- Art Gallery -

 

.

Translation by Ian Johnston

Book Five
Odysseus Leaves Calypso's Island and Reaches Phaeacia

[The assembled gods decide to send Hermes to tell Calypso to let Odysseus go; Calypso welcomes Hermes on her island, hears Zeus’s orders and complains; Calypso tells Odysseus he can go and helps him build a raft; Odysseus sets sail from Calypso’s island and gets within sight of Phaeacia; Poseidon sends a storm which destroys the raft; Odysseus gets help from the sea goddess Leucothea (once Ino), who gives him a protective veil; Odysseus has trouble finding a place to come ashore, finds a river mouth, climbs ashore, and falls asleep in the woods near the river.]

As Dawn stirred from her bed beside lord Tithonus,
bringing light to eternal gods and mortal men,
the gods were sitting in assembly, among them
high-thundering Zeus, whose power is supreme.
Athena was reminding them of all the stories
of Odysseus's troubles—she was concerned for him
as he passed his days in nymph Calypso's home.

"Father Zeus and you other blessed gods
who live forever, let no sceptred king
be prudent, kind, or gentle from now on,                 
                      10
or think about his fate.  Let him instead
always be cruel and treat men viciously,                                         
[10]
since no one now has any memory
of lord Odysseus, who ruled his people
and was a gentle father.  Now he lies
suffering extreme distress on that island
where nymph Calypso lives.  She keeps him there
by force, and he's unable to sail off
and get back to his native land—he lacks
a ship with oars and has no companions                                  
20
to send him out across the sea's broad back.
And now some men are setting out to kill
the son he loves, as he sails home.  The boy
has gone to gather news about his father,
off to sacred Pylos and holy Sparta."                                               
[20]

Cloud-gatherer Zeus then answered her and said:

                                                                       "My child,
what a speech has slipped the barrier of your teeth!
Did you not organize this plan yourself,
so that Odysseus, once he made it home,
could take out his revenge against those men?                         
30
As for Telemachus, you should use your skill
to get him to his native land unharmed

that's well within your power.  The suitors
will sail back in their ship without success."

Zeus spoke and then instructed Hermes, his dear son:

"Hermes, since in every other matter
you are our herald, tell the fair-haired nymph                                  
[30]
my firm decision—the brave Odysseus
is to get back home.  He'll get no guidance
from the gods or mortal men, but sail off                                 
40
on a raft of wood well lashed together.
He'll suffer hardships, but in twenty days
he reach the fertile land of Scheria,
the territory of the Phaeacians,
people closely connected to the gods.
They will honour him with all their hearts,
as if he were divine, then send him off,
back in a ship to his dear native land.
They'll give him many gifts of bronze and gold
and clothing, too, a greater hoard of goods                               
50
than Odysseus could have ever won at Troy,
even if he'd got back safe and sound                                               
[40]
with his share of the loot they passed around.       
That's how fate decrees he'll see his friends
and reach his high-roofed house and native land."

Zeus finished speaking.  The killer of Argus,
his messenger, obeyed.* At once he laced up
on his feet those lovely golden ageless sandals
which carry him as fast as stormy blasts of wind
across the ocean seas and boundless tracts of land.                           
60
He took the wand with which he puts to sleep
or wakes the eyes of any man he chooses.
With this in hand, the mighty killer of Argus
flew off—speeding high above Pieria,
then leaping from the upper sky down to the sea.                                     
[50]
Across the waves he raced, just like a cormorant,
which hunts for fish down in the perilous gulfs
of the restless sea, wetting his thick plumage
in the brine
—that how Hermes rode the crowded waves.
But when he reached the distant island, he rose up,                          
70
out of the violet sea, and moved on shore,
until he reached the massive cave, where Calypso,
the fair-haired nymph, had her home.  He found her there,
a huge fire blazing in her hearth—from far away
the smell of split cedar and burning sandal wood                    
                        [60]
spread across the island.  With her lovely voice
Calypso sang inside the cave, as she moved
back and forth before her loom—she was weaving
with a golden shuttle.  All around her cave
trees were in bloom, alder and sweet-smelling cypress,                      
80
and poplar, too, with long-winged birds nesting there—
owls, hawks, and chattering sea crows, who spend their time
out on the water.  A garden vine, fully ripe
and rich with grapes, trailed through the hollow cave.
From four fountains, close to each other in a row,                                    
[70]
clear water flowed in various directions,
and all around soft meadows spread out in full bloom
with violets and parsley.  Even a god,
who lives forever, coming there, would be amazed
to see it, and his heart would fill with pleasure.                                 
90
The killer of Argus, god's messenger, stood there,
marveling at the sight.  But once his spirit
had contemplated all these things with wonder,
he went inside the spacious cave.  And Calypso,
that lovely goddess, when she saw him face to face,
was not ignorant of who he was, for the gods
are not unknown to one another, even though
the home of some immortal might be far away.                                         
[80]
But Hermes did not find Odysseus in the cave—
that great-hearted man sat crying on the shore,                                  
100
just as before, breaking his heart with tears and groans,
full of sorrow, as he looked out on the restless sea
and wept.  Calypso invited Hermes to sit down
on a bright shining chair.  Then the lovely goddess
questioned him:

