Once the flame had come near us, and he thought the moment right:
—Wrapped in a single fire, two illustrious souls,
If I merit any recognition from you,
I was a poet who told something of your great exploits,
While in the world,
Please stop a moment and say something of yourselves…
Tell us, where did you die?
For I know there’s no city or town that has a memorial to you.
And the flame’s larger branch, as if shivered by a breeze,
As if the quivering tip were a tongue
It brought out a voice, pentecostal – Ulysses, the Greek chieftain.
—When I made my escape from Circe,
For a year and more detained, not far from Gaëta,
(Before Aeneas named it so)
Too soon came my second travelling.
I was driven to do it,
Not the responsibility I owed my son Telemachus,
Nor the duty toward my father Laertes,
Nor the love I owed Penelope,
Nothing could prevent me,
I had to know the value of a human, his measurement,
By gaining experience of the world.
I set out on the ocean again,
With one ship only, with only the few crew that had not deserted.
I saw Morocco, the African coast of Algeria,
Sardinia, and other islands set into that sea, Corsica.
I reached Spain,
Many years spent, we were old
By the time we reached the narrow strait.
At the pillars of Hercules, Seville and Gib to the right
Ceüta to our left, I gathered up the crew,
We’ve come a long way together,
We’ve seen a lot of dangers and overcome them,
We’ve reached the gates of the western world,
And now I ask you to go beyond.
Brief the span from eye open, eye closed,
Let’s pack it all into the time, one last hurrah,
We have the chance to know the unknown world.
Do not let fear prevent.
We must follow the Sun down,
It is the purpose of humans to discover,
This is in our souls, and is what sets us apart from animals,
Knowledge, therefore virtue, this is our voyage.
The Gods praise them, they were all keen, not one dropped out,
The speech had worked on them, I couldn’t have prevented them now,
And setting our prow to sunset, westward we went on,
Pulling hard to discover soonest good or ill.
Remember, we had no lodestone,
Far south, further than any one had been,
Strange constellations now ruled,
And the northern ones we knew, low on the horizon,
Barely lifting themselves into the sphere.
Five months since we’d begun,
When came the rudder-man’s call – the shape of a mountain ahead, shadowy,
Seeming higher than any I had seen before – landfall, it was.
But just when we thought we were saved,
A whirlwind came up from the land,
Striking the ship hard on the bows.
Three times it spun her round,
At the fourth, our stern reared up,
The prow went down – the eye was closed,
As was Zeus’ pleasure, the sea gathered us.
For pirates, the yearning never allows them peace. Yes, interesting,
But somehow, that wasn’t as interesting as it started out.
The pre-Christian interest in destiny was highlighted, certainly,
But turns out his destiny not so interesting as his life before it.
So where was Diomedes?
Where was the Palladium you stole from the citadel?
Where were all those exciting stories?
Sure, old men forget, and he’s been here two thousand years,
But somehow fetched up run aground, a hulk,
A man who is about as exciting as Nestor.