.
That's all I do. I think of him."

At first glance, the poem seems simple and straightforward. The speaker is waiting for his lover to arrive, but he's too impatient to do anything else but think of him. But as we delve deeper into the language and imagery of the poem, we begin to see the complex emotions and ideas that underlie it.


The most obvious theme of the poem is time. The speaker is acutely aware of the passing minutes, constantly checking his watch and counting down the seconds until his lover arrives. But at the same time, he's also acutely aware of how time can seem to stretch out endlessly when one is waiting for something or someone.

This tension between the perception of time as both slow and fast is captured perfectly in the line "It's just that I can't wait." On the one hand, the speaker is anxious for his lover to arrive and time seems to be moving impossibly slowly. But on the other hand, he's so consumed with thoughts of his lover that he's almost willing time to speed up, to bring his beloved to him faster.

The passing of time is also marked by the procession and the woman selling quinces. These mundane details, which might seem out of place in a love poem, serve to ground the poem in a sense of reality and time. The funeral procession is a reminder that life is fleeting and that time marches on, regardless of our desires or plans. The woman selling quinces is a reminder that life goes on, that even in the midst of our most intense desires and longings, the world continues to turn.


But it's the theme of desire that really drives this poem. The speaker's longing for his lover is palpable and all-consuming. He can think of nothing else but his beloved, even as he lies down and tries to distract himself. And yet, despite his impatience and longing, there is also a sense of resignation in the poem. The speaker knows that his lover will arrive, that their time together will be brief, and that he will be left waiting once again.

This sense of longing and resignation is captured perfectly in the final lines of the poem: "He'll be here in half an hour. / I lie down and think of him. / That's all I do. I think of him." There's a sense of both hope and futility in these lines. The speaker is hopeful that his lover will arrive, that they will have their precious half hour together, but he's also resigned to the fact that all he can do is think of him, that his longing will never truly be satisfied.

Language and Imagery

One of the most striking things about this poem is the vivid imagery and language that Cavafy uses to convey the speaker's emotions. The funeral procession, the woman selling quinces, and the young man with the bouquet of red flowers are all described in rich detail, creating a vivid picture of the world that the speaker inhabits. But it's the language used to describe the speaker's desire that really stands out.

The repetition of the phrase "I think of him" at the beginning and end of the poem serves to emphasize the speaker's singular focus on his beloved. And the description of the young man as "handsome in his Sunday suit" with "a bouquet of red flowers in his hand" is both romantic and sensual. The use of the word "bouquet" suggests a sense of celebration and joy, while the color red connotes passion and desire.


So what does it all mean? What is Cavafy trying to convey with this poem? At its core, "Half An Hour" is a meditation on the nature of desire and the power of memory. The speaker's longing for his lover is so intense that it consumes every moment of his life, even when his lover is not there. And yet, at the same time, his memory of his lover is so vivid that it almost feels as if he's with him already.

There's also a sense of melancholy in the poem, a hint of sadness that comes from the knowledge that the speaker's time with his lover is fleeting and that he will soon be left waiting once again. But there's also a sense of hope in the poem, a sense that even in the midst of our most intense desires and longings, there is still something worth waiting for, something worth hoping for.


In "Half An Hour," Cavafy has created a masterpiece of poetic exploration. Through vivid imagery and language, he has conveyed the complex emotions and ideas that come with waiting for love, and he has done so in a way that is both beautiful and deeply affecting. As readers, we can all relate to the speaker's longing and hope, and we can all appreciate the beauty of Cavafy's language and imagery. This is a poem that will stay with us long after we've finished reading it, a testament to the enduring power of love and desire.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Half An Hour: A Timeless Poem by C.P. Cavafy

C.P. Cavafy, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, is known for his profound and thought-provoking poems that explore the complexities of human nature and the human condition. Among his many works, Half An Hour stands out as a timeless masterpiece that captures the essence of human desire, longing, and regret. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this classic poem and explore its relevance to our lives today.

Half An Hour is a short but powerful poem that tells the story of a man who encounters his former lover after many years. The poem begins with the man walking down a street and suddenly seeing his former lover standing in front of him. The sight of her brings back a flood of memories and emotions, and the man is filled with a deep sense of longing and regret. He realizes that he still loves her and wishes that he could turn back time and be with her again, even if it were only for half an hour.

The poem is divided into two stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The first stanza sets the scene and describes the man's initial reaction to seeing his former lover. The second stanza delves deeper into his emotions and thoughts, revealing his inner turmoil and the intensity of his longing.

The poem is written in free verse, with no rhyme or meter, which gives it a natural and conversational tone. The language is simple and direct, yet it conveys a depth of feeling that is both poignant and powerful. The use of imagery is also striking, as the poet paints a vivid picture of the man's surroundings and emotions.

One of the key themes of the poem is the fleeting nature of time and the inevitability of change. The man's encounter with his former lover is a reminder of the past, a time that is gone forever and can never be recaptured. He realizes that he has lost something precious and irreplaceable, and that he can never go back to the way things were. This sense of loss and regret is a universal human experience, and it is one that resonates deeply with readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Another theme of the poem is the power of memory and the way in which it shapes our lives. The man's memories of his former lover are vivid and intense, and they have a profound effect on his emotions and actions. He is transported back in time to a place where he was happy and fulfilled, and he longs to recapture that feeling. This is a testament to the enduring power of memory and its ability to shape our perceptions of the world around us.

The poem also explores the nature of love and the way in which it can endure even after a relationship has ended. The man's love for his former lover is still strong, despite the passage of time and the fact that they are no longer together. This is a testament to the enduring power of love and its ability to transcend time and distance.

In addition to these themes, the poem also touches on the idea of fate and the role that it plays in our lives. The man's encounter with his former lover seems to be a chance occurrence, yet it has a profound effect on his emotions and his sense of self. This suggests that there may be a larger force at work in our lives, guiding us towards certain experiences and shaping our destinies.

Overall, Half An Hour is a timeless poem that speaks to the universal human experience of loss, regret, and longing. It is a testament to the enduring power of memory and love, and it reminds us of the fleeting nature of time and the inevitability of change. The poem is a masterpiece of modern poetry, and it continues to resonate with readers today, more than a century after it was first written.

In conclusion, Half An Hour is a poem that deserves to be read and appreciated by anyone who is interested in the complexities of human nature and the human condition. It is a work of art that captures the essence of what it means to be human, and it reminds us of the power of poetry to touch our hearts and souls. If you have not yet read this classic poem, I urge you to do so, and to experience for yourself the beauty and power of C.P. Cavafy's words.

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