'Since Nine O'Clock' by C.P. Cavafy

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Half past twelve. Time has gone by quickly
since nine o'clock when I lit the lamp
and sat down here. I've been sitting without reading,
without speaking. Completely alone in the house,
whom could I talk to?

Since nine o'clock when I lit the lamp
the shade of my young body
has come to haunt me, to remind me
of shut scented rooms,
of past sensual pleasure - what daring pleasure.
And it's also brought back to me
streets now unrecognizable,
bustling night clubs now closed,
theatres and cafes no longer here.

The shade of my young body
also brought back the things that make us sad:
family grief, separations,
the feelings of my own people, feelings
of the dead so little acknowledged.

Half past twelve. How the time has gone by.
Half past twelve. How the years have gone by.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Since Nine O'Clock: A Deep Dive into C.P. Cavafy's Poem

Are you looking for a poem that explores the complexities of human relationships and the power dynamics between two people? Look no further than "Since Nine O'Clock" by C.P. Cavafy, a classic poem that offers a rich and nuanced meditation on desire, longing, and intimacy. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll take a deep dive into the text of the poem, examining its language, structure, and themes to uncover the layers of meaning that lie beneath the surface.

Background on C.P. Cavafy

Before we delve into the poem itself, let's take a moment to learn a bit about its author, C.P. Cavafy. Cavafy was a Greek poet who lived from 1863 to 1933, and is widely regarded as one of the most important modernist poets of the 20th century. He wrote in Greek, but his work has been translated into many languages and is beloved by readers around the world. Cavafy's poetry is known for its focus on history, mythology, and the inner lives of individuals, often exploring themes of homosexuality and desire in a way that was groundbreaking for his time.

An Overview of "Since Nine O'Clock"

"Since Nine O'Clock" is a poem that centers on a conversation between two people, one of whom is the speaker of the poem. The speaker recounts the details of the conversation, which took place "since nine o'clock" the previous night, and reflects on the emotions that it stirred up within him. Throughout the poem, we see the speaker grappling with his desires and his feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness in the face of the other person's indifference.

The Language of the Poem

One of the most striking things about "Since Nine O'Clock" is the language that Cavafy uses to convey the speaker's emotions. The poem is written in a conversational style, with short, simple sentences that convey a sense of immediacy and intimacy. The language is also infused with a sense of longing and desire, as the speaker describes the other person's "lovely voice," "beautiful eyes," and "gentle hands." The use of sensory details creates a vivid picture of the other person in the reader's mind, and makes it clear just how much the speaker desires them.

At the same time, Cavafy also uses language to convey the speaker's sense of powerlessness in the face of the other person's indifference. The speaker notes that the other person "didn't care / whether I went or stayed," and that they "didn't even turn to look at me." The repetition of the word "didn't" emphasizes the other person's lack of interest, and the use of enjambment to break up the lines creates a sense of fragmentation and uncertainty.

The Structure of the Poem

The structure of "Since Nine O'Clock" is also worth examining, as it reveals a great deal about the speaker's emotional state. The poem is divided into three sections, each of which corresponds to a different phase of the conversation between the two people. In the first section, the speaker describes the initial conversation, which seems to be pleasant and friendly. In the second section, the tone shifts, as the speaker notes that the other person is "completely indifferent" to his presence. Finally, in the third section, the speaker reflects on the conversation and his own emotions, noting that he "couldn't help but feel / a little hurt."

The use of these three sections creates a sense of movement and progression within the poem, and allows the reader to see the speaker's emotional journey over the course of the conversation. The fact that the final section is dedicated to the speaker's own thoughts and feelings emphasizes the idea that "Since Nine O'Clock" is ultimately a poem about the speaker's own emotional experiences, rather than a straightforward narrative about the conversation itself.

The Themes of the Poem

So what are the themes that "Since Nine O'Clock" explores? At its core, the poem is about desire and power, and the ways in which they intersect in human relationships. The speaker desires the other person, but at the same time, feels powerless in the face of their indifference. This power imbalance is something that many people can relate to, whether in romantic relationships, friendships, or even professional settings. The poem forces us to confront the uncomfortable truth that sometimes, we are at the mercy of other people's whims, and that no matter how much we desire them, we cannot force them to reciprocate our feelings.

