That Still Small Voice Speaks Comfort To Antony

". . . listen with deep emotion . . ."

---C. P. Cavafy, "The God Abandons Antony,"

translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard


Dying (by your own hand); held in the arms
of Cleopatra, whose poetic charms
still comfort you:  unfeigned, without deceit,
her love is, nor blames you for this defeat.
Shall all your past triumphs, a tidy sum,
be overshadowed, now, by Actium?---
all your accomplishments withered and stale
in its vague shadow?---lesser men prevail
(O, Caesar, murdered) over Antony?---
how did toady Agrippa's strategy
(borrowed from textbooks) seize the victory?
You and your Lady sought a fresh, new age,
a different politic and policy;
with Alexandria to be its stage;
and her son, sired by Caesar, Ptolemy

to rule.  You both declared him, "King of kings."
Not now:  and yet, Octavian's demand
is superficial.  He does not command
as he believes.  Higher Imperium
controls the well traced curve of History,
arranging for the new era to come;
or, in street slang, "Someone else pulls the strings,"
according to a gracious, ancient plan.
(The Queen's arms tightly hold her dying man.)
Scholars need not decide whom to condemn;
students need not propose who was preferred
by some inchoate, random destiny.
(With such researches, nobody need bother.)
You were called, and served well, to the provisions
of change in this world, to create conditions
that will receive salvific ministry;
a birth, announced first, in Jerusalem;
a second, greater, born in Bethlehem
(a village of which you have never heard).
It will be preached to you (but do not dread
the setting---where the spirits of the dead
now dwell).  Your heart slows:  you have nearly bled
out.  Listen for an echo, across time,
a soothing voice, that sounds wholly sublime,
bringing the comfort of this lasting Word
(it is eternal---of that,  be assured),
in elegant, poetic Latin spoken
(offered to all who have failed, or are broken),
a boundless Love that gives you to be rid
of fear, as you sink into death's grip:  "Father,
"forgive them, for they knew not what they did."



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