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The Odyssey by Homer

Part 3 out of 7

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name by which your father and mother over yonder used to call
you, and by which you were known among your neighbours and
fellow-citizens. There is no one, neither rich nor poor, who is
absolutely without any name whatever, for people's fathers and
mothers give them names as soon as they are born. Tell me also
your country, nation, and city, that our ships may shape their
purpose accordingly and take you there. For the Phaeacians have
no pilots; their vessels have no rudders as those of other
nations have, but the ships themselves understand what it is
that we are thinking about and want; they know all the cities
and countries in the whole world, and can traverse the sea just
as well even when it is covered with mist and cloud, so that
there is no danger of being wrecked or coming to any harm. Still
I do remember hearing my father say that Neptune was angry with
us for being too easy-going in the matter of giving people
escorts. He said that one of these days he should wreck a ship
of ours as it was returning from having escorted some one, {74}
and bury our city under a high mountain. This is what my father
used to say, but whether the god will carry out his threat or no
is a matter which he will decide for himself.

"And now, tell me and tell me true. Where have you been
wandering, and in what countries have you travelled? Tell us of
the peoples themselves, and of their cities--who were hostile,
savage and uncivilised, and who, on the other hand, hospitable
and humane. Tell us also why you are made so unhappy on hearing
about the return of the Argive Danaans from Troy. The gods
arranged all this, and sent them their misfortunes in order that
future generations might have something to sing about. Did you
lose some brave kinsman of your wife's when you were before
Troy? a son-in-law or father-in-law--which are the nearest
relations a man has outside his own flesh and blood? or was it
some brave and kindly-natured comrade--for a good friend is as
dear to a man as his own brother?"

Book IX


And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, it is a good thing to hear
a bard with such a divine voice as this man has. There is
nothing better or more delightful than when a whole people make
merry together, with the guests sitting orderly to listen, while
the table is loaded with bread and meats, and the cup-bearer
draws wine and fills his cup for every man. This is indeed as
fair a sight as a man can see. Now, however, since you are
inclined to ask the story of my sorrows, and rekindle my own sad
memories in respect of them, I do not know how to begin, nor yet
how to continue and conclude my tale, for the hand of heaven has
been laid heavily upon me.

"Firstly, then, I will tell you my name that you too may know
it, and one day, if I outlive this time of sorrow, may become my
guests though I live so far away from all of you. I am Ulysses
son of Laertes, renowned among mankind for all manner of
subtlety, so that my fame ascends to heaven. I live in Ithaca,
where there is a high mountain called Neritum, covered with
forests; and not far from it there is a group of islands very
near to one another--Dulichium, Same, and the wooded island of
Zacynthus. It lies squat on the horizon, all highest up in the
sea towards the sunset, while the others lie away from it
towards dawn. {75} It is a rugged island, but it breeds brave
men, and my eyes know none that they better love to look upon.
The goddess Calypso kept me with her in her cave, and wanted me
to marry her, as did also the cunning Aeaean goddess Circe; but
they could neither of them persuade me, for there is nothing
dearer to a man than his own country and his parents, and
however splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it
be far from father or mother, he does not care about it. Now,
however, I will tell you of the many hazardous adventures which
by Jove's will I met with on my return from Troy.

"When I had set sail thence the wind took me first to Ismarus,
which is the city of the Cicons. There I sacked the town and put
the people to the sword. We took their wives and also much
booty, which we divided equitably amongst us, so that none might
have reason to complain. I then said that we had better make off
at once, but my men very foolishly would not obey me, so they
staid there drinking much wine and killing great numbers of
sheep and oxen on the sea shore. Meanwhile the Cicons cried out
for help to other Cicons who lived inland. These were more in
number, and stronger, and they were more skilled in the art of
war, for they could fight, either from chariots or on foot as
the occasion served; in the morning, therefore, they came as
thick as leaves and bloom in summer, and the hand of heaven was
against us, so that we were hard pressed. They set the battle in
array near the ships, and the hosts aimed their bronze-shod
spears at one another. {76} So long as the day waxed and it was
still morning, we held our own against them, though they were
more in number than we; but as the sun went down, towards the
time when men loose their oxen, the Cicons got the better of us,
and we lost half a dozen men from every ship we had; so we got
away with those that were left.

"Thence we sailed onward with sorrow in our hearts, but glad to
have escaped death though we had lost our comrades, nor did we
leave till we had thrice invoked each one of the poor fellows
who had perished by the hands of the Cicons. Then Jove raised
the North wind against us till it blew a hurricane, so that land
and sky were hidden in thick clouds, and night sprang forth out
of the heavens. We let the ships run before the gale, but the
force of the wind tore our sails to tatters, so we took them
down for fear of shipwreck, and rowed our hardest towards the
land. There we lay two days and two nights suffering much alike
from toil and distress of mind, but on the morning of the third
day we again raised our masts, set sail, and took our places,
letting the wind and steersmen direct our ship. I should have
got home at that time unharmed had not the North wind and the
currents been against me as I was doubling Cape Malea, and set
me off my course hard by the island of Cythera.

"I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon
the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the
Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of
flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got
their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had
eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of
men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man
under them. They started at once, and went about among the
Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the
lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off
caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what
had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus
{77} with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their
return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them
back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I
told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should
taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they
took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.

"We sailed hence, always in much distress, till we came to the
land of the lawless and inhuman Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes
neither plant nor plough, but trust in providence, and live on
such wheat, barley, and grapes as grow wild without any kind of
tillage, and their wild grapes yield them wine as the sun and
the rain may grow them. They have no laws nor assemblies of the
people, but live in caves on the tops of high mountains; each is
lord and master in his family, and they take no account of their

"Now off their harbour there lies a wooded and fertile island
not quite close to the land of the Cyclopes, but still not far.
It is over-run with wild goats, that breed there in great
numbers and are never disturbed by foot of man; for
sportsmen--who as a rule will suffer so much hardship in forest
or among mountain precipices--do not go there, nor yet again is
it ever ploughed or fed down, but it lies a wilderness untilled
and unsown from year to year, and has no living thing upon it
but only goats. For the Cyclopes have no ships, nor yet
shipwrights who could make ships for them; they cannot therefore
go from city to city, or sail over the sea to one another's
country as people who have ships can do; if they had had these
they would have colonised the island, {78} for it is a very good
one, and would yield everything in due season. There are meadows
that in some places come right down to the sea shore, well
watered and full of luscious grass; grapes would do there
excellently; there is level land for ploughing, and it would
always yield heavily at harvest time, for the soil is deep.
There is a good harbour where no cables are wanted, nor yet
anchors, nor need a ship be moored, but all one has to do is to
beach one's vessel and stay there till the wind becomes fair for
putting out to sea again. At the head of the harbour there is a
spring of clear water coming out of a cave, and there are
poplars growing all round it.

