The Satrapy

Too bad that, cut out as you are
for grand and noble acts,
this unfair fate of yours
never helps you out, always prevents your success;
that cheap habits get in your way,
pettiness, or indifference.
And how terrible the day you give in
(the day you let go and give in)
and take the road for Susa
to find King Artaxerxes,
who, propitiously, gives you a place at his court
and offers you satrapies and things like that -
things you don't want at all,
though, in despair, you accept them just the same.
You're longing for something else, aching for other things:
praise from the Demos and the Sophists,
that hard-won, that priceless acclaim -
the Agora, the Theatre, the Crowns of Laurel.
You can't get any of these from Artaxerxes,
you'll never find any of these in the satrapy,
and without them, what kind of life will you live?

Constantine P. Cavafy

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