Can you please tell me the themes of the 1st and 3rd stanzas in the poem "Ithaca"?

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Susan Woodward eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Constantine Cavafy's poem "Ithaca", the first stanza invites the reader to rise to the challenges of life's journey.  The reader is instructed to "not fear The Lestrygonians/and the Cyclops and the angry Poseidon" (lines 4-5) because if he does not harbor negativity within the soul, then these influences cannot touch him.  The speaker encourages the reader that he will not have to face the evils of society if his "thoughts remain lofty" (line 7), and he will then life a life "full of adventure, full of knowledge" (line 3).   Through the poet's use of a classical allusion to Homer's The Odyssey, the message is one about living an upright life and finding Heaven (Ithaca) as a reward.

Stanza three encourages the reader to keep the goal of Ithaca (Heaven) in mind, but not to be in a big hurry to get there.  One could be reminded of the adage that life is about the journey, not the destination, and that "it is better to let it last for long years" (line 27).   In old age, the narrator advises the reader to spend time looking back on the all the riches that have been "fained on the way" (line 29).  Living a rich life of positive, pleasurable experiences is almost like Heaven on Earth, so one will not be "expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches" (line 30) in the afterlife.

clane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first stanza of the poem "Ithaca" by Constantinos Cavafys, the theme that the author is portraying is something like "carpe diem" or seize the day. He is telling us to live life without fear and good things will come. He wishes the traveler a long journey, "full of adventure, full of knowledge," which is a metaphor for life. He says that the traveler will not encounter the trials that Odysseus encountered, like Poseidon's wrath, the Cyclops, and the Lestrygonians.

In the second stanza is very much an extension of the theme in the first which is to make the most of life and the well-wishes that the life one leads be fulfilling and long.

The third stanza speaks then not of the journey itself, but of the destination- Ithaca. Ithaca here is used as a metaphor for Heaven or the after-life. The goal of the traveler should be to get to Ithaca, but not to rush to get there. The writer asks that the traveler revel in the moments of the journey rather than thinking constantly of the destination because thinking of it constantly will ruin the trip. He asks the traveler to, "anchor at the island when you are old" which means take your time and live, gain knowledge, revel in the beauty that life has to offer and Ithaca will be more spectacular when you get there.