»  Homer's "Odyssey"

 

Odyssey, Book 13, Lines 79-92

by Homer, ca. 8th century B.C.

 

•  Background

The fourteen lines read here by Peter Jones are from Book 13 of the Odyssey. Having been released from his seven years of captivity on Calypso's island, Odysseus sails away on a raft, but encounters a storm and is shipwrecked on another island, home of the Phaeacians. Fascinated by the stories he tells them of his wanderings, the Phaeacians agree to transport Odysseus to his home in Ithaca. They prepare one of their ships, make a bed for him in the stern, and as the rowers begin to pull away, Odysseus falls asleep.

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•  Text of the poem

καὶ τῷ νήδυμος ὕπνος ἐπὶ βλεφάροισιν ἔπιπτε,
νήγρετος, ἥδιστος, θανάτῳ ἄγχιστα ἐοικώς.
ἡ δ', ὥς τ' ἐν πεδίῳ τετράοροι ἄρσενες ἵπποι,
πάντες ἅμ' ὁρμηθέντες ὑπὸ πληγῇσιν ἱμάσθλης,
ὑψόσ' ἀειρόμενοι ῥίμφα πρήσσουσι κέλευθον,
ὣς ἄρα τῆς πρύμνη μὲν ἀείρετο, κῦμα δ' ὄπισθε
πορφύρεον μέγα θῦε πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης.
ἡ δὲ μάλ' ἀσφαλέως θέεν ἔμπεδον: οὐδέ κεν ἴρηξ
κίρκος ὁμαρτήσειεν, ἐλαφρότατος πετεηνῶν.
ὣς ἡ ῥίμφα θέουσα θαλάσσης κύματ' ἔταμνεν,
ἄνδρα φέρουσα θεοῖς ἐναλίγκια μήδε' ἔχοντα:
ὃς πρὶν μὲν μάλα πολλὰ πάθ' ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμὸν
ἀνδρῶν τε πτολέμους ἀλεγεινά τε κύματα πείρων,
δὴ τότε γ' ἀτρέμας εὗδε, λελασμένος ὅσσ' ἐπεπόνθει.

•  Richmond Lattimore's translation

and upon the eyes of Odysseus there fell a sleep, gentle,
the sweetest kind of sleep with no awakening, most like
death; while the ship, as in a field four stallions drawing
a chariot all break together at the stroke of the whiplash,
and lifting high their feet lightly beat out their path, so
the stern of this ship would lift and the creaming wave behind her
boiled amain in the thunderous crash of the sea. She ran on
very steady and never wavering; even the falcon,
that hawk that flies lightest of all winged creatures, could not have paced her,
so lightly did she run on her way and cut through the sea's waves.
She carried a man with a mind like the gods for counsel, one whose
spirit up to this time had endured much, suffering many
pains: the wars of men, hard crossing of the big waters;
but now he slept still, oblivious of all he had suffered.

•  A perfectly literal translation

and on-him sweet sleep on (his) eyes began-to-fall,
unwaking sweetest, to-death most-closely similar.
It [the ship], as on (a) plain four-linked male horses
all together setting-off under blows of (the) lash
up-high rising easily make (the) journey,
so then its stern rose, (a) wave while behind
dark huge seethed [a wave] of (the) loud-resounding sea.
It and very safely ran secure: nor would (a) falcon
bird keep-pace, swiftest of-birds.
So it, lightly running, (the) sea's waves (it) cut,
(a) man carrying to-(the)-gods similar mind having
who previously very many (he) suffered pains his-in-heart
men's both wars painful and waves enduring
indeed then at-any-rate unafraid he-slept, forgetting all he-had-suffered.