Saturday, June 28, 2003

My prior post makes me think of a poem that I discovered via the play "White Chameleon" by Christopher Hampton. It's based on the legend surrounding Marc Antony, who betrayed Rome to make his stand in Alexandria alongside Cleopatra. On the night before his battle with Caesar's army, Antony and his troops heard the ghostly sound of music, which signified the god Hercules withdrawing his support of Antony. Choices have consequences, after all.

I often think of this poem, and in those moments of reflection I cannot get the true measure of myself.

The God Abandons Antony
by Constantine Cavafy (1911)

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

 9:08 PM

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