Remember The Odyssey
? How long has it been since you read it? Maybe you've never really
read it. We've all heard the stories here and there in grade school mythology class - maybe you got a taste of it in high school or even college. It's always been my opinion that it should be read and understood. It's not just some story - it's an archetype for life. Everyone should pay attention to The Odyssey
you dudes. . .
Odysseus imprisoned on Calypso's Island
And now, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus- harbinger of light
alike to mortals and immortals- the gods met in council and with them, Zeus the lord of thunder, who is their king. Thereon Athena began to tell
them of the many sufferings of Odysseus, for she pitied him away there in
the house of the nymph Calypso.
"Father Zeus," said she, "and all you other gods that live in everlasting
bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a kind and well-disposed
ruler any more, nor one who will govern equitably. I hope they will be
all henceforth cruel and unjust, for there is not one of his subjects but
has forgotten Odysseus, who ruled them as though he were their father. There
he is, lying in great pain in an island where dwells the nymph Calypso,
who will not let him go; and he cannot get back to his own country, for
he can find neither ships nor sailors to take him over the sea. Furthermore,
wicked people are now trying to murder his only son Telemachus, who is
coming home from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to see if he can
get news of his father.
What, my dear, are you talking about?" replied her father, "did
you not send him there yourself, because you thought it would help Ulysses
to get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you are perfectly able to
protect Telemachus, and to see him safely home again, while the suitors
have to come hurry-skurrying back without having killed
When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Hermes, "Hermes,
you are our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have decreed that
poor Odysseus is to return home.
Thus he spoke, and Hermes, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus,
did as he was told. He flew and flew over many
a weary wave, but when at last he got to the island which was his journey's
end, he left the sea and went on by land till he came to the cave where
the nymph Calypso lived.
gave Hermes a seat and said: "Why have you come to see me, Hermes- honoured,
and ever welcome- for you do not visit me often? Say what you want; I will
do it for be you at once if I can, and if it can be done at all; but come
inside, and let me set refreshment before you."
Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, "You gods," she exclaimed, to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous and hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with him in open matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to Orion, you precious gods were all of you furious till Artemis went and killed him in Ortygia. So again when Demeter fell in love with Iasion, and yielded to him in a thrice ploughed fallow field, Zeus came to hear of it before so long and killed Iasion with his thunder-bolts. And now you are angry with me too because I have a man here. I found the poor creature sitting all alone astride of a keel, for Zeus had struck his ship with lightning and sunk it in mid ocean, so that all his crew were drowned, while he himself was driven by wind and waves on to my island. I got fond of him and cherished him, and had set my heart on making him immortal, so that he should never grow old all his days; still I cannot cross Zeus, nor bring his counsels to nothing; therefore, if he insists upon it, let the man go beyond the seas again; but I cannot send him anywhere myself for I have neither ships nor men who can take him. Nevertheless I will readily give him such advice, in all good faith, as will be likely to bring him safely to his own
"Then send him away," said Hermes, "or Zeus will be angry with
you and punish you"On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for Odysseus, for she had heard Zeus' message. She found him sitting upon the beach with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer home-sickness; for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he, that would have it so. As for the day time, he spent it on the rocks and on the sea-shore, weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and always looking out upon the sea. Calypso then went close up to him said: "My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting your life out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own free will; so go, cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a large raft with an upper deck that it may carry you safely over the sea. I will put bread, wine, and water on board to save you from starving. I will also give you clothes, and will send you a fair wind to take you home, if the gods in heaven so will it- for they know more about these things, and can settle them better
than I can.
Odysseus shuddered as he heard her. "Now goddess," he answered, "there is something behind all this; you cannot be really meaning to help me home when you bid me do such a dreadful thing as put to sea on a raft. Not even a well-found ship with a fair wind could venture on such a distant voyage: nothing that you can say or do shall mage me go on board a raft unless you first solemnly swear that you mean me no mischief."Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: "You know a great deal," said she, "but you are quite wrong here. May heaven above and earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx- and this is the most solemn oath which a blessed god can take- that I mean you no sort of harm, and am only advising you to do exactly what I should do myself in your place. I am dealing with you quite straightforwardly; my heart is not made of iron, and I am very sorry for you."
---------------------------------------------------------------Odysseus and his men come to Circe's island
When they reached Circe's house they found it built of cut stones,
on a site that could be seen from far, in the middle of the forest. There
were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling all round it- poor bewitched
creatures whom she had tamed by her enchantments and drugged into subjection.
