Monday, June 22, 2009

The Destination and the Journey

I love this following poem by C.P. Cavafy on prolonging the journey. Although the destination is inevitable, "destined" in fact, it is the road that gives the riches and wisdom of experiences; so, let's hope it is LONG road.

Ithaca

As you set out on the way to Ithaca
hope that the road is a long one,
filled with adventures, filled with discoveries.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
Poseidon in his anger: do not fear them,
you won't find such things on your way
so long as your thoughts remain lofty, and a choice
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
savage Poseidon; you won't encounter them
unless you stow them away inside 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 the finest wares:
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and heady perfumes of every kind:
as many heady perfumes as you can.
Many Egyptian cities may you visit
that you may learn, and go on learning, from their sages.

Always in your mind keep Ithaca.
To arrive there is your destiny.
But do not hurry your trip in any way.
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 you the beautiful journey;
without her you wouldn't have set upon the road.
But now she has nothing left to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca didn't deceive you.
As wise as you will have become, with so much experience,
you will understand, by then, these Ithacas; what they mean.


(trans. Daniel Mendelsohn)

2 comments:

jodi said...

I'm quote fond of Cavafy. I read "Ithaca" during a high school English class and it remains one of my favorite poems. Oddly, I was revisiting it myself a few days ago...

Jared said...

Nice! I really liked his work too. I've been enjoying this translation.