Friday, March 16, 2007

The bittersweet smell of laurels: 300 Spartans

Today I chose to include an adored poem that really depicts best of all just what the sacrifice of those tragic and noble 300 Spartans really meant. In an age when anyone can interpret facts any way one wants and present them for the sheer monetary gain at the box office, let's pause for a second and think how some things in life do mean much more and how not everything is for glory but sometimes it's for honour.
There is a difference.

The ancient epigram/epitaph by Simonedes, friend of Megistias (the Acarnanian seer, who foretold the death of Leonidas and his warriors) is immortal.
It went like this:
"Stranger passing by, go tell the spartans that here, obedient to their laws, we lie."

The poem I chose is much more recent, it doesn't pertain to the olfactory, yet it does evoke the bittersweet smell of laurels. The laurels of noble defeat...
Written by my favourite poet Constantine Cavafy, whom I have also reference while talking about Mitsouko.
It's called "Thermopylae" and is inspired by the famous battle as a lesson in life in general.
I leave you to enjoy it by yourselves.


Honour to those who in life they lead
define and guard Thermopylae.
Never betraying what is right,
consistent and just in all they do,
but showing pity also, and compassion;
generous when they're rich; and when they're poor,
still generous in small ways,
still helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hating those who lie.

And even more honour is due to them
when they foresee (as many do foresee)
that Ephialtes will turn up in the end,
that the Medes* will break through after all.

1903 by Constantine P. Cavafy (Kavafis)

*Medes (plural of Mede) is another name for Persians en masse (historically they were an older tribe who intermingled and interbred with the Persians)

Pic of classical statue of mid4th century BC courtesy of
Painting of Leonidas at Thermopylae by Jacques Louis David courtesy of wikipedia.

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