6. Irini Doukaina
Constantine P. Cavafy
A Byzantine Nobleman in Exile Composing Verses
The frivolous can call me frivolous.
I’ve always taken important things
extremely seriously. And I insist that no one knows
the Holy Fathers, or the Scriptures, or the Canons of the
better than I do.
Whenever in doubt,
whenever he had any ecclesiastical problem,
Botaniatis consulted me, me first of all.
But exiled here (may she be cursed, that viper
Irini Doukaina), and incredibly bored,
it’s not altogether unfitting to amuse myself
writing six- and eight-line verses,
to amuse myself poeticising myths
of Hermes and Apollo and Dionysos,
or the heroes of Thessaly and the Peloponnese;
and to compose the most strict iambics,
such as -if you’ll allow me to say so-
the scholars of Constantinople don’t know how to compose.
It may be just this strictness that provokes their disapproval.
Constantine P. Cavafy (1921)
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrand