Monday, August 14, 2017

Allies and Adversaries of Ulysses

Giovanni Pichler
before 1791
onyx cameo, carved in Rome
British Museum


    Came in the singer, whom the muses kind
Had taught to sing divinely; but, could not
    Or would not him preserve from being blind.
Pontonous the squire then led him in,
    And set him by a pillar in the hall,
And hung his fiddle o'er him on a pin,
    And how to reach it showed him withal:
Sets him a table and a basket by, 
    And a great bowl of wine before him plac'd,
To drink as often as he should be dry.
    And when their thirst and hunger was displac'd,
The singer sung the song in most request,
    How once Ulysses and Achilles great
In high and bitter language did contest,
    When at a sacred feast they sat at meat;
And how king Agamemnon pleased was,
    To see the two best of the Greeks fall out.
For Phoebus told him so 'twould come to pass,
    When he at Pythos asked him about
The issue of the fleet design'd for Troy.
    This song Demodocus sung to them then;
Which to Ulysses was of little joy;
    But he his tears to hide before those men,
Before his eyes his cloak of purple drew,
    And when the singer ceas'd, his eyes he dried,
And from before his face his cloak withdrew,
    And of the wine perform'd the sacrifice.

– from the Odyssey of Homer, translated by Thomas Hobbes (1682)

Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck
Achilles discovered among the daughters of Lycomedes by Ulysses and Diomedes
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Cornelis van Poelenburgh
The Goddess Calypso rescues Ulysses
ca. 1630
oil on copper
 Hallwyl Museum, Stockholm

John William Waterhouse
Ulysses and the Sirens
oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne


Come here, thou worthy of a world of praise,
That dost so high the Grecian glory raise,
Ulysses! stay thy ship, and that song hear
That none pass'd ever but it bent his ear,
But left him ravish'd, and instructed more
By us, then any ever heard before.
For we know all things whatsoever were
In wide Troy labour'd; whatsoever there
The Grecians and the Trojans both sustain'd
By those high issues that the Gods ordain'd.
And whatsoever all the earth can show
T'inform a knowledge of desert, we know.

– from the Odyssey of Homer, translated by George Chapman (1616) 

O stay, O pride of Greece! Ulysses stay!
Oh cease thy course, and listen to our lay!
Blest is the man ordain'd our voice to hear,
The song instructs the soul, and charms the ear.
Approach! thy soul shall into raptures rise!
Approach! and learn new wisdom from the wise!
We know whate'er the kings of mighty name
Achieved at Ilion in the field of fame;
Whate'er beneath the sun's bright journey lies.
Oh stay, and learn new wisdom from the wise! 

– from the Odyssey of Homer, translated by Alexander Pope (1725) 

attributed to Domenichino
Scylla and Charybdis with Circe in the sky and the ship of Ulysses
before 1641
British Museum

Annibale Carracci
Study of Sirens for 'Ulysses and the Sirens'
ca. 1596-98
drawing - for fresco at Palazzo Farnese
Royal Collection, Windsor

Annibale Carracci
ca. 1595
Royal Collection, Windsor

Annibale Carracci
Study for a Companion of Ulysses
ca. 1596-98
drawing - for fresco at Palazzo Farnese
Royal Collection, Windsor

Anonymous artist
Bust of a Companion of Ulysses
ca. 1769-1805
British Museum

Circe with the Companions of Ulysses
ca. 1527
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


    The goddess rising, asks her guests to stay, 
Who blindly follow where she leads the way.
Eurylochus alone of all the band,
Suspecting fraud, more prudently remain'd.
On thrones around with downy covering graced,
With semblance fair, the unhappy men she placed.
Milk newly press'd, the sacred flour of wheat,
And honey fresh, and Pramnian wines the treat:
But venom'd was the bread, and mix'd the bowl,
With drugs of force to darken all the soul:
Soon in the luscious feast themselves they lost,
And drank oblivion of their native coast.
Instant her circling wand the goddess waves,
To hogs transforms them, and the sty receives.
No more was seen the human form divine;
Head, face, and members, bristle into swine:
Still cursed with sense, their minds remain alone,
And their own voice affrights them when they groan.

– from the Odyssey of Homer, translated by Alexander Pope (1725) 

Francesco Albani
Ulysses before Circe, with enchanted Companions
ca. 1600
Royal Collection, Windsor

Johannes Stradanus
Ulysses and Circe, with enchanted Companions
Royal Collection, Windsor

Giovanni Andrea Sirani
Ulysses and Circe
ca. 1650-55
oil on canvas
Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg
Ulysses' revenge on Penelope's suitors
oil on canvas
Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen

Francesco Primaticcio
Ulysses and Penelope
ca. 1545
oil on canvas
Toledo Art Museum, Ohio


Nor must that gentler murmur be supprest,
How Milk once flowing from fair Juno's breast,
Stain'd the coelestial pavement; from whence came
This milky path, its cause shown in its name.
Or is't a crowd  of stars crowning the night?
A candid diadem of condens'd light?
Or radiant souls freed from corporeal gyves
Thither repair and lead aetherial lives?
There the Atrides, there th' Aeacides,
Fierce Diomede; he, who through lands and seas
His triumphs over conquer'd nature rear'd,
Subtle Ulysses, we believe inspher'd.
There Nestor's thron'd among the Grecian peers,
Crown'd with a triple century of years.

– from the Astronomica of Manilius, translated by Edward Sherburne (1675)