|In a Large Greek Colony, 200 B.C. ||The Canon
|That things in the Colony are not what they should be
no one can doubt any longer,
and though in spite of everything we do go forward,
maybe—as more than a few believe—the time has come
to bring in a Political Reformer.
But here’s the problem, here’s the hitch:
they make a tremendous fuss
about everything, these Reformers.
(What a relief it would be
if no one ever needed them.) They probe everywhere,
question the smallest detail,
and right away think up radical changes
that demand immediate execution.
Also, they have a liking for sacrifice:
Get rid of that property;
your owning it is risky:
properties like those are exactly what ruin colonies.
Get rid of that income,
and the other connected with it,
and this third, as a natural consequence:
they are substantial, but what can one do?
the responsibility they create for you is damaging.
And as they proceed with their investigation,
they find an endless number of useless things to eliminate—
things that are, however, difficult to get rid of.
And when, all being well, they finish the job,
every detail now diagnosed and sliced away,
and they retire, also taking the wages due to them—
it will be a miracle if anything’s left at all
after such surgical efficiency.
Maybe the moment has not yet arrived.
Let’s not be too hasty: haste is a dangerous thing.
Untimely measures bring repentance.
Certainly, and unhappily, many things in the Colony are absurd.
But is there anything human without some fault?
And after all, you see, we do go forward.
|Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard|
|(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992) |
|- Original Greek Poem