A Log on Odysseus
|Award Winner in "Kula Manu 1973-1974" (Duane R. Hurst, © 1973)
Our ship safely slides over a translucent sea which has a suspiciously tranquil appearance. Father Odysseus, for he is like a father, wisely directs our course home. But why does he place trust on the words of wily Circe? Surely some impending evil awaits us. Yet we trust brave Odysseus guides the ship unerringly to safety.
The sea is indeed uncommonly still with a deathlike beauty. Oars are now slicing through the seaweed-strewn deep, foam and spray leap eagerly from the churning depths. Graceful as a gull, the craft glides atop the glossy smoothness, disrupting a blanket of vibrant crimson, yellow, orange, and silver hues. The magnificence of color becomes enhanced by our own actions which disperse sparkling ripples round about our vessel.
Ah! What is this that Odysseus wishes, standing for our attention? He expresses desire for all to know our destination. We must give ear to this for safety's sake!
A fine mist reaches out for our ship as we draw near the famed Sirens' Isle. But bending backs straighten, our work stops. Our chief inserts soft was in each ear--all but his own. We go.
Mists gently envelop our anxious craft, perhaps covering our trespass. Occasional masses of towering precipices jut ominously through the concealing fog. Hazy forms of gigantic boulders protrude from the waveless summits, straining to glimpse the mysterious choir. Yet no noticeable sign can be distinguished--so eerie it is being deprived of any sound. Myriads of fears spring to arm the imagination, but we quail not since Odysseus commands us.
He stands bound to the mast with taut ropes awaiting the sweet, dooming song. The bands strain from pressure exerted by our captain, who struggles to be free. We add more lines, drawing them tight about him.
What strange song could stir such a mighty man? Proud Odysseus alone suffers the pleasing strains--sparing us from some awful fate.
The Isle past, the way out, we continue on. Would the Sirens' melody and meadow have been more comforting and safe than this treacherous sea? But, we prudently follow clever Odysseus.
Is not every command he utters for our safety?
Windswept sullen heights loom above the turbulent strait which lies in our path. Swirling waters surround the barren base of rock and enter a monstrous black cavity, cavern of Charybdis. The opposite shore appears more enticing, although it too is foreboding.
A thundering roar, billowing clouds of dark smoke, and a rushing wave strike fear in our hearts as we enter the passage. Undulating waves smash together midst fiercely swirling waters. Fallen rock and earth are irresistibly swallowed by the seething Charybdis; then, broken and mingled with blue sand, they are vomited from the whirlpool's heart. Crafty Odysseus directs the pilot to the safer shore. Our united strength and effort fight against downward sucking currents from the huge whirlpool and eventually we gain freedom.
Oh! What bestial woe descends from gloomy peaks above, dashing aside our forlorn joys of safety! Six stalwart fellows the hideous six-headed serpent lifts heavenward into a waiting hell. We can do nothing but listen to their shrieks while the pitiless monster mangles their gory bodies.
Resistance was anticipated but brave Odysseus orders us to flee with all speed. He seems grieved even after we gain the safety of a vast open sea. But we wonder why he avoided conflict, seeing how much fame he might have gained from the conflict. Our thought is that he donned his armor to win glory in a vicious struggle. Now we see he knew all that would transpire and denied this foreknowledge to his loyal crew. Are we expected to easily forget this strategy in our leader?
Compelling Odysseus continues to lead us--whether to safety or not.
Our travels lead us to the Isle of the Sun where lush meadows feed magnificent sheep and wholesome cattle. Odysseus has no desire to beach there but is compelled by the crew, Eurylochos being the spokesman. We are exhausted and are unable to continue on as can pious Odysseus. He wishes each of us to swear an oath that we will not kill any cattle or sheep we chance to meet. Of course we willingly consent.
After a meal on the safe Isle, we sorrowfully reflect on the fate of our companions lost to Scylla. Resentment begins to grow. Storms keep us held to the island and soon provisions are gone. Food is hard to find--the cattle are very wholesome looking.
One day in our hunger, Odysseus leaves our company. Eurylochos explains a plan which will satisfy our hunger without offending the gods. That is, if they are offended, it is better to die in the sea with a full belly than to starve in a land of plenty. We all wisely accept his way, confident all will be well--even braking our oath is justified. Besides, we wonder about Odysseus. He leads us here to starve.
The feast is marvelous until our captain arrives to rebuke us. He has nothing to offer us though. We feel all is well since the seas soon appear calm.
Once more we sail homeward to our long-withheld rewards.
Swelling mountains of wind-stirred sea tumble over our tiny craft. Crashing thunder blasts the black sky, a brilliant flash of lightning smashes our ship into the punishing deep.
Oh! Odysseus, cursed by the gods, what evil fate you have brought us to, far from our safe homeland.