"Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus," Joseph Turner, 1829, National Gallery, London, Wikipedia photo, mystical scene for this poem.
“Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus,” Joseph Turner, 1829, National Gallery, London, Wikipedia photo, mystical scene for this poem.

For nine days we sailed towards coast of
Greece, heavy seas and blown off course
Upon a crescent strand, strange and tree-
Lined realm, by mischance our anchors set,
Sweet water from clear springs and food we
Sought from obliging inhabitants of this
Seductive dwelling-shore.

Within gardens of Cape Maleas, lived an
Odd and generous race of lotus-eaters,
Flowers of mind-entrancing lustrous white,
Tastes thereof imparted musical breezes,
Softly shaded dreams, men cared not for
Ships of sail, their function or for ocean
Fathoms, home thoughts lost from sight.

Mariner’s minds gagged and bound by
White-fruited meat, willing became its
Slave, so reduced were men strong of arms
And backs, their sea-souls veiled amongst
These reefs, for they fought hand and fist to
Stay transfixed by lure of lotus blooms, no
Desire for sea labours or for me, Ulysses.

O! I stormed upon them like wave-wrath none
Had ever known, with bloody stings of fists
And whips, walking trances fled, those who
Fought were lashed upon rowing benches, for
Which was no escape. Sails we set, bending
Oars to waters deep, sailor’s weeping pains and
Sorrows calmed, stars guiding us from plight.

In this poem, Ulysses, as depicted in Homer’s “Odyssey,” describes his encounter and that of his crew with lotus- eaters. Why write or expand upon what has been translated expertly by masters, such as Chapman, Cowper, Stanhope, and Worsley? Or poetically expressed by Tennyson? For love of Greek poetry, to immerse mind and soul in the “lotus” of Homer’s enduring epics, my personal poetic odyssey.

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