I’m thinking about Greece today and their rejection of the terms of an international bailout. As one young Greek woman said on the news this evening “we are a free people; poor, but free”. Greek banks are running out of money so a deal with the Eurozone has to be struck fast. Moreover, prime minister Alexis Tsipras has to try, somehow, to unite a divided country, as many Greeks are deeply unhappy at what has happened. Anyway, I stumbled across this interesting Cavafy poem, written around 1928, the poem is placed at the decline of the Hellenistic period, before the Roman-Seleucid war 192-188 BC but with uncanny parallels to what’s been happening between Europe and the Greeks in recent months. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1863, Cavafy’s poems exhibit a skilled and versatile craftsmanship, drawing on themes from personal experience, along with a deep and wide knowledge of history. Since his death in 1933, Cavafy’s reputation has grown and he is now considered one of the finest European and modern Greek poets.
Personally, I’m behind them 100% – Καλή τύχη Greece! This is:
In A Large Greek Colony, 200 B.C.
By C P Cavafy (trans. by Edmund Keely & Philip Sherrard)
That things in the Colony aren’t what they should be
no one can doubt any longer,
and though in spite of everything we do move forward,
maybe – as more than a few believe – the time has come
to bring in a Political Reformer.
But here’s the problem, here’s the rub:
they make a tremendous fuss
about everything, these Reformers.
(What a relief it would be
if they were never needed.) they probe everywhere,
question the smallest detail,
and right away think up radical changes
that demand immediate execution.
also, they have a liking for sacrifice:
Get rid of that property;
your owning it is risky:
properties like those are what ruin colonies.
Get rid of that income,
and the other connected with it,
and this third, as a natural consequence:
they are substantial, but it can’t be helped –
the responsibility they create is damaging.
And as they proceed with their investigation,
they find an endless number of useless things to eliminate –
things that are, however, difficult to get rid of.
And when, all being well, they finish the job,
every detail now diagnosed and sliced away,
and they retire (also taking the wages due to them),
it’s a wonder anything’s left at all
after such surgical efficiency.
Maybe the moment hasn’t arrived yet.
Let’s not be too hasty: haste is a dangerous thing.
Untimely measures bring repentance.
Certainly, and unhappily, many things in the Colony are
But is there anything human without some fault?
And after all, you see, we do move forward.
Haris Alexiou is a favourite of mine, used to listen to her all the time when I lived in Greece in the 1990’s. Great memories 🙂