Wednesday, December 19, 2007


"The means are everything, the end matters not, ever." My grandfather never tired of telling me that when we were growing up. I would come back from school and tell him all that we learnt that day. He would nod indulgently, and unfailingly ask, "So you learnt all that today, what did you understand?". In keeping with what he preached, Constantine Cavafy's Ithaka was one of his favorite poems.

Cavafy's Ithaka is exactly just that. Ithaka is your goal, and the road to Ithaka is the fulfillment of that goal. Once you reach Ithaka, Ithaka has nothing left to give you any more.


As you set out for Ithaka
hope the journey 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 harbours 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 marvellous 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.

-- Constantine Cavafy

1 comment:

Gaia said...

was a quiet evening and i spent it reading ithaka :) lovely poem...thanks for introducing me to it