Poem of the Week: Pray that the road is long


Sunrise at Scala, Kefalonia
Bombdog ‘s flickr stream

“but low-lying Ithaca is farthest out to sea,
towards the sunset, and the others are apart, towards the dawn and sun.”

-Homer, Odyssey

Constantine Cavafy

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

Via Moon River

The Greek island of Kefalonia is thought to be Homer’s Ithaca

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3 Responses to Poem of the Week: Pray that the road is long

  1. Sunil says:

    Beautiful poem. Took me to a faraway place. Reminded me to enjoy the journey. Reminded me of Zen and the art of… Reminded me of many things unfulfilled and a life left to pursue them. Nice poem and I really enjoyed it.

  2. mdvlist says:

    For a variety of vague, imbrecated reasons, that poem makes me want to finish my dissertation. Maybe when I am old, rich with all that I have gained on the way . . . .

  3. cicada says:

    Sunil – I think we probably felt the same way about it. It’s a peaceful but somehow sad poem. But then you remember, your journey’s not done! So much time left – never enough, but maybe enough. . . ?

    mdvlist – you used a word I don’t know! It tickles me absolutely pink when someone does that! Thank you!!! But I will absolutely NOT be responsible for prompting you to finish your dissertation. If you do it, you do it at your own overeducated risk.

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