In the poem by Cavafy (the famous Greek Alexandrian poet, d. 1933) the barbarians never come – which proves, in a strange way, to be a disappointment. In the following poem events turn out rather differently.




'And now what will become of us without barbarians?

Those people were some sort of a solution.'

- C.P. Cavafy


Liberty rides in on a rocket,

Liberty wears the limbs of smashed child.

Oh, we expected the taps to dry up,

The switches to click uselessly -

That's what also happens when the barbarians come,

The acceptable small change of conquest.

But doctors guarding hospitals with Kalashnikovs,

The burning of books like a million heresies,

The ransacking of the great museum as though

These looters had decreed that history

Must start anew - who would have dreamt of all that?

The strangers wrap their blindfold around

The face of our falling despot, then kindly

Substitute a strangler's cord of local weave. Let's use

Their language, then, to plan votes and governments,

To greet their tanks like moving shrines.

Our river is crowned with ash and rimmed with blood.


At night the wild dogs seem to multiply

By sick magic. They know what liberty is;

No need to tell them, the vengeful, the misguided,

As they mass like the zanies of death.

A patrol, the barbarians' finest, passes

Nearby - stops and looks, its jaws in slow, relentless chew.

Somewhere it's seen these curs before, but

Not one soldier carries the cracked, blistered mirror

That'd jog recall, give him a perfect eye.


Jack Debney

The writer Jack Debney also wrote the books “Clowns and Puritans” (Poetry) and „The Crocodile´s Herd and other stories“ (stories), available in his office in the English Department at the University Marburg.

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Zuletzt aktualisiert: 2004-02-11 1:09