My edition of The Odyssey is filled with purple marked passages from my college days. Sometimes I am reading along and all I can think it, “Why would I highlight THAT?” You can tell the spots where I went highlighter happy and thought that everything was important…or the parts where I was apparently bored with the story and pages and pages go by and there is no purple highlighter.
(On a side note, purple highlighter covers up text pretty well. There were parts that I had to hold my book up to my face so I could make out what was under the purple).
It has eventually dawned on me that I must have written a paper about Odysseus’ son Telemachus sometime in that class because as soon as his name appears it’s BAM! Purple highlighter!
There are also quite a few post-it notes in three different colors randomly throughout the book. At first I thought they might just be marking passages related to a paper, but instead they are separating the different “books” within the story. Convenient, but also obnoxious when you are digging through 24 post-its trying to find your book mark. I eventually had to find a bookmark with an obnoxious tassel so I could find it.
Anyway, I did end up marking some of my favorite lines. Mostly because I thought they were quite emotional, or an important part of the story. Your mileage may vary.
My most favorite was already posted, the whole opening section where the bard (if this was being recited orally as its supposed to me) calls to the Muses to inspire his words and the story. Here it is again:
“Sing to me man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove—
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod wiped from sight the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will-Sing for our time too.”
Another one of my favorite passages is when Odysseus and his men blind the Cyclops, son of Poseidon (the sea god), which eventually leads to Odysseus' long journey home. That passage has a lot of great imagery and word choice and the scene really sucks you in. I should warn you, it’s a gory passage, which isn’t at all unusual for a Greek piece:
“Now, at last, I thrust our stake in a bed of embers
to get it red-hot and rallied all my comrades...
I dragged it from the flames, my men clustering round
As some god breathed enormous courage through us all.
Hoisting high that olive stake with its stabbing point,
straight into the monster’s eye they rammed it hard—
I drove my weight on it from above and bored it home
as a shipwright bores his beam with a shipwright’s drill
that men below, whipping the strap back and forth, whirl
and the drill keeps twisting faster, never stopping—
So we seized our stake with its fiery tip
and bored it round and round in the giant’s eye
till blood came boiling up around that smoking shaft
and the hot blast singed his brow and eyelids round the core
and the broiling eyeball burst—
its crackling roots blazed
as a blacksmith plunges a glowing ax of adze
in an ice-cold bath and the metal screeches steam
and its temper hardens—that’s the iron’s strength—
so the eye of the Cyclops sizzled round that stake!”
Another of my favorite scenes is when Odysseus finally comes clean to his son, Telemachus, about his identity. I love this only because it’s a rather climatic point:
“’No, I am not a god,’
the long-enduring, great Odysseus returned.
‘Why confuse me with one who never dies?
No, I am your father—
the Odysseus you wept for all your days,
you bore a world of pain, the cruel abuse of men.’”
I also love the fact that to show a passage of one day to the next, this line pops up nearly every time:
“When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more”
I just like the imagery of red fingers spreading across the sky. It’s one of those pieces of literary mastery that just sticks in your mind.
For those of you who have read The Odyssey before, do you have any favorite passages?
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