Ithaka, by C. P. Kafavy

A poem about travel – or not.  Kafavy wrote this in Alexandria, where he was born, after returning from a brief exile in Constantinople.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage 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 harbors 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 marvelous 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.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Prothesis and ekfora

prothesis and ekfora

The visitation was grand
All about me, wailing,
Giving the glad hand to
Each long lost long ago.

I lay flat in the coffin, feet first,
You leading the parade,
Somber with relief at such endings.

You were angry when I squirmed,
All the same,
Unable to keep my straight-laced face

In spite of the

I shouldn’t have taken it all
So lightly.
I should have let the gray noon settle slowly
On my unbeating heart
Like distant longing.

But you have to admit
The element of absurdity:
Me, refusing to lie still,
You, beside yourself
With propriety.