That Burns reading yesterday bummed me out so let's tote up some positives here in Book IX of the Odyssey.
• I like that I'm using a Roman numeral to refer to a Greek text. I feel it's multiculti.
• I like the fact that this is not a verse translation, which have been almost universally terrible (exceptions: Beowulf, kind of, and Dryden's Aeneid); and, since I read in these volumes almost every day, I'm not skeered by the "thee"s and "thou"s.
• I like the pro-wine stance right at the top:
... And as often as they drank that red wine honey sweet, he would fill one cup and pour it into twenty measures of water, and a marvellous sweet smell went up from the mixing bowl: then truly it was no pleasure to refrain.• I like the classic storytelling that this is to set up something -- namely, they're going to get the Cyclops drunk and then poke out his eye.
• What's not to like about a guy getting his eye poked out? It's a classic comedy (unless it happens to you -- and when it does, remember that your mother warned you it could happen if you kept rough-housing like that).
• There's also a fully-rounded portrait of alcohol abuse when Polyphemus ("Mr. Cyclops" to you) gets drunk:
Therewith he sank backwards and fell with face upturned, and there he lay with his great neck bent round, and sleep, that conquers all men, overcame him. And the wine and the fragments of men’s flesh issued forth from his mouth, and he vomited, being heavy with wine.Like the old adage says, "Humans before wine, everything fine. Wine before humans, like eating raw ablumens."
• Speaking of fully-rounded, I also liked that Odysseus can't help being a bit of a jerk:
But when we had now made twice the distance over the brine, I would fain have spoken to the Cyclops, but my company stayed me on every side with soft words, saying: ‘“Foolhardy that thou art, why wouldst thou rouse a wild man to wrath, who even now hath cast so mighty a throw towards the deep and brought our ship back to land, yea and we thought that we had perished 3 even there?...Most heroes have a Flaw -- or the hit movie this week would be The Light Knight -- but I like that the Flaw here is an excessive fondness of woofing. It's on after that, when you fuck with Polyphemus (a fancy name for a dumb Cyclops; he fell for the "Noman" ruse -- which, and I know Odysseus's reputation, but it doesn't seem that clever) you fuck with Poseidon, and when you fuck with Poseidon you fuck yourself. Basically the whole Trojan war story resembles gang warfare anyway, what with Achilles obsessing about being disrespected, etc.
So spake they, but they prevailed not on my lordly spirit, and I answered him again from out an angry heart: ‘“Cyclops, if any one of mortal men shall ask thee of the unsightly blinding of thine eye, say that it was Odysseus that blinded it, the waster of cities, son of Laertes, whose dwelling is in Ithaca.”
• I also like the adjective "lordly," especially because it gets Odysseus into trouble, as lordliness so often does.
Photo of ouzo from Flickr user dullhunk, used with a Creative Commons license.