             "Hermes, my honoured and welcome guest,
why have you come here with your golden wand?
You haven't been a visitor before.
Tell me what's on your mind.  My heart desires
to carry out what you request, if I can,
and if it's something fated to be done.                                      
110   [90]
But bear with me now, so I can show you
the hospitality I give my guests."

After this speech, Calypso set out a table
laden with ambrosia, then mixed red nectar.

And so the messenger god, killer of Argus,
ate and drank.  When his meal was over and the food
had comforted his heart, Hermes gave his answer, 
speaking to Calypso with these words:

                                               "You're a goddess,
and you're asking me, a god, why I've come.
Since you've questioned me, I'll tell you the truth.                   
120
Zeus told me to come here against my will.
For who would volunteer to race across                                          
[100]
that huge expanse of sea—so immense
it cannot be described?  There's no city there
of mortal men who offer sacrifices
or choice gifts to the gods.  But there's no way
that any other god can override
or shun the will of aegis-bearing Zeus.
He says that you have here with you a man
more unfortunate than all the other ones                                 
130
who fought nine years round Priam's city,
which in the tenth year they destroyed and left
to get back home.  But on that voyage back
they sinned against Athena, and she sent 
tall waves and dangerous winds against them.
All his other noble comrades perished,                                            
[110]
but winds and waves still carried him ahead
and brought him here.  Now Zeus is ordering you
to send him off as fast as possible.
For it is not ordained that he will die                                        
140
far from his friends.  Instead his fate decrees
he'll see his family and still make it home
to his high-roofed house and native land."

Hermes finished.  Calypso, the lovely goddess,
trembled as she spoke to him—her words had wings:

"The gods are harsh and far too jealous
more so than others.  They are unhappy
if goddesses make mortal men their partners
and take them to bed for sex.  That's how it was                             
[120]
when rose-fingered Dawn  wanted Orion—                             
150
you gods that live at ease were jealous of her,
until golden-throned sacred Artemis
came to Ortygia and murdered him
with her gentle arrows.* In the same way,
when fair-haired Demeter was overcome
with passion and had sex with Iasion
in a thrice-ploughed fallow field, soon enough
Zeus heard of it and annihilated him
by throwing down his dazzling lightning bolt.*
Now once again you gods are envious,                                     
160
because a mortal man lives here with me.
I saved him when he was all by himself,                                          
[130]
riding his ship's keel—his swift ship smashed
by a blow from Zeus' flaming lightning, 
while in the middle of the wine-dark sea,
where all his other brave companions died.
Wind and waves brought him here.  This is a man
I cherished and looked after, and I said
I'd make him ageless and immortal
for all days to come.  But since there's no way                         
170
another god can override the plans
of aegis-bearing Zeus or cancel them,
let him be off across the restless seas, 
if Zeus has so commanded and decreed.
But I'll have no part of escorting him                                              
[140]
away from here—I have no ships with oars
nor any crew to take him on his way
across the broad back of the sea.  But still,
I can make sincere suggestions to him
and keep nothing hidden, so he can reach                               
180
his native land, and get back safe and sound."

Then the killer of Argus, Zeus' messenger,
said to Calypso:

                                    "Yes, send him away.
Think of Zeus's rage.  He may get angry
and make things hard for you in days to come."

