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Waiting For The Barbarians Analysis

Author: Poetry of C.P. Cavafy Type: Poetry Views: 2491

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1904What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?The barbarians are due here today.Why isn't anything happening in the senate?

Why do the senators sit there without legislating?Because the barbarians are coming today.What laws can the senators make now?Once the barbarians are here, they'll do the legislating.Why did our emperor get up so early,

and why is he sitting at the city's main gate

on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?Because the barbarians are coming todayand the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.He has even prepared a scroll to give him,replete 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,

and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?

Why are they carrying elegant canes

beautifully worked in silver and gold?Because the barbarians are coming todayand things like that dazzle the barbarians.Why don't our distinguished orators come forward as usual

to make their speeches, say what they have to say?Because the barbarians are coming todayand they're bored by rhetoric and public speaking.Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?

(How serious people's faces have become.)

Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,everyone going home so lost in thought?Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.And some who have just returned from the border saythere are no barbarians any longer.And now, what's going to happen to us without barbarians?

They were, those people, a kind of solution.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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The poet was really good at history. Imho, in the poem the setting is that of a Roman (or maybe Greek or even Byzantine) city. The barbarians are expected to come with superior force and destroy the republic. Then - irony - what a pity!, the Barbarians are not coming. Now the end of the world is not coming, and we have to actually fix our problems the hard way (without leaving decisions to others)

| Posted on 2013-02-28 | by a guest

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the poem is ironic really. the word barbarians refers to as uncivilized people who are savages. in this case, why would the town want to welcome barbarians. its ironic. its as if a battle on knowing whose the enemy and whose on your team.

| Posted on 2010-12-30 | by a guest

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For me the city has been visited by barbarians.
Not from outside, but from within. The senate has stopped functioning, the senators stopped legislating, the king is only representing and the orators have stopped making speeches. This is truly barbaric.
From this perspective, the end of the poem tells us what happens when the barbarians visit.

| Posted on 2010-10-29 | by a guest

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come chat . . . fit bloke from england danniel.king.great at gmail take the risk . . . u gotta be fit though

| Posted on 2010-06-09 | by a guest

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bollocks . . . . teabagging of the balls is usually fun but danniel.king.greatatgmail is the place to chat eyup

| Posted on 2010-06-09 | by a guest

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generally i believe that in order for these senates to hav a sense of freedom from freedom? x lets chat so this is my point of view.

| Posted on 2010-06-09 | by a guest

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the content is generally abuiguity reflecting inguinity of the "modern times" they believed they were in.
these barbarinas are their gods! . . .

| Posted on 2010-06-09 | by a guest

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BELOW IS MY ANALYSIS. (*NOTE: There are three important literary techniques present throughout this poem: satire, symbolism, and repetition.)
This is a conflict poem; it's a conflict of society's morals. They await the barbarians' arrival, but the narrator notes the changes in behavior and disapproves. At the end of the poem, when the barbarians fail to come, the society is disappointed and confused. They had prepared and put all their hope in these people. The conflict lies in what the narrator knows to be wrong and what he is doing anyway, (following suit with other citizens). When I read it, I perceived it as political and/or social satire (literary technique #1). Not satire in the Mark Twain way (sarcastic and such) but moreso quieter, timid satire. It was designed not to poke fun but merely to make a statement about people. It notes that people are more than happy to have someone to the work for them. A society, even if seemingly self-sufficient, welcomes entities promising "an end to all troubles" with open arms. Why? Good question.
Literary technique #2 is symbolism. Togas and crowns, silver and gold, amethysts and flowing robes, they're all symbols. They symbolize royalty, prominence, and affluence. The barbarians might even be a symbol, I thought, of Hitler. Adolf Hitler, whose barbaric (not in the sense of haphazard but in the sense of slaughter) and soul-less tactics overshadowed his initial promise of prosperity and a ceasing of Germany's economic/political/social suffering. In the end, putting all their faith in this one man cost many Germans their lives and freedom.
Literary technique #3 is repetition. The verse, "Because the barbarians are coming today" is repetition. That particular phrase is repeated throughout the poem for emphasis. We readers are meant to gather how important the arrival of these barbarians are to the people of this society, making their failure to appear that much more devastating.

| Posted on 2010-05-08 | by a guest

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Things have gotten too complicated. Everyone is tired, too tired to continue with all of the haranguing and political battles - with the responsibilities of civilization, of self-governance and freedom. The barbarians will come and set them free from the responsibilities of freedom. But they don't show up - so now what?
- Lethe

| Posted on 2010-03-26 | by a guest

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fool! in russia this makes the sense to us. this is commentary on society. poet talks on society is needing big enemy like cold war or war on terrorist. no enemy is no life meaning. society is dull and inhuman. barbarian is remind us of life and death. you are fool and that is why your country is babushka.

| Posted on 2007-09-05 | by a guest

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i think the scenario is taken from the fall of the Roman Empire with
Barbarians about to sack or take over the reigns from the Establishment.
Perhaps the poet's motivation in writing may have sprung from his
reading of Gibbon.

The establishment (Rome) is eagerly awaiting the coming of the Barbarians
and in this anticipation, all routine functions stop. The powers that be
are ready to make compromises designed to bestow titles and imposing
names for them as a means to either secure their present positions or
cushion their exit. Material things also such as jewels and "elegant
canes worked in silver and gold" are also offered (though indirectly) to
these Barbarians.

No talk or discussion according to the poet is appropriate from the point
of view of the old establishment because they could not negotiate from a
position of strength. They can only compromise weakly from an effete position.

The Establishment waits and waits but the would be saviors do not come.

It is a poignant expression from the poet to wish that "young blood (barbarians)
could infuse life to a dying establishment or order but if these are
non-existent, the hopes for continuity for a revised or revitalized order is
replaced by fear for the eventual dissolution inevitably comes as
"night has fallen."

So what is the poet advocating? My take is that the Barbarians, the wild men,
the world order shakers so to speak should be resolute in taking over the
status quo before the complete collapse of the present order.

This is a subtle tribute to the ushering in of the unconventional or unorthodox
which in turn after their tenure might also become conventional and orthodox
until they too would be overthrown by new Barbarians.

| Posted on 2005-06-05 | by Approved Guest

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