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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