From the School of the Renowned Philosopher
For two years he studied with Ammonios Sakkas,
but he was bored by both philosophy and Sakkas.
Then he went into politics.
But he gave that up. That Prefect was an idiot,
and those around him, somber-faced officious nitwits:
their Greek—poor fools—absolutely barbaric.
After that he became
vaguely curious about the Church: to be baptized
and pass as a Christian. But he soon
changed his mind: it would certainly have caused a row
with his parents, ostentatious pagans,
they would have cut off at once
their extremely generous allowance.
But he had to do something. He began to haunt
the corrupt houses of Alexandria,
every secret den of debauchery.
In this fortune favored him:
he’d been given an extremely handsome figure.
And he enjoyed the divine gift.
His looks would last
at least another ten years. And after that?
Maybe he’ll go back to Sakkas.
Or if the old man has died meanwhile,
he’ll go to another philosopher or sophist:
there’s always someone suitable around.
by Constantine Cavafy
from Collected Poems
Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1992
translation: Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard