From Nero to Macbeth

Wednesday, 26 June, 2013

Been reading the poems of Constantine P. Cavafy recently and they’re filled with ideas and images that make you want to keep coming back for more. One of the things about Nero’s Deadline is that it evokes thoughts of Macbeth and how power-obsessed leaders (mis)interpret forecasts and predictions. Because forests cannot move and all men are born of women, Macbeth dismisses the prophecies of the Three Witches, and the young Nero scoffs at the idea that he should “Beware the age of seventy-three.”

Nero’s Deadline

Nero wasn’t worried at all when he heard
the utterance of the Delphic Oracle:
“Beware the age of seventy-three.”
Plenty of time to enjoy himself still.
He’s thirty. The deadline
the god has given him is quite enough
to cope with future dangers.

Now, a little tired, he’ll return to Rome —
but wonderfully tired from that journey
devoted entirely to pleasure:
theatres, garden-parties, stadiums…
evenings in the cities of Achaia…
and, above all, the sensual delight of naked bodies…

So much for Nero. And in Spain Galba
secretly musters and drills his army —
Galba, the old man in his seventy-third year.

Constantine P. Cavafy (29 April 1863 — 29 April 1933)


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