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WeavinginNarrative:TexturesofSpaceandTime.3.SimilesandSymbolinOdysseyv

3.SIMILESANDSYMBOLINODYSSEYV[1]
Sinceantiquity,theOdysseyhasinvitedsymbolicinterpretation.WhenEustathiuspronouncesthepoem
anethicalallegory,andinthat,moreindicativethantheIliadofHomericpower,heechoesatradition
extendingbackthroughearlyChristianwriterstotheAllegoriae(QuaestionesHomericae)ofHeraclitus.
[2]Amongmoderncritics,CharlesSegalhasshownhowBooksvxiitheherosreturntoIthacafrom
theislandofCalypso,withhisnarrationtothePhaeaciansofhisearlieradventuresaresymbolicof
psychologicaldevelopment.[3]Withinthisportionofthepoem,however,withtheexceptionofa1966
articlebyErlingHoltsmark,nodevelopedsymbolismhasbeenseenintheactionofOdysseyv
OdysseusdeparturefromCalypso,thestormatsea,andhislandinguponPhaeacia.[4]Thefigureof
Calypso,shewhocovers,hasbeenregularlyinterpretedasthepowerofthefemalesexual,
maternal,anddeadly,andhercaveaschthonicwomborunderworld.[5]Inantiquity,shewas
sometimesreadallegorically.[6]AndinSegalselegantandsuggestivewords,sheisapointof
suspensioninwhomarereflectedthecrossingandbindingtogetherofthecosmicsubstances,earth,
skyandsea.[7]Butnoelaborationofhersymbolicmeaninghasbeenobservedintheactionofthe
bookasawhole.Shehasbeentaken,toemployQuintiliansdistinction,asasinglewordtroperather
thananextendedfigure,inanotherwiseliteralnarrativeofleavingher.[8]Theactionbywhich
Odysseusentershisepicisnotfelttobefigurativeintheway,forexample,thatofitssuccessor,CantoI
oftheInferno,isheldtobe.[9]DantesentryintotheDivinaCommediadisplaystheextended,
systematicsymbolizationofactiondesignatedasallegory,specifically,anallegoryofspiritual
awakening,whilethemeaningofOdysseyvseemslimitedtothephysicalordealofescapingCalypsos
attractiveforce.TheHomericnarrationisfullofconcretedetailswithnoevidentreferenceoutside
themselves.Thecharacterizationisindividualratherthanemblematicthesubtleconversationsfirst,
betweenHermesandCalypsoandthen,betweenCalypsoandOdysseus,thebuildingoftheraft,and
thestagesofthestormalltendtowardtherealismtypicalofpostallegoricalfictionandtypically
appreciatedinHomericstyle.[10]
YettheartofOdysseyvbothincludesandexceedspostallegoricalrealism.WhileHomericepicisnot
allegoricalinthemannerofamedievaltext,inOdysseyvthegenreachievesasimilarlyextendedand
systematicsymbolization.Thecriticalmechanismisthesimiles.InBookvthesimilesfunctiontogether
likethoseexternaltexts,principallyfromtheBible,uponwhichtheallegoriaofInfernoIdepends.Or,
moreprecisely,thesimilesarelikethoseBiblicaltextswhentheyarecompiledinagreatcommentary
suchasSingletonswhichalsospecifiestheintertextualconnections,asharedcodeofwordsand
themes,bywhichDanteallegorizeshisnarrative.[11]Bytheirlinesofcontactwiththeactionthe
commoncodeofwordsandthemeswhichtheythemselvesdeclarethroughtheformalas...
sothesimilesactlikeacommentarytodiscloseaundermeaninginOdysseyvsimilarto
thatofInfernoI,namely,theinterior,spiritualorpsychologicalexperienceunderorwithintheexterior
actionofthehero.[12]Boththeannotatedcommentaryandthecommentatingsimilesparticipateina
processofsymbolizationthatexemplifiestheancientnotionofthesumbolon.
Evidentlyfirstameansforidentifyingguestfriends,allies,ordepositorsofgoods,thetermsumbolon
designatesanincompleteobject,suchasahalfofaknuckleboneoratablet,whichmustbebrought
together()withitscounterpartinordertosignifytherelationshipbetweenthebearers.[13]
Themeaningofthesumbolonisanidentityconstitutedbyarelationship.Theconnectionbetweenthe
sumbolonandthepersonwhobearsitmaybearbitrary(insemioticterms,conventionalorunmotivated)
asinthecaseofaprivatecodeorofwordsasconventionalsumbolaofmentalexperiencesin
Aristotlesdefinition,[14]oritmaybenatural(motivated)asinthecaseofthebabyclothes,weaving,
necklace,andolivewreaththatidentifyCreusaandIonasmotherandson.[15]Ineithercase,the
processofinterpretingthesumbolonisthesame,buttheauthorityoftheinterpretationmayvary.To
interpretsumbolona,onemustfirstestablishthatsumbolonbisitscomplementandthendeterminethe
relationshipbetweenthepossessorstowhichthesumbolatestify:thesymbolicmeaningofsumbolona
istheidentityofitspossessorinthatrelationship.AninstanceinHerodotusofconventionalsumbola
illustratestheirpotentialweaknessassigns:acreditorinterpretsthesumbolonofhisdebtorby
providingitscounterpart,butthedebtorsimplydeniesthattheseobjectsbetokenanypriorrelationship
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ofobligation.[16]MotivatedsumbolalikethecontentsofIonscradlepermitamoreauthoritative
reading.Thisexamplealsoillustratesthederived,somewhatmetaphoricalusageoftheterm,sumbolon,
todesignatenotahalfbutawholeobject.Eveninthiscase,however,thesumbolonoperatesaccording
totheoriginalmodelandtheinterpretiveprocessisthesame.WhenCreusaisabletodescribe,before
seeingthem,thecontentsofIonscradle,sheestablishesanaturalbondofidentificationbetween
herselfandtheseobjects(asortofsumbolonb)thatcomplementstheequallynaturalbondbetween
theobjectsandIon(asortofsumbolona).Herknowledgeoftheseobjectsmakesthem,sotospeak,
halfhers,thatis,theotherhalfoftheknucklebone.[17]And,becausethebondbetweentheobjects
andtheirpossessorsisnatural,thatis,trueandnecessary,Ioncanoffernofurtherresistancewhen
Creusadescribestherelationshiptheybetoken.Hemustacceptherinterpretationoftheirsymbolic
meaning,hisidentityasherson.Therelationshipsignifiedbynaturalsumbolaistakenasequally
natural,whiletherelationshipmarkedbyconventionalsumbolaisliabletobedenied.
ThisoperationofthesumbolonappliestoliterarysymbolismasitoccursinInfernoIandOdysseyv.As
withtheconcretesumbolon,themeaningofthesymbolictextisalsoconstitutedbyarelationship,inthis
case,withacomplementarycountertext.Thedifferencebetweenconcreteandliterarysymbolismlies
inthefactthatwhenthesumbolonisatext,thesymbolanditsbearercoincide:themeaningofthe
sumbolon,theidentityitproves,doesnotbelongtoaseparatepersonwhopossessesit,buttothetext
itself.Thecoincidenceofsumbolonandtextresultsinasimplificationoftheinterpretiveprocess.Since
thesumbolonisnolongerseparatefromitsbearer,whatwasbeforeatwostepprocedureof
establishingfirstthecomplementarityoftheconcretesumbolaandthentherelationshipoftheirowners,
isnowcollapsedintothesingleneedtodemonstratetheintertextualrelationshipthroughwhichthe
symbolacquiresitsothermeaning.Inaddition,becausethesumbolonanditsbearerareidentical,the
authorityofaninterpretationnolongerdependsuponwhetherthesymbolisviewedasconventionalor
natural,butonlyupontheexistenceoftheintertextuallinks,theauthorandauthorityofthesymbolism.
InthecaseofanallegorylikeInfernoI,forexample,thecommentaryofSingletoninterpretseach
elementinDantesawakeningandmovementthroughtheforest(sumbolona),byrepeatingtheBiblical
countertexts(sumbolonb)towhichitcorrespondsthroughanetworkofcommonwordsorthemes.By
theinternalconsistencyofthecorrespondences,heshowshoweachelementinInfernoIactsasreset
signum,boththethingitselfandasymbolofitsroleinChristianexperience.[18]Morespecifically,these
textualcounterpartstogetherrevealasharedcosmosofanalogicaloppositionsthroughwhichspiritual
valuemaybecodedinphysicalterms.[19]AssumingthatknowledgeoftheseChristiantextswas
assured,Dantewroteforthosewho,likeSingleton,couldrecognizethetextualconnectionsthat
authorizetheallegory.InOdysseyvtheprocessofsymbolizationisanalogous.Theepicannotates
itselfbyitsownintertextualreservoir.Itweavesintotheactionasequenceofsimileswhich,likethe
Singletoncommentary,allegorizethenarrative.ThesimilesturntheactionofOdysseyvintoa
sumbolonofselfgenerated,psychologicalrebirth.
InOdysseyvthesimilesarenotindependentofoneanother.Rathertheyformaprogression
comparabletoQuintiliansnotionofallegoryasanextendedmetaphor.Thisprogressionofthesimilesis
interwovenwiththatoftheactionthroughasetofsharedoppositionsthatparallelphysicalexperience
withpsychologicalprocess.Thisthematicfabriccommences,whenHermesbeginshismission,having
beendispatchedbyZeustobreakuptheunionbetweenOdysseusandCalypso:
,
,
.
,,
,.
.
Thenatonceheboundunderhisfeetthebeautifulsandals,
undying,golden,thatalwayscarriedhimoverboththewaterofthesea
andthelimitlessearthtogetherwiththeblastsofthewind.
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Andhetookthewandbywhichheforeverenchantstheeyesofmen,
ofwhomeverhewishes,whileothersherousesevenastheysleep.
Havingthisinhishandsheflew,thestrongslayerofArgos.
Odysseyv4449
Hermesundyingsandals,wingingtheirwaywiththebreathsofthewindoverlandandsea,link
immortality,wings,andwindasintermediariesbetweenthedryandthewet.Thewand
bywhichthegodenchantsmentosleepandawakensthemisaparallelagentofchange,thistime
betweenstatesofconsciousness.Hereisthecomposite:

