Odyssey RAL – Book V-VIII

Odyssey read-alongI finished my reading for the past week early but I’ve been too busy to write something proper for the Odyssey Read-along.

The biggest happenings in books V to VIII were Odysseus release from Calypso and his arrival to Phaeacia. In book V what struck me was Calypso accusing the gods of jealousy. The gods ‘hate seeing a goddess take fancy to a mortal man’. And don’t we know it…

Odysseus arrives in Phaeacia, meets Nausicaa, and is aided by both Nausicaa and Athene in entering the city and getting in contact with Nausicaa’s parents Alcinous and Arete. A feast and games are held for him by Alcinous (because what if Odysseus is secretly a god? He does look godly right? Better treat him well just in case).

Odysseus is challenged to join the games. When reading Odysseus’ little speech where he defends himself against Euryalus’ challenge, I realised how different the various translations can be interpreted. In Butler’s prose translation (the main translation I’m reading), Euryalus is rude but Odysses seems even worse and I would have almost expected repercussions:

“For shame, Sir,” answered Odysseus, fiercely, “you are an insolent fellow- so true is it that the gods do not grace all men alike in speech, person, and understanding. One man may be of weak presence, but heaven has adorned this with such a good conversation that he charms every one who sees him; his honeyed moderation carries his hearers with him so that he is leader in all assemblies of his fellows, and wherever he goes he is looked up to. Another may be as handsome as a god, but his good looks are not crowned with discretion. This is your case. No god could make a finer looking fellow than you are, but you are a fool. Your ill-judged remarks have made me exceedingly angry…” (Translation: Butler)

Compare that to Lattimore’s translation:

“Friend, that was not well-spoken; you seem like one who is reckless.
So it is that the gods do not bestow graces in all ways
on men, neither in stature nor yet in brains or eloquence;
for there is a certain kind of man, less noted for beauty,
but the god puts comeliness on his words, and they who look toward him
are filled with joy at the sight, and he speaks to them without faltering
in winning modesty, and shines among those who are gathered,
and people look on him as on a god when he walks in the city.
Another again in his appearance is like the immortals,
but upon his words there is not grace distilled, as in your case
the appearance is conspicuous, and not a god even
would make it otherwise, and yet the mind there is worthless.
Now you have stirred up anger deep in the breast within me
by this disorderly speaking …” (Translation: Lattimore)

Quite a difference in tone if you ask me!

Moving on… Admittedly I had quite some fun looking at art depicting the meeting between Nausicaa and Odysseus. A bit too much fun perhaps. There is some very beautiful art out there, my favourite being:

Odysseus and Nausicaa, by Michele Desubleo c. 1655
Odysseus and Nausicaa, by Michele Desubleo c. 1655

It’s gorgeous! Louis Gauffier’s painting is nice too and perhaps more accurate with the shocked maids…

Ulysses and Nausicaa, by Louis Gauffier, 1798
Ulysses and Nausicaa, by Louis Gauffier, 1798

So far so good, and then there’s beauties like this out there (by my fellow countrymen of centuries ago, no less):

Odysseus en Nausicaa, by Jacob Jordaens between 1630-1635
Odysseus en Nausicaa, by Jacob Jordaens between 1630-1635

“Ohmigawd a naked gentleman!” The shocked maid cracks me up every time… And it gets better:

Odysseus en Nausicaa, by Pieter Lastman 1619
Odysseus en Nausicaa, by Pieter Lastman 1619

“Ohmigawd a naked gentleman at our picknick!”

I couldn’t help myself. Too soon? 😉


  1. I find the gods much worse than mortals with their petty squabblings.

    Thank you so much for posting the different translations. I much prefer Fitzgerald’s; Butler smacks you right in the face with the meaning of the words. I think what makes Odysseus’ speech so impressive is that he insults Euryalos, but doesn’t quite insult him ………… and that makes it even more insulting, KWIM? There is subtlety in his words. Euryalos is meant to sound small and inferior and Odysseus is meant to sound grand and kingly. Butler doesn’t carry this off.

    I really like your idea to post the various paintings (wow, I have to find a way to post pictures the size of yours on my blog without them being blurry). I laugh because the clothes range from ancient Greece to 19th century Europe. 😀 I think Gauffier wins for closest to the original in this category!

    Love your post, Carola!
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    • C.

      Oh absolutely, especially the pettiness of it. Kind of funny if not for the poor mortals 😉

      That is something that disappoints me about Butler’s translation. I noticed it with more parts, where Butler’s translation makes me raise my eyebrows and then I compare and it’s all so much more subtle (and brilliant! I mean Odysseus is a genius let’sbehonest).

      Haha yeah, I wasn’t even going to get into the topic of clothes 😉 We’d be here all night!

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