Without consideration, without pity, without shame they have built great and high walls around me.
And now I sit here and despair. I think of nothing else: this fate gnaws at my mind; for I had many things to do outside.
Ah why did I not pay attention when they were building the walls.
But I never heard any noise or sound of builders. Imperceptibly they shut me from the outside world.
C P Cavafy
The Collected Poems: with parallel Greek text, page 13
Who are they? The builders of walls – without consideration, shame or pity? Who are they? Noiseless and imperceptible. Perhaps “they” don’t exist at all. Perhaps we ourselves are solely responsible – allowing what “gnaws at my mind” – having forgotten life’s invitation to daily contemplation and reflection.
The poets have striven to teach us the depths of the inner life since time immemorial. We write them off as dreamers, esoteric, or impenetrable, when, in reality, it has been we ourselves that cannot be reached. And sometimes we have worshipped the poets and the prophets as of the highest and the best – never hearing their call to recognise the highest and the best within ourselves.
I never heard any noise or sound – too busy, terribly important, and quite, quite lost – building I know not quite what.