Sunday Stories: Preparing for The Odyssey
& The Way of A Pilgrim, (Part Two)
Preparatory sketches for The Odyssey
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove –
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod wiped from sight the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start where you will – sing for our time too.
(Trans Robert Fagles)
How on earth do you learn The Odyssey? Bearing in mind it can take me an hour to tell five or six pages of a fairy tale, all twenty-four books of the great epic shifting around in my consciousness is quite the task. I don’t do it very often. I’ve taken a month for the preparation (this is the end of week three) and I have the bones of the thing in a shape that can shuffle and weave and climb the rigging. I don’t rehearse in any conventional sense, but I make drawings that serve as triggers as I go – I’m leaving a few here. When learning a story I will learn from the ear or images, not lines on paper as a recital. If I do that I will be groping for the line, not actually in tandem with my imagination. To be fair you lose some polish this way but there’s a kind of electricity that makes up for it.
We remember that Odysseus is trying to get back home to Ithaca after a nine year Trojan war. On the way back to wife Penelope and son Telemachus, he and his crew will encounter all sorts of islands with all sorts of challenges. Alongside the Lotus Eaters, Cyclops, Circe, the Sirens, the Sun Cattle, whirlpools and dragons, Odysseus also has to visit the land of the dead, to consult the milky-eyed seer, Tiresias. It’s there that he encounters Achilles, the greatest warrior of Troy.
For me, in this moment of the story Achilles foreshadows the coming of Yeshua, more than a thousand years later.
When Achilles tells Odysseus the following, the game is up for the old order.