Friday, November 20, 2009

835. Theodotus - C. P. Cavafy

Translated from the Greek by Daniel Mendelsohn

If you are among the truly elect,
watch how you achieve your predominance.
However much you're glorified, however much
your accomplishments in Italy and Thessaly
are blazoned far and wide by governments,
however many honorary decrees
are bestowed on you in Rome by your admirers,
neither your elation nor your triumph will endure,
nor will you feel superior—superior how?—
when, in Alexandria, Theodotus brings you,
upon a charger that's been stained with blood,
poor wretched Pompey's head.

And do not take it for granted that in your life,
restricted, regimented, and mundane,
such spectacular and terrifying things don't exist.
Maybe at this very moment, into some neighbor's
nicely tidied house there comes—
invisible, immaterial—Theodotus,
bringing one such terrifying head.