Monday, December 26, 2011



when jackie onassis died in 1994 her then boyfriend, a jewish belgian businessman read ithaka a poem by the greek poet c p cavafy at her funeral service. i found this out from a nyt column published in our local nst. i don't understand poetry and never read any. always thought poetry is for women sissies homosexuals and cronically depressed people. i thank god that i'm none of the above. the only poetry that struck a chord with me until then was lewis carrol's nonsensical hunting of the snark . full of adventure and illogical fits and madness and nonsense, much like real life is. sometimes i do view life as a form of a hunting of the snark until i discovered ithaka thanks to that jewish belgian businessman final farewell to his partner.

reading ithaka for the first time makes me want to cry . how sublime how true and beautiful it is! and as the year 2011 has flitted by and comes to an end it's a fitting reminder to myself how true the poem ithaka is....


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.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

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