To Carry A Wanderer Home

Modified on: August 14, 2018

“And last, Odysseus climbed aboard himself
and down he lay, all quiet
as crewmen sat to the oarlocks, each in line….
an irresistible sleep fell deeply on his eyes, the sweetest,
soundest oblivion….
And the ship like a four-horse team careering down the plain, …
leaping with hoofs high to run the course in no time—
so the stern hove high and plunged with the seething rollers
crashing dark in her wake as on she surged…cutting the swells at top speed,
bearing a man…who had suffered twenty years of torment, sick at heart,
cleaving his way through wars of men and pounding waves at sea
but now he slept in peace, the memory of his struggles
laid to rest.
And then that hour the star rose up,
the clearest, brightest star, that always heralds
the newborn light of day, the deep-sea-going ship
made landfall on the island…Ithaca, at last.”

(The Odyssey, transl. Robert Fagles, Book 13.86-108)

The history of humankind is of people on the move, lost, wandering, exiled, fleeing, seeking, roving, migrating, trying to find a place to live on earth. Odysseus, after twenty years of war and shipwreck, arrives on the shores of his homeland not by his own power, but by the grace of strangers, the Phaeacians of the island Scheria. They carry him home as he sleeps.

In an epic full of cruel monsters and far crueler humans, the Phaeacians stand out as a people of hospitality and humanity. They care for a stranger and give of their abundance to help him find his way.

Such a blessing, just to be humane in the monstrous, sea-tossed world—


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