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January 14, 2017

Quirky Travel Poem: The Owl and the Pussy Cat

Quirky Travel Poem: The Owl and the Pussy Cat
The owl and the pussycat Ian beck

Oh, to go to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat … The classic children’s poem, The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, has been a family favourite for many years; I used to read it to my son, Alex, at bedtime. It weaves its quirky magic in every line, taking us on an extraordinary journey to an imaginary land, ‘where the Bong Tree grows’. It’s got everything we could wish for in life: adventure, food and drink, money, music, dance and romance. It’s also stars two of our favourite creatures, an owl and a pussycat, plus a pig and a turkey.

A Book of Nonsense (c. 1875 James Miller edition) by Edward Lear

A Book of Nonsense (c. 1875 James Miller edition) by Edward Lear

In 1846 Lear published A Book of Nonsense, a volume of limericks. In 1871 he published Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets, which included his most famous nonsense song, The Owl and the Pussycat. It was either written for his patron, the Earl of Derby’s daughter OR three-year-old Janet Symonds, daughter of Lear’s friend, poet John Addington Symonds. The term runcible, used for the phrase “runcible spoon”, was invented for the poem.’ (The Owl and the PussycatWikipedia)

The Owl and the Pussycat -Edward Lear illustration

The Owl and the Pussycat – Edward Lear illustration

Many artists have illustrated the poem since it was published in 1871, including Lear himself. He was a talented artist and became an ‘ornithological draughtsman‘ getting work with the Zoological Society and then from 1832 to 1836 with the Earl of Derby, who kept a private menagerie at his estate. We have a beautifully illustrated version by Ian Beck (see above). His brightly coloured paintings bring this charming nonsense poem alive in a delightful way. (We also have anohter Ian Beck illustrated Lear poem – see The Jumblies). Read the poem and remind yourself of Lear’s literary quirkiness!

The Owl and the Pussycat - illustration by Toadbriar

The Owl and the Pussycat – illustration by Toadbriar

The Owl and the Pussycat

I

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
II
Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
   How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
   But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
   To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
   With a ring at the end of his nose,
             His nose,
             His nose,
   With a ring at the end of his nose.
II
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,
             The moon,
             The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
Edward Lear 1812 – 1888
The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear - illustrator LoneAnimator

The Owl and the Pussycat – illustrator LoneAnimator

August 13, 2016

Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare on a summer’s day

Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare on a summer’s day
Stratford-upon-Avon boating - image zoedawes

Boating on the River Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon

On a sunny summer’s day Stratford-upon-Avon is the epitome of Englishness. Families picnic on the grass. couples canoodle under trees, canal boats moor up beside a pub, ice-creams are scoffed, dogs are walked and swans are a-swimming.  Children splash beneath an elegant sculpture of two of these famous swans, outspread wings reflecting blue sky and greenery.

'The Swan Water Fountain' Christine Lee Stratford Stratford upon Avon - image zoedawes

The Swan Water Fountain – sculptor Christine Lee

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is buzzing with people booking tickets for the latest Shakespearean play and enjoying a drink on the terrace overlooking the river. On the lawn at the back, there’s an air of laziness; in the heat of the midday sun it’s tempting to just flop down and soak up the rays.

Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre Stratford - image zoedawes

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Wandering along the river, the sounds of a brass band waft over the water; they’re playing ‘Summertime’ and at this moment, the livin’ really does feel easy. On a day like today the troubles of the world fade away and we forget our worries in the simple pleasures of a sunny Sunday in Stratford.  In a glade a group of players act out a tale for an appreciative audience of kiddies and grownups. The quaint Chain Ferry slowly shuttles passengers across the Avon and a rowing boat drifts past enormous weeping willows.

Stratford upon Avon River Chain Ferry - image zoedawes

River Avon Chain Ferry

The tall spire of Holy Trinity Church towers over the trees. It’s the burial place of William Shakespeare; thousands of visitors come every year to see his tomb with its inscription warning those who might disturb his rest,

“Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,

To dig the dust enclosed here.

