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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Global Greeks: Presenting Constantine Cavafy's Ithaka...Read by Sean Connery

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Since we mentioned Global Greek poet Constantine Cavafy in our previous post, and inspired by Heather T's Hail Cavafy comment on our Facebook Page,(see sidebar), we decided to share with our readers perhaps the most famous of his works, written in 1911 and translated by Edmund Keeley, another one of those special people whom we call, our honorary Greeks!


Ithaka


As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
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 your body.
 

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
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 on 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.

Listen to Sean Connery reciting Cavafy's Ithaca to the  wonderful music of Vangelis. Truly superb! (Thanks Ilia R, Sweden for pointing it out to us! )


Ιθάκη

Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη,

να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος,
γεμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμάτος γνώσεις.

Tους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον θυμωμένο Ποσειδώνα μη φοβάσαι,
τέτοια στον δρόμο σου 
ποτέ σου δεν θα βρεις,
αν μεν' η σκέψις σου υψηλή,
αν εκλεκτήσυγκίνησις το πνεύμα 
και το σώμα σου αγγίζει.

Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον άγριο Ποσειδώνα δεν θα συναντήσεις,
αν δεν τους κουβανείς μες στην ψυχή σου,
αν η ψυχή σου δεν τους στήνει εμπρός σου.

Να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.

Πολλά τα καλοκαιρινά πρωϊά να είναι που με
να σταματήσεις σ' εμπορεία Φοινικικά,
και τες καλές πραγμάτειες ν' αποκτήσεις,
και κοράλλια, κεχριμπάρια κ' έβενους,
και ηδονικά μυρωδικά κάθε λογής,
όσο μπορείς πιο άφθονα ηδονικά μυρωδικά,
σε πόλεις Αιγυπτιακές πολλές να πας,
να μάθεις και να μάθεις απ' τους σπουδασμένους.


Πάντα στον νου σου νάχεις την Ιθάκη.
Το φθάσιμον εκεί ειν' ο προορισμός σου.
Αλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξείδι διόλου.
Καλλίτερα χρόνια πολλά να διαρκέσει
και γέρος πια ν' αράξεις στο νησί,
πλούσιος με όσα κέρδισες στο δρόμο,
μη προσδοκώντας πλούτη να σε δώσει η Ιθάκη. 

Η Ιθάκη σ'έδωσε τ' ωραίο ταξείδι. 
Χωρίς αυτήν δεν θάβγαινες στον δρόμο.
Άλλα δεν έχει να σε δώσει πια. 
Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, 
η Ιθάκη δε σε γέλασε. 

Έτσι σοφός που έγινες, 
με τόση πείρα,
ήδη θα το κατάλαβες 
οι Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν.


We were going to restrict ourselves to just Ithaka, but we couldn't resist the temptation to add this earlier, 1904, poem of Cavafy's, Waiting For The Barbarians, simply because of it's timeless and oh so relevant commentary!


Waiting For The Barbarians


What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
The barbarians are due here today.
-Why isn't anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
What's the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they'll do the legislating.
-Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city's main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor's waiting to receive their leader.
He's even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.
-Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.
-Why don't our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and they're bored by rhetoric and public speaking.
-Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people's faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven't come.
And some of our men who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.
Now what's going to happen to us without barbarians?
These people were a kind of solution.



Constantine Cavafy was born in 1863 to Greek parents in Alexandria, Egypt. His father was a prosperous importer-exporter who had lived in England in earlier years and acquired British nationality. In 1870, following the death of his father, Cavafy and his family settled for a while in England. In 1876, his family faced financial problems following the crash, so, by 1877, they had to move back to Alexandria.

In 1882, disturbances in Alexandria caused the family to move again, though temporarily, to Constantinople. This was the year when a revolt broke out in Alexandria against the Anglo-French control of Egypt, thus precipitating the 1882 Anglo - Egyptian War. Alexandria was bombarded by a British fleet and the family apartment at Ramli was burned.

In 1885, Cavafy returned to Alexandria, where he lived for the rest of his life. His first job was as a journalist; then he took a position with the British-run Egyptian Ministry of Public Works for thirty years. (Egypt was a British protectorate until 1926.) His poetry from 1891 to 1904 was published in the form of broadsheets, and only for his close friends. Any acclaim he was to receive came mainly from within the Greek community of Alexandria. Eventually, in 1903, he was introduced to mainland-Greek literary circles through a favourable review by Xenopoulos. He received little recognition because his style differed markedly from the then-mainstream Greek poetry. It was only 20 years later, after the Greek defeat in the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), that a new generation of almost nihilist poets such as Karyotakis would find inspiration in Cavafy's work.
In a biographical note written by Cavafy himself, he states the following:
"I am from Constantinople by descent, but I was born in Alexandria—at a house on Seriph Street; I left very young, and spent much of my childhood in England. Subsequently I visited this country as an adult, but for a short period of time. I have also lived in France. During my adolescence I lived over two years in Constantinople. It has been many years since I last visited Greece. My last employment was as a clerk at a government office under the Ministry of Public Works of Egypt. I know English, French and a little Italian." ....
You can read more at Wikipedia


See also this excellent tribute site, http://cavafis.compupress.gr, to read more about our brilliant Alexandrino, or Alexandrian, poet as he is called in Greek, Constantine P Cavafy, his life and works.
 


1 comment:

  1. This wonderful poetry seems to have become popular recently as witnessed by its use in a TV car advertisement! I could hardly believe my ears when I heard the exquisite words of Ithaca (albeit in English translation)emerging from a SEAT car!

    (SEAT is a brand of Spanish car owned by German VW)

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