For centuries they hadn’t seen gifts at Delphi
as wonderful as those sent by the two brothers,
the rival Ptolemaic kings. But now that they have them,
the priests are nervous about the oracle. They’ll need
all their experience to decide
how to express it tactfully, which of the two—
of two brothers like these—will have to be offended.
And so they meet secretly at night
to discuss the family affairs of the Lagids.
But suddenly the envoys are back. They’re taking their leave.
Returning to Alexandria, they say. And they don’t ask
for an oracle at all. The priests are delighted to hear it
(they’re to keep the marvelous gifts, that goes without saying)
but they’re also completely bewildered,
having no idea what this sudden indifference means.
They do not know that yesterday the envoys heard serious news:
the “oracle” was pronounced in Rome; the partition was decided there.
— constantine p. cavafy (trans. edmund keelley/philip sherrard)