Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Odyssey, Books 8 and 9

The Odyssey A Day for Songs and Contests

Can't beat ads by Athena:

“Hither now, leaders and counsellors of the Phaeacians, come to the place of assembly, that you may learn of the stranger who has newly come to the palace of wise Alcinous after his wanderings over the sea, and in form is like unto the immortals.” (12-15)
King Alcinous arranges a ship for Odysseus "rigged for her maiden voyage." Why her maiden voyage I wonder? Nothing but a new ship for his guest? Others already using the other ships?

Laodamas challenges Odysseus to sports, even though he knows the man must be out of sorts for being tossed around at sea for who knows how long. Odysseus shows him, and sends a heavier discus than anyone farther than anyone else.

The bard Demodocus sings the tale of Aphrodite cheating on Hephaestus with Ares. The cunning smith rigs a trap and all the other gods laugh at the adulterer. Poseidon talks the smith into letting them go, and if the war god skips out on his fine, Poseidon will pay it himself. Of course Ares skips out along with Love.

Odysseus requests of the bard, "Sing of the wooden horse Epeus built with Athena's help, the cunning trap that good Odysseus brought one day to the heights of Troy, filled with fighting men who laid the city waste." (552-555)

Now why did he ask that if he was gonna cry? I think Odysseus did so on purpose, in order to make his hosts more curious about who he was, and to increase his loftiness by preceding his introduction with a tale already told by the bards.

In the One-Eyed Giant's Cave

Odysseus finally says who he is, and recites a litany of the troubles (many of them women) that he's been through. Of course there's Calypso, and earlier, Circe, and the queen of Aeaea. They all would have had him to themselves. And they did to a point, wink wink. "But they never won the heart inside me, never." (37) He and his man plundered Ismarus; he blames the men for their difficulties there...too greedy. Then there was the hurricane. Then there was the North Wind, and they were so close. Then the Lotus-Eaters. Bad men, eating the lotus, getting stoned were they? Finally, the Cyclops. What was Odysseus thinking? This time his men wanted to leave but nooooo, he ought to receive a guest-gift. Why would he think a cyclops gave a rip about manners?

Ok, who doesn't know the story of Odysseus blinding the Cyclops and tricking him by saying his name is "No Man" or "Nobody," and then sneaking out under the bellies of the rams? And then almost getting tossed ashore by a giant boulder the Cyclops through after the boasting Odysseus who thought himself far enough offshore?

The Cyclops remembers his prophecy.
We once had a prophet here, a great tall man,
Telemus, Eurymus' son, a master at reading signs,
who grew old in his trade among his fellow-Cyclops.
All this, he warned me, would come to pass someday--
that I'd be blinded here at the hands of one Odysseus.
But I always looked for a handsome giant man to cross my path,
some fighter clad in power like armor-plate, but now,
look what a dwarf, a spineless good-for-nothing,
stuns me with wine, then gouges out my eye! (566-574)

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