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? is about the relationship between men and women, and he bases this comparison on the relationship between Kalypso and Odysseus in Homer?s the Odyssey. In ?Calypso? Denver portrays women in general as being superior to men by using the beautiful and enchanting goddess, Kalypso, from Homer?s epic. John Denver encompasses all women in his song by providing Kalypso as a universal symbol. Along with the relationship between Odysseus and Kalypso and men and women, there are other interpreted allusions from the Odyssey to Kalypso?s song.
The relationship between Odysseus and Kalypso influences Denver?s song. Denver uses Kalypso, an immortal and enchanting goddess, to represent women in our society. In the relationship between Odysseus and Kalypso, Odysseus is very inferior to the goddess. He is held on an island for many years serving Kalypso with whatever she demands. Kalypso wants a person whom she can experience companionship with and a person to lay beside her each night. Odysseus obliges even though he claims he is under some sort of trance. This trance or spell he is under is another example of how Kalypso has control over him. This example relates to the overall theme Denver portrays that women are superior to men. Kalypso has the power to control Odysseus against his will.
Along with the relationship between Odysseus and Kalypso, many other allusions to the Odyssey influence ?Calypso.? In the first few lines of the song Denver says, ?To sail on a dream on a crystal clear ocean, to ride on the crest of a wild raging storm.? He uses this 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. He later states, ?To work in the service of life and living, in search of the answers of questions 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. Another interpreted allusion deals with experiencing and growing. Denver sings, ?To be part of the movement and part of the 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 and makes many mistakes, but also learns from these mistakes. The final allusion Denver portrays is influenced by a reference to the aid the gods and goddesses convey toward Odysseus. In the chorus Denver states, ?the things you have shown us,? and later says, ?Like the dolphin who guides us you bring us beside you.? 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 Odyssey influences John Denver?s song ?Calypso? in many ways. The character Kalypso represents the women in society as a whole, while many other interpreted allusions are portrayed throughout the song.