Demetrius Soter (B.C. 162-150) The Canon
Print
All his plans have failed!
 
He thought he could accomplish great deeds,
that he would end the humiliation that oppressed
his country from the time of the battle of Magnesia.
Syria would become a powerful state again—
with her armies, with her fleets,
with her strong fortresses, with her riches.
 
At Rome, he suffered, he was embittered
when he noticed in conversation with his friends,
the young men of the noble houses,—
in spite of all the courtesy and the tact
which they showed to him, the son
of king Seleucus Philopator—
when he noticed that there was always
a veiled disesteem for the Hellenistic dynasties,
which had declined, which were not for serious things,
which were wholly unsuited for the government of nations.
Indignant, he used to draw aside, and vow
that things would not be as they thought;
he, at least, had a will;
he would struggle, he would achieve, he would uphold.
 
If only he could find his way to the East,
if he could effect his escape from Italy—
he would impart to the people
all the strength that he carried
in his soul, all the enthusiasm.
Could he but find himself in Syria!
He had left his country so young
that he remembered only faintly its features.
But it was always present in his thoughts
as something sacred to be approached with reverence,
as a picture of a most beautiful land, as a mirage
of Greek cities and harbours.—
 
And now?
      Now is despair and lamentation.
The boys at Rome were right.
It is not possible to sustain the dynasties
that arose from the Macedonian conquest.
 
But it does not matter:
he fought as long as he could.
And in his black despair
he reckons only one thing
with pride: that even in his misfortune
he shows the same indomitable courage before all the world!
 
For the rest —it was a dream and vain endeavour.
The Syria —she almost seems not to be his country,
she is the land of Heraclides and Bala.


Translated by George Valassopoulo

(Unpublished draft from the Cavafy Archive)
Transcribed and edited by Katerina Ghika

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard