Monday, April 18, 2011

The Odyssey 
by Homer

further comments

""If only, my friend," reserved Penelope exclaimed, "everything you say would come to pass!" (p 400)

My reading of The Odyssey of Homer is continuing and with more than two-thirds of the poem completed we are in the home stretch. Last Sunday we discussed Book Nineteen which is titled "Penelope and Her Guest" by Robert Fagles in his recent translation, but more appropriately, I think, "Recognitions and a Dream" by Robert Fitzgerald in his classic translation from 1961. I say that because the book climaxes with first, Odysseus' old nurse's recognition of the scar he received during a a hunt for wild boars as a youth. The story is told of the great hunt, the boy Odysseus with his Father and Uncles - sons of Grandfather Autolycus who had named Odysseus (the Son of Pain), where Odysseus rashly runs ahead and is gouged by the Boar leaving the tell-tale scar. The incident reminds one of Faulkner's great story, The Bear, which narrates a similar rite of passage.
Second, we have Penelope, with the beggar (Odysseus still disguised and protected by Athena), sharing her dream  about the Eagle and the geese. The geese, representing the suitors, of course, and the Eagle, well we know the story. Yet, with all the dreaming and confrontations and discussion Penelope has doubt and cannot see the beggar as her long lost husband Odysseus. So she proposes a contest for the suitors to decide on which she will accept and hesitates at the insistence of the beggar that Odysseus will still return in time. The book ends with Penelope in pain seeing the solace of sleep:

                                                       With that                     
the queen went up to her lofty well-lit room
and not alone: her women followed close behind.
Penelope, once they reached the upper story,
fell to weeping for Odysseus, her beloved husband,
till watchful Athena sealed her eyes with welcome sleep.(p 408)

The Odyssey by Homer. Robert Fagles, trans. Viking Penguin, New York. 1996


parrish lantern said...

This is a fantastic tale & one I thoroughly enjoyed when I travelled through it.

James said...

It is especially fantastic and a delightful read. I am reading it slowly with a group at the pace of about one book per discussion session. This allows us to savor the deeper meanings and connections between themes for Homer then, and we as readers now.