Blessed be the man that spares these stones,

And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

Shakespeare Memorial and Tomb Holy Trinity Church - image zoedawes

Shakespeare’s Memorial and Tomb

The market along the canal is doing a thriving business and there’s a big queue at the canal barge selling ice-creams and lollies to all and sundry. Stratford is busy with tourists from all over the world and visitors from the surrounding Cotswolds villages and Midlands towns. Shakespeare’s Birthplace, in Henley Street, strangely lacks any sign to denote its importance, but next to it is The Shakespeare Centre entrance; it’s expensive but very popular. He was born there in 1564; part of the house was his home and the other was a wool store and glove-maker’s shop. Giggling Japanese girls take photos in front of its half-timbered walls whilst local shoppers stroll past, familiar with its historic significance.

Shakespeare's Birthplace and The Shakespeare Centre Stratford - image zoedawes

The Shakespeare Centre & Shakespeare’s Birthplace

When Shakespeare had become famous and made his money, he retired to Stratford-upon-Avon and lived in a fine house called New Place. All that remains of this medieval building is the foundations and the gardens, accessible via Nash’s House next door. It’s currently being renovated, so is closed, much to the disappointment of the Americans, who’re on a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Bard. Colourful murals depicting Shakespeare’s plays decorate the hoardings hiding the works and a banner exhorts us to ‘snap a selfie’ and show our support for New Place – so we do.

Shakespeare New Place Stratford - collage zoedawes

New Place

Back at the river, the world and his wife and kids continue to enjoy the summer sun but it’s time to leave. But there’s just time for a couple of photos beside the huge Gower Memorial; Shakespeare is seated gazing out across the main road, surrounded by characters from his most famous plays; Prince Hal, Falstaff, Lady Macbeth and Hamlet.

Hamlet and Yorick statue Stratford - image zoedawes

The Gower Memorial – Hamlet and Yorick

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”

Hamlet Act V, Scene I

I visited Stratford with friends on a sunny Sunday in August. The town is currently celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on the 23rd April 2016. There are lots of events planned for this year or you can do what we did and just wander round the town and along the river Avon, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying Shakespeare’s legacy at your leisure.

Shakespeare Gower Memorial Stratford

Emmie and Mary with Hamlet

August 1, 2016

The many faces of Beatrix Potter

The many faces of Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter

Say the name ‘Beatrix Potter’ and no doubt images of cute bunnies, dim-witted ducks, sailing frogs, frisky squirrels, naughty kittens, mischievous mice and perky pigs come to mind. Her little books have had a place of many children’s hearts for over a hundred years. At my son’s birth he got two copies of ‘Peter Rabbit‘, a Peter Rabbit mug, crib mobile, wall frieze and romper suit. I cross-stitched a picture of her most famous characters for his bedroom and his great aunt and uncle gave him a set of Beatrix Potter books for his christening.

Tales of Beatrix Potter books

However, there was far more to this unassuming but determined woman than cute books for children. Anyone who has read any one of the 24 Tales can see a writer of great perspicacity and insight, as well as wit and intelligence.

‘Old Mrs. Rabbit was a widow; she earned her living knitting rabbit-wool mittens and muffetees (I once bought a pair at a bazaar). She also sold herbs and rosemary tea and rabbit-tobacco (which is what we call lavender).’

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny pub 1904

Beatrix Potter – 150 years of creativity

Beatrix Potter with her sheepdog Kip at Hill Top - image National Trust

Beatrix Potter with her sheepdog Kip at Hill Top – image National Trust

Beatrix Potter was a woman of many parts. As well as her writing, she was also a passionate naturalist, superb artist and illustrator, farmer, sheep-breeder, conservationist and benefactor of the National Trust. She spent her childhood living in London, where she and her brother Bertram kept many pets including mice, rabbits, a hedgehog and some bats, as well as collections of butterflies and other insects. The family holidayed in travelled to Scotland and the Lake District and her interest in the natural world showed itself in detailed drawings of animals, birds, insects, trees, plants and particularly fungii. Had she been born in a different era there is no doubt she could have gone on to be an eminent botanist had she wanted; her uncle, eminent chemist Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe, recognised her skill and got her a student pass to the Royal Botanical Gardens at KewShe produced a paper on mycology (the study of fungi) but chose not to pursue this interest, in favour of her writing and illustrations.

Beatrix Potter nature drawings - image zoedawes

Beatrix Potter art

Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was originally published in 1901, at her own expense, adapted from a private letter to Noel, son of her childhood governess. She told him the story of ‘four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter’. A close family friendCanon Hardwicke Rawnsley (a great name for a character in a novel), one of the founders of the National Trust, helped her to get it published by Frederick Warne & Co, who went on to publish all her children’s tales.

