The oddyssey in popular culture

Many forms of popular culture today are inspired by themes, characters, and other references in various types of classical literature. John Denver’s song “Calypso” parallels with a number of the themes in Homer’s the Odyssey. The Odyssey’s themes involving Odysseus’ journey back home and the aid of gods and goddesses directly influence “Calypso.”
The first stanza in Calypso is influenced by Odysseus’ journey to back to his homeland. The first couple of lines compare a dream to sailing on the ocean where at times it is crystal clear and calm while other times like riding on the “crest of a wild raging storm”. Denver uses the dream metaphor as a means to show that a dream can be like a nightmare or a fantasy. This metaphor is influenced by Odysseus’ good and bad times on the sea. There are many instances where Odysseus faces struggles on the ocean. Whether Odysseus has to fight a huge storm like the one that washes him up on Kalypso’s island or he has to elude dangerous monsters such as Skylla and the whirlpool Kharybdis on the sea, the ocean can be a very dangerous place. Odysseus also encounters times where the sea is very forgiving to him. The storm that washes him up to the land of Phaecia, a fairy-tale fantasyland, results in a safe and smooth passage home along with numerous treasures. The next couple of lines refer to working in the service of life and living trying to find the answers of the unknown. Odysseus spends many years on the sea at many different lands working in the service of the gods in search of answers to the health of his family and the possibility of a homecoming. Odysseus’ long travels make him believe he is indeed searching for the unknown. The gods throw him all across the globe, but he finds very few answers. The last sets of lines in the first stanza deal with experiencing and growing. The obvious character in the Odyssey that grows up by experiencing is Telemakhus. He leaves his father’s hall as a boy and returns with many manly qualities. He inherits many of these mature qualities from his experiences on his voyage. Odysseus also “grows up” in a sense as a result of his long journey. He meets many different people, makes many mistakes, but also learns from these mistakes.
The second main stanza in “Calypso” is influenced by the aid the gods and goddesses convey towards Odysseus in the Odyssey. The first couple of lines use a metaphor comparing Kalypso to a dolphin that guides and shows the way. Kalypso brings Odysseus into her own domain and completely takes care of him. She saves him from dying out at sea. When Odysseus is summoned by Zeus to leave, Kalypso again aids and “shows him the way” to get off her island. Many other gods and goddesses help aid Odysseus with his struggles. Athena helps him throughout his entire voyage, while Hermes aids him with messages on Kalypso’s island and at Kirke’s domain. The next few lines talk about letting nature takes its course. Denver states in “Calypso” about how humankind should treat nature by saying, “Joyful and loving and letting it (nature) be.” In the Odyssey there are references that explain that mortals must subject themselves to the will of the gods. When Kirke instructs Odysseus of his encounter with Skylla and Kharybdis, she explains that no matter what he does he will lose some men. Even though Odysseus disagrees and tries to fight Skylla, he is unsuccessful. No one can control his or her own destiny. Odysseus tries to fight the will of the gods, but never prevails. Nature has to take its own course.

Category: English