Constantine P. Cavafy

29 April 1863 – 29 April 1933 / Alexandria

Alexandrian Kings

The Alexandrians turned out in force
to see Cleopatra's children,
Kaisarion and his little brothers,
Alexander and Ptolemy,
who'd been taken out to the Gymnasium for the first time,
to be proclaimed kings there
before a brilliant array of soldiers.

Alexander: they declared him
king of Armenia, Media, and the Parthians.
Ptolemy: they declared him
king of Cilicia, Syria, and Phoenicia.
Kaisarion was standing in front of the others,
dressed in pink silk,
on his chest a bunch of hyacinths,
his belt a double row of amethysts and sapphires,
his shoes tied with white ribbons
prinked with rose-coloured pearls.
They declared him greater than his brothers,
they declared him King of Kings.

The Alexandrians knew of course
that this was all just words, all theatre.

But the day was warm and poetic,
the sky a pale blue,
the Alexandrian Gymnasium
a complete artistic triumph,
the courtiers wonderfully sumptuous,
Kaisarion all grace and beauty
(Cleopatra's son, blood of the Lagids):
and the Alexandrians thronged to the festival,
full of enthusiasm, and shouted acclamations
in Greek, and Egyptian, and some in Hebrew,
charmed by the lovely spectacle -
though they knew of course what all this was worth,
what empty words they really were, these kingships.
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