Homer, The Odyssey, 5.388–450

And then he drifted about—two nights, two days—driven
By the surging waves, and his heart looked destruction
      straight in the face.
But when Dawn with her lovely braids brought
      the third day into the world
The wind died down and a calm, clear and still, descended
And look!—he caught a glimpse of land, right over there,
As he peered ahead intently from the crest of a towering wave.
Just as a father’s children would welcome some sign of life
When he’s lying deep in sickness suffering harsh pain,
Slowly wasting away, attacked by some fiendish Power—
And then—O welcome sight!—the gods set him free from his illness:
Just so was the sight of land and woods welcome to Odysseus.
He struck out, swimming hard, eager to set foot on shore.
But once he had gotten as far as the sound of a shout will reach
He heard the thundering thud of the reef
      as the sea crashed against it
Since the massive swells were dashing against the shoreline, roaring
Fearfully, everything frothed with foam churned up from the sea—
For here were no inlets to harbor ships, no place of refuge.
No, there were jutting headlands and sea-spumed reefs and cliffs.
Odysseus’s knees went slack then and the heart within him quailed.
In deep distress, he spoke to his own great-hearted spirit:
        “Ah me! Against all hope, Zeus gave me a chance to see
Land again, and so I managed to cut my way through the deep—
But I cannot see any way to get out of this gray salt water.
For the edge of the land is rough cliffs, while all
      around them the surf
Roars, and the face of the rock runs straight up from the water
Which is deep right there at the shore, and so there is no way
To plant both feet on the ground and thus escape disaster.
If I tried to go ashore a huge wave might snatch me away
And dash me against jagged rocks, my efforts all in vain.
But if I keep swimming further on in the hope that I might find
Some shore where the surf breaks slantwise,
      some haven from the sea,
I’m terrified that the squall will snatch me up again and hurl me,
Heaving with groans, back into the sea which teems with fish.
Or what if a mighty Power unleashes some kind of monster
Out of the sea—one of the many that great Amphitrítê breeds?
For now I know how odious the great Earth-shaker finds me.”
        While he was turning all of this over in his heart and in his spirit
A huge wave pitched him up and onto the jagged shore.
His skin would have been stripped off and his bones
      smashed into bits
Had Athena of the bright owl-eyes not put a thought in his head:
He rushed straight at the face of the rock and grabbed
      it with both his hands
And held onto it, heaving with groans, until the huge
      wave had passed.
And so he escaped the wave—but as it roared back, it rushed
Straight at him again and smashed him, hurling him far out to sea.
Just as when an octopus is dragged from its den and you see
How dense is the mass of pebbles still clinging to its suckers:
That’s how much skin, stripped off from those
      unflinching hands of his,
Was left clinging to the rocks. The huge wave covered him over.
Odysseus would have died then, wretched man—not at all his fate!—
Had Athena of the bright owl-eyes not given him a notion:
Breaking through the waves near where they spewed toward shore
He swam past them, aiming for land, where he hoped
      that he might find
Some shore where the surf breaks slantwise,
      some haven from the sea.
He kept on swimming until he reached the mouth of a river,
Beautiful as it flowed on. To him the place seemed perfect:
Smoothed of any stones, it was sheltered as well from the wind.
He knew what it was as it flowed and prayed to it in his spirit:
        “Whoever you are, O Lord, like so many others I pray you:
I come here from out of the sea, fleeing Poseidon’s abuse.
Even immortal gods must respect the claim of a man
Who comes to them a wanderer, just as I now come
To your stream, here at your knees, after enduring
      so many struggles.
Have pity on me, Lord. I declare myself your suppliant.”