HOW ODYSSEUS LEFT THE ISLAND OF CALYPSO
 Calypso of the braided tresses was a goddess
feared by all men. It was to her island that
the piece of wreckage to which Odysseus
clung drifted on the ninth dark night after
his ship was wrecked.
At night the island looked black and gloomy,
but at morning light, when Odysseus felt life
and strength coming back to him, he saw that
it was a beautiful place.
In the sunlight, the grey, cruel sea was
violet blue, and violets blue as the sea grew
thickly in the green meadows. From the sea
shore he walked inland until he came to a
great cave, and in the cave sat Calypso, the
beautiful goddess with the braided hair.
On the hearth a great fire burned, and the
fragrance of the burning cedar and sandal-
 wood could be smelt afar off in the island.
Calypso, wearing a shining robe and a golden
girdle, was weaving with a shuttle of gold
and singing as she wove. Round about the
cave alders and poplars and sweet-smelling
cypresses grew, and in them roosted owls and
falcons and chattering sea-crows, and the long-winged,
white-plumaged sea-birds. A vine
with rich clusters of grapes climbed up the
cave, and four fountains of clear water played
Odysseus knew that Calypso was a goddess
that all men feared, but he soon found that
he had nothing to fear from her, save that
she should keep him in her island for
evermore. She tended him gently and lovingly
until his weariness and weakness were gone
and he was as strong as ever.
But although he lived by the meadows where
the violets and wild parsley grew, and had
lovely Calypso to give him all that he wished,
Odysseus had a sad and heavy heart.
'Stay with me, and thou shalt never grow
old and never die,' said Calypso.
But a great homesickness was breaking the
 heart of Odysseus. He would rather have had
one more glimpse of his rocky little kingdom
across the sea, and then have died, than
have lived for ever and for ever young in the
beautiful, flowery island.
Day after day he would go down to the
shore and stare with longing eyes across the
water. But eight years came and went, and
he seemed no nearer escape.
Yet, although he did not know it, the days
of the wanderings of Odysseus were soon to
It was Poseidon, the god of the sea, who
had sent all his troubles to Odysseus, because
he had blinded his son, the wicked cannibal
It was the grey-eyed Athene, a goddess who
had always been the friend of Odysseus, who
helped to bring him home. When she saw
him daily sitting by the sea, gazing across the
water with great tears rolling down his face,
her heart was filled with pity. She knew, too,
what troubles his wife and son were having
in Ithaca while Odysseus was far away, and
at length she went to the gods and begged
 them to help her to send Odysseus safely back
to his kingdom.
Poseidon had gone to a far-distant land,
and when the gods knew through what bitter
sorrows Odysseus had passed, and how his
heart ached to look once again even on the
blue smoke curling up above the woods in
Ithaca, they took pity on him.
They called Hermes of the golden wand,
their fleet-footed messenger. On his feet
Hermes bound his golden sandals that never
grew old, and that bore him safely and swiftly
over wet sea and dry land. In his hand he
took his golden wand, with which he could
lull people to sleep. Like a sea-bird that
chases the fish through the depths of the sea,
and dips its white plumage in the rolling
breakers, so sped Hermes over the waves.
When he had reached the island of Calypso,
he walked through the meadows of violets
to the cave. But Odysseus was not there.
Down by the rocky shore he sat, looking
wistfully over the wide sea, while the tears
rolled down his face and dripped on the
 Calypso was in the cave, weaving with her
golden shuttle, and singing a sweet song.
Food and wine she gave to Hermes, and
when he had eaten and drunk he gave her
the message of the gods.
When she heard that the gods commanded
her to let Odysseus go safely home, Calypso
was very sad.
'Hard and jealous are ye gods,' she said.
It was I who saved Odysseus as he clung to
the piece of wreckage that drifted in the sea,
and guided him safely to my island. Ever
since have I been kind to him and have loved
him, and now you are taking him away from
me. But how can I send him? I have no
ships nor men to take him back to Ithaca.'
If thou dost not send him, thou wilt anger
all the gods,' said Hermes, 'and greatly will
they punish thee.'
Then Hermes sped away across the violet
meadows and the violet-blue sea, and Calypso
went down to where Odysseus sat on the shore.
'Sorrow no more, poor man,' she said, 'for
now, with all my heart, will I send thee home.
Arise, and cut long beams. With thine axe
 make a wide raft and lay cross planks above
for a deck. In it I shall place food and water,
and give thee clothing, and send a fair wind,
so that thou mayest come safely to thine own
country. For such is the will of the gods,
who are stronger than I am both to will and
'But surely thou plannest mischief,'
Odysseus said. 'Thou bidst me cross the
mighty sea in a little raft. I would not go
aboard a raft, unless thou shouldst give me
thy promise not to plan secretly my ruin.'
Calypso smiled, and gently laid her hand
on his shoulder.
'I give my promise,' she said. 'I am planning
for thee as I should plan for myself were
I in a like case. My heart is not of iron,
Odysseus, but pitiful as thine.'
Then she gave him a great, double-edged
axe of bronze, with a strong handle of olive-wood,
and a polished adze, and led the way
to the border of the island, where grew tall
trees, alders and poplars and pines. When
she had shown him where the tall trees grew,
she went home.
 Odysseus went gladly and quickly to work.
With his axe of bronze he soon had felled
twenty great trees and had trimmed and
neatly planed them. That done, Calypso
brought him other tools, and bolts, and a
web of cloth to make sails, and skilfully and
well he made his raft. In four days his work
was done, and he drew the vessel down with
rollers to the sea.
On the fifth day, when Calypso had given
him new warm clothes, and had put plenty
of corn and wine and water, and many dainties
that she knew Odysseus liked, in the raft,
she said farewell. She sent a gentle breeze
to blow, and Odysseus rejoiced as the wind
filled his sails and carried him away from
the island. Calypso had told him what stars
he must use as his guides, and all her
advice he followed, and so in eighteen days
he saw land appear.
It was the land of the Phaeacians, who were
famous sailors, and it looked like a shield
lying in the misty sea.
But just when safety and home seemed very
near Odysseus, his enemy, Poseidon the sea-
 god, returned from his wanderings in far-off
When he saw Odysseus peacefully sailing
towards the land of the Phaeacians, he knew
that while he had been away the gods must
have changed their minds, and were sending
Odysseus safely home.
'Ha!' said the angry god, 'Odysseus thinks
all his sorrows are over. Even yet I think
I can drive him far enough in the path of
With that he gathered the clouds into great
stormy masses, and roused up the waters of
the deep. Soon the thick black mist hid both
land and sea. He let loose all the fierce
storms and wild winds, and made the dark
night rush down. The winds fought and
clashed together and made the sea swell up
into furious billows that rolled onward,
mountain high, towards the shore.
Then the heart of Odysseus failed him.
'Wretched man that I am,' said he, 'would
that I had met my death fighting in Troyland,
and been buried like a brave soldier there.'
As he spoke, a mighty wave smote the raft
 and rushed over it. The helm was torn from
his hand, the mast was broken in two, the
sail and yard-arm were hurled far away, and
Odysseus was swept into the sea.
For long the weight and force of the huge
wave kept him under, and his clothes were
so heavily clogged with water that they made
him sink. But at last he came up, and spat
from his mouth the bitter salt water that
streamed down his face and head. Even then
he did not forget his raft, but made a spring
after it in the waves, clutched hold of it, and
clambered in again.
Hither and thither the great waves carried
it. Like a scrap of thistledown chased before
the winds, even so was the raft of Odysseus
driven. The south wind would toss it to the
north, and again the east wind would cast it to
the west to chase.
So pitiful was the sight of brave Odysseus
thus tortured by the vengeful god of the sea,
that a fair sea-nymph felt sorrow for him.
Rising like a white-winged sea-gull from the
waves, she climbed on to the raft and spake to
 'The sea-god shall not slay thee,' she said.
Do as I tell thee, and thou shalt not die.
