Collected Poems by C. P. Cavafy


I would like to highly recommend the latest revised editions of Cavafy’s Collected Poems – both the 1992 edition and the 2009 Bilingual Edition – as translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard, and edited by George Savidis.

The latter 2009 edition, in particular, offers both the original Greek version and the translated one into English. It is significant, ethical, and a most enlightening experience to see two distinct linguistic voices, that of the original text and the voice that translates and trans-creates, equally brought to the limelight. In this way not only a wonderful reciprocal flow between the two cultures is made possible, but also, vital space is offered to the multi-lingual readers themselves, enabling further translations / trans-creations and a broader understanding of the original text.

This revised edition of Cavafy’s Collected Poems promises to “capture the poet’s mixture of formal and idiomatic use of language and to preserve the immediacy of his frank treatment of homosexual themes, his brilliant re-creation of history, and his astute political ironies”.

Here is the translated version of one of Cavafy’s most memorable poems:

The Journey to Ithaka

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians 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 excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians 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 the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen 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 gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

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

C.P. Cavafy [Translated by Edmund Keeley / Philip Sherrard]


You can reserve a copy on South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

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