Calypso’s Cave

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Odysseus and Calypso in the Caves of Ogygia, 1616

“Large was the grot, in which the nymph he found
(The fair-hair’d nymph with every beauty crown’d).
The cave was brighten’d with a rising blaze;
Cedar and frankincense, an odorous pile,
Flamed on the hearth, and wide perfumed the isle;
While she with work and song the time divides,
And through the loom the golden shuttle guides.
Without the grot a various sylvan scene
Appear’d around, and groves of living green;
Poplars and alders ever quivering play’d,
And nodding cypress form’d a fragrant shade:
On whose high branches, waving with the storm,
The birds of broadest wing their mansions form,—
The chough, the sea-mew, the loquacious crow,—
and scream aloft, and skim the deeps below.
Depending vines the shelving cavern screen.
With purple clusters blushing through the green.
Four limped fountains from the clefts distil:
And every fountain pours a several rill,
In mazy windings wandering down the hill:
Where bloomy meads with vivid greens were crown’d,
And glowing violets threw odours round.
A scene, where, if a god should cast his sight,
A god might gaze, and wander with delight!”

–Homer, Odyssey Book V, translated by Alexander Pope, 1725-26

“But when he had now reached that far-off isle, he went forth from the sea of violet blue to get him up into the land, till he came to a great cave, wherein dwelt the nymph of the braided tresses: and he found her within. And on the hearth there was a great fire burning, and from afar through the isle was smelt the fragrance of cleft cedar blazing, and of sandal wood. And the nymph within was singing with a sweet voice as she fared to and fro before the loom, and wove with a shuttle of gold. And round about the cave there was a wood blossoming, alder and poplar and sweet-smelling cypress. And therein roosted birds long of wing, owls and falcons and chattering sea-crows, which have their business in the waters. And lo, there about the hollow cave trailed a gadding garden vine, all rich with clusters. And fountains four set orderly were running with clear water, hard by one another, turned each to his own course. And all around soft meadows bloomed of violets and parsley, yea, even a deathless god who came thither might wonder at the sight and be glad at heart.”

–The same passage translated by Samuel Henry Butcher and Andrew Lang, 1879

“Who has not heard of Calypso? her grove crowned with alders and poplars; her grotto, against which the luxuriant vine laid forth his purple grapes; her ever new delights, crystal fountains, running brooks, meadows flowering with sweet balm—gentle and with violet; blue violets which like veins enamelled the smooth breasts of each fragrant mead! It were useless to describe over again what has been so well told already;”

And paraphrased in The Adventures of Ulysses by Charles Lamb, 1808
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