Book Seven (Chapters LVI-LXIV)
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.
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.[]
The chiton is also a mollusk found in the sea.[]
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.
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.
Frigate: a bird known for its long wings and powerful flight (from http://dictionary.reference.com/)
Castries: the capital city of St. Lucia
Part I: The narrator begins by describing the island as a place “the Plunketts loved” (289) which instantly causes controversy in the mind, because of the dissimilar and controversial ways that the couple felt toward St. Lucia. This entire section is compared to a volcano erupting, and it signifies revolution as a rebellion toward the exploitation of the island. In this part the narrator is being led by the “blind guide”(Omeros), “past that ruined scheme which hawsers of lianas had anchored in bush, of Messrs. Bennett and Ward…we smelt the foul sulphur of hell in paradise…” (289). This quote has a reference toward colonialism of the land, and later, “Necessity in rapid zeroes which no one else understood for the island’s profit. One had rented the sea to offshore trawlers…” (290) refers to tourism, where both represent exploitation. The narrator is being exposed to this gruesome and harsh reality, which on the surface, is something beautiful.
Part II: Seven Seas begins by says to the narrator, “You ain’t been nowhere…” (291). This means that there is still a lot to learn, understand, and accept. The narrator must accept his “skill with one oar” (291). This means he must write as a poet and a historian/author in order to record the truth of the island as a representation of the world in its complexity and depth. There is also a revelation here that the boy is limited by the sea, and since he cannot leave the island, he sends someone who can. “Mark you, he does not go; he sends his narrator; he plays tricks with time because there are two journeys in every odyssey, one on worried water, the other crouched and motionless, without noise,” (291). These two journeys are the one of obvious distress and revolution, and the other being either the hidden and silent reality of all things, or the place/time when those part of the “revolution” reflects. This section then goes on in describing the “I” as the writer who represents and declares these two realities.Hector is also mentioned as he is in hell, yet he is referenced in an honorific way. He was prepared and therefore protected from his fate. “…since hell was certain to him as much as heaven; now he was helmeted, and borrowed and the borrowed visor had slitted his face like an iguana’s pods, his shield a spiked hubcap…” (292). Later, his punishment was put on pause, as he noticed two Englishmen, Bennett and Ward, on their way to hell. They were responsible for the corruption and exploitation of the island. They are alluded to the snake in the biblical story of the fall of man. “Both were condemned 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: As the narrator continued to follow the guide, he becomes blind and states, “I had lost faith both in religion and in myth,” (293). He explains that poets are concerned merely with visuals and the “surface” value of things. The narrator reflects that that was where he had come from, and that his pride as a poet has led him to a downfall, which has only ceased and has been reversed by Omeros. With the help of the marble bust, he realizes that he needs faith, and the ability to see things through others eyes as well as his own. In the end, he returns to a sort of reality and he state, “I stood looking back where I came from. The bust became its own past, I could hear its white lines in the far-off foam. I woke to hear blackbirds bickering at breakfast,” (294).
Analysis: This chapter is about the narrator understanding himself and his mission as a writer, author, historian, and poet. He is faced with the reality and fate of the island and its people, and must come to terms with this. He also is forced to re-evaluate his craft and to see the deeper meaning in things. There are many points where Greek mythology, Christian religion, the landscape, and story of his characters are compared.
Soufriere (Solfatara)- the name of a sulfurous volcano near Naples
hawser- a large rope or small cable used in wraping and mooring; in large ships now made of steel
liana- climbing and twining plants in tropical forests
fissure- a cleft or opening (usually long and narrow) made by splitting, cleaving, or separation of parts
Hephaestus- the Greek/Roman god of fire
forge- manufacture, construction
trawler- one who fishes
scheme- a diagram showing the relative positions, either real or apparent of the heavenly bodies
chimeras- a fabled fire-breathing monster of Greek mythology with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail
mark- boundary or limit
blackbirds- cant name for a captive Negro or Polynesian on board a slave or pirateship
(all from http://dictionary.oed.com/)
Part 1: this part begins with Walcott imagining his encounter with Achille and Philoctete. Like the Africans on the island, Walcott finds his inspiration in the sea: “The sea was my privilege” (295). The sea is described as an Epic in the same vein as the Iliad and the Odyssey: “It was an epic where every line was erased yet freshly written in sheets of exploding surf” (296). This quote demonstrates what Walcott has been trying to do all throughout Omeros; to write a new epic, freshly written for a new generation, knowing that another epic will eventually surface to replace it. This constant flow of influence brings new pieces of artwork, but it also makes their past heritage harder to grasp.
Part 2: 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. Our heritage is imprinted in us from birth, even if we have 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.
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. Tourists have a distorted view of the people of St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean. The camera is seen as a cyclops like Polyphemus. Achille's rage “was a scream of a warrior losing his only soul to the click of a Cyclops” (299). This rage of Achille at the camera represents the rage of his lost heritage.
Gilgamesh: Hero of The Epic of Gilgamesh and the King Of Uruk. 
Part I: Achille remarks that “he had never seen such strange weather” (299); this January had been unusually stormy. Seven Seas believes that man is now an endangered species and makes a comparison to the Aruac culture. He says once man has been satisfied destroying themselves they would turn to nature. Achille has to go farther and farther out each time to find fish. “Fathoms where/he had seen the marlin buckle and leap were sand/clean at the bottom” (300). Due to the lack of good fishing to stay in business, he decides to go with Philoctete in search of a new home. He tells Philoctete that they will keep going as far south as the Grenadines in search of the ideal location. There is a strong emphasis on natural environment and how its destruction coincides with the death of civilization.
Part II: Achille and Philoctete arrive on St. Vincent. There they spend the night on the beach, under the watchful eye of Soufriere, a volcano on the island, speaking 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/from life and the other, he has seen the pod/burst into spray” (303). Their boat is now facing home, and their hull was empty, but they were happy to be alive.
Here is a map of the Caribbean to get an idea of how far Achille and Philoctete traveled:
This is a photo of the volcano, Soufriere, that Achille and Philoctete stayed near in St. Vincent:
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”.
Settee- A seat (for indoors) holding two or more persons, with a back and (usually) arms.
Raj- Direct rule in India by the British (1858-1947).
Daguerreotype- One of the earliest photographic processes, first published by Daguerre of Paris in 1839.
Fin de siècle- end of the century.
Etty- William Etty, artist.
Alma-Tadema- artist of the 19th century.
Glen-da-Lough- A glacial valley located in Ireland.
Madras- an Indian city and sea port.
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.
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. 
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. 
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. 
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.
Malebolge:" Eighth circle of hell in Dante's Inferno.
<ref>tags exist, but no
<references/>tag was found