Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Ithaca by Constantine P. Cavafy

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.
I first read this poem when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died. It was said that her longtime love, Maurice Tempelsman, read it at her memorial. It makes me happy to think of her enjoying such voyages in her later life; she went through so many difficulties in her younger years.

This poem speaks to me of the great joys of traveling with my beloved. We love our journeys, even the little ones from our home to Canada.

We took these photographs on our journey through France and Italy, in the summer of 2009.
We didn't go to Ithaka.
For a slightly different - and beautiful - translation of this poem, look here.


Lakeland Jo said...

fabulous post and inspiring photos X

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is just beautiful; the words and your photos.
I agree with you on Jackie O, she deserved a beautiful stress free voyage after the life she lived.

Allegra Smith said...

This is one of my favorite poems since I was quite young for a very special reason. Konstantinos Kavafis was one of the poets we studied in the Liceum Classic and although you seldom see or hear much about his poetry around these days in this country, his influence in making me read Greek poetry was a gift I will always be grateful for. As I am grateful for the joy of knowing you and sharing this journey of beauty and hope we share.

Nothing compares with being able to hold the hand of the Beloved while on a journey, does it?.

karen gerstenberger said...

Ah, Allegra, Elizabeth and I were just discussing how we wish we had learned Greek (& Latin)! How blessed you were to study this poet, and I am guessing, in his original language. Is this a good translation? When I googled the poem, it appeared in both Greek and English.
Yes, to have a beloved's hand to hold is a great gift. And to have understanding friends is, as well. XO

Karla said...

That is really pretty and the photos make it. :)

Elizabeth said...

I love how you've entwined the verses with your beautiful photos. Poetry -- what would we do without it?

Kay said...

Beautiful pics and a beautiful poem as well. Love seeing pics of your travels. Looks like you were happy and having a wonderful time. : )

AnnDeO said...

Yes, I love the poem. It speaks about every step of the journey being the journey. Such happy pictures to accompany it.

deb said...

you bring me to sacred spaces in so many ways Karen.

karen gerstenberger said...

deb, thank you - you just made my day.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful - I love the way you have combined this with your own photographic poem. Is this the Stephen Mitchell translation?


karen gerstenberger said...

Irene, now I can't find the credit for this translation. The Sherrard/Mitchell one requires permission to re-post, so I just linked to it, but I like it very much, as well.

Tracey Axnick said...

This is lovely Karen... I really enjoyed reading it. And I really enjoyed the photos.

You always have such meaningful and beautiful stuff on your blog.

Here's a toast to the Voyage of Life we're all on... let's embrace the beauty and enjoy the journey.

Peace & Blessings to you!