Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Poem by C.P. Cavafy

Find what relevance to our contemporary situation you can.
(Translation by Stratis Haviarias):

In the Great Hellenist Colony, 200 BCE

That things in the colony aren't going so well,
there's no doubt about it, anyone can tell,
and while it's true that we are making some progress,
perhaps now is the right time, as many people believe,
for us to invite in a political reformer.

But then there's a problem with that, a complication:
these Reformers are disposed to making everything
into such a big deal (it would indeed be a blessing
if we never had need of them). They're compelled to
challenge and scrutinize every last little thing,
and then instantly cook up some radical reform,
which they insist must be implemented post-haste.

Then there's their natural affection for sacrifices:
Relinquish that possession of yours;
owning it is a risky proposition;
it's just such things that harm the colonies.
Abandon that certain source of income,
and the income that follows from it,
and the third one, too, as a logical consequence;
of course it's true that they're significant, but --
sorry to say -- they pose a source of peril for you.

And as they dig deeper, in the course of their inspections,
they find more and more things to eliminate as useless;
though these are things, it must be said, that are hard to get rid of.

And when, finally, they've concluded their work,
and have pored over the smallest detail and slashed away at it,
they take their leave (taking with them the fees they're owed)
and we're left to make sense of just what remains,
in the wake of such surgical efficiency.

Perhaps the time isn't quite right for that,
We mustn't jump to conclusions: haste can be it's own problem.
Premature measures can lead to remorse.
Sadly, it goes without saying that the colony has its problems.
But by the same token, is there anything human that doesn't?
In the end, what really matters is that we're moving forward.

No comments: