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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Comments (34)
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  • Annick Bor says:

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

  • Kostas says:

    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.

  • Akbar says:

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

  • Jonas says:

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

  • VM says:

    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.

  • DimitrisM says:

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

  • grace says:

    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.

  • Alex Coccalis says:

    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

  • Irma Silvers says:

    Beau­ti­ful, sooth­ing Con­nery’s voice, but, “What is Itha­ka?? What does it Rep­re­sent???” As, beau­ti­ful and sooth­ing, as it appears“I Will Nev­er Allow Any­thing or Any­one to Take My Sav­ior’s Place, The LORD Jesus Christ and the Hope I Have in Him for Eter­ni­ty in Heav­en with Him, Jesus Christ my, LORD!!

  • Joanne says:

    Take what is yours

  • Bruce Rubin says:

    Thir­ty years ago, as I depart­ed col­lege in Cal­i­for­nia for work in New York, the (old­er) woman with whom I had my first seri­ous rela­tion­ship gave me this poem. Last month, my son left for col­lege, and I left him with this poem as I depart­ed, with the hope that it would res­onate for him as it has for me. I just for­ward­ed him this link!

  • Rosemary says:

    Love­ly to hear those mel­low tones.

  • Jason says:

    Thanks so much for post­ing. My father was from Greece and we had Itha­ka read both in Eng­lish & in Greek at his memo­r­i­al.

    Sean Con­nery does a pret­ty good job with it as well!


  • Peggy says:

    Nev­er have I been so moved and uplifted…thank you

  • P.L. Miller says:

    Was­n’t this read at Jack­ie Kennedy’s funer­al?

  • steven m bauer says:

    So much of this is so much hot air.

    Was relax­ing lis­ten­ing to your sto­ry.

  • John duvall says:


    Now that you have allowed your mind to relate, I fear that Itha­ca is where you remain now, have always been some­how. You have missed your jour­ney. Get out there and live your life. Stop look­ing at things. Be a part of events that gold­en the world so that you cre­ate a pri­vate lex­i­con of beau­ty from today’s jour­ney. Tell that jour­ney to some­one who knows you well. Watch as they cock an eye, lift a sleeve snd catch a tear. That is your Itha­ca. Please don’t wait for your funer­al to do this. Regrets,

    John Duvall
    Pho­to Cir­ca 1969

  • margaret moulin says:

    I am inter­est­ed in pur­chas­ing this CD — Please advise.….Also — can you advise me on how I can pur­chase the spe­cial box set which includes a 127 page hard-bound book of water­col­or art­work by Miche­line Roque­brune Con­nery and a spe­cial sin­gle track titled “Itha­ca” per­formed by Van­ge­lis Music with recita­tion of the Cavafy poem of the same name by Sean Connery.….Thank you for your atten­tion to my request..

  • jeffrey geez says:

    Dit­to-on your advice to Steven–

  • m,j, cronin. says:

    Thank you for this spir­i­tu­al uplift­ing.
    Cavafy’s works may be best read in the trans­la­tion by Mendel­sohn with the added bonus of the book, in its own right, being a thing of beau­ty.

  • m,j, cronin. says:

    i believe so, it may have some­thing to do with the fact that her hus­band was Greek.

  • Cindy Starks says:

    I believe it was. It’s also in a book of poet­ry that I believe Car­olind Kennedy put togeth­er that includes some of her moth­er’s favorite poems.

  • Marco Bettoni says:

    Hi Floyd,
    There are some trans­la­tions here:

    But none of them is exact­ly as that read by Sean Con­nery. I am still search­ing .…

  • Glenn Wing says:

    What a pow­er­ful read­ing by a man with whom I great­ly admire. Thank you for this.

  • Jeni Bonisch says:

    Yes, Itha­ka was read by her close com­pan­ion of many years, Mau­rice Tem­pels­man, to which he added his own adden­dum : “And now the jour­ney is over, too short, alas, too short,” Tem­pels­man said at the ser­vice. “It was filled with adven­ture and wis­dom, laugh­ter and love, gal­lantry and grace. So farewell, farewell.”

  • Lent says:

    Great evoca­tive poet­ry and won­der­ful­ly recit­ed by con­nery.
    Any idea who trans­lat­ed this ver­sion?

  • says:

    I,LL try.I don’t know if i,m strong enough.I don’t think I can con­tribute much.I hope the jour­ney car­ries me.Thanks

  • Innocent III says:

    When I awoke this morn­ing own jour­ney to Itha­ca, I nev­er expect­ed that I would encounter this delight­ful read­ing of Cavafy’s won­der­ful poem. It was like I’d arrived In a beau­ti­ful Egypt­ian city to learn from one who knew.

  • Bushra says:

    Can some­one answer plz “ what is the mes­sage the poem is con­vey­ing to the read­er?

  • Thaao Penghlis says:

    It’s about any­one on life“s jour­ney. He says not to obsess too much on the obsta­cles before you, to keep you from the rich­es that await you. If you don’t own them they can­not defeat you. The poet advis­es to enjoy all that comes your way. The final insight is the accep­tance of the life you have lived.
    From my book “Places”.
    I vis­it­ed his home in Alexan­dria 3 times.

  • christian says:

    does this por­tray a nation­al­ism theme ?

  • Helen says:

    Very good and enjoy­able.
    If you could tell me whose work this com­bo and whose is the trans­la­tion

  • william cervetti says:

    I came upon some ver­sions of Itha­ca on youtube, while look­ing up some­thing about a Greek actress I was infat­u­at­ed with as a teenag­er, hav­ing seen her in a movie with Van Heflin called The Wastrel. Ellie Lam­beti. Her nar­ra­tion with music by Mark Isham, I am hap­py to say, is the one peo­ple should be lis­ten­ing to. I came upon Con­nery’s ver­sion an hour lat­er, and found it very hard to lis­ten to, com­plete lack of finesse. The accom­pa­ny­ing video and imagery with Lambeti/Isham is also strik­ing and gor­geous. Lis­ten to the late Ellie Lambeti/

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