Ithaca Poem

The Poem Ithaca by Constantine Cavafy: Since Homer's Odyssey, Ithaca symbolizes the destination of a long journey, the supreme aim that every man tries to fulfill all his life long, the sweet homeland, the eternal calmness, and satisfaction.… Many artists and literary people have been inspired by this interpretation of Homer's poem and have given to this small island of the Ionian Sea a special sense. Famous poets have been inspired by Ithaca and have used its name metaphorically on their works.

The most famous poem about Ithaca has been written by the renowned Greek poet Constantine Cavafy and is entitled "Ithaka". There he makes an allusion of the legendary journey of Ulysses to the journey of every man through life and suggests that each person is looking for his own Ithaca, his personal supreme gaol. However, in the end, it is not the goal but the journey that matters, because this journey makes us wise and gives people the richest good: experience, knowledge, and maturity.

This poem was written in 1911 and has been translated into many languages since then. Its lyric words and message are touching.

As you set out for Ithaka

hope the voyage is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians 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 excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians 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.

May there be many a summer morning when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you come into harbors seen for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

the sensual perfume of every kind-

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you are old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her, you would not 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 will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/ Phillip Sherrard

The poem is from www.cavafy.com

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