Fragment of Homer's Odyssey
by Molly Ayn Jones '04 and Adrian Packel '04
Dramatis personae: NF1, Odysseus, Eurylochus, Poseidon, Zeus, Athena, Agamemnon
For nine days Odysseus and his crew sailed over the shining sea, striking the water ceaselessly with their oars, and on the tenth the great isle of Protothespia heaved into sight, where, they say, never does the all-revealing Sun set, and a man who never sleeps could earn double wages, one for shepherding, and one for devouring hapless passersby. But here indeed there were no giants, no shepherds calling out to one another, and the land remained unplowed, unsown, unseeded, yielding no harvest of any sort. For this isle was sacred to earth-shaker Poseidon. And as when a great fish, flopping around helplessly and randomly on barren land, finally manages to flop back into the lake whence it was removed, rejoices in its heart, thus indeed the companions of Odysseus were cheered by the sight of dry land. And they begged him with sweet words to put ashore, but Odysseus recalled the prophecies of the enchantress Circe, godlike among the goddesses, and he spoke winged words unto them .
Heed my words, comrades, though you have suffered very many ills indeed, that I may speak the prophecies of Circe, who entreated me to avoid this isle, holy to earth-embracing Poseidon. All of you, headstrong men, swear a great oath—godlike pigs, sacred to the lord Poseidon, inhabit this island, in their glorious sty; and if someone should come upon such a hog, let him not kill it, whether it be a mere piglet or a full-grown porker, lest that man incur the wrath of the gods, who hold broad Olympus. But be content with the food and drink aboard our ship, with its well-balanced rows of benches for rowing.
Thus he spoke, and they swore the great oath, his glorious comrades all. And when they had moored the purple-cheeked ship in a small inlet and disembarked, they prepared the evening meal. And when they had driven away their desire for food and drink, then on the one hand Odysseus wandered around the island, avoiding his comrades, so that he might "pray" to the gods. And straightaway they sent sweet sleep to cover his eyelids. And on the other hand glorious Eurylochus initiated his bad plan, addressing his comrades:
Heed my words, comrades, though you have suffered very many ills indeed: come, let us take the holy pigs of Poseidon and sacrifice them to the immortal gods, who hold broad heaven. And if we should return to sea-girt Ithaca, our dear fatherland, straightaway we would raise the earth-shaker a rich temple. But if, grieved for some reason over the loss of his much-oinking swine, he wishes to destroy us on the wine-dark sea, I would rather my spirit leave me swiftly, crashing into a wave, than waste away for a long time on this barren, deserted island!
Thus spoke Eurylochus; and the other renowned comrades praised him. And forthwith they drove in a mass the swine with majestic snouts, for not far from the swift ship were they in their great sty, holy to the lord Poseidon. And then the men prayed, and used oak-shoots instead of barley, for there was no barley left. And when they had cut the throats of the pigs and flayed them, they cut out the thigh-pieces and covered them with a double layer of fat, and put raw flesh upon them, roasting them over the fire, and they made libations with water, for they had no wine. And then indeed did Odysseus return, and speak, grieved in his heart:
O popoi! What a monstrous deed you have wrought, Eurylochus! Surely you have very much doomed us all to death and fate on the shining sea. Father Zeus, and all you other blessed gods, being everlasting, surely somehow you lulled me to ruin with merciless sleep, while my comrades, remaining awake, contrived this baleful deed!
And he pondered very much indeed in his midriff and in his heart, whether, drawing his sword from beside his knee and rushing upon cowardly Eurylochus, he should furnish black death for him, or whether he should let him live. And at that moment, with great speed the white-armed nymph Leukokleia, godlike among the goddesses, informed Poseidon of their baneful deed, and he, wending his way from the banquet of the Ethiopians, raged to all the immortals:
Father Zeus, and all you other blessed gods, being everlasting, pay back the comrades of much-enduring Odysseus, son of Laertes, who overweeningly killed with merciless bronze my pigs with curved tails, in which I rejoiced, whenever I went down from starry heaven into the sea's bottomless depths. And if indeed you do not repay them with a requital befitting my dear squealers, verily I shall go down to gloomy Hades, and loose monstrous torrents of much-foaming water among the dead!
