|Myres; Alexandria, A.D. 340 ||The Canon
|When I heard the dreadful news that Myres had died
I paid a visit to his house, although I generally avoid
setting foot in the houses of the Christians,
especially on occasions of mourning or celebration.
I remained in the outer corridor. I was unwilling
to move deeper into the house, having noticed
that the relations of the deceased were staring at me
with a mixture of confusion and consternation.
They had placed the body in one of the larger rooms,
and from the corner of the corridor where I stood
I could just catch a glimpse of the costly tapestries
and the trappings rendered in silver and gold.
I stood there, in that corner of the corridor, and wept.
And it occurred to me that our parties and excursions
wouldn’t be worth the trouble if Myres weren’t with us;
and I was reminded that I wouldn’t see him again
at our marvelously undignified all-night revels
where he enjoyed himself, and laughed, and recited verses
with his incomparable understanding of Greek rhythm;
and I realized then that I would never again have his beauty,
that I would never again possess
the young man I’d so passionately adored.
A few old women nearby spoke in hushed voices
about the last day of his life ¯ about how
the name of Christ was ever on his lips,
about how he clutched a cross in his hands.
And then, sometime later, there entered the room
four priests of the Christian faith, reciting
in fervid tones their prayers and pleas to Jesus,
or perhaps to Mary (I know next to nothing about their faith).
We all knew, of course, that Myres was a Christian.
We were aware of it from the very beginning, when
he first joined our group ¯ this being the year before last.
Nevertheless, he lived his life precisely as we did.
Of all our group, he was the most dedicated to pleasure,
squandering his money improvidently on distractions.
He could care less what anyone else might think of him;
he flung himself with complete abandon into night-time scuffles
on those occasions when our group happened to
run into another group, a rival group, in the street.
He never once brought up the subject of his faith.
As a matter of fact, there was one time we asked him
if he would like to accompany us to the Serapeion.
And, as I now remember, he was not in the least
amused by our attempt at drollness.
Ah! And now two more episodes come to mind.
When once we offered libations to Poseidon
he drew away from our gathering and looked elsewhere.
And another time, when one of our group, in his
enthusiasm, proclaimed, “May our group enjoy
the favor and the protection of the exalted
and most splendid Apollo”, Myres murmured
(unheard by the others), “Except for me”.
The Christian priests were praying in loud
voices for the soul of the young man.
I couldn’t help noticing the intensity of
their meticulous attentiveness to their
religion’s rituals as they doted on
every detail for the Christian burial.
And then, all of a sudden, a curious notion
took hold of my thoughts: in some strange way I felt
as though Myres was pulling away from me;
it felt as though he, as a Christian, was merging with
those of his own kind, and that I, as a result, was becoming
a stranger, a total stranger. I even began to feel
a doubt coming over me: perhaps I had allowed my passion
to thoroughly delude me; perhaps I’d always been a stranger to him.
I instantly fled from that dreadful place,
eager to escape before they snatched away, and corrupted
with their Christianity, my memories of Myres.
|Translated by Stratis Haviaras|
|(C.P. Cavafy, The Canon. Translated from the Greek by Stratis Haviaras, Hermes Publishing, 2004) |
|- Original Greek Poem
|- Translation by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard|