Wednesday, 29 April 2015

C.P.Cavafy : 29.4.1863 - 29.4.1933



My favourite poet of all time is Constantinos Cavafy...and today let's remember two of his best poems...
I would suggest to dedicate them to Yanis Varoufakis and Alexis Tsipras
since
poetry is a distillate of wisdom and they will both need some in the next few days.
Beware, their political lies are expiring soon.

Ioannis Zabetakis

Waiting for the Barbarians
-------------------------------------------------------------
What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

            The barbarians are due here today.


Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

            Because the barbarians are coming today.
            What laws can the senators make now?
            Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.


Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
            He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
            replete with titles, with imposing names.


Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and things like that dazzle the barbarians.


Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.


Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

            Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
            And some who have just returned from the border say
            there are no barbarians any longer.


And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.
====================================================



To have taken the trouble
------------------------------------------------------------
I’m broke and practically homeless.
This fatal city, Antioch,
has devoured all my money:
this fatal city with its extravagant life.

But I’m young and in excellent health.
Prodigious master of things Greek,
I know Aristotle and Plato through and through,
poets, orators, or anyone else you could mention.
I have some idea about military matters
and friends among the senior mercenaries.
I also have a foot in the administrative world;
I spent six months in Alexandria last year:
I know (and this is useful) something about what goes on there—
the scheming of Kakergetis, his dirty deals, and the rest of it.

So I consider myself completely qualified
to serve this country,
my beloved fatherland, Syria.

Whatever job they give me,
I’ll try to be useful to the country. That’s my intention.
But if they frustrate me with their maneuvers—
we know them, those smart operators: no need to say more here—
if they frustrate me, it’s not my fault.

I’ll approach Zabinas first,
and if that idiot doesn’t appreciate me,
I’ll go to his rival, Grypos.
And if that imbecile doesn’t take me on,
I’ll go straight to Hyrkanos.

One of the three will want me anyway.

And my conscience is quiet
about my not caring which one I chose:
the three of them are equally bad for Syria.

But, a ruined man, it’s not my fault.
I’m only trying, poor devil, to make ends meet.
The almighty gods ought to have taken the trouble
to create a fourth, an honest man.
I would gladly have gone along with him.
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)



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