Constantine P. Cavafy
Young Men of Sidon
The actor they'd brought in to entertain them
also recited a few choice epigrams.
The room opened out on the garden
and the delicate odour of flowers
mingled with the scent
of the five perfumed young Sidonians.
There were readings from Meleager, Krinagoras, Rhianos.
But when the actor recited
'Here lies Aeschylus, the Athenian, son of Euphorion'
(stressing maybe more than he should have
'his renowned valour' and 'sacred Marathonian grove'),
a vivacious young man, mad about literature,
suddenly jumped up and said:
'I don't like that quatrain at all.
Sentiments of that kind seem somehow weak.
Give, I say, all your strength to your work,
make it your total concern. And don't forget your work
even in times of stress or when you begin to decline.
This is what I expect, what I demand of you
and not that you completely dismiss from your mind
the magnificent art of your tragedies
your Agamemnon, your marvellous Prometheus,
your representations of Orestes and Cassandra,
your Seven Against Thebes -merely to set down for your
that as an ordinary soldier, one of the herd,
you too fought against Datis and Artaphernis.'
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