Sunday, 1 July 2012

Day 10: Ithaka

A classic poem for a Sunday. Homer's Odyssey is one of the most influential narratives ever. And this poem by Greek poet, C.P Cavafy takes the island of Ithaka and extends it into a parable about life.
Ithaka is a metaphor for the promised land, the destination that we all keep in our hearts and navigate towards, our dreams, our ideals, our pursuit of happiness and journey of life. The poem chronicles the journey there - the perils and possibilities. Its metaphorical structure is a magnificent meditation on life. A great example of poetry as a compass guide, a steering North star, a telling of an essential wisdom.
And the joy of this kind of poem is you can take from it what you will.  Let it be your guide, your philosophy, your strength, your rock when all around you is a heaving sea of uncertainty.

Ithaka - Constantine P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and 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 and 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 the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen 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 gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not 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 will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

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