The Odyssey Quotes in Context
by Homer

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"A Twice-told Tale"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: On the eve of his departure for Ithaca, after nearly ten years of wandering, Odysseus finishes telling his hosts, King Alcinous and Queen Arete, his many adventures. He recalls that he visited Hades in order to discover what lay ahead for him, that he escaped both Scylla and Charybdis, that his men ate of the forbidden cattle of the Sun and then perished at sea, that he finally stayed with Calypso who then helped him get to the land of the seafaring Phaeacians. Perhaps Homer, thought to be a minstrel himself, intrudes here by suggesting that sometimes retold stories bore the listener. Hawthorne felt otherwise in naming a book so, although Shakespeare agreed in King John: "Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,/ Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man."

"My following fates to thee, O king, are known,And the bright partner of thy royal throne.Enough: in misery can words avail?And what so tedious as a twice-told tale?"

"An Honest Business Never Blush To Tell"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Telemachus, son of Odysseus or Ulysses, wanders in search of his father, and the goddess Athene, disguised as Mentor, the trusted family friend, accompanies him. They come upon Nestor, horseman of the Greeks and wise counselor, and his sons making sacrifices near the sea at Pylos. Telemachus does not know how to approach the old man for news of his father: "How shall I meet, or how accost the sage/ Unskill'd of speech nor yet mature of age?" But Athene, the family goddess and divine protectress of father and son, had, in the guise of Mentor, already advised him:

"Proceed, my son! this youthful shame expel;An honest business never blush to tell.To learn what fates thy wretched sire detainWe passed the wide immeasurable main."

"Gates Of Ivory"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, finally returns to his home in Ithaca after his long absence in the Trojan War and his subsequent travels. Penelope, his wife, in questioning the dirty man before her concerning her husband's chances of returning, asks for an interpretation of a dream that she has had in which an eagle kills her twenty geese. Odysseus explains that the eagle clearly represents her husband and the geese the suitors who have plagued the seeming widow. Penelope, however, doubts the optimism of the interpretation and comments on dreams that issue from the gate of ivory and those from the gate of horn:

Hard is the task, and rare, the queen rejoin'd,Impending destinies in dreams to find;Immured within the silent bower of sleep,Two portals firm the various phantoms keep:Of ivory one; whence flit, to mock the brain,Of winged lies a light fantastic train:The gate opposed pellucid valves adorn,And columns fair incased with polish'd horn:Where images of truth for passage wait,With visions manifest of future fate.Not to this troop, I fear, that phantom soar'd,Which spoke Ulysses to his realm restored:Delusive semblance!

"In The Lap Of The Gods"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Nearly ten years after the Trojan War, the hero Odysseus is still en route, which condition was prophesied and is maintained by the gods. Still, Athene feels he has suffered more than he deserves, largely at the hands of Poseidon for the blinding of his son Cyclops. In order to prepare Ithaca for the return of the warrior, Athene comes to earth disguised as a friend of the absent chieftain. She consoles Telemachus, Odysseus' son, who has had to support for a number of years the suitors to the hand of his mother, the faithful Penelope. The goddess tells of Odysseus' daring in former times, and she wishes him home to dispose of the gluttonous suitors.

". . . Would, I say, that in such strength Odysseus might come amongst the wooers; then should they all find swift destruction and bitterness in their wooing. Yet these things verily lie on the knees of the gods, whether he shall return and wreak vengeance in his halls, or whether he shall not; but for myself, I bid thee take thought how thou mayest thrust forth the wooers from the hall. . . ."

"Pile Pelion On Ossa"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Calypso, commanded by the gods, permits Ulysses to build a small boat and leave her island. Although...

(The entire section is 2,063 words.)