And in turn cloud-wrapped, aegis-bearing Cronian Zeus, wielder of the shining white thunderbolt, replied:
Poseidon, keep thee thy floods among the immortal and mortal ones, atop the fertile earth. And if you so wish, gather quickly the ceaseless directional winds, the Eurus, the Notus, yea, even the Boreas, and most terribly strike the ship midst the wine-dark sea.
And then Odysseus and his stalwart, well-greaved companions sat down in their well-benched hollow ships and raised the mizzen-mast to half keel while dropping the hawser and toe cables into the wine-dark sea. And Athena, gray-eyed daughter of Aegis-bearing Zeus, sent a favorable winds to fill the sails.
But Poseidon, full wroth with Odysseus and his stalwart companions, wended his way down from broad heaven and came to the middle of the sea. And Odysseus and his companions were engulfed by waves of the much-foaming sea and their knees were loosened by icy-cold fear.
And Poseidon, son of untranslatable epithet Cronos, spoke unto Odysseus and said,
Indeed then Odysseus, son of Laertes, king of rugged, sea-girt Ithaca, woe be unto you (plural) who have eaten my well-loved rolling-gaited swine, which my swineherd did raise on the mount of lofty, holy Olympus for my own good pleasure. My well-girdled nymphs mourn them even now on rugged Mikronesos with the lofty peak of Makrokare looming in the blue-greenish distance. For these reasons I will smite thee with my well-forked trident and cause the bluish sea to swallow you and your hearty companions like when the octopus closes its much-suckered tentacles around a squirming unknown species of fish. And just as the fish struggles and flounders in its well-tentacled grasp before being squished, the innards flowing between the splintered bones, so will the sea smite your hollow ship to tiny bits of tow cables and keel beams.
Thus spoke Poseidon. And a much-foaming wave arose and smote the curved, purple-cheeked ship from stem to stern, and it broke into tiny bits of spars, mainsails, and mizzen-cables as the companions sunk into the depths. And much-suffering Odysseus would have sunk too, had not Pallas Athena in the form of a much-grinning, purple-finned dolphin come to him and spoken winged words,
Well then I suppose, goodly Odysseus, that you have truly been thrown off your black ship into the water. For I think you have not come here by foot, for this is not a place much suited to the rowing of feet or the hooves of horses. Come now, I will devise for you a method by which you may take your leave of the much-foaming sea and so return to sea-girt Ithaca. Take you my much-cartilaginous dorsal fin in your strong hands and I will bear you to the shores of the grim house of dour Hades, where you will do nothing much of use, but there will be a goodly reunion with other heroes of lofty walled Troy.
And much-turning Odysseus took hold of the much-cartilaginous dorsal fin of the goodly dolphin. And he rode the dolphin for nine days, and on the tenth he reached the shores of the grim house of dour Hades. He found a purple-fleeced, one-year-old, unblemished, black ram on the dark shore and tied it with a well-twisted thong. He then dug a deep trench and sacrificed the stalwart, well-fleeced ram over it, then collected the wine-red blood in its sandy depths. And many mindless shades of the dead flocked around it, but Odysseus held his bronze sword over it and allowed only whom he willed to drink. Then came the shade of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, who, having bent to drink deep of the rolling-gaited ram's blood, spoke unto Odysseus winged words.
Well then I suppose, Odysseus, son of Laertes, king of sea-girt Ithaca, that you have come here by the will of some god. For indeed few of mortal men who toil under the sun are come here before their time. I certainly came here in the normal fashion, having been cruelly slaughtered by my wayward woman wife and goodly Aegisthus. But they too met their end by the hand of my blameless son Orestes, who slew Aegisthus in a manner that Telemachus would do well to emulate. Now, Odysseus, son of Laertes, let me tell you never ever to trust a woman, nay, not even with anything of importance, for they are all much-scheming and deceptive. And do not try to console me with my fame among men, for I would rather be alive as the slave to a man owning less than a stade of rocky-soiled farmland than be the king of the mindless dead.
Thus having spoken, he went his way among the shades of the much-flitting-about dead.