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Constantine P. Cavafy

(29 April 1863 – 29 April 1933 / Alexandria)

Of Dimitrios Sotir


Everything he'd hoped for turned out wrong.
He'd 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 big fortresses, her wealth.
He'd 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 Hellenized dynasties:
their heyday was over, they weren't fit for anything serious,
were completely unable to rule their peoples.
He'd cut himself off, indignant, swearing
it would be quite different from the way they thought.
Why, wasn't he himself full of determination?
He would act, he would fight, he would put it all right again.
If he could only find a way of getting to the East,
only manage to escape from Italy,
then all this inner strength,
all this energy,
he'd pass on to his people.
Only to be in Syria!
He was so young when he left his country
he hardly remembered what it looked like.
But in his mind he'd always thought of it
as something sacred that you approach reverently,
as a beautiful place unveiled, a vision
of Greek cities and Greek ports.
And now?
Now despair and sorrow.
They were right, the young men in Rome.
The dynasties resulting from the Macedonian Conquest
can't be kept going any longer.
It doesn't matter. He'd made the effort,
fought as much as he could.
And in his bleak disillusion
there's only one thing in which he still takes pride:
that 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 country
this Syria is the land of Valas and Herakleidis.

Submitted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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