Magazine April 6, 2020, Issue

Thermopylae

View of the Thermopylae pass at the area of the Phocian Wall, 2011 (Fotis Kerasaridis/Wikimedia)

Honor to those who dedicate their lives
To guarding their Thermopylae, who give
Unstinting service to what they believe,
Defending to the last against all odds;
Who glory in straightforward honesty,
But with compassion and great pity too;
Generous with wealth, and in hard times
Offering whatever they can afford
To help the fallen; who must speak the truth
But bear no rancor for those forced to lie.
And greater honor theirs who guard the way
When they foresee (as many one day do)
That Ephialtes will finally betray
And in the end the Persians will get through.

— Translated, from the Greek, by Richard O’Connell

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C. P. Cavafy is a 20th-century Greek poet who lived 1863–1933.

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Letters

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