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

The Cyclopes, Book IX

 Free at last, Odysseus and his men made their way from the island.  Then, when they were far enough from the island, Odysseus called back to Polyphemus: ‘So Cyclops, no weak coward it was whose crew you bent to devour there in your vaulted cave- you with your brute force!  Your filthy crimes came down on your own head, you shameless cannibal, daring to eat your guests in your own house- so Zeus and the other gods have paid you back!’ (IX, 531-536) But Polyphemus was not finished with Odysseus and his crew.  The monster heaved a boulder at the ship, causing it to rush headlong toward the shore, where Odysseus had to use a pole to force the ship back towards the open sea.  Once out at sea, Odysseus began to taunt the Cyclops again, saying:  “’Cyclops-/if any man on the face of the earth should ask you/who blinded you, shamed you so-say Odysseus’” (IX, 558-560). Polyphemus, still angered by Odysseus’ taunts, recalled a prophecy that foretold these very events: ‘Oh no, no-the prophecy years ago. . . it all comes home to me with a vengeance now! We once had a prophet here, a great tall man, Telemus, Eurymus’ son, at master at reading signs, who grew old in his trade among his fellow-Cyclops. All this, he warned me, would come to pass someday- that I’d be blinded here at the hands of one Odysseus. But I always looked for a handsome giant man to cross my path, some fighter clad in power like armor-plate, but now, look what a dwarf, a spineless good for nothing, stuns me with wine, then gouges out my eye!’ (IX, 563-574) With that, Polyphemus curses Odysseus, and prays to his father, Poseidon, to avenge his fate: . . . Or if he’s fated to see his people once again and reach his well-built house and his own native country, let him come home late and come a broken man-all shipmates lost, alone in a stranger’s ship- and let him find a world of pain at home! (IX, 590-595) As the reader learns, curses play a significant part in the Odyssey, and Polyphemus’ curse, all too unluckily for Odysseus, comes true.