Saturday, September 17, 2011


As many of us know, Homer wrote the mythical epic poem of "Odyssey" a  hero returning to his place of birth, Ithaca. One of the most beloved writings in the world of Literature. 

It was the Greek Poet, Konstantinos Kavafis, who is considered to be one of the greatest Greek poets of Greece who gave life to Homer's work for our lifetime as we live life today. He wrote "Ithaca" in 1911. Ithaca is his most beloved poem and what Kavafis is most known for.

Having lived the life of a Greek for many years in Greece and in the US, I feel I recognize the philosophy of the Greek people through this poem. "Zorba the Greek" gave a hint of the Greek's way of life. This poem, however, really sets the stage for what life can be all about if we set our sights  and create our goals in life.  Here is my interpretation of the poem:

Ithaca may be an Island in the Ionian Sea but it is rather symbolic in one reaching his goals in life from birth to his end. It is a journey of one's life. Ithaca symbolizes the end of the journey. It is a journey of self awareness. This has been my Mantra now since my awakening about 4 years ago.  From my "care2" profile page,  my introduction is:

" To know myself and strive to be a better person"

This poem is about the trials and tribulations one may experience in his journey of life.  There are also so called difficulties that one creates in his mind and then overcoming them.  In this journey there are no demons except for what man has brought with him in his mind.  Becoming aware of them and ridding yourself of them is part of the journey.  Conquering these challenges is an achievement which keeps one alive in spirit.  Ithaca represents the final destination of our being.  We learn and acquire treasures during our travels.  We can pray our journey may be a long one, full of incredible experiences.  Not achieving all of our goals does not mean we have failed as Ithaca will still be there at the end of our journey.  Ithaca is an opportunity, but as many wise persons have said, It is not the destination that matters.  It is the journey.

Here is a beautiful video with Sean Connery narrating the poem with incredible visuals: 

Here are the words to the poem in both English and Greek:

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.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη,
να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος,
γεμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμάτος γνώσεις.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον θυμωμένο Ποσειδώνα μη φοβάσαι,
τέτοια στον δρόμο σου ποτέ σου δεν θα βρείς,
αν μέν' η σκέψις σου υψηλή, αν εκλεκτή
συγκίνησις το πνεύμα και το σώμα σου αγγίζει.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον άγριο Ποσειδώνα δεν θα συναντήσεις,
αν δεν τους κουβανείς μες στην ψυχή σου,
αν η ψυχή σου δεν τους στήνει εμπρός σου.

Να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.
Πολλά τα καλοκαιρινά πρωϊά να είναι
που με τι ευχαρίστησι, με τι χαρά
θα μπαίνεις σε λιμένας πρωτοειδωμένους·
να σταματήσεις σ' εμπορεία Φοινικικά,
και τες καλές πραγμάτειες ν' αποκτήσεις,
σεντέφια και κοράλλια, κεχριμπάρια κ' έβενους,
και ηδονικά μυρωδικά κάθε λογής,
όσο μπορείς πιο άφθονα ηδονικά μυρωδικά·
σε πόλεις Αιγυπτιακές πολλές να πας,
να μάθεις και να μάθεις απ' τους σπουδασμένους.

Πάντα στον νου σου νάχεις την Ιθάκη.

Το φθάσιμον εκεί είν' ο προορισμός σου.
Αλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξίδι διόλου.
Καλλίτερα χρόνια πολλά να διαρκέσει·
και γέρος πια ν' αράξεις στο νησί,
πλούσιος με όσα κέρδισες στον δρόμο,
μη προσδοκώντας πλούτη να σε δώσει η Ιθάκη.

Η Ιθάκη σ' έδωσε το ωραίο ταξίδι.
Χωρίς αυτήν δεν θάβγαινες στον δρόμο.
Αλλο δεν έχει να σε δώσει πια.

Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε.
Ετσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα,
ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν.
Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης (1911)

May your journey be full of peace and light with treasures for the soul!


  1. Dear Stephen once again you made my heart fill with joy since I love Kavafis and the deep meaning of his lines. Ithaca is a very very symbolic poem not only for me but for all Greeks, which use to say "everything for the journey".
    I would add everything for the seek of our very own Ithaca, which reveals at the end of the trip our cosmic destiny and wisdom.
    Love Athanassia

  2. Ahh Athanassia, I would like to refer to you as a fellow Greek!

    Thank you so much for your reflection on this beautiful and deep passion for life found in this poem!

    Erini kai Pathos yia tin Zoe sou!