Sean Connery (RIP) 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 (who passed away today), 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.

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.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2012.

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (9)
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  • Helena Lyman says:

    No won­der Jack­ie Onas­sis request­ed this poem to be read at her funer­al. Even more won­drous read by Sean Con­nery ! Thank you for this !

  • Bridget Leonard says:

    Beau­ti­ful mys­te­ri­ous and pro­found. Read by Sean Con­nery
    Who else. This voice with debth com­ing from a deep place.
    May he rest in peace hav­ing found his Itha­ca.

  • Margaret T. Newman says:

    A love­ly work.

    Thanks for post­ing it.

    Thanks for the styl­ish ele­gant swift act­ing from Sean Con­nery.
    Some of the best dates watch­ing his James Bond movies

    Thanks.RIP Sean Con­nery


  • Ana says:

    Her­moso poe­ma her­mosa voz..Descansa en Paz.Jean.Coneri.inmortal

  • Jonathan weightman says:

    Enjoy all this jour­ney has on offer; taste its joys and its mon­sters. Take your time. It’s the jour­ney that mat­ters. Per­haps get old in accom­plish­ing this jour­ney. Don’t expect much of Ith­i­ca. It is what it is. Don’t have expec­ta­tions or fears but be open to every­thing on the journey.Eat good things; buy gor­geous things.Indulge and see.

  • lorna Goodison says:

    Won­der­ful. Just won­der­ful. Thank you for this.

  • Richard Scutter says:

    I like the trans­la­tion — is it by Edmund Kee­ley? … oh yes, to put our soul into life to find joy … even in the lit­tle banal things

  • Steve Chase says:

    Good bye Sir Sean with you we have been found amazed hap­py & enter­tained. We always lived for your next expe­ri­ence. Bless you love you will watch your movies with joy.

  • Margaret Moulin says:

    Is there a CD track I can pur­chase — Itha­ca C.P. Cavafy. Recita­tion by Sean Con­nery. ?Thank you for your atten­tion to my request

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