June 14, 2014

Waiting for the Barbarians by C. P. Cavafy


What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

                The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

                Because the barbarians are coming today.
                What laws can the senators make now?
                Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

                Because the barbarians are coming today
                and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
                He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
                replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

               Because the barbarians are coming today
                and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

                Because the barbarians are coming today
                and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

                Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
                And some who have just returned from the border say
                there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

-- C.P. Cavafy 1904


Posted by gerardvanderleun at June 14, 2014 2:40 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

What is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, to hear the lamentations of their women.

Not being much on subtlety, reading, or leaving messengers alive, the chief of the Spillers failed to note the invitation was to a games tournament, and would have nevertheless misunderstood as the Spillers had no experience in friendly competition. Onward they marched, unto the kingdom, taking livestock (much to the dismay of the local farmers) and wenches and any other refreshments they happened to desire – the land was rich and productive and apparently unprotected! On they trudged through muddy fields, never on roads, thinking that they were to be enlisted as mercenaries for some magical battle.

“Well, they must need some help, there’s no army left!” they opined. They had no concept of treaties, alliances, laws, or any other alternatives to steel and blood. Brazenly marching across another people’s lands emboldened the Spillers and at the same time filled them with dread and concern that they too might encounter the incredible force that had killed all, leaving behind only defenseless peasants “not worthy of steel”.

The barbarians will leave no stone standing atop another, no field unsalted, no male offspring breathing, no wench unbred. Scorched earth began with the Spillers.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 14, 2014 6:10 AM

Barbarians keep rising, like poisonous mushrooms in the dark, mulched with manure of idiot ideologies.

They are never uprooted by the Apathytiques or the Supinists. The resurgence of the Islamic menace and their fellow-traveling nihilists of the Democrap and Repukeican bent, are feted now by the MSM [Mean-Spirited Media] but will eventually be be defeated.

The question is, when will be fed up enough to take corrective action? Eric Cantor just met his Waterloo at the ballot box. During our own Revolutionary War of Independence, only about 1/3 of the colonists fought for the revolution and its principles.

What was her name, a Spanish altruistic communist, who, I imperfectly quote, "Better to die on one's feet than live on one's knees."
Sometimes, a communist will convey something worthwhile. Read, listen, get educated, consider, accept or reject for good reason.

Posted by: Howard Nelson at June 14, 2014 11:04 AM

I don't think the fall of our nation will be all that melodramatic. We will be invaded by hoards of little brown locusts that devour all in their path (oh, that's happening already, down around my place in Borderland). We will be set upon by other plagues metaphorically presented in the Book of Revelation. Look and see which ones we are near. Peoples that cannot read or write, do not have any redeeming attributes at all. All they can do is kill, and they do that often and well. Those of us who resist must step down to that level and do it better than they do. After all the reading and getting educated I suggest we learn how to kill, if we don't know how already, with this one distinction:

“All that stealing you’ve done,” the priest would say, “You’ve never killed anyone?”

And Rueben Vega would say, “Yes, of course, but it was not to commit murder. You understand the distinction? Not to kill someone to take a life, but only to save my own.”

One way or another the land and all who live upon it must be cleansed. Hopefully this will happen without little piles of radioactivity all over the place. I want my grandkids to have some kinda chance. Odd you should mention that quote, the feet and knees. I first heard it from James Brown.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 14, 2014 11:47 AM

It was said earlier by the Spanish Communist Dolores Ibárruri known as La Passionaria. "She is perhaps best known for her defense of the Second Spanish Republic and the famous slogan ¡No Pasarán! ("They Shall Not Pass") during the Battle of Madrid." A woman who's politics were quite radical for the time but now are common.

Perhaps it is time for radical politics again.

Posted by: vanderleun at June 14, 2014 10:08 PM

Gerard: thanks for ascribing the quote.

When you say "Perhaps it is time for radical politics again." I don't think there is a "radical" in the political paradigm. If we stay inside the box we are, well, confined. Going outside the box takes us away from politics.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 15, 2014 7:59 PM