Homers Odyssey | Chapter 27 of 54

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THE BAG OF WIND

 
 

SHIPMATE

Land. I see land.

 

ELPENOS

I see it too.

 

EURYBATES

Where?

 

ELPENOS

To the left. Look, can’t you see the trees?

 

EURYBATES.

No. Where? Yes, now I see it, through the mist.

 

ELPENOS

And fires. Men setting fires at dusk.

 

Wait a second, look at that promontory. Look, look.

 

EURYBATES

He’s right – see the shape of the bay and the bluff. It can’t be. It can’t be.

 

ELPENOS

Ithaca – oh, make a sacrifice to Zeus. We’ll slaughter the proudest animal on the island as soon as we set foot on solid ground. We’re home. WE’RE HOME!

 

There is jubilation amongst the men.

EURYLOCHUS

All eyes to the port side.

Praise be to mighty Zeus who returns us home.

Odysseus? Odysseus?

 

ODYSSEUS (at the other end of the boat, to himself)

I see it, my men. I saw it an hour ago.

Wouldn’t allow myself to believe it.

Willing it, trying to make it materialize.

Stared so hard and long I’m hypnotized,

dazed by it. Ithaca – I hardly dare say it

in case it breaks like a dream and disappears.

 

(to the men)

An hour or so until we put in. Make ready.

And scrub yourselves, and scour every deck.

Shout the orders across the boats. Pride, men.

We won’t return like ragamuffins and louts.

Stitch every tear. Cover your wounds.

Comb the salt from your beards, and smile!

We’ll come home as handsome as we left,

and with honour, and with Troy to our name.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Odysseus, sir. Come and drink with the crew.

 

ODYSSEUS

No, I won’t. Suddenly I’m … overcome.

As if every muscle and nerve

has been stretched and strained for twenty years.

Twenty years hardly daring to sleep or even blink.

I feel … fantastically tired.

 

EURYLOCHUS

But you can relax now, we’re home.

 

ODYSSEUS

I’ll sleep for a while. Wake me as we land.

 

EURYLOCHUS

I will, I’ll be ready with clean clothes and a meal.

 

*

 

Later, approaching the shore of Ithaca.

SHIPMATE

Is there a drink there for me?

 

ELPENOS

Help yourself.

 

SHIPMATE

I will indeed. Well, here’s to home, and Odysseus.

 

EURYBATES

I’ll drink to the first all right, but not the second.

 

SHIPMATE

You won’t raise a toast to your captain and king,

who guided us back to our own coast,

saved us from certain death time and time again?

 

ELPENOS

It was luck. He’s just a lucky son of a …

 

SHIPMATE

Watch your tongue or you’ll be shark-meat, friend.

 

EURYBATES

Let him speak. Because he’s right, isn’t he? Look at him now, asleep on a plump cushion, adored the world over, worshipped like a God. And why – because fortune smiles on him – that’s all. Not like me. If I fell in a barrel of bosoms I’d come out sucking my thumb. He’s the golden one.

 

SHIPMATE

He’s got foresight and acumen and charisma.

 

ELPENOS

That isn’t all he’s got.

 

SHIPMATE

Explain yourself.

 

ELPENOS

Booty. Plunder. The spoils of war – that’s what I’m talking about.

 

EURYBATES

Exactly.

 

ELPENOS

All the swag that he’s bringing home from Troy, while us lot who stood and scrapped on the front line come home penniless and broken.

 

SHIPMATE

It’s nothing more than he’s entitled to.

It’s appropriate to his position.

 

ELPENOS

It’s greed. Self-indulgence.

 

EURYBATES

Look what happened only nine days ago. Aeolus gives him a bag of goodies which he squirrels away. More riches for him and two fingers to the rest of us. Well, I won’t stand for it any longer.

 

SHIPMATE

Don’t do anything rash, not now. We’ll soon be in port.

 

ELPENOS

Aye, soon be shambling down that gangplank like paupers, while Odysseus saunters home with a king’s ransom. Fetch that bag!

 

SHIPMATE

This is very irregular.

 

EURYBATES

No, it’s equality. Fairness. Where did he hide it?

 

ELPENOS

In that locker. No, the bottom one. Under the shelf.

 

SHIPMATE

I’ll have to inform him – it’s my duty.

 

ELPENOS

Go on then, go running to him. Or why not have a little squint in this bag? See what you’re missing. See if there’s anything you fancy.

 

SHIPMATE

No, I … Well, I …

 

ELPENOS

A little look won’t harm, will it?

 

SHIPMATE (gulps)

Just a peep perhaps, no crime in that. Since you’re opening it anyway.

 

EURYBATES

Here we go. It’s a bit light. No precious stones, that’s for sure.

 

ELPENOS

Pass it here. Whoa! It’s squirming. Must be an animal. Some rare species bred for its perfume – worth a fortune, I bet. Whooaaa! Keep still, you crazy ferret. Anyone got a knife?

 

SHIPMATE

Let me, let me! I mean, you can borrow mine if you want.

 

ELPENOS

Hold it straight while I slit the drawstring.

(struggling with it)

What is it tied with, wire? Ah, nearly there. One last … GOT IT.

 

There is a huge rush of air, building up and up, as if a hurricane has been let loose on the ship. The winds of the south, east and north whip themselves into a frenzy.

ODYSSEUS (running towards them)

NO! CLOSE THE BAG. CLOSE THE BAG.

 

SHIPMATE

Odysseus. Help us.

 

ODYSSEUS

Who opened the bag? Who freed the winds?

 

SHIPMATE

The men – they wanted their fair share.

 

ODYSSEUS (incredulous)

Fair share of what?

 

SHIPMATE

Whatever it held. They wanted some for themselves.

 

ODYSSEUS (full of bitterness and fury)

Well, now they have it. Tell them to hold on for dear life,

and tell them to weep.

 

SHIPMATE

Why should they cry?

 

ODYSSEUS

Because the winds sweep us along now,

sweep us north and south and west.

And Ithaca lies east.

 

SHIPMATE

But we’re almost home. I saw trees, landmarks, fires burning above the coast. It was close enough to touch.

 

ODYSSEUS

But you were thieves instead. Now wave goodbye.

 

The wind-speed increases, howling across the ship.

SHIPMATE

No. No. (screams) ITHACA. ITHACA …

 

ODYSSEUS (almost to himself)

Tell it to the stars. Save your tonsils.

Ithaca sails away. She can’t hear you.

 

Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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