In the sunlight, the grey, cruel sea was
violet blue, and violets blue as the sea
grew thickly in the green meadows. From the
sea shore he walked inland until he came to
a great cave, and in the cave sat Calypso,
the beautiful goddess with the braided hair.
On the hearth a great fire burned, and the
fragrance of the burning cedar and sandal-
wood could be smelt afar off in the island.
Calypso, wearing a shining robe and a golden
girdle, was weaving with a shuttle of gold
and singing as she wove. Round about the
cave alders and poplars and sweet-smelling
cypresses grew, and in them roosted owls and
falcons and chattering sea-crows, and the
long-winged, white-plumaged sea-birds. A
vine with rich clusters of grapes climbed up
the cave, and four fountains of clear water
played beside it.
Odysseus knew that Calypso was a goddess
that all men feared, but he soon found that
he had nothing to fear from her, save that
she should keep him in her island for
evermore. She tended him gently and lovingly
until his weariness and weakness were gone
and he was as strong as ever.
But although he lived by the meadows where
the violets and wild parsley grew, and had
lovely Calypso to give him all that he
wished, Odysseus had a sad and heavy heart.
'Stay with me, and thou shalt never grow old
and never die,' said Calypso.
But a great homesickness was breaking the
heart of Odysseus. He would rather have had
one more glimpse of his rocky little kingdom
across the sea, and then have died, than
have lived for ever and for ever young in
the beautiful, flowery island.
Day after day he would go down to the shore
and stare with longing eyes across the
water. But eight years came and went, and he
seemed no nearer escape.
Yet, although he did not know it, the days
of the wanderings of Odysseus were soon to
It was Poseidon, the god of the sea, who had
sent all his troubles to Odysseus, because
he had blinded his son, the wicked cannibal
It was the grey-eyed Athene, a goddess who
had always been the friend of Odysseus, who
helped to bring him home. When she saw him
daily sitting by the sea, gazing across the
water with great tears rolling down his
face, her heart was filled with pity. She
knew, too, what troubles his wife and son
were having in Ithaca while Odysseus was far
away, and at length she went to the gods and
begged them to help her to send Odysseus
safely back to his kingdom.
Poseidon had gone to a far-distant land, and
when the gods knew through what bitter
sorrows Odysseus had passed, and how his
heart ached to look once again even on the
blue smoke curling up above the woods in
Ithaca, they took pity on him.
Hermes of the golden wand, their
fleet-footed messenger. On his feet Hermes
bound his golden sandals that never grew
old, and that bore him safely and swiftly
over wet sea and dry land. In his hand he
took his golden wand, with which he could
lull people to sleep. Like a sea-bird that
chases the fish through the depths of the
sea, and dips its white plumage in the
rolling breakers, so sped Hermes over the
When he had reached the island of Calypso,
he walked through the meadows of violets to
the cave. But Odysseus was not there. Down
by the rocky shore he sat, looking wistfully
over the wide sea, while the tears rolled
down his face and dripped on the sand.
Calypso was in the cave, weaving with her
golden shuttle, and singing a sweet song.
Food and wine she gave to Hermes, and when
he had eaten and drunk he gave her the
message of the gods.
When she heard that the gods commanded her
to let Odysseus go safely home, Calypso was
'Hard and jealous are ye gods,' she said. It
was I who saved Odysseus as he clung to the
piece of wreckage that drifted in the sea,
and guided him safely to my island. Ever
since have I been kind to him and have loved
him, and now you are taking him away from
me. But how can I send him? I have no ships
nor men to take him back to Ithaca.'
If thou dost not send him, thou wilt anger
all the gods,' said Hermes, 'and greatly
will they punish thee.'
Then Hermes sped away across the violet
meadows and the violet-blue sea, and Calypso
went down to where Odysseus sat on the
'Sorrow no more, poor man,' she said, 'for
now, with all my heart, will I send thee
home. Arise, and cut long beams. With thine
axe make a wide raft and lay cross planks
above for a deck. In it I shall place food
and water, and give thee clothing, and send
a fair wind, so that thou mayest come safely
to thine own country. For such is the will
of the gods, who are stronger than I am both
to will and to do.'