Mediator

sea

immortality

land

wings

wet

wind

dry

sleep

wakefulness

wand

enchantment

awareness

Onceintroduced,thisnetworkoftermsimmediatelyconnectsasimilewiththeaction,asthewingedgod
islikenedtoabird,onethatjoinsair,land,andwater:
:
,

:
.
OntoPieriahesteppedfromtheupperairandswoopeddownuponthesea:
thenrushedoverthewavesliketoabird,aseagull,
whoalongthedreadhollows(literally,bosoms)oftheunrestingsea,
huntingforfish,wetshisthickwingsinthesaltwater.
LiketothisbirdHermesmadehiswayoverthemultitudeofwaves.
Odysseyv5054
Thecomparisonachievesitsfullmeaninglater,whenOdysseusassumestheplaceandpowerof
Hermes,whentheseaisrevealedtocombineboththenourishingcapacityofCalypso()andthe
direhostilityofPoseidon(),andwhenOdysseushimselfiscomparedwithanoctopus,acreature
ofthesea.Fornow,itservestofiguretheseaasfeminine,nourishing,anddreadful.
Withinthisfiguralaura,thegodalightsupontheislandofCalypso.AsiffollowingthepathofHermes
eyes,thetextdescribesthetwoelementsregularlytakenassymbolic,thegoddessandherhome.This
ekphrasiscastsCalypsoasbothsexualandmaternal,attheheartofaplaceoftranscendentfertility
andsensorysatisfaction.Hermesfindsamarriageablemaideninsideagreat
cave,awomblikepleasuredome(Odysseyv57).[20]Formingledwithinareofferingstoeverysense,
bothfromnatureandfromart:lightandheatfromthegreatfireonthehearth,fragranceofburning
cedarandlemonwoodsointensethatitpermeatestheisland,thesoundofsingingbyabeautiful
voice,andthesightoftapestrywovenwithagoldenshuttle(Odysseyv5962).[21]Outsidethecave,
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theislandburgeonswithvarietiesoftreesandbirds,meadowsofsoftvioletandparsley,andheavy
vines.Fourspringsofwhitewater,eachflowinginadifferentdirection,captureinonesupernatural
imagethesourceandtotalityofallfluids.Atthissight,evenanimmortal,whohappenedby,wouldgaze
anddelightinhisheart.AndindeedHermes,divinemediatorthatheis,withreasonstoodandgazed
(Odysseyv7375).Forhereallthesequalitiesblendearthandwater,motherandlover,artand
nature,sight,sound,touch,smellintooneallgratifying,butallembracingEden.[22]Calypsothe
greatCoveressprovidesall,butenclosesallinthenavelofthesea(Odysseyi50),the
placethatconnectslifewithprebirth.
Havingsatisfiedhisheartwithgazing,Hermesentersthecave.Herehisencounterwiththegoddess
triggersthetransformationofhernameandhomefromtropostofigura.Calypsoasksthepurposeofhis
visit,andafteradinnerofnectarandambrosia,hedeliversZeuscommandthatshesendOdysseus
awayatonce,forheisnotfatedtoperishherefarfromhislovedones,butitisstillhislottoseehis
lovedonesandarriveathishighroofedhomeandfatherland(Odysseyv75115).Outraged,Calypso
charges,Cruelyouare,gods,andjealousbeyondallothers,youwhoalwaysbegrudgegoddessesthat
theyshouldsleepbesidemenopenly,ifanymakesamortalherbelovedbedfellow(),and
citestwosuchcases,first,thegoddessEosandthehumanhunterOrion,killedbythearrowsof
OlympianArtemis,andthen,thegoddessDemeterandthemanIasion,blastedbyZeusthunderbolt
(Odysseyv118128).Herexamplesareironicallyrevealing.ForunlikeOrionorIasion,Odysseusisnot
todieasaresultofOlympianintervention.Hermesis,tobesure,theconductorofsouls
betweenlifeanddeath.[23]ButherehehascomenottotakeOdysseustoHades,buttoensurehis
returnhome.Where,then,isOdysseusnow?Whatisthenatureofthisgoddessmanbond?Odysseus
isnotsimplydead.Indeed,itwasdeathatseafromwhichCalypsosavedhimridingonthekeelandall
alone,afterZeusthunderboltshatteredhisship.Andtheirsismorethanasimplysexualbond.Asshe
says,Ibothlovedhimasoneofmyownandnourishedhim()andIdeclaredI
wouldmakehimimmortalandagelessallhisdays(Odysseyv129136).Emancipationfromhuman
deathalongwitheverlastingnurture,thisiswhatCalypsogives.Wherecanamanenjoysuchgifts?
Onlyinthematernalcave,theplacebeforemortality.SeparationfromCalypsobytheagencyofHermes
wouldthusbeasecondbirth,notofthebodybutofthatwhichHermesconducts,thelifebreath,
soulapsychologicalrebirthfromundyingunionwiththesourceoflife,abirthinwhichthehero,as
consortofthesymbolicmother,wouldbealsothefiguralfather,generatinghisownnewself.[24]
Indeed,forOdysseusundyingunionwithCalypsohaslostitsallure.WhenHermesfirstentersthecave,
Odysseusisnothimselfwithin.Hehasgoneinsteadawayfromthegoddess,awayfromthecave,asfar
ashecan,totheedgeoftheisland,wherehecanseeonlywater.Matchingitsunrestingflow,he
weptsittingupontheshore(),thereasbefore,rendinghisspiritwithtearsand
groansandpains(),andhewouldlookoutuponthe
unrestingsea,sheddingtears()(Odysseyv8184).
Thesametermsrecur,whenCalypsocomestodeliverHermesmessage,underscoringtheconstancy
oftheherosgrief.
:
,
,.

.
Shefoundhimsittingupontheshore.Norwerehiseyesever
dryoftears,buthissweetlifewasdrippingaway,
ashegrievedforreturn,sincethenymphwasnolongerpleasing.
Indeedbynighthewouldsleep,compelledbyforce,
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inthehollowcave,unwillingbesideherwhowaswilling,
butbydayhewouldsitupontherocksandsands,
rendinghisspiritwithtearsandgroansandpains,
andhewouldlookoutupontheunrestingsea,sheddingtears.
Odysseyv151158
Theheroslifehasbecomealiquid,asweetonelikehoney,thatisdrippingaway,whilehiseyes
weeptears,saltylikethesea.Bytheserepetitionsoftearsand/dripaway,
shed,[25]thelifeofOdysseusboundtoCalypsoisalliedwiththeearlierterms,sea,wet,sleep,
andenchantment.UponreceivingthenewsofHermesmediation,however,Odysseusbeginshis
passagetotheoppositepoleofland,dry,wakefulness,andawareness.
Followingtheperiodofpreparationforhisdeparture,OdysseuspassagetoPhaeaciaincludestwo
majormovements,first,thestormatseasentbyPoseidonandthen,thefinalemergencefromwetto
dryundertheaegisofAthena.Ateachphaseoftheherosprogress,thespaceofthenarrativeis
widenedtoincludeasimilethatdisclosestheactionssymbolicmeaning.Workingtogether,oneafter
another,thesimilesconfirmtheearlierimplicationsofOdysseusseparationfromCalypso.Theycast
thevicissitudesofhisentryintotheepicasstagesinaselfgeneratedpsychologicalrebirth.Thefirst
onefocusesuponOdysseusbuildingthemeansofhisdeparture:

,,
.
Aslargeasamanmarksoffwithacompassthebottom
ofawidecargoship,amanwhoknowswelltheskillsofcarpentry,
solargedidOdysseusmakethewideraft.
Odysseyv249251
Inconstructinghisraft,Odysseusislikethebuilderofawidecargoship,thetoolofcommerce,the
vehiclebywhichmenstepbeyondtheendsoftheearthtotravelovertheeverthreateningseaandto
tradeforprofitinthesphereofhumanculturedependentuponandreflectiveofHermespowerof
transportation.[26]Asanessentialmediumofeconomicexchange,thecargoshipparallelstheearlier
agentsofHermesmediation,divinity,wings,wind,andthewand.Likeningtherafttothe
cargoshipthusmakesofOdysseus,Hermeshumancounterpart.Inbuildingthisraftthroughhis
skillsofcarpentryintherebytransformingthedrymaterialofCalypsosislandintothe
meansoftravelthroughtheseaaman,Odysseus,playstheroleofculturalmediator,butinthe
humanposition,midwaybetweenthewingedgodandthewingedanimalofthefirstsimile.[27]Inthe
raft,Odysseusmakeshiswings.[28]Yetforallhisskillinbuilding,Odysseusisstilldependentupon
Calypsoforclothes,provisions,navigationalinstructions,andeventhepropellingwinds(Odysseyv
263277).Figuratively,asthenextsimilereveals,OdysseusisstillenclosedbyCalypsosprotection.
AftercastingofffromCalypsosisland,Odysseusistotallysurroundedbythewet.Atsea,the
elementsofwindandwaterturnhostiletothehero,asPoseidonplaysamaleficentCalypso,stirring
uphurricanesandcovering()alllandandseawithclouds(Odysseyv292294).Bythisstorm
Odysseusisbroughttothevergeofdeath,awretcheddeathwithoutthe
fameofthosewhodiedatTroy(Odysseyv295312).Atthisprospect,heyearnstohaveperishedin
hismomentofgreatestmartialglory,whenherescuedthecorpseofAchilles.Ratherthansavingthe
herooftheOdyssey,helongstohavealreadydied,savingthedeadherooftheIliad.Ratherthanthe
throesofanewbirth,hewishesfordeath(Odysseyv306312).Asheuttersthiswish,asifinresponse
toit,awavetwistsawayhisraft,leavinghimweighteddownbytheclothesfromCalypsoandalmost
engulfed(Odysseyv313323).Nevertheless,hemanagestoregaintheraft,butnowsincethemast
hasbeenbroken,hemustridewhereverthewindsdirect:
.

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,,
.
Thenthegreatwavewascarryingtheraftalongthecurrentnowhere,nowthere.
AndaswhentheNorthWindinautumncarriesthistles
overtheplain,andclosetheysticktooneanother,
sothewindswerecarryingtheraftoverthedeep,nowhere,nowthere.
Odysseyv327330
Hereagain,asinthesimileofthecargoship,theopeningsetofelementalcontrastsisinvoked.Over
againstthewetseaandthehurricane,thesimilesetsthedryplainandthewindofautumn,the
seasonofharvest.IntheroleoftheraftthatcarriesOdysseuswefindthethistles,protective
coveringsandcarriersofseeds,dispersedasthewindscattersthethistledown.Propelledinsucha
vehicle,thelifeofOdysseusisnolongertearsorhoney,butaseed.Althoughallaloneintheliquidsea,
hisefforttosavehimselfhasturnedhimintoapotentialsourceoflifeondryland.Bornebythistles,
however,thisseedisstillenclosedbyaprotectiveshell,onehewillhavetodiscardinorderto
germinate.Fornow,theraftiscaughtinastateofsuspendedanimation,blownfirstnorth,thensouth,
theneast,thenwest:
,
.
AtonetimetheSouthWindwouldcastittotheNorthWindtobecarried,
andatanothertimeagaintheEastWindwouldyieldittotheWestWindtopursue.
Odysseyv331332
ThesyntaxisiconicofOdysseusalternating,nonprogressivemovement:atonetime
matchedbyatanothertimeagain,theSouthWindtotheNorthWindby
theEastWindtotheWestWind,andwouldcastittobe
carriedbywouldyieldittopursue.Eachmovementisreversed,resultinginno
forwardmotion.
Almostatonce,OdysseusismovedoffthisdeadcenterbytheinterventionofIno.Inthesymbolismof
rebirth,herroleisthatofamidwife,facilitatinghisseparationfromthoseelements,previously
protective,thatnowinhibithisemergencefromthesea.Sheurgeshimtotakeoffthegarmentsfrom
Calypsothathavecoveredhimlikeaplacenta,butnowholdhimback,andtoabandonhisraft,
likenedbeforetoathistlesshelteringcase(Odysseyv342345).[29]Asanalternativelifeline,afigural
umbilicalcord,sheoffersanimmortalveiltofastenbelowhischestandthento
castoff,oncehereachesdryland.Afterthisoffering,Inodivesbackintothesea(Odysseyv346352).
Immediately,theseaagaincovers()Odysseuswithadarkwave(Odysseyv353).Whilehe
debateswhetherornottoobeyIno,Poseidonbreaksthewaveuponhim(Odysseyv356367)andby
thisconvulsiontheraftisshattered:

::
.
,,
,.
,
,,
.
Andaswhenthestrongblowingwindshakesaheapofdry
chaffandscattersitnowinthisdirection,nowinthat,
sothewavescatteredtheraftslongplanks,butnowOdysseus
satastrideoneplank,likeamanridingonhorseback,
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andstrippedofftheclothingthatthedivineCalypsohadprovidedhim.
AndatoncehestretchedtheveilofInounderhischestand
dovedownhimselfheadfirstintheseawithhisarmsspreadout,
passionatelyeagertoswim.
Odysseyv368375
Likeitsearliercounterpart,thissimilepitsthedrybefore,thethistleandhere,thechaffagainstthe
wetofthesea,withthewindasthemediatingagentinbothrealms.[30]Butnowtheraftisnolongera
protectivevehicle,encasingapotentiallife.Nowshattered,theraftleavesOdysseus,separatedlikea
seedfromthechaff,abletogerminate.Nowabletoactindependently,Odysseusturnsafragmentofthe
brokenraftintoatemporarycarrier.Inthistransformationofwreckageintomobility,Odysseusislikened
nolongertoanyphaseofthelifeofaseed,buttoaman,onewhoaugmentsthespeedofhis
movementbyengagingtheenergyofahorse.Likenedtoahorse,thewoodoftheplankbecomes
animated.Andlikenedtoarider,Odysseusbecomessimilarlyactivehejettisonsthecoveringsfrom
theCoveressthatnowweighhimdown,putsonafinalfabricoffemaleprotection,andprojects
himself,nowanunsupportedmissile,intotheseatoswimalone.Atonce,thesecondmovementof
Odysseyvends,withPoseidondepartingasheinitiallyintruded,afterashortpredictionofOdysseus
futuretrials(Odysseyv377379compare286290).ThethirdportionofBookv,theultimatepassage
fromwettodry,isgovernedbyAthena.
Odysseushasnowcrossedtheboundaryofmisery(Odysseyv289),thefrontier
betweenthetwoworldsoftheOdyssey,theraw,elementalnatureofPoseidonandthecivilizationof
Athena.[31]NowAthenadirectsthewindsandthewavestoconductOdysseustothelandofthe
Phaeacians(Odysseyv382387).ThepsychologicalsignificanceofthislandforOdysseusisconveyed
inasimilethatinvertstheconventionalassociationsofitsterms:

,,
,,
,
,
.
Aswhengladlywelcomedlifeappearstothechildren,
thelifeofthefather,wholiesinsicknesssufferingstrongpains,
foralongtimewastingaway,andthehateddeathspiritattackedhim,
butthengladlywelcomedthegodsreleasedhimfrommisery,
sogladlywelcomedappearedtheearthandwoodstoOdysseus,
andheswam,pressinghimself,soastosetfootonthemainland.
Odysseyv394399
Insteadofitsusualidentificationwithmotherhood,theearthhereislikenedtoafather.Failuretoreach
thislandwouldmeanthelossofwhatonlythefatherconfersinfatherruledsociety,homeand
legitimateadultidentity.DespiteitsdistancefromIthaca,Phaeaciaisnowpsychologicallythefather
landofOdysseus.Tosetfootonthisislandistoachieveseparationfromthemotherandidentification
withthefather,toemerge,thatis,asamalechild.[32]Accordingly,itistochildrenthatOdysseusis
compared,childrennearlyorphaned,tooyoungtoassumetheirpatrimony.
Oncehavingseenthisfatherland,thechildOdysseusconfrontstheremainingonslaughtsofthesea
withincreasingindependenceandintellectualcontrol,agrowthreflectedintheprogressivedecreaseof
directinterventionbyAthena.Inthefirstupheavalaftersightingland,Athenagiveshimtheideaof
clingingtoarock(Odysseyv424429).Thenwhentheundertowofthesamewavesuckshimoutto
seaagain,itisthroughforesightsuppliedbyAthenathatheswimsoutofthereachofthesurf(Odyssey
v435440).Butwhenhecomestothemouthoftheriver,itisOdysseusalonewhobegsthecurrentto
receivehim,andwhenhestepsatlastupontheland,Odysseusaloneplanshowtopreservehimself
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againsttheelements.ThelasttwosimilesofOdysseyvinterpretthisactionasadevelopmentwithinthe
lifebreath,soulofthehero.
WhenOdysseusisagainthrownouttoseabythebackwashofthewavehehadjustescaped,his
separationfromtherockisdescribedbyasubtlymeaningfulsimile:

:.
Andaswhenanoctopusisdraggedawayfromitshole,
densepackedpebblesareheldbythecupsofitstentacles,
sobytherockstheskinfromhisboldhands
wastornoff.Andagreatwavecoveredhim.
Odysseyv432435
Theimageisinitiallyelusive.Atthestart,thecounterpartofOdysseusseemstobetheoctopus:eachis
forcedawayfromanobjectinthesea,Odysseusfromarock,theoctopusfromhishole().[33]
Andastheoctopusisliterallyheofthemanyfeet,soOdysseusisatthestartoftheepic
heofthemanyturns(Odysseyi1)andelsewhere,heofmuchmtis.[34]
Accordingly,whenwehearhowtheoctopusholdsthepebblesinitstentacles,weexpectthatOdysseus
holdssomething,too.Butwhathappensisjusttheopposite:theskinofOdysseusisbeingheldbythe
rock.Now,notOdysseus,buttherockbecomestheoctopusparallel.Theskinheleavesbehindand
thewavethatthencovered()himmarkhisremainingphysicaldependency:heisstillwithin
theseaandAthenaisstillstimulatinghismindandhisaction.Buthisemergencewithinthesimilefrom
anapparentseacreaturetoamansuggestsaninternal,psychologicaldevelopmentintoadulthood,at
thesametimeasitprefigurestheexternal,physicalemergencefromtheseathatthisinner
developmentwillmakepossible.ThismovementofOdysseuswithinthesimilefromanapparentanimal
toamanrecallstheearliersimilewhenHermeswaslikenedtotheseagullwhodivesintothedeepfor
itsfood.JustasOdysseussubsequentlysatinthechairHermeshadoccupied(Odysseyv195196),so
nowitistheherowhoiscompared,atleastinitially,toacreatureofthesea.Butnosoonerishelikened
toaseacreaturethanhemovesoninthesimiletoarolewithnodivineprecedent,arolesolelyhis
own.OdysseushasbecomehisownHermes,firstbyparallelingthegodwhocametoseparatehim
andthenbyseparatinghimself.
ThisfigurationofOdysseusashisownHermesisexplicitinthefinalactandsimileofOdysseyv.
Here,indeed,heappropriatestherolesofbothAthenaandCalypsoaswell.Oncehehasemergedfrom
theocean,Odysseusactsalonetoinsurehispassagefromsleeptowakefulness,safefromthat
formofthewetonecansufferupontheland,theevilfrostandthefemininedew(Odysseyv467).He
assumesthisfunctionofHermesconductorofthesoulbytransformingthedrymaterial
ofthelandleavesfromtheolivetreesofAthenaintoaselfmadeCalypso.Inthesimilethat
interpretsthisaction,Odysseuscraftingofabedandacoverofoliveleavesisturnedintoa
sumbolonofcompletedrebirthofthelifebreath,soul:
,
,.

