Anna Comnena

In the prologue to her Alexiad,
Anna Komnina laments her widowhood.

Her soul is all vertigo.
“And I bathe my eyes,” she tells us,
“in rivers of tears…. Alas for the waves” of her life,
“alas for the revolutions.” Sorrow burns her
“to the bones and the marrow and the splitting” of her soul.

But the truth seems to be this power-hungry woman
knew only one sorrow that really mattered;
even if she doesn’t admit it, this arrogant Greek woman
had only one consuming pain:
that with all her dexterity,
she never managed to gain the throne,
virtually snatched out of her hands by impudent John.

                                                                 Constantine Cavafis

                                  Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard