An Inspiring Poem for Late Bloomers: Sean Connery Reads “Ithaca”

An Inspiring Poem for Late Bloomers: Sean Connery Reads “Ithaca”

I find it astonishing the greatest adventure ever told—The Odyssey by Homer—has seen only two semi-faithful film adaptations.

(Quick recap: The Odyssey recounts Odysseus’s ten-year return to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Gods and goddesses, sirens and monsters, attack, seduce, and delay him. When he finally reaches his palace and faithful wife Penelope, he must battle a bunch of free-loading usurpers to regain his kingship.)

In 1955, Kirk Douglas starred in an adaptation with that era’s cheesy sets but surprisingly good storytelling.

In 1997, a made-for-TV version starred Armand Assante as Odysseus, Isabella Rosselini as the goddess Athena, and Vanessa Williams as the siren Calypso. The excellent cast and impressive special effects barely followed the original work.

But then, for me, The Odyssey has always been a metaphor for the late-blooming journey. This beautiful poem by C.P. Cavafy, read by Sean Connery, captures it perfectly.

Ithaca

by Constantine P. Cavafy (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.

Do you relate to The Odyssey? Did you know the movies O Brother, Where Are Thou (2000) and Cold Mountain were also based on it?

Post image: “Ulysses and the Sirens” by John William Waterhouse (1891) via WikiPaintings.org.

24 Responses

  1. August McLaughlin
    | Reply

    Lovely post, Debra! I definitely relate to The Odyssey, and have loved the story since childhood. The notion of seeking adventure and persevering no matter what the circumstances, has always resonated with me.

    • Debra Eve
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      That’s a marvelous summary of The Odyssey’s message, August! Thanks.

  2. Patricia
    | Reply

    I have read the Odyssey and it sits proudly on my book shelf at home. It’s a lovely story.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Epics were so…epic back then. In many ways, we have nothing like it in modern times, which is why I’m still surprised Hollywood hasn’t really tackled it yet. Thanks for stopping by, Patricia!

  3. Lindsay
    | Reply

    I love this poem and love that Sean Connery reads it. Thank you for the gift of it.

    • Debra Eve
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      Thank Sean and Constantine. They’re the gifts. 🙂

  4. Anne R. Allen
    | Reply

    What a superb poem. And yes, it is a metaphor for later bloomers. You need a goal, but your story isn’t about the destination. It’s about the journey. Love this line “you won’t encounter them unless you bring them along inside your soul.” So true. We pack our demons in our own baggage.

    My father was a Classicist, so I grew up with Homer’s stories the way other people grew up with Disney, so I really relate. Love O Brother Where Art Thou! One of my favorite films of all time. (And not just because Clooney was so adorable.)

    • Debra Eve
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      I totally forgot your dad was a Classicist, Anne. I’m late coming to the Classics (except for the stuff we all had to study in school) and must say, I’d love to make a formal study of them. So much there. And Cavafy — can’t believe he isn’t more popular. I guessing it’s because he wrote in Greek. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Kassandra Lamb
    | Reply

    Love the poem, the video and the painting of Odysseus and the Sirens. Thanks, Debra!

    • Debra Eve
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      You’re welcome, Kassandra. I’m a big fan of Waterhouse and all the Pre-Raphaelites. Love their mythic subject matter.

  6. Karen McFarland
    | Reply

    Debra, I did not know that Brother where are thou and Cold Mountain were based on Odyssey. But to be honest, I have never read it. You taught be something today. I always find your post enlightening! Thanks Debra! 🙂

    • Debra Eve
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      You’re welcome, Karen. Glad you enjoyed the poem!

  7. khaula mazhar
    | Reply

    I always loved that story. First time I heard the poem, everything sounds good in Sean Connery’s voice!

    • Debra Eve
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      Thanks, Khaula. So true!

  8. Florence Fois
    | Reply

    Debra … as I do each time I scroll around some of the blogs I read each week … I came to this after one in particular that speaks of the “need” to be intense, to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. To find this a minute later … the beautiful classic we studied so long ago, perhaps did not comprehend … now in a later time of our life we can truly see … the journey is worth everything. Don’t rush so, don’t skip too many moments, like mile markers, they are meant fill in the blanks of a lifetime !!

    It would be divine to surround myself with the classics once again, this time older, perhaps wiser, certainly calmer and able to allow the words to find their way into my soul. Oh, thank you so much … as always you inspire us to be better than we think we are 🙂

    • @DebraEve
      |

      Thank you, Florence. I too have felt called to return to the classics recently. I’ve been taking a class through EDX.org called “The Greek Hero.” Had to drop out due to time constraints, but plan to return. So appreciate your comments and insights!

  9. L. E. Carmichael
    | Reply

    I love Oh Brother Where Art Thou so much more than the Odyssey, probably due to the weeks we spent picking the latter apart in English 10. Also because of the music in OBWAT.

    • @DebraEve
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      I agree, Lindsey! Oh Brother has one of the best soundtracks ever. I’ve enjoyed my recent return to The Odyssey unencumbered by grades and deadlines 🙂

  10. lyle nicholson
    | Reply

    I had no idea that Cold Mountain was based on Homer’s Odyssey. I knew that Brother Were Art Thou was. One of my favorite movies. And who doesn’t like hillbillies on a quest?

    Thanks for this insightful information. I always look forward to your posts Debra. They are always thoughtful and a joy to read.

    • @DebraEve
      |

      Thanks so much, Lyle! Actually, I need to watch both Cold Mountain and Oh Brother again while I’m waiting for Hollywood to do an authentic Odyssey. They’re superb movies in their own right.

  11. Chris Edgar
    | Reply

    I like the line about learning not to expect Ithaca to make you rich — I definitely reflected on how I’m very grateful to be able to provide the funding for Steve’s Quest myself, as opposed to needing (as I definitely would have done if I were 19 years old) someone else to help me with it. Not that I would prefer to continue funding it in perpetuity, but at least I can get it started and have the control I want over the initial stages. Anyway, it’s a benefit of “late blooming” and doing something for a long time that was financially lucrative if creatively bereft.

    • @DebraEve
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      Steve’s Quest is definitely your personal odyssey, Chris, and one of the most original projects I’ve run across! Will be by soon to catch up on it.

  12. Hi Debra,

    Maybe it’s just too long! Mind you that didn’t stop the Lord of the Rings thing did it?!

    I’d like to see the second version. Isabella Rosselini is one of my fave actresses.

    Love that it’s a metaphor for that late blooming journey… and Sean’s accent 😉

    • @DebraEve
      |

      Never thought of that, Annabel. You’re right, making something that long is a HUGE gamble in Hollywood these days and would take a director with the vision of Peter Jackson. Isabella was gorgeous in that version. If you have a chance to see it, do! Thanks for stopping by!

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