,,
,,
.
Seeingthisbed,muchenduring,shiningOdysseuswashappy,
andsohelaydowninthemiddleofitandpouredtheprofusionofleavesoverhim.
Aswhenamanhidesaburningloginadarkheapofashes
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intheremotestpartofafield,amanforwhomtherearenoothersasneighbors
nearby,
thussavingtheseedoffire,soasnottohavetokindleitfromsomeothersource,
soOdysseuscoveredhimselfwiththeleaves.
Odysseyv486491
Throughtheburninglogandtheseedoffire,thesimileconnectsitselfwithall
theearliersymbolismofrebirthandwiththeelementalenvironmentoftheactionasawhole.Odysseus
isagainaseed,butnowaseedoffire,whollydry.[35]BeforecoveredbyCalypsoandthenby
Poseidonssea,Odysseushasnowcompletedtheselfgenerationimplicitinbeingbothconsortand
childofthegoddessandcannowcoverhimself.Whathethuspreservesisthesparkofthe
intelligenceofAthena.Suchistheimplicationofthefactthattheseedoffireishiddeninashes,the
productoffire.ForthefirecommontoboththeseedoffireasOdysseusandtheashesas
counterparttotheoliveleavesisAthena.OdysseushascoveredAthena,nowfullyrevivedwithinhim.
Thetwoareinconcert,asthegoddessnowproves,wheninthelastwordsofthebookinsteadof
initiating,sheechoestheherosactionbycoveringhiseyes(,Odysseyv493)
forsleep.[36]
Byitsinterwovencommentaryofsimiles,theactionofOdysseyvismadesymbolicofselfgenerated
psychologicalrebirth.OncehedepartsfromCalypsosisland,Odysseusprogressesinthesimilesfrom
beingaseedenclosedinathistle,toaseedseparatedfromthechaff,toanindependenthumanrider,
toachildwhosefatherneardeathisrestored,toamanwhopreserveshissourceoffire.Connectedto
Odysseusprogressbyacommoncodeofopposingelementsandstatesofconsciousness,this
sequenceofsimilestracestheundermeaningoftheaction,theinternaldevelopmentofthe
heroslifebreath,soul.InanassimilationthatanticipatesHeraclitus,theoftheherogrows
intoasparkofintelligencethatsavesthefireoflife.[37]Anexternaltextofnaturalandhumangrowth
servesbyitssystematiclinkswiththenarrativesumbolontorevealthesortoffiguralsignificancethat
thecommentaryofSingletonrevealsinInfernoI.Withouttheseexternaltexts,whethersuppliedby
authororreaderorannotator,thespiritualorpsychologicalexperiencesymbolizedbythesenarratives
remainsundetected.Apartfromtheinterpreting(re)statementofitsconnectionswithitscounterparts,
thetextualsumbolonisamutesign.

