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The Odyssey by Homer

Part 2 out of 7

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at noon the old man of the sea came up too, and when he had
found his fat seals he went over them and counted them. We were
among the first he counted, and he never suspected any guile,
but laid himself down to sleep as soon as he had done counting.
Then we rushed upon him with a shout and seized him; on which he
began at once with his old tricks, and changed himself first
into a lion with a great mane; then all of a sudden he became a
dragon, a leopard, a wild boar; the next moment he was running
water, and then again directly he was a tree, but we stuck to
him and never lost hold, till at last the cunning old creature
became distressed, and said, 'Which of the gods was it, Son of
Atreus, that hatched this plot with you for snaring me and
seizing me against my will? What do you want?'

"'You know that yourself, old man,' I answered, 'you will gain
nothing by trying to put me off. It is because I have been kept
so long in this island, and see no sign of my being able to get
away. I am losing all heart; tell me, then, for you gods know
everything, which of the immortals it is that is hindering me,
and tell me also how I may sail the sea so as to reach my home?'

"Then,' he said, 'if you would finish your voyage and get home
quickly, you must offer sacrifices to Jove and to the rest of
the gods before embarking; for it is decreed that you shall not
get back to your friends, and to your own house, till you have
returned to the heaven-fed stream of Egypt, and offered holy
hecatombs to the immortal gods that reign in heaven. When you
have done this they will let you finish your voyage.'

"I was broken hearted when I heard that I must go back all that
long and terrible voyage to Egypt; {47} nevertheless, I
answered, 'I will do all, old man, that you have laid upon me;
but now tell me, and tell me true, whether all the Achaeans whom
Nestor and I left behind us when we set sail from Troy have got
home safely, or whether any one of them came to a bad end either
on board his own ship or among his friends when the days of his
fighting were done.'

"'Son of Atreus,' he answered, 'why ask me? You had better not
know what I can tell you, for your eyes will surely fill when
you have heard my story. Many of those about whom you ask are
dead and gone, but many still remain, and only two of the chief
men among the Achaeans perished during their return home. As for
what happened on the field of battle--you were there yourself. A
third Achaean leader is still at sea, alive, but hindered from
returning. Ajax was wrecked, for Neptune drove him on to the
great rocks of Gyrae; nevertheless, he let him get safe out of
the water, and in spite of all Minerva's hatred he would have
escaped death, if he had not ruined himself by boasting. He
said the gods could not drown him even though they had tried to
do so, and when Neptune heard this large talk, he seized his
trident in his two brawny hands, and split the rock of Gyrae in
two pieces. The base remained where it was, but the part on
which Ajax was sitting fell headlong into the sea and carried
Ajax with it; so he drank salt water and was drowned.

"'Your brother and his ships escaped, for Juno protected him,
but when he was just about to reach the high promontory of
Malea, he was caught by a heavy gale which carried him out to
sea again sorely against his will, and drove him to the foreland
where Thyestes used to dwell, but where Aegisthus was then
living. By and by, however, it seemed as though he was to return
safely after all, for the gods backed the wind into its old
quarter and they reached home; whereon Agamemnon kissed his
native soil, and shed tears of joy at finding himself in his own

"'Now there was a watchman whom Aegisthus kept always on the
watch, and to whom he had promised two talents of gold. This man
had been looking out for a whole year to make sure that
Agamemnon did not give him the slip and prepare war; when,
therefore, this man saw Agamemnon go by, he went and told
Aegisthus, who at once began to lay a plot for him. He picked
twenty of his bravest warriors and placed them in ambuscade on
one side the cloister, while on the opposite side he prepared a
banquet. Then he sent his chariots and horsemen to Agamemnon,
and invited him to the feast, but he meant foul play. He got him
there, all unsuspicious of the doom that was awaiting him, and
killed him when the banquet was over as though he were
butchering an ox in the shambles; not one of Agamemnon's
followers was left alive, nor yet one of Aegisthus', but they
were all killed there in the cloisters.'

"Thus spoke Proteus, and I was broken hearted as I heard him. I
sat down upon the sands and wept; I felt as though I could no
longer bear to live nor look upon the light of the sun.
Presently, when I had had my fill of weeping and writhing upon
the ground, the old man of the sea said, 'Son of Atreus, do not
waste any more time in crying so bitterly; it can do no manner
of good; find your way home as fast as ever you can, for
Aegisthus may be still alive, and even though Orestes has been
beforehand with you in killing him, you may yet come in for his

"On this I took comfort in spite of all my sorrow, and said, 'I
know, then, about these two; tell me, therefore, about the third
man of whom you spoke; is he still alive, but at sea, and unable
to get home? or is he dead? Tell me, no matter how much it may
grieve me.'

"'The third man,' he answered, 'is Ulysses who dwells in Ithaca.
I can see him in an island sorrowing bitterly in the house of
the nymph Calypso, who is keeping him prisoner, and he cannot
reach his home for he has no ships nor sailors to take him over
the sea. As for your own end, Menelaus, you shall not die in
Argos, but the gods will take you to the Elysian plain, which is
at the ends of the world. There fair-haired Rhadamanthus reigns,
and men lead an easier life than any where else in the world,
for in Elysium there falls not rain, nor hail, nor snow, but
Oceanus breathes ever with a West wind that sings softly from
the sea, and gives fresh life to all men. This will happen to
you because you have married Helen, and are Jove's son-in-law.'

"As he spoke he dived under the waves, whereon I turned back to
the ships with my companions, and my heart was clouded with care
as I went along. When we reached the ships we got supper ready,
for night was falling, and camped down upon the beach. When the
child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we drew our ships
into the water, and put our masts and sails within them; then we
went on board ourselves, took our seats on the benches, and
smote the grey sea with our oars. I again stationed my ships in
the heaven-fed stream of Egypt, and offered hecatombs that were
full and sufficient. When I had thus appeased heaven's anger, I
raised a barrow to the memory of Agamemnon that his name might
live for ever, after which I had a quick passage home, for the
gods sent me a fair wind.

"And now for yourself--stay here some ten or twelve days longer,
and I will then speed you on your way. I will make you a noble
present of a chariot and three horses. I will also give you a
beautiful chalice that so long as you live you may think of me
whenever you make a drink-offering to the immortal gods."

"Son of Atreus," replied Telemachus, "do not press me to stay
longer; I should be contented to remain with you for another
twelve months; I find your conversation so delightful that I
should never once wish myself at home with my parents; but my
crew whom I have left at Pylos are already impatient, and you
are detaining me from them. As for any present you may be
disposed to make me, I had rather that it should be a piece of
plate. I will take no horses back with me to Ithaca, but will
leave them to adorn your own stables, for you have much flat
ground in your kingdom where lotus thrives, as also meadow-sweet
and wheat and barley, and oats with their white and spreading
ears; whereas in Ithaca we have neither open fields nor
racecourses, and the country is more fit for goats than horses,
and I like it the better for that. {48} None of our islands have
much level ground, suitable for horses, and Ithaca least of

Menelaus smiled and took Telemachus's hand within his own.
"What you say," said he, "shows that you come of good family. I
both can, and will, make this exchange for you, by giving you
the finest and most precious piece of plate in all my house. It
is a mixing bowl by Vulcan's own hand, of pure silver, except
the rim, which is inlaid with gold. Phaedimus, king of the
Sidonians, gave it me in the course of a visit which I paid him
when I returned thither on my homeward journey. I will make you
a present of it."

Thus did they converse [and guests kept coming to the king's
house. They brought sheep and wine, while their wives had put up
bread for them to take with them; so they were busy cooking
their dinners in the courts]. {49}

Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs or aiming with spears
at a mark on the levelled ground in front of Ulysses' house, and
were behaving with all their old insolence. Antinous and
Eurymachus, who were their ringleaders and much the foremost
among them all, were sitting together when Noemon son of
Phronius came up and said to Antinous,

"Have we any idea, Antinous, on what day Telemachus returns from
Pylos? He has a ship of mine, and I want it, to cross over to
Elis: I have twelve brood mares there with yearling mule foals
by their side not yet broken in, and I want to bring one of them
over here and break him."

They were astounded when they heard this, for they had made sure
that Telemachus had not gone to the city of Neleus. They
thought he was only away somewhere on the farms, and was with
the sheep, or with the swineherd; so Antinous said, "When did he
go? Tell me truly, and what young men did he take with him? Were
they freemen or his own bondsmen--for he might manage that too?
Tell me also, did you let him have the ship of your own free
will because he asked you, or did he take it without your

"I lent it him," answered Noemon, "what else could I do when a
man of his position said he was in a difficulty, and asked me to
oblige him? I could not possibly refuse. As for those who went
with him they were the best young men we have, and I saw Mentor
go on board as captain--or some god who was exactly like him. I
cannot understand it, for I saw Mentor here myself yesterday
morning, and yet he was then setting out for Pylos."

Noemon then went back to his father's house, but Antinous and
Eurymachus were very angry. They told the others to leave off
playing, and to come and sit down along with themselves. When
they came, Antinous son of Eupeithes spoke in anger. His heart
was black with rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he said:

"Good heavens, this voyage of Telemachus is a very serious
matter; we had made sure that it would come to nothing, but the
young fellow has got away in spite of us, and with a picked crew
too. He will be giving us trouble presently; may Jove take him
before he is full grown. Find me a ship, therefore, with a crew
of twenty men, and I will lie in wait for him in the straits
between Ithaca and Samos; he will then rue the day that he set
out to try and get news of his father."

Thus did he speak, and the others applauded his saying; they
then all of them went inside the buildings.

It was not long ere Penelope came to know what the suitors were
plotting; for a man servant, Medon, overheard them from outside
the outer court as they were laying their schemes within, and
went to tell his mistress. As he crossed the threshold of her
room Penelope said: "Medon, what have the suitors sent you here
for? Is it to tell the maids to leave their master's business
and cook dinner for them? I wish they may neither woo nor dine
henceforward, neither here nor anywhere else, but let this be
the very last time, for the waste you all make of my son's
estate. Did not your fathers tell you when you were children,
how good Ulysses had been to them--never doing anything
high-handed, nor speaking harshly to anybody? Kings may say
things sometimes, and they may take a fancy to one man and
dislike another, but Ulysses never did an unjust thing by
anybody--which shows what bad hearts you have, and that there is
no such thing as gratitude left in this world."

Then Medon said, "I wish, Madam, that this were all; but they
are plotting something much more dreadful now--may heaven
frustrate their design. They are going to try and murder
Telemachus as he is coming home from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where
he has been to get news of his father."

Then Penelope's heart sank within her, and for a long time she
was speechless; her eyes filled with tears, and she could find
no utterance. At last, however, she said, "Why did my son leave
me? What business had he to go sailing off in ships that make
long voyages over the ocean like sea-horses? Does he want to die
without leaving any one behind him to keep up his name?"

