Friday, March 18, 2016

Excerpt: Homer, The Odyssey

Excerpt: Homer, The Odyssey

(Introductory Note: The Odyssey is an ancient epic poem attributed to Homer. Odysseus, “the man of many wiles”, was a mythical hero of ancient Greek civilization. The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus’s 10-year struggle to get back to his home in Ithaca after the Trojan War. In this section Odysseus has been shipwrecked onto the island Ogygia where the goddess Calypso lives. Calypso has kept Odysseus there for 7 years, offering to make Odysseus immortal if he will stay and become her husband. But Calypso’s offer of immortality is hardly a temptation for Odysseus, who lives as a prisoner on her island. He spends his days sitting by the sea weeping for his homeland and his family, especially his wife Penelope. Finally Calypso is commanded by the more powerful god Zeus to set Odysseus free. Calypso is addressing Odysseus at the beginning of this passage.)

‘Are you, Odysseus, man of many wiles,
Laertes’ godly son, still keen to leave
straightway? Is it your native land you need,
your dear home? Though you go, I wish you well.
But if your mind were to divine the trials
that fate will have you meet before you reach
your country, you would choose to stay, to keep
this house with me—and live immortally.
This you would do despite your longing for
your wife, for whom you yearn each day. And yet
I’m sure that I am not inferior
to her in form or stature: it’s not right
for mortal women to contend or vie
with goddesses in loveliness or height.’

Odysseus, man of many wiles, replied:
‘Great goddess, don’t be angered over this.
I’m well aware that you are right: I, too,
know that Penelope, however wise,
cannot compete with you in grace or stature:
she is not more than mortal, whereas you
are deathless, ageless. Even so, each day
I hope and hunger for my house: I long
to see the day of my returning home.
If once again, upon the winedark sea,
a god attacks, I shall survive that loss:
the heart within my chest is used to patience.
I’ve suffered much and labored much in many
ordeals among the waves and in the wars;
to those afflictions I can add one more.’

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