“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.

C. P. Cavafy, “Ithaca” from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems  (Princeton University Press, 1975). Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Translation Copyright © 1975, 1992 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

* Thanks to reader Belkis for suggesting this piece as a favorite poem.

I thought it paired nicely with Glen Hansard’s “Song of Good Hope.”

And take your time babe
It’s not as bad as it seems, you’ll be fine babe
It’s just some rivers and streams in between
You and where you wanna be
And watch the signs now
You’ll know what they mean, you’ll be fine now
Just stay close to me and make good hope
Walk with you through everything

4 thoughts on ““Ithaca” by C. P. Cavafy

    1. I had not read this piece before, I’m almost embarrassed to admit. I’m grateful Belkis recommended it.
      I love the whole “the journey is the destination…the “Ithaca”” theme. Life = Ithaca, in a way, no? Or did I miss the mark? (Wouldn’t be the first time, haha!)

      Like

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