Suzanne Vega espresses Calypso's view of the affair on the island. How does her song comapare with Homer's story?

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Ah, yes, what a great song! Suzanne Vega's haunting 1987 song "Calypso" examines the story of this nymph from her perspective, rather than that of the gods and Odysseus. Only the first quarter of Vega's song has much in common with Odyssey 5, which is where most of Homer's comments about the encounter are found.

In her first verse, Vega echoes Homer in that Calypso lives alone on an island and that she rescued Odysseus from drowning. Vega never mentions Odysseus by name, but because of the song's title, the audience knows she refers to Odysseus.

Vega's second verse focuses on Calypso's appearance, her "garden" (which Homer never mentions), her singing, and again her lonliness on the island. Vega also alludes to Calypso's sexual relationship with Odysseus and being able to taste the salt on his skin (a detail which Homer omits).

In Vega's first choral passage, she notes how Calypso noticed how Odysseus "pulled away" from her over the years on the island, but that now she is going to "let him go".

Finally, in Vega's third verse and in her second and final choral passage, she returns to the theme of Calypso letting Odysseus go. She suggests that Odysseus will be wiser for having known Calypso and that Calypso will have "a clean heart". The song closes with thoughts of Calypso being lonely again and repeating that she "let him go."

Indeed, Vega's "Calypso" is a beautiful "diamond in the rough" and provides an interesting take on the relationship between goddess and hero. Of course, Vega's version omits the role of Homer's gods, who force Calypso to release Odysseus. In Homer's epic, the goddess was none too happy about their decision:

"You are cruel, you gods, and quickest to envy, since you are jealous if any goddess openly mates with a man, taking a mortal to her bed." (A.S. Kline translation)