We chose distinguished Greek poet C.P. Cavafy's poignant verses finely translated in English by Mike Keeley about the journey of life to lead us into 2023. 'As you set out for Ithaka, hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery'.
Photo Credit: ‘Dimitrios Shipwreck’ Gytheio © pygmalionkaratzas.com
Pygmalion Karatzas, artist, photographer and Fulbright alumnus
Works of his are included in the Art Supports Education – Fulbright Alumni Art Series.
By C. P. Cavafy
Translated by Edmund Keeley
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
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.
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 your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing 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 learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't 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’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
C. P. Cavafy, "The City" from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Translation Copyright © 1975, 1992 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.
Source: C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems (Princeton University Press, 1975)
Poet, novelist, professor, translator and a great friend of Greece, Edmund Leroy "Mike" Keeley was a three-time U.S. Fulbright award recipient to Greece and among the first Fulbrighters in 1948. Through all his work, Mike sought to change what the world thought of Greece. He was a Professor of English at Princeton University and a noted expert on the Greek poets C. P. Cavafy, George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis, and Yannis Ritsos, and on post-Second World War Greek history. Edmund Keeley sailed away in February 2022.
Read Keeley's essay on his Fulbright experience In Greece since 1948 p.14.