The Homeric part, the prophesy of how Odysseus would die, had to be very brief due to the time limit of the lecture, but here is the longer version:
Dante envisions a radically different ending.
from Canto 26, Eighth Circle: DECEITFUL COUNSELORS
As many as the fireflies that the farmer sees
(Virgil addresses the flame concealing Ulysses and Diomedes)
translated by John Ciardi (slightly modified by Oriana)
Possible influence: Horace, Seventh Ode, speech by Teukros before leaving his homeland on a voyage of discovery: “nil desperandum” – “tomorrow we set out on the vast ocean.”
Tennyson’s based his “Ulysses” more on Dante's subversive imagination than on Homer.
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched 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 enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed 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 honoured 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 wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, 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.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
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.
1947 – first Italian publication. If This Is a Man was the title of the first English translation in 1959, later changed to Survival in
Consider if this is a man,
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or a no.
~ Primo Levi, “Shema,” in Collected Poems
Primo Levi, like Ulysses, considers the question, WHAT IS A MAN?
"It is not at all an idle matter trying to define what a human being is."
What is it that makes a human being human? How can that quality of humanity be destroyed? How can it be recovered?
Reciting Dante in Auschwitz, Primo becomes very excited when he comes to the lines "You were not meant to live like brutes." But the very fact of reciting poetry in this dehumanizing heart of darkness, or remembering that poetry exists, has an uplifting effect.
Forgive but do not forget.