Ithaca Poem by Constantine P. Cavafy


Rating: 3.8

When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy -
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don't in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn't anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn't deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you'll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

M. Alan Shepherd 27 June 2009

I first read this poem in 1973 - home on leave from the Marine Corps. I had a copy of it with me from then on,18 months on Guam, then 19 months with the 2d Division. A lot older now, I am getting my MA in History in August - and the first line of the poem popped into my mind yesterday. This summer I am applying at several schools, hoping to attain my PhD. The poem fit my life when I was young, and fits now as I continue my journeys. mas

41 10 Reply
Ada Cachafeiro 31 January 2012

Better it last for years, so that when you reach the island you are old, rich with all you have gained on the way, These verses have brought light to my struggle of making sense of living a long life. It is like a parable of life. Ada

30 9 Reply
Dr M Relich 07 May 2021

Who is the translator, or translators. Surely it's important to identify translators of foreign; language poems?

0 0 Reply
flip floppers 03 October 2019

does anyone know when this poem takes place?

2 1 Reply
Douglas 11 September 2022

I think a main point of the poem is that it is timeless.

0 0
Athina Ioakimidou 30 October 2019

ItsI a symbolism of Odysseus' journey back home to Ithaca after the Trojan war, so it is timeless. It is supposed to symbolise life, with Ithaca being old age when you look back on your life, which is the journey there

1 0
Peggy Barry 15 March 2019

My husband passed last Saturday....he read me this beautiful poem when we first met. Married thirty three years death has parted us. To me the poem symbolizes life’s journey and our life together. He is now on Heaven’s shore basking in Eternity. See you in the Morning Darling.

6 0 Reply
Barbara 04 May 2019

I'm so sorry that you have been temporarily separated from your delightful and beloved travelling companion for this part of your journey. Walt Whitman has a sonnet called " When I heard at the close of day" which tells of a joyful reunion after a separation. I find it comforting.

2 0
Grace 16 July 2018

translator for this poem

0 0 Reply 04 June 2018

Who did this translation? Thank you for information

2 0 Reply
Error Success