Searching for Odysseus

They stayed with us for a year,

the cunning Odysseus and his men.

On Aiaia with the fair-tressed Kirke

and the four daughters of groves, springs and rivers.

That one year was so full of bliss for me,

a daughter of the grove,

but at other moments a true torture.

Kirke had forbidden her serving-women,

not to speak to the guests,

not to look into their eyes,

not to get into contact with their bodies.

However, a great misfortune came over me,

once when I poured wine for Odysseus.

My gaze touched his,

He held my gaze.

I turned away too late;

the damage was already done.

All following days, the rest of the year

I kept thinking of him.

When the message reached me that he would go,

back home, back to Ithakč,

I followed him in the early morning to the beach.

“Handsome man, you who are always in my thoughts,

don't leave this place without me.

Rather I'd go with you to an unknown land

than that I'd stay here on this eternal island.”

However, Odysseus stared at me,

as if he wasn't sure of my intention.

Finally he said:

“Pretty daughter of the grove,

you who have made my life here more pleasant,

I cannot take you along.

I long for my wife and son,

and my friends to their own homes.

It would be ungrateful to Kirke,

after having been her guest for so long,

to take a serving-woman away from her island.”

However, at that moment Kirke appeared.

“The great Odysseus is correct,

you won't leave my island with him.

However, as punishment for your unfaithfullness,

you will not serve me anymore.”

So she said, hitting me with her wand.

My body changed into a small statue,

a small wooden statue of the Horse of Ilion.

The powerful Kirke picked me up from the ground,

and with help of her magic,

she threw me too far from Odysseus.

Ages I seemed to fly through the air;

the landscape passed by under me.

When I finally landed,

I did not know at all where I was.

The only thing I could see,

was that I was lying in the middle of a sandy street.

The incomprehensible sounds around me,

were spoken by people who looked different.

Kirke had removed me so far from Hellas,

that nothing seemed Greek at all.

However, I couldn't move,

and was helplessly kicked away and picked up.

A while I stayed in a dwelling,

so different from Kirke's,

of the unknown people in this far-away land.

I tried to understand what they said,

learning a language so different from Greek.


 

I had to get back to Greece,

back to my beloved Odysseus,

who was now sailing homewards with his friends.

As a statue I could not move,

but Kirke had not counted on one thing –

or had that been her intention?

With each full moon,

I took on my human form again.

That one lighted night I could search,

wandering through unknown areas.

Though when the rose-fingered dawn appeared,

I was caught again in the wooden statue.

Again helpless for a month,

moved to houses where I did not want to go,

held by people whom I was not looking for.

Slowly I moved over the world,

a world that was larger than I had ever thought.

As a servant of Kirke on the eternal island,

I had never realized the length of a human year.

Now I fervently wished that not too many passed,

before I reached Ithakč.

The cunning Odysseus was a hero,

but even his guile could not prolong his life.

Still I held on to the idea,

that I went in the right direction.

That on each night with full moon,

I came nearer to Odysseys.

My beloved Odysseus, who was still alive.


 

I saw the world around me change,

and learned the language of the people around me,

in order to be able to ask about him.

More and more often I was put in houses,

out of which I could not escape by night.

Desperately I tried to discover,

how long I had been travelling,

how far away I was from Ithakč,

when I would see Odysseus again.

Though during recent a full moon,

my statue was standing on a shelf in a room.

A shelf connected to the wall,

above a piece of sitting-furniture on which a woman was seated.

She stared at a box facing her,

a black box with moving images on its front side.

Images of places I was looking for,

places where Odysseus was.

However, when the woman saw me and her statue had disappeared,

she was caught by surprise.

It was almost impossible for her to comprehend,

what I next told her, in the language she understood.

After the rose-fingered dawn had appeared again,

she left me standing on the shelf for a long time.

Eventually I was hidden in a dark bag;

however, I did not know where she was taking me.

After a while I got the same feeling again,

the same feeling as when Kirke let me fly to that far-away land.

Was that woman a sorceress too,

who was removing me inside a bag far from Odysseus?

A sorceress as powerful as Kirke,

because she could let me fly like that too?

Finally she removed me from the bag.

We found ourselves on a beach;

Helios' journey through the sky was coming to an end.

As soon as the full moon had returned me to my true form,

the woman told me where we were.

More than three thousand human years later than my beloved,

we were also standing on the island of Odysseus.

Here his feet had touched the ground once,

here his eyes had seen the surroundings once.

His house had disappeared,

consumed by the time.

The time I had never really been able to understand,

the time that separated me from my beloved.

Slowly I wandered over the island,

searching for a sign from Odysseus.

A sign I finally found,

when I touched the old trees,

and melted into the wood.


 

Background:

This story is based on an episode in the Odyssey, an epos (epic) written by Homeros (Homer). Homeros lived around the eight century BC. He has written two famous stories, the Ilias (about the Trojan war) and the Odyssey (the story about Odysseus' journey homewards). It takes Odysseus ten years to get from Troy to his home, the island Ithaka. At one point he reaches the island of the sorceress Kirke (Circe), together with the men who are also sailing with him. Kirke had transformed half of Odysseus' men into swines by magic. With help from the god Hermes Odysseus made Kirke transform them back. Afterwards they stayed for a year on the island. Kirke has four nymphs (of groves, springs and rivers) as her servants (lines 348-351 of book X: “ἀμφίπολοι δ᾽ ἄρα τέως μὲν ἐνὶ μεγάροισι πένοντο τέσσαρες, αἵ οἱ δῶμα κάτα δρήστειραι ἔασι: γίγνονται δ᾽ ἄρα ταί γ᾽ ἔκ τε κρηνέων ἀπό τ᾽ ἀλσέων ἔκ θ᾽ ἱερῶν ποταμῶν, οἵ τ᾽ εἰς ἅλαδε προρέουσι.). Their story is not told in the Odyssee. One of them tells above story. The Odyssey takes place from about 1188 to 1178 BC, so more than 3000 years ago.

I thought of the way of phrasing things in the Greek text of the Odyssey while writing this [in Dutch – I tried to make an English translation in this way too], for example certain words that are used often when you translate a part of the Odyssey (almost) literally. Examples are the usage of certain verb forms, conjunctions like 'however' and 'in order that', and the usage of adjectives with personal names.


 

Greek words used in the text:

-"Kirke" is written as "Circe" in Latin.

-"Ilion" is Troy.

-"Hellas" is Greece.

-"Ithakč" is Ithaka, the island where Odysseus' house is located.

-"Helios" is the sun god and journeys through the sky during the day.