The Great Refusal

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.

— C.P. Cavafy (1901) [via]

The title of this poem, “Che Fece… Il Gran Refiuto”, is borrowed from Dante’s Inferno, iii, 60, and means “Who made…the great refusal.” The poet deliberately omitted the words “per vilta”, i.e. “because of cowardice”.

For some people, their great Yes or great No is an explicit declaration. For others, their declaration is implicit and subtle. One may wonder what their true answer is. They themselves may not even be aware of their own answer. But God knows.

(And whether we ourselves know or not, we are still called to pray for them.)

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