Unfaithfulness

Unfaithfulness

“So although we approve of many things in Homer, this we will
not approve of… nor will we approve of Aeschylus when he
makes Thetis say that Apollo sang at her wedding in
celebration of her child:

that he would not know sickness, would live long,
and that every blessing would be his;
and he sang such praises that he rejoiced my heart.
And I had hopes that the divine lips of Apollo,
fluent with the art of prophecy, would not prove false.
But he who proclaimed these things…
he it is
who killed my son…”
Plato, Republic, II. 383

At the marriage of Thetis and Peleus
Apollo stood up during the sumptuous wedding feast
and blessed the bridal pair
for the son who would come from their union.
“Sickness will never visit him,” he said,
“and his life will be a long one.”
This pleased Thetis immensely:
the words of Apollo, expert in prophecies,
seemed to guarantee the security of her child.
And when Achilles grew up
and his beauty was the boast of Thessaly,
Thetis remembered the god’s words.
But one day elders arrived with the news
that Achilles had been killed at Troy.
Thetis tore her purple robes,
pulled off her rings, her bracelets,
and flung them to the ground.
And in her grief, recalling that wedding scene,
she asked what the wise Apollo was up to,
where was this poet who holds forth
so eloquently at banquets, where was this prophet
when they killed her son in his prime.
And the elders answered that Apollo himself
had gone down to Troy
and together with the Trojans had killed her son.

 

 

 

 

C.P. Cavafy

 

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

 

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