The son of a dirt-poor and put-upon sailor
from some island in the Aegean,
he worked for a blacksmith, his clothes in tatters,
his work-boots torn open,
his hands engrained with rust and oil.
In the evening, when the smithy closed,
if there was some little thing he longed for,
an expensive tie,
a tie for Sundays,
or if he saw and fancied
a lovely blue shirt in some shop window,
he’d rent his body out for a few drachmas.
I wonder whether ancient Alexandria
in all its glory ever saw a boy more exquisite,
more perfect – lost though it was.
I mean that we have no statue of him, no painting.
Stuck there in that ghastly blacksmith’s workshop,
overworked and abused, and given to cheap pleasures,
his beauty soon wasted away.
Keep always Ithaca in mind.
It is your destiny to arrive there.
But do not hurry on the way.
Much better that the voyage last many years,
that you drop anchor there an old man,
rich with all you’ve picked up on your journey
and not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
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