I recently sent a letter to the Class of 2014 at Wake Forest University School of Law. On the chance that it might be useful to others, I post the letter here as well. I also post it in tribute to a Class that will go far.
By Constantine Cavafy
pray fervently your journey may be long,
full of adventures and of things to learn.
Fear not the Laestrygonians, dread not
the Cyclopes or Poseidon’s awful rage:
such things you’ll never find upon your way
if your thought’s lofty, your emotion’s rare
in ways that touch the body and the soul.
You’ll not encounter Laestrygonians
or Cyclopes or Poseidon on your way
unless you carry them within your soul,
unless your soul itself sets them on you.
Pray fervently your journey may be long,
that many summer mornings yet remain
for pleasant and for joyous anchoring
in harbors you have never seen before.
Pray you may stop at fine Phoenician marts
acquiring there their finest merchandise,
their coral, mother of pearl, their ebony
their amber, and their sensuous perfumes
of many kinds in many quantities.
Pray you may visit many Egyptian towns
and learn from many educated men.
Keep Ithaca always before your mind.
Your destiny is your arrival there.
But do not rush the journey in the least.
It’s better that you travel many years
and anchor on the island in old age
with all your treasures gathered on the way
without expecting more from Ithaca.
For Ithaca gave you the wondrous trip:
without her you would never have set sail.
Now she has nothing left to give you more.
And yet she won’t have fooled you if she’s poor.
The experience and wisdom you’ll have gained,
Will have shown what Ithacas must truly mean.