16 Jun In a Large Greek Colony, 200 B.C.E.
There is not the slightest doubt
that things in the Colony don’t go as one would wish,
and though we move forward, anyway,
perhaps, as not a few think, the time has come
for us to bring in a Political Reformer.
Yet the obstacle and difficulty
is that they make a big deal
out of everything, these Reformers.
(It would be a stroke of good luck
if one never needed them.) Everything,
every little thing, they ask about and examine,
and instantly radical reforms come to mind
and they demand they be implemented without delay.
They lean toward sacrifice.
Give up that property of yours,
your owning it is risky:
such possessions are harmful to the Colonies.
Give up that income
and that coming from it,
and this third one, as a natural consequence.
They are essential, but it can’t be helped;
They create an adverse liability for you.
And as they proceed in their inspection,
they find (then find again) needless things,
which they demand must go —
things that nevertheless are hard to dismiss.
And when, with good luck, they finish their work,
having ordered and pared everything down to the last detail,
they leave, taking away their rightful wages, as well.
We’ll see what remains, after
so much expert surgery.
Perhaps the time had not yet come.
Let’s not rush; haste is a dangerous thing.
Premature measures bring regret.
Certainly and unfortunately, there is much disorder in the Colony.
But is there anything human without imperfection?
And, anyway, look, we’re moving forward.
The Collected Poems of C. P. Cavafy
A New Translation.Translation by Aliki Barnstone
Image: by julia-geiser.ch