Omeros Annotations.jpg

The Omeros Annotations

Annotations for Derek Walcott's Omeros - A Work In Progress

These annotations began as a class assignment in Richard Henry's spring semester 2004 course in the Nobel Prize in Literature and continues in his courses in postmodern and postcolonial literature. In the spring semester 2007, students in Dr. Daniella Mallinick's course in Postcolonial Literature contributed to the project. Contributors from other college courses are welcome to submit entries.

The Annotators:

From SUNY Potsdam: Tesfa Alexander (TA), Renee Barriger (RB), Dana Bimonte (DB), Megan Caley (MC), Stacy Minnella (SM), Julie Sharlow (JS), Melody Shuman (MS); and the shy ones (DC), (JF), (ME), (EP), and (KS)

From the University of Missouri-Kansas City: Emily Akins (EA), Miun Gleeson (MG), Ruben Perez Hidalgo (RPH), Karri Martin (KM), Evan McNamara (EM), Lauren Obermark (LO), Casey Pycior (CP), Jeremy Rieck (JR)

All entries are keyed to the Noonday Press edition -- by page # then line #

Last updated: 5/1/19




3:2 Philoctete Named from Greek character Philoctetes. Philoctetes was traveling to fight in the Trojan War when a snake on the island of Lemnos bit him. The smell of Philoctetes' wound and his constant wailing drove his companions crazy, so they left him on the island. Philoctetes was a master archer, so he was eventually rescued for his talents were needed. (DB)

5:6 The first god was a gommier Refers to the significance of the gum tree (dacryodes hexadra), a type of tree found in St. Lucia and Dominica. Gommier trees are traditionally used for building fishing canoes. An image of gommier boats: (EP)

6:1 Achille Named after Greek character Achilles. Achilles was the son of the Goddess Thetis. She allegedly dipped Achilles in the river Styx to make him immortal. The only spot on Achilles body that was not immortal was the tendon on his heel, hence the name "Achilles heel." Achilles was a great warrior and highly respected among the Greeks. He died in battle, shot in the heel with an arrow. (DB)

8:4 In God We Troust Perhaps a reference to U.S. currency. The canoe could itself could be a form of currency to be traded. (KS)

8:9 Hector Named after the Trojan Hector. Hector was the son of the King of Troy, Priam. Hector killed Achilles' best friend Patroculus, so Achilles killed Hector. Hector was rather boastful when he killed Patroculus, but in the end was scared to death of Achilles. In The Iliad, Hector ran around the boundaries of Troy six times trying to get away from Achilles. Achilles eventually over-took him. (DB)

9:10 Theophile Theophilus was a comic poet of Athens around 329 BC. (JS)

9:11 Placide Placidius wrote one of the first glossaries, which consisted of archaic words and grammar. (JS)

9:12 Chrysostom Literally means "the golden mouth" it refers to John Chrysostom who was a bishop of Constantinople. He was later banished and died in exile. (JS)

11:4 St. Lucia An island in the West Indies. Main income is based on tourism and the export of bananas and fruit. (SM)

13:7 Cyclops Giants who only had one eye, which was located in the middle of their foreheads. (JS)

14:5 Homer Epic poet and author of The Odyssey and The Iliad. (JS)

14:5 Virg Virgil, Roman poet and author of The Aeneid. (JS)

14:18 Antigone Greek figure who buried her brother Polynices against her uncle Creon's orders. Creon believed Polynices to be a traitor and order Antigone's death because she disobeyed him. Antigone instead killed herself. (JS)

17:6 Helen Considered the most beautiful woman of her time; her abduction by Paris is considered the beginning of the Trojan War. (JS)

17:10 the cabaret A cabaret is a bar/club/theatre place that was very popular with the Germans in the World War II era. (RB)

17:19 pirogues Small boats, similar to a rowboat, that is easy to navigate in flooded timber areas. They are used for hunting. (SM)

18:7 veteran's compensation Money paid to soldiers after a war, usually when they have been wounded badly enough not to be able to work again. (RB)

18-9:22-23, 1 I am blest wif this wound, Ma Kilman,...Which will never heal Refers to the snakebite that Philoctete receives in The Iliad. (JS)

22:5 dasheen leaf A leaf that is used for cooking in the Caribbean. The small ones are used for soups and the large ones are used for spinach. (SM)

23:10 Lawrence of St. Lucia Reference to Lawrence of Arabia, a British commander in Africa during WW II. He was considered to be a tactical genius. (RB)

24:14 Martinique Island formed from volcano, in the West Indies. Main income based on tourism and the export of rum, bananas, and pineapples. The island is very mountainous. (SM)

25:3 silver anniversary Twenty-five years of marriage. (JF)

25:6 he'd served with Monty Monty is the nickname of General Montgomery, a British commander in Africa, Italy, and helped plan the storming of Normandy known for meticulous planning, and perfect preparation for each battle. The character, Plunkett, seems to have been in one of his armies. (RB)

25:8 the Afrika Korps German troops in North Africa during WW II. (RB)

25:10 Napoleonic cognacs Rare French wine. (MC)

25:14 Pro honoris causa For an honorary degree. (ME)

25:23 pukka authentic, superior. (JF)

26:2-3 Cockney... Clods from Lanchester Cockney is a dialect of English used in London, the birthplace of Montgomery. Lanchester is the county of London. (RB)

26:7 the war in the desert under Montgomery The North African campaign of WW II, probably when Plunkett served under the General. (RB)

26:15 beyond Alexandria A city in Egypt, considered key to the British Empire in that area. (RB)

26:16 The flags pinned to a map When planning battles, generals pinned flags to large maps in order to indicate troop positions of both sides. (RB)

26:21 those Yanks Refers to the American armies. (RB)

26:22 Tobruk and Alamiens Two North African sites of battle during WWII.

26:26 the Eighth Army The name of Montgomery's command in Africa.

