Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

Ithaca

Most of my family and friends are aware how much attention I like to give to the journey, as opposed to focusing solely on the destination. They may not be aware that I also harbour two strong interests in Homer’s, Odyssey, for the enjoyment it brings and also the clues to ancient navigation methods. At one stage Odysseus has to keep the Bear constellation, Arctos, on his left to hold his course.

I was delighted this morning to find an email from my sister-in-law drawing my attention to this wonderful poem, Ithaca. It was written by the Greek poet, Constantine P. Cavafy, one hundred years ago. It is weighs in heavily on the side of enjoying a journey, which is quite ironic given that it is inspired by The Odyssey, an epic poem about a man who was trying desperately to bring his journey to a close.

(I don’ t think I’ll tell my brother that his wife has sent me poetry, I’ll wait for a Christmas lunch together before doing that!)

Ithaca

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,

pray that the road is long,

full of adventure, full of knowledge.

The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,

the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:

You will never find such as these on your path,

if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine

emotion touches your spirit and your body.

The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,

the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,

if you do not carry them within your soul,

if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.

That the summer mornings are many, when,

with such pleasure, with such joy

you will enter ports seen for the first time;

stop at Phoenician markets,

and purchase fine merchandise,

mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

and sensual perfumes of all kinds,

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

visit many Egyptian cities,

to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.

To arrive there is your ultimate goal.

But do not hurry the voyage at all.

It is better to let it last for many years;

and to anchor at the island when you are old,

rich with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.

Without her you would have never set out on the road.

She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.

Wise as you have become, with so much experience,

you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

by C. P. Cavafy (1911)

Tags