Poetry 45: In a large Greek Colony, 200 B.C. by CP Cavafy


That things in the Colony aren’t what they should be

no one can doubt any longer,

and though in spite of everything we do to move forward,

maybe, as more than a few believe – the time has come

to bring in a Political Reformer.


But here’s the problem, here’s the rub:

they make a tremendous fuss

about everything, these Reformers

(What a relief it would be

If they were never needed.) They probe everywhere,

question the smallest detail,

and right away think up radical changes

that demand immediate execution.


Also, they have a liking for sacrifice:

Get rid of that property;

your owning it is risky:

properties like those are what ruin colonies.

Get rid of that income,

and the other connected with it,

and this third, as a natural consequence:

they are substantial, but it can’t be helped-

the responsibility they create is damaging.


And as they proceed with their investigation,

they find an endless number of useless things to eliminate –

things that are, however, difficult to get rid of.


And when, all being well, they finish the job,

every detail now diagnosed and sliced away,

and they retire (also taking the wages due to them),

it’s a wonder anything’s left at all

after such surgical efficiency.


Maybe the moment hasn’t arrived yet.

Let’s not be too hasty: haste is a dangerous thing.

Untimely measures bring repentance.

Certainly, and unhappily, many things in the Colony are absurd.

But is there anything human without some fault?

And after all, you see, we do move forward.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

Get a Gravatar