Book 5 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 5

Dawn rises the next day and Athena addresses Zeus about the suffering of Odysseus on Calypso's island. She tells him it is not right that no one in Ithaca remembers Zeus while the suitors plot to kill Telemachus. Zeus replies:

"My child, what odd complaints you let escape you.
Have you not, you yourself, arranged this matter-
as we all know- so that Odysseus
will bring these men to book, on his return?"
Book 5, lines 24-7

He sends Hermes to Calypso to demand that she release Odysseus, prescribing that Odysseus must make his own raft and float alone for twenty days until he lands on Skheria where the Phaiakians will honor him. Hermes flies like a gull over the crests of waves and arrives at the home of Calypso. She recognizes him and gives him food and drink. He tells her that he has been forced by Zeus to tell her to release Odysseus. She shouts "Oh you vile gods, in jealousy supernal/ you hate it when we choose to lie with men-" Book 5, 124-5. She reflects on other gods who have slept with mortals and then tells Hermes that she has no ship in which to send Odysseus. Hermes tells her that she needs to send him, nevertheless, in a raft of his own making. He leaves and she goes out to find Odysseus. She tells him that he must build a raft which she will provision with food and clothing. Odysseus does not believe her and exclaims at the idea of crossing the ocean on a raft. He asks her to swear to enchant him no more and she does, unwillingly. He goes to her house and eats in the place left by Hermes. Calypso asks him how he can want to go home when she is divine and beautiful. He replies:

"I long for home, long for the sight of home.
If any god has marked me out again
for shipwreck, my tough heart can undergo it.
What hardship have I not long since endured
at sea, in battle! Let the trial come."
Book 5, 229-33

The sun sets and they go to sleep. At dawn Odysseus prepares for the journey and carefully builds a raft. This takes four days. On the fifth Calypso bathes him and enchants a wind to push him advising him to keep certain stars on his left side. He sails for seventeen days and then sees land. Poseidon sees this and is upset by it. He knows that he cannot stop the journey so he decides to make it harder. He sends a storm that makes Odysseus wish he had died at Troy. The waves batter him and one breaks his mast. The goddess Ino sees him struggling in the water and gives him her magical veil which will support him as he makes the long swim to shore. She advises him to drop it as soon as he nears land, but he doesn't trust her because he thinks she is trying to trick him from the boat. A wave forces him into the water. He floats for two days and when he nears the land all he can see are violent crags and cliffs. He loses heart and laments "A cruel turn, this. Never had I thought/ to see this land, but Zeus has let me see it-" Book 5, lines 426-7. As a wave lifts him he grips onto a rocky ledge and is pulled back by the undertow. When he comes up again he sees the mouth of a calm river and goes for it praying to the god of the stream. The river god makes it quiet for him. Odysseus lays on its bank for a while, barely breathing. He gets up and tunnels under some leaves in a thicket to avoid the cold just as a man buries the last embers of fire to save them for the next day.

Topic Tracking: Journeys 4

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