The Odyssey

“No fine, greater gift in the world than that…

when man and woman possess their home, two minds,

two hearts that work as one.” (Book VI 200-202)


“Sinews no longer bind the flesh and bones together –

the fire in all its fury burns the body down to ashes

once life slips from the white bones, and the spirit,

rustling, flitters away… flown like a dream.” (Book XI 250-253)


“Of all that breathes and crawls across the earth,

our mother earth breeds nothing feebler than a man.

So long as the gods grant him power, spring in his knees,

he thinks he will never suffer affliction down the years.

But then, when the happy gods must bring on the long hard times,

bear then he must, against his will, and steel his heart.

Our lives, our mood and mind as we pass across the earth,

turn as the days turn…

as the father of men and gods makes each day dawn.” (Book XVII 150-158)


“Woman – your words, they cut me to the core!

Who could move my bed? …

Not a man on earth, not even at peak strength,

would find it easy to prise it up and shift it, no,

a great sign, a hallmark lies in its construction.

I know, I built it myself – no one else…

There was a branching olive-tree inside our court,

grown to its full prime, the bole like a column, thickset.

Around it I built my bedroom…

There’s our secret sign, I tell you, our life story!”

(Book XXIII 205-206, 210-216, 227)


“Son of old Laertes –

mastermind – what a fine, faithful wife you won!

What good sense resided in your Penelope –

how well Icarius’ daughter remembered you,

Odysseus, the man she married once!

The fame of her great virtue will never die.

The immortal gods will lift a song for all mankind,

a glorious song in praise of self-possessed Penelope.” (Book XXIV 211-218)


Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 1999.


The Illiad

“O my son, my sorrow, why did I ever bear you?

All I bore was doom…

Would to god you could linger by your ships

without a grief in the world, without a torment!

Doomed to a short life, you have so little time.

And not only short, now, but filled with heartbreak too,

more than all other men alive – doomed twice over.

Ah to a cruel fate I bore you in our halls!” (Book I 492-499)


“Enough of this madness – striving with the gods.

We are not of the same breed, we never will be,

the deathless gods and men who walk the earth.” (Book V 507-509)


“Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men.

Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,

now the living timber bursts with the new buds

and spring comes round again. And so with men:

as one generation comes to life, another dies away.” (Book VI 171-175)


“… one day let them say, ‘He is a better man than his father!'” (Book VI, 571)


“And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it,

neither brave man nor coward, I tell you –

it’s born with us the day that we are born.” (Book VI 582-584)


“It’s wrong to have such an iron, ruthless heart.

Even the gods themselves can bend and change,

and theirs is the greater power, honor, strength.” (Book IX 602-604)


“We do have Prayers, you know, Prayers for forgiveness,

daughters of mighty Zeus… and they limp and halt,

they’re all wrinkled, drawn, they squint to the side,

can’t look you in the eyes, and always bent on duty,

trudging after Ruin, maddening, blinding Ruin.” (Book IX 609-613)


“There is nothing alive more agonized than man

of all that breathe and crawl across the earth.” (Book XVII 515-516)


“If only strife could die from the lives of gods and men

and anger that drives the sanest man to flare in outrage –

bitter gall, sweeter than dripping streams on honey,

that swarms in people’s chests and blinds like smoke” (Book XVIII 126-129)


“… this alien earth I stride

will hold me down at last.” (Book XVIII 386-387)


“I have endured what no one on earth has ever done before –

I put to my lips the hands of the man who killed my son.” (Book XXIV 590-591)


“There are two great jars that stand on the floor of Zeus’s halls

and hold his gifts, our miseries one, the other blessings.

When Zeus who loves the lightning mixes gifts for a man,

now he meets with misfortune, now good times in turn.” (Book XXIV 615-618)


Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 1990.