The killer of Argus, the gods' great messenger,
said these words and left.  The regal nymph Calypso,
once she'd heard Zeus's message, went off to find                                    
[150]
great-hearted Odysseus.  She found him by the shore,
sitting down, with his eyes always full of tears,                                  
190
because his sweet life was passing while he mourned
for his return.  The nymph no longer gave him joy.
At night he slept beside her in the hollow cave,
as he was forced to do
—not of his own free will,
though she was keen enough.  But in the daylight hours
he'd sit down on the rocks along the beach, his heart
straining with tears and groans and sorrow.  He'd look out,
through his tears, over the restless sea.  Moving up,
close to him, the lovely goddess spoke:

                                                       "Poor man,                                [160]
spend no more time in sorrow on this island                            
200
or waste your life away.  My heart agrees

the time has come for me to send you off.
So come now, cut long timbers with an axe,
and make raft, a large one. Build a deck
high up on it, so it can carry you 
across the misty sea.  I'll provision it
with as much food and water and red wine
as you will need to satisfy your wants.
I'll give you clothes and send a favouring wind
blowing from your stern, so you may reach                              
210
your own native land unharmed, if the gods
are willing, the ones who hold wide heaven,
whose will and force are mightier than my own."                            
[170]

Calypso finished.  Lord Odysseus trembled,
then spoke to her—his words had wings:

                                                              "Goddess,
in all this you're planning something different.
You're not sending me back home, when you tell me
to get across that huge gulf of the sea
and in a raft
—a harsh and dangerous trip.
Not even swift well-balanced ships get through                       
220
when they enjoy fair winds from Zeus.  Besides,
without your consent I'd never board a raft,
not unless you, goddess,  would undertake
to swear a mighty oath on my behalf,
you'll not come up with other devious plans
to injure me."

                                               Odysseus finished speaking.                       [180]
Calypso, the lovely goddess, smiled, caressed him,
and then replied by saying:

                               "You're a cunning man,
with no lack of wit
—to consider
giving such a speech. But let the earth                                     
230
stand witness, and wide heaven above, 
and the flowing waters of the river Styx—
the mightiest and most terrible oath
the blessed gods can make—I will not plan
any other injury against you.  No.
I'll think of things and give advice, as if
I was scheming for my own advantage,
if ever I should be in such distress.
For my mind is just, and inside my chest                                         
[190]
there is no iron heart—it feels pity,                                          
240
just like your own."

                                                     The beautiful goddess
finished speaking, then quickly led him from the place.
He followed in her footsteps.  Man and goddess
reached the hollow cave.  He sat down in the chair
Hermes had just risen from, and the nymph set down
all kinds of food to eat and drink, the sort of things
mortal human beings consume.* Then she took a seat
facing god-like Odysseus, and her servants
placed ambrosia and nectar right beside her.
So the two of them reached out to take the fine food                        
250   [200]
spread out before them.  When they'd had their fill
of food and drink, beautiful divine Calypso
was the first to speak:

                           "Divinely born son of Laertes,
resourceful Odysseus, so you now wish
to get back to your own dear native land
without delay?  In spite of everything
I wish you well.  If your heart recognized
how much distress fate has in store for you
before you reach your homeland, you'd stay here
and keep this home with me.  You'd never die,                       
260
even though you yearned to see your wife,
the one you always long for every day.                                            
[210]
I can boast that I'm no worse than her
in how I look or bear myself—it's not right
for mortal women to complete with gods
in form and beauty."

                                            Resourceful Odysseus
then answered her and said:

                                          "Mighty goddess,
do not be angry with me over this.
I myself know very well Penelope,
although intelligent, is not your match                                     
270
to look at, not in stature or in beauty.
But she's a human being and you're a god,
you'll never die or age.  But still I wish,
each and every day to get back home,                                             
[220]
to see the day when I return.  And so,
even if out there on the wine-dark sea
some god breaks me apart, I will go on—
the heart here in my chest is quite prepared
to bear affliction.  I've already had
so many troubles, and I've worked so hard                               
280
through waves and warfare.  Let what's yet to come
be added in with those."

                                                         Odysseus finished.
Then the sun went down, and it grew dark.  The two of them
went into the inner chamber of the hollow cave
and lay down beside each other to make love.

