IthakaPosted: January 1, 2013
I read this poem at a New Year’s service at the First Unitarian Church in Oklahoma City in the early 1980s. I’ve always thought it appropriate as a New Year’s meditation, and have shared it here several times in the past. Here it is once again.
Happy New Year!
Ithaka by C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933) translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
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.
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.
First version probably writtem January 1894. Final version written October 1910, and published November 1911. Courtsey of Kyriacos Zygourakis, A.J. Hartsook Professor in Chemical Engineering, Rice University. This translation: C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems, Princeton University Press