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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: 5
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, Cyclops, 10
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, 15
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, 20
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. 25
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, 30
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 35
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas
A Greek isle in the Ionian Sea; in Greek mythology, the home of Odysseus. The Odyssey recounts his long, dangerous journey to return to Ithaka (or Ithaca) after the Trojan War. In the context of the poem, Ithaka is a metaphor that can be interpreted in numerous ways.
An allusion to the giant cannibals featured in The Odyssey. Odysseus encounters them on his journey home.
An allusion to the fearful giant with a single eye that captured Odysseus and his men; Odysseus blinded the Cyclops in order to escape.
In Greek myth, the God of the Sea; in context, a third allusion to The Odyssey. The Cyclops, Polyphemus, is the son of Poseidon. After blinding Polyphemus, Odysseus foolishly identifies himself. Poseidon takes revenge, punishing Odysseus for blinding his son.
A reference to the ancient civilization of Phoenicia; Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean were busy centers of maritime commerce.
Creations of nature valued for their beauty and used since ancient times in making jewelry and objects of art.
Mother of pearl is the iridescent outer coating found on pearls; it is also a shiny, shell-like material formed by some mollusks.
Coral, harvested from coral reefs, is noted for its variety of colors.
Fossilized tree resin, amber can be polished into beautiful gemstones.
Ebony is a black wood with a fine texture polished to create a smooth finish.
Related to physical pleasure derived from the senses, especially sexual pleasure.