The Odyssey is one of the oldest works of Western literature, dating back to classical antiquity. Homer’s epic poem belongs in a collection called the Epic Cycle, which includes the Iliad. It was originally written in ancient Greek and utilized a dactylic hexameter rhyme scheme. Although this rhyme scheme sounds beautiful in its native language, in modern English it can sound awkward and, as Eric McMillan humorously describes it, resembles “pumpkins rolling on a barn floor.” William Cullen Bryant avoided this problem by converting his translation into blank verse.
This epic poem follows Ulysses, one of the Greek leaders that brought an end to the 10-year-long Trojan war. Longing for home, he must travel across the Mediterranean Sea to return to his kingdom in Ithica; unfortunately, our hero manages to anger Neptune, the god of the sea, making his trip home agonizingly slow and extremely dangerous. While Ulysses is trying to return home, his family in Ithica is also in danger. Suitors have traveled to the home of Ulysses to marry his wife, Penelope, believing that her husband did not survive the war. These men are willing to kill anyone who stands in their way.