If you are one of the truly elect,
be careful how you attain your eminence.
However much you're acclaimed, however much
the cities praise the great things you've done
in Italy and ThessaIy,
your admirers decree for you in Rome,
your elation, your triumph won't last,
nor will you feel yourself so superior -
superior is the last thing you'll feel -
when Theodotos brings you, in Alexandria,
on a blood-stained tray,
miserable Pompey's head.
And don't be too sure that in your life –
restricted, regulated, prosaic -
spectacular and horrible things like that don't happen.
Maybe this very moment Theodotos -
bodiless, invisible -
enters some neighbour's tidy house
carrying an equally repulsive head.
C. P. Cavafy, Collected Poems, translated by
Edmund Keerley and Philip Sherrard