As an AS level student who studied Greek to GCSE, it was very gratifying when my knowledge of Greek helped me to understand the poetry unit of my English AS. The poem we were discussing in class was Tennyson’s Lotos Eaters poem, based of course on the Odyssey. By studying the original Greek text I was able to supplement my knowledge of the poem, and it helped me to see and discuss the differences between epic poetry and modern poetry. For example, the use of enjambment in Tennyson was used to great effect to mimic the water on the Isle, but in the Odyssey, the enjambment has less of an impact. It was also fascinating to see the emphatic effect of promoting a word in the Greek text echoed in some of Tennyson’s stanzas.
ἔνθεν δ᾽ ἐννῆμαρ φερόμην ὀλοοῖς ἀνέμοισιν
πόντον ἐπ᾽ ἰχθυόεντα: ἀτὰρ δεκάτῃ ἐπέβημεν
γαίης Λωτοφάγων, οἵ τ᾽ ἄνθινον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν.
ἔνθα δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἠπείρου βῆμεν καὶ ἀφυσσάμεθ᾽ ὕδωρ, 85
αἶψα δὲ δεῖπνον ἕλοντο θοῇς παρὰ νηυσὶν ἑταῖροι.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ σίτοιό τ᾽ ἐπασσάμεθ᾽ ἠδὲ ποτῆτος,
δὴ τοτ᾽ ἐγὼν ἑτάρους προΐειν πεύθεσθαι ἰόντας,
οἵ τινες ἀνέρες εἶεν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες
ἄνδρε δύω κρίνας, τρίτατον κήρυχ᾽ ἅμ᾽ ὀπάσσας. 90
οἱ δ᾽ αἶψ᾽ οἰχόμενοι μίγεν ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισιν:
οὐδ᾽ ἄρα Λωτοφάγοι μήδονθ᾽ ἑτάροισιν ὄλεθρον
ἡμετέροις, ἀλλά σφι δόσαν λωτοῖο πάσασθαι.
τῶν δ᾽ ὅς τις λωτοῖο φάγοι μελιηδέα καρπόν,
οὐκέτ᾽ ἀπαγγεῖλαι πάλιν ἤθελεν οὐδὲ νέεσθαι, 95
ἀλλ᾽ αὐτοῦ βούλοντο μετ᾽ ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισι
λωτὸν ἐρεπτόμενοι μενέμεν νόστου τε λαθέσθαι.
τοὺς μὲν ἐγὼν ἐπὶ νῆας ἄγον κλαίοντας ἀνάγκῃ,
νηυσὶ δ᾽ ἐνὶ γλαφυρῇσιν ὑπὸ ζυγὰ δῆσα ἐρύσσας.
αὐτὰρ τοὺς ἄλλους κελόμην ἐρίηρας ἑταίρους 100
σπερχομένους νηῶν ἐπιβαινέμεν ὠκειάων,
μή πώς τις λωτοῖο φαγὼν νόστοιο λάθηται.
οἱ δ᾽ αἶψ᾽ εἴσβαινον καὶ ἐπὶ κληῖσι καθῖζον,
ἑξῆς δ᾽ ἑζόμενοι πολιὴν ἅλα τύπτον ἐρετμοῖς.
From there for nine days I was carried by destructive winds
over the fishy sea; however on the tenth we set foot upon
the land of the Lotus eaters, who eat a flowery food.
There we went onto the land and drew water,
and my companions quickly snatched a meal beside the swift ships.
Moreover, when we had tasted bread and drink,
then indeed I sent my companions out to go and find out
what sort of men were in that land who ate bread,
choosing two men and sending a third with them as a herald.
They went quickly and met with the Lotus eaters:
and the Lotus eaters did not plot destruction for my
companions, but they gave them the lotus to taste.
And whichever of them ate the honeysweet fruit,
no longer wished to report back again or to sail,
but they wished to remain there with the Lotus eaters,
grazing on the lotus and to forget their homeward journey.
Then I led them weeping to the ships by force
and I dragged them into the hollow ships and bound them under the benches.
Moreover I commanded my trusty companions
to hurry and go on board the swift ships,
lest any of them should eat of the lotus and forget his homeward journey.
So they swiftly went on board and sat at the benches
seated in order and struck the grey sea with their oars.
Chosen by Amanda Waters, translated by Jane Mason.
The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.
For the full text of Tennyson’s poem go to: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174631
This is such a short passage in Homer but it has had a huge impact on our imaginations.
Aeneas’ love affair with Dido in Aeneid IV has considerable parallels with the Lotus Eaters.
The Lotus Casino scene in Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief is a fascinating modernisation of the story – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yV0I3lKito (this is the best quality clip but does not go as far as Percy’s moment of awakening when his father Poseidon speaks to him, an echo of Mercury’s message to Aeneas in Aeneid IV)