"I do not know," answered Medon, "whether some god set him on to
it, or whether he went on his own impulse to see if he could
find out if his father was dead, or alive and on his way home."

Then he went downstairs again, leaving Penelope in an agony of
grief. There were plenty of seats in the house, but she had no
heart for sitting on any one of them; she could only fling
herself on the floor of her own room and cry; whereon all the
maids in the house, both old and young, gathered round her and
began to cry too, till at last in a transport of sorrow she

"My dears, heaven has been pleased to try me with more
affliction than any other woman of my age and country. First I
lost my brave and lion-hearted husband, who had every good
quality under heaven, and whose name was great over all Hellas
and middle Argos, and now my darling son is at the mercy of the
winds and waves, without my having heard one word about his
leaving home. You hussies, there was not one of you would so
much as think of giving me a call out of my bed, though you all
of you very well knew when he was starting. If I had known he
meant taking this voyage, he would have had to give it up, no
matter how much he was bent upon it, or leave me a corpse behind
him--one or other. Now, however, go some of you and call old
Dolius, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and who is
my gardener. Bid him go at once and tell everything to Laertes,
who may be able to hit on some plan for enlisting public
sympathy on our side, as against those who are trying to
exterminate his own race and that of Ulysses."

Then the dear old nurse Euryclea said, "You may kill me, Madam,
or let me live on in your house, whichever you please, but I
will tell you the real truth. I knew all about it, and gave him
everything he wanted in the way of bread and wine, but he made
me take my solemn oath that I would not tell you anything for
some ten or twelve days, unless you asked or happened to hear of
his having gone, for he did not want you to spoil your beauty by
crying. And now, Madam, wash your face, change your dress, and
go upstairs with your maids to offer prayers to Minerva,
daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, for she can save him even though
he be in the jaws of death. Do not trouble Laertes: he has
trouble enough already. Besides, I cannot think that the gods
hate the race of the son of Arceisius so much, but there will be
a son left to come up after him, and inherit both the house and
the fair fields that lie far all round it."

With these words she made her mistress leave off crying, and
dried the tears from her eyes. Penelope washed her face, changed
her dress, and went upstairs with her maids. She then put some
bruised barley into a basket and began praying to Minerva.

"Hear me," she cried, "Daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove,
unweariable. If ever Ulysses while he was here burned you fat
thigh bones of sheep or heifer, bear it in mind now as in my
favour, and save my darling son from the villainy of the

She cried aloud as she spoke, and the goddess heard her prayer;
meanwhile the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered
cloister, and one of them said:

"The queen is preparing for her marriage with one or other of
us. Little does she dream that her son has now been doomed to

This was what they said, but they did not know what was going to
happen. Then Antinous said, "Comrades, let there be no loud
talking, lest some of it get carried inside. Let us be up and
do that in silence, about which we are all of a mind."

He then chose twenty men, and they went down to their ship and
to the sea side; they drew the vessel into the water and got her
mast and sails inside her; they bound the oars to the thole-pins
with twisted thongs of leather, all in due course, and spread
the white sails aloft, while their fine servants brought them
their armour. Then they made the ship fast a little way out,
came on shore again, got their suppers, and waited till night
should fall.

But Penelope lay in her own room upstairs unable to eat or
drink, and wondering whether her brave son would escape, or be
overpowered by the wicked suitors. Like a lioness caught in the
toils with huntsmen hemming her in on every side she thought and
thought till she sank into a slumber, and lay on her bed bereft
of thought and motion.

Then Minerva bethought her of another matter, and made a vision
in the likeness of Penelope's sister Iphthime daughter of
Icarius who had married Eumelus and lived in Pherae. She told
the vision to go to the house of Ulysses, and to make Penelope
leave off crying, so it came into her room by the hole through
which the thong went for pulling the door to, and hovered over
her head saying,

"You are asleep, Penelope: the gods who live at ease will not
suffer you to weep and be so sad. Your son has done them no
wrong, so he will yet come back to you."

Penelope, who was sleeping sweetly at the gates of dreamland,
answered, "Sister, why have you come here? You do not come very
often, but I suppose that is because you live such a long way
off. Am I, then, to leave off crying and refrain from all the
sad thoughts that torture me? I, who have lost my brave and
lion-hearted husband, who had every good quality under heaven,
and whose name was great over all Hellas and middle Argos; and
now my darling son has gone off on board of a ship--a foolish
fellow who has never been used to roughing it, nor to going
about among gatherings of men. I am even more anxious about him
than about my husband; I am all in a tremble when I think of
him, lest something should happen to him, either from the people
among whom he has gone, or by sea, for he has many enemies who
are plotting against him, and are bent on killing him before he
can return home."

Then the vision said, "Take heart, and be not so much dismayed.
There is one gone with him whom many a man would be glad enough
to have stand by his side, I mean Minerva; it is she who has
compassion upon you, and who has sent me to bear you this

"Then," said Penelope, "if you are a god or have been sent here
by divine commission, tell me also about that other unhappy
one--is he still alive, or is he already dead and in the house
of Hades?"

And the vision said, "I shall not tell you for certain whether
he is alive or dead, and there is no use in idle conversation."

Then it vanished through the thong-hole of the door and was
dissipated into thin air; but Penelope rose from her sleep
refreshed and comforted, so vivid had been her dream.

Meantime the suitors went on board and sailed their ways over
the sea, intent on murdering Telemachus. Now there is a rocky
islet called Asteris, of no great size, in mid channel between
Ithaca and Samos, and there is a harbour on either side of it
where a ship can lie. Here then the Achaeans placed themselves
in ambush.

Book V


And now, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus--harbinger
of light alike to mortals and immortals--the gods met in council
and with them, Jove the lord of thunder, who is their king.
Thereon Minerva began to tell them of the many sufferings of
Ulysses, for she pitied him away there in the house of the nymph

"Father Jove," said she, "and all you other gods that live in
everlasting bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a
kind and well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern
equitably. I hope they will be all henceforth cruel and unjust,
for there is not one of his subjects but has forgotten Ulysses,
who ruled them as though he were their father. There he is,
lying in great pain in an island where dwells the nymph Calypso,
who will not let him go; and he cannot get back to his own
country, for he can find neither ships nor sailors to take him
over the sea. Furthermore, wicked people are now trying to
murder his only son Telemachus, who is coming home from Pylos
and Lacedaemon, where he has been to see if he can get news of
his father."

"What, my dear, are you talking about?" replied her father, "did
you not send him there yourself, because you thought it would
help Ulysses to get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you
are perfectly able to protect Telemachus, and to see him safely
home again, while the suitors have to come hurry-skurrying back
without having killed him."

When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Mercury, "Mercury,
you are our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have
decreed that poor Ulysses is to return home. He is to be
convoyed neither by gods nor men, but after a perilous voyage of
twenty days upon a raft he is to reach fertile Scheria, {50} the
land of the Phaeacians, who are near of kin to the gods, and
will honour him as though he were one of ourselves. They will
send him in a ship to his own country, and will give him more
bronze and gold and raiment than he would have brought back from
Troy, if he had had all his prize money and had got home without
disaster. This is how we have settled that he shall return to
his country and his friends."

Thus he spoke, and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus,
did as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden
sandals with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea.
He took the wand with which he seals men's eyes in sleep or
wakes them just as he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand
over Pieria; then he swooped down through the firmament till he
reached the level of the sea, whose waves he skimmed like a
cormorant that flies fishing every hole and corner of the ocean,
and drenching its thick plumage in the spray. He flew and flew
over many a weary wave, but when at last he got to the island
which was his journey's end, he left the sea and went on by land
till he came to the cave where the nymph Calypso lived.

He found her at home. There was a large fire burning on the
hearth, and one could smell from far the fragrant reek of
burning cedar and sandal wood. As for herself, she was busy at
her loom, shooting her golden shuttle through the warp and
singing beautifully. Round her cave there was a thick wood of
alder, poplar, and sweet smelling cypress trees, wherein all
kinds of great birds had built their nests--owls, hawks, and
chattering sea-crows that occupy their business in the waters. A
vine loaded with grapes was trained and grew luxuriantly about
the mouth of the cave; there were also four running rills of
water in channels cut pretty close together, and turned hither
and thither so as to irrigate the beds of violets and luscious
herbage over which they flowed. {51} Even a god could not help
being charmed with such a lovely spot, so Mercury stood still
and looked at it; but when he had admired it sufficiently he
went inside the cave.

Calypso knew him at once--for the gods all know each other, no
matter how far they live from one another--but Ulysses was not
within; he was on the sea-shore as usual, looking out upon the
barren ocean with tears in his eyes, groaning and breaking his
heart for sorrow. Calypso gave Mercury a seat and said: "Why
have you come to see me, Mercury--honoured, and ever
welcome--for you do not visit me often? Say what you want; I
will do it for you at once if I can, and if it can be done at
all; but come inside, and let me set refreshment before you."

As she spoke she drew a table loaded with ambrosia beside him
and mixed him some red nectar, so Mercury ate and drank till he
had had enough, and then said:

"We are speaking god and goddess to one another, and you ask me
why I have come here, and I will tell you truly as you would
have me do. Jove sent me; it was no doing of mine; who could
possibly want to come all this way over the sea where there are
no cities full of people to offer me sacrifices or choice
hecatombs? Nevertheless I had to come, for none of us other
gods can cross Jove, nor transgress his orders. He says that you
have here the most ill-starred of all those who fought nine
years before the city of King Priam and sailed home in the tenth
year after having sacked it. On their way home they sinned
against Minerva, {52} who raised both wind and waves against
them, so that all his brave companions perished, and he alone
was carried hither by wind and tide. Jove says that you are to
let this man go at once, for it is decreed that he shall not
perish here, far from his own people, but shall return to his
house and country and see his friends again."

Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, "You gods," she
exclaimed, "ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always
jealous and hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man,
and live with him in open matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn
made love to Orion, you precious gods were all of you furious
till Diana went and killed him in Ortygia. So again when Ceres
fell in love with Iasion, and yielded to him in a
thrice-ploughed fallow field, Jove came to hear of it before so
very long and killed Iasion with his thunderbolts. And now you
are angry with me too because I have a man here. I found the
poor creature sitting all alone astride of a keel, for Jove had
struck his ship with lightning and sunk it in mid ocean, so that
all his crew were drowned, while he himself was driven by wind
and waves on to my island. I got fond of him and cherished him,
and had set my heart on making him immortal, so that he should
never grow old all his days; still I cannot cross Jove, nor
bring his counsels to nothing; therefore, if he insists upon it,
let the man go beyond the seas again; but I cannot send him
anywhere myself for I have neither ships nor men who can take
him. Nevertheless I will readily give him such advice, in all
good faith, as will be likely to bring him safely to his own

"Then send him away," said Mercury, "or Jove will be angry with
you and punish you".

