The first step

The young poet Eumenes
complained one day to Theocritus:
"For two years I have been writing
just to create one mere idyll.
It is my only completed work.
Alas, I see that it is steep,
the ladder of Poetry is very steep;
and from the first step where I am now,
unhappy me, I shall never go higher."
Theocritus said: "These words
are unfitting and blasphemous.
For even if you are on the first step,
you should be proud and happy.
Coming this far is no small accomplishment;
what you have achieved is great glory.
And even this first step
is from the common world very far away.
To set foot upon this step
you must rightfully be
a citizen of the city of ideas.
And in that city it is hard
and rare to become a citizen.
In its agora you find Lawmakers
whom no scoundrel can fool.
Coming this far is no small accomplishment;
what you have achieved is great glory."

Constantine P. Cavafy (1899)

Translation comments by Sissy Pantelis


[ Greek original ]

Notes:

Theocritus: Theocritus flourished around 370 B.C.; he was born in Syracuse and spent part of his life in Athens.


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(C) George Barbanis