– 2018/110 – poetry Monday

I stumbled upon this poem yesterday whilst flicking through my phone on the way to Ed Sheeran’s concert;  I came across various articles on ‘The New Yorker’ about ‘fathers’ – it was father’s day after all – and I enjoyed one in particular, written by Daniel Mendelssohn, all about his late father and the cruise they went on together around the places described by Ulysses in his ten years journey back home to Ithaca after the war of Troy.  Mendelssohn is a writer and an expert in this field too.  Of course the article is about much more than than that journey to Greece they took in itself… it’s about life and mortality, and the  importance of experiences and living life to the full and not missing anything, and giving it all, and love too.

Anyway, at the end of the article he mentions this poem by Constantine Petrou Cavafy,  whom I’d never heard of before and who happens to be one of the greatest Greek poets of the 20th century.

I guess our ignorance will always be bigger than our knowledge…

Ithaca (by CP Cavafy)

As you set out on the way to Ithaca
hope that the road is a long one,
filled with adventures, filled with understanding.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
Poseidon in his anger: do not fear them,
you’ll never come across them on your way
as long as your mind stays aloft, and a choice
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
savage Poseidon; you’ll not encounter them
unless you carry them within your soul,
unless your soul sets them up before you.
 
Hope that the road is a long one.
Many may the summer mornings be
when—with what pleasure, with what joy—
you first put in to harbors new to your eyes;
may you stop at Phoenician trading posts
and there acquire fine goods:
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and heady perfumes of every kind:
as many heady perfumes as you can.
To many Egyptian cities may you go
so you may learn, and go on learning, from their sages.
 
Always keep Ithaca in your mind;
to reach her is your destiny.
But do not rush your journey in the least.
Better that it last for many years;
that you drop anchor at the island an old man,
rich with all you’ve gotten on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
 
Ithaca gave to you the beautiful journey;
without her you’d not have set upon the road.
But she has nothing left to give you any more.
 
And if you find her poor, Ithaca did not deceive you.
As wise as you’ll have become, with so much experience,
you’ll have understood, by then, what these Ithacas mean.

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