OMEROS:BOOK SEVEN

From Eckerd Academic Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Book Seven (Chapters LVI-LXIV)

Chapter LVI

Part I: Book Seven begins with the narrator overlooking the beach from his hotel balcony. Watching the waves he sees a coconut bob in the water with a dog barking at it on shore. The coconut begins changes shape into the marble head of Omeros (Homer, the Greek poet) whose locks of hair rise from the sea foam. The dog barks at the sight with joy. Then the weather darkens and clouds gather overhead; Omeros transforms into Seven Seas, whose elbows are driftwood logs and head reappears with "an ebony hardness" (Omeros, 281). The sea figure shifts between Seven Seas and Omeros, but in essence they are the same: both blind poets born from the sea. "So one changed from marble with a dripping Chiton [tunic]...to a foam-headed fisherman in his white, torn undershirt" (Omeros, 281). Walcott descends to the shore.

Part II: The floating mass from the sea (Omeros) leads the author to a steep cliff on the island of St. Lucia. In this sublime setting the author is able to see the beauty of the island "through her own eyes, her own blindness" (282), and not through the lens of the Greek poet. The island's beauty has become free from any Classical or European influence and all author's wounds heal.

Part III: The author talks to Omeros about seeing him in London. The poet explains that as time moves on more people forget about his work and that the hero is a drifter through space and time. That is why he was unwelcome outside the museum and thrown down to the river in chapter XXXVIII. The author confesses he hasn't read the entire Odyssey, and the poet tells him to read the rest. Feeling bad, the author professes the influence Homer's works have on him, and despite his inability to finish the book he understood his poetry more than anyone else. "Master, I was the freshest of all your readers" (Omeros, 283). They leave the cliff. As they walk Homer asks the author how he knew to call him by his Greek name, Omeros. The author recounts the conversation between him and the Greek girl. Homer reminisces about his love for Helen, saying that the real truth in his stories was this love. "That ten years' war was nothing, an epic's excuse," he says (Omeros,284). Homer asks if "they", the present civilization, still fight wars and the author affirms, but not over beauty or a girl's love. The Greek poet replies that "Love is good, but the love of your own people is greater." The author explains it is for this reason that he has looked for Omeros.

Glossary

Chiton -

So one changed from marble with a dripping chiton in the early morning on that harp-wired sand to a foam-headed fisherman in his white, torn undershirt.. (Omeros, 281)

Chiton has two meanings. In Ancient Greece the chiton was a form of clothing worn by both men and women; it was the outfit for the goddess Aphrodite.[[1]]

Chiton.gif

Description

The chiton is also a mollusk found in the sea.[[2]]

Chapter LVII

Part I: The narrator describes a boat ride he is taking, manned by an old man. The boat is destined for "home" (285). The ferryman rows away from the island and along the hotel's shore, the oars cutting the reflections of swimmers in the water. The boat contains a shadow--perhaps a ghost-like version of Hector. The swimmers only notice the boat as the wake brings waves towards them. The narrator sees a spot on the shore where his father once stood, and cries as they sail farther and farther away. Seven Seas watched the narrator as he cries "and he saw how deeply had I loved this island” (286). Omeros suggested they both praise the island, but the narrator can’t at first. They describe the flora and fauna of the island and praise it as a special land: “A healing place” (287). The narrator's voice carries under Omeros' as they praise the land and sea.

Part II: The ferryman keeps rowing, and the narrator can smell alcohol on his breath. He believes the ferryman is an apparition of death, that the narrator is perhaps sailing to his demise. However, he is content with it: “That comfortable/ common, familiar apparition of my death / spoke my own language, the one fort which I had died” (287). Seven Seas talks to the ferryman and tells him to row the boat into a lagoon on Marigot Bay, a place that was once beautiful and pure until “the masts of war” entered it(288). This is foreshadowing the events to come.

Part III: Seven Seas shows the narrator a fleet of ships anchored in the bay, reminiscent of the Spartan navy waiting to destroy Troy; Seven Seas even says that “This is like Troy all over” (288). True historical events are alluded to when the narrator sees Comte de Grass on the shore, a French admiral who was defeated by the British in St. Lucia in 1780 (http://www.stlucia.org/tour/history.asp). The Comte is compared to Menelaus: he is about to lose the beautiful island, as the king lost a beautiful wife. The narrator connects Helen’s beauty with that of the island. "Her beauty is what no man can claim / any more than this bay" (288). The sailors silently row through the "rotting" fleet, and "then mist / blurred out Achille by his river" (288).

