Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ithaka by C P Cavafy

At the moment I am reading a book called East of the Sun by Julia Gregson. It is about some young ladies who are travelling from England to India during the late 1920s. As they are arriving at Bombay, a toast is proposed and the following poem is read out, with the suggestion that instead of Ithaka, they use the word India.

I don't normally read poetry but I read this one through a couple of times and think that it is probably a metaphor for any journey, or maybe just the journey that it is life itself.

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

Translated by

Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard



  1. I don't read a lot of poetry either but ironically I LOVE novels whose words have a poetic flair to them.

  2. I am reading the same book, I also loved this poem, the book is quite beautiful too.

  3. Jane I finished the book last night and have to say I was very pleasantly surprised by it! I'm glad that I picked it up.

  4. The book sounds interesting and the poem is inspiring. I'll check back for your review!

    By the way, we are in The Complete Booker together. So today is my day to check out the blogs of all my fellow participants. What an interesting and creative bunch of fellow readers! Keep up the good work! The canal photo is fabulous!

  5. I am really looking forward to your review of this one Marg. It sounds like a book I would really enjoy.



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