Cast off these heavy, water-logged clothes,
leave the raft to drift, and swim with all thy
strength to the land. Take now my veil and
wind it round thee. With it on thou shalt be
safe, and when thou dost grasp the mainland
with thy hands, turn thy head away and let
the veil fly back to the sea.'
With that she gave him her veil and dived
like a bird into the water, and the dark waves
closed over her.
But Odysseus believed not in her kindness.
'The gods have made a new plot for my
ruin,' he thought. 'I will not obey this sea-nymph.
This shall I do,—as long as the
timbers of my raft hold together, here will I
stay. But if the storm shall drive the raft in
pieces, then shall I swim, for there is nought
else to do.'
Then the god of the sea stirred up against
him a wave more terrible than any that had
gone before, and with it smote the raft. Like
chaff scattered by a great wind, so were the
planks and beams of the raft scattered hither
 and thither. But Odysseus laid hold on a
plank and bestrode it, as he might have
ridden a horse. He stript off his wet clothes
and wound around him the sea-nymph's veil.
Then he dropt from the plank, and swam with
all his might.
The god of the sea saw him and scornfully
wagged his head.
'Go wandering over the sea, then,' he said,
'until thou findest help.'
Then he lashed his sea-horses, with their
flowing white manes, and drove away to his
own home far below the sea.
But Athene also saw Odysseus and bade all
the winds be still but the swift North Wind.
'Blow hard, North Wind,' she said, 'and break
the way before Odysseus till thou hast carried
him on to the land of the Phaeacians.'
For two days and two nights Odysseus was
borne onward on the swell of the sea.
When the third day dawned the breeze fell
and there was a breathless calm, and he saw
the land very near. With his heart near
bursting with joy he swam on until he could see the
trees on the shore.
 Just then a great sound smote his ear, and
he knew it was the thunder of the sea against
a reef. Soon he saw that on that coast there
were no harbours, nor any shelter for ships,
but only jutting headlands and reefs, and
great, rugged crags against which the sea
broke thundering and crashing, and surging
back in angry foam.
Then thought Odysseus: 'At last I have
had a sight of the land, but there is no way
to escape from the grey waters. If I try to
land, the waves will dash my life out on
those jagged rocks. If I swim further round
the coast and try to find some inlet, then the
storm-winds may catch me again and bear
me onward far from the land, or the sea-god
may send a monster from the shore water to
But as he was thinking, a great wave bore
him to where the breakers thundered on the
reef. All his bones would have been broken,
and his life dashed from his body, if Athene
had not put a thought into his heart. As he
was swept in with the rush of the wave, he
clutched hold of the rock and clung there till
 the wave had gone by. But the fierce back-wash
rushed on him, and the furious surge
tore off his clinging fingers and cast him into
the sea. With bleeding hands he sank under
the great waves, and might have perished
there, had not Athene once again whispered
to him. He rose and swam outside the line
of breakers, always looking for some inlet,
until at length he came to where a fair river
joined the sea.
Then Odysseus called aloud to the river and
begged it to have pity on him, and to let him
at last get safely to the land.
And the river was kind, and made the water
smooth, and bore him up in its shining stream
until he had reached the shore.
All bruised and swollen was his body, great
streams of salt water gushed from his nostrils,
but he lay on dry land at last, his breath and
speech gone, wellnigh swooning. When he
came to himself, he took the sea-nymph's veil
and let it fall into the river. Swiftly it swept
down the stream, and the nymph rose from the
sea, caught it in her hands, and bore it away.
Then Odysseus, kneeling down amongst the
 reeds by the river, kissed the earth for very
gladness and thankfulness of heart.
'The river breeze blows shrewd and chill in
the morning,' he thought, 'and the frosty night
down here by the river might kill me.'
So he climbed up the hillside to a shady
wood, and crept under the shelter of two
olive-trees that grew so close together that no keen
wind, nor sun, nor rain could pierce them.
There he made himself a bed of dry leaves,
and lay down and heaped over himself the
warm and fragrant covering.
Then Athene sent sleep to close his eyes,
and at last warmth and comfort and happy
dreams made him forget all the terrible things
through which he had passed.
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