Analysis: This chapter shows the narrator journeying through the land in which his characters live. The narrator's inability to praise the island shows his mixed feelings towards a place of such duality and confusion. The dialogue and plot echoes that of a Homeric tale, referring to Greek allusions, such as the Underworld, for the narrator feels he is on the river to his death. He feels the place is the same as war-devastated Troy; only the years have changed. The narrator is on his own personal Odyssey, and he feels solitary in his journey.

Glossary

Calypso: a musical style of West Indian origin, influenced by jazz, usually having topical, often improvised, lyrics

  • Also, a sea nymph of Greek mythology, daughter of Atlas. In The Odyssey, she imprisons Odysseus on her island until other gods force her to free him.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calypso_(mythology)

Frigate: a bird known for its long wings and powerful flight (from http://dictionary.reference.com/)

Castries: the capital city of St. Lucia

Chapter LVIII

Part I: The poet-narrator is being led by Omeros to Soufrière, which he imagines as "hell in paradise" (289) and describes as the Malebolge. They see Bennett & Ward, two English real estate speculators who "saw the land as views/for hotels" (289) and who now reach for the narrator's feet to try and pull him down into their Pool of Speculation. The narrator sees other exploiters of the island "making their deals/for the archipelago" (290) in the pit with them: one responsible for overfishing and "another thief/[turning] his black head" (290), responsible for allowing this exploitation of his island to occur. At the end of the passage, the poet-narrator is led away from the Pool of Speculation, "where others/kept making room for slaves to betray their brothers" (290).

Part II: When the nightingale forgets its lines, cameras (or, metonymy for tourists) see the sea "as a postcard archipelago... where the end of poetry/was a goat bleating down from the theatre steps" (290). Seven Seas (as Omeros) tells the narrator that he learns more on the beach of the island of his childhood than he would "no matter how far you have travelled" (291). Seven Seas continues by saying that the poet does not go on odysseys, because he sends his narrator. In each odyssey, there are two journeys, the one on water and the one at the desk. He develops this in sea imagery, noting also that for both odysseys "the 'I' is a mast" (291). He says that "the right journey/ is motionless" (291), and he compares the way "love moves round the heart" (291) to the way "the sea moves round an island" (291). Seven Seas finishes this monologue by telling the narrator that the reason the narrator is compelled by the bust of Homer and the sea-swift is "to encircle yourself and your island with this art" (291), the idea of which is reminiscent of the poet's praise of Rhyme in Chapter XIII as "the language's/desire to enclose the loved world in its arms;" (75). Hector emerges. He is helmeted and carrying an oar as a lance. He pauses "for the One that gathered his race/in the shoal of a net, a confirmed believer/in his own hell" (292), showing that this punishment was only a stop on the way "towards a smokeless place" (292). The narrator sees Bennet & Ward again, and the section ends with their punishment: "to pass a thermometer like that ampersand/which connected their names on a blackboard, its sign/coiled like a constrictor round the tree of Eden" (292).

Part III: The narrator continues to follow Omeros who can feel the doubt of the narrator, that he “had lost faith both in religion and in myth” (293). We get to the bolgia of the poets who are seen as prideful, selfish mockers. The narrator acknowledges that this pit was where he had come from and begins to fall "towards the shit they stewed in" (293). Omeros pulls him away and guides him higher. The narrator turns his head away, and Omeros angrily says that the poet tried to capture the lives of the villagers and then asks "whether a love of poverty helped you/to use other eyes, like those of that sightless stone?'" (294). Ome narrator wakes up from the fantasy of the Malebolge "to hear blackbirds bickering" (294)

Interpretive Commentary:

The poet-narrator is led by Homer into Hell, as Virgil leads Dante in the Inferno. In the rich physical imagery of the Malebolge and the sage wisdom from Omeros, we see our narrator affected by his descent. After he sees the fate of the speculators and Hector and the poets, he is forced by Omeros to reexamine his role as poet, a reverberation of what he himself had questioned earlier in Chapter XLV: "Hadn't I made their poverty my paradise?" (228).

