Our life journey or Ithaca by Cavafy

Didn’t have much time to learn Greek today, had to give testimony at court about cyber crimes etc. But below is another poem by Cavafy in English and Greek, perhaps his most famous poem of all,  based on Homer’s Odyssey. It is called Ithaca or IthAki in Greek. If you don’t stress the A in IthAki no local will understand you…

What is your Ithaka or IthAki? How do meet the obstacles that you encounter on the way? Who are your Laistrygonians (cannibals that Odysseus and his sailors meet), Cyclops (a one eyed giant with lots of sheep who lives in a cave), and angry Poseidon (ancient Greek sea god who has a grudge against Odysseus)? Are they your spouse, neighbour, bank manager or boss?  Or are they attitudes within yourself? A tendency to lack confidence in your abilities, to be anxious or overly ambitious?

Do you believe you have a destiny to fulfil, a  great life purpose, an Ithaca, to reach  a stunning island (which was Odysseus home, rightful place, although it took him 10 years to reach it after the Trojan war)? Do you have a  life dream? A vision of how you can make a great contribution to humanity?

Do you believe life is about development or about the acquisition of material things? How have you developed as a human being on your journey through life? Have you developed at all?

Can you imagine achieving a state of genuine peace and happiness when you reach your personal goal, Ithaca? Can you imagine a day when you will feel abundance, ease, joy, the touch of immortality?

Think about your life as you read the poem by Cavafy. Can you relate the poem to your life? Or does its message seem alien to you? Or does it seem strangely familiar?



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.

And the original Greek.


Ιθάκη is IthAki, the accent being on the a.

Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη,
να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος,
γεμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμάτος γνώσεις.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον θυμωμένο Ποσειδώνα μη φοβάσαι,
τέτοια στον δρόμο σου ποτέ σου δεν θα βρεις,
αν μέν’ η σκέψις σου υψηλή, αν εκλεκτή
συγκίνησις το πνεύμα και το σώμα σου αγγίζει.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον άγριο Ποσειδώνα δεν θα συναντήσεις,
αν δεν τους κουβανείς μες στην ψυχή σου,
αν η ψυχή σου δεν τους στήνει εμπρός σου.

Να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.
Πολλά τα καλοκαιρινά πρωιά να είναι
που με τι ευχαρίστησι, με τι χαρά
θα μπαίνεις σε λιμένας πρωτοειδωμένους·
να σταματήσεις σ’ εμπορεία Φοινικικά,
και τες καλές πραγμάτειες ν’ αποκτήσεις,
σεντέφια και κοράλλια, κεχριμπάρια κ’ έβενους,
και ηδονικά μυρωδικά κάθε λογής,
όσο μπορείς πιο άφθονα ηδονικά μυρωδικά·
σε πόλεις Aιγυπτιακές πολλές να πας,
να μάθεις και να μάθεις απ’ τους σπουδασμένους.

Πάντα στον νου σου νάχεις την Ιθάκη.
Το φθάσιμον εκεί είν’ ο προορισμός σου.
Aλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξείδι διόλου.
Καλλίτερα χρόνια πολλά να διαρκέσει·
και γέρος πια ν’ αράξεις στο νησί,
πλούσιος με όσα κέρδισες στον δρόμο,
μη προσδοκώντας πλούτη να σε δώσει η Ιθάκη.

Η Ιθάκη σ’ έδωσε τ’ ωραίο ταξείδι.
Χωρίς αυτήν δεν θάβγαινες στον δρόμο.
Άλλα δεν έχει να σε δώσει πια.

Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε.
Έτσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα,
ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν.

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