by Constantine P. Cavafy
Partly to verify an era,
partly also to pass the time,
last night I picked up a collection
of Ptolemaic epigrams to read.
The plentiful praises and flatteries
for everyone are similar. They are all brilliant,
glorious, mighty, beneficent;
each of their enterprises the wisest.
If you talk of the women of that breed, they too,
all the Berenices and Cleopatras are admirable.
When I had managed to verify the era
I would have put the book away, had not a small
and insignificant mention of king Caesarion
immediately attracted my attention.....
Behold, you came with your vague
charm. In history only a few
lines are found about you,
and so I molded you more freely in my mind.
I molded you handsome and sentimental.
My art gives to your face
a dreamy compassionate beauty.
And so fully did I envision you,
that late last night, as my lamp
was going out -- I let go out on purpose --
I fancied that you entered my room,
it seemed that you stood before me; as you might have been
in vanquished Alexandria,
pale and tired, idealistic in your sorrow,
still hoping that they would pity you,
the wicked -- who whispered "Too many Caesars."
Last updated May 02, 2015