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Roman Bust

‘You’re a hard man, Odysseus, stronger
Than other men, and you never wear out,
A real-iron man.’ […]

Then Odysseus
Stood up and placed a two-handled cup
In Arete’s hands, and his words rose on wings:

“Be well, my queen, all of your days, until age
And death come to you, as they come to all.
I am leaving now. But you, Lady — enjoy this house,
Your children, your people, and Lord Alcinous.”

And godlike Odysseus stepped over the threshold.
Alcinous sent a herald along
To guide him to the shore and the swift ship there,
And Arete sent serving women with him,
One carrying a cloak and laundered shirt,
And another to bring the strong sea-chest.
A third brought along bread and red wine.
They came down to the sea, and the ship’s crew
Stowed all these things away in the hold,
The food and drink, too. Then they spread out
A rug and a linen sheet on the stern deck
For Odysseus to sleep upon undisturbed.
He climbed on board and lay down in silence
While they took their places upon the benches
And untied the cable from the anchor stone.
As soon as they dipped their oars in the sea,
A deep sleep fell on his eyelids, a sleep
Sound, and sweet, and very much like death.

And as four yoked stallions spring all together
Beneath the lash, leaping high,
And then eat up the dusty road on the plain,

So lifted the keel of that ship, and in her wake
An indigo wave hissed and roiled
As she ran straight ahead. Not even a falcon,
Lord of the skies, could have matched her pace,
So light her course as she cut through the waves,
Bearing a man with a mind like god’s,
A man who had suffered deep in his heart,
Enduring men’s wars and the bitter sea —
But now he slept, his sorrows forgotten.


Odysseus’s departure from the island of Scheria in books 12 and 13 of Homer’s Odyssey (Lombardo translation).

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