In Sparta

Constantine P. Cavafy 1863 (Alexandria) – 1933 (Alexandria)

He didn't know, King Kleomenis, he didn't dare—
he just did not know how to tell his mother
a thing like this: that Ptolemy demanded,
to guarantee their treaty, that she too go to Egypt
and be held there as a hostage—
a very humiliating, indecorous thing.
And he would be about to speak yet always hesitate,
would start to tell her yet always stop.
 
But the magnificent woman understood him
(she had already heard some rumors about it)
and she encouraged him to come out with it clearly.
And she laughed, saying of course she would go,
indeed was happy that in her old age
she could be useful to Sparta still.
 
As for the humiliation—that didn't touch her at all.
Of course an upstart like the Lagid
couldn't possibly comprehend the Spartan spirit;
so his demand could not in fact humiliate
a Royal Lady like herself:
mother of a Spartan king.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Constantine P. Cavafy

Constantine P. Cavafy was a Greek poet who lived in Alexandria and worked as a journalist and civil servant. He published 154 poems; dozens more remained incomplete or in sketch form. His most important poetry was written after his fortieth birthday. more…

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    "In Sparta" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 5 Dec. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/7165/in-sparta>.

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