'But surely thou plannest mischief,'
Odysseus said. 'Thou bidst me cross the
mighty sea in a little raft. I would not go
aboard a raft, unless thou shouldst give me
thy promise not to plan secretly my ruin.'
Calypso smiled, and gently laid her hand on
'I give my promise,' she said. 'I am
planning for thee as I should plan for
myself were I in a like case. My heart is
not of iron, Odysseus, but pitiful as
Then she gave him a great, double-edged axe
of bronze, with a strong handle of
olive-wood, and a polished adze, and led the
way to the border of the island, where grew
tall trees, alders and poplars and pines.
When she had shown him where the tall trees
grew, she went home.
Odysseus went gladly and quickly to work.
With his axe of bronze he soon had felled
twenty great trees and had trimmed and
neatly planed them. That done, Calypso
brought him other tools, and bolts, and a
web of cloth to make sails, and skilfully
and well he made his raft. In four days his
work was done, and he drew the vessel down
with rollers to the sea.
On the fifth day, when Calypso had given him
new warm clothes, and had put plenty of corn
and wine and water, and many dainties that
she knew Odysseus liked, in the raft, she
said farewell. She sent a gentle breeze to
blow, and Odysseus rejoiced as the wind
filled his sails and carried him away from
the island. Calypso had told him what stars
he must use as his guides, and all her
advice he followed, and so in eighteen days
he saw land appear.
It was the land of the Phaeacians, who were
famous sailors, and it looked like a shield
lying in the misty sea.
But just when safety and home seemed very
near Odysseus, his enemy, Poseidon the sea-
god, returned from his wanderings in far-off
When he saw Odysseus peacefully sailing
towards the land of the Phaeacians, he knew
that while he had been away the gods must
have changed their minds, and were sending
Odysseus safely home.
'Ha!' said the angry god, 'Odysseus thinks
all his sorrows are over. Even yet I think I
can drive him far enough in the path of
With that he gathered the clouds into great
stormy masses, and roused up the waters of
the deep. Soon the thick black mist hid both
land and sea. He let loose all the fierce
storms and wild winds, and made the dark
night rush down. The winds fought and
clashed together and made the sea swell up
into furious billows that rolled onward,
mountain high, towards the shore.
Then the heart of Odysseus failed him.
'Wretched man that I am,' said he, 'would
that I had met my death fighting in Troyland,
and been buried like a brave soldier there.'
As he spoke, a mighty wave smote the raft
and rushed over it. The helm was torn from
his hand, the mast was broken in two, the
sail and yard-arm were hurled far away, and
Odysseus was swept into the sea.
For long the weight and force of the huge
wave kept him under, and his clothes were so
heavily clogged with water that they made
him sink. But at last he came up, and spat
from his mouth the bitter salt water that
streamed down his face and head. Even then
he did not forget his raft, but made a
spring after it in the waves, clutched hold
of it, and clambered in again.
Hither and thither the great waves carried
it. Like a scrap of thistledown chased
before the winds, even so was the raft of
Odysseus driven. The south wind would toss
it to the north, and again the east wind
would cast it to the west to chase.
So pitiful was the sight of brave Odysseus
thus tortured by the vengeful god of the
sea, that a fair sea-nymph felt sorrow for
Rising like a white-winged sea-gull from the
waves, she climbed on to the raft and spake
'The sea-god shall not slay thee,' she said.
Do as I tell thee, and thou shalt not die.
Cast off these heavy, water-logged clothes,
leave the raft to drift, and swim with all
thy strength to the land. Take now my veil
and wind it round thee. With it on thou
shalt be safe, and when thou dost grasp the
mainland with thy hands, turn thy head away
and let the veil fly back to the sea.'
With that she gave him her veil and dived
like a bird into the water, and the dark
waves closed over her.
