2. What heroic qualities does Odysseus reveal as he plots against the Cyclops?

We are from Troy, Achaeans, blown off course

205 by shifting gales on the Great South Sea:

homeward bound, but taking routes and ways

uncommon; so the will of Zeus would have it.

We served under Agamemnon, son of Atreus—

the whole world knows what city

210 he laid waste, what armies he destroyed.

It was out luck to come here, here we stand,

beholden for your help, or any gifts

you give—as custom is to honor strangers.

We would entreat you, great Sir, have a care

215 for the gods’ courtesy; Zeus will avenge

the unoffending guest.’

He answered this

from his brute chest, unmoved:

‘You are a ninny,

or else you come from the other end of nowhere,

telling me, mind the gods! We Cyclops

220 care not a whistle for your thundering Zeus

or all the gods in bliss; we have more force by far.

I would not let you go for fear of Zeus—

you or your friends—unless I had a whim to.

Tell me, where was it, now, you left your ship—

225 around the point, or down the shore, I wonder?’

He thought he’d find out, but I saw through this,

and answered with a ready lie:

‘My ship?

Poseidon Lord, who sets the earth a-tremble,

broke it up on the rocks at your land’s end.

230 A wind from seaward served him, drove us there.

We are survivors, these good men and I.’

Neither reply nor pity came from him,

but in one stride he clutched at my companions

and caught two in his hands like squirming puppies

280 to beat their brains out, spattering the floor.

Then he dismembered them and made his meal,

gaping and crunching like a mountain lion—

everything: innards, flesh, and marrow bones.

When the young Dawn with fingertips of rose

lit up the world, the Cyclops built a fire

and milked his handsome ewes, all in due order,

300 putting the sucklings to the mothers. Then,

his chores being all dispatched, he caught

another brace of men to make his breakfast,

and whisked away his great door slab

to let his sheep go through—but he, behind,

305 reset the stone as one would cap a quiver.

There was a din of whistling as the Cyclops

rounded his flock to higher ground, then stillness.

And now I pondered how to hurt him worst,

if but Athena granted what I prayed for.

310 Here are the means I thought would serve my turn:

a club, or staff, lay there along the fold—

an olive tree, felled green and left to season

for Cyclops’s hand. And it was like a mast

a lugger of twenty oars, broad in the beam—

315 a deep-seagoing craft—might carry:

so long, so big around, it seemed. Now I

chopped out a six-foot section of this pole

and set it down before my men, who scraped it;

and when they had it smooth, I hewed again

320 to make a stake with pointed end. I held this

in the fire’s heart and turned it, toughening it,

then hid it, well back in the cavern, under

one of the dung piles in profusion there.

Now came the time to toss for it: who ventured

325 along with me? Whose hand could bear to thrust

and grind that spike in Cyclops’s eye, when mild

sleep had mastered him? As luck would have it,

the men I would have chosen won the toss—

four strong men, and I made five as captain.

330 At evening came the shepherd with his flock,

his woolly flock. The rams as well, this time,

entered the cave: by some sheepherding whim—

or a god’s bidding—none were left outside.

He hefted his great boulder into place

335 and sat him down to milk the bleating ewes

in proper order, put the lambs to suck,

and swiftly ran through all his evening chores.

Then he caught two more men and feasted on them.

My moment was at hand, and I went forward

40 holding an ivy bowl of my dark drink,

looking up, saying:

‘Cyclops, try some wine.

Here’s liquor to wash down your scraps of men.

Taste it, and see the kind of drink we carried

under our planks. I meant it for an offering

345 if you would help us home. But you are mad,

unbearable, a bloody monster! After this,

will any other traveler come to see you?’

He seized and drained the bowl, and it went down

so fiery and smooth he called for more:

350 ‘Give me another, thank you kindly. Tell me,

how are you called? I’ll make a gift will please you.

Even Cyclopes know the wine grapes grow

out of grassland and loam in heaven’s rain,

but here’s a bit of nectar and ambrosia!’

355 Three bowls I brought him, and he poured them down.

I saw the fuddle and flush come over him,

then I sang out in cordial tones:


you ask my honorable name? Remember

the gift you promised me, and I shall tell you.

360 My name is Nohbdy: mother, father, and friends,

everyone calls me Nohbdy.’

And he said:

‘Nohbdy’s my meat, then, after I eat his friends.

