The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Wednesday

King Claudius
By Constantine Cavafy
Translated by Rae Dalven

My mind now moves to distant places.
I'm walking the streets of Elsinore,
through its squares, and I recall
the very sad story-
that unfortunate king
killed by his nephew
because of some fanciful suspicions.

In all the homes of the poor
he was mourned secretly
(they were afraid of Fortinbras).
A quiet, gentle man,
a man who loved peace
(his country had suffered much
from the wars of his predecessor),
he behaved graciously toward everyone,
humble and great alike.
Never high-handed, he always sought advice
in the kingdom's affairs
from serious, experienced people.

Just why his nephew killed him
was never actually explained.
The prince suspected him of murder,
and the basis of his suspicion was this:
walking one night along an ancient battlement
he thought he saw a ghost
and he had a conversation with this ghost;
what he supposedly heard from the ghost
were certain accusations against the king.

It must have been a fit of fancy,
an optical illusion
(the prince was nervous in the extreme;
while he was studying at Wittenberg,
many of his fellow students thought him a maniac).

A few days later he went
to his mother's room to discuss
certain family affairs. And suddenly,
while he was talking, he lost his self-control,
started shouting, screaming
that the ghost was there in front of him.
But his mother saw nothing at all.

And that same day, for no apparent reason,
he killed an old gentleman of the court.
Since the prince was due to sail for England
in a day or two,
the king hustled him off post-haste
in order to save him.
But the people were so outraged
by the monstrous murder
that rebels rose up
and tried to storm the palace gates,
led by the dead man's son,
the noble lord Laertes
(a brave young man, also ambitious;
in the confusion, some of his friends called out:
"Long live King Laertes!").

Later, once the kingdom had calmed down
and the king was lying in his grave-
he was killed by his nephew, the prince,
who never went to England
but escaped from the ship on his way there-
a certain Horatio came forward
and tried to exonerate the prince
by telling some stories of his own.
He said that the voyage to England
had been a secret plot, and orders
had been given to kill the prince there
(but this was never clearly ascertained).
He also spoke of poisoned wine-
wine poisoned by the king.

It's true that Laertes spoke of this too.
But couldn't he have been lying?
Couldn't he have been mistaken?
And when did he say all this?
While dying of his wounds, his mind reeling,
his talk seemingly delirious.
As for the poisoned weapons,
it was shown later that the poisoning
hadn't been done by the king at all:
Laertes himself had done it.
But Horatio, whenever pressed,
would produce even the ghost as a witness:
the ghost said this and that,
the ghost did this and that!

Because of all this, though letting Horatio talk,
most people in their hearts
pitied the poor king,
who, with all these ghosts and fairy tales,
was unjustly killed and disposed of.

Yet Fortinbras, who profited
by winning the throne so easily,
gave full attention and weight
to every word Horatio said.


I spent a very fun early Tuesday with cidercupcakes, our last in months, sadly, since she is off to Australia and then I am off across America! We had total comfort food, chicken soup and bagels, and then came back to my house and had tea and an Aero bar and watched Futurama ("Spanish Fry" and his Lower Horn, hahahahaha), and my cats cheated on me yet again as they found her lap more enticing. We discussed such matters as the fact that Supernatural has suddenly been labeled misogynistic and homophobic -- something we both got snapped at for saying a couple of years ago -- and my Sarah Jane Smith obsession, which my friend in England is encouraging by sending me one of the Sarah Jane action figures that comes with a light-up star poet. And while I am rejoicing in Whoverse, may I please thank the BBC for hiring Steven Moffat to follow Russell T. Davies as executive producer for 2010 series? He wrote my three favorite episodes -- "The Doctor Dances," "The Girl in the Fireplace" and "Blink"!

Took Adam to the orthodontist, where they had to take new x-rays and make new impressions so we can go in for a consultation about stage two of his treatment next week. Sigh. We stopped in Borders to look at penguin books and bought Daniel Raven Rise, the latest Pendragon book. Adam was pleased to read about the adopted penguin at the New England Aquarium in Boston, a little blue penguin whose parents didn't care for him so two biologists are mothering him instead. (Adam wants to do this for a living, if he can figure out exactly what job to get.)

The turkeys at Claude Moore Colonial Farm.

And a pair of geese, who were not at all happy about the crowds walking past for the fair and did a lot of squawking.

One of the farm's pigs, very happy about the post-rain muddy conditions.

The tobacco shed on the approach from the visitor's center...

...and inside it, though it's too early in the season for any tobacco to be drying.

Bobbing for apples in the children's play area.

Cooking, dyeing and preparing water for the wash over open fires.

Did some reading for a change instead of reshelving books, then we watched Left for Dead: Miracle on Everest, the National Geographic show about Australian climber Lincoln Hall, who stopped breathing in 2006 on Everest after a failed 1984 attempt to climb it, was left by his sherpas to save their own lives as night fell, then got up the next morning and walked down to meet the climbers coming up. Then, because Boston Legal is not on Tuesdays at the moment, we watched the season finale -- well, the series finale -- of Shark, in large part because they brought back serial killer Wayne Callison who is played so creepily by Bill Campbell. I didn't see the series this season due to conflicts with other shows, but since this storyline picks up from the end of last season, that didn't matter.

In a lot of ways the episode was predictable, with its Silence of the Lambs beginning, the copycat killer and the woman under the psycho's spell. When Stark was muttering, "Where are you, Wayne?" I was yelling, "Julie said she was going to Berkeley, even I know where Wayne is, just figure out where Julie is, come on, Stark!" But the mind games were compelling anyway, and James Woods gave a great performance; I was just sorry not to get even a glimpse of Jeri Ryan, though I guess she was probably still on maternity leave when this episode was filmed. I did wonder whether the ending was reshot after the show was canned, though, if two different endings were filmed in case it was renewed, because I was positive that Stark was going to shoot Callison in front of Julie and Isaac...and that they were both going to lie for him, and his dilemma about whether he had corrupted his daughter was going to fuel the next season that now will never be. Having seen the first episode, I'm glad I saw the last for closure.

I tried to avoid primary results, because I can't do anything about them or about how the media and blogosphere will spin them, but I couldn't avoid the news about Ted Kennedy. Love his liberalism or think he should have gone to prison for Mary Jo Kopechne's death, he's irreplaceable as a politician and an icon, and it shook me up a bit.

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