Ithaca

 

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca

pray that the road is long,

full of adventure, full of knowledge.

 

The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,

the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:

You will never find such as these on your path,

if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine

emotion touches your spirit and your body.

 

The Lestrigonians and the Cyclops,

the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,

if you do not carry them within your soul,

if your soul does not set them up before you.

 

Pray that the road is long.

That the summer mornings are many, when,

with such pleasure, with such joy 

you will enter ports seen for the first time;

 

stop at Phoenician markets,

and purchase fine merchandise,

mother-of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

and sensual perfumes of all kinds,

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

 

visit many Egyptian cities,

to learn and learn from scholars.

 

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.

To arrive there is your ultimate goal.

But do not hurry the voyage at all.

 

It is better to let it last for many years;

and to anchor in the island when you are old,

rich with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

 

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.

Without her you would have never set out on the road

She has nothing more to give you.

 

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.

Wise as you have become, with so much experience,

you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

 

                                                            Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

                                                            Translation by George Barbanis

 

Life is a journey, beginning at birth.

Everyone and everything that crosses our way – people, events, situations, experiences – are necessary for the development of our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual states of being.

Our purpose is to recognize our spiritual nature and evolve. Directing our journey outward, we empower our ego and all its aspects and attachments, materialistic inclinations, pride, fear, and doubt. We become one with such a world.

To evolve spiritually, we need to direct our journey inward, where we find our soul, recognize it as the divine part of us, and trust its wisdom. Then, we connect with love, life, and the Divine.

Appointing this soul as navigator, we can successfully sail through rough oceans and calm waters, ultimately becoming the spiritual beings we are meant to be.

Cavafy’s “Ithaca” has been one of my favorite poems since I first read it as a teenager.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the depth and wisdom contained in a few verses.

“Ithaca” is a treasure to hold dear to our hearts every moment of our life, whether we set out for small journeys and intermittent goals or we have in mind our last destination in this life.

A few summers ago in Greece, when I stumbled again on “Ithaca,” I believed it was a sign. It seemed the perfect “coincidence” to rethink this book, the perfect beginning, since both regard journeys.

“Ithaca” draws from a Greek poet, Constantine Cavafy, who grew up in Hellenistic Alexandria, influenced both by Greek themes of mythology as well as by the exotics of Egyptian bazaars.

Cavafy expresses truths and morals with great wisdom in “Ithaca.” An insightful allegory, his poem symbolizes the attainment of an objective man sets and shows at the same time the love of life and knowledge and man’s gain from his life experiences.

“Ithaca”, named after the destination Ionian island of Odysseus’ journey, invites us to explore, learn, and celebrate our own journeys. It reminds us that we are never alone. We will meet many people on our way with which we will share the joys and the pains of life.

“Your thoughts are your prayers,”

Cavafy seems to be saying.  He reminds us to take fear out of our life, and positively face head on whatever comes our way. Live each moment by being present, without letting thoughts or fears take over.

It is the journey itself toward “Ithaca” and the knowledge and experiences we acquire that are more important than reaching the destination. Only then will we have “lofty” encounters, only then will we enjoy and learn from our experiences, whether upright and satisfying or disobedient and contrite. Then, when we reach Ithaca, will we be wisely satisfied with life.

While the beautiful verses, phrases, and ideas of the original poem are executed wonderfully in this translation, being Greek, I hear the poem in its original language. Its words and rhythm play on my heartstrings the most wonderful and sublime music. 

 

 

About the Author

Katina Vaselopulos

Originally from Greece, Katina Vaselopulos and her husband, have made their home in Chicago for the past 47 years. Their four children and nine grandchildren offer countless adventures. Katina also enjoys cooking and baking, teaching and learning, reading and writing. Her soon-to-be-published book, Sailing Toward Ithaca, takes the reader on a journey through one year of her life. She invites the readers along, to sail through life’s journey open to all possibilities and to nurture relationships with self, others, and God by striving for self-knowledge and inner growth. Other projects include What Is Cooking in Niles, a cookbook of Greek cuisine, and a thesis, “Dostoyevsky’s Major Novels: Polemics against Liberal Thought,” for which she received high honors at Northeastern University of Illinois.

Comments

  1. Dear Katina! The poem is truly beautiful. I surrender my heart completely to it and the depth of his thoughta. I am very glad you choose it as a theme for your own story. I so much look forward to reading your book!

    • Thank you Lotta for visiting and always sharing your sensitive and wonderful thoughts.

      I am so glad you liked the poem! It has been my favorite since I was a young girl. Had you ever read it before? Not many non-Greek people have heard of Kavafy and this poem, but everyone who reads it appreciates the wisdom hidden in it.
      Love and blessing!

  2. Inspirational.
    Beautiful!

  3. Bessie

    I fear nothing and always seek new adventures. Everyone one day will die but we all do not live… I am truly inspired by this .

    • O Bessie, thank you for visiting. Love your comment!
      I am so glad you liked Kavafy’s Ithaca. Trully inspiring.

      It seems to me that you live by those words…thinking of life as an adventure which you take on fearless. I always admired that in you.

      Enjoy your journey while you wise up to what is important in life!

  4. This is one of my favorite poems, which always inspires and energizes me to keep pursuing my dreams. Plus, I always find Cavafy’s words a gentle reminder on how to live and enjoy each day.
    I love what you write “Appointing this soul as navigator.” and “Your thoughts are your prayers.”
    Thank you. Your words are very special for me this morning.
    Many blessings and light to you!
    Keri

    • How wonderful, Keri, that you took time out of your busy schedule to come over to my place!

      I am grateful and honored for your support and encouragement. Always inspired by you! Your words mean a great deal to me, especially now that I had the opportunity to know you better through the wonderful Greek Dinner event you so successfully organized.

      I am not surprized at all that Cavafy’s Ithaca means so much to you. Not only your amazing post but also your journey, of which I am blessed to be a part, show your philosophy and outlook on life. Your vision for a better world, as I see it shining through your actions and words, resonates with mine. Living a life of virtue and values, inspiring others to grow and share, definitely speaks of your mission to contribute to a better world.

      This poem which inspired me all my life, also inspired my own Sailing to Ithaca. Even though I haven’t made revolutionary changes world-wise, I have the same vision and live my life every day in a way that makes a difference, no matter how small. I am not very logical and don’t always completely trust the motives of my mind. I usually live by intuition, allowing my heart to navigate me through life.

      Wishing you all the blessings form Above, always!

      Katina

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Katina! Actually, I have been looking for a reliable translation of Cavafy’s work and would appreciate it if you could direct me towards them in the future as well.

    • Thank you Chris for coming over! There are a few translations online, but I wanted to do my own using some of my book’s keywords. You can use mine any tine you want. Include my name, only because I don’t want to have problems while publishing. You can get notifications of my posts by subscribing. Don’t have any free stuff right now to give away. I would love to have you share your insight with my few readers.
      Blessings and light in all you do!

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