Glossary

Hephaestus: Greek god of fire, volcanoes, and metal (among other things)

Ogun: Yoruba god of iron, hunting, politics, and truth (among other things)

Malebolge: the 8th circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno where the sinners who are guilty of simple fraud are punished

nightingale (290): a traditional Romantic symbol for poetry; here, also a possible allusion to the Philomela myth

chimera: in Greek mythology, a fire-breathing creature comprised of a lion, a snake, and a goat

"the god of the yawning year" (294): Janus, the two-headed Roman god of beginnings and transitions

Chapter LIX

Part 1: Walcott begins by creating images of the beach and the island to emphasize his individual irrelevance to the island—while alluding to the same relationships between Achille and the pelicans, and the bitterns, “salty and shared by the bittern’s caw, by a frieze/of low pelicans” (295). As Walcott continues, he compares the sea to an epic and finds inspiration within the sea, and he described how the prophecies written in the sand are washed away by the waves and new ones eventually replace them “It was an epic where every line was erased yet freshly written in sheets of exploding surf” (296)—alluding to the Iliad and the Odyssey. Near the end of part 1, Walcott writes that the sea does not contain metaphors, yet this is ironic because this entire stanza is a metaphor, “It never altered its metre/to suit the age, a wide page without metaphors” (296).

Part 2: Walcott now admits that his view of the island has been simplified in the same way Achille has been simplified by history creating him into as a descendent of African slaves, “History has simplified/ him. Its elegies had blinded me” (297). Walcott questions his choice of Achille as a character: “Why waste line on Achille, a shade on the sea floor!” (296). His reason is that Caribbean and African culture is in every one of its descendants. Heritage is imprinted from birth, even if there is no real knowledge of it. The sea is again seen as the main symbol of the Africans. The sea is the “true element,” it does not commemorate anything, it merely is. History is something that has simplified the African people. People look at them as savages, but the truth is that they have a complicated history full of insight and creativity. They saw the death of their culture, but a new culture arises from the dead coral: “but where coral died it feeds on its death, the bones branch into more coral” (297). This section gives a glimpse of hope for St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean. Walcott ends this section by praising the light of the Caribbean for providing him with a light not only for external vision, by also internal, “O Sun, the one eye of heave, O Force, O Light/ I praise you not for my eyes. That other sight” (298).

Part 3: The first two stanzas of this section begin with an allusion to Caliban from Shakespeare's Tempest: “The rage of Achille at being misunderstood by a camera” (298). The camera held up to Achille cannot capture his true essence; it simplifies him as just a black man without a true heritage; ultimately reducing his self-worth. This section reflects the tourist issue taking place in St. Lucia, as Achille becomes bothered by the cameras, more so than was Philoctete, as Achille views tourists as people that are capable of completely depleting the island of its soul and life. Achille's rage “was a scream of a warrior losing his only soul to the click of a Cyclops” (299), also alluding to the one eye of Polyphemus. Culture must strive to protect itself, and this is Walcott’s effort to exclaim his love for the island. There is also irony in the way in which the waiters scoff at Achille’s frustration with the tourists, yet they too have been impacted by succumbing to and serving acts of tourism.

Analysis: Throughout Omeros, Walcott has been establishing a new Epic, well aware that this Epic will eventually be replaced just like the one before it. This symbolizes the constant regeneration that Walcott uses as a metaphor for the sea; washing up new works of art while washing away history. This eventual distorted view of history has affected the inhabitants of not only St. Lucia, but also the rest of the Caribbean.


Glossary Reference to the "Iliad" [3]

Reference to Polyphemus [4]

Chapter LX

Part I: Symbolism from Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale is found in this section, as Achille, “had never seen such strange weather; the surprise/ of a tempestuous January that churned” (299). As Achille and Philoctete set out to go fishing, they discover that the sea has been emptied of fish by mass fishing, thus the two go south towards the Grenadines in search of the perfect fishing location. However, as the two travel they realize that it will be nearly impossible to find a home similar to the admirable qualities of St. Lucia. The destruction of natural environment symbolizes the corruption within civilization, “once men were satisfied/with destroying men they would move on to Nature” (300).

Part II: Achille and Philoctete arrive on a beach in Soufriere. They spend the night on the beach, under the eye of a volcano on the island, and spend the night conversing with the other fishermen. Achille builds a fire at night trying to ward off mosquitoes and feels that he and the other fishermen are the last of a dying heroic race, which all have an “obvious wound/made from loving the sea over their own country” (302). Achille and Philoctete talk until the early morning. After they wake they go in search of a place to buy some coffee, but everything is closed.