"Here we entered, but so dark was the night that some god must
have brought us in, for there was nothing whatever to be seen. A
thick mist hung all round our ships; {79} the moon was hidden
behind a mass of clouds so that no one could have seen the
island if he had looked for it, nor were there any breakers to
tell us we were close in shore before we found ourselves upon
the land itself; when, however, we had beached the ships, we
took down the sails, went ashore and camped upon the beach till

"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we
admired the island and wandered all over it, while the nymphs
Jove's daughters roused the wild goats that we might get some
meat for our dinner. On this we fetched our spears and bows and
arrows from the ships, and dividing ourselves into three bands
began to shoot the goats. Heaven sent us excellent sport; I had
twelve ships with me, and each ship got nine goats, while my own
ship had ten; thus through the livelong day to the going down of
the sun we ate and drank our fill, and we had plenty of wine
left, for each one of us had taken many jars full when we sacked
the city of the Cicons, and this had not yet run out. While we
were feasting we kept turning our eyes towards the land of the
Cyclopes, which was hard by, and saw the smoke of their stubble
fires. We could almost fancy we heard their voices and the
bleating of their sheep and goats, but when the sun went down
and it came on dark, we camped down upon the beach, and next
morning I called a council.

"'Stay here, my brave fellows,' said I, 'all the rest of you,
while I go with my ship and exploit these people myself: I want
to see if they are uncivilised savages, or a hospitable and
humane race.'

"I went on board, bidding my men to do so also and loose the
hawsers; so they took their places and smote the grey sea with
their oars. When we got to the land, which was not far, there,
on the face of a cliff near the sea, we saw a great cave
overhung with laurels. It was a station for a great many sheep
and goats, and outside there was a large yard, with a high wall
round it made of stones built into the ground and of trees both
pine and oak. This was the abode of a huge monster who was then
away from home shepherding his flocks. He would have nothing to
do with other people, but led the life of an outlaw. He was a
horrid creature, not like a human being at all, but resembling
rather some crag that stands out boldly against the sky on the
top of a high mountain.

"I told my men to draw the ship ashore, and stay where they
were, all but the twelve best among them, who were to go along
with myself. I also took a goatskin of sweet black wine which
had been given me by Maron, son of Euanthes, who was priest of
Apollo the patron god of Ismarus, and lived within the wooded
precincts of the temple. When we were sacking the city we
respected him, and spared his life, as also his wife and child;
so he made me some presents of great value--seven talents of
fine gold, and a bowl of silver, with twelve jars of sweet wine,
unblended, and of the most exquisite flavour. Not a man nor maid
in the house knew about it, but only himself, his wife, and one
housekeeper: when he drank it he mixed twenty parts of water to
one of wine, and yet the fragrance from the mixing-bowl was so
exquisite that it was impossible to refrain from drinking. I
filled a large skin with this wine, and took a wallet full of
provisions with me, for my mind misgave me that I might have to
deal with some savage who would be of great strength, and would
respect neither right nor law.

"We soon reached his cave, but he was out shepherding, so we
went inside and took stock of all that we could see. His
cheese-racks were loaded with cheeses, and he had more lambs and
kids than his pens could hold. They were kept in separate
flocks; first there were the hoggets, then the oldest of the
younger lambs and lastly the very young ones {80} all kept apart
from one another; as for his dairy, all the vessels, bowls, and
milk pails into which he milked, were swimming with whey. When
they saw all this, my men begged me to let them first steal some
cheeses, and make off with them to the ship; they would then
return, drive down the lambs and kids, put them on board and
sail away with them. It would have been indeed better if we had
done so but I would not listen to them, for I wanted to see the
owner himself, in the hope that he might give me a present.
When, however, we saw him my poor men found him ill to deal

"We lit a fire, offered some of the cheeses in sacrifice, ate
others of them, and then sat waiting till the Cyclops should
come in with his sheep. When he came, he brought in with him a
huge load of dry firewood to light the fire for his supper, and
this he flung with such a noise on to the floor of his cave that
we hid ourselves for fear at the far end of the cavern.
Meanwhile he drove all the ewes inside, as well as the she-goats
that he was going to milk, leaving the males, both rams and
he-goats, outside in the yards. Then he rolled a huge stone to
the mouth of the cave--so huge that two and twenty strong
four-wheeled waggons would not be enough to draw it from its
place against the doorway. When he had so done he sat down and
milked his ewes and goats, all in due course, and then let each
of them have her own young. He curdled half the milk and set it
aside in wicker strainers, but the other half he poured into
bowls that he might drink it for his supper. When he had got
through with all his work, he lit the fire, and then caught
sight of us, whereon he said:

"'Strangers, who are you? Where do sail from? Are you traders,
or do you sail the sea as rovers, with your hands against every
man, and every man's hand against you?'

"We were frightened out of our senses by his loud voice and
monstrous form, but I managed to say, 'We are Achaeans on our
way home from Troy, but by the will of Jove, and stress of
weather, we have been driven far out of our course. We are the
people of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, who has won infinite renown
throughout the whole world, by sacking so great a city and
killing so many people. We therefore humbly pray you to show us
some hospitality, and otherwise make us such presents as
visitors may reasonably expect. May your excellency fear the
wrath of heaven, for we are your suppliants, and Jove takes all
respectable travellers under his protection, for he is the
avenger of all suppliants and foreigners in distress.'

"To this he gave me but a pitiless answer, 'Stranger,' said he,
'you are a fool, or else you know nothing of this country. Talk
to me, indeed, about fearing the gods or shunning their anger?
We Cyclopes do not care about Jove or any of your blessed gods,
for we are ever so much stronger than they. I shall not spare
either yourself or your companions out of any regard for Jove,
unless I am in the humour for doing so. And now tell me where
you made your ship fast when you came on shore. Was it round the
point, or is she lying straight off the land?'

"He said this to draw me out, but I was too cunning to be caught
in that way, so I answered with a lie; 'Neptune,' said I, 'sent
my ship on to the rocks at the far end of your country, and
wrecked it. We were driven on to them from the open sea, but I
and those who are with me escaped the jaws of death.'

"The cruel wretch vouchsafed me not one word of answer, but with
a sudden clutch he gripped up two of my men at once and dashed
them down upon the ground as though they had been puppies. Their
brains were shed upon the ground, and the earth was wet with
their blood. Then he tore them limb from limb and supped upon
them. He gobbled them up like a lion in the wilderness, flesh,
bones, marrow, and entrails, without leaving anything uneaten.
As for us, we wept and lifted up our hands to heaven on seeing
such a horrid sight, for we did not know what else to do; but
when the Cyclops had filled his huge paunch, and had washed down
his meal of human flesh with a drink of neat milk, he stretched
himself full length upon the ground among his sheep, and went to
sleep. I was at first inclined to seize my sword, draw it, and
drive it into his vitals, but I reflected that if I did we
should all certainly be lost, for we should never be able to
shift the stone which the monster had put in front of the door.
So we stayed sobbing and sighing where we were till morning

"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered dawn, appeared, he
again lit his fire, milked his goats and ewes, all quite
rightly, and then let each have her own young one; as soon as he
had got through with all his work, he clutched up two more of my
men, and began eating them for his morning's meal. Presently,
with the utmost ease, he rolled the stone away from the door and
drove out his sheep, but he at once put it back again--as easily
as though he were merely clapping the lid on to a quiver full of
arrows. As soon as he had done so he shouted, and cried 'Shoo,
shoo,' after his sheep to drive them on to the mountain; so I
was left to scheme some way of taking my revenge and covering
myself with glory.