27:3 Tommies Thompsons, a type of automatic gun used then. (RB)

27:8 They crouched, hands on helmets Refers to the trench warfare of both World Wars. (RB)

27:8 the Messerschmitt's gun A fighter plane during the second war, the gun is a 20mm MG151 cannon and two 72mm MG-17 machine guns. (RB)

27:18 a Kraut salute Nickname for Germans. (RB)

28:21 Battle of the Saints A battle in the Saintes Islands in the West Indies in 1782 during the American Revolution. The British defeated the French fleet here, which had previously defeated them at Yorktown. (JF)

28:25 Seychelles An Island off the coast of Africa, north east of Madagascar. (DB)

29:22 waif homeless person, an orphaned child or animal. (JF)

30:3 Guinness A popular drink in the British Isles. (RB)

30:7 Empire was ebbing The British Empire was beginning to lose its colonies around WWII and did lose them all soon after its end. (RB)

30:12 the Upper Punjab Part of the colony in India. (RB)

30:14 the Raj Indian title for superiors. (RB)

30:19 Pitons Not of Greek origin, but the very tall rock formations found on St. Lucia. (DB)

30:23 Memento mori Latin phrase meaning: "Remember that you are mortal." It is also a genre of various types of art (in this case, music) that may vary greatly, but all have the same purpose: to remind people of their own mortality. (JF)

30:24 (see also 66:15) Remembrance Day Canadian term for what in the US is known as Veteran's Day - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - a day to honor members of the armed forces. (EA)

30:25 Trafalgar A square in London where several major streets intersect. (RB)

31:26-7 her final peace/ was signed at Versailles WWI's peace treaty was signed at the Palace Versailles in France. The conditions of this treaty were some of the German's complaints at the beginning of the WWII. (RB)

31:4 Her village was Troy Plunkett is speaking of Helen in the story, but referring to Helen in Greek Mythology, and the battle that surrounded her. (DB)

32:10 Olympiad An Olympiad is the period of time, four years, between the Olympics. (JS)

32:13 Aegean The sea and islands off Greece. Also refers to the prehistoric civilizations the flourished on Crete and other islands. (DB)

32:13 Parthenon The temple sacred to Athena, Goddess of War and Goddess of Peace. (DB)

32:22 six times around the city Refers to Hector and Achille and their "battle" over Helen, but is taken from The Iliad when Achilles runs after Hector around Troy. (DB)

33:3 centaurs Half-man, half-horse. Fought each other and the scene is depicted on the Parthenon. (DB)

33:7-12 divided the wrestlers with their lowering claws...arc of a javelin When the Trojan war ended, or perhaps when any war in classical times ended, the men participated in physical games. They wrestled, had javelin throws, raced chariots... Similar games are going on as Helen walks past the hotel giving the calling men a show. (DB)

34:13 machineel A tree in the coast of Central America and the Caribbean. It has poisonous green fruit. The sap of the tree causes blistering. (SM)

34:20 Menelaus Helen (of mythology) was married to Menelaus, but she left him for Paris of Troy. (DB)

35:16 Scamander A river of Troas, near Mt. Ida. (JS)

35:18 Agamemnon Agamemnon was chosen by the Greeks to lead the attack on Troy. (JS)

36:6 Argonauts Men who traveled with Jason in search of Golden Fleece. Now used to describe the quest for something dangerous. (DB)

37:13 Estruscan lions Estruscan people were the people who lived in pre-Roman Italy, therefore Estruscan lions would be of the same time period. (JS)

37:20 sapodillas A fruit with a brown thick skin and round like an apple. It is eaten as a sweet dessert and scooped out with a spoon. (SM)

44:18-9 tied to his heel Refers to "Achilles' heel" which was the only place on his body that he was vulnerable. (JS)

45:13 Iberian kings Iberia was a county located between Colchic and Albania. (JS)

49:1 lianas A vine that roots in the ground and climbs. Usually climbs many trees as their support and is found in tropical climates. (SM)

49:16 bittern A small bird in the heron family. It has a short neck. A wading bird, it has a relatively long beak, and long legs. (JF)

50:13 galleon A large ship with several decks, and lots of masts, usually armed with medium-sized canons. (JF)

52:18 all the village could do was listen to the gods in session Refers to the idea that storms (thunder and lightening) were a result of the meeting of the gods. (DB)

52:22 made Neptune rock the waves Roman God of Water, equal to Greek Poseidon. This quote states that Neptune makes the waves move to a beat. (DB)

53:6 For the gods aren't men, they get on well together Refers to the conflict between Achilles and Hector, who are fighting because they aren't gods. (JS)

53:9 where Ogun can fire one with his partner Zeus Ogun is an African God of Iron. Ogun and Zeus are partners in forming thunderbolts. (DB)

55:14 while Maud sat embroidering her tapestry of birds A direct parallel to Penelope working on a tapestry and at her loom waiting for Odysseus to return. (DB)

55:21 like infantry tired of trenches and shovels Again, the trench warfare. (RB)

59:24 like registering skulls in the lime-pits of Auschwitz The discovery of the mass graves in the death camps of the German army. Auschwitz was considered the worst. (RB)

60:12-3 a fever... yellow as that leaf WW II soldiers were vaccinated against yellow fever. (RB)

63:16 Attic Relates to Athens, some Attic myths refer to the battle over Athens between Athena and Poseidon. (JS)

64:19 Circe Greek goddess who lived on an island and would turn men that came ashore into beasts. Odysseus broke her spell. (DB)

65:8 allamanda's bell An allamanda is a woody vine with a yellow flower. It may grow to about 6 feet high. Also called the Yellow Bell or Golden Trumpet, it has flowers and green leaves that last all year long. It is typically found in the tropics. (JF)

66:4 cicadas Insect found in southern regions. It is large and has a loud buzzing noise. It lives for up to 17 years and feeds on the roots of trees until it can fly away. (SM)

