A favorite passage from Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Odyssey, in which Odysseus is being delivered to Ithaka by the Phaiakians, and in what I find to be a deliciously strange plot twist, sleeps through the whole thing:


“Slumber, soft and deep

Like the still sleep of death, weighed on his eyes

As the ship hove seaward.

How a four horse team

whipped into a run on a straightaway

consumes the road, surging and surging over it!

So ran that craft and showed her heels to the swell,

her bow wave riding after, and her wake

on the purple night-sea foaming.

Hour by hour

she held her pace; not even a falcon wheeling

downwind, swiftest bird, could stay abreast of her

in that most arrowy flight through open water,

with her great passenger–godlike in counsel,

he that in twenty years had borne such blows

in his deep heart, breaking through ranks in war

and waves on the bitter sea.”


I love the attention paid to the ship, the sea-language, and how it all becomes woven together metaphorically with Odysseus’ adventures in land ways and sea ways (arrows, waves), and that unneeded but profound adjective “bitter” at the end of the passage, to describe the medium that is moving him toward home.