"In the end I deemed it would be the best plan to do as follows:
The Cyclops had a great club which was lying near one of the
sheep pens; it was of green olive wood, and he had cut it
intending to use it for a staff as soon as it should be dry. It
was so huge that we could only compare it to the mast of a
twenty-oared merchant vessel of large burden, and able to
venture out into open sea. I went up to this club and cut off
about six feet of it; I then gave this piece to the men and told
them to fine it evenly off at one end, which they proceeded to
do, and lastly I brought it to a point myself, charring the end
in the fire to make it harder. When I had done this I hid it
under dung, which was lying about all over the cave, and told
the men to cast lots which of them should venture along with
myself to lift it and bore it into the monster's eye while he
was asleep. The lot fell upon the very four whom I should have
chosen, and I myself made five. In the evening the wretch came
back from shepherding, and drove his flocks into the cave--this
time driving them all inside, and not leaving any in the yards;
I suppose some fancy must have taken him, or a god must have
prompted him to do so. As soon as he had put the stone back to
its place against the door, he sat down, milked his ewes and his
goats all quite rightly, and then let each have her own young
one; when he had got through with all this work, he gripped up
two more of my men, and made his supper off them. So I went up
to him with an ivy-wood bowl of black wine in my hands:

"'Look here, Cyclops,' said I, you have been eating a great deal
of man's flesh, so take this and drink some wine, that you may
see what kind of liquor we had on board my ship. I was bringing
it to you as a drink-offering, in the hope that you would take
compassion upon me and further me on my way home, whereas all
you do is to go on ramping and raving most intolerably. You
ought to be ashamed of yourself; how can you expect people to
come see you any more if you treat them in this way?'

"He then took the cup and drank. He was so delighted with the
taste of the wine that he begged me for another bowl full. 'Be
so kind,' he said, 'as to give me some more, and tell me your
name at once. I want to make you a present that you will be glad
to have. We have wine even in this country, for our soil grows
grapes and the sun ripens them, but this drinks like Nectar and
Ambrosia all in one.'

"I then gave him some more; three times did I fill the bowl for
him, and three times did he drain it without thought or heed;
then, when I saw that the wine had got into his head, I said to
him as plausibly as I could: 'Cyclops, you ask my name and I
will tell it you; give me, therefore, the present you promised
me; my name is Noman; this is what my father and mother and my
friends have always called me.'

"But the cruel wretch said, 'Then I will eat all Noman's
comrades before Noman himself, and will keep Noman for the last.
This is the present that I will make him.'

"As he spoke he reeled, and fell sprawling face upwards on the
ground. His great neck hung heavily backwards and a deep sleep
took hold upon him. Presently he turned sick, and threw up both
wine and the gobbets of human flesh on which he had been
gorging, for he was very drunk. Then I thrust the beam of wood
far into the embers to heat it, and encouraged my men lest any
of them should turn faint-hearted. When the wood, green though
it was, was about to blaze, I drew it out of the fire glowing
with heat, and my men gathered round me, for heaven had filled
their hearts with courage. We drove the sharp end of the beam
into the monster's eye, and bearing upon it with all my weight I
kept turning it round and round as though I were boring a hole
in a ship's plank with an auger, which two men with a wheel and
strap can keep on turning as long as they choose. Even thus did
we bore the red hot beam into his eye, till the boiling blood
bubbled all over it as we worked it round and round, so that the
steam from the burning eyeball scalded his eyelids and eyebrows,
and the roots of the eye sputtered in the fire. As a blacksmith
plunges an axe or hatchet into cold water to temper it--for it
is this that gives strength to the iron--and it makes a great
hiss as he does so, even thus did the Cyclops' eye hiss round
the beam of olive wood, and his hideous yells made the cave ring
again. We ran away in a fright, but he plucked the beam all
besmirched with gore from his eye, and hurled it from him in a
frenzy of rage and pain, shouting as he did so to the other
Cyclopes who lived on the bleak headlands near him; so they
gathered from all quarters round his cave when they heard him
crying, and asked what was the matter with him.

"'What ails you, Polyphemus,' said they, 'that you make such a
noise, breaking the stillness of the night, and preventing us
from being able to sleep? Surely no man is carrying off your
sheep? Surely no man is trying to kill you either by fraud or by

"But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, 'Noman is
killing me by fraud; no man is killing me by force.'

"'Then,' said they, 'if no man is attacking you, you must be
ill; when Jove makes people ill, there is no help for it, and
you had better pray to your father Neptune.'

"Then they went away, and I laughed inwardly at the success of
my clever stratagem, but the Cyclops, groaning and in an agony
of pain, felt about with his hands till he found the stone and
took it from the door; then he sat in the doorway and stretched
his hands in front of it to catch anyone going out with the
sheep, for he thought I might be foolish enough to attempt this.

"As for myself I kept on puzzling to think how I could best save
my own life and those of my companions; I schemed and schemed,
as one who knows that his life depends upon it, for the danger
was very great. In the end I deemed that this plan would be the
best; the male sheep were well grown, and carried a heavy black
fleece, so I bound them noiselessly in threes together, with
some of the withies on which the wicked monster used to sleep.
There was to be a man under the middle sheep, and the two on
either side were to cover him, so that there were three sheep to
each man. As for myself there was a ram finer than any of the
others, so I caught hold of him by the back, esconced myself in
the thick wool under his belly, and hung on patiently to his
fleece, face upwards, keeping a firm hold on it all the time.

"Thus, then, did we wait in great fear of mind till morning
came, but when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn,
appeared, the male sheep hurried out to feed, while the ewes
remained bleating about the pens waiting to be milked, for their
udders were full to bursting; but their master in spite of all
his pain felt the backs of all the sheep as they stood upright,
without being sharp enough to find out that the men were
underneath their bellies. As the ram was going out, last of all,
heavy with its fleece and with the weight of my crafty self,
Polyphemus laid hold of it and said:

"'My good ram, what is it that makes you the last to leave my
cave this morning? You are not wont to let the ewes go before
you, but lead the mob with a run whether to flowery mead or
bubbling fountain, and are the first to come home again at
night; but now you lag last of all. Is it because you know your
master has lost his eye, and are sorry because that wicked Noman
and his horrid crew has got him down in his drink and blinded
him? But I will have his life yet. If you could understand and
talk, you would tell me where the wretch is hiding, and I would
dash his brains upon the ground till they flew all over the
cave. I should thus have some satisfaction for the harm this
no-good Noman has done me.'

"As he spoke he drove the ram outside, but when we were a little
way out from the cave and yards, I first got from under the
ram's belly, and then freed my comrades; as for the sheep, which
were very fat, by constantly heading them in the right direction
we managed to drive them down to the ship. The crew rejoiced
greatly at seeing those of us who had escaped death, but wept
for the others whom the Cyclops had killed. However, I made
signs to them by nodding and frowning that they were to hush
their crying, and told them to get all the sheep on board at
once and put out to sea; so they went aboard, took their places,
and smote the grey sea with their oars. Then, when I had got as
far out as my voice would reach, I began to jeer at the Cyclops.

"'Cyclops,' said I, 'you should have taken better measure of
your man before eating up his comrades in your cave. You
wretch, eat up your visitors in your own house? You might have
known that your sin would find you out, and now Jove and the
other gods have punished you.'