Part III: Achille and Philoctete return to their search, and are now "seven miles nearer the Grenadines” (302). Philoctete spots what he thinks is a reef but then realizes that it is a pod of whales. The whale sprays water and slaps the ocean creating a massive wave. The large trough of water lifted the boat out of the water. The whale pod goes on their way but the leaves the men startled. Achille had seen “the shut face of thunder/he has known the frightening trough dividing the soul” (303), and they still find themselves happy to be alive and pleased with God. Achille and Philoctete head home.


Analysis: In this chapter, Achille and Philoctete go out fishing and discover that the sea has been emptied, and Achille realizes that there is now a bleak possibility of finding a place that shares the same qualities as St. Lucia. The two eventually decide to work their way south to Grenadine, but an encounter with whales sends them heading home, and more grateful than ever to be alive. Here, it is evident that nature Achille and Philoctete are being victimized by is a result of the corruption in nature due to the destructive acts of civilization.

Glossary:

Here is a map of the Caribbean to get an idea of how far Achille and Philoctete traveled: [5]

This is a photo of the volcano, Soufriere, that Achille and Philoctete stayed near in St. Vincent:[6]

Januarie in, The Merchant's Tale [7]

Chapter LXI

Part I: In this chapter the story changes from Achille to Major Plunkett. Plunkett begins by retelling the love story between him and Maud. He explains how “he loves it when she swirled her hair and packed it in a bun” (304). Maud resembled a picture of his mother and seemed as though she was “something out of Etty or Alma-Tadema” 304). The story progresses to reveal how Maud tried to seduce him but he needed “something to wait for” because he knows “this isn’t the way [she] want[s] this to happen” (305). He understands that they were supposed to have a son if he survived the war even though this didn’t happen. By the end it becomes apparent that Plunkett has many regrets about his life and that “no wife would have borne so much” (307).

Part II: Plunkett continues to remember Maud and her love for him. He sees an apparition of Maud, referring to it as “the wound in his head” (308). Before he leaves the No Pain Café, he sees Maud next to him in his rover, “beaming with love” (308). As Plunkett looks toward the “green mountains ridged like an iguana’s spine”, he describes the old road and the scenery of the area (308). When he turns back to look at Maud, her apparition disappears.

Part III: Plunkett’s wounds heal, that is his emotional wounds for Maud, and he “soon lost any guilt for her absence” (309). He continues to “take orders from the invisible voice, scrubb[ing] his ears the way she insisted” (309). Plunkett begins to reconcile the war and how it cost him a happy life. Helen becomes “only a name for a local wonder” in his memory (309). His memories of Maud become happy and he recognizes how much she loved him.

Analysis: Plunkett’s reconciliation with himself and his wife is placed between Walcott’s criticism of himself as a writer and Achille as an epic hero. Plunkett lost his wife and son to the war even though he was on the side of the victor. Plunkett’s story personifies the sacrifice of the colonizer as if Walcott is saying, “everyone loses in war”.

Glossary:

Settee- A seat (for indoors) holding two or more persons, with a back and (usually) arms.[1]

Raj- Direct rule in India by the British (1858-1947).[2]

Daguerreotype- One of the earliest photographic processes, first published by Daguerre of Paris in 1839.[3]

Fin de siècle- end of the century.[4]

Etty- William Etty, artist.[5]

Alma-Tadema- artist of the 19th century.[6]

Glen-da-Lough- A glacial valley located in Ireland.[7]

Madras- an Indian city and sea port.[8]

Chapter LXII

Part 1: The narrator starts off this chapter describing the landscape of a changing season. Seven Seas comes into the picture within the next couple lines. The section then moves to more religiously charged subject matter. "He(Seven seas) could hear the priests pardoning their sins at vespers/ the penitential anthem of a Sunday in which no serious sins occur." (310) The narrator shifts focus to a village, probably in St Lucia that is "surrendering" itself to the urbanization of a once majestic surrounding "where egrets had hidden in the feathering vines."(310) The narrator goes into greater detail on how the village has declined into a tourist trap where the "village imitated the brochure..." (311) He says that the village is almost glorifying its own poverty through their brochure. However everyone still has the oppurtunity to remember the intrinsic nature of what it was before. "Those who were 'people'lovers also have a snapshot of Philoctet showing you his shin and saying how it was healed; some have Hector's grave heaped with shells and an oar."(311)

