On an ebony bed decorated
with coral eagles, sound asleep lies
Nero -- unconscious, quiet, and blissful;
thriving in the vigor of flesh,
and in the splendid power of youth.

But in the alabaster hall that encloses
the ancient shrine of the Aenobarbi
how restive are his Lares.
The little household gods tremble,
and try to hide their insignificant bodies.
For they heard a horrible clamor,
a deathly clamor ascending the stairs,
iron footsteps rattling the stairs.
And now in a faint the miserable Lares,
burrow in the depth of the shrine,
one tumbles and stumbles upon the other,
one little god falls over the other
for they understand what sort of clamor this is,
they are already feeling the footsteps of the Furies.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1909)

[ Greek original ]


Aenobarbi: Nero belonged to that family.

Lares Familiares: Household gods of the Romans, probably spirits of the ancestors, worshipped at a shrine by the house hearth.

Furies: In Greek and Roman mythology, the three terrible female spirits with snaky hair (Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera) who punished the doers of unavenged crimes; also called Erinyes.

Back to [ Cavafy ]

(C) George Barbanis