Reference to Homer’s Iliad might be seen as rather ‘highbrow’ and somewhat incongruous given the usual more ‘earthy’ content of these blogs. So, not surprisingly, I must confess to having been introduced to it by an infinitely more learned and cerebral friend and fellow Southerly 135 sailor, John Goodall. Here is his mail to me and I have decided to include it in its entirety so the context can be understood. I found it rather moving and thought provoking. To my mind, it sort of captures the fundamental motivations and mindset of the more adventurous cruising sailor. It has made me reflect a little on life and conclude that I tend to be in far too much of a hurry, and that I really need to slow down and drink in (pun not actually intended) more of the wonderful places I visit. Here it goes:-
Last month, in Lancing Chapel (the largest school chapel in the world), I attended the memorial service of Professor John Dancy (a classical scholar), the Headmaster of Lancing College who was in office during the time I attended that famous institution 1956-1960. A highlight of the service was the reading by Sir Tim Rice (OL 1958-1962) from ‘Ithaca’ by the modern Greek poet Cavafy (1863-1933). As I listened intently to Sir Tim my first thought was of you!
The poem that follows is a reflection on the voyage home of Odysseus at the end of the Trojan War. In Cavafy’s telling, the voyage to Ithaca symbolises the journey of a lifetime:
“When you set out for Ithaca, ask that the journey be long, full of adventures, full of things to learn. Pray that there be many summer mornings when with what joy, what delight, you will enter harbours you have not seen before: you will stop at Phoenician trading ports and acquire beautiful merchandise, you will visit many Egyptian cities to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.
Have Ithaca always in your mind. Your destination is always to arrive there, but do not hurry your journey in the least. Better that it may last for many years, that you drop anchor at that island when you are old, rich with all that Ithaca gave you on the way, not expecting that Ithaca will give you wealth; Ithaca gave you that splendid journey. Without her you would not have set out. She has nothing more to offer.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you. You will doubtless have acquired such wisdom, so much experience, that you have already realised what these Ithacas really mean.”