"He got more and more furious as he heard me, so he tore the top
from off a high mountain, and flung it just in front of my ship
so that it was within a little of hitting the end of the rudder.
{81} The sea quaked as the rock fell into it, and the wash of
the wave it raised carried us back towards the mainland, and
forced us towards the shore. But I snatched up a long pole and
kept the ship off, making signs to my men by nodding my head,
that they must row for their lives, whereon they laid out with a
will. When we had got twice as far as we were before, I was for
jeering at the Cyclops again, but the men begged and prayed of
me to hold my tongue.

"'Do not,' they exclaimed, 'be mad enough to provoke this savage
creature further; he has thrown one rock at us already which
drove us back again to the mainland, and we made sure it had
been the death of us; if he had then heard any further sound of
voices he would have pounded our heads and our ship's timbers
into a jelly with the rugged rocks he would have heaved at us,
for he can throw them a long way.'

"But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my
rage, 'Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye
out and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior
Ulysses, son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.'

"On this he groaned, and cried out, 'Alas, alas, then the old
prophecy about me is coming true. There was a prophet here, at
one time, a man both brave and of great stature, Telemus son of
Eurymus, who was an excellent seer, and did all the prophesying
for the Cyclopes till he grew old; he told me that all this
would happen to me some day, and said I should lose my sight by
the hand of Ulysses. I have been all along expecting some one of
imposing presence and superhuman strength, whereas he turns out
to be a little insignificant weakling, who has managed to blind
my eye by taking advantage of me in my drink; come here, then,
Ulysses, that I may make you presents to show my hospitality,
and urge Neptune to help you forward on your journey--for
Neptune and I are father and son. He, if he so will, shall heal
me, which no one else neither god nor man can do.'

"Then I said, 'I wish I could be as sure of killing you outright
and sending you down to the house of Hades, as I am that it will
take more than Neptune to cure that eye of yours.'

"On this he lifted up his hands to the firmament of heaven and
prayed, saying, 'Hear me, great Neptune; if I am indeed your own
true begotten son, grant that Ulysses may never reach his home
alive; or if he must get back to his friends at last, let him do
so late and in sore plight after losing all his men [let him
reach his home in another man's ship and find trouble in his
house.'] {82}

"Thus did he pray, and Neptune heard his prayer. Then he picked
up a rock much larger than the first, swung it aloft and hurled
it with prodigious force. It fell just short of the ship, but
was within a little of hitting the end of the rudder. The sea
quaked as the rock fell into it, and the wash of the wave it
raised drove us onwards on our way towards the shore of the

"When at last we got to the island where we had left the rest of
our ships, we found our comrades lamenting us, and anxiously
awaiting our return. We ran our vessel upon the sands and got
out of her on to the sea shore; we also landed the Cyclops'
sheep, and divided them equitably amongst us so that none might
have reason to complain. As for the ram, my companions agreed
that I should have it as an extra share; so I sacrificed it on
the sea shore, and burned its thigh bones to Jove, who is the
lord of all. But he heeded not my sacrifice, and only thought
how he might destroy both my ships and my comrades.

"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
feasted our fill on meat and drink, but when the sun went down
and it came on dark, we camped upon the beach. When the child
of morning rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, I bade my men on board
and loose the hawsers. Then they took their places and smote the
grey sea with their oars; so we sailed on with sorrow in our
hearts, but glad to have escaped death though we had lost our

Book X


"Thence we went on to the Aeolian island where lives Aeolus son
of Hippotas, dear to the immortal gods. It is an island that
floats (as it were) upon the sea, {83} iron bound with a wall
that girds it. Now, Aeolus has six daughters and six lusty sons,
so he made the sons marry the daughters, and they all live with
their dear father and mother, feasting and enjoying every
conceivable kind of luxury. All day long the atmosphere of the
house is loaded with the savour of roasting meats till it groans
again, yard and all; but by night they sleep on their well made
bedsteads, each with his own wife between the blankets. These
were the people among whom we had now come.

"Aeolus entertained me for a whole month asking me questions all
the time about Troy, the Argive fleet, and the return of the
Achaeans. I told him exactly how everything had happened, and
when I said I must go, and asked him to further me on my way, he
made no sort of difficulty, but set about doing so at once.
Moreover, he flayed me a prime ox-hide to hold the ways of the
roaring winds, which he shut up in the hide as in a sack--for
Jove had made him captain over the winds, and he could stir or
still each one of them according to his own pleasure. He put the
sack in the ship and bound the mouth so tightly with a silver
thread that not even a breath of a side-wind could blow from any
quarter. The West wind which was fair for us did he alone let
blow as it chose; but it all came to nothing, for we were lost
through our own folly.

"Nine days and nine nights did we sail, and on the tenth day our
native land showed on the horizon. We got so close in that we
could see the stubble fires burning, and I, being then dead
beat, fell into a light sleep, for I had never let the rudder
out of my own hands, that we might get home the faster. On this
the men fell to talking among themselves, and said I was
bringing back gold and silver in the sack that Aeolus had given
me. 'Bless my heart,' would one turn to his neighbour, saying,
'how this man gets honoured and makes friends to whatever city
or country he may go. See what fine prizes he is taking home
from Troy, while we, who have travelled just as far as he has,
come back with hands as empty as we set out with--and now Aeolus
has given him ever so much more. Quick--let us see what it all
is, and how much gold and silver there is in the sack he gave

"Thus they talked and evil counsels prevailed. They loosed the
sack, whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm
that carried us weeping out to sea and away from our own
country. Then I awoke, and knew not whether to throw myself into
the sea or to live on and make the best of it; but I bore it,
covered myself up, and lay down in the ship, while the men
lamented bitterly as the fierce winds bore our fleet back to the
Aeolian island.

"When we reached it we went ashore to take in water, and dined
hard by the ships. Immediately after dinner I took a herald and
one of my men and went straight to the house of Aeolus, where I
found him feasting with his wife and family; so we sat down as
suppliants on the threshold. They were astounded when they saw
us and said, 'Ulysses, what brings you here? What god has been
ill-treating you? We took great pains to further you on your
way home to Ithaca, or wherever it was that you wanted to go

"Thus did they speak, but I answered sorrowfully, 'My men have
undone me; they, and cruel sleep, have ruined me. My friends,
mend me this mischief, for you can if you will.'

"I spoke as movingly as I could, but they said nothing, till
their father answered, 'Vilest of mankind, get you gone at once
out of the island; him whom heaven hates will I in no wise help.
Be off, for you come here as one abhorred of heaven.' And with
these words he sent me sorrowing from his door.

"Thence we sailed sadly on till the men were worn out with long
and fruitless rowing, for there was no longer any wind to help
them. Six days, night and day did we toil, and on the seventh
day we reached the rocky stronghold of Lamus--Telepylus, the
city of the Laestrygonians, where the shepherd who is driving in
his sheep and goats [to be milked] salutes him who is driving
out his flock [to feed] and this last answers the salute. In
that country a man who could do without sleep might earn double
wages, one as a herdsman of cattle, and another as a shepherd,
for they work much the same by night as they do by day. {84}

"When we reached the harbour we found it land-locked under steep
cliffs, with a narrow entrance between two headlands. My
captains took all their ships inside, and made them fast close
to one another, for there was never so much as a breath of wind
inside, but it was always dead calm. I kept my own ship outside,
and moored it to a rock at the very end of the point; then I
climbed a high rock to reconnoitre, but could see no sign
neither of man nor cattle, only some smoke rising from the
ground. So I sent two of my company with an attendant to find
out what sort of people the inhabitants were.

