Ithaca – C. P. Cavafy – Comments

Ithaca
As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laestrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon- don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare sensation
touches your spirit and your body.
Laestrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon- you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.
Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so that you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would have not set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.
C. P. Cavafy (translated by Edmund Keeley?)

Cavafy was an Egyptiot Greek poet.  His consciously individual style earned him a place among the most important in Greek and Western poetry. And there are plenty of references to Greek mythology in this poem.

Ithaca – a Greek Island – as well as being a metaphoric life goal in this poem.

Laestrygonians – were a tribe of man-eating giants from ancient Greek mythology. They were said to have sprung from Laestrygon, son of Poseidon.

Cyclops – a one-eyed giant first appearing in the mythology of ancient Greece.

Poseidon – was god of the sea, earthquakes, storms, and horses and is considered one of the most bad-tempered, moody and greedy Olympian gods.

Phoenicians – the Phoenicians occupied a narrow tract of land along the coast of modern Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel. They are famed for their commercial and maritime prowess

S1 … don’t be afraid of imaginations … don’t carry fear with you as you live! … put your soul into life to get more out of experience

S2 … a plea of hope that you will find many diverse wonderful sensations as you experience life … and may you travel and learn much … but always keep Ithaca in mind.

S3 … the journey is all important, always hold on to what you want to achieve as you progress in life … keep them in background as you stay focused on what you are doing

S4 … looking back on your ‘Ithacas’ you will understand life and meaning, and some may be poor but that is the nature of ‘Ithacas’ … but you will understand because you have become wise,

And it is very appropriate to have a reading of this poem by Sean Connery, coupled with more background material.

C P Cavafy on Wikipedia