They did not attack my men, but wagged their great tails, fawned upon them,
and rubbed their noses lovingly against them. As hounds crowd round their
master when they see him coming from dinner- for they know he will bring
them something- even so did these wolves and lions with their great claws
fawn upon my men, but the men were terribly frightened at seeing such strange
creatures. Presently they reached the gates of the goddess's house, and
as they stood there they could hear Circe within, singing most beautifully
as she worked at her loom, making a web so fine, so soft, and of such dazzling
colours as no one but a goddess could weave. On this Polites, whom I valued
and trusted more than any other of my men, said, 'There is some one inside
working at a loom and singing most beautifully; the whole place resounds
with it, let us call her and see whether she is woman or
They called her and she came down, unfastened the door, and bade
them enter. They, thinking no evil, followed her, all except Eurylochus,
who suspected mischief and stayed outside. When she had got them into her
house, she set them upon benches and seats and mixed them a mess with cheese,
honey, meal, and Pramnian but she drugged it with wicked poisons to make
them forget their homes, and when they had drunk she turned them into pigs
by a stroke of her wand, and shut them up in her pigsties. They were like
pigs-head, hair, and all, and they grunted just as pigs do; but their senses
were the same as before, and they remembered everything.. . .
Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly with
you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs? And now that
you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief when you ask me to go
to bed with you, and will unman me and make me fit for nothing. I shall
certainly not consent to go to bed with you unless you will first take
your solemn oath to plot no further harm against me.
So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had completed
her oath then I went to bed with her.. . .
Circe, no man with any sense of what is right can
think of either eating or drinking in your house until you have set his
friends free and let him see them. If you want me to eat and drink, you
must free my men and bring them to me that I may see them with my own
When I had said this she went straight through the court with
her wand in her hand and opened the pigsty doors. My men came out like
so many prime hogs and stood looking at her, but she went about among them
and anointed each with a second drug, whereon the bristles that the bad
drug had given them fell off, and they became men again, younger than they
were before, and much taller and better looking. They knew me at once,
seized me each of them by the hand, and wept for joy till the whole house
was filled with the sound of their hullabalooing, and Circe herself was
so sorry for them that she came up to me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son
of Laertes, go back at once to the sea where you have left your ship, and
first draw it on to the land. Then, hide all your ship's gear and property
in some cave, and come back here with your men.'
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Circe sends Odysseus off with advice for the journey
First you will come to the Sirens who enchant
all who come near them. If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears
the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him
home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with
the sweetness of their song. There is a great heap of dead men's bones
lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them. Therefore pass
these Sirens by, and stop your men's ears with wax that none of them may
hear; but if you like you can listen yourself, for you may get the men
to bind you as you stand upright on a cross-piece half way up the mast,
and they must lash the rope's ends to the mast itself, that you may have
the pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to unloose you,
then they must bind you faster.
When your crew have taken you past these Sirens, I cannot give
you coherent directions as to which of two courses you are to take; I will
lay the two alternatives before you, and you must consider them for yourself.
On the one hand there are some overhanging rocks against which the deep
blue waves of Amphitrite beat with terrific fury; the blessed gods call
these rocks the Wanderers. Here not even a bird may pass, no, not even
the timid doves that bring ambrosia to Father Zeus, but the sheer rock
always carries off one of them, and Father Zeus has to send another to
make up their number; no ship that ever yet came to these rocks has got
away again, but the waves and whirlwinds of fire are freighted with wreckage
and with the bodies of dead men. The only vessel that ever sailed and got
through, was the famous Argo on her way from the house of Aetes, and she
too would have gone against these great rocks, only that Hera piloted her
past them for the love she bore to Jason.
"'Of these two rocks the one reaches heaven and its peak is lost
in a dark cloud. This never leaves it, so that the top is never clear not
even in summer and early autumn. No man though he had twenty hands and
twenty feet could get a foothold on it and climb it, for it runs sheer
up, as smooth as though it had been polished. In the middle of it there
is a large cavern, looking West and turned towards Erebus; you must take
your ship this way, but the cave is so high up that not even the stoutest
archer could send an arrow into it. Inside it Scylla sits and yelps with
a voice that you might take to be that of a young hound, but in truth she
is a dreadful monster and no one- not even a god- could face her without
being terror-struck. She has twelve mis-shapen feet, and six necks of the
most prodigious length; and at the end of each neck she has a frightful
head with three rows of teeth in each, all set very close together, so
that they would crunch any one to death in a moment, and she sits deep
within her shady cell thrusting out her heads and peering all round the
rock, fishing for dolphins or dogfish or any larger monster that she can
catch, of the thousands with which Amphitrite teems. No ship ever yet got
past her without losing some men, for she shoots out all her heads at once,
and carries off a man in each mouth.
"'You will find the other rocks lie lower, but they are so close
together that there is not more than a bowshot between them. [A large fig
tree in full leaf grows upon it], and under it lies the sucking whirlpool
Three times in the day does she vomit forth her waters, and
three times she sucks them down again; see that you be not there when she
is sucking, for if you are, Poseidon himself could not save you; you must
hug the Scylla side and drive ship by as fast as you can, for you had better
lose six men than your whole crew.
Any of this sound familiar?