"The men when they got on shore followed a level road by which
the people draw their firewood from the mountains into the town,
till presently they met a young woman who had come outside to
fetch water, and who was daughter to a Laestrygonian named
Antiphates. She was going to the fountain Artacia from which the
people bring in their water, and when my men had come close up
to her, they asked her who the king of that country might be,
and over what kind of people he ruled; so she directed them to
her father's house, but when they got there they found his wife
to be a giantess as huge as a mountain, and they were horrified
at the sight of her.

"She at once called her husband Antiphates from the place of
assembly, and forthwith he set about killing my men. He snatched
up one of them, and began to make his dinner off him then and
there, whereon the other two ran back to the ships as fast as
ever they could. But Antiphates raised a hue-and-cry after them,
and thousands of sturdy Laestrygonians sprang up from every
quarter--ogres, not men. They threw vast rocks at us from the
cliffs as though they had been mere stones, and I heard the
horrid sound of the ships crunching up against one another, and
the death cries of my men, as the Laestrygonians speared them
like fishes and took them home to eat them. While they were thus
killing my men within the harbour I drew my sword, cut the cable
of my own ship, and told my men to row with all their might if
they too would not fare like the rest; so they laid out for
their lives, and we were thankful enough when we got into open
water out of reach of the rocks they hurled at us. As for the
others there was not one of them left.

"Thence we sailed sadly on, glad to have escaped death, though
we had lost our comrades, and came to the Aeaean island, where
Circe lives--a great and cunning goddess who is own sister to
the magician Aeetes--for they are both children of the sun by
Perse, who is daughter to Oceanus. We brought our ship into a
safe harbour without a word, for some god guided us thither, and
having landed we lay there for two days and two nights, worn out
in body and mind. When the morning of the third day came I took
my spear and my sword, and went away from the ship to
reconnoitre, and see if I could discover signs of human
handiwork, or hear the sound of voices. Climbing to the top of a
high look-out I espied the smoke of Circe's house rising upwards
amid a dense forest of trees, and when I saw this I doubted
whether, having seen the smoke, I would not go on at once and
find out more, but in the end I deemed it best to go back to the
ship, give the men their dinners, and send some of them instead
of going myself.

"When I had nearly got back to the ship some god took pity upon
my solitude, and sent a fine antlered stag right into the middle
of my path. He was coming down his pasture in the forest to
drink of the river, for the heat of the sun drove him, and as he
passed I struck him in the middle of the back; the bronze point
of the spear went clean through him, and he lay groaning in the
dust until the life went out of him. Then I set my foot upon
him, drew my spear from the wound, and laid it down; I also
gathered rough grass and rushes and twisted them into a fathom
or so of good stout rope, with which I bound the four feet of
the noble creature together; having so done I hung him round my
neck and walked back to the ship leaning upon my spear, for the
stag was much too big for me to be able to carry him on my
shoulder, steadying him with one hand. As I threw him down in
front of the ship, I called the men and spoke cheeringly man by
man to each of them. 'Look here my friends,' said I, 'we are not
going to die so much before our time after all, and at any rate
we will not starve so long as we have got something to eat and
drink on board.' On this they uncovered their heads upon the sea
shore and admired the stag, for he was indeed a splendid fellow.
Then, when they had feasted their eyes upon him sufficiently,
they washed their hands and began to cook him for dinner.

"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
stayed there eating and drinking our fill, but when the sun went
down and it came on dark, we camped upon the sea shore. When the
child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I called a
council and said, 'My friends, we are in very great
difficulties; listen therefore to me. We have no idea where the
sun either sets or rises, {85} so that we do not even know East
from West. I see no way out of it; nevertheless, we must try and
find one. We are certainly on an island, for I went as high as I
could this morning, and saw the sea reaching all round it to the
horizon; it lies low, but towards the middle I saw smoke rising
from out of a thick forest of trees.'

"Their hearts sank as they heard me, for they remembered how
they had been treated by the Laestrygonian Antiphates, and by
the savage ogre Polyphemus. They wept bitterly in their dismay,
but there was nothing to be got by crying, so I divided them
into two companies and set a captain over each; I gave one
company to Eurylochus, while I took command of the other myself.
Then we cast lots in a helmet, and the lot fell upon Eurylochus;
so he set out with his twenty-two men, and they wept, as also
did we who were left behind.

"When they reached Circe's house they found it built of cut
stones, on a site that could be seen from far, in the middle of
the forest. There were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling
all round it--poor bewitched creatures whom she had tamed by her
enchantments and drugged into subjection. They did not attack my
men, but wagged their great tails, fawned upon them, and rubbed
their noses lovingly against them. {86} As hounds crowd round
their master when they see him coming from dinner--for they know
he will bring them something--even so did these wolves and lions
with their great claws fawn upon my men, but the men were
terribly frightened at seeing such strange creatures. Presently
they reached the gates of the goddess's house, and as they stood
there they could hear Circe within, singing most beautifully as
she worked at her loom, making a web so fine, so soft, and of
such dazzling colours as no one but a goddess could weave. On
this Polites, whom I valued and trusted more than any other of
my men, said, 'There is some one inside working at a loom and
singing most beautifully; the whole place resounds with it, let
us call her and see whether she is woman or goddess.'

"They called her and she came down, unfastened the door, and
bade them enter. They, thinking no evil, followed her, all
except Eurylochus, who suspected mischief and staid outside.
When she had got them into her house, she set them upon benches
and seats and mixed them a mess with cheese, honey, meal, and
Pramnian wine, but she drugged it with wicked poisons to make
them forget their homes, and when they had drunk she turned them
into pigs by a stroke of her wand, and shut them up in her
pig-styes. They were like pigs--head, hair, and all, and they
grunted just as pigs do; but their senses were the same as
before, and they remembered everything.

"Thus then were they shut up squealing, and Circe threw them
some acorns and beech masts such as pigs eat, but Eurylochus
hurried back to tell me about the sad fate of our comrades. He
was so overcome with dismay that though he tried to speak he
could find no words to do so; his eyes filled with tears and he
could only sob and sigh, till at last we forced his story out of
him, and he told us what had happened to the others.

"'We went,' said he, 'as you told us, through the forest, and in
the middle of it there was a fine house built with cut stones in
a place that could be seen from far. There we found a woman, or
else she was a goddess, working at her loom and singing sweetly;
so the men shouted to her and called her, whereon she at once
came down, opened the door, and invited us in. The others did
not suspect any mischief so they followed her into the house,
but I staid where I was, for I thought there might be some
treachery. From that moment I saw them no more, for not one of
them ever came out, though I sat a long time watching for them.'

"Then I took my sword of bronze and slung it over my shoulders;
I also took my bow, and told Eurylochus to come back with me and
shew me the way. But he laid hold of me with both his hands and
spoke piteously, saying, 'Sir, do not force me to go with you,
but let me stay here, for I know you will not bring one of them
back with you, nor even return alive yourself; let us rather see
if we cannot escape at any rate with the few that are left us,
for we may still save our lives.'