But Odysseus believed not in her kindness.
'The gods have made a new plot for my ruin,'
he thought. 'I will not obey this sea-nymph.
This shall I do, as long as the timbers of
my raft hold together, here will I stay. But
if the storm shall drive the raft in pieces,
then shall I swim, for there is nought else
Then the god of the sea stirred up against
him a wave more terrible than any that had
gone before, and with it smote the raft.
Like chaff scattered by a great wind, so
were the planks and beams of the raft
scattered hither and thither. But Odysseus
laid hold on a plank and bestrode it, as he
might have ridden a horse. He stript off his
wet clothes and wound around him the
sea-nymph's veil. Then he dropt from the
plank, and swam with all his might.
The god of the sea saw him and scornfully
wagged his head.
'Go wandering over the sea, then,' he said,
'until thou findest help.'
Then he lashed his sea-horses, with their
flowing white manes, and drove away to his
own home far below the sea.
But Athene also saw Odysseus and bade all
the winds be still but the swift North Wind.
'Blow hard, North Wind,' she said, 'and
break the way before Odysseus till thou hast
carried him on to the land of the Phaeacians.'
For two days and two nights Odysseus was
borne onward on the swell of the sea.
When the third day dawned the breeze fell
and there was a breathless calm, and he saw
the land very near. With his heart near
bursting with joy he swam on until he could
see the trees on the shore.
Just then a great sound smote his ear, and
he knew it was the thunder of the sea
against a reef. Soon he saw that on that
coast there were no harbours, nor any
shelter for ships, but only jutting
headlands and reefs, and great, rugged crags
against which the sea broke thundering and
crashing, and surging back in angry foam.
Then thought Odysseus: 'At last I have had a
sight of the land, but there is no way to
escape from the grey waters. If I try to
land, the waves will dash my life out on
those jagged rocks. If I swim further round
the coast and try to find some inlet, then
the storm-winds may catch me again and bear
me onward far from the land, or the sea-god
may send a monster from the shore water to
But as he was thinking, a great wave bore
him to where the breakers thundered on the
reef. All his bones would have been broken,
and his life dashed from his body, if Athene
had not put a thought into his heart. As he
was swept in with the rush of the wave, he
clutched hold of the rock and clung there
till the wave had gone by. But the fierce
back-wash rushed on him, and the furious
surge tore off his clinging fingers and cast
him into the sea. With bleeding hands he
sank under the great waves, and might have
perished there, had not Athene once again
whispered to him. He rose and swam outside
the line of breakers, always looking for
some inlet, until at length he came to where
a fair river joined the sea.
Then Odysseus called aloud to the river and
begged it to have pity on him, and to let
him at last get safely to the land.
And the river was kind, and made the water
smooth, and bore him up in its shining
stream until he had reached the shore.
All bruised and swollen was his body, great
streams of salt water gushed from his
nostrils, but he lay on dry land at last,
his breath and speech gone, wellnigh
swooning. When he came to himself, he took
the sea-nymph's veil and let it fall into
the river. Swiftly it swept down the stream,
and the nymph rose from the sea, caught it
in her hands, and bore it away. Then
Odysseus, kneeling down amongst the reeds by
the river, kissed the earth for very
gladness and thankfulness of heart.
'The river breeze blows shrewd and chill in
the morning,' he thought, 'and the frosty
night down here by the river might kill me.'
So he climbed up the hillside to a shady
wood, and crept under the shelter of two
olive-trees that grew so close together that
no keen wind, nor sun, nor rain could pierce
There he made himself a bed of dry leaves,
and lay down and heaped over himself the
warm and fragrant covering.
Then Athene sent sleep to close his eyes,
and at last warmth and comfort and happy
dreams made him forget all the terrible
things through which he had passed.
The Legend and Myth about Calypso and Odysseus
The Myth of Calypso and Odysseus
The story of Calypso and Odysseus is featured in the book
entitled 'The Odyssey' by Jeanie Lang published
in London in 1920 by T.C. And E.C.Jack.