When the Watchman Saw the Light

Winter, summer, the watchman sat there looking out
from the roof of Atreus' palace.
Now he has good news to report. He's seen the fire light up
in the distance and he's happy; besides, the drudgery's over now:
it's hard to sit there night and day in heat and cold,
waiting for a fire to show
on the peak of Arachnaion.
Now the longed-for signal has appeared. Yet when happiness comes
it brings less joy than one expected.
But at least we've gained this much: we've rid ourselves
of hope and expectation. Many things will happen
to the house of Atreus: no need to be wise
to guess this now the watchman has seen the light.
So let's not exaggerate.
The light is good; and those coming are good,
their words and actions also good.
And let's hope all goes well.
But Argos can do without the house of Atreus.
Ancient houses are not eternal.
Of course many people will have much to say.
We should listen. But we won't be deceived
by words such as Indispensable, Unique, and Great.
Someone else indispensable and unique and great
can always be found at a moment's notice.

Constantine P. Cavafy

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