Beatrix Potter - Peter Rabbit in Hill Top Shop - image zoedawes

Peter Rabbit

Following on from the death of Norman Warne, to whom she was unofficially engaged, Beatrix bought Hill Top, a farm house  in Near Sawrey in the Lake District in 1905. It seems that her interest in writing waned as her love of country life and farming grew. She married her solicitor, William Heelis, in 1913 and they moved to Castle Cottage, opposite Hill Top. (This property is also owned by the National Trust but not open to the public.) Above it is Moss Eccles Tarn,  one of their favourite places to relax; well worth a short walk from the village.

Moss Eccles Tarn Near Sawrey

Moss Eccles Tarn

Settled into farming life, Beatrix Potter helped to save one of Cumbria’s most famous faces, the hardy Herdwick Sheep. She bought Troutbeck Farm where she bred Herdwicks. Her interest in science resurfaced in her experiements to help cure sheep diseases. She regularly attended Lake District shows, where her award-winnning Herdies were greatly admired. A few years ago I met a Cumbrian farmer who knew her and said she knew more about sheep breeding than many of the local farmers. Today Herdwicks can be seen roaming all over the Lakeland Fells, thanks to her dedication to the breed.

Beatrix Potter and Herdwick Sheep - photo hop-skip-jump.com

Beatrix Potter and Herdwick Sheep: photo hop-skip-jump.com

Beatrix Potter also contributed to the conservation of the Lake District. The Heelises became partners with the National Trust in n 1930, buying and managing fell farms and surrounding land, including Tarn Hows, one of the area’s most popular lakes. She did continue writing but her prolific days of literary output were replaced with farming. She became very famous and often went to great lengths to avoid the many visitors that sought her out in Near Sawrey. She died at Castle Cottage in 1943, leaving almost all her properties to the National Trust; her husband only survived a couple more years and the residue of her estate was then also handed on to the NT.

Pigling Bland and Pig-wig bridge Beatrix Potter

Pigling Bland and Pig-wig

Her love of the place she knew as home for over 30 years and had visited since a child, comes over in her writing and drawings. Many Lake District places can be recognised from her books; I once took my young son on a Beatrix Potter Walk visiting scenes familiar from her illustrations. When Pigling Bland escapes from the grocer with Pig-wig, she wrote,

‘They ran and they ran and they ran down the hill, and across a short cut on the the level green turf at the bottom, between pebble beds and rushes. They came to a river, they came to a bridge – they crossed it hand in hand – then over the hills and far away she danced with Pigling Bland!’

The Tale of Pigling Bland pub 1913

Celebrate Beatrix Potter in the Lake District

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth on July 28, 1866, the Royal Mail issued a lovely selection of Beatrix Potter commemorative stamps featuring Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggywinkle, Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddleduck, Tom Kitten and Benjamin Bunny.

Beatrix Potter commemorative stamps

 There are a great many events throughout the Lake District remembering this woman’s extraordinary achievements. The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, is a wonderful place to take children, showcasing all that is magical about the author’s creative universe. There was also a specially written play called Where is Peter Rabbit.

Where is Peter Rabbit play

Where is Peter Rabbit? – image The World of Beatrix Potter

On a Travelator Media visit to Hill Top earlier this year, I had the chance to discover more about Beatrix Potter in the house she loved. It’s a veritable shrine to her literary and farming legacy, being very much as it was in her day, with some fascinating artefacts. As one of the National Trust’s most popular UK premises there’s a timed-entry system so I suggest avoiding summer weekends if you can.

Zoe Dawes outside Hill Top

Outside Hill Top

I also enjoyed the many illustrations to be found the Beatrix Potter Gallery in charming Hawkshead, in the tiny premises that were originally her husband, William Heelis’s offices. Both places have got various special exhibitions and events planned this year. Check their websites for more details. BUT you don’t need to attend a special event to enjoy the stunning landscape that inspired Beatrix Potter; do as Lucie does and go for a walk in the Lake District …

Mrs Tiggy-winkle by Beatrix Potter - image zoedawes

Mrs Tiggy-winkle and Lucie

‘Lucie climbed up in the stile and looked up at the hill behind Little-town – a hill that goes up – up – up into the clouds as though it had not top!’

