This Poem Seems Appropriate Today

Che Fece . . . Il Gran Rifiuto

For certain people there comes a day
when they are called upon to say the great Yes
or the great No. It’s clear at once who has
the Yes within him at the ready, which he will say

as he advances in honor, in greater self-belief.
He who refuses has no second thoughts. Asked
again, he would repeat the No. And nonetheless
that No–so right–defeats him all his life.

–C.P. Cavafy [Trans. Daniel Mendelsohn]

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Humanities at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press (2001). He lives with his wife Carole, two Jack Russell terriers, Jett & Penny, & a Chocolate Lab, Angel, on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

1 thought on “This Poem Seems Appropriate Today”

  1. I love this poem. A translation by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrar:

    For some people the day comes
    when they have to declare the great Yes
    or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes
    ready within him; and saying it,

    he goes forward in honor and self-assurance.
    He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,
    he would still say no. Yet that no—the right no—
    undermines him all his life.

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