They should have provided

I have almost been reduced to a homeless pauper.
This fatal city, Antioch,
has consumed all my money;
this fatal city with its expensive life.

But I am young and in excellent health.
My command of Greek is superb
(I know all there is about Aristotle, Plato;
orators, poets, you name it.)
I have an idea of military affairs,
and have friends among the mercenary chiefs.
I am on the inside of administration as well.
Last year I spent six months in Alexandria;
I have some knowledge (and this is useful) of affairs there:
intentions of the Malefactor, and villainies, et cetera.

Therefore I believe that I am fully
qualified to serve this country,
my beloved homeland Syria.

In whatever capacity they place me I shall strive
to be useful to the country. This is my intent.
Then again, if they thwart me with their methods --
we know those able people: need we talk about it now?
if they thwart me, I am not to blame.

First, I shall apply to Zabinas,
and if this moron does not appreciate me,
I shall go to his rival Grypos.
And if this idiot does not hire me,
I shall go straight to Hyrcanos.

One of the three will want me however.

And my conscience is not troubled
about not worrying about my choice.
All three harm Syria equally.

But, a ruined man, why is it my fault.
Wretched man, I am trying to make ends meet.
The almighty gods should have provided
and created a fourth, good man.
Gladly would I have joined him.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1930)

[ Greek original ]


Malefactor: Nickname of Ptolemy VII Euergetes (the Benefactor), who ruled in Egypt from 145 to 116 BC, thus named because he was reported to be extremely cruel.

Zabinas (a nickname meaning "slave"), defeated Demetrius Nicator and ruled Syria from 128 to 123 BC, until he was killed by Antiochus VIII Grypos (nickname meaning "hooknose"), who ruled from 125 to 96 BC. Ioannes Hyrcanos (134 to 104 BC) was king of the Jews and son of Simon Maccabaeus, who naturally availed himself of the turmoil in Syria.

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(C) George Barbanis