Ithaca The Canon
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When you set out on your way to Ithaca
you should hope that your journey is a long one:
a journey full of adventure, full of knowing.
Have no fear of the Laestrygones, the Cyclopes,
the frothing Poseidon. No such impediments
will confound the progress of your journey
if your thoughts take wing, if your spirit and your
flesh are touched by singular sentiments.
You will not encounter Laestrygones,
nor any Cyclopes, nor a furious Poseidon,
as long as you don’t carry them within you,
as long as your soul refuses to set them in your path.
 
Hope that your journey is a long one.
Many will be the summer mornings
upon which, with boundless pleasure and joy,
you will find yourself entering new ports of call.
You will linger in Phoenician markets
so that you may acquire the finest goods:
mother of pearl, coral and amber, and ebony,
and every manner of arousing perfume ―
great quantities of arousing perfumes.
You will visit many an Egyptian city
to learn, and learn more, from those who know.
 
Bear Ithaca always in your thoughts.
Arriving there is the goal of your journey;
but take care not to travel too hastily.
Better to linger for years on your way;
better to reach the island’s shores in old age,
enriched by all you’ve obtained along the way.
Do not expect that Ithaca will reward you with wealth.
 
Ithaca bestowed upon you the marvelous journey:
if not for her you would never have set out.
But she has nothing left to impart to you.
 
If you find Ithaca wanting, it’s not that she’s deceived you.
That you have gained so much wisdom and experience
will have told you everything of what such Ithacas mean.

Translated by Stratis Haviaras

(C.P. Cavafy, The Canon. Translated from the Greek by Stratis Haviaras, Hermes Publishing, 2004)

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

- Translation by John Cavafy

- Translation by Daniel Mendelsohn

- Translation by George Valassopoulo