A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, August 6, 2012

Joy in the Journey

One of my favorite poems from my senior year English class is "Ithaca" by K.P. Kavafis.  Here it is, in case you haven't read it:


When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.

Always keep Ithaca fixed 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 long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that 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 never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.

-K. P. Kavafis (C. P. Cavafy), translation by Rae Dalven

I like this poem because it reminds me to find joy in the journey.  I am a very destination-centric person.  If I have not arrived at my goal, I have failed.  Instead, I need to look more at what I have learned and enjoyed along the way.  Goals like Ithacas can be illusory and rob us of the many simple pleasures of travel through life.  Some days when I set sail on on the sea, I feel like repeating that old saying "O God, thy sea is so great,  and my boat is so small."  But I need to remember the beautiful vistas, the lovely people, and rich experiences that I gain by setting sail.

What do "Ithacas" mean to you?

Here's a funky random video of this poem read by Sean Connery himself (in a slightly different translation):


  1. I'd never heard that poem before, but I like it! I like how he says that having Ithaca in mind is a good thing, that it's better than wandering aimlessly, but as you point out it shouldn't be the focal point either.

  2. Thank you Diana. This is just what I needed to read today.