2. We scurry around the walls
Constantine P. Cavafy
Our efforts are those of men prone to disaster;
our efforts are like those of the Trojans.
We just begin to get somewhere,
begin to gather a little strength,
grow almost bold and hopeful,
when something always comes up to stop us:
Achilles leaps out of the trench in front of us
and terrifies us with his violent shouting.
Our efforts are like those of the Trojans.
We think we’ll change our luck
by being resolute and daring,
so we move outside ready to fight.
But when the big crisis comes,
our boldness and resolution vanish;
our spirit falters, paralyzed,
and we scurry around the walls
trying to save ourselves by running away.
Yet we’re sure to fail. Up there,
high on the walls, the dirge has already begun.
They’re mourning the memory, the aura of our days.
Priam and Hecuba mourn for us bitterly.
Constantine P. Cavafy (1905)
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrand