Posts Tagged ‘Ulysses’

Author unknown: this Persian tale can be found in the

Bodleian Library. Tr: Rueben Levy, M.A.,

of MS. Ouseley 231, Bodleian Library/OUP.


IT is related that in the city of Basrah there was a man, Abu’l Fawaris,

who was the chief of the sailors of the town, for in the great ocean

there was no port at which he had not landed. One day, as he sat on

the seashore, with his sailors round him, an old man arrived in a ship,

landed where Abu’l Fawaris was sitting, and said: “Friend, J. desire you

to give me your ship for six months, and I will pay you whatever you

desire.” “I demand a thousand gold dinars,” said the sailor, and at once

received the gold from the old man, who, before departing, said that he

would come again on the next day, and warned Abu’l Fawaris that

there was to be no holding back.

The sailor took home his gold, made his ship ready, and then, taking

leave of his wife and sons, he went down to the shore, where he found

the old man waiting for him with a slave and twenty ass-loads of empty

sacks. Abu’l Fawaris greeted him, and together they loaded the ship

and set sail. Taking a particular star for their mark, they sailed for three

months, when an island appeared to one side of them. For this the old

man steered, and they soon landed upon it. Having loaded his slave with

some sacks, the old man with his companions set out towards a mountain

which they could see in the distance. This they reached after some hours

of travel, and climbed to the summit, upon which they found a broad

plain where more than two hundred pits had been dug. The old man

then explained to the sailor that he was a merchant, and that he had,

on that spot, found a mine of jewels. “Now that I have given you my

Confidence,” he continued, “I expect faithfulness from you too. I desire

you to go down into this pit and send up sufficient pearls to fill these

sacks. Half I will give to you, and we shall be able to spend the rest

of our lives in luxury,” The sailor thereupon asked how the pearls had

found their way into these pits, to which the old man replied that there

was a passage connecting the pits with the sea. Along this passage oysters

swam, and settled in the pits, where by chance he had come upon them.

He explained further that he had only brought, the sailor because he

needed help; but he desired not to disclose the matter to any one else.


With great eagerness then the sailor descended into the pit, and there

found oysters in great numbers. The old man let down a basket to him,

which he filled again and again, until at last the merchant cried out that

the oysters were useless, for they contained no pearls. Abu’l Fawaris

therefore left that pit, and descended into another, where he found

pearls in great number. By the time night fell he was utterly wearied,

and called out to the old man to help him out of the pit. In reply the

merchant shouted down that he intended to leave him in the pit, for he

feared that Abu’l Fawaris might kill him for the sake of the jewels.

With great vehemence the sailor protested that he was innocent of any

such intention, but the old man was deaf to his entreaties, and, making

his way back to the ship, sailed away.


For three days Abu’l Fawaris remained, hungry and thirsty. As he

struggled to find a way out he came upon many human bones, and

understood that the accursed old man had betrayed many others in the

same fashion. In desperation he dug about, and at last he saw a small

opening, which he enlarged with his hands. Soon it was big enough for

him to crawl through, and he found himself in the darkness, standing

upon mud. Along this he walked carefully, and then felt himself sud-

denly plunged to his neck in water, which was salt to the taste; and he

knew that he was in the passage that led to the sea. He, swam along in

this for some way, till, in front of him, there appeared a faint light.

Greatly heartened by the sight of it, he swam vigorously until he reached

the mouth of the passage. On emerging, he found himself facing the sea,

and threw himself on his face to give thanks for his delivery. Then he

arose, and a little distance from him he found the cloak which he had

left behind when he set out for the mountain; but of the old merchant

there was no sign, and the ship had disappeared.


Full of trouble and despondency, he sat down at the water’s brink,

wondering what he was to do. As he gazed at the sea there came into

view a ship, and he saw that it was filled with men. At sight of it the

sailor leaped from his place; snatching his turban from his head, he

waved it with all his might in the air, and shouted at the top of his

voice. But as they approached he decided not to tell his rescuers the truth

ef his presence there; therefore when they landed and asked how he

came to be on the island he told them that his ship, had been wrecked at

sea, that he had clung to a plank and been washed to the shore.

They praised his good fortune at his escape, and in reply to his ques-

tions with regard to the place of their origin, told him that they had

sailed from Abyssinia, and were then on their way to Hindustan. At

this, Abu’l Fawaris hesitated, saying that he had no business in Hin-

dustan. They assured him, however, that they would meet ships going

to Basrah, and would hand him over to one of them. He agreed then to

go with them, and for forty days they sailed without seeing any inhabited

spot. At last he asked them whether they had not mistaken their way,

and they admitted that for five days they had been sailing without know-

ing whither they were going or what direction to follow. All together

therefore set themselves to praying, and remained in prayer for some



Soon afterwards, as they sailed, something in appearance like a minaret

emerged from the sea, and they seemed to behold the flash of a Chinese

mirror. Also they perceived that their ship, without their rowing, and

without any greater force of wind, began to move at great speed over

the water. In great amazement the sailors ran to Abu’l Fawaris and asked

him what had come to the ship that it moved so fast. He raised his eyes,

and groaned deeply as in the distance he saw a mountain that rose out

of the sea. In terror he clapped his hand to his eyes and should out:

“We shall all perish! My father continually warned me that if ever

I lost my way upon the sea I must steer to the East; for if I went to

the West I would certainly fall into the Lion’s Mouth. When I asked

him what the Lion’s Mouth was, he told me that the Almighty had

created a great hole in the midst of the ocean, at the foot of a mountain.

That is the Lion’s Mouth. Over a hundred leagues of water it will attract

a ship, and no vessel which encounters the mountain ever rises again. I

believe that this is the place and that we are caught.”


In great terror the sailors saw their ship being carried like the wind

against the mountain. Soon it was caught in the whirlpool, where the

wrecks of ten thousand ancient ships were being carried around in the

swirling current. The sailors and merchants in the ship crowded to Abu’l

Fawaris, begging him to tell them what they could do. He cried out to

them to prepare all the ropes which they had in the ship; he would then

swim out of the whirlpool and on to the shore at the foot of the moun-

tain, where he would make fast to some stout tree. Then they were to

cast their ropes to him and so he would rescue them from their peril.

By great good fortune the current cast him out upon the shore, and he

made the rope of his ship fast to a stout tree.


Then, as soon as was possible, the sailor climbed to the top of the

mountain in search of food, for neither he nor his shipmates had eaten

for some days. When he reached the summit he found a pleasant plain

stretching away in front of him, and in the midst of it he saw a lofty

arch, made of green stone. As he -approached it and entered, he observed

a tall pillar made of steel, from which there hung by a chain a great

drum of Damascus bronze covered with a lion’s skin. From the arch

also hung a great tablet of bronze, upon which was engraved the fol-

lowing inscription: “O thou that dost reach this place, know that when

Alexander voyaged round the world and reached the Lion’s Mouth, he

had been made aware of this place of calamity. He was therefore accom-

panied by four thousand wise men, whom he summoned and whom he

commanded to provide a means of escape from this calamitous spot.

For long the philosophers pondered on the matter, until at last Plato

caused this drum to be made, whose quality is that if any one, being

caught in the whirlpool, can come forth and strike the drum three

times, he will bring out his ship to the surface.”


When the sailor had read the inscription, he quickly made his way to

the shore and told his fellows of it. After much debate he agreed to

risk his life by staying on the island and striking the drum, on condition

that they would return to Basrah on their escape, and give to his wife

and sons one-half of what treasure they had in the ship. He bound them

with an oath to do this, and then returned to the arch. Taking up a

club he struck the drum three times, and as the mighty roar of it echoed

from the hills, the ship, like an arrow shot from a bow, was flung out

of the whirlpool. Then, with a cry of farewell to Abu’l Fawaris from

the crew, they sailed to Basrah, where they gave one-half the treasure

which they had to the sailor’s family.