66:15 (see also 30:24) Remembrance Day Canadian term for what in the US is known as Veteran's Day - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - a day to honor members of the armed forces. (EA)

67:11 the front porch gone, was a printery This speaks of Omeros' home when he was a child, his father was a printer. Omeros is from a family of book-makers that keep stories alive through the generations. (DB)

67:13 bougainvillea trellises Woody vines found in tropical America. Petal colors being of purple and red. (SM)

68:22 Warwick A county in England, Warwick Shire. (RB)

68:27 Portia This is a reference to Shakespeare's A Merchant of Venice. Portia is a main character who saves Bassanio from death by dressing as a man and pretending to be lawyer. (JS)

68:28 than that disease like Hamlet's old man's spread This is another reference to Shakespeare. Possibly talking about the madness that Hamlet went through trying to avenge his father's death. (JS)

69:16half-cranked jalousies "Jealousy" in French. They are a special kind of blind/shutter made from angled slats. Jalousies both control air/light and keep the sun and rain out. (EP)

70:3 Angelus A Catholic saint. (DB)
In the Catholic church, prayers said three times a day and signaled by the chiming of a bell; "angelus" also refers to the sound of the bell. (EA)

72:9 Shylock: Hath not a Jew eyes? A reference to Shakespeare's A Merchant of Venice. At this point Shylock is showing that he might be a Jew but he still feels and acts the same way as everyone else. (JS)



78:18 ochre jug Solid jar made out of earth-like mineral oxides of iron. Because of the minerals, it appears in brown, yellow and red pigments. (TA)

79:16 St. Eustatius A West Indian island, considered to be part of the Dutch Caribbean. It is located in the North Eastern Caribbean. Although English and Spanish are spoken fluently, Dutch is the official language of the island. (TA)

81:22 Redcoats The name used to describe the British in the American Revolution (JS)

81:23 poinciana (also known as royal/flamboyant Poinciana) A tropical and subtropical tree with clusters of large scarlet flowers. The tree is well known for its vibrant orange and scarlet blossoms. Although it is native to Madagascar, it is largely cultivated in the West Indies, United States and Bermuda. (TA)

85:4 French frigate A large vessel that uses propellers and oars. The name was first derived in the Mediterranean, however the French began calling large vessels that were mainly used for war by this name. (SM)

87:5 Bloemfontein A city of central South Africa. It is unofficially considered the judicial capitol, as well as the capitol of the Free State and the judicial center; this because the division of the national Supreme Court is located there. (TA)

92:20 casuarinas A type of plant that resembles a pine tree. It has fine textured foliage and produces cones with seeds. There are different types of this plant, some are found by riverbanks and others are found by swampland. (SM)

93:9 mortar-seized fence A barrier made of a mixture of lime, sand, cement, and water. The fence actually looks like an organized stack of rocks. In the Caribbean these fences/ walls are common, especially along the perimeter of beaches. For a picture see (TA)

95:22 ziggurat A type of temple that is pyramid in shape. The tiers are on an oval or square base and usually number between two to seven. These first date back to the third millennium B.C. (SM)

96:22-97:2 The bracelet coiled like a a second Eden with its golden apple Christian reference to the Garden of Eden and to the Original Sin (JS)

98:2 cricket A sports game often compared to baseball. It is widely played in the Caribbean, and is the most popular sport along with soccer. However, evidence suggests that it originated in England. (TA)

98:22 calabash A tree found in the tropics that bears hard-shelled fruits on its branches. The fruit's shell is used to make many things such as utensils, containers, and smoking pipes. (TA)

100:24 sepia album Photographs done in a brown tint, resembling the dark brown ink made from the secretions of cuttle fish. (TA)

102:20/21 penile cannon / Able semen Obviously a sexual metaphor. (KS)

103:3 the peaks of the island's breasts The sexual metaphor continues. The island is Helen (see 103:11). (KS)

104:2/3 Hermann Hesse's / punctilious face Hesse, a German novelist and poet, is the author of Steppenwolf and Siddhartha. "Punctilious" is an adjective and means "showing great attention to proper behavior; scrupulous." An image of Hesse's "punctilious" face: (EP)

104:12 rumshop Although the definition is self explanatory, rumshops are significant in Caribbean culture. They are similar to a pub, where majority men go to congregate as well as drink at various times of the day. The feeling and environment that can be found in rumshops throughout the Caribbean is very similar to "Cheers." (TA)

108:14 Castries The capital of St. Lucia, as well as the commercial center of the Island. The French founded it in 1650. (SM)

109:20 conch A gastropod mollusk found in tropical waters. They are similar to clams, and have bright colored shells. Conch is widely eaten in the Caribbean as a delicacy. (TA)

110:16 breadfruit A tree that was brought to the Caribbean by a Captain. Fruit is produced from the tree and it was food that was originally intended for slaves. The leaves of the tree are very large. (SM)

118:25 Praslin An island of Seychelles (JS)

120:13 carillon bells A musical instrument. It consists of many bells called carillon bells. It is played by using a keyboard and through foot petals. The playing of this instrument is now widespread, however it is mostly found in the lower countries of Europe. (SM)
Usually church bells hung in a tall tower. They are the largest instrument, and can weigh around 100 tons. They were a symbol of pride and status for the community or church who owned them. (JF)

120:15 banyan A fig plant that has germinated in a crevice of a tree or building. Their roots can grow down into their host tree, or around it. Banyan trees can be very large. They have aerial roots that sprout from their branches to descend into the ground. They are named after Hindu traders called "banians" who conducted their trade beneath these large trees. (JF)

120:15 The Church of Immaculate Conception This refers to the birth of Christ by the Virgin Mary. The Church of Immaculatio Conception is a part of the Catholic Church. (JS)

120:16 Angelus In the Catholic church, prayers said three times a day and signaled by the chiming of a bell; "angelus" also refers to the sound of the bell. (EA)

