C. P. Cavafy

He enquired after the quality
with accompanying illustration by David Hockney

From the archive, ‘Caesarian’ is one of four poems by Greek poet C. P. Cavafy published in August 1966 issue of The London Magazine, edited by Alan Ross. Accompanying the poems are four illustrations by British artist David Hockney. Constantine P. Cavafy, often published as C. P. Cavafy, was a reclusive poet, rarely publishing his own work and instead preferring to share it in newspapers or literary magazines like The London Magazine. His poems were concerned with history, ancient civilisations and philosophy, but were also known to be highly personal, with Cavafy, who was openly gay, using verse to explore his sexuality. David Hockney is one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, gaining recognition as an important contributor to the British pop art movement in the 1960s. Hockney’s etchings were published by Editions Alection as a portfolio and in book for as a limited edition. 

He came out of the office where he
in a position that was insignificant
and under-paid
(about eight pounds a month, includ-
ing tips).
When he had finished with the
odious chores
over which he had stooped all the
he went outside, at seven, walking
idling away his time in the street.
and interesting; the way he seemed
to have achieved
his full potential sensuality.
His twenty-ninth birthday was last

He idled away his time in the street
in the poor alleys leading to his home.
Passing in front of a small shop
which sold some fake, cheap goods
for working people
he saw, within, a face, a figure
and this urged him to enter, as if to
ask about
some colored handkerchiefs.

He enquired after the quality of the
and what they cost, in a low voice
almost stifled by desire.
And the answers that came followed
abstracted, in a choking voice
implying willingness.

They kept on murmuring things
about the goods–but
their sole intent: to touch each other’s
across the handkerchiefs; to bring
their faces
close together and their lips, as if by
a momentary contact of their limbs.

Quickly and stealthily so that the
owner of the shop
sitting at the far end, should not

David Hockney, He enquired after the quality, Editions Alecto, 1966


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