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CONSTANTINE P. CAVAFY: Misplaced tenderness | Hellenismos.com
CONSTANTINE P. CAVAFY: Misplaced tenderness

CONSTANTINE P. CAVAFY: Misplaced tenderness

Posted March 15th, 2007 by webmaster

Plutarch, in his life of Solo, remarks that much the greater number of people whose hearts are either by nature or artifice shut to the tender feelings inspired by affection of any kind have been observed to bestow their feelings on objects absolutely unworthy and despicable. This theory can aptly be illustrated and confirmed by the doters on animals who have seldom earned reputation as philanthropes; and though this be but a light subject of speculation, still it affords so many examples that it should not pass unnoticed in a work professing to treat not so much of serious matters as of light matters seriously. Lord Lytton,[1] quoting M. Georges Duval, tells us that fondness to animals was a distinguishing trait of the bloody heroes of the French Revolution. Couthon, we hear, was greatly attached to a spaniel which he invariably carried in his bosom even to the Convention; Chaunette devoted his leisure to an aviary; Fournier bore on his shoulders a little squirrel attached by a silver chain: «Panis showed the utmost tenderness to two gold pheasants; and Marat, who would not abate one of the three hundred thousand heads he demanded, rear doves». Billaud, Lord Macaulay says,[2] diverted the lonely hours of his later days by teaching parrots to talk. «A propos of the spaniel of Couthon, Duval gives us an amusing anecdote of Sergent, not one of the least relentless agents of the massacre of September. A lady came to implore his protection for one of her relations confined in t he Abbaye. He scarcely deigned to speak to her. As she retired in despair, she trod by accident on the paw of the favourite spaniel. Sergent, turning round, enraged and furious, exclaimed, “Madame, have you no humanity?”».[3] Inhumanity to humankind and humanity to animals in a feminine heart (in which these contradictory feelings are very often met) is described in the following style by Mme de Rieux hh All those who are keen on Modern Greek poetry will find in the Cavafian Anthology at the end of this essay, the original Greek text of the poems quoted in translation in this essay, and some other poems in which the fatal

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[1] Zanoni.

[2] Biographical Essays.

[3] Zanoni.