And Now for a Little Serenity: Sean Connery Reads “Ithaca”

Posted on November 1, 2012


In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, perhaps we could all use a little serenity… some philosophical contemplation of life and how we approach its challenges.  Joan Larsen has kindly shared her appreciation of the 1911 poem “Ithaca,” by Constantine P. Cavafy, as read by Sean Connery (ah, what a voice!).  It seems pretty appropriate right now.

Best wishes to all those affected by the storm, especially the hardest-hit areas in New York and New Jersey.

Here’s the text of the poem.  The minor variations in language arise from the fact that it was originally written in Greek, and has been translated into English.


When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

Constantine P. Cavafy