Having been welcomed by King Alcinoüs and after a night’s rest, Odysseus began the story of his adventures for the Phaeacian chiefs.
The Cicones seek revenge for the raid upon their home, driving Odysseus back to the sea with the loss of thirty-six of his men.
A storm had drives the fleet across the sea for nine days.
Now Zeus, the lord of cloud roused in the north
a storm against the ships, and driving veils
of squall moved down like night on land and sea. . . .
We saw death in that fury, dropped the yards,
unshipped the oars, and pulled for the nearest lee:
then two long days and nights we lay offshore
worn out and sick at heart, tasting our grief.
(Fitzgerald, p. 490)
Odysseus saves his crew from the Lotus Eaters and chains three of his men who had tasted their narcotic fruit to the ship.
Odysseus comes to the island of the Cyclops and becomes trapped in the cave of Polyphemus along with twelve of his men—six of whom Polyphemus eats.
A prodigious man
slept in this cave alone, and took his flocks
to graze afield—remote from all companions,
knowing none but savage ways, a brute
so huge, he seemed no man at all of those
who eat good wheaten bread,
but he seemed rather a shaggy mountain
reared in solitude.
(Fitzgerald, p. 490)
Odysseus tricks the Cyclops, Polyphemus, blinding him and narrowly escaping to his ship.
Realizing his defeat, Polyphemus prays to his father, Zeus:
“O hear me, lord, blue girdler of the islands,
if I am thine indeed, and thou art father:
grant that Odysseus, raider of cities, never
see his home.”
(Fitzgerald, p. 503)
Aeolüs, Keeper of The Winds, offers a satchel of hope that nearly carries Odysseus and his men home until their greed and curiosity turn them into a ship of fools.
Odysseus and his men make a narrow escape from The Laestrygonians, but the rest of the fleet is lost to the giant cannibals who caught them like fish.
Odysseus and his men dally at Aeaea, the home of Circe, a beautiful, but dangerous witch, who fell in love with Odysseus whose magic was more powerful than her own.
Teiresias foretells Odysseus’ future in Hades, the underworld, warning him against harming the sacred oxen of the Sun God, Hyperion.
The Sirens try to lure Odysseus off course with their magically tempting song, but Odysseus has his men put wax in their ears and makes them tie him to the mast so that he can hear what no other man has:
“We know all things which shall be hereafter upon the earth.”
(Hamilton, p. 214)
Odysseus avoids Charybdis’ maelstrom by sacrificing six of his crew to Scylla, the six-headed monster:
A man surf-casting on a point of rock
for bass or mackerel, whipping his long rod
to drop the sinker and the bait far out,
will hook a fish and rip it from the surface
to dangle wriggling through the air:
were borne aloft in spasms toward the cliff.
(Fitzgerald, p. 512)
Odysseus’ crew commit sacrilege on Thrinacia, the island of the sun god. When Hyperion sees his precious oxen slaughtered, he prays to Zeus:
“O Father Zeus and gods in bliss forever,
punish Odysseus’ men! So overweening,
now they have killed my peaceful kine, my joy
at morning when I climbed the sky of stars,
and evening, when I bore westward from heaven.
Restitution or penalty they shall pay -
and pay in full—or I go down forever
to light the dead men in the underworld.”
And Zeus replies after Odysseus and his men set sail:
Then Zeus who drives the stormcloud made reply:
“Peace, Helios: shine on among the gods,
shine over mortals in the fields of grain.
Let me throw down one white-hot bolt,
and make splinters of their ship in the winedark sea.”
(Fitzgerald, p. 516)
Calypso restores Odysseus to health, but keeps him her beloved prisoner for seven years on the paradise island of Ogygia.