"'Stay where you are, then,' answered I, 'eating and drinking at
the ship, but I must go, for I am most urgently bound to do so.'

"With this I left the ship and went up inland. When I got
through the charmed grove, and was near the great house of the
enchantress Circe, I met Mercury with his golden wand, disguised
as a young man in the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the
down just coming upon his face. He came up to me and took my
hand within his own, saying, 'My poor unhappy man, whither are
you going over this mountain top, alone and without knowing the
way? Your men are shut up in Circe's pigstyes, like so many wild
boars in their lairs. You surely do not fancy that you can set
them free? I can tell you that you will never get back and will
have to stay there with the rest of them. But never mind, I will
protect you and get you out of your difficulty. Take this herb,
which is one of great virtue, and keep it about you when you go
to Circe's house, it will be a talisman to you against every
kind of mischief.

"'And I will tell you of all the wicked witchcraft that Circe
will try to practice upon you. She will mix a mess for you to
drink, and she will drug the meal with which she makes it, but
she will not be able to charm you, for the virtue of the herb
that I shall give you will prevent her spells from working. I
will tell you all about it. When Circe strikes you with her
wand, draw your sword and spring upon her as though you were
going to kill her. She will then be frightened, and will desire
you to go to bed with her; on this you must not point blank
refuse her, for you want her to set your companions free, and to
take good care also of yourself, but you must make her swear
solemnly by all the blessed gods that she will plot no further
mischief against you, or else when she has got you naked she
will unman you and make you fit for nothing.'

"As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground and shewed me
what it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as
white as milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot
uproot it, but the gods can do whatever they like.

"Then Mercury went back to high Olympus passing over the wooded
island; but I fared onward to the house of Circe, and my heart
was clouded with care as I walked along. When I got to the gates
I stood there and called the goddess, and as soon as she heard
me she came down, opened the door, and asked me to come in; so I
followed her--much troubled in my mind. She set me on a richly
decorated seat inlaid with silver, there was a footstool also
under my feet, and she mixed a mess in a golden goblet for me to
drink; but she drugged it, for she meant me mischief. When she
had given it me, and I had drunk it without its charming me, she
struck me with her wand. 'There now,' she cried, 'be off to the
pigstye, and make your lair with the rest of them.'

"But I rushed at her with my sword drawn as though I would kill
her, whereon she fell with a loud scream, clasped my knees, and
spoke piteously, saying, 'Who and whence are you? from what
place and people have you come? How can it be that my drugs have
no power to charm you? Never yet was any man able to stand so
much as a taste of the herb I gave you; you must be spell-proof;
surely you can be none other than the bold hero Ulysses, who
Mercury always said would come here some day with his ship while
on his way home from Troy; so be it then; sheathe your sword and
let us go to bed, that we may make friends and learn to trust
each other.'

"And I answered, 'Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly
with you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs?
And now that you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief
when you ask me to go to bed with you, and will unman me and
make me fit for nothing. I shall certainly not consent to go to
bed with you unless you will first take your solemn oath to plot
no further harm against me.'

"So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had
completed her oath then I went to bed with her.

"Meanwhile her four servants, who are her housemaids, set about
their work. They are the children of the groves and fountains,
and of the holy waters that run down into the sea. One of them
spread a fair purple cloth over a seat, and laid a carpet
underneath it. Another brought tables of silver up to the seats,
and set them with baskets of gold. A third mixed some sweet
wine with water in a silver bowl and put golden cups upon the
tables, while the fourth brought in water and set it to boil in
a large cauldron over a good fire which she had lighted. When
the water in the cauldron was boiling, {87} she poured cold into
it till it was just as I liked it, and then she set me in a bath
and began washing me from the cauldron about the head and
shoulders, to take the tire and stiffness out of my limbs. As
soon as she had done washing me and anointing me with oil, she
arrayed me in a good cloak and shirt and led me to a richly
decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also
under my feet. A maid servant then brought me water in a
beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a silver basin for me
to wash my hands, and she drew a clean table beside me; an upper
servant brought me bread and offered me many things of what
there was in the house, and then Circe bade me eat, but I would
not, and sat without heeding what was before me, still moody and

"When Circe saw me sitting there without eating, and in great
grief, she came to me and said, 'Ulysses, why do you sit like
that as though you were dumb, gnawing at your own heart, and
refusing both meat and drink? Is it that you are still
suspicious? You ought not to be, for I have already sworn
solemnly that I will not hurt you.'

"And I said, 'Circe, no man with any sense of what is right can
think of either eating or drinking in your house until you have
set his friends free and let him see them. If you want me to eat
and drink, you must free my men and bring them to me that I may
see them with my own eyes.'

"When I had said this she went straight through the court with
her wand in her hand and opened the pigstye doors. My men came
out like so many prime hogs and stood looking at her, but she
went about among them and anointed each with a second drug,
whereon the bristles that the bad drug had given them fell off,
and they became men again, younger than they were before, and
much taller and better looking. They knew me at once, seized me
each of them by the hand, and wept for joy till the whole house
was filled with the sound of their halloa-ballooing, and Circe
herself was so sorry for them that she came up to me and said,
'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, go back at once to the sea where
you have left your ship, and first draw it on to the land.
Then, hide all your ship's gear and property in some cave, and
come back here with your men.'

"I agreed to this, so I went back to the sea shore, and found
the men at the ship weeping and wailing most piteously. When
they saw me the silly blubbering fellows began frisking round me
as calves break out and gambol round their mothers, when they
see them coming home to be milked after they have been feeding
all day, and the homestead resounds with their lowing. They
seemed as glad to see me as though they had got back to their
own rugged Ithaca, where they had been born and bred. 'Sir,'
said the affectionate creatures, 'we are as glad to see you back
as though we had got safe home to Ithaca; but tell us all about
the fate of our comrades.'

"I spoke comfortingly to them and said, 'We must draw our ship
on to the land, and hide the ship's gear with all our property
in some cave; then come with me all of you as fast as you can to
Circe's house, where you will find your comrades eating and
drinking in the midst of great abundance.'

"On this the men would have come with me at once, but Eurylochus
tried to hold them back and said, 'Alas, poor wretches that we
are, what will become of us? Rush not on your ruin by going to
the house of Circe, who will turn us all into pigs or wolves or
lions, and we shall have to keep guard over her house. Remember
how the Cyclops treated us when our comrades went inside his
cave, and Ulysses with them. It was all through his sheer folly
that those men lost their lives.'

"When I heard him I was in two minds whether or no to draw the
keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh and cut his head off in
spite of his being a near relation of my own; but the men
interceded for him and said, 'Sir, if it may so be, let this
fellow stay here and mind the ship, but take the rest of us with
you to Circe's house.'

"On this we all went inland, and Eurylochus was not left behind
after all, but came on too, for he was frightened by the severe
reprimand that I had given him.

