C.P. Cavafy, Thermopylae

Honor is due to those who are keeping watch,
Sentinels guarding their own Thermopylae;
Never distracted from what is right to do,
And right to be; in all things virtuous,
But never so hardened by virtue as not to be

Compassionate, available to pity;
Generous if they’re rich, but generous too,
Doing whatever they can, if they are poor;
Always true to the truth, no matter what,
But never scornful of those who have to lie.

Even more honor is due when, keeping watch,
They see that the time will come when Ephialtes
Will tell the secret to the Medes and they
Will know the way to get in through the goat-path.

— David Ferry, author of Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations

This poem is offered as part of our September theme: Epic Poetry

T.S. Poetry