As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,
Odysseus quickly put on a cloak and tunic,
and the nymph dressed in a long white shining robe,                                 
[230]
a lovely lightly woven dress. Around her waist
she fixed a gorgeous golden belt, and placed a veil                            
290
high on her head.  Then she organized her plans
so brave Odysseus could leave.  She handed him
a massive axe, well suited to his grip, and made
of two-edged bronze.  It had a finely crafted shaft
of handsome olive wood.  Next she provided him
a polished adze.  Then she led him on a path
down to the edges of the island, where tall trees grew,
alder, poplar, and pine that reached the upper sky,
well-seasoned, dried-out wood, which could keep him afloat.                   
[240]
Once she'd pointed out to him where these large trees grew,             
300
Calypso, the lovely goddess, went back home.
Odysseus then began to cut the timber.  His work
proceeded quickly.  He cut down twenty trees,
used his bronze axe to trim and deftly smooth them,
then lined them up. The fair goddess Calypso
then brought him augers, so he bored each timber,
fastened them to one another, and tightened them
with pins and binding.  Odysseus made the raft
as wide as the broad floor of a cargo ship
traced out by someone very skilled in carpentry.                               
310    [250]
Then he worked to add the deck, attaching it
onto the close-set timbers, then finished it
with extended gunwales. Next he set up a mast
with a yard arm fastened to it and then made
a steering oar to guide the raft.  From stem to stern
he wove a fence of willow reeds reinforced
with wood to guard him from the waves.  Calypso,
the beautiful goddess, brought him woven cloth
to make a sail—which he did very skillfully.
On it he tied bracing ropes, sheets, and halyards.                               
320   [260]
Then he levered the raft down to the shining sea.

By the fourth day he had completed all this work.
So on the fifth beautiful Calypso bathed him,
dressed him in sweet-smelling clothes, and sent him
from the island.  The goddess stowed on board the raft
a sack full of dark wine and another large one,
full of water, and a bag of food, in which she put
many tasty things for him to eat.  She sent him
a warm and gentle wind, and lord Odysseus
was happy as he set his sails to catch the breeze.                               
330
He sat beside the steering oar and used his skill                                        
[270]
to steer the raft.  Sleep did not fall upon his eyelids
as he watched the constellations—the Pleiades,
the late-setting Bootes, and the Great Bear, 
which men call the Wain, always turning in one place,
keeping watch over Orion—the only star
that never takes a bath in Ocean.*  Calypso,
the lovely goddess, had told him to keep this star
on his left as he moved across the sea.  He sailed
for ten days on the water, then for seven more,                                 
340
and on the eighteenth day some shadowy hills appeared,
where the land of the Phaeacians, like a shield                                          
[280]
riding on the misty sea, lay very close to him.

But at that moment, the mighty Earthshaker,
returning from the Ethiopians, saw him
from the distant mountains of the Solymi.
Poseidon watched Odysseus sailing on the sea,
and his spirit grew enraged.  He shook his head 
and spoke to his own heart: 

                                                       "Something's wrong!
The gods must have changed what they were planning            
350
for Odysseus, while I've been far away 
among the Ethiopians.  For now,
he's hard by the land of the Phaeacians,
where he'll escape the great extremes of sorrow
which have come over him—so Fate ordains.
But still, even now I think I'll push him                                           
[290]
so he gets his fill of troubles."

                                                               Poseidon spoke.
Then he drove the clouds together, seized his trident,
and shook up the sea.  He brought on stormy blasts
from every kind of wind, concealing land and sea                              
360
with clouds, so darkness fell from heaven.  East Wind
clashed with South Wind, while West Wind, raging in a storm,
smashed into North Wind, born in the upper sky,
as it pushed a massive wave. Odysseus's knees gave way,
his spirit fell, and in great distress he spoke aloud,
addressing his great heart:

                                  "I've got such a wretched fate!
How is all this going to end up for me?
I'm afraid that everything the goddess said                                      
[300]
was true, when she claimed that out at sea,
before I got back to my native land,                                         
370
I'd have my fill of troubles.  And now
all that is taking place—just look how Zeus
has covered the wide sky with clouds, stirred up
the sea with stormy blasts from different winds
swooping down on me.  My sheer destruction
is now beyond all doubt.  Oh those Danaans,
three and four times blessed, who died back then
in spacious Troy, while doing a favour
for the sons of Atreus!*  How I wish
I'd died as well and met my fate that day                                 
380
when companies of Trojans hurled at me
their bronze-tipped spears, in the fighting there                              
[310]
around the corpse of Peleus's dead son.*

Then I'd have had my funeral rites,
and Achaeans would've made me famous.
But now I'm fated to be overwhelmed
and die a pitiful death."

