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The Monday Poem > Ithaca by C.P. Cavafy - 26th January 2015

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message 1: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments Ithaca

When you set out on your way to Ithaca
you should hope that your journey is a long one:
a journey full of adventure, full of knowing.
Have no fear of the Laestrygones, the Cyclopes,
the frothing Poseidon. No such impediments
will confound the progress of your journey
if your thoughts take wing, if your spirit and your
flesh are touched by singular sentiments.
You will not encounter Laestrygones,
nor any Cyclopes, nor a furious Poseidon,
as long as you don’t carry them within you,
as long as your soul refuses to set them in your path.

Hope that your journey is a long one.
Many will be the summer mornings
upon which, with boundless pleasure and joy,
you will find yourself entering new ports of call.
You will linger in Phoenician markets
so that you may acquire the finest goods:
mother of pearl, coral and amber, and ebony,
and every manner of arousing perfume ―
great quantities of arousing perfumes.
You will visit many an Egyptian city
to learn, and learn more, from those who know.

Bear Ithaca always in your thoughts.
Arriving there is the goal of your journey;
but take care not to travel too hastily.
Better to linger for years on your way;
better to reach the island’s shores in old age,
enriched by all you’ve obtained along the way.
Do not expect that Ithaca will reward you with wealth.

Ithaca bestowed upon you the marvelous journey:
if not for her you would never have set out.
But she has nothing left to impart to you.

If you find Ithaca wanting, it’s not that she’s deceived you.
That you have gained so much wisdom and experience
will have told you everything of what such Ithacas mean.


Translation by Stratis Haviaras (2004)


message 2: by Gill (last edited Jan 25, 2015 08:11AM) (new)

Gill | 5720 comments C.P. Cavafy was born in 1863 and died in 1933.

Here is a link to more information about him:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/c...

Odysseus was the king of Ithaca. Homer's Odyssey tells the tale of his journey of 10 years and the adventures that he had as he tried to return Ithaca after the Trojan War.


message 3: by Monica (new)

Monica Davis Beautiful poem, Gill. Brings back memories; the monomyth of the hero's journey. Homer's The Odyssey was always a favorite of mine. I'm a native of Syracuse (not the one in Italy), and Ithaca is just "down the road a stretch", so when we read the epic poem as kids we would joke "What's the big deal with Ithaca?" [silly kids]. But as time ticks by, it's become more and more a reminder of home. As the poem states, Bear Ithaca always in your thoughts. Arriving there is the goal of your journey. (Or just a bit further to Syracuse.)

What would life be, if not for our adventures? Thanks for posting the poem, and the link to its author.


message 4: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ That is what it reminded me of too, Monica. Yes, too of returning home after a long trip or a move away. Loved the words and the sentiment. I was born in Syracuse and my nephew's wife teaches at Ithaca College. Beautiful area and school. Thanks Gil, loved this.


message 5: by Monica (new)

Monica Davis Diane S. wrote: "That is what it reminded me of too, Monica. Yes, too of returning home after a long trip or a move away. Loved the words and the sentiment. I was born in Syracuse and my nephew's wife teaches at It..."

Small world, Diane ;-)


message 6: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I love this poem. I first came across it a few years ago when I was rereading Homer's Odyssey. I also really like Cavafy's "Waiting for the Barbarians" which can be read here.


message 7: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments Leslie, I found it hard to choose between the two poems. I'm glad you've added it. Thanks!


message 8: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Gill wrote: "Leslie, I found it hard to choose between the two poems. I'm glad you've added it. Thanks!"

:) You're welcome, m'lady!


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Really lovely poem

I read it as a metaphor for life. The journey in the poem is the journey of your life. I particularly liked the first stanza.

"You will not encounter Laestrygones,
nor any Cyclopes, nor a furious Poseidon,
as long as you don’t carry them within you,
as long as your soul refuses to set them in your path"


I feel this is saying that the difficulties you encounter in your life are more present if you let negativity set in. I'm not sure I agree with it exactly but I like the way it's phrased.

I also like this section;

"Arriving there is the goal of your journey;
but take care not to travel too hastily.
Better to linger for years on your way;"


Again, I think this is a way to live life.

I could copy over pretty much the entire poem, I think it's wonderful. Thanks so much, Gill


message 10: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Thanks Gill for this poem. Cavafy is a lovely poet. I had wanted to share his poem once (An Old Man). But I opted for someone else at the end. It is nice seeing you sharing his poems.

for those interested in his poems, here is the link to most of his poems. Check the link: http://www.cavafy.com/poems/list.asp?...


message 11: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments Thanks for the link, Dhanarah. I'm going to have a look at the poem that you nearly chose!


message 12: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Gill wrote: "Thanks for the link, Dhanarah. I'm going to have a look at the poem that you nearly chose!"

Me too!


message 13: by Greg (last edited Jan 26, 2015 11:15PM) (new)

Greg | 7485 comments Mod
What a wonderful poem Gill! I've been reading a poem or two at a time from C.P. Cavafy: The Poems of the Canon because I've been savoring the book and don't want it to end.

I quite like Cavafy - not a trace of neurosis in this poem or in the others I've been reading. Just a gentle wit & wisdom that's a downright pleasure to read. Some poets are brilliant (and possibly disturbing) but not necessarily people I'd like to spend time with in person even if I could. Cavafy though, I feel like I'd enjoy sitting down to tea with him. It's a pleasure to spend time with him, even with his words in print! Not wrenching or even especially beautiful (for me anyway) but he's such an amazing pleasure to read, which is even better! Much better!

People have already commented on what the poem means, and everyone's spot on. Not much for me to add except my personal reaction to the "as long as you don't carry them within you" part - it drew out a wry chuckle. :) Often the most dangerous things (the monsters) come from within, from those things we can't let go, those things we cram down deep and carry with us.

Great choice Gill!


message 14: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11717 comments Mod
Can't believe I missed this until now, a great poem by someone I never heard of. Thanks for sharing Gill.


message 15: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Slowly starting to make my way through all the Monday poems of the weeks I've missed, and really happy to find this one Gill. It's a great poem and thanks for posting something by Cavafy, who I keep reminding myself to read more of. Dhanaraj, I will look up the poem you've mentioned!


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