(Translated from the Greek of C. P. Kavafy)
The son of a dirt-poor and put-upon sailor
from some island in the Aegean,
he worked for a blacksmith, his clothes in tatters,
his work-boots torn open,
his hands engrained with rust and oil.
In the evening, when the smithy closed,
if there was some little thing he longed for,
an expensive tie,
a tie for Sundays,
or if he saw and fancied
a lovely blue shirt in some shop window,
he’d rent his body out for a few drachmas.
I wonder whether ancient Alexandria
in all its glory ever saw a boy more exquisite,
more perfect – lost though it was.
I mean that we have no statue of him, no painting.
Stuck there in that ghastly blacksmith’s workshop,
overworked and abused, and given to cheap pleasures,
his beauty soon wasted away.