Now with Laertes they turned for home,
Odysseus, the herdsmen, and Telemakhos,
home to Penelope.
But ere long they left,
they encountered a great mass,
the kinsmen of the fresh-dead suitors,
all seeking revenge. When with a shout
the small returning party was seen,
a wave of the raw, untamed fire
of mobs swept through them,
and they ran with lowered spears.
Grey-eyed Athena, by Zeus' bidding,
now at the council of Olympus sat,
challenged by Poseidon.
"Thundering Zeus, we here on this
high mount of power shall all be here
'til time itself stops. We all share roles
on the mortal realms below, and do not
often have cause to come in conflict. We
all have our place, our specialty, which
is our right to do with as we wish. I do
not presume to trespass upon your skies,
you leave my seas to me. Always has it
been this way, as it should be. I speak
today to defend my realm and interests,
to preserve what is mine.
on the earth below lead such small, short
lives; scarce has a day passed before
their entrance and exit has been made;
in their life they pray to us, please us
with sacrifices, and in return we guard,
we spare a glance to guide or perhaps
counsel. So many there are, and so
insignificant most, that a glance is all
"However, occasionally one
will come along of interest, one
worth noting, or one will be called
to our attention. Such was the case
of one Odysseus, raider of cities. At
troy he fought, and bravely and well,
but as he made for home, he made
a stop at the Kyklops' island, where
resides my son, Polyphemus.
taking his leave, this raider hurled
insult and injury like you yourself,
Zeus of the Thunderbolts, do your
bolts when angered. In despair,
my son cried out to me from his land,
broken and bleeding, he cried out to me
to avenge him, to seek out he who
was the cause of his suffering, and
to keep from him the land he sought.
"I am the Lord of the Seas; they are my
dominion. I did all I could
to keep from him the land he sought,
yet still he made it home. I know
that another immortal force helped
him, nearly carried him past my efforts.
"Like a faithful hound, ever watchful,
ever seeking to do its utter best to
fulfill its duty, then to be able only to
nip at the heels of the prey when at
long last it approaches, but carried out of
reach, safe in strong, unwavering arms,
unyielding to the futile efforts of
the yapping hound, so were both
Polyphemus and I cheated of our goal,
the redemption of honor that was so
roughly torn from us, not only once,
but many times.
"And added to that
knowing that the saving arms saved
only for personal whims compounded
the injustice. For the arms that carried
Odysseus were Athena, in her wisdom
and guile, robbing us."
Far below, on the hills of Ithaka,
The wave of the mob crashed against
The rock island of Odysseus and his
Men. Then with a great battle cry,
Odysseus began clashing blades.
Grey-eyed Athena rose and spoke.
"Lord of the Seas, Earth shaker,
Poseidon, in me you see that
which bore Odysseus from your
deep sea traps, that which
withheld from you what you
wished, the reason being sound
or no, let each decide individually.
"For my part, I acted as would
have any here; Odysseus and
his family have for many
generations been faithful to me,
to them I give more than a glance;
in my eyes, they do not merely rise
and fade with the sun. Many
hekatombs have they given me,
and I intended, and still intend,
to recognize that and aid them."
As they fought, back to back,
Odysseus said to Laertes, who,
being fair far removed from
the energy and athleticism
of youth, gasped now
for each breath,
"Go, Father, go
and take the oar, go inland,
and plant it as I told you
it was to be planted." And so
Laertes in a sudden burst
of strength broke through
the ring of oppressors and laid
down his weapon in surrender.
The fighters took no notice
of him as he slipped away.
While the battles behind and
above him raged, he ran
with the oar. Seeing him from above,
Hermes swept down, to lend
him his sandals, and then Laertes
feet did swallow the miles, as
eagerly as Polyphemus did
swallow the men.
the council's blood was boiling
and in anger, the gods fought,
Zeus casting bolts, Poseidon
playing the sea in a symphony
of war, crashing and casting it
with ease. Athena met him
wave for wave, standing firm
in the onslaught, and returning
blows of her own.
had Laertes run when he approached
a small village, cradled by the
mountains in a secluded valley;
tired and thirsty even with the sandals,
for his love for Odysseus blinded him
from his fatigue, and his single thought
had been to press ever farther inland.
At last reaching the village, he took the
main path, seeking notice, which
in the form a man with a tangled beard
was found. The man approached him,
arms crossed, and a great frown lay
upon his face as he gazed at
Laertes and the oar. At last he asked,
"Stranger, what winnowing fan is
that upon your shoulder?"
With a cry,
Laertes embraced the bearded man
and then thrust the oar down into
the soft earth. He ran about more,
though his breath came ragged,
and prepared for the sacrifice,
all the while telling the man of the
realm of Poseidon.
both Poseidon and Athena knew
what had happened, and upon the
earth-shaker came a great change. His
waves fell silent, as he paused a
great and mighty pause, with the faces
of all the others turned to him, and he said,
"Odysseus, tribute you now pay me,
tribute long due for such time you have
spent on my realm, but it is paid, and now
let us put this in our past. A fight of gods
is foolish, none can win. Amends have
been made, I am satisfied."
agreed, and when Poseidon saw that,
he turned the minds of the families
to gentler thoughts, and opened their eyes
to the truth of the lives their sons had led,
and Odysseus laid down his sword,
leaving behind his struggles.
returned, and together, father and son
came home once more, one final time,
and all on Ithaka rejoiced to see
their troubles over.