Young Men of Sidon (400 B.C.)

By C. P. Cavafy

The actor they'd brought in to entertain them
also recited a few choice epigrams.

The hall opened onto the garden;
and held a soft fragrance of flowers
that fused with the scents
of the five young, perfumed Sidonian men.

There were readings from Meleager, Krinargoras and Rhianos.
But when the actor recited
"Aeschylus, son of Euphorios, lies here-"
(stressing perhaps more than was needed
that "thriving strength" and that "Marathonian grove"),
a fervent young man, fanatic
about literature, burst forward and shouted:

"I don't like that quatrain at all.
Expressions of that sort seem somehow like failures of spirit.
Give, I say, all of your strength to your work,
all of your care, and think again of your work
when you suffer hardship, or when you first grow old.
These things I expect of you and require.
And that you do not banish altogether from your brain
the shining form of Tragedy-
what Agamemnon, what marvels in Prometheus,
what performances of Orestes, of Kassandra,
of The Seven Against Thebes- and set down as your only memory
that in the ranks of soldiers, in the herd
you also fought against Datis and Artaphernis."

Translated by Theo Theoharis

Theo Theoharis is the editor of the Boston BookReview. This translation is part of a forthcoming new translation of the Complete Cavafy.