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ITHACA
by Constantin Cavafy



Part of
Readings

Constantin Cavafy is considered as one of the finest modern Greek poets. His poetry is taught at schools in Greece and across universities around the world. "Ithaca" is one of his best poem.
To know more about him and his work, click here (wikipedia, English) or here (wikipedia, français).

 Ithaca  Ithaque
 
When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
an angry Poseidon -- do not fear.
You will never find such on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, and your spirit
and body are touched by a fine emotion.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
a savage Poseidon you will not encounter,
if you do not carry them within your spirit,
if your spirit does not place them before you.


Wish for the road to be long.
Many the summer mornings to be
which with pleasure, with joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase the fine goods,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and exquisite perfumes of all sorts,
the most delicate fragances you can find,
to many Egyptian cities you must go,
to learn and learn from the scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better for it to last many years,
and when old to rest in the island,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to offer you wealth.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful journey.
Without her you would not have set out on the road.
Nothing more has she got to give you.

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

Quand tu prendras le chemin vers Ithaque
souhaite que le chemin soit long,
qu’il soit plein d’aventures et plein d’enseignements.
Ne crains ni les Lestrygons,
ni les Cyclopes, ni la colère de Neptune.
Tu ne verras rien de pareil sur ta route
si tes pensées restent hautes,
si ton corps et ton âme
ne se laissent effleurer que par des émotions sans bassesse.
Tu ne rencontreras ni les Lestrygons,
ni les Cyclopes, ni le farouche Neptune,
si tu ne les portes pas en toi-même,
si ton coeur ne les dresse pas devant toi.

Souhaite que le chemin soit long,
que nombreux soient les matins d'été où
avec quelle ferveur et quelle délectation
tu aborderas à des ports inconnus !
Arrête-toi aux comptoirs phéniciens
et acquiers-y de belles marchandises :
Nacre, corail, ambre et ébène,
et toutes sortes d'entêtants parfums
- le plus possible d'entêtants parfums.
Visite aussi de nombreuses cités égyptiennes,
et instruits-toi avidement auprès de leurs sages.

Garde sans cesse Ithaque présente à ton esprit.
Ton but final est d'y parvenir,
mais n'écourte pas ton voyage :
mieux vaut qu'il dure de longues années
et que tu abordes enfin dans ton île aux jours de ta vieillesse,
riche de tous les gains de ton périple.
Tu n’auras plus besoin qu’Ithaque t’enrichisse.

Ithaque t'a accordé le beau voyage : sans elle, tu ne serais jamais parti.
Elle n'a rien d'autre à te donner.

Et si pauvre qu’elle te paraisse,
Ithaque ne t'aura pas trompé.
Sage comme tu l’es devenu après un tel voyage
Tu auras finalement compris ce que signifient les Ithaques.

Thre are many translations (both in English and French) of this poem.
If you want to compare them, I recommend you this page (in English) and this one (en français, les liens sont en bas de page).

You can watch the original poem sung in Greek here (it's worth the effort) :




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