Envoys from Alexandria

C. P. Cavafy

At Delphi they hadn’t seen for centuries such fine gifts
as these sent by the two brothers,
the rival Ptolemaic kings. Having received them
however, the priests worried about the oracle. They’ll need
all their experience to decide how to compose it judiciously,
which of the two – of two men such as these – to disappoint.
And they confer at night in secret
and they discuss the family affairs of the Lagids.

But see the envoys are back. They are bidding farewell.
Returning to Alexandria, they say. And they don’t seek
an oracle at all. And the priests hear this with joy
(naturally: they keep the brilliant gifts),
But they are also entirely uncomprehending,
not knowing what this sudden indifference intends.
As they are unaware that yesterday the envoys received grave news.
At Rome the oracle was given; the partition happened there.

[Written 1915; Published 1918]

Original Greek Poem

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