Ithaka

A lawyer gave me this poem yesterday. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything more apt. 

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. 

Hope the voyage is a long one.

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, 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.



(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992) 

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