The Obvious


Posted in quote by theobvious on March 11, 2011

There was an entire blog post in my head when I opened this window. But instead of posting it, I’d like to post this poem by Cavafy:

Waiting for the Barbarians

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
He’s even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Things like that dazzle the barbarians. Why would anyone write anything else after this has been written?


caution: fragile

Posted in nablopomo, quote by theobvious on November 6, 2010

A quote from Architectural Digest (October ’02) by Murray Moss on Nymphenburg porcelain*:

“We’ve gotten to the point where we needed objects that you could take and hurl against the wall without destroying them. But things that are fragile, that would make you feel a loss if they broke, these kinds of objects become behavior modifiers—when you handle them, you become a different person. Maybe the purpose of these objects—one of their side benefits—is to civilize us.”

The reason I’m quoting AD is not just because this is a lovely thought, but also because all I’ve done today was read magazines, as I discovered yesterday that my favourite bookshop in Vilnius sells used foreign magazines for about $2, and I couldn’t resist stuffing my bag with those lovely deco-glossies I’d been lusting after but could never justify buying for $20 and more per issue. The bookshop gets even more love from me now.

*Hate the porcelain, love the name Nymphenburg.

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