Thursday, August 04, 2011

Eye of the Cyclops

Last night, inside the Indigo bookstore at Bay and Bloor in Toronto, leafing through magazines in the Travel section I found an article on the Greek island of Serifos.

Serifos is situated roughly 73 miles from Pireus. Its luminous, azure-blue & white images, pressed between magazine covers, made me want to find out more about this island.

Back at home, a search on youtube for "Serifos" yielded the same blue-on-white scenery, yet nothing earth-shattering.

Serifos, however, continued to remain the focal point of my evening.

While the geography of the Odyssey places the island of Cyclopes somewhere in Sicily, the search that I had started brought back a different tidbit of information.

According to some sources, the island of the Cyclopes in the Odyssey could have been Serifos.

Verse 194,  Book IX of the Odyssey translated by Robert Fitzgerald brings us ashore on the island inhabited by the one-eyed giants:

"As we rowed on and nearer to the mainland
at one end of a bay we saw a cavern
yawing above the water, screened with laurel."

It's an ill fated voyage for Ulysses, who disregards the advice of his companions to get whatever he can from the cavern and  then go back to his ship.
Instead, Ulysses chooses to wait for the Cyclops Polyphemus, who devours two of his warriors on arrival.

Ulysses zeroes in on the weapon of revenge:

" an olive tree, felled green...
And it was like a mast
a lugger of twenty oars broad in the beam...

.. Now I
chopped out a six foot section of this pole.

I held this
in the fire's heart and turned it, toughening it."

In the evening, when Polyphemus returns, Ulysses pours the Cyclops a cup of strong wine which renders the monster vulnerable.

"Even as he spoke, he reeled and tumbled backward,
his great head lolling to one side: and sleep
took him like any other creature."

It is the moment Ulysses chooses to attack Polyphemus with the pike made out of the olive tree trunk:

"I rammed it
deep in his crater eye, and I leaned on it
turning it as a shipwright turns a drill..."

The eye of the Cyclops is out.

Time to leave the island of Serifos.

 "...Cast off the mooring lines,
and filing to sit in beside the rowlocks
oarsmen in line dipped oars in the grey sea. "

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