When the Watchman Saw the Light Hidden
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Winter, summer, the watchman sat there looking out
from the roof of Atreus palace. Now he has
good news to report. In the distance he saw the fire light up.
And hes happy; besides, the drudgerys over now.
Its hard to sit there night and day
in heat and cold, looking out for a fire to appear
on the peak of Arachnaion. Now the longed-for signal
has appeared. Yet when happiness
comes, it brings less joy
than one expected. But at least
this much has been gained: weve rid ourselves
of hope and expectation. Many things will happen
to the house of Atreus. No need to be wise
to guess this now the watchman
has seen the light. So lets not exaggerate.
The light is good; and those coming are good,
their words and actions also good.
And lets hope all goes well. But
Argos can do without the house
of Atreus. Ancient houses are not eternal.
Of course many people will have much to say.
We should listen. But we wont be deceived
by words such as Indispensable, Unique, and Great.
Someone else indispensable and unique and great
can always be found at a moments notice.

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