The Odyssey, Book 24: Like Bats

Then Hermes called the spirits of the suitors
out of the house. He held the golden wand
with which he casts a spell to close men’s eyes
or open those of sleepers when he wants.
He led the spirits and they followed, squeaking
like bats in secret crannies of a cave,
who cling together, and when one becomes
detached and falls down from the rock, the rest
flutter and squeak — just so the spirits squeaked,
and hurried after Hermes, lord of healing.

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Agamemnon’s spirit meets the spirits of the suitors in Hades and cries out in astonishment:

What happened to you all?
Why have you all come down here to the land
of darkness? You are all so young and strong;
you must have been the best boys in your town.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

And Here We Go: The Odyssey, Books 21 and 22

Book 21 is the archery contest. All the suitors try and fail to string Odysseus’s bow, but the mysterious beggar, who the suitors have been abusing all evening, gets up, strings the bow with ease, and shoots an arrow through the lined-up axe handles.

Then

With his eyebrows
he signaled, and his son strapped on his sword.,
picked up his spear, and stood beside his chair,
next to his father, his bronze weapons flashing.

This is how Book 21 ends. Book 22 begins:

Odysseus ripped off his rags . . .  “Platyime is over.”

Self has read three translations of The Odyssey: Fitzgerald, Fagles, and now Wilson’s.

It’s very fresh, in Emily Wilson’s translation. Despite the fact that it’s probably the one where she’s most aware of formulaic utterances and repetitions. It is a story.

Her favorite character is, oddly enough, not Odysseus but Telemachus. His psychological dilemma is  acute. She really identifies with this young man who grows up fatherless, at the mercy of his mother’s boorish suitors. His journey is almost as epic as his father’s. In one section, Telemachus tells how his house is known for the single son. Laertes, his grandfather, was a single child, and so is Odysseus. So is Telemachus. This seems a rather risky practice, but anyhoo it is certainly a powerful image. And every time Athena makes Odysseus or Penelope more attractive to fool other people, self can’t help thinking: Catfish! Catfish!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Importance of Footbaths: The Odyssey, Book 19

Odysseus (disguised as a beggar) to his wife, Penelope:

I do not care for footbaths; do not let
any of these slave women in your house
come near my feet, unless there is an old one
whom I can trust, who has endured the same
heartbreak and sorrow as myself. If so,
I would not mind if she should touch my feet.

Penelope orders an old slave to wash the beggar’s feet, which she does.

Then the old woman took the shining cauldron
used for a footbath; and she filled it up
with water — lots of cold, a splash of hot.

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