|Of Dimitrios Sotir (162-150 B.C.) ||The Canon
|Everything he had hoped for turned out wrong!
He had seen himself doing great things,
ending the humiliation that had kept his country down
ever since the battle of Magnesia—
seen himself making Syria a powerful state again,
with her armies, her fleets,
her great fortresses, her wealth.
He had suffered in Rome, become bitter
when he sensed in the talk of friends,
young men of the great families,
that in spite of all their delicacy, their politeness
toward him, the son
of King Selefkos Philopator—
when he sensed that in spite of this there was always
a secret contempt for the Hellenizing dynasties:
their heyday was over, they weren’t fit for anything serious,
were completely unable to rule their peoples.
He had cut himself off, had become indignant, and had sworn
it would not be at all the way they thought.
Why, wasn’t he himself full of determination?
He would act, he would fight, he would set things right again.
If he could only find a way of getting to the East,
only manage to escape from Italy,
then all this strength he feels
inside him, all this energy,
he would pass on to his people.
Only to find himself in Syria!
He was so young when he left his country
he hardly remembered what it looked like.
But in his mind he had always thought of it
as something sacred that you approach reverently,
as a beautiful place unveiled, a vision
of Greek cities and Greek ports.
Now despair and sorrow.
They were right, the young men in Rome.
The dynasties born from the Macedonian Conquest
cannot be kept going any longer.
It doesn’t matter. He had made the effort,
fought as much as he could.
And in his bleak disillusion
there’s one thing only
that still fills him with pride: how even in failure
he shows the world his same indomitable courage.
The rest: they were dreams and wasted energy.
This Syria—it almost seems it isn’t his homeland—
this Syria is the country of Valas and Herakleidis.
|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
|- Translation by George Valassopoulo|