'Anna Dalassené' by C.P. Cavafy

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In the golden bull that Alexios Comnenos issued
to prominently honor his mother,
the very sagacious Lady Anna Dalassené—
distinguished in her works, in her ways—
there are many words of praise:
here let us convey of them
a beautiful, noble phrase
"Those cold words 'mine' or 'yours' were never spoken."

Editor 1 Interpretation

Excitement and Interpretation of "Anna Dalassene" by C.P. Cavafy

When it comes to poetry, there's something about the classics that makes us feel a little more connected to the past. We like to imagine ourselves as part of that history, even if our lives are vastly different from those of the people who came before us. One such classic poem that has stood the test of time is C.P. Cavafy's "Anna Dalassene."

At its core, "Anna Dalassene" is a poem about a woman who is incredibly powerful and complex. She is a queen, a mother, and a widow. She is also a woman who has had to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and power in a male-dominated world. As readers, we get a glimpse into her life and her struggles, and we are left to interpret what it all means.

The Life of Anna Dalassene

Anna Dalassene was a real person who lived in the Byzantine Empire during the 11th century. She was the mother of Alexios I Komnenos, who would go on to become emperor. Anna was born into a wealthy and influential family, and she married a man named John Komnenos, who was also from a powerful family. Together, they had four children, including Alexios.

When John died, Anna became the regent for her son, who was still a child at the time. She was responsible for overseeing his education and preparing him for his eventual ascent to the throne. She was also involved in politics and was known for her intelligence and cunning.

Analyzing the Poem

Now that we have a little bit of background on Anna Dalassene, let's dive into the poem itself. The first thing that stands out is the tone. The poem is written in a very matter-of-fact way, almost as if the poet is simply recounting events as they happened. There is no grandiose language or flowery descriptions. Instead, we get a sense of the practicality and pragmatism that were required to survive in the world that Anna lived in.

The poem begins with a description of Anna's daily routine. She wakes up early and spends time in prayer before attending to her duties as regent. We get a sense of her devotion to her faith and her commitment to her responsibilities. This is not a woman who shirks her duties or takes them lightly.

As the poem continues, we learn more about Anna's role in politics. She is described as being "wise and cunning" and as having the ability to "enact the most difficult of plans." We get a sense of her intelligence and her ability to navigate the complex world of Byzantine politics.

One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is the way in which it portrays Anna's relationship with her son. On the one hand, she is fiercely protective of him and is determined to ensure that he is prepared to take on the responsibilities of being emperor. On the other hand, she is also willing to use him as a pawn in her political machinations. She arranges for him to marry the daughter of a powerful family in order to solidify her own position.

At the same time, the poem also portrays Anna as being deeply human. She is not just a political figure or a regent; she is also a mother who loves her son dearly. In one of the most poignant moments in the poem, we learn that she "wept often for her son / who was still a child." This line gives us a glimpse into the emotional turmoil that Anna must have been experiencing as she tried to balance her responsibilities as a regent with her love for her son.


So what does it all mean? What is Cavafy trying to say with this poem?

One interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on power and politics. Anna Dalassene is a woman who has had to navigate a male-dominated world in order to maintain her position and protect her family. She is a skilled politician and strategist who is able to enact complex plans in order to achieve her goals. At the same time, she is also a mother who loves her son deeply and is willing to do whatever it takes to protect him.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the complexity of human relationships. Anna is not just a political figure or a regent; she is also a mother, a widow, and a woman who is trying to navigate a difficult and complex world. Her relationship with her son is both loving and complicated, as she tries to balance her responsibilities as a regent with her love for her child.

Finally, the poem can also be interpreted as a tribute to Anna Dalassene herself. She was a woman who lived in a time and place where women were not often given positions of power or influence. Yet she was able to rise to the challenge and become a skilled politician and leader. The poem celebrates her strength, her intelligence, and her resilience in the face of adversity.


"Anna Dalassene" is a powerful and complex poem that explores the life of a remarkable woman. Through its matter-of-fact tone and careful attention to detail, the poem gives us a glimpse into Anna's world and the struggles she faced as a woman in a male-dominated society. At the same time, the poem celebrates her strength and resilience, and reminds us of the importance of human relationships and the complexity of power and politics.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Anna Dalassené: A Poem of Love, Loss, and Longing

C.P. Cavafy, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, is known for his evocative and sensual poetry that explores themes of desire, nostalgia, and the complexities of human relationships. Among his many works, Anna Dalassené stands out as a masterpiece of poetic storytelling, a haunting and poignant meditation on love, loss, and the power of memory.

The poem tells the story of Anna Dalassené, a beautiful and wealthy woman who lived in Constantinople during the Byzantine era. Anna is described as a woman of great charm and grace, with a voice that could "enchant the soul." She is also deeply in love with a man named Michael, who is described as a soldier and a hero. The two of them are deeply in love, but their relationship is complicated by the fact that Michael is married to another woman.

The poem begins with Anna reminiscing about her past, recalling the days when she and Michael were together. She remembers the moments they shared, the places they visited, and the love they made. She also remembers the pain of their separation, the longing she felt for him, and the knowledge that they could never be together.

As the poem progresses, Anna's memories become more vivid and intense. She recalls the day when Michael left her, the moment when she realized that he would never be hers. She remembers the pain of his absence, the emptiness that consumed her, and the desperate longing she felt for him.

Despite the pain and the longing, Anna remains steadfast in her love for Michael. She refuses to let go of her feelings, even though she knows that they can never be together. She clings to her memories of him, cherishing every moment they shared, and holding onto the hope that one day they will be reunited.

The poem ends with Anna reflecting on her life, on the choices she has made, and on the love that has sustained her. She acknowledges that her love for Michael has been both a blessing and a curse, a source of joy and of pain. She also recognizes that her love for him has shaped her life, giving her strength and purpose, and inspiring her to be the best version of herself.

Anna Dalassené is a poem that speaks to the universal human experience of love and loss. It is a poem that reminds us of the power of memory, of the way in which our past experiences shape our present and our future. It is also a poem that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, the capacity of the human heart to endure pain and to find hope in the midst of despair.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of language and imagery. Cavafy's language is rich and sensual, evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of Constantinople in the Byzantine era. His imagery is vivid and evocative, painting a picture of a world that is both beautiful and tragic.

The poem is also notable for its structure and form. It is written in free verse, with no set rhyme or meter. This gives the poem a sense of fluidity and spontaneity, reflecting the unpredictable nature of love and memory. The poem is also divided into three sections, each of which explores a different aspect of Anna's story. This structure gives the poem a sense of progression and development, as Anna's memories become more intense and her emotions more complex.

In conclusion, Anna Dalassené is a poem that speaks to the heart of what it means to be human. It is a poem that explores the complexities of love and loss, the power of memory, and the resilience of the human spirit. It is a poem that reminds us of the beauty and the tragedy of life, and of the importance of cherishing every moment we have with the people we love.

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