Sunday, December 11, 2011

Myth Notebooks: Odyssey

On a day when I am catching up with notebooks, a poem by Simon Armitage
appears in my in-box, reminding me of another ongoing musing...

Myth Notebooks: Homer’s Odyssey

Ulysses weeping the stones white on Ogygia -
His “one last night” with Calypso (fit for a Strauss opera – a Letzteliebesnacht!)

The Odyssey as a poem on hospitality, old-school style –
epic sea-faring adventure with gods, mortals & monsters AND a morality play...

Ulysses: prototypical wanderer & exile -
dependent on the kindness of strangers

Kurosawa on Tarkovsky, vis a vis Solaris:
In this world there are (and should still be) many things unknown to mankind.

Ulysses is the first mortal to face so many unknowns & survive.
Enigma personified. The resilient human spirit embodied.

“This is not madness. It has something to do with conscience.” (from Solaris)

Ulysses as Boddhisatva warrior,
tossed to & fro upon the wine-dark seas:

Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helpless by karma & neurotic thought,
Like the restless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara
(Nyoshal Khenpo)

Ulysses trials & natural disaster, version 2011
(Hurricane Irene, August 27)
The tree lay down
on the garage roof
and stretched, You
have your heaven,
it said, go to it
. (The Hurricane, William Carlos Williams)

From Simon Armitage’s hipster update,
The Odyssey: A Dramatic Retelling of Homer’s Epic

Zeus to Athena on our thickness:
When we send eagles / to signal our thoughts in the sky,
what do they do – stand and point and stare, / like…birdwatchers!

On reading Lombardo’s millennium translation
(Hackett, 2000) of the Odyssey

Homer’s compound adjectives, his colorfully imaginative metaphors
and his wonderful mixture of true-to-life realism and supernatural fantasy –
Shakespearean invention millennia before the Bard, distilled like purified water
by the spare, bone-dry language and the “swift narrative pace” of Lombardo...

the early-born, rose-fingered dawn
spreading its hands across the horizon
like a long-pining lover upon the skin
of his much-missed beloved…
(my Lombardo-inspired quatrain after / to Homer…)

The Odyssey and weeping, or “Real men cry – often!”
Odysseus: shedding salt tears
honing his heart’s sorrow…with hollow, salt-rimmed eyes

His eyes, his cheeks, his face perpetually wet with tears -
what kind of warrior have we here?

He was ashamed / To let the Phaeacians see his tears falling down
Tears / Welled up in his eyes and flowed down his cheeks

Odysseus weeping was contagious and spread to his crew,
group-therapy style:
with twenty-two men / All in tears…

Weeping as a symbol of despair:
This broke my spirit. I sat on the bed / And wept.

Grief in action -
the spontaneous emotional response to seeing the ghosts of loved ones:
I wept when I saw her…[his mother, Anticleia]
I wept when I saw him [his friend, Agamemnon]

The heightened emotion surrounding the reunion of Odysseus & Penelope -
one of the most stirring examples of true love in any genre from any period -

And as she listened, her face melted with tears…

So her lovely cheeks coursed with tears as she wept
For her husband who was sitting before her
[however unbeknownst to her]
…she wept until sweet sleep settled upon her eyelids…

The Odyssey and creatures – A Bestiary…
The touching scene of reunion with Odysseus & his dog Argus –

(again, after Lombardo)

a pitiful sight, the old & neglected,
lice-infested dog by the dung heap,
enough to make his master weep…

The aviary of the Odyssey – from the eagles of Zeus and Athena –
high-flying...of the hooked beak...mountain bred
Owl-eyed Athena
Apollo’s swift arrow Hawk
Ino’s flashing gull

Odysseus himself appearing like a soaring raptor

*Circe and her "manly beasts" of stags, pigs, bears
*The Sun-god Helios / Hyperion and his sacred cattle
*The Giants – from the Laestrygonians to the Cyclopes,
and Polyphemus’ flock of XXL sheep
*Dangerous beauties from the Sirens to Calypso
*Deadly sea creatures like Scylla & Charybdis

Multi-disciplinary mash-up of adventure & epic, history & myth, tragedy & romance, fantasy, extraterrestrial and oh-so-wonderfully human…

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