In a drunken stupor

Reading The Odyssey (Rieu translation), I’m loving the gory descriptions. Here’s one that stands out – describing the Cyclops, Polyphemus, who’s been snacking on Odysseus’ friends, and whom Odysseus has finally succeeded in intoxicating with his prized dark wine. (The wine was given him by Maron, son of Euanthes and priest of Apollo, from a secret stock. Usually served diluted with twenty parts water, it is “of a red and honeyed vintage” and has a bouquet of “pure heaven.”) Polyphemus drinks it by the bowlful, undiluted:
He had hardly spoken before he toppled over and fell face upwards on the floor, where he lay with his great neck twisted to one side, and all-compelling sleep overpowered him. In his drunken stupor he vomited, and a stream of wine mixed with morsels of men’s flesh poured from his throat.
Just a bit further on, the text makes use of one of its most famous formal elements, the extended (or “Homeric”) simile:
Seizing the olive pole, they drove its sharpened end into the Cyclops’ eye, while I used my weight from above to twist it home, like a man boring a ship’s timber with a drill which his mates below him twirl with a strap they hold at either end, so that it spins continuously. In much the same way we handled our pole with its red-hot point and twisted it in his eye till the blood boiled up round the burning wood.

olive stake

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