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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Ulysses and Calypso

By Stephen Phillips (1868–1915)

From ‘Ulysses’

CALYPSO—How shall my heart contend against your brain?

Now by that time I thought eternity,

By long sea-evenings when all words would cease,

By all the sad tales of thy wandering,

Sad tales which will be happy to remember,

Tell me the reason of this haste to go.

’Tis she, I know; I want no words to tell me.

But is it she? And now I do recall

Even in your wildest kiss a kiss withheld,

Even in abandonment a something kept;

When veil on veil fell from you, still a veil.

When you so poured your soul out that a woman,

Even a woman, had in her heart said “now!”

I felt in all that sweet a something stern.

Ulysses—Why harp upon my wife? You being woman

Too much exalt the woman: a thousand calls

Are ringing in my ears: my mother pined—

Calypso—When did a lover heed a mother’s woe?

Ulysses—My father desolate or dead: my son—

Calypso—No father nor no son could launch that ship.

Ulysses—My comrades, then!

[Ulysses’s comrades meanwhile are wandering at back.]
Whatever my inclining,

They still have homes which I must think upon

Who took them far.
Calypso—Friend hath killed friend for love,

Ulysses—My empty throne and my neglected land:

Calypso—O! hath it come to duty now?

Duty, that gray ash of a burnt-out fire,

That lies between a woman and a man!

We fence and fence about: tell me the truth.

Why are you mad for home? I’ll have the truth,

Once and once only, but the living truth.

Ulysses[in a wild burst]—Then have the truth;

I speak as a man speaks;

Pour out my heart like treasure at your feet.

This odorous amorous isle of violets,

That leans all leaves into the glassy deep,

With brooding music over noontide moss,

And low dirge of the lily-swinging bee,—

Then stars like opening eyes on closing flowers,—

Palls on my heart. Ah, God! that I might see

Gaunt Ithaca stand up out of the surge,

You lashed and streaming rocks and sobbing crags,

The screaming gull and the wild-flying cloud:—

To see far off the smoke of my own hearth,

To smell far out the glebe of my own farms,

To spring alive upon her precipices,

And hurl the singing spear into the air;

To scoop the mountain torrent in my hand,

And plunge into the midnight of her pines;

To look into the eyes of her who bore me

And clasp his knees who ’gat me in his joy,

Prove if my son be like my dream of him.

We two have played and tossed each other words;

Goddess and mortal we have met and kissed.

Now am I mad for silence and for tears,

For the earthly voice that breaks at earthly ills,

The mortal hands that make and smooth the bed.

I am an-hungered for that human breast,

That bosom a sweet hive of memories—

There, there to lay my head before I die,

There, there to be, there only, there at last!

[Calypso weeps.Ulysses comes and touches her softly.]

Remember, Goddess, the great while it is,

How far, far back, alas how long ago!

Calypso[clinging about him]—Now wilt thou leave me, now, close on the hour

Of silent planets luring us thro’ dew,

And steady pouring slumber from the waves,

Wave after wave upon the puzzling brain?

Ulysses—My wife, my wife!
Calypso—And, mortal, I will breathe

Delicious immortality on thee.

Stay with me, and thou shalt not taste of death.

Ulysses—I would not take life but on terms of death,

That sting in the wine of being, salt of its feast.

To me what rapture in the ocean path

Save in the white leap and dance of doom?

O death, thou hast a beckon to the brave,

Thou last sea of the navigator, last

Plunge of the diver, and last hunter’s leap.

Calypso—Yet, yet, Ulysses, know that thou art going

Into a peril not of sky nor sea,

But to a danger strange and unimagined.

Ulysses—I’d go down into hell, if hell led home!

Calypso[resignedly]—Call up your comrades!

Bid them hoist the sails!

Ulysses—Comrades![He lifts his arms and cries to his followers, who come running to him, leaving the Nymphs on the shore.]

Great hearts, that with me have so long

Breasted the wave and broken through the snare,

Have we not eaten and drunk on magic shores?

Your hands here!

[They crowd around him eagerly, some clasping, others kissing his hands.]
Comrades—O great captain!
Ulysses—Have we not

Heard all the Sirens singing and run free?

Comrades—Lead! Lead!

Ulysses—Close, close to me! have we not burst

Up from the white whirl of Charybdis’ pool?

Comrades—Storm-weatherer! mighty sailor!

[They clasp his knees.]
Ulysses—What say you?

Shall we put forth again upon the deep?

Comrades—We will go with thee even into hell!

[They raise a shout.]

Ulysses—Then Zeus decrees that we again set forth

And break at last the magic of this isle.

Comrades—Yet whither—whither?
Ulysses—Would ye see at last

Gaunt Ithaca?
Comrades—Ah, God!
Ulysses—Would ye behold

The bright fires blaze and crackle on your hearths?

Comrades—Torment us not!
Ulysses—Would you again catch up

Your babes?
Comrades—Have pity!
Ulysses—And clasp again your wives?

Comrades—Cease! Cease!
Ulysses—Then homeward will we sail to-night.

Comrades[with amazed cries]—Home? Home?

[A wail of Nymphs is heard on sands.]
Ulysses—Now lay the rollers under her,

And you make taut the ropes, you, hoist the sails,

And run her down with glee into the deep!

Comrades[rushing off in various directions]—The ship! ship! Ithaca! Praise the gods!

Calypso[coming out with cup]—The cup, Ulysses! Drink to me farewell!

Ulysses[taking cup]—First unto Zeus that would not have us die,

But suffered us to see our homes again.

Farewell, Calypso, the red sun half way

Is sunk and makes a firelight o’er the deep.

Calypso—Remember me a little when thou comest

To thine own country. Say farewell to me,

Not to the thought of me!
Ulysses—I will not. See!

The ship moves! Hark, their shouts! She moves, she moves.

Hear you the glorying shingle cry beneath her?

She spreads her wings to fly upon the deep!

[The cries of Ulysses’s crew are heard as the ship is shoved down and they climb in.Ulysses springs in and stands in the stern.]

Men—We float! we float!
Ulysses—Now each man to the oar

And, leaning all together, smite the sea!

For it is fated we shall see our homes!

[The ship puts of and the wind raised by Calypso fills the sails.]

Calypso—I breathe a breeze to waft thee over sea!

Ah, could I waft thee back again to me!

[The ship gradually disappears, the joyous chorus of Ulysses’s boatmen dying of as the wailing of the Nymphs becomes louder.A cloud gathers over the scene.]
[The curtain descends, but rising again discovers the ship, now a black speck on red sunset, and Calypso standing alone looking after it across the sea.]
[Wailing of Sea-Nymphs.]