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21 July 2017
Morning Sedition

The Fourth Man

I'm taking a break from putting photos of The Gates online. When I got back from the signing of New York Magazine by Christo and Jeanne-Claude — I'll blog that in a day or so — I was listening to the mess going on in Syria. (I generally try to avoid politics since the idiotic comments of der Fuhrer really annoy me.) Anyway, I was reminded of a poem by Constantine Cavafy, who is one of my favorite poets. This is not, perhaps, his best work, but it was appropriate given the day's events in Syria.

Oh, and I am often reminded of the poem's closing comment about employment. It seems I ended up getting similar employment choices, too.

They Should Have Provided

I have almost been reduced to a homeless pauper.
This fatal city, Antioch,
has consumed all my money;
this fatal city with its expensive life.

But I am young and in excellent health.
My command of Greek is superb
(I know all there is about Aristotle, Plato;
orators, poets, you name it.)
I have an idea of military affairs,
and have friends among the mercenary chiefs.
I am on the inside of administration as well.
Last year I spent six months in Alexandria;
I have some knowledge (and this is useful) of affairs there:
intentions of the Malefactor, and villainies, et cetera.

Therefore I believe that I am fully
qualified to serve this country,
my beloved homeland Syria.

In whatever capacity they place me I shall strive
to be useful to the country. This is my intent.
Then again, if they thwart me with their methods —
we know those able people: need we talk about it now?
if they thwart me, I am not to blame.

First, I shall apply to Zabinas,
and if this moron does not appreciate me,
I shall go to his rival Grypos.
And if this idiot does not hire me,
I shall go straight to Hyrcanos.

One of the three will want me however.

And my conscience is not troubled
about not worrying about my choice.
All three harm Syria equally.

But, a ruined man, why is it my fault.
Wretched man, I am trying to make ends meet.
The almighty gods should have provided
and created a fourth, good man.
Gladly would I have joined him.

"They Should Have Provided", Constantine P. Cavafy, 1930


The Malefactor was the nickname for Ptolemy VII Euergetes, officially known "the Benefactor" who ruled Egypt from 145 to 116 BC with extreme cruelty.

Alexander II Zabinas, a nickname meaning "the bought one", had been an heir to the throne backed by the exiled Egyptian king Ptolemaios VIII Gryphon. After he defeated Demetrius Nicator he ruled parts of Syria from 129 to 123 BC, until killed by Antiochus VIII, nicknamed "Grypos" or "hooknose", who then ruled from 125 to 96 BC.

Ioannes Hyrcanos I, the son of Simon Maccabaeus, was the king and high priest of the Jewish empire from 134 to 104 BC. He fought the Greeks.


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