The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle – pub 1905

April 20, 2016

Quirky Travel Poem: The Jumblies

Quirky Travel Poem: The Jumblies
'The Jumblies' illustrated by Ian Beck

‘The Jumblies’ illustrated by Ian Beck

When my son was young, like many parents, I used to read to him at bedtime. Such a special point in the day, when we could snuggle up together, him all warm and cosy after a bath. He loved stories but also poems and one of his favourites was The Jumblies by that quirkiest of poets, Edward Lear. The idea of little people with green heads and blue hands, setting off to sea in a sieve (he imagined one like we use for sifting flour rather than a garden sieve), made him laugh every time we read it. We still have our copy of The Jumblies, beautifully illustrated by Ian Beck. He’d recite the list of things they took and turn up his nose at the idea of ‘stinky’ Stilton. However, his favourite verse was the final one where Lear refers to the Torrible Zone and the Hills of the Chankly Bore.

This poem somehow epitomises Quirky Travel at its best; a crazy trip with lots of adventures along the way, then coming back home to celebrations and wondrous story-telling. Here’s the poem; hope you enjoy it as much as Alex did …

The Jumblies

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
   In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,
   In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, ‘You’ll all be drowned!’
They called aloud, ‘Our Sieve ain’t big,
But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!
   In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
II
They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
   In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
   To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
‘O won’t they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong
   In a Sieve to sail so fast!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
III
The water it soon came in, it did,
   The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
   And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, ‘How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
   While round in our Sieve we spin!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
'The Jumblies' by Edward Lear illustrated by Ian Beck
IV
And all night long they sailed away;
   And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
   In the shade of the mountains brown.
‘O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
   In the shade of the mountains brown!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
     Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
V
They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
   To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
   And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
   And no end of Stilton Cheese.
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
VI
And in twenty years they all came back,
   In twenty years or more,
And every one said, ‘How tall they’ve grown!’
For they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
   And the hills of the Chankly Bore;
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And everyone said, ‘If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,—
   To the hills of the Chankly Bore!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Edward Lear

If you enjoyed this, read ‘The Owl and the Pussycat‘ here.

Click to listen to The Jumblies podcast

‘The Jumblies’ by Edward Lear – illustration by Ian Beck

November 21, 2015

In search of Elizabeth Gaskell and the real ‘Cranford’

In search of Elizabeth Gaskell and the real ‘Cranford’

The opening lines of ‘Cranford‘ by Elizabeth Gaskell

“In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women. If a married couple come to settle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his ship, or closely engaged in business all the week in the great neighbouring commercial town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on a railroad.”

Elizabeth Gaskell in Knutsford

Elizabeth Gaskell Home Knutsford - zoedawes

Heathwaite House – Elizabeth Gaskell’s home in Knutsford

Standing outside an elegant double-fronted house on a rainy day in Cheshire, Caroline, our expert guide, explained how Elizabeth Stevenson (1810-1865) came to Knutsford as a baby in 1811 after the death of her mother. She lived with her Aunt Lumb until she went to school in Stratford, then stayed in London and around the country before returning to the town and marrying William Gaskell. Together they went to Manchester where he was the minister of Cross Street Unitarian Chapel.

King Street Knutsford Cheshire

King Street

I have been to Knutsford, not far from Chester, a number of times but had no idea that Elizabeth Gaskell had based her well-known novel, Cranford (pub. 1851) on this attractive little town, as well as Hollingford in ‘Wives and Daughters’. I was on a day out with a group of friends from our local Book Club to find out more about Elizabeth Gaskell and her connections to the North West. Caroline told us that many of the characters in Cranford were based on people she knew and some of the buildings still standing feature in her novels.

Miss Matty's house Cranford Knutsford - zoedawes

Miss Matty’s house

A blue plaque outside WH Smith’s states: This property built in the reign of George I is reputed to have been the fictional home of Miss Matty’, the principal character in Mrs Gaskell’s Cranford and was also the home of Miss Elizabeth Harker upon whom Mrs Gaskell based her Cranford character ‘Betty Barker’. Caroline informed us that actually it was probably the property next door …  Miss Matty was played with great wit and panache by the glorious Dame Judi Dench in the BBC TV adaptation of Cranford.

