Scylla and after



… and said, “Trust me so all ends well!”
So we prepared to follow, yet again, Himself.
Turned out he was no wiser head, who, wanting but support,
Would steer us safely through the strait.
We hesitated once, though, I recall

And might have done any of three things, then:
The first thing, or the second one,
Or else what finally we did, which now
At least we can rule out
As an effective plan.

We could have fled; we could have gone
A longer way around; or else we could have done
What, as I said, we did, which was
To follow orders, rise above,
Pull oars, and carry on —

Only to see our shipmates, one by one,
Grabbed up and gobbled as their ship raced on.
Now, our surviving few starved and marooned,
Captain Nobody having gone off to commune
With some god or another, what’s there to be done?

Meantime these farting cattle, said to be the Sun’s,
Grow fat as we grow leaner. I say, Come!
Has any sign we’ve had yet been this clear?
Men live on beef, not prayers.
Then let us do what’s clearly to be done.


Their Captain slumbering in the hills, his men
Put flint to iron, steak knives to the hone;
Meanwhile the gods, as ever fanciful and grim,
Brush up on animating carrion,
Seeing (they always see) what’s to be done.


An account of an episode of the Odyssey by one of Odysseus’ crew. Eurylochus (Εὐρύλοχος) was one of Odysseus’ shipmates, known as a coward and a stirrer-up of strife. Of course he’d be so known: it’s Odysseus’s story, after all. Were it another’s, one suspects that their captain might not come off as well as he does in the official version. It was Eurylochus who warned Odysseus of Circe’s sorcery after she had turned some of his men into pigs. (Later on, though, he did argue for leaving the swine to their fate so that those still men could escape….) It was Eurylochus, also, who convinced Odysseus’ crew to kill and eat the cattle of the Sun. In his (and their) defense, they were starving. But as you may recall, it did not turn out well for them. Ah, well, history judges us by our results, and also those who make it home are the storytellers.

This poem answers a prompt from “to write a poem in the voice of a minor character from a myth.”

Image: Hermes steals Apollo’s cattle, on a Caeretan hydria in the Louvre. Or so I am told. (This version has been flopped and colorized.)

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