Homeward Bound

With the assistance of the tireless Laudator:

C.P. Cavafy, Ithaca (tr. George Valassopoulo):

    When you start on the way to Ithaca,
    Wish that the way be long,
    full of adventure, full of knowledge.
    The Laestrygones and the Cyclopes
    and angry Poseidon, do not fear:
    such, on your way, you shall never meet
    if your thoughts are lofty, if a noble
    emotion touch your mind, your body.
    The Laestrygones and the Cyclopes
    and angry Poseidon you shall not meet
    if you carry them not in your soul,
    if your soul sets them not up before you.

    Wish that the way be long,
    that on many summer mornings,
    with great pleasure, great delight,
    you enter harbours for the first time seen;
    that you stop at Phoenician marts,
    and procure the goodly merchandise,
    mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
    and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
    plenty of sensual perfumes especially;
    to wend your way to many Egyptian cities,
    to learn and yet to learn from the wise.

    Ever keep Ithaca in your mind,
    your return thither is your goal.
    But do not hasten at all your voyage,
    better that it last for many years;
    And full of years at length you anchor at your isle
    rich with all that you gained on the way;
    do not expect Ithaca to give you riches.

    Ithaca gave you your fair voyage.
    Without her you would not have ventured on the way.
    But she has no more to give you.

    And if you find Ithaca a poor place,
        she has not mocked you.
    You have become so wise, so full of experience
    that you should understand already what
        these Ithacas mean.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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One Comment

  1. gregor says:

    “But do not hasten at all your voyage,
    better that it last for many years;”

    And what of Penelope and Telemachus?

    It is an aesthetically beautiful poem but so ugly in content, in that it glorifies a disordered love of things over people. Our culture is such a minefield of bad ideas.

    In general, the “praiser of time past” is doing great work, but not all things old are praiseworthy.

    The poem’s author seems like a real gem.
    (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_P._Cavafy)
    The money quote is “a new generation of almost nihilist poets would find inspiration in Cavafy’s work.”

    In honor of the author, I add a more honest ending to his poem…

    Ever keep Penelope out of your mind,
    and consider not the agony of your son.
    For what are the bonds of marriage or blood
    but a flicker of light on the wine dark sea
    passing once and nevermore
    swallowed unmarked by eternal night

    p.s. Father Z – no criticism intended for your post. These works of art need to be remember AND criticized. They shed a lot of light on the 20th century.

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