123:8 allamandas A type of plant that is native to South America. The flowers of it grow in clusters and are generally yellow, but can be found in shades of violet. The plant is poisonous if ingested. It grows well in winter climates as well as warm climates. (SM)

127:1 (see also 239:12, 286:16) horned island In the poem, St. Lucia is frequently called "horned;" this refers to the Pitons (30:25 - see annotation for Pitons). For a photo, see: (EA)



139:10 council of elders Governing body for deciding issues of the tribe. (MC)

139.11 kola nut A mild stimulant that is similar to coffee. It makes the person very talkative and energetic. It keeps you awake and suppresses the appetite. (SM)

139.11 palm-wine A milky alcohol in Africa that is inexpensive. The wine is drunk out of gourds and in honor of ancestors. It is a custom to spill some of the wine three times before drinking. (SM)

139.13 balaphon A marimba or African xylophone. (ME)

139:15-16 who entered a river-horse and lived in its belly This is from an African tale, but it is very similar to the story of the Minotaur, in Greek Mythology, who grew in the belly of a bull until birth. (DB)

142.10 men-o'-wars Deadly, transparent jellyfish found primarily in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific and Indian Ocean. For a picture and more detailed information on its structure visit (TA)

143.9/10 calabash mask  It is a mask worn during Ramadan and is made out of a painted gourd. (SM)

143.11 tambours Means 'drums' in French. (SM)

144:14 Its accomplishment lay in its strategy of surprise. Refers to the Greeks winning the war against Troy by using the Trojan Horse. (JS)

145.21 thatched houses A house with a roof made of a plant-like material, similar to straw. This style of architecture was adopted by westerners from the Korean culture. Houses today are considered thatched houses because of its style as opposed to the type of material used. The following sites allow you to compare the difference. (TA)

145:22-23 He must be deaf as well as blind, Achille thought "He" refers to Seven Seas. This line is repeated on page 216 lines 5-6. There it is the narrator speaking about Omeros. (JS)

146.14 green mossed liana A wood-climbing plant that is rooted in the ground and has rope like stems. Although lianas are found in every climate where there are trees to support them, they are most abundant and luxuriant in the tropics, where rapid growth to reach the sunlight is of particular advantage in the dense vegetation. (TA)

146.18 griot Also called Djeli. A musician, historian, dancer, performer who tells the African community of the great accomplishments that have occurred in their country's history. The Griot tells what each family's ancestors have done and in this manner, the society is able to pass along its history throughout generations. (SM)

148.6 ocelot A wild feline often found in Central and South America. The color of its coat ranges from yellow to a reddish gray. Nevertheless, they are known for their black spots and blotches.  (TA)

149.6 Bight of Benin In West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. It is a wide indentation. Palm oil trading is important there, and in the past, the slave trade was carried on throughout this area. (SM)

150.1 Ashanti People who live in central Ghana of West Africa. They are known as the Akans in Ghana. (TA)

150.1 Mandingo People of a various group who live in a large area of the upper Niger River valley of West Africa. As they are a various group, they also have various languages, including Bambara, Manlinke, and Mnainka - which are all widely spoken in West Africa. (TA)

150.2 Ibo A people of southeast Nigeria also known as Igbo. They speak the Benue-Congo language. (TA)

151.9 Assyria An ancient empire of Asia that manifested around the city of Ashur, which is located on the upper Tigris River and south of Nineveh. (TA)

153:1 Penelope Helen's cousin. She waited for twenty years for Odysseus to come back from war (JS)

154:15 blind saint's, her name as bright as the island's? This is a double reference, first to the island's namesake, St. Lucy, the patron saint of the blind. The second reference is to a character in Dante's Inferno who is the embodiment of light and functions as Mary's ambassador, providing the impetus for much of the narrative. (JR)

155.14 archipelago Although it can be a sea containing a large number of scattered islands, in this context it refers to the islands themselves. Two of the most popular archipelagos are found in the Philippines and in Greece. (TA)

155.22 Veracruz A city found on the Gulf of Mexico and east of Pueblo. It also serves home to a major port of Mexico, as it is the commercial and industrial center of an important oil region. (TA)

155:22 fleeing the Inquisition The Spanish Inquisition was the most deadly of all Inquisitions. Such inquisitions were used during the decline of the Roman Empire for both political and religious reasons to filter out people against a nation or religion. (MC)

155.25 Lima Located in West Peru, it is the capital and largest city of Peru. (TA)

155.26 Pyrenees A chain of mountains found in the southwest of Europe that extends between France and Spain from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea. The chain forms almost a straight a line, with its central section being the highest. (TA)

156:3 Victoria Queen Victoria (1819-1901). Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1837-1901) and Empress of India. Her reign was the longest in England's history. (MC)

156:7 Darwin Four major ideas found in Darwin's theory of evolution are: reproduction (all species produce more offspring than can survive), variation (sexual reproduction and mutations), adaptation (environment dictates fitness), and new species (change in genotype causes a change in phenotype). (MC)

156:12 Cape of Good Hope Peninsula in South Africa that was part of the Dutch East india Company's slave route. (MC)

161:6/7 a Marley reggae— / "Buffalo Soldier." Thud. "Heart of America. Bob Marley (1945-1981) was a Jamaican musician. His song, "Buffalor Soldier," was about the black U.S. cavalry regiments. "Heart of America" is one of the lines in the song. (DC)

161:7 Buffalo Soldier These were the 9th and 10th regiments of the United States Army in the mid-1860s. They were composed completely of African Americans and were given the name Buffalo Soldiers by the Cheyenne and Comanche. (JS)

162:11/12 like Aruacs / falling to the muskets of the Conquistador The Aruacs (or Arawaks) were Saint Lucia's first known inhabitants, believed to have come from northern South America around 200-400 A.D. Smallpox brought by the Spanish played a large part in the population's declining numbers, as well as attacks by Carib tribes. (DC)

