25 July 2011

to be, rather than to seem*

Ithaka~ C.P. Cavafy
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and 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 and 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 the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen 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 gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not 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 will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


 * the state motto & seal of North Carolina



  1. She embodied those words.
    And weren't they read at her funeral?

  2. fyi:

    Michael Cacoyannis, died July 25, aged 89,

  3. Pamela, Yes.
    Bruce-how strange-I have had this on my mind for a number of reasons-and this picture of her-and the motto of my state-and so it is. pgt

  4. The photos make me melancholy, yet happy for her. Thanks. Mary

  5. I hope you heard Maurice Tempelsman read this that day. I had the feeling it could have done a world of good; I was wrong. But I still hope so.

  6. She was an original, such a loss.

  7. Hello, This post made me a follower of your blog. Thank you for reminding me of this Cavafy poem.As someone interested in education, I love the attitude inherent here. "Ithaka" underlines the irony that college students can’t always appreciate what is available to them. This conundrum reminds me of the old bon mot that Youth is wasted on the Young.



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