                                                                      As he said this,
a massive wave charged at him with tremendous force, 
swirled round the raft, then from high above crashed down.
Odysseus let go his grip on the steering oar                                       
390
and fell out, a long way from the raft.  The fierce gusts
of howling winds snapped the middle of the mast.
The sail and yard arm dropped off into the sea,
some distance off.  For many moments he was held
under the water
—he found it difficult
to rise above the power of that mighty wave,                                            
[320]
because the clothes he'd got from beautiful Calypso
dragged him down.  But finally he reached the surface,
spitting tart salt water from his mouth, as it streamed down
from off his head.  But even so, though badly shaken,                       
400
he did not forget about the raft.  Through the waves
he swam, grabbed hold, and crouched down in the middle,
trying to escape destructive Fate.  The huge wave
carried him along its course this way and that
.
Just as in autumn North Wind sweeps the thistle down
along the plain, and the tufts bunch up together,
that how the winds then drove his raft to and fro                                      
[330]
across the sea.  Sometimes South Wind would toss it
over to North Wind to carry.  At other times,
East Wind would let West Wind lead the chase.                                
410

Then Ino with the lovely ankles noticed him
Cadmus' daughter, once a mortal being with human speech,
but now, deep in the sea, she was Leucothea
and had her share of recognition from the gods.*
She felt pity for Odysseus as he suffered
in his wandering.  She rose up from the water
like a sea gull on the wing, perched on the raft,
and spoke to him, saying:

                                                  "You poor wretch,
why do you put Earthshaker Poseidon
in such a  furious temper, so that he                                         
420
keeps making all this trouble for you?                                              
[340]
No matter what he wants, he won't kill you.
It seems to me you've got a clever mind,
so do just what I say.  Take off these clothes,
and leave the raft.  Drift with the winds.
But paddle with your hands, and try to reach
the land of the Phaeacians, where Fate says
you will be rescued.  Here, take this veil—
it's from the gods—and tie it round your chest.
Then there's no fear you'll suffer anything                                
430
or die.  But when your hand can grab the shore,
then take it off and throw it far from land
into the wine-dark sea.  Then turn away."                                       
[350]

The goddess spoke and handed him the veil.  Then she left,
diving like a sea bird down in the heaving sea.
A dark wave swallowed her.  Then lord Odysseus,
who had endured so much, considered what to do.
In his distress he spoke to his own brave heart:

"I'm in trouble.  I hope none of the gods
is weaving dangers for me once again                                       
440
with this advice of hers to leave the raft.
Well, I won't follow what she says—not yet.
For I can see with my own eyes how far off
that land is where she said I would be saved.
So what I'll do is what seems best to me—                                     
[360]
as long as these planks hold firm in place, 
I'll stay here and bear whatever troubles come,
but once the waves have smashed my raft apart,
I'll swim for it.  There is no better way."

As his mind and heart were thinking about this,                                 450
Earthshaker Poseidon set in motion
a monstrous, menacing, and terrifying wave, 
arching high above his head, and drove it at him.
Just as a storm wind scatters dry straw in a heap,
blowing pieces here and there in all directions—
that's how that wave split the long planks on the raft.
But straddling a board, as if riding a horse,                                                
[370]
Odysseus stripped away the clothing he'd received
from fair Calypso.  He wound the veil across his chest,
and then, with arms outstretched, fell face first in the sea,                 
460
trying to swim.  The mighty Shaker of the Earth
saw him, shook his head, then spoke to his own heart:

"So now, after suffering so much anguish,
keep wandering on the sea until you meet
a people raised by Zeus.  Still, I don't think
you'll be laughing at the troubles still in store."

With these words Poseidon lashed his fine-maned horses                         [380]
and left for Aegae where he has his splendid home.

