Constantine P. Cavafy
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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.
flip floppers 03 October 2019
does anyone know when this poem takes place?
1 1 Reply
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
0 0 Reply
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.
3 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.
1 0 Reply
Grace 16 July 2018
translator for this poem
0 0 Reply 04 June 2018
Who did this translation? Thank you for information
1 0 Reply
Florence Kw 31 March 2013
my very dear friend Michael Health sent me this beautiful poem on 23/2/2013 by saying thanking me for an important part of his journey to ithaca. i dont understand what does this poem mean. he ended up his poem by saying yet, you are small but an important part of my life to the journey to Ithaca... thanks for that... love always... Michael. after which i never receive his emails even since this poem. i dont really dont know what does he mean by sending this poem to me. if i am an important part of his journey of ithaca, why he is leaving me behind.... i am so hurt..... without him walking with me in this journey, it's so meaningless.... i love him so much.... i miss him a lot... whenever i look back our email conversations, i just cant stop crying... can someone tell me what does that mean? ? ? ?
23 10 Reply
Suresh G 12 June 2015
Dear Florence, The meaning is indeed rightly paraphrased by Cypriot Soul. In addition, specific to the Michael matter, I would believe the temporary stoppage of emails has nothing to do with you. Each of us do go through our ups and downs and have our own internal reasons to withdraw every once in a while. The other interpretation of Ithaca I believe is that we should find our inner peace and calm rather than allow external situations to define our happiness. I wish you, Florence, happiness and peace in your journey
0 0 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
29 8 Reply
Athul Vishnu 15 December 2011
beautiful poem I first read it in meaningful!
26 9 Reply
Artemis Anderson 06 July 2010
I read this poem for the first time about four months ago. At the time, I was taking an exam and I was nervous to the ends of the Earth. I got halfway through the poem before I was thoroughly lost while the clock on the wall was steadily ticking away, counting down the seconds until my one shot of highest-level-English-class was over. So I sat there, feeling like an idiot for the better part of 10 minutes before I decided that Ithaca was symbolism for life's journey. After going back and reading this poem again, I've decided that I love it!
25 10 Reply
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
34 9 Reply
Mia Shannon 18 November 2008
Beautifu... I remember first hearing this poem being recited at Jacqueline Kennedy's funeral.
31 6 Reply

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