Ithaka, a poem written circa 1894 by Egypt-born Greek poet C.P. (Constantine Peter) Cavafy, is based on Homer's ancient Greek epic The Odyssey.
In this straightforward, conversational, and deceptively simple poem, Cavafy uses Odysseus's return home to Ithaca after the Trojan War to symbolize any objective or goal which we, as readers might choose to pursue or undertake. He uses the city of Ithaca itself as a metaphor for our goal, whatever that might be, and for our ultimate purpose in life.
Ithaka is written in the second person, and Cavafry addresses the reader throughout in the second-person subject or object pronoun "you" (and the second-person possessive pronoun "your"). With these pronouns, Cavafry could be addressing Odysseus himself or, more likely, the modern reader, either individually (in the singular) or collectively (in the plural).
Cavafry uses the third-person plural object pronoun "them" to refer to the tribe of Laistrygonians, the Cyclops, and Poseidon. He also uses this pronoun to represent challenges and obstacles that we (or Odysseus) might encounter in our journey, or in life.
Cavafry's advice is as follows:
—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.
Cavafry uses the third-person plural possessive pronoun "their" to refer to the "scholars" whom the reader might encounter and learn from in cities along their journey.
Interestingly, Cavafry refers to Ithaca in the fourth and fifth stanzas, using the third-person subject pronoun "she" and the third-person possessive adjective and third-person object pronoun "her."
Cavafry reminds the reader not to focus entirely on the goal, but to enjoy and learn from the journey on the way to that goal.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. (Translation from the Greek by Edmund Keeley.)