Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

“Ithaca,” by Constantine P. Cavafy, influential Greek poet

Constantine P. Cavafy could count E. M. Forster and W. H. Auden among his admirers. He became one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. His poem "Ithaca" (1911) may be the most often quoted modern Greek poem of all. --JGR
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ITHACA
by Constantine P. Cavafy

When you set out for distant Ithaca,
fervently wish your journey may be long, —
full of adventures and with much to learn.
Of the Laestrygones and the Cyclopes,
of the angry god Poseidon, have no fear:
these you shall not encounter, if your thought
remains at all times lofty, — if select
emotion touches you in body and spirit.
Not the Laestrygones, not the Cyclopes,
nor yet the fierce Poseidon, shall you meet,
unless you carry them within your soul, —
unless your soul should raise them to confront you.

Fervently wish your journey may be long.
May they be numerous — the summer mornings
when, pleased and joyous, you will be anchoring
in harbours you have never seen before.
Stay at the populous Phoenician marts,
and make provision of good merchandise;
coral and mother of pearl; and ebony
and amber; and voluptuous perfumes
of every kind, in lavish quantity.
Sojourn in many a city of the Nile,
and from the learned learn and learn amain.

At every stage bear Ithaca in mind.
The arrival there is your appointed lot.
But hurry not the voyage in the least:
’twere better if you travelled many years
and reached your island home in your old age,
being rich in riches gathered on the way,
and not expecting more from Ithaca.

Ithaca gave you the delightful voyage:
without her you would never have set out:
and she has nothing else to give you now.

And though you should find her wanting, Ithaca
will not surprise you; for you will arrive
wise and experienced, having long since perceived
the unapparent sense in Ithacas.

Translated by John Cavafy

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