"Meanwhile Circe had been seeing that the men who had been left
behind were washed and anointed with olive oil; she had also
given them woollen cloaks and shirts, and when we came we found
them all comfortably at dinner in her house. As soon as the men
saw each other face to face and knew one another, they wept for
joy and cried aloud till the whole palace rang again. Thereon
Circe came up to me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes,
tell your men to leave off crying; I know how much you have all
of you suffered at sea, and how ill you have fared among cruel
savages on the mainland, but that is over now, so stay here, and
eat and drink till you are once more as strong and hearty as you
were when you left Ithaca; for at present you are weakened both
in body and mind; you keep all the time thinking of the
hardships you have suffered during your travels, so that you
have no more cheerfulness left in you.'

"Thus did she speak and we assented. We stayed with Circe for a
whole twelvemonth feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat
and wine. But when the year had passed in the waning of moons
and the long days had come round, my men called me apart and
said, 'Sir, it is time you began to think about going home, if
so be you are to be spared to see your house and native country
at all.'

"Thus did they speak and I assented. Thereon through the
livelong day to the going down of the sun we feasted our fill on
meat and wine, but when the sun went down and it came on dark
the men laid themselves down to sleep in the covered cloisters.
I, however, after I had got into bed with Circe, besought her by
her knees, and the goddess listened to what I had got to say.
'Circe,' said I, 'please to keep the promise you made me about
furthering me on my homeward voyage. I want to get back and so
do my men, they are always pestering me with their complaints as
soon as ever your back is turned.'

"And the goddess answered, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you
shall none of you stay here any longer if you do not want to,
but there is another journey which you have got to take before
you can sail homewards. You must go to the house of Hades and of
dread Proserpine to consult the ghost of the blind Theban
prophet Teiresias, whose reason is still unshaken. To him alone
has Proserpine left his understanding even in death, but the
other ghosts flit about aimlessly.'

"I was dismayed when I heard this. I sat up in bed and wept, and
would gladly have lived no longer to see the light of the sun,
but presently when I was tired of weeping and tossing myself
about, I said, 'And who shall guide me upon this voyage--for the
house of Hades is a port that no ship can reach.'

"'You will want no guide,' she answered; 'raise your mast, set
your white sails, sit quite still, and the North Wind will blow
you there of itself. When your ship has traversed the waters of
Oceanus, you will reach the fertile shore of Proserpine's
country with its groves of tall poplars and willows that shed
their fruit untimely; here beach your ship upon the shore of
Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark abode of Hades. You will
find it near the place where the rivers Pyriphlegethon and
Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx) flow into Acheron,
and you will see a rock near it, just where the two roaring
rivers run into one another.

"'When you have reached this spot, as I now tell you, dig a
trench a cubit or so in length, breadth, and depth, and pour
into it as a drink-offering to all the dead, first, honey mixed
with milk, then wine, and in the third place water--sprinkling
white barley meal over the whole. Moreover you must offer many
prayers to the poor feeble ghosts, and promise them that when
you get back to Ithaca you will sacrifice a barren heifer to
them, the best you have, and will load the pyre with good
things. More particularly you must promise that Teiresias shall
have a black sheep all to himself, the finest in all your

"'When you shall have thus besought the ghosts with your
prayers, offer them a ram and a black ewe, bending their heads
towards Erebus; but yourself turn away from them as though you
would make towards the river. On this, many dead men's ghosts
will come to you, and you must tell your men to skin the two
sheep that you have just killed, and offer them as a burnt
sacrifice with prayers to Hades and to Proserpine. Then draw
your sword and sit there, so as to prevent any other poor ghost
from coming near the spilt blood before Teiresias shall have
answered your questions. The seer will presently come to you,
and will tell you about your voyage--what stages you are to
make, and how you are to sail the sea so as to reach your home.'

"It was day-break by the time she had done speaking, so she
dressed me in my shirt and cloak. As for herself she threw a
beautiful light gossamer fabric over her shoulders, fastening it
with a golden girdle round her waist, and she covered her head
with a mantle. Then I went about among the men everywhere all
over the house, and spoke kindly to each of them man by man:
'You must not lie sleeping here any longer,' said I to them, 'we
must be going, for Circe has told me all about it.' And on this
they did as I bade them.

"Even so, however, I did not get them away without misadventure.
We had with us a certain youth named Elpenor, not very
remarkable for sense or courage, who had got drunk and was lying
on the house-top away from the rest of the men, to sleep off his
liquor in the cool. When he heard the noise of the men bustling
about, he jumped up on a sudden and forgot all about coming down
by the main staircase, so he tumbled right off the roof and
broke his neck, and his soul went down to the house of Hades.

"When I had got the men together I said to them, 'You think you
are about to start home again, but Circe has explained to me
that instead of this, we have got to go to the house of Hades
and Proserpine to consult the ghost of the Theban prophet

"The men were broken-hearted as they heard me, and threw
themselves on the ground groaning and tearing their hair, but
they did not mend matters by crying. When we reached the sea
shore, weeping and lamenting our fate, Circe brought the ram and
the ewe, and we made them fast hard by the ship. She passed
through the midst of us without our knowing it, for who can see
the comings and goings of a god, if the god does not wish to be

Book XI


"Then, when we had got down to the sea shore we drew our ship
into the water and got her mast and sails into her; we also put
the sheep on board and took our places, weeping and in great
distress of mind. Circe, that great and cunning goddess, sent us
a fair wind that blew dead aft and staid steadily with us
keeping our sails all the time well filled; so we did whatever
wanted doing to the ship's gear and let her go as the wind and
helmsman headed her. All day long her sails were full as she
held her course over the sea, but when the sun went down and
darkness was over all the earth, we got into the deep waters of
the river Oceanus, where lie the land and city of the Cimmerians
who live enshrouded in mist and darkness which the rays of the
sun never pierce neither at his rising nor as he goes down again
out of the heavens, but the poor wretches live in one long
melancholy night. When we got there we beached the ship, took
the sheep out of her, and went along by the waters of Oceanus
till we came to the place of which Circe had told us.

"Here Perimedes and Eurylochus held the victims, while I drew my
sword and dug the trench a cubit each way. I made a
drink-offering to all the dead, first with honey and milk, then
with wine, and thirdly with water, and I sprinkled white barley
meal over the whole, praying earnestly to the poor feckless
ghosts, and promising them that when I got back to Ithaca I
would sacrifice a barren heifer for them, the best I had, and
would load the pyre with good things. I also particularly
promised that Teiresias should have a black sheep to himself,
the best in all my flocks. When I had prayed sufficiently to the
dead, I cut the throats of the two sheep and let the blood run
into the trench, whereon the ghosts came trooping up from
Erebus--brides, {89} young bachelors, old men worn out with
toil, maids who had been crossed in love, and brave men who had
been killed in battle, with their armour still smirched with
blood; they came from every quarter and flitted round the trench
with a strange kind of screaming sound that made me turn pale
with fear. When I saw them coming I told the men to be quick and
flay the carcasses of the two dead sheep and make burnt
offerings of them, and at the same time to repeat prayers to
Hades and to Proserpine; but I sat where I was with my sword
drawn and would not let the poor feckless ghosts come near the
blood till Teiresias should have answered my questions.

"The first ghost that came was that of my comrade Elpenor, for
he had not yet been laid beneath the earth. We had left his body
unwaked and unburied in Circe's house, for we had had too much
else to do. I was very sorry for him, and cried when I saw him:
'Elpenor,' said I, 'how did you come down here into this gloom
and darkness? You have got here on foot quicker than I have with
my ship.'