162:12 Conquistador The Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers under Cortez who explored and conquered Latin America in search of gold and silver. They destroyed Inca civilization. (MC)

164:21 Ghost Dancer The Sioux who performed the Ghost Dance with the belief it would reunite them with dead friends and relatives. This was done in hopes of strengthening their culture. This contributed to the cause of Wounded Knee. (MC)



170:12 Mayakovsky Vladimir Maykovsky (1893-1930) was one of the leading poets of the Soviet Revolution in 1917. His poetry is characterized by its strong political influences, but the poet's "need for love" intermingles with his politicized verses. (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online). (RPH)

171:10/11 the hermit who did not know the war was over, / or refused to believe it It is said that after World War II, there was a Japanese solider who remained in solitude in the woods of Japan because he could not accept the Japan had lost the war. (JS)

171:27 Marie Celeste A ship abandoned at sea in 1872. It was considered one of the greatest maritime mysteries. The ship was found at sea undamaged with no trace of its crew. (MC)

172:16 the aisles of Vallombrosa Vallombrosa is a summer resort village in the Tuscany region of northern Italy and the site of an 11th century Benedictine monastery. (Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 15 Mar. 2007) (EM)

172:21 I had nowhere to go but home. Yet I was lost This statement resembles the thoughts and feelings of Odysseus as he tried to go home. (DB)

173:3/4 House of memories that grow / like shadows out of Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an American author. He is considered part of the American Romantic movement. His writing is often characterized as dark, dealing with themes of death, decomposition, and mourning. (DC)

173:12 Onan's stain In the Old Testament story of Onan (Genesis 38:8-10), Judah ordered his son Onan to sleep his widowed sister-in-law. However Onan avoided her pregnancy because: "the descendants would not be his own, so whenever he had relations with his brother's wife, he let [the seed, (i.e. the semen)] be lost on the ground." It is this sense that Walcot refers to stain of Onan. As a punishment God killed him. Christian moral teaching condemned it as the sin of Onan, who in the Old Testament was censured for spilling his seed. (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online). (RPH)

173:16 whose dragonned carpets sneer derision Dragon rugs are a kind of Oriental rug. Oriental rugs are handmade and originate in the Far East. (DC)

175:3/4 I saw the white waggons move / across it Refers to the pioneers in covered wagons. (JS)

175:10 Manifest Destiny It was believed that it was the right of the United States to expand the country all the way to the west coast. (JS)

175:18 The spike for the Union Pacific Refers to the golden spike that completed the transcontinental railroad. (JS)

176:19 death from a rusty nail Refers to Jesus Christ's crucification. (MC)

177:4 Trail of Tears The United States government forced many Native Americans, mainly Cherokees, from eastern United States into Oklahoma. Refers to this forced march. (JS)

177:8 Choctaws Native Americans who occupied Mississippi and Alabama. In 1832 they were forced to move to Oklahoma. (MC)

177:13 Jeffersonian ideal Jefferson's dream of an agrarian society of small farms. (MC)

177:20 Oklahoma Destination of those Native Americans who were forced to move to as part of the Trail of Tears. (JS)

179:19 Colonel Cody's circus William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's circus, also known as the "Wild West" Show, traveled throughout the United States and Europe in the late 1800's and early 1900's featuring people like Annie "Little Miss Sure Shot" Oakley and Sitting Bull. (MC)

180:3 Catherine Weldon An artist from Brooklyn, NY who joined an Indian Rights Activist group to help Sitting Bull hold onto Sioux land. She was blamed for causing the death of Sitting Bull. (MC)

181:2 Battle of Saints After the battle at Yorktown during the American Revolution, the naval battle shifted to the West Indies. France's Admiral Comte de Grasse attacked British Admiral George Rodney's fleet. On April 19, 1782, the British broke French lines and the French surrendered. (MC)

181:17 the Crows Lived in western South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. (MC)

182:5 resurrection Rising of the dead. Christ was crucified and rose from the dead on the third day (Easter). (MC)

182:6 blood that we drink Red wine is used to symbolize the blood of Christ offered by Jesus to his disciples. (MC)

182:16 sic transit gloria A shortened version of sic transit gloria mundi, a Latin phrase meaning "Thus passes the glory of the world." (EP)
It can be interpreted as "Worldly things are fleeting." The shortened form is often interpreted to mean "Glory fades," and has the same effect. (DC)

183:5 Caesar Julius Caesar was a Roman statesman and general. He was a member of the Popular party. He was stabbed to death after becoming dictator in the state house by people he referred to as friends. (MC)

183:8 Bayeux It refers the the Bayeux tapestry, a medieval embroidery that shows the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online). (RPH)

183:17 Canaletto Italian Rococo Era painter (1697-1768). (MC)

183:17 Van Gogh (1853-1900) Vincent Van Gogh was a postimpressionist painter. Van Gogh did not begin painting until the last ten years of his life. He is famous for "Starry Night" and "The Night Cafe." (MC)

183:26 The Gulf Stream A system of currents in the North Atlantic. It flows westward off the coast of northern Africa towards the west and northward along the coast of North America. (MC)

184:7 Herman Melville U.S. writer (1819-1891), famous for his masterpiece Moby Dick. (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online). (RPH)

184:15 Saint Gauden Augustus Saint-Gauden (1848-1907) known as one of America's greatest sculptors. (MC)

184:20 Ahab Captain Ahab, one of the characters that appear in Melville's Moby Dick, is obsessed with finding and killing the white whale Moby Dick. (RPH)

184:22 Queequeg Another character in Melville's Moby Dick; he is a native of a fictional Pacific Island. Queequeg is Ishmael's (one of the main characters and narrator in Melville's novel) most trusted friend in the novel. He always carries his harpoon everywhere he goes. (RPH)

186:9 Homer Winslow Homer: American painter (1836-1910) specialized in maritime art. (RPH)



