In this Book the reader will observe two distinct parts, which are so often found in Homer and constitute the deepest distinction in his poems: these two parts are the Upper World of the Gods and the Lower World of Man, both of which are shown in action and counteraction. The grand dualism between the mortal and the immortal is fused into a living narrative and makes the warp and woof of Homeric poesy. The general purport of both parts is seen to be the same at bottom: it is to remove the obstacles which stand in the way of the Return of Ulysses to home and country. These obstacles arise from the Gods above and from Nature below—the divine and the physical, though the latter also is presided over by deities. Thus the Greek hero, with the aid of the higher Gods, is to put down the lower ones, or convert them into aids for his advancement towards the grand end, which is his institutional life in Family and State. In this way only can Ulysses, from his alienation, attain unto harmony with himself and with the Divine Order.
The first part of the Book gives the Council of the Gods and its consequences reaching down to the mortal who is the subject of deliberation. We shall note three stages in this movement from Olympus to Earth: (1) Zeus to Hermes, (2) Hermes to Calypso, (3) Calypso to Ulysses. Thus from the highest the decree is brought below and opens the providential way.
The second part deals with the mortal, who is brought into relation with three Gods, all representing phases of the physical element of water: (1) Neptune, the great deity of the sea, (2) Ino Leucothea, a lesser deity of the same, (3) the River-God, through whose channel Ulysses comes at last to land. It is manifest that he must rise beyond these water-divinities with their uncertain fluctuating element, and attain to the fixed earth with its life, ere he can find repose. We shall now develop these two parts of the Book with their subdivisions in the order stated above.