Constantine P. Cavafy – Ithaca

Constantine P. Cavafy

Constantine P. Cavafy – Ithaca

As you set out for Ithaca,
hope the way is long,
full of reversals, full of knowing.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon you should not fear,
never will you find such things on your way
if your thought stays lofty, if refined
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
savage Poseidon you will not meet,
if you do not carry them with you in your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Hope the way is long.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, with what joy,
you shall enter first-seen harbours;
may you stop at Phoenician bazaars
and acquire the fine things sold there,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfumes, every kind there is,
as much as you can abundant sensual perfumes;
may you go to many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those educated.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what has been ordained for you.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts many years,
and you dock an old man on the island,
rich with all that you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to give you wealth.
Ithaca gave you the beautiful journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not fooled you.
Having become so wise, with so much experience,
you will have understood, by then, what these Ithacas mean.

This is a Gore Vidal translation – in my opinion by far superior to others found on the net. His book is out of print (or was when I last checked), but there are some second-hand copies to be found if you are lucky (occasionally they cost more than new books, and on other occasions they cost only a few cents – I bought my copy for $25 including shipping) – here is an [amazon text=Amazon link&asin=0151005192]. They are worth the hassle, as the translations are better.

If you decide that reading this poem on your own is a little boring, you could listen to Sean Connery’s voice reading it to you, under a beautiful performance by Vangelis (Evanghelos Odyssey Papathanassiou) – yes, Vangelis is his first name; take that Austrians. He reads from a different translation though, inferior to the above one in my opinion.

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