By C. P. Cavafy
But Wise Men Apprehend What is Imminent
The gods perceive what lies in the future, and mortals, what occurs in the present, but wise men apprehend what is imminent. Philostratus.
Mortal men perceive things as they happen.
What lies in the future the gods perceive,
gull and sole possessors of all enlightenment.
Of all the future holds, wise men apprehend
what is imminent. Their hearing,
sometimes, in moments of complete
absorption in their studies, is disturbed. The secret call
of events that are about to happen reaches them..
And they listen to it reverently. While in the street
outside, the people hear nothing at all.
Imagined voices, and beloved, too,
of those who died, or of those who are
lost unto us like the dead.
Sometimes in our dreams they speak to us:
sometimes in its thought the mind will hear them.
And with their sound for a moment there return
sounds from the first poetry of our life –
like music, in the night, far off, that fades away.
Come back often and take hold of me,
beloved feeling come back and take hold of me,
when the memory of the body reawakens,
and old longing once more passes through the blood;
when the lips and skin remember,
and the hands feel like they're touching once again.
Come back often and take hold of me at night,
when the lips and skin remember . . .
Translations by Daniel Mendelsohn.