Ithaca by C.P. Cavafy
When you set out on the journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
the raging Poseidon do not fear:
you’ll never find the likes of these on your way,
if lofty be your thoughts, if rare emotion
touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes.
the fierce Poseidon you’ll not encounter,
unless you carry them along within your soul,
unless your soul raises them before you.
Pray that the road be long;
that there be many a summer morning,
when with what delight, what joy,
you’ll enter into harbours yet unseen;
that you may stop at Phoenician emporia
and acquire all the fine wares,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
as many sensuous perfumes as you can;
that you may visit many an Egyptian city,
to learn and learn again from lettered men.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not rush the voyage in the least.
Better it last for many years;
and once you’re old, cast anchor on the isle,
rich with all you’ve gained along the way,
expecting not that Ithaca will give you wealth.
Ithaca gave you you the wondrous voyage;
without her you’d never have set out.
But she has nothing to give you any more.
If you then find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
As wise as you’ve become, with such experience, by now
you will have come to know what Ithacas really mean.
C.P. Cavafy, The Collected Poems, trans. Evangelos Sachperoglou, Oxford University Press, 2007.
In preparing for our Ithaca show at Pirate in Denver, CO, Monique Crine, Jillian Piccirilli, and I found this poem appropriate to thinking back on our time in Ithaca, NY, where we all attended Cornell University. In 2008 Crine earned her MFA, while Piccirilli and I earned our BFA.