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The Wine Red Sea:  Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 - 2018 by Peter J Ponzio

Calypso’s Island, BOOK V

Athena appears on Olympus and reminds her father of the fate of Odysseus: . . .he's left to pine on an island, racked with grief in the nymph Calypso's house-she holds him there by force. He has no way to voyage home to his own native land, no trim ships in reach, no crew to ply the oars and send him scudding over the sea's broad back. (V, 15-19) Athena's speech provides a bridge to the first book, where she entreats Zeus and the other immortals to allow Odysseus to return to Ithaca.  The reminder is necessary to begin the narrative of Odysseus' journey, after the narration of Telemachus' journey from adolescence into manhood. Zeus then instructs Hermes to visit Calypso with orders to release Odysseus, since his destiny decrees that he should return home.  The theme of destiny will return in the poem, and is set in opposition to the theme of free will in the lives of men and gods. The island of Calypso is not set in any known earthly region.  It exists in the land of the gods, and is apart from the land of men.  This point is made explicit when Hermes arrives on the island:  “. . . so Hermes skimmed the crests on endless crests./But once he gained that island worlds apart. . . Why, even a deathless god/who came upon that place would gaze in wonder,/heart entranced with pleasure” (V, 59-60; 81-83). Calypso entertains Hermes with nectar and ambrosia, as befitting a host to her guest.  Her treatment of Hermes is in contrast with her treatment of Odysseus:  a good host does not detain his guest unwillingly. After partaking of the good things to hand, Hermes addresses Calypso as follows:  ”Now Zeus commands you to send him off with all good speed:it is not his fate to die here, far from his own people.  Destiny still ordains that he shall see his loved ones,reach his high-roofed house, his native land at last” (V, 125-128). Calypso reacts somewhat surprisingly, accusing the gods of taking mortals for their mates, but refusing her to wed Odysseus.  She exclaims to Hermes:  “And I welcomed him warmly, cherished him, even vowed/to make the man immortal, ageless, all his days. . .”(V, 150-1).  Ultimately, Calypso bows to the demand of Zeus, knowing that even the gods must accede to destiny. She approaches Odysseus, who sits forlorn on a beach and declares: “No need, my unlucky one, to grieve here any longer,/no, don't waste your life away.  Now I am willing,/heart and soul, to send you off at last” (V, 177-179).
Calypso and Odysseus