189:4 Ulissibona The Greeks believed that modern day Lisbon, which they called Olissipo, was named after Ulysses (Odysseus), who was thought to have founded the city on his journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. (Morford, Mark and Robert Lenardon. Classical Mythology. New York: David McKay Company, 1977.) (JR)

190.2 Port of Spain The Capital of Trinidad and Tobago. It is a popular site for tourists. It is one of the main shipping areas in the Caribbean. Agricultural products are a large export from this area. (SM)

190.11 Madeira A river formed by the Beni and Mamore rivers. Ocean ships can travel this river until the point near Port Vehlo in Brazil because of rapids. There begins 227 miles of river that ships cannot get through. The river stretches from the Brazil-Bolivia border. (SM)

190:16 Vincentian A member of the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Mission founded by Saint Vincent de Paul in France in 1625. (MC)

191:5 Pope Alexander's decree Refers to his division of the world into the property of Spain and Portugal. (JS)

192:9 port of Genoa Located in Gulf of Genoa, taken over by the French in 1805. (MC)

193:8 Imperial Spain (1479-1898) Began with the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella merging Aragon and Castile, and lasted until Spain lost the rest of its empire in the Spanish-American war. (MC)

193.10 mandolin A musical instrument that has a half pear-shaped body. It is part of the lute family of musical instruments and has strings and a neck that is slightly similar to a guitar appearance, however it is much smaller. (SM)

193:13 circle of Charing Cross The intersection of Charing Cross in London. (JS)

194:5 Gryphons Also known as Griffins. Mythical characters whose top half resembles an eagle (e.g wings and head) and whose bottom half resembles a lion. (JS)

194.24 dromedary A single humped Arabian camel. It is one of the two species of true camel. It is domesticated in Arabia and parts of North Africa. (SM)

196.1 saris A long cloth worn by women in Pakistan and India. It is wrapped around the body as a skirt as well as a head-covering. (SM)

196.2/4 he sees a wide river / with its landing of pier-stakes flooding Westminster's / flagstones The Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster, or Westminster Abbey is a large church in Westminster, London. It is the traditional place for the coronation and burial of English monarchs. (DC)

196:13 the meridian of Greenwich Baseline for the international system of longitude. (MC)

196:16 Big Ben Britain's House of Parliament clock tower constructed in 1844. (MC)

196: 21 Michaelmas Known by other names in different religions, it refers to the Christian feast of St. Michael the Archangel. It is observed in Western churches on September 29 and on November 8 in the Eastern (Orthodox) Church. In Catholicism, it is the Feast of SS. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels; while Anglicans refer to it as the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. (Encyclopedia Britannica) (MG)

197:1 Glen-da-Lough Originally called Irish Glen De meaning "valley of two lakes." (MC)

197:8 The Bloody Tower The Tower in London where many royals were executed. (JS)

197:13 Margate Sands South Coast of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa. (MC)

198:9 Celtic cross A cross in the form of a Latin cross with a ring located from the intersection of the crossbar to the upright shaft. (MC)

198:14 sorrel A type of horse with a reddish-brown coat. (EP)

198:16 missal A religious text, containing all the words and directions for each Catholic Mass celebration of the year. (EP)

200:4/5 A pitted moon / mounted the green pulpit of Sugar Loaf Mountain Refers to a mountain in Ireland. There are actually several mountains with that name in Ireland and throughout the world. The two most notable are Little Sugar Loaf and Great Sugar Loaf, both located in East Wickslow, Ireland. (DC)

200:12 Liffey River in Ireland that flows through Dublin Bay. (MC)

200:19 flaneur A person who wanders idly around an urban setting, making observations. (EP)

202:12-3 Odysseus hears the hill music/through the wormholes of the deck During his return trip to Ithaca, Odysseus is forced to sail past the island of the sirens, bird-like creatures who sing so beautifully that passing mariners run their ships aground. To avoid this, Odysseus orders his men to plug their ears with wax, but has himself lashed to the mast of the ship so that he can safely hear the siren's singing. (Morford, Mark and Robert Lenardon. Classical Mythology. New York: David McKay Company, 1977.) (JR)

204: 14 Saracen During medieval times, this name referred to any person who professed Islam (most notably, Turks and Arabs). The Byzantines and the Crusaders helped spread the name into western Europe. (Encyclopedia Britannica) (MG)

205:3 Velazquez Refers to Diego Velazquez, a Spanish painter of the early 1600s (JS) Famous for "Christ on the Cross" and "Coronation of the Virgin." (MC)

205:6 Schubert Austrian composer of the early 1800s.

205:6-7 Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachlors Duchamp was a Dada artist in the early 1900s. An image of this artwork can be found at: (JS) The painting was displayed once in 1954 before it was broken. (MC)

205:7 Dada This is a pre-surrealism movement that occurred in the late 1910s. It sought to break free from the traditional mode of art and literature. (JS)

205:8 Celan Paul Celan, a post-World War II poet who wrote about the horror of the Holocaust. (JS)

205:8 Max Jacob French surrealist painter and poet. (JS) (1876-1944) He died in a concentration camp in Drancy during WWII. His works included "The Dice Cup" and "Hesitant Fire." (MC)

206:17 fasces A bundle of reeds, symbolizing authority, from which the modern term fascism is derived. These were carried by high officials in Rome to indicate their power. (JR)

207:15 the low hills of Gloucester Gloucester is a city in northeastern Massachusetts, about thirty miles northeast of Boston, which was named for Gloucester, England. It is on the southern shore of Cape Ann and faces Massachusetts Bay. Since it was settled by English colonists in 1623, it has flourished as a maritime and fishing center. The city has inspired a fair amount of literature, including Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous (1897) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Wreck of the Hesperus" (1840). (Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 28 Mar. 2007) (LO)

208:9 Shawmut The Shawmut Peninsula is the terrain feature upon which Boston was first settled and still contains the city's urban core. (Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 15 Mar. 2007) (EM)

208:10 Concord On April 19, 1775, British troops marched from Lexington to Concord to seize munitions from colonists. British troops were ambushed by minutemen. The British lost 273 men. The colonials lost only 95. (MC)

208:15 (see also 209:7) Hussars Members of a cavalry regiment of armies in Europe and Great Britain, based on Hungarian horseman of the 15th century; noted for distinctive dress, also based on Hungarian army. "Death Hussar" (used figuratively) refers to "Black Brunswickers" (so named for their black uniforms) who neither gave nor received quarter in 1809-1813 war with France. (from the Oxford English Dictionary). (EA)

209:2 Boston Harbor Site of the Boston Tea Party. Sons of Liberty dressed up as Mohawk Indians and dumped 342 crates of tea into the harbor. This caused the Coercive Acts, leading to the American Revolution. (MC)

209:5-6 the Finger Lakes A group of narrow, glacial lakes in west-central New York state. The main lakes range from six to forty miles in length and are up to forty miles wide. The region includes over a dozen state parks and is well-known for its scenery, resorts, and vegetation.
(Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 28 Mar. 2007) (LO)

209:7 (see also 208:15) Hussars Members of a cavalry regiment of armies in Europe and Great Britain, based on Hungarian horseman of the 15th century; noted for distinctive dress, also based on Hungarian army. "Death Hussar" (used figuratively) refers to "Black Brunswickers" (so named for their black uniforms) who neither gave nor received quarter in 1809-1813 war with France. (from the Oxford English Dictionary). (EA)

212:15 Zagajewski Adam Zagajewski, a 20th century Polish poet. (JS)

212:15 Herbert Zbigniew Herbert, a 20th century Polish poet. (JS)

212:15 Milosz Czeslaw Milosz, again, a 20th century Polish poet. (JS)

213:6 Great Plains Land of the Plains Indians (Dakotas, Sioux, Cheyenne, and Comanche) This was the region where Wounded Knee took place and the transcontinental railroad went through, killing buffalo. (MC)

214:9 Sioux In 1890, this tribe was confined to reservations. They practiced Ghost Dancing. 300 unarmed Sioux men, women, and children including Sitting Bull and Chief Big Foot were massacred. (MC)

216:5-6 He must be deaf too, I thought, as well as blind This line is a repeat of the one on page 145, lines 22 and 23. Here it is spoken about Omeros by the narrator. (JS)



221.1 Mayagüez A city in Western Puerto Rico that is well known for the embroidery produced there. It is large in shipping and manufacturing. Coffee, tobacco, sugarcane, and livestock are raised and exported, as well as the embroidery. (SM)

221.9 Indian diaspora The people and their ancestors that migrated from places that are now included within the Republic of India. There are more than 20 million people in the Diaspora. These people have kept their cultural and religious backgrounds from their origins. (SM)

223:14 Morris chair A large armchair having an adjustable back and loose removable cushions. (DB)

223:17 like a sail towards Ithaca Indicates that the journey is finally coming to an end, like Odysseus finally heading home to Ithaca. (DB)

223:19 twin-headed January Reference to the Roman two-headed Roman god Janus. Janus could look forward and backward in time because he had two heads. Because of this ability, he was god of doors and gateways (EP)

224:11 Dennery A seaside town of St. Lucia. (DB)

224:15 Dakar A seaport in the capital of Senegal, capital of former French West Africa. (DB)

225:2 zouk Style of dance music that originated in Guadeloupe and Martinique. Caribbean rhythms over a disco beat and played with electric guitars and synthesizers. (DB)
The name is a Creole word meaning 'dance,' probably an alteration of the French word 'mazurka.' ( (EA)

226:28 died in that chariot Refers to Hector dying in his car, like a warrior in his chariot. (DB)

227:12-13 Old oarlocks and rusting fretsaw "Oarlock" refers to a notch where the middle portion of the oar rests when rowing. A fretsaw resembles a coping saw, but it has a deeper frame and is used to make curved outlines.
(Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 28 Mar. 2007) (LO)

228:5 Micoud The Quarter of Micoud is located on the eastern coast of St. Lucia. (CP)

230.14 Scamander Refers to the Küçük Menderes River that flows into the Mediterranean Sea. (SM)

230:23 myrmidons Inhabitants of Phthiotis in Thessaly in Greek legend. Some authorities say they later crossed from Thessaly to Aegina. They were "devoted and fierce" followers of Achilles, and in modern times their name has come to refer to subordinates who ruthlessly carry out orders. (Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 28 Mar. 2007) (LO)

235:17 sibylline Characteristic of a sibyl. (Sybil-prophetess of Greek Mythology.) (DB)

236:1 tisane An infusion of herbs used as a medical beverage. (EA)

237:7 jalousies Blinds or shutters made with horizontal slats that can be adjusted to admit light and air, but exclude rain and sunlight. (DB)

238.24 ospreys Birds that are related to Hawks. They prey on live fish and live in most parts of the world. (SM)

239:12 (see also 127:1, 286:16) horned island In the poem, St. Lucia is frequently called "horned;" this refers to the Pitons (30:25 - see annotation for Pitons). For a photo, see: (EA)

240:7 fecund Capable of producing offspring, fruit, vegetation, etc. in abundance; prolific, fruitful. (DB)

242:21 Erzulie Haitian goddess of love. (DB)

242:22 Shango Orisa god of courage, intelligence, and truth. (DB)

242:22 Ogun Orisa god of strength (MS)

249:10 Morne Morne Trois Pitons National Park on the island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles. (EA)

249:11 Soufrière Active volcano on the island of Guadaloupe in the Caribbean. (EA)

249:12-13 the bubbling pits of/the Malebolge In Dante's Inferno, the Malebolge is the Eighth Circle of Hell, reserved for those who commit the sin of fraud. (Storey, Wayne H. "Mapping Out the New Poetic Terrain: Malebolge and Inferno XVIII." Lectura Dantis 4 (1989)) (EM)