Others come first. There’s a noble gift, now.’

Even as he spoke, he reeled and tumbled backward,

365 his great head lolling to one side; and sleep

took him like any creature. Drunk, hiccuping,

he dribbled streams of liquor and bits of men.

Now, by the gods, I drove my big hand spike

deep in the embers, charring it again,

370 and cheered my men along with battle talk

to keep their courage up: no quitting now.

The pike of olive, green though it had been,

reddened and glowed as if about to catch.

I drew it from the coals and my four fellows

375 gave me a hand, lugging it near the Cyclops

as more than natural force nerved them; straight

forward they sprinted, lifted it, and rammed it

deep in his crater eye, and I leaned on it

turning it as a shipwright turns a drill

380 in planking, having men below to swing

the two-handled strap that spins it in the groove.

So with our brand we bored that great eye socket

while blood ran out around the red-hot bar.

Eyelid and lash were seared; the pierced ball

hissed broiling, and the roots popped.

385 In a smithy

one sees a white-hot axhead or an adze

plunged and wrung in a cold tub, screeching steam—

the way they make soft iron hale and hard—

just so that eyeball hissed around the spike.

390 The Cyclops bellowed and the rock roared round him,

and we fell back in fear. Clawing his face

he tugged the bloody spike out of his eye,

threw it away, and his wild hands went groping;

then he set up a howl for Cyclopes

395 who lived in caves on windy peaks nearby.

Some heard him; and they came by divers ways

to clump around outside and call:

‘What ails you,

Polyphemus? Why do you cry so sore

in the starry night? You will not let us sleep.

400 Sure no man’s driving off your flock? No man

has tricked you, ruined you?’

Out of the cave

the mammoth Polyphemus roared in answer:

‘Nohbdy, Nohbdy’s tricked me. Nohbdy’s ruined me!’

To this rough shout they made a sage reply:

405 ‘Ah well, if nobody has played you foul

there in your lonely bed, we are no use in pain

given by great Zeus. Let it be your father,

Poseidon Lord, to whom you pray.’

So saying

they trailed away. And I was filled with laughter

410 to see how like a charm the name deceived them.

Now Cyclops, wheezing as the pain came on him,

fumbled to wrench away the great doorstone

and squatted in the breach with arms thrown wide

for any silly beast or man who bolted—

415 hoping somehow I might be such a fool.

But I kept thinking how to win the game:

death sat there huge; how could we slip away?

I drew on all my wits, and ran through tactics,

reasoning as a man will for dear life,

420 until a trick came—and it pleased me well.

The Cyclops’s rams were handsome, fat, with heavy

fleeces, a dark violet.

Three abreast

I tied them silently together, twining

cords of willow from the ogre’s bed;

425 then slung a man under each middle one

to ride there safely, shielded left and right.

So three sheep could convey each man. I took

the woolliest ram, the choicest of the flock,

and hung myself under his kinky belly,

430 pulled up tight, with fingers twisted deep

in sheepskin ringlets for an iron grip.

So, breathing hard, we waited until morning.

When Dawn spread out her fingertips of rose

the rams began to stir, moving for pasture,

435 and peals of bleating echoed round the pens

where dams with udders full called for a milking.

Blinded, and sick with pain from his head wound,

the master stroked each ram, then let it pass,

but my men riding on the pectoral fleece

440 the giant’s blind hands blundering never found.

Last of them all my ram, the leader, came,

weighted by wool and me with my meditations.

The Cyclops patted him, and then he said:

‘Sweet cousin ram, why lag behind the rest

445 in the night cave? You never linger so,

but graze before them all, and go afar

to crop sweet grass, and take your stately way

leading along the streams, until at evening

you run to be the first one in the fold.

450 Why, now, so far behind? Can you be grieving

over your Master’s eye? That carrion rogue

and his accurst companions burnt it out

when he had conquered all my wits with wine.

Nohbdy will not get out alive, I swear.

455 Oh, had you brain and voice to tell

where he may be now, dodging all my fury!

Bashed by this hand and bashed on this rock wall

his brains would strew the floor, and I should have

rest from the outrage Nohbdy worked upon me.’

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More than any of the heroes, Odysseus is the hero who has the most cunning, trickiness. He wants to make sure that his men survive and so he does what is needed to be the best leader of the group. He also loves to "boast" of his accomplishments and cannot leave Cyclops without telling who he is.