With great mourning the wife and family of Abu’l Fawaris cele-

brated his loss; but he, after sleeping soundly in the archway and giving

thanks to his Maker for preserving him alive, made his way again to the

summit of the mountain. As he advanced across the plain he saw black

smoke arising from it, and also in the plain were rivers, of which he

passed nine. He was like to die of hunger and weariness, when suddenly

he perceived on one side a meadow, in which flocks of sheep were graz-

ing. In great joy he thought that he was at last reaching human habi-

tation, and as he came towards the sheep, he saw with them a youth,

tall in stature as a mountain, and covered with a tattered cloak of red

felt, though his head and body were clad in mail. The sailor greeted

him, and received greeting in reply, and also the question “Whence come

you?” Abu’l Fawaris answered that he was a man upon whom catas-

trophe had fallen, and so related his adventures to the shepherd. He

heard it with a laugh, and said: “Count yourself fortunate to have

escaped from that abyss. Do not fear now, I will bring you to a vil-

lage.” Saying this he set bread and milk before him and bade him eat.

When he had eaten he said: “You cannot remain here all day, I will

take you to my house, where you may rest for a time.”


Together they descended to the foot of the mountain, where stood a

gateway. Against it leaned a mighty stone, which a hundred men could

not have lifted, but the shepherd, putting his hand into a hole in die

stone, lifted it away from .the gateway and admitted Abu’l Fawaris.

Then he restored the stone to its place, and continued on his way.


When the sailor had passed through the gateway he saw before him

a beautiful garden in which were trees laden with fruit. In the mjdst

of them was a kiosk, and this, the sailor thought, must be the shepherd’s

house. He entered and looked about from the roof, but though he saw

many houses there was no person in sight. He descended therefore, and

walked to the nearest house, which he entered. Upon crossing the

threshold he beheld ten men, all naked and all so fat that their eyes

were almost closed. With their heads down upon their knees, all were

weeping bitterly. But at the sound of his footsteps they raised their heads

and called out “Who are you?” He told them that the shepherd had

brought him and offered him hospitality. A great cry arose from them

as they heard this. “Here,” they said, “is another unfortunate who has

fallen, like ourselves, into the clutch of this monster. He is a vile crea-

ture, who in the guise of a shepherd goes about and seizes men and

devours them. We are all merchants whom adverse winds have brought

here. That div has seized us and keeps us in this fashion.”


With a groan the sailor thought that now at last he was undone.

At that moment he saw the shepherd coming, saw him let the sheep into

the garden, and then close the gateway with the stone before entering

the kiosk. He was carrying a bag full of almonds, dates, and pistachio

nuts, with which he approached, and, giving it to the sailor, Hie told him

to share it with the others. Abu’l Fawaris could say nothing, but sat

down and ate the food with his companions. When they had finished

their meal, the shepherd returned to them, took one of them by the

hand, and then in sight of them all, slew, roasted, and devoured him.

When he was sated, he brought out a skin of wine and drank until he

fell into a drunken sleep.


Then the sailor turned to his companions and said: “Since I am to

die, let me first destroy him; if you will give me your help, I will do

so.” They replied that they had no strength left; but he, seeing the two

long spits on which the ogre had roasted his meat, put them into the

fire until they were red hot, and then plunged them into the monster’s

eyes. ‘


With a great cry the shepherd leaped up and tried to seize his tormentor,

who sprang away and eluded him. Running to the stone, the

shepherd moved it aside and began to let out the sheep one by one, in

tile hope that when the garden was emptier he could the more easily

capture the sailor. Abu’l Fawaris understood his intention: without delay,

he slew a sheep, put on the skin and tried to pass through. But the shep-

herd knew as soon as he felt him that this was not a sheep, and leaped

after him in pursuit. Abu’l Fawaris flung off the pelt, and ran like the

wind; Soon lie came to the sea, and into this he plunged, while th

, shepherd after a few steps returned to the shore, for lie could not swim.

Full of terror the sailor swam till he reached the other side of the

mountain. There he met an old man who greeted him, and, after hear-

ing his adventure, fed him and took him to his house. But soon, ‘to his

horror, Abu’l Fawaris found that this old man also was an ogre. With

great cunning he told the ogre’s wife that he could make many useful

implements for her house, and she persuaded her husband to save him.

After many days in the house, he was sent away to the care of a shep-

herd, and put to guard sheep. Day by day he planned to escape, but there

was only one way across the mountain and that was guarded.

