Envoys from Alexandria The Canon
Print
For centuries they hadnt seen gifts at Delphi
as wonderful as those sent by the two brothers,
the rival Ptolemaic kings. But now that they have them,
the priests are nervous about the oracle. Theyll need
all their experience to decide
how to express it tactfully, which of the two
of two brothers like thesewill have to be offended.
And so they meet secretly at night
to discuss the family affairs of the Lagids.
 
But suddenly the envoys are back. Theyre taking their leave.
Returning to Alexandria, they say. And they dont ask
for an oracle at all. The priests are delighted to hear it
(theyre to keep the marvelous gifts, that goes without saying)
but theyre also completely bewildered,
having no idea what this sudden indifference means.
They do not know that yesterday the envoys heard serious news:
the oracle was pronounced in Rome; the partition was decided there.

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)

- Original Greek Poem