Custom Search

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage

I would like to follow up on Jelica's interesting post and share some thoughts of mine. Home, homecoming, nostalgia for home is something that is a part of my life. The intensity of feelings varies from persistent longing to a certain degree of detachment. At times I have felt a compulsive need to return, other times - I bathe pleasantly in relative rootlessness.

I was thinking today that home is mostly a reference point, a beginning and an end., the 0 of the coordinate system. To use the metaphor of the famous Cavafy poem Ithaca (and Jelica's photo) - it is the port we return to or will potentially return to. The boat may sail the oceans but wouldn't it be an endlessly lonely boat if there is no port to shelter it (not only in storm)?

It seems to me that there are different types of home-shelter. The most premordial one for me is the one offered by parents. Going back to my mother's place and to my father's grave is the ultimate return - there is nowhere I can go any further, it is the absolute zero. Losing the parents is losing the 0 and the beginning.

For me the place where I spent my childhood (coinciding with the above) is also the home. Like they sing in the song: Douce France, cher pays de mon enfence..... Je t'aime dan's la joie ou la douleur. There is no place in the world that can replace the town where I spent those endless childhood year. Everything is first then, that's the place where we build all smaller coordinate systems: first friends, first school, first books, first self-consciousness....That is why the attraction is so big.

A third type of home is the linguistic home. There is no need to explain that there is no language like our mother tongue because of the above two reasons. No matter how comfortable we feel in a language acquired later, childhood has not been spoken in it.

Of course, maybe the most important home in daily practical terms is where we live at a given moment and where our family and friends are. That's the home we return to after business trips and it is written in our ID cards.

My conclusion (for tonight) is that our link to home depends on several things:
- our relations to our parents (no matter where they are);
- our relation to the physical space where we spent our childhood;
- our relation to our mother tongue;

And here I would like to remind you of a famous poem which speaks of home and which I have remembered in times of strong nostalgia.


When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Delwyn said...

Hi Ruslan

how are you?
While I knew of Ithaca I don't think I have ever read this poem...I enjoyed its sentiments very much.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.

We could each ask of ourselves what our Ithaca represents...

We have a suburb called Ithaca in our capital city Brisbane...I wonder if the residents feel the way the poet does...

Happy days

Zhulieta said...

Since I live where Bulgarian is spoken, my nostalgia feelings are usually stirred by reminiscence of a dramatic love affair, the dead I used to love, and poetry in Bulgarian. Not necessarily Bulgarian poems though. For example, in order to fully enjoy the Ithaka poem which my father had read to me aloud before sleep at the time, I googled in Bulgarian. I cannot taste the words properly otherwise. Why I am writing this in English though? :))