On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for
Ulysses, for she had heard Jove's message. She found him sitting
upon the beach with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying
of sheer home sickness; for he had got tired of Calypso, and
though he was forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it
was she, not he, that would have it so. As for the day time, he
spent it on the rocks and on the sea shore, weeping, crying
aloud for his despair, and always looking out upon the sea.
Calypso then went close up to him said:

"My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting
your life out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own
free will; so go, cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a
large raft with an upper deck that it may carry you safely over
the sea. I will put bread, wine, and water on board to save you
from starving. I will also give you clothes, and will send you a
fair wind to take you home, if the gods in heaven so will
it--for they know more about these things, and can settle them
better than I can."

Ulysses shuddered as he heard her. "Now goddess," he answered,
"there is something behind all this; you cannot be really
meaning to help me home when you bid me do such a dreadful thing
as put to sea on a raft. Not even a well found ship with a fair
wind could venture on such a distant voyage: nothing that you
can say or do shall make me go on board a raft unless you first
solemnly swear that you mean me no mischief."

Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: "You know
a great deal," said she, "but you are quite wrong here. May
heaven above and earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of
the river Styx--and this is the most solemn oath which a blessed
god can take--that I mean you no sort of harm, and am only
advising you to do exactly what I should do myself in your
place. I am dealing with you quite straightforwardly; my heart
is not made of iron, and I am very sorry for you."

When she had thus spoken she led the way rapidly before him, and
Ulysses followed in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man,
went on and on till they came to Calypso's cave, where Ulysses
took the seat that Mercury had just left. Calypso set meat and
drink before him of the food that mortals eat; but her maids
brought ambrosia and nectar for herself, and they laid their
hands on the good things that were before them. When they had
satisfied themselves with meat and drink, Calypso spoke, saying:

"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your
own land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only
know how much suffering is in store for you before you get back
to your own country, you would stay where you are, keep house
along with me, and let me make you immortal, no matter how
anxious you may be to see this wife of yours, of whom you are
thinking all the time day after day; yet I flatter myself that I
am no whit less tall or well-looking than she is, for it is not
to be expected that a mortal woman should compare in beauty with
an immortal."

"Goddess," replied Ulysses, "do not be angry with me about this.
I am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall
or so beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you
are an immortal. Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think
of nothing else. If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I
will bear it and make the best of it. I have had infinite
trouble both by land and sea already, so let this go with the

Presently the sun set and it became dark, whereon the pair
retired into the inner part of the cave and went to bed.

When the child of morning rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, Ulysses
put on his shirt and cloak, while the goddess wore a dress of a
light gossamer fabric, very fine and graceful, with a beautiful
golden girdle about her waist and a veil to cover her head. She
at once set herself to think how she could speed Ulysses on his
way. So she gave him a great bronze axe that suited his hands;
it was sharpened on both sides, and had a beautiful olive-wood
handle fitted firmly on to it. She also gave him a sharp adze,
and then led the way to the far end of the island where the
largest trees grew--alder, poplar and pine, that reached the
sky--very dry and well seasoned, so as to sail light for him in
the water. {53} Then, when she had shown him where the best
trees grew, Calypso went home, leaving him to cut them, which he
soon finished doing. He cut down twenty trees in all and adzed
them smooth, squaring them by rule in good workmanlike fashion.
Meanwhile Calypso came back with some augers, so he bored holes
with them and fitted the timbers together with bolts and rivets.
He made the raft as broad as a skilled shipwright makes the beam
of a large vessel, and he fixed a deck on top of the ribs, and
ran a gunwale all round it. He also made a mast with a yard arm,
and a rudder to steer with. He fenced the raft all round with
wicker hurdles as a protection against the waves, and then he
threw on a quantity of wood. By and by Calypso brought him some
linen to make the sails, and he made these too, excellently,
making them fast with braces and sheets. Last of all, with the
help of levers, he drew the raft down into the water.

In four days he had completed the whole work, and on the fifth
Calypso sent him from the island after washing him and giving
him some clean clothes. She gave him a goat skin full of black
wine, and another larger one of water; she also gave him a
wallet full of provisions, and found him in much good meat.
Moreover, she made the wind fair and warm for him, and gladly
did Ulysses spread his sail before it, while he sat and guided
the raft skilfully by means of the rudder. He never closed his
eyes, but kept them fixed on the Pleiads, on late-setting
Bootes, and on the Bear--which men also call the wain, and which
turns round and round where it is, facing Orion, and alone never
dipping into the stream of Oceanus--for Calypso had told him to
keep this to his left. Days seven and ten did he sail over the
sea, and on the eighteenth the dim outlines of the mountains on
the nearest part of the Phaeacian coast appeared, rising like a
shield on the horizon.

But King Neptune, who was returning from the Ethiopians, caught
sight of Ulysses a long way off, from the mountains of the
Solymi. He could see him sailing upon the sea, and it made him
very angry, so he wagged his head and muttered to himself,
saying, "Good heavens, so the gods have been changing their
minds about Ulysses while I was away in Ethiopia, and now he is
close to the land of the Phaeacians, where it is decreed that he
shall escape from the calamities that have befallen him. Still,
he shall have plenty of hardship yet before he has done with

Thereon he gathered his clouds together, grasped his trident,
stirred it round in the sea, and roused the rage of every wind
that blows till earth, sea, and sky were hidden in cloud, and
night sprang forth out of the heavens. Winds from East, South,
North, and West fell upon him all at the same time, and a
tremendous sea got up, so that Ulysses' heart began to fail him.
"Alas," he said to himself in his dismay, "what ever will become
of me? I am afraid Calypso was right when she said I should have
trouble by sea before I got back home. It is all coming true.
How black is Jove making heaven with his clouds, and what a sea
the winds are raising from every quarter at once. I am now safe
to perish. Blest and thrice blest were those Danaans who fell
before Troy in the cause of the sons of Atreus. Would that I had
been killed on the day when the Trojans were pressing me so
sorely about the dead body of Achilles, for then I should have
had due burial and the Achaeans would have honoured my name; but
now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end."

As he spoke a sea broke over him with such terrific fury that
the raft reeled again, and he was carried overboard a long way
off. He let go the helm, and the force of the hurricane was so
great that it broke the mast half way up, and both sail and yard
went over into the sea. For a long time Ulysses was under water,
and it was all he could do to rise to the surface again, for the
clothes Calypso had given him weighed him down; but at last he
got his head above water and spat out the bitter brine that was
running down his face in streams. In spite of all this, however,
he did not lose sight of his raft, but swam as fast as he could
towards it, got hold of it, and climbed on board again so as to
escape drowning. The sea took the raft and tossed it about as
Autumn winds whirl thistledown round and round upon a road. It
was as though the South, North, East, and West winds were all
playing battledore and shuttlecock with it at once.

When he was in this plight, Ino daughter of Cadmus, also called
Leucothea, saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had
been since raised to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in
what great distress Ulysses now was, she had compassion upon
him, and, rising like a sea-gull from the waves, took her seat
upon the raft.

"My poor good man," said she, "why is Neptune so furiously angry
with you? He is giving you a great deal of trouble, but for all
his bluster he will not kill you. You seem to be a sensible
person, do then as I bid you; strip, leave your raft to drive
before the wind, and swim to the Phaeacian coast where better
luck awaits you. And here, take my veil and put it round your
chest; it is enchanted, and you can come to no harm so long as
you wear it. As soon as you touch land take it off, throw it
back as far as you can into the sea, and then go away again."
With these words she took off her veil and gave it him. Then she
dived down again like a sea-gull and vanished beneath the dark
blue waters.

But Ulysses did not know what to think. "Alas," he said to
himself in his dismay, "this is only some one or other of the
gods who is luring me to ruin by advising me to quit my raft. At
any rate I will not do so at present, for the land where she
said I should be quit of all troubles seemed to be still a good
way off. I know what I will do--I am sure it will be best--no
matter what happens I will stick to the raft as long as her
timbers hold together, but when the sea breaks her up I will
swim for it; I do not see how I can do any better than this."

While he was thus in two minds, Neptune sent a terrible great
wave that seemed to rear itself above his head till it broke
right over the raft, which then went to pieces as though it were
a heap of dry chaff tossed about by a whirlwind. Ulysses got
astride of one plank and rode upon it as if he were on
horseback; he then took off the clothes Calypso had given him,
bound Ino's veil under his arms, and plunged into the
sea--meaning to swim on shore. King Neptune watched him as he
did so, and wagged his head, muttering to himself and saying,
"There now, swim up and down as you best can till you fall in
with well-to-do people. I do not think you will be able to say
that I have let you off too lightly." On this he lashed his
horses and drove to Aegae where his palace is.

But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of
all the winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she
roused a good stiff breeze from the North that should lay the
waters till Ulysses reached the land of the Phaeacians where he
would be safe.

Thereon he floated about for two nights and two days in the
water, with a heavy swell on the sea and death staring him in
the face; but when the third day broke, the wind fell and there
was a dead calm without so much as a breath of air stirring. As
he rose on the swell he looked eagerly ahead, and could see land
quite near. Then, as children rejoice when their dear father
begins to get better after having for a long time borne sore
affliction sent him by some angry spirit, but the gods deliver
him from evil, so was Ulysses thankful when he again saw land
and trees, and swam on with all his strength that he might once
more set foot upon dry ground. When, however, he got within
earshot, he began to hear the surf thundering up against the
rocks, for the swell still broke against them with a terrific
roar. Everything was enveloped in spray; there were no harbours
where a ship might ride, nor shelter of any kind, but only
headlands, low-lying rocks, and mountain tops.

Ulysses' heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly
to himself, "Alas, Jove has let me see land after swimming so
far that I had given up all hope, but I can find no landing
place, for the coast is rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are
smooth and rise sheer from the sea, with deep water close under
them so that I cannot climb out for want of foot hold. I am
afraid some great wave will lift me off my legs and dash me
against the rocks as I leave the water--which would give me a
sorry landing. If, on the other hand, I swim further in search
of some shelving beach or harbour, a hurricane may carry me out
to sea again sorely against my will, or heaven may send some
great monster of the deep to attack me; for Amphitrite breeds
many such, and I know that Neptune is very angry with me."

While he was thus in two minds a wave caught him and took him
with such force against the rocks that he would have been
smashed and torn to pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to
do. He caught hold of the rock with both hands and clung to it
groaning with pain till the wave retired, so he was saved that
time; but presently the wave came on again and carried him back
with it far into the sea--tearing his hands as the suckers of a
polypus are torn when some one plucks it from its bed, and the
stones come up along with it--even so did the rocks tear the
skin from his strong hands, and then the wave drew him deep down
under the water.

Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of
his own destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits
about him. He swam seaward again, beyond reach of the surf that
was beating against the land, and at the same time he kept
looking towards the shore to see if he could find some haven, or
a spit that should take the waves aslant. By and by, as he swam
on, he came to the mouth of a river, and here he thought would
be the best place, for there were no rocks, and it afforded
shelter from the wind. He felt that there was a current, so he
prayed inwardly and said:

"Hear me, O King, whoever you may be, and save me from the anger
of the sea-god Neptune, for I approach you prayerfully. Any one
who has lost his way has at all times a claim even upon the
gods, wherefore in my distress I draw near to your stream, and
cling to the knees of your riverhood. Have mercy upon me, O
king, for I declare myself your suppliant."

Then the god staid his stream and stilled the waves, making all
calm before him, and bringing him safely into the mouth of the
river. Here at last Ulysses' knees and strong hands failed him,
for the sea had completely broken him. His body was all swollen,
and his mouth and nostrils ran down like a river with sea-water,
so that he could neither breathe nor speak, and lay swooning
from sheer exhaustion; presently, when he had got his breath and
came to himself again, he took off the scarf that Ino had given
him and threw it back into the salt {54} stream of the river,
whereon Ino received it into her hands from the wave that bore
it towards her. Then he left the river, laid himself down among
the rushes, and kissed the bounteous earth.

"Alas," he cried to himself in his dismay, "what ever will
become of me, and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the
river bed through the long watches of the night, I am so
exhausted that the bitter cold and damp may make an end of
me--for towards sunrise there will be a keen wind blowing from
off the river. If, on the other hand, I climb the hill side,
find shelter in the woods, and sleep in some thicket, I may
escape the cold and have a good night's rest, but some savage
beast may take advantage of me and devour me."

In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found
one upon some high ground not far from the water. There he
crept beneath two shoots of olive that grew from a single
stock--the one an ungrafted sucker, while the other had been
grafted. No wind, however squally, could break through the cover
they afforded, nor could the sun's rays pierce them, nor the
rain get through them, so closely did they grow into one
another. Ulysses crept under these and began to make himself a
bed to lie on, for there was a great litter of dead leaves lying
about--enough to make a covering for two or three men even in
hard winter weather. He was glad enough to see this, so he laid
himself down and heaped the leaves all round him. Then, as one
who lives alone in the country, far from any neighbor, hides a
brand as fire-seed in the ashes to save himself from having to
get a light elsewhere, even so did Ulysses cover himself up with
leaves; and Minerva shed a sweet sleep upon his eyes, closed his
eyelids, and made him lose all memories of his sorrows.

Book VI


So here Ulysses slept, overcome by sleep and toil; but Minerva
went off to the country and city of the Phaeacians--a people
who used to live in the fair town of Hypereia, near the lawless
Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes were stronger than they and plundered
them, so their king Nausithous moved them thence and settled
them in Scheria, far from all other people. He surrounded the
city with a wall, built houses and temples, and divided the
lands among his people; but he was dead and gone to the house of
Hades, and King Alcinous, whose counsels were inspired of
heaven, was now reigning. To his house, then, did Minerva hie in
furtherance of the return of Ulysses.

She went straight to the beautifully decorated bedroom in which
there slept a girl who was as lovely as a goddess, Nausicaa,
daughter to King Alcinous. Two maid servants were sleeping near
her, both very pretty, one on either side of the doorway, which
was closed with well made folding doors. Minerva took the form
of the famous sea captain Dymas's daughter, who was a bosom
friend of Nausicaa and just her own age; then, coming up to the
girl's bedside like a breath of wind, she hovered over her head
and said:

"Nausicaa, what can your mother have been about, to have such a
lazy daughter? Here are your clothes all lying in disorder, yet
you are going to be married almost immediately, and should not
only be well dressed yourself, but should find good clothes for
those who attend you. This is the way to get yourself a good
name, and to make your father and mother proud of you. Suppose,
then, that we make tomorrow a washing day, and start at
daybreak. I will come and help you so that you may have
everything ready as soon as possible, for all the best young men
among your own people are courting you, and you are not going to
remain a maid much longer. Ask your father, therefore, to have a
waggon and mules ready for us at daybreak, to take the rugs,
robes, and girdles, and you can ride, too, which will be much
pleasanter for you than walking, for the washing-cisterns are
some way from the town."

When she had said this Minerva went away to Olympus, which they
say is the everlasting home of the gods. Here no wind beats
roughly, and neither rain nor snow can fall; but it abides in
everlasting sunshine and in a great peacefulness of light,
wherein the blessed gods are illumined for ever and ever. This
was the place to which the goddess went when she had given
instructions to the girl.

By and by morning came and woke Nausicaa, who began wondering
about her dream; she therefore went to the other end of the
house to tell her father and mother all about it, and found them
in their own room. Her mother was sitting by the fireside
spinning her purple yarn with her maids around her, and she
happened to catch her father just as he was going out to attend
a meeting of the town council, which the Phaeacian aldermen had
convened. She stopped him and said:

"Papa dear, could you manage to let me have a good big waggon? I
want to take all our dirty clothes to the river and wash them.
You are the chief man here, so it is only right that you should
have a clean shirt when you attend meetings of the council.
Moreover, you have five sons at home, two of them married, while
the other three are good looking bachelors; you know they always
like to have clean linen when they go to a dance, and I have
been thinking about all this."

She did not say a word about her own wedding, for she did not
like to, but her father knew and said, "You shall have the
mules, my love, and whatever else you have a mind for. Be off
with you, and the men shall get you a good strong waggon with a
body to it that will hold all your clothes."

On this he gave his orders to the servants, who got the waggon
out, harnessed the mules, and put them to, while the girl
brought the clothes down from the linen room and placed them on
the waggon. Her mother prepared her a basket of provisions with
all sorts of good things, and a goat skin full of wine; the girl
now got into the waggon, and her mother gave her also a golden
cruse of oil, that she and her women might anoint themselves.
Then she took the whip and reins and lashed the mules on,
whereon they set off, and their hoofs clattered on the road.
They pulled without flagging, and carried not only Nausicaa and
her wash of clothes, but the maids also who were with her.

When they reached the water side they went to the washing
cisterns, through which there ran at all times enough pure water
to wash any quantity of linen, no matter how dirty. Here they
unharnessed the mules and turned them out to feed on the sweet
juicy herbage that grew by the water side. They took the clothes
out of the waggon, put them in the water, and vied with one
another in treading them in the pits to get the dirt out. After
they had washed them and got them quite clean, they laid them
out by the sea side, where the waves had raised a high beach of
shingle, and set about washing themselves and anointing
themselves with olive oil. Then they got their dinner by the
side of the stream, and waited for the sun to finish drying the
clothes. When they had done dinner they threw off the veils that
covered their heads and began to play at ball, while Nausicaa
sang for them. As the huntress Diana goes forth upon the
mountains of Taygetus or Erymanthus to hunt wild boars or deer,
and the wood nymphs, daughters of Aegis-bearing Jove, take their
sport along with her (then is Leto proud at seeing her daughter
stand a full head taller than the others, and eclipse the
loveliest amid a whole bevy of beauties), even so did the girl
outshine her handmaids.

When it was time for them to start home, and they were folding
the clothes and putting them into the waggon, Minerva began to
consider how Ulysses should wake up and see the handsome girl
who was to conduct him to the city of the Phaeacians. The girl,
therefore, threw a ball at one of the maids, which missed her
and fell into deep water. On this they all shouted, and the
noise they made woke Ulysses, who sat up in his bed of leaves
and began to wonder what it might all be.

"Alas," said he to himself, "what kind of people have I come
amongst? Are they cruel, savage, and uncivilised, or hospitable
and humane? I seem to hear the voices of young women, and they
sound like those of the nymphs that haunt mountain tops, or
springs of rivers and meadows of green grass. At any rate I am
among a race of men and women. Let me try if I cannot manage to
get a look at them."

As he said this he crept from under his bush, and broke off a
bough covered with thick leaves to hide his nakedness. He
looked like some lion of the wilderness that stalks about
exulting in his strength and defying both wind and rain; his
eyes glare as he prowls in quest of oxen, sheep, or deer, for he
is famished, and will dare break even into a well fenced
homestead, trying to get at the sheep--even such did Ulysses
seem to the young women, as he drew near to them all naked as he
was, for he was in great want. On seeing one so unkempt and so
begrimed with salt water, the others scampered off along the
spits that jutted out into the sea, but the daughter of Alcinous
stood firm, for Minerva put courage into her heart and took away
all fear from her. She stood right in front of Ulysses, and he
doubted whether he should go up to her, throw himself at her
feet, and embrace her knees as a suppliant, or stay where he was
and entreat her to give him some clothes and show him the way to
the town. In the end he deemed it best to entreat her from a
distance in case the girl should take offence at his coming near
enough to clasp her knees, so he addressed her in honeyed and
persuasive language.

"O queen," he said, "I implore your aid--but tell me, are you a
goddess or are you a mortal woman? If you are a goddess and
dwell in heaven, I can only conjecture that you are Jove's
daughter Diana, for your face and figure resemble none but hers;
if on the other hand you are a mortal and live on earth, thrice
happy are your father and mother--thrice happy, too, are your
brothers and sisters; how proud and delighted they must feel
when they see so fair a scion as yourself going out to a dance;
most happy, however, of all will he be whose wedding gifts have
been the richest, and who takes you to his own home. I never yet
saw any one so beautiful, neither man nor woman, and am lost in
admiration as I behold you. I can only compare you to a young
palm tree which I saw when I was at Delos growing near the altar
of Apollo--for I was there, too, with much people after me, when
I was on that journey which has been the source of all my
troubles. Never yet did such a young plant shoot out of the
ground as that was, and I admired and wondered at it exactly as
I now admire and wonder at yourself. I dare not clasp your
knees, but I am in great distress; yesterday made the twentieth
day that I had been tossing about upon the sea. The winds and
waves have taken me all the way from the Ogygian island, {55}
and now fate has flung me upon this coast that I may endure
still further suffering; for I do not think that I have yet come
to the end of it, but rather that heaven has still much evil in
store for me.

"And now, O queen, have pity upon me, for you are the first
person I have met, and I know no one else in this country. Show
me the way to your town, and let me have anything that you may
have brought hither to wrap your clothes in. May heaven grant
you in all things your heart's desire--husband, house, and a
happy, peaceful home; for there is nothing better in this world
than that man and wife should be of one mind in a house. It
discomfits their enemies, makes the hearts of their friends
glad, and they themselves know more about it than any one."

To this Nausicaa answered, "Stranger, you appear to be a
sensible, well-disposed person. There is no accounting for luck;
Jove gives prosperity to rich and poor just as he chooses, so
you must take what he has seen fit to send you, and make the
best of it. Now, however, that you have come to this our
country, you shall not want for clothes nor for anything else
that a foreigner in distress may reasonably look for. I will
show you the way to the town, and will tell you the name of our
people; we are called Phaeacians, and I am daughter to Alcinous,
in whom the whole power of the state is vested."

Then she called her maids and said, "Stay where you are, you
girls. Can you not see a man without running away from him? Do
you take him for a robber or a murderer? Neither he nor any one
else can come here to do us Phaeacians any harm, for we are dear
to the gods, and live apart on a land's end that juts into the
sounding sea, and have nothing to do with any other people. This
is only some poor man who has lost his way, and we must be kind
to him, for strangers and foreigners in distress are under
Jove's protection, and will take what they can get and be
thankful; so, girls, give the poor fellow something to eat and
drink, and wash him in the stream at some place that is
sheltered from the wind."

On this the maids left off running away and began calling one
another back. They made Ulysses sit down in the shelter as
Nausicaa had told them, and brought him a shirt and cloak. They
also brought him the little golden cruse of oil, and told him to
go and wash in the stream. But Ulysses said, "Young women,
please to stand a little on one side that I may wash the brine
from my shoulders and anoint myself with oil, for it is long
enough since my skin has had a drop of oil upon it. I cannot
wash as long as you all keep standing there. I am ashamed to
strip {56} before a number of good looking young women."

Then they stood on one side and went to tell the girl, while
Ulysses washed himself in the stream and scrubbed the brine from
his back and from his broad shoulders. When he had thoroughly
washed himself, and had got the brine out of his hair, he
anointed himself with oil, and put on the clothes which the girl
had given him; Minerva then made him look taller and stronger
than before, she also made the hair grow thick on the top of his
head, and flow down in curls like hyacinth blossoms; she
glorified him about the head and shoulders as a skilful workman
who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan and Minerva
enriches a piece of silver plate by gilding it--and his work is
full of beauty. Then he went and sat down a little way off upon
the beach, looking quite young and handsome, and the girl gazed
on him with admiration; then she said to her maids:

"Hush, my dears, for I want to say something. I believe the gods
who live in heaven have sent this man to the Phaeacians. When I
first saw him I thought him plain, but now his appearance is
like that of the gods who dwell in heaven. I should like my
future husband to be just such another as he is, if he would
only stay here and not want to go away. However, give him
something to eat and drink."

They did as they were told, and set food before Ulysses, who ate
and drank ravenously, for it was long since he had had food of
any kind. Meanwhile, Nausicaa bethought her of another matter.
She got the linen folded and placed in the waggon, she then
yoked the mules, and, as she took her seat, she called Ulysses:

"Stranger," said she, "rise and let us be going back to the
town; I will introduce you at the house of my excellent father,
where I can tell you that you will meet all the best people
among the Phaeacians. But be sure and do as I bid you, for you
seem to be a sensible person. As long as we are going past the
fields and farm lands, follow briskly behind the waggon along
with the maids and I will lead the way myself. Presently,
however, we shall come to the town, where you will find a high
wall running all round it, and a good harbour on either side
with a narrow entrance into the city, and the ships will be
drawn up by the road side, for every one has a place where his
own ship can lie. You will see the market place with a temple of
Neptune in the middle of it, and paved with large stones bedded
in the earth. Here people deal in ship's gear of all kinds, such
as cables and sails, and here, too, are the places where oars
are made, for the Phaeacians are not a nation of archers; they
know nothing about bows and arrows, but are a sea-faring folk,
and pride themselves on their masts, oars, and ships, with which
they travel far over the sea.

"I am afraid of the gossip and scandal that may be set on foot
against me later on; for the people here are very ill-natured,
and some low fellow, if he met us, might say, 'Who is this
fine-looking stranger that is going about with Nausicaa? Where
did she find him? I suppose she is going to marry him. Perhaps
he is a vagabond sailor whom she has taken from some foreign
vessel, for we have no neighbours; or some god has at last come
down from heaven in answer to her prayers, and she is going to
live with him all the rest of her life. It would be a good thing
if she would take herself off and find a husband somewhere else,
for she will not look at one of the many excellent young
Phaeacians who are in love with her.' This is the kind of
disparaging remark that would be made about me, and I could not
complain, for I should myself be scandalised at seeing any other
girl do the like, and go about with men in spite of everybody,
while her father and mother were still alive, and without having
been married in the face of all the world.

"If, therefore, you want my father to give you an escort and to
help you home, do as I bid you; you will see a beautiful grove
of poplars by the road side dedicated to Minerva; it has a well
in it and a meadow all round it. Here my father has a field of
rich garden ground, about as far from the town as a man's voice
will carry. Sit down there and wait for a while till the rest of
us can get into the town and reach my father's house. Then, when
you think we must have done this, come into the town and ask the
way to the house of my father Alcinous. You will have no
difficulty in finding it; any child will point it out to you,
for no one else in the whole town has anything like such a fine
house as he has. When you have got past the gates and through
the outer court, go right across the inner court till you come
to my mother. You will find her sitting by the fire and spinning
her purple wool by firelight. It is a fine sight to see her as
she leans back against one of the bearing-posts with her maids
all ranged behind her. Close to her seat stands that of my
father, on which he sits and topes like an immortal god. Never
mind him, but go up to my mother, and lay your hands upon her
knees if you would get home quickly. If you can gain her over,
you may hope to see your own country again, no matter how
distant it may be."

So saying she lashed the mules with her whip and they left the
river. The mules drew well, and their hoofs went up and down
upon the road. She was careful not to go too fast for Ulysses
and the maids who were following on foot along with the waggon,
so she plied her whip with judgement. As the sun was going down
they came to the sacred grove of Minerva, and there Ulysses sat
down and prayed to the mighty daughter of Jove.

"Hear me," he cried, "daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove,
unweariable, hear me now, for you gave no heed to my prayers
when Neptune was wrecking me. Now, therefore, have pity upon me
and grant that I may find friends and be hospitably received by
the Phaeacians."

Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer, but she would
not show herself to him openly, for she was afraid of her uncle
Neptune, who was still furious in his endeavors to prevent
Ulysses from getting home.

Book VII


Thus, then, did Ulysses wait and pray; but the girl drove on to
the town. When she reached her father's house she drew up at the
gateway, and her brothers--comely as the gods--gathered round
her, took the mules out of the waggon, and carried the clothes
into the house, while she went to her own room, where an old
servant, Eurymedusa of Apeira, lit the fire for her. This old
woman had been brought by sea from Apeira, and had been chosen
as a prize for Alcinous because he was king over the Phaeacians,
and the people obeyed him as though he were a god. {57} She had
been nurse to Nausicaa, and had now lit the fire for her, and
brought her supper for her into her own room.

Presently Ulysses got up to go towards the town; and Minerva
shed a thick mist all round him to hide him in case any of the
proud Phaeacians who met him should be rude to him, or ask him
who he was. Then, as he was just entering the town, she came
towards him in the likeness of a little girl carrying a pitcher.
She stood right in front of him, and Ulysses said:

"My dear, will you be so kind as to show me the house of king
Alcinous? I am an unfortunate foreigner in distress, and do not
know one in your town and country."

Then Minerva said, "Yes, father stranger, I will show you the
house you want, for Alcinous lives quite close to my own father.
I will go before you and show the way, but say not a word as you
go, and do not look at any man, nor ask him questions; for the
people here cannot abide strangers, and do not like men who come
from some other place. They are a sea-faring folk, and sail the
seas by the grace of Neptune in ships that glide along like
thought, or as a bird in the air."

On this she led the way, and Ulysses followed in her steps; but
not one of the Phaeacians could see him as he passed through the
city in the midst of them; for the great goddess Minerva in her
good will towards him had hidden him in a thick cloud of
darkness. He admired their harbours, ships, places of assembly,
and the lofty walls of the city, which, with the palisade on top
of them, were very striking, and when they reached the king's
house Minerva said:

"This is the house, father stranger, which you would have me
show you. You will find a number of great people sitting at
table, but do not be afraid; go straight in, for the bolder a
man is the more likely he is to carry his point, even though he
is a stranger. First find the queen. Her name is Arete, and she
comes of the same family as her husband Alcinous. They both
descend originally from Neptune, who was father to Nausithous by
Periboea, a woman of great beauty. Periboea was the youngest
daughter of Eurymedon, who at one time reigned over the giants,
but he ruined his ill-fated people and lost his own life to

"Neptune, however, lay with his daughter, and she had a son by
him, the great Nausithous, who reigned over the Phaeacians.
Nausithous had two sons Rhexenor and Alcinous; {58} Apollo
killed the first of them while he was still a bridegroom and
without male issue; but he left a daughter Arete, whom Alcinous
married, and honours as no other woman is honoured of all those
that keep house along with their husbands.

"Thus she both was, and still is, respected beyond measure by
her children, by Alcinous himself, and by the whole people, who
look upon her as a goddess, and greet her whenever she goes
about the city, for she is a thoroughly good woman both in head
and heart, and when any women are friends of hers, she will help
their husbands also to settle their disputes. If you can gain
her good will, you may have every hope of seeing your friends
again, and getting safely back to your home and country."

Then Minerva left Scheria and went away over the sea. She went
to Marathon {59} and to the spacious streets of Athens, where
she entered the abode of Erechtheus; but Ulysses went on to the
house of Alcinous, and he pondered much as he paused a while
before reaching the threshold of bronze, for the splendour of
the palace was like that of the sun or moon. The walls on either
side were of bronze from end to end, and the cornice was of blue
enamel. The doors were gold, and hung on pillars of silver that
rose from a floor of bronze, while the lintel was silver and the
hook of the door was of gold.

On either side there stood gold and silver mastiffs which
Vulcan, with his consummate skill, had fashioned expressly to
keep watch over the palace of king Alcinous; so they were
immortal and could never grow old. Seats were ranged all along
the wall, here and there from one end to the other, with
coverings of fine woven work which the women of the house had
made. Here the chief persons of the Phaeacians used to sit and
eat and drink, for there was abundance at all seasons; and there
were golden figures of young men with lighted torches in their
hands, raised on pedestals, to give light by night to those who
were at table. There are {60} fifty maid servants in the house,
some of whom are always grinding rich yellow grain at the mill,
while others work at the loom, or sit and spin, and their
shuttles go backwards and forwards like the fluttering of aspen
leaves, while the linen is so closely woven that it will turn
oil. As the Phaeacians are the best sailors in the world, so
their women excel all others in weaving, for Minerva has taught
them all manner of useful arts, and they are very intelligent.

Outside the gate of the outer court there is a large garden of
about four acres with a wall all round it. It is full of
beautiful trees--pears, pomegranates, and the most delicious
apples. There are luscious figs also, and olives in full growth.
The fruits never rot nor fail all the year round, neither winter
nor summer, for the air is so soft that a new crop ripens before
the old has dropped. Pear grows on pear, apple on apple, and fig
on fig, and so also with the grapes, for there is an excellent
vineyard: on the level ground of a part of this, the grapes are
being made into raisins; in another part they are being
gathered; some are being trodden in the wine tubs, others
further on have shed their blossom and are beginning to show
fruit, others again are just changing colour. In the furthest
part of the ground there are beautifully arranged beds of
flowers that are in bloom all the year round. Two streams go
through it, the one turned in ducts throughout the whole garden,
while the other is carried under the ground of the outer court
to the house itself, and the town's people draw water from it.
Such, then, were the splendours with which the gods had endowed
the house of king Alcinous.

So here Ulysses stood for a while and looked about him, but when
he had looked long enough he crossed the threshold and went
within the precincts of the house. There he found all the chief
people among the Phaeacians making their drink offerings to
Mercury, which they always did the last thing before going away
for the night. {61} He went straight through the court, still
hidden by the cloak of darkness in which Minerva had enveloped
him, till he reached Arete and King Alcinous; then he laid his
hands upon the knees of the queen, and at that moment the
miraculous darkness fell away from him and he became visible.
Every one was speechless with surprise at seeing a man there,
but Ulysses began at once with his petition.

"Queen Arete," he exclaimed, "daughter of great Rhexenor, in my
distress I humbly pray you, as also your husband and these your
guests (whom may heaven prosper with long life and happiness,
and may they leave their possessions to their children, and all
the honours conferred upon them by the state) to help me home to
my own country as soon as possible; for I have been long in
trouble and away from my friends."

Then he sat down on the hearth among the ashes and they all held
their peace, till presently the old hero Echeneus, who was an
excellent speaker and an elder among the Phaeacians, plainly and
in all honesty addressed them thus:

"Alcinous," said he, "it is not creditable to you that a
stranger should be seen sitting among the ashes of your hearth;
every one is waiting to hear what you are about to say; tell
him, then, to rise and take a seat on a stool inlaid with
silver, and bid your servants mix some wine and water that we
may make a drink offering to Jove the lord of thunder, who takes
all well disposed suppliants under his protection; and let the
housekeeper give him some supper, of whatever there may be in
the house."

When Alcinous heard this he took Ulysses by the hand, raised him
from the hearth, and bade him take the seat of Laodamas, who had
been sitting beside him, and was his favourite son. A maid
servant then brought him water in a beautiful golden ewer and
poured it into a silver basin for him to wash his hands, and she
drew a clean table beside him; an upper servant brought him
bread and offered him many good things of what there was in the
house, and Ulysses ate and drank. Then Alcinous said to one of
the servants, "Pontonous, mix a cup of wine and hand it round
that we may make drink-offerings to Jove the lord of thunder,
who is the protector of all well-disposed suppliants."

Pontonous then mixed wine and water, and handed it round after
giving every man his drink-offering. When they had made their
offerings, and had drunk each as much as he was minded, Alcinous

"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, hear my words.
You have had your supper, so now go home to bed. To-morrow
morning I shall invite a still larger number of aldermen, and
will give a sacrificial banquet in honour of our guest; we can
then discuss the question of his escort, and consider how we may
at once send him back rejoicing to his own country without
trouble or inconvenience to himself, no matter how distant it
may be. We must see that he comes to no harm while on his
homeward journey, but when he is once at home he will have to
take the luck he was born with for better or worse like other
people. It is possible, however, that the stranger is one of the
immortals who has come down from heaven to visit us; but in this
case the gods are departing from their usual practice, for
hitherto they have made themselves perfectly clear to us when we
have been offering them hecatombs. They come and sit at our
feasts just like one of our selves, and if any solitary wayfarer
happens to stumble upon some one or other of them, they affect
no concealment, for we are as near of kin to the gods as the
Cyclopes and the savage giants are." {62}

Then Ulysses said: "Pray, Alcinous, do not take any such notion
into your head. I have nothing of the immortal about me, neither
in body nor mind, and most resemble those among you who are the
most afflicted. Indeed, were I to tell you all that heaven has
seen fit to lay upon me, you would say that I was still worse
off than they are. Nevertheless, let me sup in spite of sorrow,
for an empty stomach is a very importunate thing, and thrusts
itself on a man's notice no matter how dire is his distress. I
am in great trouble, yet it insists that I shall eat and drink,
bids me lay aside all memory of my sorrows and dwell only on the
due replenishing of itself. As for yourselves, do as you
propose, and at break of day set about helping me to get home. I
shall be content to die if I may first once more behold my
property, my bondsmen, and all the greatness of my house." {63}

Thus did he speak. Every one approved his saying, and agreed
that he should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken
reasonably. Then when they had made their drink offerings, and
had drunk each as much as he was minded they went home to bed
every man in his own abode, leaving Ulysses in the cloister with
Arete and Alcinous while the servants were taking the things
away after supper. Arete was the first to speak, for she
recognised the shirt, cloak, and good clothes that Ulysses was
wearing, as the work of herself and of her maids; so she said,
"Stranger, before we go any further, there is a question I
should like to ask you. Who, and whence are you, and who gave
you those clothes? Did you not say you had come here from beyond
the sea?"

And Ulysses answered, "It would be a long story Madam, were I to
relate in full the tale of my misfortunes, for the hand of
heaven has been laid heavy upon me; but as regards your
question, there is an island far away in the sea which is called
'the Ogygian.' Here dwells the cunning and powerful goddess
Calypso, daughter of Atlas. She lives by herself far from all
neighbours human or divine. Fortune, however, brought me to her
hearth all desolate and alone, for Jove struck my ship with his
thunderbolts, and broke it up in mid-ocean. My brave comrades
were drowned every man of them, but I stuck to the keel and was
carried hither and thither for the space of nine days, till at
last during the darkness of the tenth night the gods brought me
to the Ogygian island where the great goddess Calypso lives. She
took me in and treated me with the utmost kindness; indeed she
wanted to make me immortal that I might never grow old, but she
could not persuade me to let her do so.

"I stayed with Calypso seven years straight on end, and watered
the good clothes she gave me with my tears during the whole
time; but at last when the eighth year came round she bade me
depart of her own free will, either because Jove had told her
she must, or because she had changed her mind. She sent me from
her island on a raft, which she provisioned with abundance of
bread and wine. Moreover she gave me good stout clothing, and
sent me a wind that blew both warm and fair. Days seven and ten
did I sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth I caught sight of
the first outlines of the mountains upon your coast--and glad
indeed was I to set eyes upon them. Nevertheless there was still
much trouble in store for me, for at this point Neptune would
let me go no further, and raised a great storm against me; the
sea was so terribly high that I could no longer keep to my raft,
which went to pieces under the fury of the gale, and I had to
swim for it, till wind and current brought me to your shores.

"There I tried to land, but could not, for it was a bad place
and the waves dashed me against the rocks, so I again took to
the sea and swam on till I came to a river that seemed the most
likely landing place, for there were no rocks and it was
sheltered from the wind. Here, then, I got out of the water and
gathered my senses together again. Night was coming on, so I
left the river, and went into a thicket, where I covered myself
all over with leaves, and presently heaven sent me off into a
very deep sleep. Sick and sorry as I was I slept among the
leaves all night, and through the next day till afternoon, when
I woke as the sun was westering, and saw your daughter's maid
servants playing upon the beach, and your daughter among them
looking like a goddess. I besought her aid, and she proved to be
of an excellent disposition, much more so than could be expected
from so young a person--for young people are apt to be
thoughtless. She gave me plenty of bread and wine, and when she
had had me washed in the river she also gave me the clothes in
which you see me. Now, therefore, though it has pained me to do
so, I have told you the whole truth."

Then Alcinous said, "Stranger, it was very wrong of my daughter
not to bring you on at once to my house along with the maids,
seeing that she was the first person whose aid you asked."

"Pray do not scold her," replied Ulysses; "she is not to blame.
She did tell me to follow along with the maids, but I was
ashamed and afraid, for I thought you might perhaps be
displeased if you saw me. Every human being is sometimes a
little suspicious and irritable."

"Stranger," replied Alcinous, "I am not the kind of man to get
angry about nothing; it is always better to be reasonable; but
by Father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, now that I see what kind of
person you are, and how much you think as I do, I wish you would
stay here, marry my daughter, and become my son-in-law. If you
will stay I will give you a house and an estate, but no one
(heaven forbid) shall keep you here against your own wish, and
that you may be sure of this I will attend tomorrow to the
matter of your escort. You can sleep {64} during the whole
voyage if you like, and the men shall sail you over smooth
waters either to your own home, or wherever you please, even
though it be a long way further off than Euboea, which those of
my people who saw it when they took yellow-haired Rhadamanthus
to see Tityus the son of Gaia, tell me is the furthest of any
place--and yet they did the whole voyage in a single day without
distressing themselves, and came back again afterwards. You will
thus see how much my ships excel all others, and what
magnificent oarsmen my sailors are."

Then was Ulysses glad and prayed aloud saying, "Father Jove,
grant that Alcinous may do all as he has said, for so he will
win an imperishable name among mankind, and at the same time I
shall return to my country."

Thus did they converse. Then Arete told her maids to set a bed
in the room that was in the gatehouse, and make it with good red
rugs, and to spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen
cloaks for Ulysses to wear. The maids thereon went out with
torches in their hands, and when they had made the bed they came
up to Ulysses and said, "Rise, sir stranger, and come with us
for your bed is ready," and glad indeed was he to go to his

So Ulysses slept in a bed placed in a room over the echoing
gateway; but Alcinous lay in the inner part of the house, with
the queen his wife by his side.



Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Alcinous and Ulysses both rose, and Alcinous led the way to the
Phaeacian place of assembly, which was near the ships. When they
got there they sat down side by side on a seat of polished
stone, while Minerva took the form of one of Alcinous' servants,
and went round the town in order to help Ulysses to get home.
She went up to the citizens, man by man, and said, "Aldermen and
town councillors of the Phaeacians, come to the assembly all of
you and listen to the stranger who has just come off a long
voyage to the house of King Alcinous; he looks like an immortal

With these words she made them all want to come, and they
flocked to the assembly till seats and standing room were alike
crowded. Every one was struck with the appearance of Ulysses,
for Minerva had beautified him about the head and shoulders,
making him look taller and stouter than he really was, that he
might impress the Phaeacians favourably as being a very
remarkable man, and might come off well in the many trials of
skill to which they would challenge him. Then, when they were
got together, Alcinous spoke:

"Hear me," said he, "aldermen and town councillors of the
Phaeacians, that I may speak even as I am minded. This stranger,
whoever he may be, has found his way to my house from somewhere
or other either East or West. He wants an escort and wishes to
have the matter settled. Let us then get one ready for him, as
we have done for others before him; indeed, no one who ever yet
came to my house has been able to complain of me for not
speeding on his way soon enough. Let us draw a ship into the
sea--one that has never yet made a voyage--and man her with two
and fifty of our smartest young sailors. Then when you have made
fast your oars each by his own seat, leave the ship and come to
my house to prepare a feast. {65} I will find you in everything.
I am giving these instructions to the young men who will form
the crew, for as regards you aldermen and town councillors, you
will join me in entertaining our guest in the cloisters. I can
take no excuses, and we will have Demodocus to sing to us; for
there is no bard like him whatever he may choose to sing about."

Alcinous then led the way, and the others followed after, while
a servant went to fetch Demodocus. The fifty-two picked oarsmen
went to the sea shore as they had been told, and when they got
there they drew the ship into the water, got her mast and sails
inside her, bound the oars to the thole-pins with twisted thongs
of leather, all in due course, and spread the white sails aloft.
They moored the vessel a little way out from land, and then came
on shore and went to the house of King Alcinous. The out houses,
{66} yards, and all the precincts were filled with crowds of men
in great multitudes both old and young; and Alcinous killed them
a dozen sheep, eight full grown pigs, and two oxen. These they
skinned and dressed so as to provide a magnificent banquet.

A servant presently led in the famous bard Demodocus, whom the
muse had dearly loved, but to whom she had given both good and
evil, for though she had endowed him with a divine gift of song,
she had robbed him of his eyesight. Pontonous set a seat for
him among the guests, leaning it up against a bearing-post. He
hung the lyre for him on a peg over his head, and showed him
where he was to feel for it with his hands. He also set a fair
table with a basket of victuals by his side, and a cup of wine
from which he might drink whenever he was so disposed.

The company then laid their hands upon the good things that were
before them, but as soon as they had had enough to eat and
drink, the muse inspired Demodocus to sing the feats of heroes,
and more especially a matter that was then in the mouths of all
men, to wit, the quarrel between Ulysses and Achilles, and the
fierce words that they heaped on one another as they sat
together at a banquet. But Agamemnon was glad when he heard his
chieftains quarrelling with one another, for Apollo had foretold
him this at Pytho when he crossed the stone floor to consult the
oracle. Here was the beginning of the evil that by the will of
Jove fell both upon Danaans and Trojans.

Thus sang the bard, but Ulysses drew his purple mantle over his
head and covered his face, for he was ashamed to let the
Phaeacians see that he was weeping. When the bard left off
singing he wiped the tears from his eyes, uncovered his face,
and, taking his cup, made a drink-offering to the gods; but when
the Phaeacians pressed Demodocus to sing further, for they
delighted in his lays, then Ulysses again drew his mantle over
his head and wept bitterly. No one noticed his distress except
Alcinous, who was sitting near him, and heard the heavy sighs
that he was heaving. So he at once said, "Aldermen and town
councillors of the Phaeacians, we have had enough now, both of
the feast, and of the minstrelsy that is its due accompaniment;
let us proceed therefore to the athletic sports, so that our
guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends how
much we surpass all other nations as boxers, wrestlers, jumpers,
and runners."

With these words he led the way, and the others followed after.
A servant hung Demodocus's lyre on its peg for him, led him out
of the cloister, and set him on the same way as that along which
all the chief men of the Phaeacians were going to see the
sports; a crowd of several thousands of people followed them,
and there were many excellent competitors for all the prizes.
Acroneos, Ocyalus, Elatreus, Nauteus, Prymneus, Anchialus,
Eretmeus, Ponteus, Proreus, Thoon, Anabesineus, and Amphialus
son of Polyneus son of Tecton. There was also Euryalus son of
Naubolus, who was like Mars himself, and was the best looking
man among the Phaeacians except Laodamas. Three sons of
Alcinous, Laodamas, Halios, and Clytoneus, competed also.

The foot races came first. The course was set out for them from
the starting post, and they raised a dust upon the plain as they
all flew forward at the same moment. Clytoneus came in first by
a long way; he left every one else behind him by the length of
the furrow that a couple of mules can plough in a fallow field.
{67} They then turned to the painful art of wrestling, and here
Euryalus proved to be the best man. Amphialus excelled all the
others in jumping, while at throwing the disc there was no one
who could approach Elatreus. Alcinous's son Laodamas was the
best boxer, and he it was who presently said, when they had all
been diverted with the games, "Let us ask the stranger whether
he excels in any of these sports; he seems very powerfully
built; his thighs, calves, hands, and neck are of prodigious
strength, nor is he at all old, but he has suffered much lately,
and there is nothing like the sea for making havoc with a man,
no matter how strong he is."

"You are quite right, Laodamas," replied Euryalus, "go up to
your guest and speak to him about it yourself."

When Laodamas heard this he made his way into the middle of the
crowd and said to Ulysses, "I hope, Sir, that you will enter
yourself for some one or other of our competitions if you are
skilled in any of them--and you must have gone in for many a one
before now. There is nothing that does any one so much credit
all his life long as the showing himself a proper man with his
hands and feet. Have a try therefore at something, and banish
all sorrow from your mind. Your return home will not be long
delayed, for the ship is already drawn into the water, and the
crew is found."

Ulysses answered, "Laodamas, why do you taunt me in this way? my
mind is set rather on cares than contests; I have been through
infinite trouble, and am come among you now as a suppliant,
praying your king and people to further me on my return home."

Then Euryalus reviled him outright and said, "I gather, then,
that you are unskilled in any of the many sports that men
generally delight in. I suppose you are one of those grasping
traders that go about in ships as captains or merchants, and who
think of nothing but of their outward freights and homeward
cargoes. There does not seem to be much of the athlete about

"For shame, Sir," answered Ulysses, fiercely, "you are an
insolent fellow--so true is it that the gods do not grace all
men alike in speech, person, and understanding. One man may be
of weak presence, but heaven has adorned this with such a good
conversation that he charms every one who sees him; his honeyed
moderation carries his hearers with him so that he is leader in
all assemblies of his fellows, and wherever he goes he is looked
up to. Another may be as handsome as a god, but his good looks
are not crowned with discretion. This is your case. No god could
make a finer looking fellow than you are, but you are a fool.
Your ill-judged remarks have made me exceedingly angry, and you
are quite mistaken, for I excel in a great many athletic
exercises; indeed, so long as I had youth and strength, I was
among the first athletes of the age. Now, however, I am worn out
by labour and sorrow, for I have gone through much both on the
field of battle and by the waves of the weary sea; still, in
spite of all this I will compete, for your taunts have stung me
to the quick."

So he hurried up without even taking his cloak off, and seized a
disc, larger, more massive and much heavier than those used by
the Phaeacians when disc-throwing among themselves. {68} Then,
swinging it back, he threw it from his brawny hand, and it made
a humming sound in the air as he did so. The Phaeacians quailed
beneath the rushing of its flight as it sped gracefully from his
hand, and flew beyond any mark that had been made yet. Minerva,
in the form of a man, came and marked the place where it had
fallen. "A blind man, Sir," said she, "could easily tell your
mark by groping for it--it is so far ahead of any other. You may
make your mind easy about this contest, for no Phaeacian can
come near to such a throw as yours."

Ulysses was glad when he found he had a friend among the
lookers-on, so he began to speak more pleasantly. "Young men,"
said he, "come up to that throw if you can, and I will throw
another disc as heavy or even heavier. If anyone wants to have a
bout with me let him come on, for I am exceedingly angry; I will
box, wrestle, or run, I do not care what it is, with any man of
you all except Laodamas, but not with him because I am his
guest, and one cannot compete with one's own personal friend. At
least I do not think it a prudent or a sensible thing for a
guest to challenge his host's family at any game, especially
when he is in a foreign country. He will cut the ground from
under his own feet if he does; but I make no exception as
regards any one else, for I want to have the matter out and know
which is the best man. I am a good hand at every kind of
athletic sport known among mankind. I am an excellent archer.
In battle I am always the first to bring a man down with my
arrow, no matter how many more are taking aim at him alongside
of me. Philoctetes was the only man who could shoot better than
I could when we Achaeans were before Troy and in practice. I far
excel every one else in the whole world, of those who still eat
bread upon the face of the earth, but I should not like to shoot
against the mighty dead, such as Hercules, or Eurytus the
Oechalian--men who could shoot against the gods themselves. This
in fact was how Eurytus came prematurely by his end, for Apollo
was angry with him and killed him because he challenged him as
an archer. I can throw a dart farther than any one else can
shoot an arrow. Running is the only point in respect of which I
am afraid some of the Phaeacians might beat me, for I have been
brought down very low at sea; my provisions ran short, and
therefore I am still weak."

They all held their peace except King Alcinous, who began, "Sir,
we have had much pleasure in hearing all that you have told us,
from which I understand that you are willing to show your
prowess, as having been displeased with some insolent remarks
that have been made to you by one of our athletes, and which
could never have been uttered by any one who knows how to talk
with propriety. I hope you will apprehend my meaning, and will
explain to any one of your chief men who may be dining with
yourself and your family when you get home, that we have an
hereditary aptitude for accomplishments of all kinds. We are not
particularly remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as wrestlers,
but we are singularly fleet of foot and are excellent sailors.
We are extremely fond of good dinners, music, and dancing; we
also like frequent changes of linen, warm baths, and good beds,
so now, please, some of you who are the best dancers set about
dancing, that our guest on his return home may be able to tell
his friends how much we surpass all other nations as sailors,
runners, dancers, and minstrels. Demodocus has left his lyre at
my house, so run some one or other of you and fetch it for him."

On this a servant hurried off to bring the lyre from the king's
house, and the nine men who had been chosen as stewards stood
forward. It was their business to manage everything connected
with the sports, so they made the ground smooth and marked a
wide space for the dancers. Presently the servant came back
with Demodocus's lyre, and he took his place in the midst of
them, whereon the best young dancers in the town began to foot
and trip it so nimbly that Ulysses was delighted with the merry
twinkling of their feet.

Meanwhile the bard began to sing the loves of Mars and Venus,
and how they first began their intrigue in the house of Vulcan.
Mars made Venus many presents, and defiled King Vulcan's
marriage bed, so the sun, who saw what they were about, told
Vulcan. Vulcan was very angry when he heard such dreadful news,
so he went to his smithy brooding mischief, got his great anvil
into its place, and began to forge some chains which none could
either unloose or break, so that they might stay there in that
place. {69} When he had finished his snare he went into his
bedroom and festooned the bed-posts all over with chains like
cobwebs; he also let many hang down from the great beam of the
ceiling. Not even a god could see them so fine and subtle were
they. As soon as he had spread the chains all over the bed, he
made as though he were setting out for the fair state of Lemnos,
which of all places in the world was the one he was most fond
of. But Mars kept no blind look out, and as soon as he saw him
start, hurried off to his house, burning with love for Venus.

Now Venus was just come in from a visit to her father Jove, and
was about sitting down when Mars came inside the house, and said
as he took her hand in his own, "Let us go to the couch of
Vulcan: he is not at home, but is gone off to Lemnos among the
Sintians, whose speech is barbarous."

She was nothing loth, so they went to the couch to take their
rest, whereon they were caught in the toils which cunning Vulcan
had spread for them, and could neither get up nor stir hand or
foot, but found too late that they were in a trap. Then Vulcan
came up to them, for he had turned back before reaching Lemnos,
when his scout the sun told him what was going on. He was in a
furious passion, and stood in the vestibule making a dreadful
noise as he shouted to all the gods.

"Father Jove," he cried, "and all you other blessed gods who
live for ever, come here and see the ridiculous and disgraceful
sight that I will show you. Jove's daughter Venus is always
dishonouring me because I am lame. She is in love with Mars, who
is handsome and clean built, whereas I am a cripple--but my
parents are to blame for that, not I; they ought never to have
begotten me. Come and see the pair together asleep on my bed. It
makes me furious to look at them. They are very fond of one
another, but I do not think they will lie there longer than they
can help, nor do I think that they will sleep much; there,
however, they shall stay till her father has repaid me the sum I
gave him for his baggage of a daughter, who is fair but not

On this the gods gathered to the house of Vulcan.
Earth-encircling Neptune came, and Mercury the bringer of luck,
and King Apollo, but the goddesses staid at home all of them for
shame. Then the givers of all good things stood in the doorway,
and the blessed gods roared with inextinguishable laughter, as
they saw how cunning Vulcan had been, whereon one would turn
towards his neighbour saying:

"Ill deeds do not prosper, and the weak confound the strong. See
how limping Vulcan, lame as he is, has caught Mars who is the
fleetest god in heaven; and now Mars will be cast in heavy

Thus did they converse, but King Apollo said to Mercury,
"Messenger Mercury, giver of good things, you would not care how
strong the chains were, would you, if you could sleep with

"King Apollo," answered Mercury, "I only wish I might get the
chance, though there were three times as many chains--and you
might look on, all of you, gods and goddesses, but I would sleep
with her if I could."

The immortal gods burst out laughing as they heard him, but
Neptune took it all seriously, and kept on imploring Vulcan to
set Mars free again. "Let him go," he cried, "and I will
undertake, as you require, that he shall pay you all the damages
that are held reasonable among the immortal gods."

"Do not," replied Vulcan, "ask me to do this; a bad man's bond
is bad security; what remedy could I enforce against you if Mars
should go away and leave his debts behind him along with his

"Vulcan," said Neptune, "if Mars goes away without paying his
damages, I will pay you myself." So Vulcan answered, "In this
case I cannot and must not refuse you."

Thereon he loosed the bonds that bound them, and as soon as they
were free they scampered off, Mars to Thrace and laughter-loving
Venus to Cyprus and to Paphos, where is her grove and her altar
fragrant with burnt offerings. Here the Graces bathed her, and
anointed her with oil of ambrosia such as the immortal gods make
use of, and they clothed her in raiment of the most enchanting

Thus sang the bard, and both Ulysses and the seafaring
Phaeacians were charmed as they heard him.

Then Alcinous told Laodamas and Halius to dance alone, for there
was no one to compete with them. So they took a red ball which
Polybus had made for them, and one of them bent himself
backwards and threw it up towards the clouds, while the other
jumped from off the ground and caught it with ease before it
came down again. When they had done throwing the ball straight
up into the air they began to dance, and at the same time kept
on throwing it backwards and forwards to one another, while all
the young men in the ring applauded and made a great stamping
with their feet. Then Ulysses said:

"King Alcinous, you said your people were the nimblest dancers
in the world, and indeed they have proved themselves to be so. I
was astonished as I saw them."

The king was delighted at this, and exclaimed to the Phaeacians,
"Aldermen and town councillors, our guest seems to be a person
of singular judgement; let us give him such proof of our
hospitality as he may reasonably expect. There are twelve chief
men among you, and counting myself there are thirteen;
contribute, each of you, a clean cloak, a shirt, and a talent of
fine gold; let us give him all this in a lump down at once, so
that when he gets his supper he may do so with a light heart. As
for Euryalus he will have to make a formal apology and a present
too, for he has been rude."

Thus did he speak. The others all of them applauded his saying,
and sent their servants to fetch the presents. Then Euryalus
said, "King Alcinous, I will give the stranger all the
satisfaction you require. He shall have my sword, which is of
bronze, all but the hilt, which is of silver. I will also give
him the scabbard of newly sawn ivory into which it fits. It will
be worth a great deal to him."

As he spoke he placed the sword in the hands of Ulysses and
said, "Good luck to you, father stranger; if anything has been
said amiss may the winds blow it away with them, and may heaven
grant you a safe return, for I understand you have been long
away from home, and have gone through much hardship."

To which Ulysses answered, "Good luck to you too my friend, and
may the gods grant you every happiness. I hope you will not miss
the sword you have given me along with your apology."

With these words he girded the sword about his shoulders and
towards sundown the presents began to make their appearance, as
the servants of the donors kept bringing them to the house of
King Alcinous; here his sons received them, and placed them
under their mother's charge. Then Alcinous led the way to the
house and bade his guests take their seats.

"Wife," said he, turning to Queen Arete, "Go, fetch the best
chest we have, and put a clean cloak and shirt in it. Also, set
a copper on the fire and heat some water; our guest will take a
warm bath; see also to the careful packing of the presents that
the noble Phaeacians have made him; he will thus better enjoy
both his supper and the singing that will follow. I shall myself
give him this golden goblet--which is of exquisite
workmanship--that he may be reminded of me for the rest of his
life whenever he makes a drink offering to Jove, or to any of
the gods." {70}

Then Arete told her maids to set a large tripod upon the fire as
fast as they could, whereon they set a tripod full of bath water
on to a clear fire; they threw on sticks to make it blaze, and
the water became hot as the flame played about the belly of the
tripod. {71} Meanwhile Arete brought a magnificent chest from
her own room, and inside it she packed all the beautiful
presents of gold and raiment which the Phaeacians had brought.
Lastly she added a cloak and a good shirt from Alcinous, and
said to Ulysses:

"See to the lid yourself, and have the whole bound round at
once, for fear any one should rob you by the way when you are
asleep in your ship." {72}

When Ulysses heard this he put the lid on the chest and made it
fast with a bond that Circe had taught him. He had done so
before an upper servant told him to come to the bath and wash
himself. He was very glad of a warm bath, for he had had no one
to wait upon him ever since he left the house of Calypso, who as
long as he remained with her had taken as good care of him as
though he had been a god. When the servants had done washing
and anointing him with oil, and had given him a clean cloak and
shirt, he left the bath room and joined the guests who were
sitting over their wine. Lovely Nausicaa stood by one of the
bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister, and admired
him as she saw him pass. "Farewell stranger," said she, "do not
forget me when you are safe at home again, for it is to me first
that you owe a ransom for having saved your life."

And Ulysses said, "Nausicaa, daughter of great Alcinous, may
Jove the mighty husband of Juno, grant that I may reach my home;
so shall I bless you as my guardian angel all my days, for it
was you who saved me."

When he had said this, he seated himself beside Alcinous.
Supper was then served, and the wine was mixed for drinking. A
servant led in the favourite bard Demodocus, and set him in the
midst of the company, near one of the bearing-posts supporting
the cloister, that he might lean against it. Then Ulysses cut
off a piece of roast pork with plenty of fat (for there was
abundance left on the joint) and said to a servant, "Take this
piece of pork over to Demodocus and tell him to eat it; for all
the pain his lays may cause me I will salute him none the less;
bards are honoured and respected throughout the world, for the
muse teaches them their songs and loves them."

The servant carried the pork in his fingers over to Demodocus,
who took it and was very much pleased. They then laid their
hands on the good things that were before them, and as soon as
they had had to eat and drink, Ulysses said to Demodocus,
"Demodocus, there is no one in the world whom I admire more than
I do you. You must have studied under the Muse, Jove's daughter,
and under Apollo, so accurately do you sing the return of the
Achaeans with all their sufferings and adventures. If you were
not there yourself, you must have heard it all from some one who
was. Now, however, change your song and tell us of the wooden
horse which Epeus made with the assistance of Minerva, and which
Ulysses got by stratagem into the fort of Troy after freighting
it with the men who afterwards sacked the city. If you will sing
this tale aright I will tell all the world how magnificently
heaven has endowed you."

The bard inspired of heaven took up the story at the point where
some of the Argives set fire to their tents and sailed away
while others, hidden within the horse, {73} were waiting with
Ulysses in the Trojan place of assembly. For the Trojans
themselves had drawn the horse into their fortress, and it stood
there while they sat in council round it, and were in three
minds as to what they should do. Some were for breaking it up
then and there; others would have it dragged to the top of the
rock on which the fortress stood, and then thrown down the
precipice; while yet others were for letting it remain as an
offering and propitiation for the gods. And this was how they
settled it in the end, for the city was doomed when it took in
that horse, within which were all the bravest of the Argives
waiting to bring death and destruction on the Trojans. Anon he
sang how the sons of the Achaeans issued from the horse, and
sacked the town, breaking out from their ambuscade. He sang how
they overran the city hither and thither and ravaged it, and how
Ulysses went raging like Mars along with Menelaus to the house
of Deiphobus. It was there that the fight raged most furiously,
nevertheless by Minerva's help he was victorious.

All this he told, but Ulysses was overcome as he heard him, and
his cheeks were wet with tears. He wept as a woman weeps when
she throws herself on the body of her husband who has fallen
before his own city and people, fighting bravely in defence of
his home and children. She screams aloud and flings her arms
about him as he lies gasping for breath and dying, but her
enemies beat her from behind about the back and shoulders, and
carry her off into slavery, to a life of labour and sorrow, and
the beauty fades from her cheeks--even so piteously did Ulysses
weep, but none of those present perceived his tears except
Alcinous, who was sitting near him, and could hear the sobs and
sighs that he was heaving. The king, therefore, at once rose and

"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, let Demodocus
cease his song, for there are those present who do not seem to
like it. From the moment that we had done supper and Demodocus
began to sing, our guest has been all the time groaning and
lamenting. He is evidently in great trouble, so let the bard
leave off, that we may all enjoy ourselves, hosts and guest
alike. This will be much more as it should be, for all these
festivities, with the escort and the presents that we are making
with so much good will are wholly in his honour, and any one
with even a moderate amount of right feeling knows that he ought
to treat a guest and a suppliant as though he were his own

"Therefore, Sir, do you on your part affect no more concealment
nor reserve in the matter about which I shall ask you; it will
be more polite in you to give me a plain answer; tell me the

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