Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"But at least this much has been gained: we’ve rid ourselves of hope and expectation."


So says Cavafy's mycenaean commentator on the events surrounding the end of the Trojan War. Living in constant anticipation of an event has taken a toll on the people, as evidenced by the watchman's monologue at the beginning of Agamemnon. Ten years has passed waiting. The citizens of the stallion land of Argos have spent the decade witness to the adulterous affair between Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. Hell will certainly break loose as soon as Agamemnon returns. But in the eyes of the narrator, expectation is a weight, as freedom from waiting is gain even if it means chaos.

The connection of our age means constant expectation - will she email? will he call? what is the market doing? how many people have viewed my latest blog post? Our age of anxiety leaves us waiting for the next thing. But of course, when and if happiness comes, it often brings less joy than expected.


When the Watchman Saw the Light - Constantine Cavafy

Winter, summer, the watchman sat there looking out
from the palace roof of the sons of Atreus.
Now he has good news to report. He's seen the fire light up
in the distance and he's glad: also, the drudgery is over.
It’s hard to sit there night and day in heat and cold,
on the lookout for a fire to show
on the peak of Arachnaion.
Now the longed-for signal has appeared. When happiness comes,
it brings less joy than one expected.
This much is clearly gained, however: we've rid ourselves
of hope and expectation. Many things will happen
to the house of Atreus. No need to be wise
to guess this now the watchman has seen the light.
So let’s not exaggerate.
The light is good; and those coming are good,
their words and actions also good.
And let’s hope all goes well.
But Argos can do without the sons of Atreus.
Ancient houses are not eternal.
Of course many people will have much to say.
We should listen. But we won’t be deceived
by words such as Indispensable, Unique, and Great.
Someone else indispensable and unique and great
can always be found at a moment’s notice.

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