What a misfortune, though you are made
for fine and important works
this unjust fate of yours always
denies you encouragement and success;
that base customs should block you;
and pettiness and indifference.
And how frightful the day when you yield
(the day when you give up and yield)
and you leave on foot for Susa,
and you go to the monarch Artaxerxes
who graciously gives you a place in his court,
and offers you satrapies and such.
And you accept with despair
these things you do not want.
Your soul seeks other things, weeps for other things;
the praise of the people and the Sophists,
the hard-won, invaluable Well Done;
the Agora, the Theater, and the Laurels.
How can Artaxerxes give you these?
Where will you find these in a satrapy?
And without these, what life can you live?
Constantine P. Cavafy (1910)
tr. Rae Dalven