One day, as he wandered in a wood, he found in the hollow trunk

of a tree a store of honey, of which he told the shepherd’s wife when

he went home. The next day, therefore, the woman sent her husband

with Abu’l Fawaris, telling him to bring home some of the honey; but,

on the way, the sailor leaped upon him and bound him to a tree. Then,

taking the shepherd’s ring, he returned and told the woman that her

husband had given him leave to go, and that he sent his ring in token

of this. But the woman was cunning and asked: “Why did not my

husband come himself to tell me this?” Seizing him by the cloak, she

told him that she would go with him and find out the truth. The sailor,

however, tore himself free, and again fled to the sea, where he thought

that he might escape death. In haste and terror he swam for many

hours, until at last he espied a ship full of men, who steered towards

him and tobk him on board. Full of wonder they asked how he came

there, and he related to them all his adventures.


It happened by great good fortune that the ship’s captain had business

at one place only on the coast, and that from there he was sailing to

Basrah. In the space of a month, therefore, Abu’l Fawaris was restored

to his family, to the joy of them all.


The many dangers and sufferings of the sailor had turned his hair

white. For many days he rested, and then, one day, as he walked by the

seashore, that same old man who had before hired his ship again ap-

peared. Without recognizing him, he asked if he would lend his ship on

hire for six months. Abu’l Fawaris agreed to do so for a thousand dinars

of gold, which the old man at once paid to him, saying that he would

come in a boat on the morrow, ready to depart.


When the ancient departed, the sailor took home the money to his

wife, who bade him beware not to cast himself again into danger. He

replied that he must be avenged not only for himself, but also for the

thousand Muslims whom the villainous old man had slain.


The next day, therefore, the sailor took on board the old man and a

black slave, and for three months they sailed, until they once more

reached the island of pearls. There they made fast the ship on the shore,

and taking sacks, they ascended to the top of the mountain. Once arrived

there, the old man made the same request to Abu’l Fawaris as before,

namely, that he should go down into die pits and send up pearls. The

sailor replied that he was unacquainted with the place, and preferred

that the old man should go down first, in order to prove that there was

no danger. He answered that there was surely no danger; he had never

in his life harmed even an ant, and he would of a certainty never send

Abu’l Fawaris down into the pits if he knew any peril lay there. But

die sailor was obstinate, saying that until he knew how to carry it out,

he could not undertake the task.


Very reluctantly, therefore, the old man allowed himself to be lowered

into the first pit by a basket and a rope. He filled the basket with oysters

and sent it up, crying out: “You see, there is nothing to do harm in this

pit. Draw me up now, for I am an old man and have no more strength

left.” The sailor replied, “Now that you are there, it were better if you

remained there to complete your task. To-morrow I myself will go into

another pit and will send up so many pearls as to fill the ship.’

For a long time the old man worked, sending up pearls, and at last he cried

out again, “O my brother, I am utterly wearied, draw me out now.”

Then the sailor turned upon him with fury, and cried out: “How is it

that thou dost see ever thine own trouble and never that of others? Thou

misbegotten dog, art thou blind that thou dost not know me? I am Abu’l

Fawaris, the sailor, whom long ago you left in one of these pits. By the

favor of Allah I was delivered, and now it is your turn. Open your eyes

to the truth and remember what you have done to so many men.” The

old man cried aloud for mercy, but it availed him nothing, for Abu’l

Fawaris brought a great stone and covered up the mouth of the pit. The

slave too he overwhelmed with threats, and then together they carried

down the pearls to the ship, in which they set sail. In three months they

arrived at Basrah. There Abu’l Fawaris related his adventures, to the

amazement of all. Thenceforward he abandoned the sea and adopted a

life of ease. Finally he died, and this story remains in memory of him.

And Allah knoweth best.

On reading this tale one can only conclude that Story of Odysseus found its way into Persia. If one picks out a thread, say the episode of the Cyclopes one may as well assume many other strands do stretch to great many other lands and climes as well.



