Thermopylae by Constantine P. Cavafy

Translated by Len Krisak  (December 2012)

Honor to those who in their lives define    

And guard Thermopylae; to all those who        

Have never failed to do what they should do;           

Upright and just in all their actions, too,    

But sympathetic and compassionate;                     

They’re generous when rich, and when they find   

They’re poor, again a little generous—        

Still helping in whatever way they can;    

Speaking only what is true,                  

But free of hatred for the ones who lie.   

No greater honor yet is due them than                           

When they foresee (and many read that sign):  

There’ll come an Ephialtes by and by;    

The Medes, at last, will slaughter every man.

Len Krisak has published in The London Magazine, The Oxonian Review, PN Review, Standpoint, Agni, The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson Review, The Dark Horse, Agenda, The Hopkins Review, Commonweal, Literary Imagination, The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology, and others. His latest book is Virgil’s Eclogues, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.


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