Footnotes
[back]1.AnearlierversionofthisessayappearedinClassicalWorld74(SymbolisminGreekPoetry)
(1980)109123.IamgratefultoThomasHabinek,KatherineKing,DavidQuint,FromaZeitlin,andthe
refereeforClassicalWorldforhelpwiththattext,andtoNancyFelsonforherdedicationinfosteringthe
specialissueofthejournal.
[back]2.EustathiusCommentariiadHomeriIliademvol.1,page7inhisCriticalRemarksonHomers
Iliadobserves:,
,
,,thattheIliadontheonehandismanlyandmoreseriousand
possessessublimity,sinceitisalsomoreheroic,andontheotherhand,theOdysseyisethical,ashas
beenwrittenmoreclearlythere[wherethepointwassetoutearlier]andthatitisnotpossibleto
perceiveHomerspowersomuchintheIliadasintheOdyssey.SeealsoCommentariiadHomeri
Odysseamvol.1,pages12ontheProem:
,.
,,Accordingtotheancienttruth[thatis,atruth
utteredlongago],theOdysseyismoreethicalthantheIliad,thatis,itisbothsweeterandofgreater
simplicity.Andatthesametimeitisalsomoreacuteonaccountofthedepthsofitsthoughtsinan
appearanceofsuperficialsimplicity,asthegrammarianssay.Onthesepassages,seeSegal1962b:17
andAllen1970:9093.FortheallegoricalinterpretationofHomericepic,seealsoBuffire1956and
Ppin1958.
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[back]3.SeeSegal1962band1967.In1962b:18Segalexplains:ThesymbolismoftheReturnthe
possibilityforcertainimages,characters,places,episodesinittocarryadeepermeaningthantheir
literal,surfacedenotationislatentintheconcernoftheOdyssey,asperhapsofallepic,withthebasic
mysteriesandconditionsofhumanlife,everchangingbetweenanunknownbeginningandanunknown
end.IntheOdysseythesepossibilitiesareespeciallyrich,forthepoemdealsrecurrentlyandunder
manydifferentformswithdeathandrebirth,withchangeofstateandthelossandresumptionof
identity.
[back]4.Holtsmark1966,astudywhichpointsthewayforthepresentessayandtowhichIamgreatly
indebted.
[back]5.FromantiquitythroughtheRenaissance,themostfrequentinterpretationofCalypsoisasthe
entrappingsexualityofthebeautifulfemale:forexample,Antisthenes,theCynic,whotakesOdysseus
rejectionofCalypsosofferofimmortalityinfavorofthewisebutlessbeautifulPenelopeasproofof
thewisemansknowledgethatloverspromisetheimpossibleandofhispreferenceforwisdom(see
Buffire1956:371372andPpin1958:107108),Plotinus,whoinhistreatiseOntheBeautifulcites
Calypsoasanexampleofsensualbeauty(seePpin1958:199),andLudovicoDolce,whoinhis
LUlisseof1573castsCalypsoaslibidinousfemininity(seeAllen1970:94).Contemporaryreadings
stresswhatisimplicitinCalypsoasmaterialbody,namely,thatsheisthesourceofloveanddeathfor
example,Gntert1919,followedbyAnderson1958andHoltsmark1966,whoalsoelaboratesher
maternalrole.
[back]6.EustathiusrecordsaneoPlatonicallegoryofCalypsoastheshelllikebodythatimprisons
thepearlofthesoulandofherseadashed,woodedislandatthenaveloftheseaasthewatery,
materialbody,exposedtoallpassionsandofOdysseusescapefromhertoPenelopebytheaidof
Hermesaslogos,asthepassagefromcorporealtophilosophicexistence(EustathiusCommentariiad
HomeriOdysseamvol.1,page17onOdysseyi51seeBuffire1956:461463).Inanotherallegory
transmittedbyEustathiusCalypsoisinterpretedmacrocosmicallyastheheavenlyvaultcoveringthe
earthandasthescienceofastronomy,sincesheisthedaughterortelosofAtlas,theaxiswhose
regularrotationsconstitutethelawsoftheskyinthisconception,thegoddessrepresentsthe
philosophyofthematerialworldasopposedtothetruewisdomofinternalcontemplationrepresented
byPenelope(EustathiusCommentariiadHomeriOdysseamvol.1,page17onOdysseyi52see
Buffire1956:388391).
[back]7.Segal1962b:20.
[back]8.Ontroposvs.figura,seeQuintilian9.1.19and9.2.46,whereQuintilianshowshowironycan
occurasatropos,thatis,bymeansofoneortwowords,andasafigura,extendedoverawhole
passageorevenoverawholelife,asinthecaseofSocrates.Heconcludeswiththeanalogy:
quemadmodumfacitcontinuametaphora,sichocschemafaciattroposillecontextusjust
asacontinuedmetaphorcreatesallegory,sothattroposwhichhasbeenconnectedcreatesthisfigura.
Anallegoryisacontinuedmetaphor,andfigure,acontextualizedtrope.Intheseterms,Calypsois,as
weshallsee,figuralandtheactionofOdysseyvallegorical.
[back]9.WhileVergilisDantesstatedmasterandauthor,theOdyssey,asthefirstepicofcomic
structureintheWesterntradition,istheultimateantecedentoftheDivinaCommedia.Theentrancesof
thetwoheroes,OdysseusandDante,intothepoemsshareseveralfeatures.Commontobothisthe
initialpositionoftheman,hismovementfromthatposition,and,asweshallsee,thesymbolizationof
thatmovementthroughacodeofoppositecategoriesasspiritualexperience.JustasOdysseusisat
midpointinhisreturnhome,soDanteisnelmezzodelcamminmidwayinthejourney.Eachstruggles
toleavethisplace,aselvaoscuradarkwoodforDanteandforOdysseus,too,athickforest.
ExemplaryofboththekinshipandthedisparitiesbetweenInfernoIandOdysseyvisthesimileofCanto
I2227,inwhichthemind(mioanimo)ofDantelooksbackonthewood(selva)asamanlooksback