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Books are made up of words and each word has its own history, but that does not come to surface while we read, for the idea of reading presupposes a space in which an authors intention could be set up. James Joyce’s Ulysses is his account of one day in the life of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. Joyce wanted to give a sense of realism by incorporating real people and places into them… At the same time that Ulysses presents itself as a realistic novel, it also works on a mythic level, by way of a series of parallels with Homer’s Odyssey. Stephen, Bloom, and Molly correspond respectively to Telemachus, Ulysses, and Penelope, and each of the eighteen episodes of the novel corresponds to an adventure from the Odyssey.’(sparknotes-Ulysses/context) The date June 16, 1904 in which the events take place is also very crucial to the author, but it s irrelevant to the reader. Nevertheless it throws light into the author’s emotional energy that suffuses the proceedings of various personages in the book.

There are three elements that we need in order to get the most out of any book:

Realism of the work: In Ulysses Joyce created situations and personages that derive their naturalness within the basic premise of  reliving a personal event: his first date with Nora Barnacle.

Literary Space which is created by words and it has its own coloring, structure according to the literary devices employed the author.

Mirroring process: This is a subjective element whereby sensibilities of the reader can relate to the events emotionally as well as rationally.

Having used Ulysses as an example let me show the same elements in the Scriptures.

Realism of Ulysses as mentioned above is based on Joyce’s first date with his future wife. It is true. Similarly Truth gives verisimilitude to the scriptures, be it the Bible or Koran or any other. Truth of the godhead gives them their validity. Prophet’s visionary experience gives Koran its impact as the Bible.

In the matter of literary space the Bible creates multiple worlds that run into one another. Kingdom of God and divine Will permeates from the first book to the last Apocalyptic book. Secondly kingdom of Heaven is exemplified by Jesus during his earthly ministry. Thirdly is a earthly kingdom when the Prince of Peace of Messiah sets up his earthly kingdom as fulfillment of prophetic writings. The Book of Daniel for example.

The mirroring process is one area where many tend to go wrong. The reader must exercise his understanding and judgment to get the most out of the Scriptures. The time frame of the reader in the last century is different from the present. Timelessness of Truth is to be mirrored in the reader’s ‘time-space frame’. The Scriptures  are meant to guide us into all righteousness and godliness.  If we cannot live according to the moral guideposts shown in by the author what avails the reader? Truth as impacted into the literary space is the work of Holy Spirit that overrules as well as instructs the reader. It also serves a caution. The Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip: ‘How can I except some man should guide me?(Ac.8:31) There are passages that may defy simple explanations since the author’s language and experience cannot be mirrored directly but from roundabout way. Thus the prophesies of Isaiah cannot be made sense unless one know of the subject he is predicting. No wonder when some fellows stone or hack others for blasphemy they are interpreting the scriptures wrongly.


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It little profits that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a savage race,

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

… ….

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d

Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those

That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when

Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,

Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;

And drunk delight of battle with my peers,

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades

For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

… ….

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,

Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—

That ever with a frolic welcome took

The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed

Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Form:This poem is written as a dramatic monologue: the entire poem is spoken by a single character, whose identity is revealed by his own words. The lines are in blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter, which serves to impart a fluid and natural quality to Ulysses’s speech. Many of the lines are enjambed, which means that a thought does not end with the line-break; the sentences often end in the middle, rather than the end, of the lines. The use of enjambment is appropriate in a poem about pushing forward “beyond the utmost bound of human thought.” Finally, the poem is divided into four paragraph-like sections, each of which comprises a distinct thematic unit of the poem. (1833-42)

The poem’s final line, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” came to serve as a motto for the poet’s Victorian contemporaries: the poem’s hero longs to flee the tedium of daily life “among these barren crags” (line 2) and to enter a mythical dimension “beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars” (lines 60–61); as such, he was a model of individual self-assertion and the Romantic rebellion against bourgeois conformity. Thus for Tennyson’s immediate audience, the figure of Ulysses held not only mythological meaning, but stood as an important contemporary cultural icon as well.

Ulysses,” like many of Tennyson’s other poems, deals with the desire to reach beyond the limits of one’s field of vision and the mundane details of everyday life. Ulysses is the antithesis of the mariners in “The Lotos-Eaters,” who proclaim “we will no longer roam” and desire only to relax amidst the Lotos fields. (ack:sparknotes)

Trivia:The last line was found in the note left by Captain Scott in his ill-fated expedition.

Also read my Pen Portraits-Alfred Tennyson

Photo: Tennyson/lisa abramson-writers-Pinterest)

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