Ars Gratia Artis from the writings of C. P. Cavafy

A young poet visited me," he wrote. "He was very poor, lived by his literary work, and it seemed to me that he was grieved to see the good house I was living in, my servant who brought him a nicely served tea, my clothes made by a good tailor. He said: what a horrible thing it is to have to struggle for a livelihood, to hunt subscribers your periodical, and purchasers for your book.

I didn't want to leave him in his delusion, so I said a few words, more or less as follows. His position is difficult and disagreeable-- but how much my little luxuries cost me. In order to obtain them I departed from my natural course and became a government servant (how absurd!) and I spend and lose all those precious hours a day-- to which must be added the hours of weariness and sluggishness that follow-- what a loss, and what a betrayal! While this poor fellow doesn't waste a single hour; he's always faithful to his duty as a child of Art.

How often during my work a fine idea comes to me, a rare image, and sudden ready-formed lines, and I'm obliged to leave them, because work can't be put off. Then when I go home and recover a bit, I try to remember them, but they're gone. And it's quite right. It's as if Art said to me: 'I'm not a servant, for you to turn me out when I come, and to come when you want. I'm the greatest lady in the world. And if you deny me-- miserable traitor-- for your wretched "nice house," and your wretched good clothes and your wretched social position, be content with that (but how can you?) and for the moments when I come and it happens that you're ready to receive me, come outside your door to wait for me, as you ought to every day.'

June 1905."

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