Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday Relevant Poetry Blogging

Waiting for the Barbarians

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are to arrive today.

Why such inaction in the Senate?
Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What laws can the Senators pass any more?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws

Why did our emperor wake up so early,
and sit at the greatest gate of the city,
on the throne, solemn, wearing the crown

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
And the emperor waits to receive
their chief. Indeed he has prepared
to give him a scroll. Therein he inscribed
many titles and names of honor

Why have our two consuls and the praetors come out
today in their red, embroidered togas
why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets,
and rings with brilliant, glittering emeralds;
why are they carrying costly canes today,
wonderfully carved with silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today,
and such things dazzle the barbarians.

Why don't the worthy orators come as always
to make their speeches, to have their say?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today;
and they get bored with eloquence and orations.

Why all of a sudden this unrest
and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become).
Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?

Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
And some people arrived from the borders,
and said that there are no longer any barbarians.

And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were some kind of solution.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1904)


I may come back to Akhmatova, if I can find a further translation of her that I like. Good translations are not easy to find and I'm especially searching for a good translation of the full "Requium" poem. But for a while, I'm going to try "relevant poetry blogging" -- poetry w/ some relevance to the events, personal or political, of the past week. I think that this poem of Cavafy's ties in nicely with what wingnuts have had to say this week about America.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was trying earlier on Esch. to tell you to take a look at the BBC website today for the story about the ancient forest--8 million years old--just found in Hungary. Trees it seems were fossilized as coal, as I understand it.

Seemed very interesting.