Monday, November 14, 2005
As you set out for Ithaka,
Hope your journey is long,
Full of adventure, full of awakening.
Do not fear the monsters of the old
You will not meet them in your travels
If your thoughts are exalted and remain high’
If authentic passions stirs your mind, body and spirit.
You will not encounter fearful monsters ,
If you don’t carry them within your soul,
If your soul doesn’t set them up in front of you..
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing 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 learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't 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'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
-Constantine Peter Cavafy
The first version of “Ithaka” was probably written in 1894. Cavafy revised the poem in 1910, and it was first published in 1911. The first English translation was published in 1924, and there have been a number of different translations since then.
Ithaka was the island home of the legendary Greek hero, Odysseus. After his involvement in the Trojan War, Odysseus spent ten years wandering. During these ten years he had adventures, underwent numerous tests of his courage and arrived home a different person.
The narrator, probably a man who traveled a lot addresses either Odysseus, the hero of homers epic poem the odyssey or the reader..
The word ‘Ithaka’ itself serves as a symbol for success, and is used as not only a place but as a sign of achievement and accomplishment.
This poem used to be read to travelers setting out on a long journey ...or as an elegy during funerals..
I wanted to share this poem cos I have found it consoling and reviving as I faced challenges both professional and personal in my life. Especially when I chose to take a road less traveled…
On retrospective analysis I have understood that the fears I had initially, never actually took place..And that my authentic thoughts and passions affected the outcome positively..
I find myself going back to this alluring poem again and again .. And it never fails to fill me with peace..
There is something deeply inspiring about this poem.. It tells us about the importance of having a sense of purpose…but that the pleasures on the way are more important.. That we must be attuned to beauty of each moment.. The pleasures of senses (perfumes) as well as that of the mind..(knowledge)
So now when facing challenges instead of focusing on my fears I have begun to ask the primary question
“What is my Ithaka..”?