Aug 9, 2012

Nikos Deja Vu - Φιλέλλην υπο Κ.Π. Καβάφη - Philhellene by C. P. Cavafy


Την χάραξι φρόντισε τεχνικά να γίνει.
Έκφρασις σοβαρή και μεγαλοπρεπής.
Το διάδημα καλλίτερα μάλλον στενό·
εκείνα τα φαρδιά των Πάρθων δεν με αρέσουν.
Η επιγραφή, ως σύνηθες, ελληνικά·
όχ’ υπερβολική, όχι πομπώδης—
μην τα παρεξηγήσει ο ανθύπατος
που όλο σκαλίζει και μηνά στην Pώμη —
αλλ’ όμως βέβαια τιμητική.
Κάτι πολύ εκλεκτό απ’ το άλλο μέρος·
κανένας δισκοβόλος έφηβος ωραίος.
Προ πάντων σε συστήνω να κυττάξεις
(Σιθάσπη, προς θεού, να μη λησμονηθεί)
μετά το Βασιλεύς και το Σωτήρ,
να χαραχθεί με γράμματα κομψά, Φιλέλλην.
Και τώρα μη με αρχίζεις ευφυολογίες,
τα «Πού οι Έλληνες;» και «Πού τα Ελληνικά
πίσω απ’ τον Ζάγρο εδώ, από τα Φράατα πέρα».
Τόσοι και τόσοι βαρβαρότεροί μας άλλοι
αφού το γράφουν, θα το γράψουμε κ’ εμείς.
Και τέλος μη ξεχνάς που ενίοτε
μας έρχοντ’ από την Συρία σοφισταί,
και στιχοπλόκοι, κι άλλοι ματαιόσπουδοι.
Ώστε ανελλήνιστοι δεν είμεθα, θαρρώ.

(Από τα Ποιήματα 1897-1933, Ίκαρος 1984)

English Translation



Take pains with the design so that it be
artistic. Grave and dignified the expression.
The diadem rather narrow; I dislike
the ample headband that the Parthians use.
The inscription, as is usual, in Greek;
not pompous, not excessive in its terms, —
lest the proconsul always ferreting out
and sending word to Rome, should misconstrue;
but certainly a legend honouring me.
On the reverse, have something elegant;
to wit, a handsome youth at game of disc.
But more explicitly I bid you see
(Sithaspes, if you love me, see yourself)
that after “King” and “Saviour” there be added
in well-shaped characters, “Philhellene” ..... Nay,
spare me your arguments, your witticisms:
“where the Hellenes? where Hellenic things?
in our seclusion, on the east of Zagrus,
far even from Phraata”. — Seeing that others,
so many others, have assumed the name, —
and they, forsooth, more barbarous than we, —
we also will assume it. After all,
do not forget that sometimes, in our midst,
sophists from Syria can be seen and heard,
and versifiers, and other smatterers.
So we are fairly hellenized, I think.

Translated by John Cavafy
(Poems by C. P. Cavafy. Translated, from the Greek, by J. C. Cavafy. Ikaros, 2003)

Alternative Translation



Take care the engraving’s artistically done.
Expression grave and majestic.
The diadem better rather narrow;
I don’t care for those wide ones, the Parthian kind.
The inscription, as usual, in Greek:
nothing excessive, nothing grandiose—
the proconsul mustn’t get the wrong idea,
he sniffs out everything and reports it back to Rome—
but of course it should still do me credit.
Something really choice on the other side:
some lovely discus-thrower lad.
Above all, I urge you, see to it
(Sithaspes, by the god, don’t let them forget)
that after the “King” and the “Savior”
the engraving should read, in elegant letters, “Philhellene.”
Now don’t start in on me with your quips,
your “where are the Greeks?” and “what’s Greek
here, behind the Zágros, beyond Phráata?”.
Many, many others, more oriental than ourselves,
write it, and so we’ll write it too.
And after all, don’t forget that now and then
sophists come to us from Syria,
and versifiers, and other devotees of puffery.
Hence unhellenised we are not, I rather think.

Translated by Daniel Mendelsohn

Nikos Deja Vu

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