Che Fece ... Il Gran Refiuto

Translated by Edmund Keeley
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 from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,
he’d still say no. Yet that no—the right no—
drags him down all his life.

Constantine Cavafy, “Che Fece ... Il Gran Refiuto,” translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems. Copyright © 1975 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Reprinted with the permission of Princeton University Press.
Source: C. P. Cavafy: Selected Poems (Princeton University Press, 1975)
More Poems by C. P. Cavafy