Part 2: The theme of change and passing season is carried into the second section. "...Lion coloured grass of the dry season/ cannon gape at the sea from the windy summit,/ their holes out of breath in the heat." The narrator offers a contrast between Helen of Troy and the caribbean Helen that is a central character through out the poem. "These helens are different creatures one marble. (symobolizing the ancient world. frozen in time) and one of pearl (symbolizing the female islander). One unknots a belt of yellow cotton slowly from her shelving waist, one a cord of purple wool, the other one takes." (313) The narrator continues this comparison for a couple more stanzas. The theme of colonization is carried through the next part of this section. "The African swallow, the finch from India now spoke the white language of a tea sipping tern."(314)


Part 3: The final sections throws the reader back onto a "galleon" (an old 17th century ship). This particular ship has become "becalmed" (to deprive a vessel wind needed to operate). The metaphorical and literal depictions of the boats is interwoven into the narritive throughout the whole poem. The narrator then shifts focus to the "Battle of the Saints" which is also named the "Battle of the Dominica" during the American Revolutionary War. In this battle, the British Navy won a decisive four day battle under George Rodney. " School texts rustle to the oval portraits of a cloud rigged Rodney..."(315) The section goes on to talk about how many of the ancestors that fought in these battles and fought for the cause are becoming forgottern. "...but the builders names are not there not Hectors ancestorss, Philoctete, nor Achills."(315)


Analysis As a whole this section touches on many of the themes already touched on in this poem. The author expresses his feelings on the urbanization of the island while at the same time giving you certain character's opinions on this phenomena. As is a major theme in Caribbean literature the colonization of humans and land shine though in this section. Finaly the section shines light on the technical aspect of the colonization process, war.



Glossary:

Salve Regina: One of the most celebrated of the four Brevairy anthems of the Blessed Virgin Mary. [www.newadvent.org/cathen/13409a.htm]

Sorrel: Plant of the genus Rumex, buckwheat family, edible. [8]

Vespers:Roman Catholic Church. a part of the office to be said in the evening by those in major orders, frequently made a public ceremony in the afternoons or evenings of Sundays and holy days. [9]

Galleons:a large sailing vessel of the 15th to the 17th centuries used as a fighting or merchant ship, square-rigged on the foremast and mainmast and generally lateen-rigged on one or two after masts. [10]

Chapter LXIII

Part I The narrator is traveling around the mountains of St Lucia. He is being led by a blind guide (Seven Seas) and is disgusted by the industrialization of the island. "I heard the boiling engines of steam in its fissures, the deep indignation of Hephaestus [Ancient western God of technology] or Ogun [the Voodoo god of metal work] grumbling at the sins of souls who had sold out their race" (289). He blames the men of elected office for ruin in the name of necessity and profit. He even describes a casino where the roulette wheel screams in contempt at black people's laziness.

Part II The narrator compares nightingales who forget their songs to cameras and post cards which show the island void of its heritage and essence. Seven Seas tells him he has learned nothing, no matter how much he has traveled. Seven Seas seems to be commenting on the narrator as a poet who has sent his narrator out and played tricks on time. The book here turns to meta-fiction as the author explores his own role in writing. Seven Seas tells him "There are two journeys in every odyssey, one on worried water, the other crouched and motionless... For both, the 'I' is a mast; a desk is a raft for one... while an actual craft carries the other to cities." Seven Seas then states that the correct journey is motionless. The narrator then describes a trip to Malebolge where he finds Hector's smile. He also finds Bennett and Ward whose names on a blackboard are "like a constrictor round the tree of Eden" (292). Their names on a black board is a criticism of history learned in a classroom. Here the founding of the island by the whites is compared to destroying a paradise.

Part III The narrator is traveling through polluted air still led by Omeros and himself becomes blind. The narrator doubts his guide and the guide knows it."I had lost faith both in religion and myth" (293). The narrator then comments on himself as the writer/poet. He sees himself lost and consoling himself in his similes. Omeros grabs him with a marble hand and leads him away. He is questioned by an "ice-matted head" who says the narrator could never fully render the lives of the people and whether he as a narrator is really capable of seeing like Omeros "that sightless stone." He sinks his own head and the "nightmare" disappears. He wakes to hear blackbirds chirping in the morning.

Notes: The narrator travels to hell in this chapter with parallels to Dante's Inferno. His guide is Omeros or Seven Seas is still present. The method of using a guide representative of previous literature is used in dante. This literature is associated with the colonizers and thus continues the theme of a duality which injures and saves.

Glossary:

Malebolge:" Eighth circle of hell in Dante's Inferno.

Chapter LXIV


Cite error: <ref> tags exist, but no <references/> tag was found