October 10, 2008

One more road trip for the road!

The last round is on Odysseus.

Welcome to the very last day of Goat Rope's long running series on the Odyssey of Homer. You'll also find links and comments about current events. If you are a classics geek like El Cabrero, check the blog archives. The series started Aug. 4 and has run on weekdays since then, hitting the major stops of his journey.

I've argued all along that this epic has a lot to say both about the difficulties veterans returning from combat have in coming home and the human condition in general. It has often been noted in this series that Odysseus was a deeply flawed character and a disastrous leader. Still, I have a soft spot for the old buzzard and can relate to many of his misadventures. Perhaps the Gentle Reader can too.

As mentioned before, writers long after Homer have been fascinated by the character of Ulysses/Odysseus. Some of them had trouble believing that the hero of the epic would be content to stay at home in Ithaca. That is the theme of Tennyson's poem Ulysses, which I'll quote in its entirety. I was going to highlight my favorite parts but I just discovered I like it all. Here goes:

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle —
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me —
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads — you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

So there you have it, folks. We may not be spring chickens anymore but we're not dead yet either. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield--let's roll!

CORRECTION DEPARTMENT. Email subscribers to Goat Rope may have accidentally gotten an earlier version of a post planned for the weekend yesterday afternoon. My bad.

AFTER THE BAILOUT, the work is just beginning. Here is an analysis from the American Friends Service Committee.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, here's economist Dean Baker on the latest developments and here's Paul Krugman on the same.

BULLYING. Why are some children targets? Here are some counter intuitive findings from current research.

JUST HANG ON TILL 2208. Physicist Stephen Hawking thinks that if the human race can hold on for another 200 years, we just might make it. Of course, this may involve leaving the planet.

GENTLEMEN PUPPIES. In a display of unparalleled gallantry and chivalry, young male puppies will often allow females to win when they play their puppy games. Now that's updog. (Could they have ulterior motives? Do they thing that far ahead?)


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