In Odysseus: On the River of Time, Carl Hare brilliantly renders Odysseus’s final journey to settle his debt with Poseidon in a memorable and expansive narrative sequence.
Hare delivers an epic poem written in Homeric style and arranged in 21 cantos. The poem serves as a sequel to Homer’s Odyssey, which is, in turn, a sequel to Homer’s earlier epic poem, The Iliad.
The narrative demonstrates the author’s vast knowledge of these characters and their realms. Set 12 years after the Trojan War ends, Hare’s poem brings to life the prophecy that concludes The Odyssey. To enjoy long life and a painless death, Odysseus must travel to many cities carrying an oar and upon meeting the prophesied stranger in the fated place, plant that oar in the earth and make peace with Poseidon.
The cantos are deftly named and arranged by the places Odysseus visits (“Arcadia,” “The Unknown North,” “Sparta,” etc.). Thus, the table of contents reads as a traveler’s itinerary, summarizing the book’s scope.
The extensive journey is presented with an admirable balance of description, dialogue, summary, and scene. For example: “Here they built well their sleek and swift black ships/ Favoured by Poseidon, with their own powers/ To skim the seas to any port or place/ Whatever weather may chance upon them.” The diction and syntax echo those of Homer’s original work (in English translation), and Hare uses elegant alliteration in each line. He impressively sustains this precise approach to line-making for more than 500 pages.
At the work’s conclusion, the author includes a valuable “Notes” section providing “fuller descriptions” of minor characters. Strikingly, each “note” is also written in Homeric verse, standing as a small work of art itself.
Readers may wish Hare had provided a brief recap of The Odyssey to refresh their memories and inform the uninitiated. But that’s a quibble. Odysseus: On the River of Time reads as an ancient pantheon brought to life as vividly as any modern-day mini-series. It’s highly recommended to dedicated scholars and students of Homer’s works and ancient Greek mythology.
Also available as an ebook.