Waiting For The Barbarians

   “What are we waiting for, assembled in the Forum? The barbarians are coming today.

    Why such inaction in the Senate?
    Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws?

    Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
    What further laws can the Senators pass?
    When the barbarians come they will make new laws.

    Why did our emperor wake up so early,
    To sit at the main gate of the city,
    on his throne, dressed in state, wearing his crown?

    Because the barbarians are to arrive today,
    And the emperor waits to meet their chief,
    With a scroll in hand engraved with grand titles,
    complements, and names of honor.

    Why have two consuls and the praetors appeared
    In their red embroidered robes;
    Why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets,
    and rings with glittering emeralds;
    why are they carrying fancy canes,
    finely carved with silver and gold?

    Because the barbarians are to arrive today,
    And these things dazzle the barbarians.

    Why don’t the worthy orators come as usual
    to make their speeches and have their say?

    Because the barbarians are to arrive today;
    and they get bored with eloquence and oration.

    Why this sudden unrest and confusion?
    (How solemn their faces have become.)
    Why are the streets and squares emptying,
    and people running home so lost in thought?

    Because night has fallen and still the barbarians have not come.
    And some who come back from the border say…
    that there are no more barbarians.

    Now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
    Those people were a kind of solution.

                                         -C. P. Cavafy