Some poems are best read — or reread — later in life. A recent example for me is Cavafy's "Ithaka." Perhaps like me, others will find something in this poem that resonates with their own individual journeys.
by C.P. Cavafy
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 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 along 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.
For those wondering about the relevance of the header photo of a Painted Lady butterfly to Cavafy's "Ithaka," I can only say that both cause me to reflect deeply on the riches of our fleeting journeys through life. The Painted Lady has a lifespan of only two to four weeks, and I, of course, have been given many years. May we both make it to Ithaka eventually, learning and leaving something worthwhile along the way.
P.S. My friend, Teresa, has called my attention to a video on Youtube of Sean Connery reading Cavafy's "Ithaka," accompanied by music and images. I highly recommend it. For some reason, I have difficulty uploading workable links to Youtube. I found it, however, by just going to the Youtube site and searching "Sean Connery Ithaka." Enjoy.
Cavafy's poem, "Ithaka," translated from the Greek by Edmund Keeley and Phillip Sherrard