Can somebody explain "Ithaka" stanza by stanza?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In "Ithaka," the poet speaks directly to someone who is about to begin a long journey to Ithaka, one of the Greek isles. He offers the traveler both advice and good wishes and warns of possible dangers along the way. 

In the first stanza, the poet speaks of the journey being both long and full of excitement. He warns against the dangers that might befall the traveler, and explains that these dangers can be avoided by loving life and remaining adventurous.

The second stanza repeats his hope that the traveler's journey will be long. Then he talks about the wonderful cities that lie along the way where the traveler can buy beautiful and precious goods and can learn a great deal.

In the third stanza, the poet offers this advice to the traveler: Do not forget Ithaka, your destination, but do hurry your journey; your journey should last for many, many years.

The last stanza, the poet tells the traveler that if he is should be disappointed by Ithaka when he finally arrives, he should not be distressed because he will have gained so much in wisdom and experience on his journey. The journey, then, is more important than the final destination.

"Ithaka" can be interpreted as concerning the journey Odysseus made when he sailed to that island after the Trojan War. The references to the Cyclops and the Laistrygonians are both allusions to Odysseus' dangerous adventures. However, the journey to a place called "Ithaka" can be symbolic of anyone's journey through life. When interpreted this way, the poem expresses great wisdom about how one should live along the way to old age.

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itstheteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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C. P. Cavafy’s Poem “Ithaka” is based on the myth of Odysseus, a Greek hero who spent ten years trying to find his home after fighting in the Trojan War. Though his journey was difficult and he was often desperately home sick, the narrator of this poem seems to be urging him to embrace the experience and be grateful for everything he has gained from it.

The first stanza urges Odysseus to “hope the voyage is a long one,” and to bring his antagonists “along inside your soul.” The second stanza mentions all the “fine things” the hero can buy in the harbors along the way, while the third stanza cautions against hurrying the journey and hoping to find success at home. The fourth stanza states that Ithaka has “nothing left to give you now, ” despite Odysseus’ longing for home. The final stanza concludes by seeming to ensure Odysseus, or anyone who has had to undertake a difficult journey toward a desired goal, that the most worthy goal is to learn from experience.

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