chapter  6
19 Pages

Promiscuous Texts and Abandoned Readings in the Poetry of C.P.Cavafy

Titles are promises of sorts. They suggest themes, attitudes, and positions towards what is to come. As promises they are also enticements, seductive gestures to where a text may take us. It may then seem paradoxical, if not disingenuous, that this study opens with a poem that is neither about promiscuity nor about abandonment as such. In fact, it is more about reserved compositions and deferred readings. On the other hand, it is perhaps appropriate that a poem like “Hidden” should, in effect, remain as such: hidden and unpublished.2 It was composed in 1908 and first published by Savidis in 1963,3 thirty years after Cavafy’s death. As such it falls within the time limits of Cavafy’s symbolist period.4 Constantine P.Cavafy was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1863 to a rather affluent commercial family. After spending a number of his childhood years in England, he settled in Alexandria and spent the rest of his life in relative poverty working as a civil servant for the British administration. He died at the age of seventy in 1933. His poetry was written primarily during the last thirty years of his life and establishes as its mythical locus Alexandria, which serves as the stage for his aesthetic, historical, contemplative, and homoerotic poetry.