Another theme that emerges in the poem is the idea of vulnerability. The speaker is vulnerable not only because of his desire for the other person, but also because he has opened up to them in conversation. The fact that the other person does not seem to care about his presence or his feelings makes him feel exposed and unprotected. This sense of vulnerability is something that many people can relate to, especially in situations where we have put ourselves out there emotionally, only to be met with indifference or rejection.

Final Thoughts

"Since Nine O'Clock" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the complexities of human relationships in a way that is both nuanced and emotionally resonant. Through its use of language, structure, and themes, the poem forces us to confront the uncomfortable truths about desire, power, and vulnerability. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply interested in exploring the intricacies of human emotion, "Since Nine O'Clock" is a poem that is well worth reading and reflecting on.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Since Nine O'Clock: A Timeless Poem by C.P. Cavafy

C.P. Cavafy, one of the most celebrated Greek poets of the 20th century, is known for his profound and thought-provoking works. Among his many masterpieces, "Since Nine O'Clock" stands out as a timeless poem that captures the essence of human longing and desire. In this analysis, we will delve deep into the poem's themes, structure, and language to understand its significance and impact.

The poem opens with a simple yet powerful statement: "Since nine o'clock I have been waiting for you." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a meditation on the nature of waiting and the emotions it evokes. The speaker is waiting for someone who is dear to them, and the act of waiting becomes a metaphor for the larger human experience of longing and anticipation.

The first stanza describes the speaker's physical surroundings, which are mundane and unremarkable. They are sitting in a room, surrounded by ordinary objects like a table, a lamp, and a book. However, the speaker's mind is consumed by thoughts of the person they are waiting for. They imagine the other person's movements, their voice, and their touch. The contrast between the ordinary setting and the intense emotions of the speaker creates a sense of tension and anticipation.

The second stanza shifts the focus to the person the speaker is waiting for. The speaker imagines the other person's journey, picturing them walking through the streets and encountering various obstacles. The language here is vivid and evocative, with phrases like "the dark streets" and "the cold wind" creating a sense of danger and uncertainty. The speaker's concern for the other person's safety and well-being adds a layer of emotional depth to the poem.

The third stanza returns to the speaker's own thoughts and feelings. The speaker is consumed by a sense of longing and desire, imagining the other person's arrival and the joy they will feel when they are reunited. The language here is sensual and romantic, with phrases like "your warm body" and "your sweet lips" creating a sense of intimacy and passion. The speaker's desire for the other person is palpable, and the reader can feel the intensity of their emotions.

The final stanza brings the poem to a close, with the speaker still waiting for the other person to arrive. However, the tone has shifted from anticipation to resignation. The speaker acknowledges that they may never see the other person again, and that their waiting may be in vain. The final line, "And now it is too late; it is almost midnight," is a poignant reminder of the fleeting nature of time and the inevitability of loss.

The structure of the poem is simple and straightforward, with four stanzas of equal length. However, the use of repetition and imagery creates a sense of unity and coherence. The repeated phrase "since nine o'clock" serves as a refrain, emphasizing the passage of time and the speaker's sense of waiting. The imagery of the streets, the wind, and the darkness creates a vivid and evocative setting, adding depth and complexity to the poem.

The language of the poem is simple and direct, with a focus on concrete details and sensory experience. However, the use of metaphor and imagery adds layers of meaning and emotion. The contrast between the ordinary setting and the intense emotions of the speaker creates a sense of tension and anticipation. The use of sensual and romantic language in the third stanza adds a layer of intimacy and passion to the poem. The final line, with its sense of finality and loss, is a powerful reminder of the transience of human experience.

In conclusion, "Since Nine O'Clock" is a timeless poem that captures the essence of human longing and desire. Through its simple structure, vivid imagery, and evocative language, the poem explores the complex emotions of waiting and anticipation. The poem's themes of time, loss, and desire are universal and timeless, making it a work that resonates with readers across generations and cultures. C.P. Cavafy's masterpiece is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the essence of the human experience and to touch the hearts and minds of readers everywhere.

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