Sean Connery Reads C.P. Cavafy’s Epic Poem “Ithaca,” Set to the Music of Vangelis

This video combines three things that make me happy: the voice of Sean Connery, the music of Vangelis (Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire), and the poetry of C.P. Cavafy. Put them all together and you get a blissful soundscape of rolling synth lines, rolling Scottish R’s, and a succession of Homeric images and anaphoric lines. And the video’s quite nice as well. Cavafy, whose work, I’m told, is really untranslatable from the original Greek, always seems to come out pretty well to me in English. “Ithaca,” one of his most popular poems, expresses what in lesser hands might be a banal sentiment akin to “it’s the journey, not the destination.” But in Cavafy’s poem, the journey is both Odysseus’s and ours; it’s epic where our lives seem small, and it translates our minor wanderings to the realm of mythic history.

Anyway, it seems rude to say much more and drown the poem in commentary. So, follow along with Sean Connery and enjoy… happy Friday.

Find the text of the poem after the jump.

ITHACA [1910, 1911]
As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laestrygonians and 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 sensation
touches your spirit and your body.
Laestrygonians and 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 that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into 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 learn again from those who know.

Keep Ithaca 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 that you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would have not set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.

 

Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.



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  1. Andrés says . . . | September 28, 2012 / 10:50 am

    Thank you.
    :)

  2. Annick Bor says . . . | September 28, 2012 / 3:20 pm

    What a pleasure to be transported by
    S Connery Scottish accent and talent together with Vangelis to mythical Attica. A privileged moment. Thk you

  3. Kostas says . . . | September 29, 2012 / 3:50 am

    One of the few things that can make a Greek like me to be proud of my country and my language.Thank you very much open culture.Greetings from captive Athens.

  4. Akbar says . . . | September 29, 2012 / 10:18 am

    It’s a shame the makers of this video failed to credit Ron Fricke’s Baraka as the source of the clips…

  5. Jonas says . . . | September 29, 2012 / 6:42 pm

    Agree with Akbar about using “Baraka”, a cinematic poem in its own right

  6. VM says . . . | September 30, 2012 / 1:03 am

    Nor has the translator of Cavafy’s poem been acknowledged. But, a pleasure to let Connery’s voice take over and still me for a few minutes. Thank you.

  7. DimitrisM says . . . | October 3, 2012 / 2:50 am

    Thank you. Just replaced Ithaka with my island’s name… So true for a returning traveler to his birthplace after 44 wondering years…

  8. grace says . . . | October 4, 2012 / 10:50 pm

    Your commentary is felicitous, and the video is beautiful. Connery’s voice is equal to the wisdom of Cavafy’s lines. Thanks for posting this.

  9. Floyd Hurt says . . . | May 22, 2013 / 12:05 pm

    Who was the translator of this poem? It is so very well done. I would like to see more of his/her work.

  10. Alex Coccalis says . . . | January 24, 2014 / 10:46 am

    As a Greek who spent his first 18 years of his life in Alexandria, I
    can only say that my eyes are full of tears. I am 83 years old, and my father had talked to me about him, because they knew each other. PRECIOUS

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