Darius The Canon
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The poet Phernazes is at work
upon an important passage in his epic poem;
how the Kingdom of Persia
is secured by Darius, son of Hystaspes
(from whom is descended our glorious king
Mithradates Dionysus Eupator).
The passage is philosophic.  He has to describe
the feelings that animated Darius:
arrogance perhaps and exultation; or no
more probably a sense of the vanity of human greatness.
The poet is meditating deeply on his theme.
 
Running in, his servant interrupts him,
and brings a most serious piece of news.
The war with the Romans has begun.
Our army in full force has crossed the frontier.
 
The poet is speechless.  What a misfortune!
How will our glorious king
Mithradates Dionysus Eupator
find time to listen to Greek poetry now?
In the middle of a war Greek poetry, indeed!
 
Phernazes is in despair.  Alas, alas!
His Darius was certain to bring him fame
and silence once for all those envious detractors.
What a set-back, what a set-back to his plans!
 
Were it only a set-back, no matter,
but shall we be quite safe at Amisus?
The city walls are none of the strongest,
the Romans are most terrible enemies.
Can we hold our own against them,
we Cappadocians?  Is it likely?
Can we make a stand against the legions?
Help! Help! O ye Great Gods, protectors of Asia, defend us.
 
Yet through all his distress and anxiety
the poetic obsession still comes and goes;
surely arrogance and exultation are more probable;
yes, arrogance and exultation were the feelings that animated Darius.

Translated by George Valassopoulo

(The Nation & The Athenaeum 34/1, 6.10.1923)

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard