Like many, I’ve been completely sucked into Mike White’s dark satire, The White Lotus on HBO.
In the penultimate episode of the first season, “The Lotus-Eaters,” the hotel manager of the Hawaiian resort, Armond, recites four lines of part of Tennyson’s poem, “The Lotos-eaters.” Here is the part in full:
Hateful is the dark-blue sky,
Vaulted o’er the dark-blue sea.
Death is the end of life; ah, why
Should life all labour be?
Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last?
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
In silence; ripen, fall and cease:
Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.
More about the poem here.
The story of the lotus-eaters comes from a tiny little section in chapter 9 of Homer’s The Odyssey. Most of the chapter is about Odysseus’s encounter with the cyclops, but before, they hit the island “of those who live on food from lotus flowers.” Odysseus sends his scouts “to find out / what kind of people lived there on that island.” Here’s the Emily Wilson translation:
The scouts encountered humans. Lotus-Eaters,
who did not hurt them. They just shared with them
their sweet delicious fruit. But as they ate it,
they lost the will to come back and bring news
to me. They wanted only to stay there,
feeding on lotus with the Lotus-Eaters.
They had forgotten home. I dragged them back
in tears, forced them on board…
The mariners in the Tennyson poem are a little different than Odysseus’s men: they know what they’re up to.
Armond himself is a kind of lotus-eater, in two ways: his job is to help his guests forget all their troubles, but he himself has been ingesting substances to escape his own circumstances. Who the hell is Armond, anyways, and who was he that he can recite Tennyson by memory? I guess we might find out Sunday.
* * *
Related reading: Fleabag’s Titian