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Poetry: Ithaca by Constantine Cavafy

Blossoms (Photo by Keri Douglas, copyright protected)

(Photo by Keri Douglas, copyright protected)

When poetry touches your heart, you cry, laugh, smile and remember. When it is from another culture, another time, you pause to realize nothing separates souls.

Constantine Cavafy would have celebrated his 150th birthday this year. From Alexandria, Egypt of Greek parents, Cavafy wrote 154 poems. The poem Ithaca  on destinations strikes a cord on how to live life and to appreciate every moment.

  • When you set sail for Ithaca,
  • wish for the road to be long,
  • full of adventures, full of knowledge.
  • The Lestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
  • an angry Poseidon – do not fear.
  • You will never find such on your path,
  • if your thoughts remain lofty, and your spirit
  • and body are touched by fine emotion.
  • The Lestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
  • a savage Poseidon you will not encounter,
  • if you do not carry them within your spirit,
  • if your spirit does not place them before you.
  • *
  • Wish for the road to be long.
  • Many the summer mornings to be when
  • with what pleasure, what joy
  • you will enter ports seen for the first time.
  • Stop at Phoenician markets,
  • and purchase the fine goods,
  • nacre and coal, amber and ebony,
  • and exquisite perfumes of all sorts,
  • the most delicate fragrances you can find.
  • To many Egyptian cities you must go,
  • to learn and learn from the cultivated.
  • *
  • Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
  • To arrive there is your final destination.
  • But do not hurry the voyage at all.
  • It is better for it to last many years,
  • and when old to rest in the island,
  • rich with all you have gained on the way,
  • not expecting Ithaca to offer you wealth.
  • *
  • Ithaca has given you the beautiful journey.
  • Without her you would not have set out on the road.
  • Nothing more does she have to give you.
  • *
  • Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
  • you must already have understood what Ithaca means.

Is this time travel to hear the whisper of another era? A voice so gently reminding you how to live, love, laugh and simply, be. Yes, perhaps.

Thanks to Nikos Chatziandreou for sharing timeless Greek literature!


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