Tuesday, July 19, 2011

As you set sail


by Constantine P Cavafy

When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
an angry Poseidon -- do not fear.
You will never find such on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, and your spirit
and body are touched by a fine emotion.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
a savage Poseidon you will not encounter,
if you do not carry them within your spirit,
if your spirit does not place them before you.
Wish for the road to be long.
Many the summer mornings to be which with
pleasure, with joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase the fine goods,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and exquisite perfumes of all sorts,
the most delicate fragances you can find,
to many Egyptian cities you must go,
to learn and learn from the cultivated.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better for it to last many years,
and when old to rest in the island,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to offer you wealth.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful journey.
Without her you would not have set out on the road.
Nothing more has she got to give you.
And if you find her threadbare, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean

I heard this poem read on the radio today, and it seemed like a good poem for a day of big changes and long journeys. I don't know if it was inspired by the Odyssey, but it struck me while listening to it that in Homer's epic, Odysseus is heading home for Ithaca after the Trojan war, yet it was at home in Ithaca that his journey began. So on a day of traveling and epic adventure, perhaps it is worth thinking that no matter how far we travel our adventures only bring us home again.

Bon voyage, dear ones! Sarah xoxox

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