262:1 cenotaph Empty tomb, memorial. (EA)

262:4 dhows Arab sailing vessel, common in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. (EA)

262.4 feluccas A type of sailboat. For a picture, see: (SM)

262:13 Zouave Member of French military unit with a specific uniform and drill. (EA)

262:14 doxies Mistresses or prostitutes. (MC)

262:20 marching to Mafeking's relief Mafeking was a British army garrison in the Northwest province of South Africa besieged by Boers from October 1899 to May 1900 during the South African War. (Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 15 Mar. 2007) (EM)

263:21-23 shadow of Telemachus in me...Maud's fabulous quilt Omeros seems to be able to relate to Telemachus (Odysseus and Penelope's son) in his "absent war." Perhaps Omeros feels he can only stand by and watch his home island fight for its identity, as Telemachus had to stand by and pray for his father's return to end the situation of his city. (DB)

266:4 Les Nympheas Probably a reference to Claude Monet's painting "Les Nympheas, Study of the Morning Water." (CP)

271:9-10 Why not see Helen as the sun saw her, with no Homeric shadow This question seems to ask why make more out of Helen than there really is. The sun sees her in a true and natrual light, not with an ancient story behind her revolving around her name and her beauty. (DB)

274:9 Boxing Day Holiday originated in England in the 19th century under Queen Victoria. It is the first weekday after Christmas. Gifts and money are given to postmen, errand boys, servants, etc. (MC)

275:14/15 its texture is / both acid and sweet like a golden pomme-Cythère A round fruit with a green skin, which turns gold when ripe. Also known as a golden apple. (DC)

275:6 the apple of Venus Venus was a Roman goddess associated with love, beauty, and fertility. The idea of an apple is usually associated with knowledge and the transgression of Eve in the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis. (DC)



283:1-4 The Aegeans chimera...not all the way through. I felt that Omeros was having a conversation with Homer at this point, all through a daydream. Homer speaks of being a heathen, and the people around him not knowing his age. There is the Aegean reference, and the line about writing about a drifter (Odysseus). Omeros then takes a shot at him by saying he never read his story all the way through. (DB)

283:6 Medusa Medusa is the most prominent monster figure in Greek mythology. These monsters are known as Gorgons. Medusa is usually represented as a female with snakes protruding from her head. She is also the only mortal Gorgon. She is often represented as being very beautiful, in opposition to the other Gorgons (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). (KM)

286:16 (see also 127:1, 239:12) horned island In the poem, St. Lucia is frequently called "horned;" this refers to the Pitons (30:25 - see annotation for Pitons). For a photo, see: (EA)

288:10 Comte de Grasse Admiral of the French navy in the American Revolution. He helped win the battle at Yorktown. Disliked by French who believed he favored the British. (MC)

288:11 Menelaus Menelaus was the King of Sparta in Greek mythology. His historically beautiful wife, Helen, was abducted by Paris, Prince of Troy, and this was one of the triggering event of the Trojan War (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). (KM)

289:11 Hephaestus Hephaestus is the god of fire according to Greek religion. He was born lame and was stricken from heaven by his mother, Hera. His father, Zeus, also dispelled from heaven after a family dispute. He was originally a divinity of Asia minor (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). (KM)

296:1 Gilgamesh The Epic of Gilgamesh is thought to be the oldest written story on earth. It comes from ancient Sumeria and was written on 12 clay tablets in cuneiform. The epic is about the adventures of the King of Uruk (approx 2750-2500 BCE). ( (CP)
Gilgamesh was the most famous ancient Mesopotamian hero. He is known as a king who refused to die, and the collection of his stories has been described as an odyssey (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). (KM)

303:21 Regimental mess-jacket Formal-style British military jacket worn from WWI and WWII. (MC)

304: 19 Etty William Etty, an English academic history painter who was also the first to specialize in nude portraits. ( (MG)

304: 20 Alma-Tadema Full name Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a Dutch-born painter who specialized in depicting everyday life in the classical/ancient world. ( (MG)

315:11 Croix de Guerre A medal created in 1915 to commemorate individuals mentioned in dispatches during WWI and WWII. (MC)

317:8 Cherokee Originally, inhabitants of Georgia. They were not a nomadic tribe. During the Trail of Tears they were forced to walk one thousand miles to Oklahoma. (MC)

318:20 Sioux shaman The middleman in communication between mortal and immortal beings. Was the chief negotiator with master spirits and brought the Ghost Dance to Sioux people. (MC)

322:18 Ville de Paris Flagship of Comte de Grasse, who surrendered to Admiral Lord Hood in the Battle of the Saints. (MC)






Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
"The Wreck of the Hesperus"

It was the schooner Hesperus,
  That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
  To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
  Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
  That ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,
  His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
  The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailòr,
  Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
‘I pray thee, put into yonder port,
  For I fear a hurricane.

‘Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
  And to-night no moon we see!’
The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
  And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
  A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
  And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain
  The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
  Then leaped her cable’s length.

‘Come hither! come hither! my little daughtèr,
 And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
  That ever wind did blow.’

He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat
  Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
  And bound her to the mast.

‘O father! I hear the church-bells ring,
  Oh say, what may it be?’
‘’Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!’—
  And he steered for the open sea.

‘O father! I hear the sound of guns,
  Oh say, what may it be?’
‘Some ship in distress, that cannot live
  In such an angry sea!’

‘O father. I see a gleaming light,
  Oh say, what may it be?’
But the father answered never a word,
  A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
  With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
  On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
  That savèd she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
  On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
  Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
  Tow’rds the reef of Norman’s Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between
  A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf
  On the rocks and the hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
  She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
  Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
  Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
  Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
  With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
  Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
  A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
  Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
  The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown seaweed,
  On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
  In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
  On the reef of Norman’s Woe!