Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Treat

Today remains Tuesday, 17 April 2007.

In one of those odd anomalies that happen on the Web, Wikipedia today said it was the birthday of Constantine Cavafy, the great Greek poet, and in another place said he was born on 29 April, which is true.

Having been a virtual evangelist for the genuis of Cavafy for many years, give me an inch, I'll take a mile: here, fellow kids, one of his finest poems.

For those of us that it's been too long since we studied Ancient History: it's just before the battle Antony loses to the soon-to-be Augustus, and, as legend or history has it, Antony, in the window of his palace, hears the mystic music of the gods departing Alexandria, signalling that their favour has been withdrawn from him, and that his cause is lost.

The Gods Abandon Antony

By Constantine P. Cavafy

Trans. By P. J. King and A. Christofidou

When suddenly at midnight an invisible
procession is heard passing
with unearthly music, and with voices -
do not mourn in vain your fate that's fading now,
your works all failed, your life's
ambitions proving all a sham.

As if you had been ready for some time,
as one with courage, bid farewell to her,
the Alexandria that's leaving.

Above all don't be fooled, don't say it was
a dream, and that your hearing was mistaken;
don't stoop to such vain hopes.

As if you had been ready for some time,
as one with courage, as befits a man who
once was worthy of a city such as this,
approach the window steadily,
and listen with emotion - not with
a coward's pleas, entreaties -
up to the end enjoy the sounds,
unearthly instruments of the mysterious
procession... bid farewell to her,
the Alexandria you're losing.


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