In Sparta The Canon
He didnt know, King Kleomenis, he didnt dare
he just did not know how to tell his mother
a thing like this: that Ptolemy demanded,
to guarantee their treaty, that she too go to Egypt
and be held there as a hostage
a very humiliating, indecorous thing.
And he would be about to speak yet always hesitate,
would start to tell her yet always stop.
But the magnificent woman understood him
(she had already heard some rumors about it)
and she encouraged him to come out with it clearly.
And she laughed, saying of course she would go,
indeed was happy that in her old age
she could be useful to Sparta still.
As for the humiliationthat didnt touch her at all.
Of course an upstart like the Lagid
couldnt possibly comprehend the Spartan spirit;
so his demand could not in fact humiliate
a Royal Lady like herself:
mother of a Spartan king.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

- Original Greek Poem