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Something Wonderful: Ithaca by C.P.Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, 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 excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, 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 your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter 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 go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka 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 you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

[HT: John Condon]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • David November 16, 2018, 3:48 PM

    You are priceless sir. Get a mail box so I can show my appreciation for your marvellous humanity.

  • Jaynie November 17, 2018, 4:39 AM

    That was marvelous.
    “you’ll never find things like that on your way
    as long as you keep your thoughts raised high.”
    Oh, the heights to which man can ascend are awesome.
    The continuum from a base man, who destroys and harms everything and everyone, through the stages in between, to the benevolent and the creative heights of man is as if moving from one species to a completely different one.
    Thank you for that something wonderful.

  • PA Cat November 17, 2018, 2:25 PM

    Jackie Kennedy’s companion read this poem at her funeral in 1994; that was my first encounter with Cavafy. Thank you for posting this version.

  • Montefrío July 2, 2019, 9:49 AM

    “Happy like all those who believe,
    and like Emperor Manuel end their lives
    dressed modestly in their faith” : Cavafy, (Keely & Sherrard translation)
    I believe President Trump once mentioned him in a tweet but misspelled his name.

  • Kevin in PA March 14, 2021, 5:55 AM

    Thanks, G.
    First time I had ever read/heard that beautiful poem.
    I also enjoyed the Sean Connery voice.

    “But don’t hurry the journey at all.
    Better if it lasts for years,
    so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
    wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way”

    Really great!

  • Kevin in PA March 14, 2021, 9:55 AM

    A little further research on Cavafy. He was, from the article, a homosexual. I share this write up about him;
    and this from the link –
    And in poems such as “The Battle of Magnesia” and “To Antiochus of Epiphanes,” Cavafy emphasizes that decadence in a civilization leads to its destruction. Philip Sherrard acknowledged this in The Marble Threshing Floor: Studies in Modern Greek Poetry, when he wrote that such poems “imply … that the corruption and decadence of [ancient Rome] invites its own overthrow, that the Romans are simply the unconscious instruments in the execution of a sentence which those who live the superficial, self-indulgent life of the senses call down on themselves.”

    In light of recent comment from our dear host – “To abjure art depending upon the sexual inclination of the artist is to leave you with art that is, at the bottom, fascist/communist/Stalinist”, a comment with which I do not concur, but it is interesting none-the-less. Surely, Gerard, you can enumerate many artists that offer art not dripping with fascist/communist adoration and likewise not composed/created by homosexuals.

    I find it profoundly perplexing that one who engages in licentious behavior can simultaneously comprehend the innate destructiveness of such behavior and yet, persist in the destructive behavior. It is one of the reasons I am suspicious of the movement to normalize perversion. As we have seen the open growth of acceptance of homosexuality is not organic. It is being promulgated by people with nefarious ends in mind.

    So, yes, I enjoy the art of many individuals who happen to be homosexual, but at the same time would not encourage their moral (or amoral) influence, particularly their influence upon children.

  • Vanderleun March 15, 2021, 11:23 AM

    Well, creativity is different from agenda, isn’t it? When it is not it is purely propaganda. Always.

    Of course, one could say that Michaelangelo’s David is propaganda… but probably only for beauty.

    And Auden had his very, very explicit homoerotic poems but he also had ‘Musée de Beaux Arts’ and Night Train and Lullaby

    “Lay your sleeping head, my love,
    Human on my faithless arm;
    Time and fevers burn away
    Individual beauty from
    Thoughtful children, and the grave
    Proves the child ephemeral:
    But in my arms till break of day
    Let the living creature lie,
    Mortal, guilty, but to me
    The entirely beautiful….”

    and Many others.

    And I am quite aware of some the extreme practices of homosexuals but I am also away of similar extreme practices among heterosexuals. I am more than aware of the perversion of homosexuality by those with nefarious aims. I am also aware of the takeover the gay movement by those with perverted goals and perverted ideals — gay and straight.