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The Odyssey Reading Club -- Entry 15 --Gloss on Book V

This is probably going to be a quick one, because, unless you tried, I don't think you could lose the thread of what's happening in Book V of The Odyssey, which is a fairly linear recounting of Odysseus' departure from Calypso's island and his arrival at Phaeacia, destined to be his last stop before Ithaca. Still, in case anyone out there is cheating and reading these glosses instead of reading the poem itself (you really shouldn't be doing that, by the way), here's my gloss on Book V.

Lines 1-45: Council on Olympus. Athena asks Zeus to intervene in Odysseus' plight, and he agrees, sending Hermes to Calypso to make it clear that Zeus' will is that Odysseus be allowed to go home. (N.B.: This appears to be a different council than the one that opened the poem, but something seems to be off in the timeline. But more on that later.)

Lines 46-95: Hermes goes to Calypso's island and visits the cave where she and Odysseus make their home. Odysseus is out, crying on the rocks. (Apparently, this is what he does with his days.)

Lines 96-164: Hermes tells Calypso of Zeus' decree. (He also complains about being made to come all the way to her island, which is miles and miles away from anything.) Calypso complains that it is unfair and hypocritical that she be made to allow Odysseus to leave. Hermes reminds her that this demand comes from Zeus, and she relents. He leaves.

Lines 165-212: Calypso tells Odysseus that she is ready to let him go and will help him build a raft. Odysseus, being suspicious, makes Calypso swear a binding oath that she is not attempting to deceive him, which she swears.

Lines 213-251: Calypso and Odysseus, back at the cave, discuss exactly why he's so intent on leaving her. Calypso warns that his sufferings are not over, even though he will indeed make it home eventually. Odysseus insists that he is ready for the journey, and the two make love.

Lines 252-309: Over the course of the next four days, Odysseus, with the assistance of Calypso, builds a sophisticated raft with a sail. On the fifth day, he sets sail, and after eighteen days at sea, he spies the shoreline of Phaeacia, where he is to land.

Lines 310-365: Poseidon, finally returning from Ethiopia, spies Odysseus sailing smoothly and realizes what the other gods have been up to. He turns his wrath upon Odysseus and sends a massive storm to cause him trouble, though he knows he is fated to safely reach shore. Odysseus bemoans his fate and wishes he'd died on the fields of Troy, where he would have been honored by his comrades, instead of dying a wretched death by drowning.

Lines 366-420: Odysseus is saved by a sea deity named Leucothea who was once a mortal woman called Ino, who gives him not only advice on how to survive the storm, but also a scarf to wear that will render him immortal while he wears it. Initially, Odysseus rejects her advice to swim straight for the shore and tries to reclaim control of his raft, but Poseidon makes sure it is destroyed before allowing Odysseus to swim to shore and leaving the scene.

Lines 421-end: Once again, Athena comes to Odysseus' rescue, calming the storm and the waters and controlling the wind so that it guides Odysseus toward the shoreline. She also helps him avoid some very rocky cliffs so that he is not tossed upon the rocks by the waves. She guides him to a river's mouth, where Odysseus calls out to the unknown river god for aid as a traveler, which the river god grants, allowing Odysseus to leave the sea and enter the river before climbing on the river bank, at which point he throws the enchanted scarf out to sea where it's quickly retrieved by the sea goddess. He then finds a place to sleep under some olive trees as Athena grants him the gift of slumber.


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