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Ithaca: A Journey-Not a Destination

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Introduction

Ithaca: A Journey-Not a Destination The poem "Ithaca," by Constantine P. Cavafy expresses his outlook on life. Cavafy was born with Greek citizenship on April 17, 1863, in Alexandria, Egypt. After the death of Cavafy's father in 1870, his family moved to Liverpool, England. Cavafy developed a love for writing in England and indulged in the works of William Shakespeare, Robert Browning, and Oscar Wilde. After problems with the family business, the Cavafy family moved to Constantinople. It was there that Cavafy began his love affair with poetry. The first version of "Ithaca" was written in Greek in 1894. The first English translation was published in 1924, and there have been a number of different translations since then. Along the road in Cavafy's poetic life, he expressed many important themes dealing with his roots from Egypt and Greece. When Greece was under Turkish rule in the eighteenth century, Greek literature virtually disappeared. It was awakened following the Greek War of Independence in 1821-1827. As Greek national pride grew, there was a strong movement amongst writers to use the demotic or the ordinary form of the Greek language. Thus, the influence of this movement is seen in Cavafy's poem "Ithaca." ...read more.

Middle

As the poet states in stanza 3, without having an "Ithaca," a goal in mind, there would be no reason to embark on the journey of life. In addition, the poem prescribes that the reader must cultivate a certain habit of mind in order to enjoy the journey. The entire person-mind, body, and spirit-must fully understand that life is the process of living. Also, the traveler must keep his or her "thoughts raised high," which means that the mind must not give in to melancholy or disappointment. The literal level that Cavafy uses is easily accessible and gives the reader advice about life's journey. Figuratively, Cavafy puts all his advice in context by setting it against the background of the Odyssey, one of the greatest travel narratives. In Homer's epic poem, Odysseus always longs for home. He does not enjoy his long journey, which is full of perils and sensual delights. The difference between "Ithaca" and the Odyssey is the emphasis on what is important at the end. In "Ithaca," the journey is valued and the destination is dismissed as of little importance. ...read more.

Conclusion

Apart from the journey as a metaphor for human life, Cavafy uses little figurative language. Cavafy's main rhetorical device in the poem is repetition. In the first stanza, the poet repeats the names of the characters from the Odyssey-Laistrygonians, Cyclops, and Poseidon-in order to emphasize how they may be avoided. The repetition of "as long as" in line 7 of stanza 1 is echoed by the repetition of "unless" at the beginning of lines 11 and 12. The effect suggests that the traveler needs repeated reinforcement before they can understand the message of the poem. A similar effect is gained by the repetition of "sensual perfume" in the second stanza of lines 20 and 21. The use of the word "sensual" uncovers that fulfilment lies in the sensual experiences of the moment, and not the imagined future goal. The vernacular in "Ithaca" represents the accessibility of the advice that Cavafy wishes to convey. Cavafy wrote the poem "Ithaca," to tell the traveler that what is really important is not Ithaca, the island home that was the goal of Odysseus's years of wandering, but the journey itself. The journey must be enjoyed fully at every moment, using all of the senses and intellect, because the goal itself may be disappointing. ...read more.

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