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Nero’s Deadline

Constantine Cavafy, translated from the Greek by Daniel Mendelsohn

Nero wasn’t troubled when he heard
the Delphic Oracle’s prophecy.
“Let him beware the age of seventy-three.”
He still had time to enjoy himself.
He is thirty years old. It’s quite sufficient,
the deadline that the god is giving him,
for him to think about dangers yet to come.
 
Now to Rome he’ll be returning a little wearied,
but exquisitely wearied by this trip,
which had been wholly devoted to days of delight—
in the theaters, in the gardens, the gymnasia…
Evenings of the cities of Achaea…
Ah, the pleasure of naked bodies above all…
 
So Nero. And in Spain, Galba
is secretly assembling his army and preparing it:
the old man, seventy-three years old.

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