The Old Age in Constantine Cavafy's Poetry.

Essay by sapagoaUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 2005

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In this essay I will try to explore the way in which the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy addresses the issue of the individual as an existence and especially the way the poet depicts the old age. To this purpose I will refer to two of the plethora of his poems, "An Old Man" and "The Souls of Old Men".

"An Old Man."

At the back of the noisy café

bent over a table sits an old man;

a newspaper in front of him, without company.

And in the scorn of his miserable old age

he ponders how little he enjoyed the years

when he had strength, and the power of the word, and good looks.

He knows he has aged much; he feels it, he sees it.

And yet the time he was young seems

like yesterday. How short a time, how short a time.

And he ponders how Prudence deceived him;

and how he always trusted her -- what a folly! --

that liar who said: "Tomorrow.

There is ample time."

He remembers the impulses he curbed; and how much

joy he sacrificed. Every lost chance

now mocks his senseless wisdom.

...But from so much thinking and remembering

the old man gets dizzy. And falls asleep

bent over the café table.


In the above poem Cavafy uses as setting "the back of the noisy café" where an old man is "bent over a table" with "a newspaper in front of him, without company". The old man's loneliness is illustrated much more intense, in sharp contrast to the noise and the hustle and bustle of the café. Deeply absorbed in his loneliness and "in the scorn of his miserable old age", the old man cannot help pondering all the chances he missed and all the joys he let go...