“Ithaca”, a poem by C. P. Cavafy. This was Jackie Kennedy’s favorite poem. It was read at her memorial service.

House-museum of Cavafy, Alexandria courtesy of Roland Unger under CC BY-SA 3.0

“In these dark rooms I pass
such listless days, I wander up and down
looking for the windows – when a window opens
there will be some relief.
But there are no windows, or at least
I cannot find them. And perhaps it’s just as well.
Perhaps the light would prove another torment.
Who knows what new things it would reveal?
C.P. Cavafy, Windows  



When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

– Constantine P. Cavafy

Poems courtesy of Poem Hunter.

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to view this video of Sean Connery reading “Ithaca.”

Constantine Peter Cavafy (Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis) (1863 – 1933) was an Egyptian-Greek poet, journalist and civil servant. His singular style earned him a place among important figures in both Greek and Western poetry. Cavafy wrote 154 poems, most after he turned forty. His poems were officially published posthumously. You’ll find many of Cavafy’s poems online and there are several collections of complete poems and selected poems, unfinished poems, and an Oxford Word Classics edition with Greek and English side-by-side. The Onassis Foundation hosts a comprehensive site, The Poet, His Oeuvre and His Era, which is quite interesting. In 2014 Pen America hosted a celebration to honor Cavafy that includes readings by André Aciman, Michael Cunningham, Mark Doty, Olympia Dukakis, Craig Dykers (of Snøhetta), Edmund Keeley, Daniel Mendelsohn, Orhan Pamuk, Dimitris Papaioannou, and Kathleen Turner. Find it HERE.



ABOUT 

Jamie Dedes. I’m a Lebanese-American freelance writer, poet, content editor, blogger and the mother of a world-class actor and mother-in-law of a stellar writer/photographer. No grandchildren, but my grandkitty, Dahlia, rocks big time. I am hopelessly in love with nature and all her creatures. In another lifetime, I was a columnist, a publicist, and an associate editor to a regional employment publication. I’ve had to reinvent myself to accommodate scarred lungs, pulmonary hypertension, right-sided heart failure, connective tissue disease, and a rare managed but incurable blood cancer. The gift in this is time for my primary love: literature. I study/read/write from a comfy bed where I’ve carved out a busy life writing feature articles, short stories, and poetry and managing The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

This entry was posted in Poem/Poetry, poetry reading, Writers/Poets and tagged , , , , by Jamie Dedes. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jamie Dedes

I am a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage "The BeZine" thebezine.com and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights. Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

7 thoughts on ““Ithaca”, a poem by C. P. Cavafy. This was Jackie Kennedy’s favorite poem. It was read at her memorial service.

  1. I live in England. I just took a six day rail trip to France, Belgium, Germany & Austria. I want to go on some more trips this year. My mind is a nest of paranoiac thoughts though. I have to navigate my thoughts as much as any real life journey. CBT tells me to write down my worries and grade them with a percentage as to how likely they are to happen. I feel like the modern world is killing me. Ironic as I am blogging but I think the internet was a curse on humanity. I really wish I could find peace of mind but not sure I can. The worries continue…

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    • The Internet is a mixed thing. You are right. For me the solution is to limit my time on it and to make sure I take at least a couple of days off. I hope you find some reconciliation with these complicated issue.

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