Royal George Hotel and dragon Knutsford

Royal George Hotel

We saw the old Assembly Rooms, sadly not open to the public, the Royal George and Angel Hotel, all with connections to the author and her stories. Most impressive was the Gaskell Memorial Tower and King’s Coffee House, designed by glove merchant Richard Harding Watt from Manchester. Influenced by the Continent and inspired by Italian architecture, Watt’s tower is remiscent of those in San Gimignano, and is dedicated to the town’s most famous resident.

Gaskell Memorial Tower & King's Coffee House Knutsford - zoedawes

Gaskell Memorial Tower & King’s Coffee House

This Grade II listed building features a copper bas relief and bust of the author, along with the titles of all her novels and a sign: This plaque was placed here on the occasion of Mrs Gaskell’s 150th birth anniversary, Sep 29th 1960 and to record that this tower was erected to the memory of Mrs Gaskell by Mr RH Watt in March 1907.

Bust of Mrs Gaskell- Memorial Tower Knutsford- zoedawes

Mrs Gaskell bust

We ended our tour at the 17th c Knutsford Heritage Centre, hidden in an alley through the pretty May Day Gate and past the giant Green Man sculpture. Knutsford May Day is a major annual event and ‘Jack in the Green’ always appears in the front of the May Day Procession. As well as leaflets on The Cranford Trail and an excellent Official Guide to Knutsford, the Heritage Centre has an exhibition of local artefacts, costumes and and items relating to the area’s history, which goes back to the Domesday Book in 1086. Did you know the town is named after King Canute (Cnut the Great), who apparently forded the River Lily here?

Knutsford Heritage Centre and Green Man sculpture - zoedawes

Knutsford Heritage Centre and Green Man sculpture

We didn’t have time to see the Knutsford Millenium Tapestry; we’ll have to return another day to see it and have another look round this charming home to Elizabeth Gaskell’s Amazons.

The Cranford Amazons - BBC TV series

The Cranford ‘Amazons’ – BBC TV series

If you’re a Mrs Gaskell fan you must also visit the Elizabeth Gaskell House Manchester, where you can learn about her life as a married woman and successful author.

August 12, 2014

On Mykonos: Cavafy keeps Ithaka always in your mind

On Mykonos: Cavafy keeps Ithaka always in your mind

Ithaka

The last of the summer sun flooded the beach and filtered through the open widows of the Ithaki Restaurant on Ournos Beach, Mykonos.*

Ournos Beach and restaurant Mykonos Greece - image Zoe Dawes

It was Oxi Day, the 28th October, a national holiday in Greece, celebrating the day they said ‘No’ to the Italian dictator Mussolini in 1940.  (He demanded they allow German forces to enter the country and occupy strategic sites during World War 2.  The Greeks said ‘Ochi’ – the Germans came anyway.)  Families, friends, tourists and locals mixed together in a happy muddle, chatting, laughing, shouting, eating, drinking and generally having a wonderful time.

Ournos Beach dining table, Mykonos Greece - image Zoe Dawes

I was having salad and a beer at a table overlooking the water, enjoying the scenery when familiar music came over the loudspeaker.  When asked, an elderly chap at the next table confirmed it was Dalaras, a quintessentially Greek singer I had seen in a concert over 30 years ago when I lived in Athens … My lunch was made perfect by that unique combination of beautiful weather, friendly restaurant, Greeks celebrating a special day and the soundtrack of my youth.

Ournos restaurant on Mykonos, Greece - image Zoe Dawes

As I went to through the restaurant to pay, I passed this table above which was chalked a quote from Cavafy’s most famous poem, Ithaka, “When you set out on your journey to Ithaka, pray that the road will be long, full of adventure, full of knowledge …”

Constantine Petrou Photiades Cavafy (as he wanted the family name to be spelled in English) was a poet, the son of Peter-John Ioannou Cavafy and Charicleia Georgaki Photiades.  He was born in Alexandria on 29 April 1863. Both his parents were natives of Constantinople, and Constantine was proud of his heritage and his illustrious ancestors.  He wrote over 150 poems.  This one epitomises the pleasures of life journey’s and the need to take time to relish every moment.

Ithaka (or Ithaki) is one of the Ionian islands and the poem is inspired by Homer’s tales of Odysseus and his lengthy voyage back to his wife Penelope.  Translations vary; this version of Ithaka is from the official Cavafy site.

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.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

* Sadly the Ithaki Restaurant is now closed but the pleasure it evoked, lives on …

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