Envoys From Alexandria

For centuries they hadn't seen gifts at Delphi
as wonderful as those sent by the two brothers,
the rival Ptolemaic kings. But now that they have them,
the priests are nervous about the oracle.
They'll need all their experience
to determine subtly how to express it, which of the two--
which of two brothers like these - will have to be offended.
And so they meet secretly at night
to discuss the family affairs of the Lagids.

But suddenly the envoys are back. They're taking their leave.
Returning to Alexandria, they say. And they don't ask
for an oracle at all. The priests are delighted to hear it
(they're to keep the marvellous gifts, that goes without saying)
but they're also completely bewildered,
having no idea what this sudden indifference means.
They don't know that yesterday the envoys heard serious news:
the "oracle" was pronounced in Rome; the dispute was settled there.

Constantine P. Cavafy

Back to [ Menu | Main Page ]