sábado, julho 31, 2010


Reading old chronicles, epics, and biographies, Mr. Cogito sometimes feels persuaded of the physical presence of long deceased persons.

Among all the citizens of Rome
I loved only one
my horse — Incitatus

when he entered the Senate
his coat's unblemished toga
shone immaculate among lily-livered purple-clad murderers

Incitatus had many virtues
he never spoke in public
he had the nature of a Stoic
I think in his stable at night he must have read the philosophers

I loved him so much one day I decided to crucify him
but his noble anatomy would not allow it

he accepted his consul's rank indifferently
he wielded power in the best possible way
that is he didn't wield it at all

we failed to incline him to a steady relationship
with my dear wife Caesonia
and so sadly no line of centaur-emperors arose

that's why Rome fell

I decided to have him pronounced a god
but on his ninth day before the calends of February
Cherea Cornelius Sabinus and other fools stonewalled my pious plan

he received the news of my death calmly

he was thrown out of the palace and banished

he bore that blow with dignity

he died without progeny
slaughtered by a thick-skinned butcher from the municipality of Antium

about the posthumous fate of his flesh
Tacitus has nothing to say

Zbigniew Herbert, The Collected Poems 1956-1998, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2007 (trad. de Alissa Valles)

quarta-feira, julho 28, 2010

Why the Classics

in the fourth book of the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides tells among other things
the story of his unsuccessful expedition

among long speeches of chiefs
battles sieges plague
dense net of intrigues of diplomatic endeavours
the episode is like a pin
in a forest

the Greek colony Amphipolis
fell into the hands of Brasidos
because Thucydides was late with relief

for this he paid his native city
with lifelong exile

exiles of all times
know what price that is

generals of the most recent wars
if a similar affair happens to them
whine on their knees before posterity
praise their heroism and innocence

they accuse their subordinates
envious collegues
unfavourable winds

Thucydides says only
that he had seven ships
it was winter
and he sailed quickly

if art for its subject
will have a broken jar
a small broken soul
with a great self-pity

what will remain after us
will it be lovers' weeping
in a small dirty hotel
when wall-paper dawns

Zbigniew Herbert, The Collected Poems 1956-1998, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2007 (trad. de Alissa Valles)