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Featured Poem: ‘Ithaka’ by C.P.Cavafy

Written by Rachael Norris, 18th June 2021

For the rest of June our weekly Featured Poem will celebrate the month of Pride. We’ve chosen poems by LGBTQ+ authors that link with the meanings associated with the different colours of the Pride flag: red for ‘life’, orange for ‘healing’, yellow for ‘sunlight’, green for ‘nature’, blue for ‘art’, violet for ‘spirit’.

Today’s choice, ‘Ithaka’ by the Greek poet C.P.Cavafy, is an evocative, mysterious poem about the journey of life.

Ithaka

by C.P. Cavafy

Translated by Edmund Keeley

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, 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, 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 your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing 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 learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn't 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’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

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