Miris - by Constantine Cavafy - As Read By Elli

  • Miris Alexandria, A.D. 340.


    AUDIO


    Miris - Cavafy.mp3


    by C. P. Cavafy. (Note: Not familiar with Cavafy? Check out his famous "Ithaca" as read by Sean Connery with music by Vangelis)


    When I heard the terrible news, that Miris was dead,

    I went to his house, although I avoid

    going to the houses of Christians,

    especially during times of mourning or festivity.


    I stood in the corridor. I didn't want

    to go further inside because I noticed

    that the relatives of the deceased looked at me

    with obvious surprise and displeasure.


    They had him in a large room

    and from the corner where I stood

    I could catch a glimpse of it: all precious carpets,

    and vessels in silver and gold.


    I stood and wept in a corner of the corridor.

    And I thought how our parties and excursions

    wouldn't be worthwhile now without Miris;

    and I thought how I'd no longer see him

    at our wonderfully indecent νιγητ-long sessions

    enjoying himself, laughing, and reciting verses

    with his perfect feel for Greek rhythm;

    and I thought how I'd lost forever

    his beauty, lost forever

    the young man I'd worshipped so passionately.


    Some old women close to me were talking with lowered

    voices

    about the last day he lived:

    the name of Christ constantly on his lips,

    his hand holding a cross.

    Then four Christian priests

    came into the room, and said prayers

    fervently, and orisons to Jesus,

    or to Mary (I'm not very familiar with their religion).


    We'd known of course that Miris was a Christian,

    known it from the very start,

    when he first joined our group the year before last.

    But he lived exactly as we did:

    more devoted to pleasure than all of us,

    he scattered his money lavishly on amusements.

    Not caring what anyone thought of him,

    he threw himself eagerly into night-time scuffles

    when our group happened to clash

    with some rival group in the street.

    He never spoke about his religion.

    And once we even told him

    that we'd take him with us to the Serapeion.

    But -I remember now-

    he didn't seem to like this joke of ours.

    And yes, now I recall two other incidents.

    When we made libations to Poseidon,

    he drew himself back from our circle and looked elsewhere.

    And when one of us in his fervour said:

    "May all of us be favoured and protected

    by the great, the sublime Apollo"-

    Miris, unheard by the others, whispered: "Not counting me."


    The Christian priests were praying loudly

    for the young man's soul.

    I noticed with how much diligence,

    how much intense concern

    for the forms of their religion, they were preparing

    everything for the Christian funeral.

    And suddenly an odd sensation took hold of me:

    indefinably I felt

    as if Miris were going from me;

    I felt that he, a Christian, was united

    with his own people and that I was becoming

    a stranger, a total stranger. I even felt

    a doubt come over me: that I'd been deceived by my passion

    and has always been a stranger to him.

    I rushed out of their horrible house,

    rushed away before my memory of Miris

    could be captured, could be perverted by their Christianity.

  • Elli's return to posting reminded me of this music video, and I couldn't think at first of a good place to post it -- well how about right here next to Elli's reading of Miris!


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  • This stanza of Ithaka rang very Epicurean to me:

    It made me think of Epicurus's instruction to remember the pleasures of your past so you don't grow old. And also the connection between ataraxia and smooth sailing.

    Paian Anax! Thanks so much for spurring me to look into his work!