In part to verify a date, and in part just to pass the time, last night I picked up a volume of Ptolemaic inscriptions and began reading. Those endless poems of praise and flattery all sound the same. All the men are brilliant, great and good, mighty benefactors; most wise in all their undertakings. The same for the women of the dynasty, all the Berenices and Cleopatras, wonderful, each and every one. When I managed to find the date in question, I'd have put the book aside had a brief mention of King Caesarion, an insignificant note really, not suddenly caught my eye... Ah, there you stood, with that vague charm of yours. And since history has devoted just a few lines to you, I had more freedom to fashion you in my mind's eye... I made you handsome, capable of deep feeling. My art gave your face an appealing, dreamlike beauty. In fact, I imagined you so vividly last night, that when my lamp went out—I let it go out on purpose— I actually thought you had come into my room; you were there, standing before me, just as you would have looked in defeated Alexandria, pale and tired, ideal in your sorrow, still hoping for mercy from those vicious men who kept on whispering 'too many Caesars.'
C. P. Cavafy - 1863-1933
Since Nine O'Clock
Half past twelve. The time has quickly passed since nine o'clock when I first turned up the lamp and sat down here. I've been sitting without reading, without speaking. With whom should I speak, so utterly alone within this house? The apparition of my youthful body, since nine o'clock when I first turned up the lamp, has come and found me and reminded me of shuttered perfumed rooms and of pleasure spent—what wanton pleasure! And it also brought before my eyes streets made unrecognizable by time, bustling city centres that are no more and theatres and cafés that existed long ago. The apparition of my youthful body came and also brought me cause for pain: deaths in the family; separations; the feelings of my loved ones, the feelings of those long dead which I so little valued. Half past twelve. How the time has passed. Half past twelve. How the years have passed.