upontheseahehasjustescaped,anescapeparalleltothatofOdysseusinOdysseyv.Emergence
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fromtheforestandtheseaisthecommonmotifofthetwoworks,butthegreaterinteriorityofInfernoI
isshowninthefactthatthetenorofthesimileisnotaperson,butthepersonifiedmind.Inaddition,
thespecificreligiousmeaningofthisspiritualexperienceisnotrevealedbythesimilealone,butonly
insofarasitalludestothecrossingoftheRedSeainExodus.Onthisallusion,seeSingleton1970:2.8.
InOdysseyv,ontheotherhand,theoverallpatternofactionisparalleltothatofInfernoI,butthe
functionofthesimilesis,asweshallsee,likethatoftheepisodeinExodus.
[back]10.OntheeffectofrealismresultingfromthedescriptionofRealien,seeBarthes1968:8489.
ForthewaysuchdescriptioncontributestotheimpressioninHomericepicoftangiblesurfacesin
presenttimeandspace,seeAuerbach1973[1953]:314.
[back]11.SeeSingleton1970:1.211with2.321.
[back]12.OnasthewordinPlatoandXenophonforwhatwaslatertermedallegoria,see
Buffire1956:4548,Ppin1958:8587,andAllen1970:viii.
[back]13.SeeGauthier1972:6571.Implicitinthisdefinitionisthefactthatonlyhalvesofthesame
objectwillbeabletocoincide.ThisimplicationmayseemtoreemergeintheRomanticassertionofa
consubstantialitybetweensymbolandideathatisabsentinallegory.Forthematerialsubstantiality
andtheparticipationmystiqueintheconceptionofthesymbolofGoetheandColeridge,seedeMan
1969:174177andFletcher1964:1719.Theancientnotionofsumbolondoesnot,however,implythe
unbrokenunityoffigureandconceptintheRomantictheory,foritisonlybyreferencetoapartfrom
whichitisirreparablybrokenthatasumboloncanbetokenarelationshipbetweentwoequallyseparate
parties.Whatthesumbolonsymbolizesisaliaisonbetweentwoparts,awholenessoridentity
constitutedbythefaultofdifference,likeJamesgoldenbowl.InthiswaytheoperationoftheGreek
sumbolonisclosertoallegoryasdescribedbydeMan,inwhichtheallegoricalsignmustrepeata
previoussignwithwhichitcannevercoincide(deMan1969:190).
[back]14.AristotleOnInterpretation16a,48,2029,inparticular:
,,Spokenwordsarethesumbolaof
experiencesinthesoul,andwrittenwordsaresumbolaofspokenwords(34)and
...,
,,Anounisasoundsignificantbyconventionwithoutreferenceto
time...byconvention,becausenothingisbynatureanoun,butonlywheneveritbecomesa
sumbolon(1920,2628).Onmotivatedvs.unmotivatedsigns,seeTodorov1977,esp.28,3233.In
anunconventional,motivatedsign,thesignifierbearssomenaturalrelationtothesignified,suchas
similarityordifference(metaphoricalrelations)orcontiguity,causality,orconsubstantiality(metonymic
relations).
[back]15.EuripidesIon13861442.Gauthier1972observes:thememoriesofCreusathatproveher
capableofdescribingthedesignoftheweavingandtheshapeofthejewelsconstituteineffectthe
counterpart,theequivalentofwhatwasbeforetheotherhalfofthebrokenknucklebone.The
symbolsofthemotherherearenaturalormotivatednotonlybecausetheyincludeIons
actualclothes,butalsobecauseoftheGorgon,fringedwithsnakesinthemanneroftheaegis,that
Creusawoveintothemiddlewarpthreadsofherrobe(Ion1386,1418,1421,1425).Thisaegisisthe
emblemofAthena,patronessofAthens,whoseautochthonousking,Erechtheus,isCreusasfather.
SimilarlysymbolicofthemothersidentityarethegoldensnakenecklacewornatAthenascommand
inmemoryofErechthoniusandthewreathfromtheundefiledolivetreeofAthenaonthe
Acropolis(Ion14271429,1436).ThereferencestovirginitypointtoIonsconceptioninthedefilingof
Creusa,whiletheGorgonherself,thedreadedfemaleheadwiththepowertopetrify,betokensthe
womanspoweroflifeanddeathdisplayedbyCreusaalternativelyinbearingandintryingtokillher
son.ThesesumbolaIontermsthingsspokenbygod(Ion1424).Thisusageillustratesthe
claimoforaclestobeingmotivatedspeech,thatis,signifierswithametaphoricalormetonymicrelation
tothesignified.
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[back]16.HerodotusHistories6.86.2835.SeeGauthier1972:6768.
[back]17.Gauthier1972:72.
[back]18.Forresetsignum,seeSingleton1970:2.7online17.
[back]19.Principally,ingeneralorderofoccurrence,theseoppositionsare:dark/light,
crooked/straight,fear/hope,bitter/sweet,death/life,evil/good,sleep/wakefulness,true/false,forestor
valley/mountain,low/high,beast/divinity,night/morning,she/he,trembling/peace,woe/happiness.
[back]20.SeeHoltsmark1966:206n2.
[back]21.ThepresenceofweavinginCalypsoscavecomplicatestheviewofVidalNaquet
(1970:12781279)thatintheOdysseytheadventurestakeplaceintherealmofnatureandthereturnin
thatofculture,withPhaeaciaasaplaceoftransition.InthecaseofCalypsosislandandthehomeof
Circe,aswell,wherewealsofindweavingandcooking,thereisamorecomplexadmixtureofthetwo
realms,suggestingthatthesetwofemaleartificescannotbecomprehendedbythenature/culture
dichotomy.
[back]22.OnCalypsosislandasaparadise,seeAnderson1958:67.
[back]23.See,forexample,HermesconductingofthesoulsofthesuitorstoHades,Odysseyxxiv1
4:

:
,
,.
HermesofCyllenecalledoutthesouls
ofthesuitors:andinhishandshewascarryingthewand,
beautiful,golden,bywhichheforeverenchantstheeyesofthemen,
ofwhomeverhewishes,whileothersherousesevenastheysleep.
[back]24.Segal1962b:23pointsthewaytowardthisinterpretationwhenhecallsOdysseusarrival,
sleep,andawakeningonPhaeaciaarebirthafterthequasideathonOgygia.
[back]25.Onandasdoublets,seeHaslam1976.
[back]26.Forinstructionsonhowtomaximizeprofitinroughandstormy
sailing,seeHesiodWorksandDays618694.OnHermesasthemediatorofcommerce,seeWatkins
1971:346350.
[back]27.Fortheancientdefinitionofhumansbytheirmedialstatusbetweendivinitiesandbeasts,
seeAristotlePolitics1253a2529,Detienne1972b,andSegal1974a.
[back]28.ForOdysseusbuildingoftheraftasasymbolicalreengagementofhisrationalfaculties,
seeSegal1962b:22.
[back]29.Holtsmark1966:209interpretsonlytheraftwithitssourceoffoodastheplacenta,butthe
initiallyprotectivecoveringoftheclothesgivenbythemotherCalypsowouldseemtosharethis
function.
[back]30.SeeMoulton1977:125onthecommonfeaturesofthetwosimiles(Odysseyv328330and
368370).
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[back]31.Bergren1975:5759.
[back]32.FortheAthenianmalesmovementfromchildhoodtomanhoodashisphysicalseparation
fromstrictlyenclosedfemalequartersandassumptionofrelationshipswithmen,seeSlater1971:55
63.
[back]33.AlthoughOdysseusonlyappearsinitiallytobecomparedtotheoctopus,itisstillinstructive
torecallthatinGreekculturetheoctopuswasamodelintheanimalworldformtis,duetoits
exceptionalpolymorphy(ittakestheshapeofthebodiestowhichitclings)andtoitsinkycloud,a
meansofbothescapeandcapture.SeeDetienneandVernant1978:3443.Odysseusapparent
likenesstoanoctopusisthusprolepticallyappropriatefortheherowhowillbecoveredinacloudby
Metisdaughter,Athena(Odysseyvii15,140compareOdysseyxiii189,299,313and352,wherethe
goddesstemporarilydisguisesIthaca,too,inacloud)andwillcarryoutthemtiswovenbythe
goddessandhimself(Odysseyxiii303,386)bytakingontheshapeofabeggar(Odysseyxiii429438)
andlaterdefeatingtherealbeggar,Iros(Odysseyxviii1107).
[back]34.IntheOdysseytheadjectiveisusedonlyofOdysseusandallbuttwoofits68
occurrencesareinthelinefinal.
[back]35.Inadditiontohiseffortstoinsurehisownsleepandsafeawakening,thislikeningof
OdysseustoaburninglogwithitsseedoffirepointstohisassumptionofthepowersofHermes.For
Hermesastheinventoroffireandfiresticks,seeHomericHymntoHermes111,andforhisidentitywith
theVedicfiregod,Agni,seeHocart1970[1963]:1720andWatkins1971:354n41.
[back]36.SeeHoltsmark1966:210fortheusageofhereandelsewhereinOdysseyv.On
theselastoccurrencesoftheverbhecomments:Afterhehasthuscoveredhimself(,491)
withleaves,Athenafinallycoversup(,493)hiswearyeyelidsinsleepthathemayrest
fromhistoilandgatherstrength.ThemeaningofthenameofCalypso,thecovererwhoisDeath,isat
thebeginningofthebookthenegationofreallife,becomesinthebookscentralportionastrong
intimationoftheambivalentlyexercisedstrugglebetweentheclaimsoflifeanddeath(353,372,435),
andsuggestsattheendtherestorativeprocessbymeansofwhichtheprecariouslykindledflamewill
blazeinfullaffirmationoflife.
[back]37.OntherelationbetweenthesimilesofHomerandpreSocraticphilosophy,seeRiezler
1936:253271notealsoRiezlersnotionofametaphoricalinteractionbetweensimileandnarrative
wherebyeachtransfersitscharacteristicstotheother.
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