Ithaka, AP

When  I was to speak at the Orientation for new students a few weeks ago,  I was looking for something that would best describe what I wanted to convey…  I feel that all of us here at the University, are on voyages of our own. UoH is as much a port of call as it is a destination for many of us, and Constantine Cavafy’s poem ‘Ithaka’, struck me as the most appropriate.

The poem talks about a journey. It talks about striving for the destination, but also making the most of the journey – something all of us at the University should do.

And as it happens, I came across the poem only quite recently, so I decided to share it for those not familiar with it. There are many translations available, and this is one by Keeley and Sherrard that you can find on the  Cavafy Archive website.


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/Philip Sherrard (C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)


4 thoughts on “Ithaka, AP

  1. We all have set out on our journeys, but the paths we are now travelling to reach “Ithaka” are taking shapes without my will. I always tell my students, they have reached UoH, and from here they have to make new paths so that they can lead many in future to reach “Ithaka” with fulfulment, wisdom and reaches. I hope one day we all will understand our collective journey to “Ithaka”.

    Professor Atlury Murali,
    Department of History, University of Hyderabad

  2. This brought back a powerful memory. On the first day I attended Stanford University in 1984, President Donald Kennedy gave a speech to all new students that ended with the words,
    “Remember that life is not an enigma to be solved but a puzzle to be
    lived. Happiness lies not in the destination but the journey.”
    May the UoH students remember your words about individual voyages and not
    hurrying the journey!

  3. Indeed the journeys ‘leading-to’ and ‘originating-from’ this “Ithaka” have been quite fulfilling to whoever is set for these voyages. Both the journey and the time spent at this “Ithaka” have been quite gratifying and rewarding. Cruise along the path of expedition and enjoy the adventure and discovery!

    Prof. Prasad V. Bharatam (NIPER, Mohali)
    Alumnus (1985-90)

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