Then Athena, Zeus's daughter, thought up something new.
She blocked the paths of every wind but one                                     
470
and ordered all of them to stop and check their force,
then roused the swift North Wind and broke the waves in front,
so divinely born Odysseus might yet meet
the people of Phaeacia, who love the oar,
avoiding death and Fates. So for two days and nights
he floated on the ocean waves, his heart filled
with many thoughts of death.  But when fair-haired Dawn                        
[390]
gave rise at last to the third day, the wind died down,
the sea grew calm and still.  He was lifted up
by a large swell, and as he quickly looked ahead,                               
480
Odysseus saw the land close by.  Just as children
rejoice to see life in a father who lies sick,
in savage pain through a long wasting illness,
with a cruel god afflicting him, and then,
to their delight, the gods release him from disease,
that's how Odysseus rejoiced when he could see
the land and forests.  He swam on ahead, eager
to set foot on the shore.  But when he'd come in close,
as far as man's voice carries when he shouts,                                             
[400]
he heard the crashing of the sea against the rocks—                          
490
huge waves with a dreadful roar smashing on dry land
and foaming spray concealing everything—
there were no harbours fit for ships to ride or coves,
but jutting headlands, rocks, and cliffs—at that point
Odysseus felt his knees and spirit give way,
and in despair he spoke to his great heart:

                                                      "What's this?
Zeus has given me a glimpse of land,
just when I'd lost hope, and I've made my way
cutting across this gulf, but I can't find
a place where I can leave this cold gray sea.                             
500   [410]
There's an outer rim of jagged boulders
where waves come crashing with a roar on them.
The rock face rises sheer, the water there
is deep, so there's no way to gain a foothold
and escape destruction.  If I try to land,
a huge wave may pick me up and smash me
on those protruding rocks, and my attempt
would be quite useless.  But if I keep swimming
and hope I'll find a sloping beach somewhere
or havens from the sea, then I'm afraid                                     
510
the stormy winds will grab me once again
and carry me, for all my heavy groaning,                                          
[420]
across the fish-filled seas, or else some god
may set some monstrous creature of the sea
against me—illustrious Amphitrite
raises many beasts like that.  I know well
how great Earthshaker has been angry at me."

As he debated in his mind and heart like this,
a huge wave carried him toward the rocky shore.
His skin would have been stripped and all his bones smashed up,     
520
but the goddess with the gleaming eyes, Athena,
put a thought inside his mind.  As he charged ahead,
he grabbed a rock with both his hands and held on,
groaning, until that giant wave had passed him by.
So he escaped. But as the wave flowed back once more,                           
[430]
it charged, struck, and flung him out to sea.  Just as 
an octopus is dragged out of its den with pebbles
clinging to its suckers, that's how his skin was scraped
from his strong hands against the rocks, as that great wave
engulfed him.  And then unfortunate Odysseus                                 
530
would have perished, something not ordained by fate,
if bright-eyed Athena had not given him advice.
Moving from the surf where it pounded on the shore,
he swam out to sea, but kept looking at the land,
hoping to come across a sloping beach somewhere                                    [440]
or a haven from the sea.  He kept swimming on 
and reached the mouth of a fair-flowing river,
which seemed to him the finest place to go onshore.
There were no rocks, and it was sheltered from the wind.
Odysseus recognized the river as it flowed                                         540
and prayed to him deep in his heart:

                                        "Hear me, my lord,
whoever you may be.  I've come to you,
the answer to my many prayers, fleeing
Poseidon's punishment from the deep sea.
A man who visits as a wanderer
commands respect, even with deathless gods
just as I've now reached your stream and knees,
after suffering so much.  So pity me,
my lord—I claim to be your suppliant."                                           
[450]

Odysseus spoke.  At once the god held back his flow,                       550
checked the waves, calmed the water up ahead of him,
and brought him safely to the river mouth.  Both knees bent,
he let his strong hands fall—the sea had crushed his spirit.
All his skin was swollen, and sea water flowed in streams
up in his mouth and nose.  He lay there breathless,
without a word, hardly moving—quite overcome
with terrible exhaustion.  But when he revived
and spirit moved back in his heart, he untied
the veil the goddess gave him and let the river                                          
[460]
take it as it flowed out to the sea.  A great wave                               
560
carried it downstream, and then without delay
Ino's friendly hands retrieved it.  But Odysseus
turned from the river, sank down in the rushes,
and kissed life-giving earth.  Then in his anxiety,
he spoke to his great heart:

                               "What now?  What's next for me?
How will I end up?  If I stay right here
all through the wretched night, with my eye on
the river bed, I fear the bitter frost
and freshly fallen dew will both combine
to overcome me when, weak as I am,                                      
570
my spirit's breath grows faint—the river wind
blows cold in early morning.  But if I climb                                    
[470]
uphill into the shady woods and lie down there
in some thick bushes and so rid myself
of cold and weariness, sweet sleep may come
and overpower me, and then, I fear,
I may become some wild beast's prey, its prize."

