'Envoys From Alexandria' by C.P. Cavafy
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They had not seen, for ages, such beautiful gifts in Delphi
as these that had been sent by the two brothers,
the rival Ptolemaic kings. After they had received them
however, the priests were uneasy about the oracle. They will need
all their experience to compose it with astuteness,
which of the two, which of such two will be displeased.
And they hold secret councils at night
and discuss the family affairs of the Lagidae.
But see, the envoys have returned. They are bidding farewell.
They are returning to Alexandria, they say. And they do not ask
for any oracle. And the priests hear this with joy
(of course they will keep the marvellous gifts),
but they also are utterly perplexed,
not understanding what this sudden indifference means.
For they are unaware that yesterday the envoys received grave news.
The oracle was given in Rome; the division took place there.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Envoys From Alexandria: A Poem Analysis
Are you looking for a poem that will take you on a journey through ancient history, where you'll get to see the grandeur of Alexandria, and feel the nostalgia of a bygone age? If so, then Envoys From Alexandria, written by C.P. Cavafy, is the poem for you! This classic poem, which was first published in 1918, is an ode to the ancient city of Alexandria, and it has captured the hearts of readers all over the world for more than a century. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll be taking a closer look at Envoys From Alexandria, examining its themes, its structure, and its significance in the world of poetry.
Envoys From Alexandria is a poem that is divided into two parts, and it tells the story of two envoys from Alexandria who are sent to the Emperor at Byzantium. The envoys are given a letter to deliver to the Emperor, and they are instructed to stay in Byzantium until they receive a response. The first part of the poem describes the envoys' journey to Byzantium, and the second part describes their experiences in the city. Throughout the poem, Cavafy uses rich imagery and symbolism to create a vivid picture of Alexandria and Byzantium, and to explore themes of nostalgia, loss, and the passing of time.
One of the most prominent themes in Envoys From Alexandria is nostalgia. Cavafy's poem is an ode to the city of Alexandria, and it is filled with a sense of longing for a bygone age. The envoys' journey to Byzantium serves as a reminder of the city's former glory, and the descriptions of the city are filled with images of grandeur and beauty. For example, in the first stanza of the poem, Cavafy describes the envoys' departure from Alexandria, and he writes:
"When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge."
This quote is a reference to the famous Greek epic poem, The Odyssey, which is about the journey of the hero Odysseus as he tries to return home to Ithaca. By referencing The Odyssey, Cavafy is drawing a parallel between the envoys' journey and the hero's journey in the epic poem. He is also suggesting that the journey is more important than the destination, and that the envoys will learn valuable lessons on their journey to Byzantium.
Another theme in Envoys From Alexandria is the passing of time. Throughout the poem, Cavafy contrasts the grandeur of Alexandria with the decay of Byzantium, and he suggests that all things must eventually come to an end. For example, in the second stanza of the poem, Cavafy describes the envoys' arrival in Byzantium, and he writes:
"And yet no Greek from the islands
ever looked on this town with more love
than we who laid eyes on it as prisoners of war."
This quote is significant because it suggests that the envoys' experience of Byzantium is colored by their memories of Alexandria. They see the city as a place of captivity rather than as a place of beauty, and they are reminded of the impermanence of all things.
Envoys From Alexandria is a poem that is divided into two parts, and each part has a different structure. The first part of the poem is written in free verse, and it is made up of three stanzas that vary in length. The second part of the poem is written in rhyming couplets, and it is made up of six stanzas that are all the same length. The use of different structures in each part of the poem is significant because it reflects the different moods and themes of each part.
The use of free verse in the first part of the poem creates a sense of movement and fluidity, which reflects the envoys' journey to Byzantium. The lack of a strict rhyme scheme also gives the poem a sense of improvisation, which suggests that the envoys are making up the journey as they go along. In contrast, the use of rhyming couplets in the second part of the poem creates a sense of order and symmetry, which reflects the envoys' experience of Byzantium. The strict rhyme scheme also suggests that the envoys are now in a more structured environment, and that they are no longer free to roam as they please.
Envoys From Alexandria is a significant poem in the world of poetry because it is a masterful example of the use of imagery and symbolism. Throughout the poem, Cavafy uses vivid descriptions and metaphors to create a sense of place and to convey complex emotions. For example, in the second stanza of the poem, Cavafy describes the envoys' arrival in Byzantium, and he writes:
"And here the atmosphere is gentler:
a soft breeze from Thrace
makes the air lighter, makes it sweet."
This quote is significant because it shows how Cavafy uses sensory details to create a sense of atmosphere. The soft breeze from Thrace creates a sense of calm and tranquility, which is in contrast to the harshness of the envoys' journey. The use of sensory details in this way is a hallmark of Cavafy's poetry, and it is one of the reasons why his work has endured for more than a century.
In conclusion, Envoys From Alexandria is a poem that is rich in themes, structure, and significance. It is a poem that is filled with imagery and symbolism, and it tells a story that is both timeless and universal. If you're looking for a poem that will take you on a journey through ancient history, and that will make you feel the nostalgia of a bygone age, then Envoys From Alexandria is the poem for you.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Envoys From Alexandria: A Masterpiece of Modern Greek Poetry
C.P. Cavafy, one of the most celebrated poets of modern Greek literature, is known for his unique style that blends classical Greek themes with contemporary issues. His poem "Envoys From Alexandria" is a prime example of his mastery of language and his ability to evoke powerful emotions in his readers.
The poem is set in ancient Alexandria, a city known for its rich cultural heritage and intellectual pursuits. The envoys in the poem are representatives of the city who have been sent to meet with the king of a foreign land. The poem begins with the envoys arriving at their destination and being greeted by the king's officials. The envoys are then taken to the king's palace, where they are given a warm welcome and treated with great respect.
The first stanza of the poem sets the scene and establishes the tone of the poem. The envoys are described as "noble" and "distinguished," and their arrival is met with "great ceremony." The language used is formal and grand, reflecting the importance of the envoys' mission and the significance of their visit.
In the second stanza, the envoys are shown around the palace and given a tour of its many wonders. They are shown the king's gardens, his throne room, and his treasury. The language used in this stanza is rich and descriptive, painting a vivid picture of the opulence and grandeur of the palace.
The third stanza is where the poem takes a dramatic turn. The envoys are taken to a room where they are shown a painting of a young man. The painting is described as "exquisite" and "magnificent," and the envoys are told that the young man in the painting is the king's son. The envoys are then informed that the young man has died, and they are asked to convey the king's grief to their city.
The language used in this stanza is powerful and emotive, conveying the depth of the king's sorrow and the tragedy of his son's death. The envoys are shown a side of the king that they had not seen before, and they are moved by his grief.
The fourth and final stanza of the poem is where Cavafy's genius truly shines. The envoys are shown out of the palace and back to their ship, but as they leave, they are filled with a sense of sadness and loss. They realize that they have been witness to something profound and meaningful, and they are left with a sense of longing for what they have seen.
The language used in this stanza is simple and direct, but it is also deeply moving. The envoys are not just leaving a physical place, but they are leaving behind a part of themselves. They have been touched by the king's grief and by the beauty of the young man in the painting, and they are forever changed by what they have experienced.
In conclusion, "Envoys From Alexandria" is a masterpiece of modern Greek poetry. It is a powerful and emotive work that blends classical themes with contemporary issues, and it is a testament to Cavafy's mastery of language and his ability to evoke powerful emotions in his readers. The poem is a reminder of the power of art to move us and to connect us to something greater than ourselves, and it is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to inspire and uplift us.
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