As he thought it through, the best thing seemed to be
to move up to the woods.  Close by the water
he found a place with a wide view.  So he crept                                
580
underneath two bushes growing from one stem,
one was an olive tree, the other a wild thorn.
Wet winds would not be strong enough to ever blow
through both of these, nor could the bright sun's rays shine in,
and rain would never penetrate
they grew so thick,                                [480]
all intertwined with one another.  Under these
Odysseus crawled and immediately gathered up
with his fine hands a spacious bed—fallen leaves
were all around, enough to cover two or three
in winter time, however bad the weather.                                           
590
When resourceful lord Odysseus noticed that,
he was happy and lay down in the middle,
heaping fallen leaves on top of him.  Just as
someone on a distant farm without a neighbour
hides a torch underneath black embers, and thus saves
a spark of fire, so he won't need to kindle it                                               
[490]
from somewhere else, that's how Odysseus spread the leaves
to cover him.  Athena then poured sleep onto his eyes,
covering his eyelids, so he could find relief,
a quick respite from his exhausting troubles.                                      
600

Notes to Book Five

*killer of Argus: Hermes is commonly called "killer of Argus" (or in Greek Argeiphontes) in reference to an incident when he killed the monster Argus whom Hera had set to watch over Io, a goddess Zeus had designs upon. [Back to Text]

*Orion: Orion was a mythical hunter, son of Poseidon. He has a rich mythological history.  By some accounts he was mistakenly killed by the virgin goddess of the hunt Artemis in an archery contest with Apollo. Zeus later set him in the sky in the constellation which bears his name.  [Back to Text]

*Iasion: a member of the royal family of Troy who had a sexual affair with the goddess Demester, who bore him a son, Plutus.  Zeus killed Iasion with a thunderbolt.  [Back to Text]

*mortal human beings consume: The diet of the gods is different from what human beings eat.  Calypso serves Hermes ambrosia and nectar and has those herself, but Odysseus, as a human being, has to have different things to eat and drink. [Back to Text]

*. . . in Ocean: the Great Bear or Wain (in modern times often called the Plough) turns more or less around the same spot in the night sky and at the latitudes of the eastern Mediterranean never disappears below the horizon (i.e., never seems to vanish into the sea or bathe in the Ocean).  The Bootes (Herdsman) is the constellation Arcturus. 
[Back to Text]

*sons of Atreus: These are, of course, Menelaus and Agamemnon, for whose sake many Achaean kings joined the expedition to Troy, because of a promise they had made to Menelaus to help him recover his wife, Helen.  [Back to Text]

*Peleus's dead son: This is a reference to Achilles and to a famous incident in the Trojan war when the Achaean leaders fought to protect the body of Achilles and his divine armour from the Trojans. [Back to Text]

*Ino . . . Leucothea: Ino was the mortal daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia (king and queen of Thebes).  After her death Zeus changed Ino into a goddess of the sea, Leucothea. [Back to Text]

4 - 5 - 6

  • Homer, The Iliad , Bernard Knox (Introduction), Robert Fagles (Translator) Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (November 1, 1998) ISBN: 0140275363
  • Homer, The Odyssey, Bernard Knox (Introduction), Robert Fagles (Translator), Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (November 29, 1999) ISBN: 0140268863
  • Stanley Lombardo, Homer: Odyssey (Audio CD) 2000 (ISBN 0872204847) has what is considered by many to be the best combination of faithfulness to the original Greek and a more vernacular style. An Audio CD recording read by the translator (ISBN 1930972067).


[This translation, which has been prepared by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC, Canada, is in the public domain and may be used by anyone, in whole or in part, for any purpose, without charge and without permission, provided the source is acknowledged.

Note that the numbers in square brackets refer to the lineation of the Greek text, the numbers without brackets refer to the lineation of the translated text.  Asterisks indicate links to explanatory endnotes provided by the translator.



     
     
     
     

				

Greeks

Greece

Hellenica World

Index