"'Sir,' he answered with a groan, 'it was all bad luck, and my
own unspeakable drunkenness. I was lying asleep on the top of
Circe's house, and never thought of coming down again by the
great staircase but fell right off the roof and broke my neck,
so my soul came down to the house of Hades. And now I beseech
you by all those whom you have left behind you, though they are
not here, by your wife, by the father who brought you up when
you were a child, and by Telemachus who is the one hope of your
house, do what I shall now ask you. I know that when you leave
this limbo you will again hold your ship for the Aeaean island.
Do not go thence leaving me unwaked and unburied behind you, or
I may bring heaven's anger upon you; but burn me with whatever
armour I have, build a barrow for me on the sea shore, that may
tell people in days to come what a poor unlucky fellow I was,
and plant over my grave the oar I used to row with when I was
yet alive and with my messmates.' And I said, 'My poor fellow, I
will do all that you have asked of me.'

"Thus, then, did we sit and hold sad talk with one another, I on
the one side of the trench with my sword held over the blood,
and the ghost of my comrade saying all this to me from the other
side. Then came the ghost of my dead mother Anticlea, daughter
to Autolycus. I had left her alive when I set out for Troy and
was moved to tears when I saw her, but even so, for all my
sorrow I would not let her come near the blood till I had asked
my questions of Teiresias.

"Then came also the ghost of Theban Teiresias, with his golden
sceptre in his hand. He knew me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of
Laertes, why, poor man, have you left the light of day and come
down to visit the dead in this sad place? Stand back from the
trench and withdraw your sword that I may drink of the blood and
answer your questions truly.'

"So I drew back, and sheathed my sword, whereon when he had
drank of the blood he began with his prophecy.

"'You want to know,' said he, 'about your return home, but
heaven will make this hard for you. I do not think that you will
escape the eye of Neptune, who still nurses his bitter grudge
against you for having blinded his son. Still, after much
suffering you may get home if you can restrain yourself and your
companions when your ship reaches the Thrinacian island, where
you will find the sheep and cattle belonging to the sun, who
sees and gives ear to everything. If you leave these flocks
unharmed and think of nothing but of getting home, you may yet
after much hardship reach Ithaca; but if you harm them, then I
forewarn you of the destruction both of your ship and of your
men. Even though you may yourself escape, you will return in bad
plight after losing all your men, [in another man's ship, and
you will find trouble in your house, which will be overrun by
high-handed people, who are devouring your substance under the
pretext of paying court and making presents to your wife.

"'When you get home you will take your revenge on these suitors;
and after you have killed them by force or fraud in your own
house, you must take a well made oar and carry it on and on,
till you come to a country where the people have never heard of
the sea and do not even mix salt with their food, nor do they
know anything about ships, and oars that are as the wings of a
ship. I will give you this certain token which cannot escape
your notice. A wayfarer will meet you and will say it must be a
winnowing shovel that you have got upon your shoulder; on this
you must fix the oar in the ground and sacrifice a ram, a bull,
and a boar to Neptune. {90} Then go home and offer hecatombs to
all the gods in heaven one after the other. As for yourself,
death shall come to you from the sea, and your life shall ebb
away very gently when you are full of years and peace of mind,
and your people shall bless you. All that I have said will come
true].' {91}

"'This,' I answered, 'must be as it may please heaven, but tell
me and tell me and tell me true, I see my poor mother's ghost
close by us; she is sitting by the blood without saying a word,
and though I am her own son she does not remember me and speak
to me; tell me, Sir, how I can make her know me.'

"'That,' said he, 'I can soon do. Any ghost that you let taste
of the blood will talk with you like a reasonable being, but if
you do not let them have any blood they will go away again.'

"On this the ghost of Teiresias went back to the house of Hades,
for his prophecyings had now been spoken, but I sat still where
I was until my mother came up and tasted the blood. Then she
knew me at once and spoke fondly to me, saying, 'My son, how did
you come down to this abode of darkness while you are still
alive? It is a hard thing for the living to see these places,
for between us and them there are great and terrible waters, and
there is Oceanus, which no man can cross on foot, but he must
have a good ship to take him. Are you all this time trying to
find your way home from Troy, and have you never yet got back to
Ithaca nor seen your wife in your own house?'

"'Mother,' said I, 'I was forced to come here to consult the
ghost of the Theban prophet Teiresias. I have never yet been
near the Achaean land nor set foot on my native country, and I
have had nothing but one long series of misfortunes from the
very first day that I set out with Agamemnon for Ilius, the land
of noble steeds, to fight the Trojans. But tell me, and tell me
true, in what way did you die? Did you have a long illness, or
did heaven vouchsafe you a gentle easy passage to eternity? Tell
me also about my father, and the son whom I left behind me, is
my property still in their hands, or has some one else got hold
of it, who thinks that I shall not return to claim it? Tell me
again what my wife intends doing, and in what mind she is; does
she live with my son and guard my estate securely, or has she
made the best match she could and married again?'

"My mother answered, 'Your wife still remains in your house, but
she is in great distress of mind and spends her whole time in
tears both night and day. No one as yet has got possession of
your fine property, and Telemachus still holds your lands
undisturbed. He has to entertain largely, as of course he must,
considering his position as a magistrate, {92} and how every one
invites him; your father remains at his old place in the country
and never goes near the town. He has no comfortable bed nor
bedding; in the winter he sleeps on the floor in front of the
fire with the men and goes about all in rags, but in summer,
when the warm weather comes on again, he lies out in the
vineyard on a bed of vine leaves thrown any how upon the ground.
He grieves continually about your never having come home, and
suffers more and more as he grows older. As for my own end it
was in this wise: heaven did not take me swiftly and painlessly
in my own house, nor was I attacked by any illness such as those
that generally wear people out and kill them, but my longing to
know what you were doing and the force of my affection for
you--this it was that was the death of me.' {93}

"Then I tried to find some way of embracing my poor mother's
ghost. Thrice I sprang towards her and tried to clasp her in my
arms, but each time she flitted from my embrace as it were a
dream or phantom, and being touched to the quick I said to her,
'Mother, why do you not stay still when I would embrace you? If
we could throw our arms around one another we might find sad
comfort in the sharing of our sorrows even in the house of
Hades; does Proserpine want to lay a still further load of grief
upon me by mocking me with a phantom only?'

"'My son,' she answered, 'most ill-fated of all mankind, it is
not Proserpine that is beguiling you, but all people are like
this when they are dead. The sinews no longer hold the flesh and
bones together; these perish in the fierceness of consuming fire
as soon as life has left the body, and the soul flits away as
though it were a dream. Now, however, go back to the light of
day as soon as you can, and note all these things that you may
tell them to your wife hereafter.'

"Thus did we converse, and anon Proserpine sent up the ghosts of
the wives and daughters of all the most famous men. They
gathered in crowds about the blood, and I considered how I might
question them severally. In the end I deemed that it would be
best to draw the keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh, and
keep them from all drinking the blood at once. So they came up
one after the other, and each one as I questioned her told me
her race and lineage.

"The first I saw was Tyro. She was daughter of Salmoneus and
wife of Cretheus the son of Aeolus. {94} She fell in love with
the river Enipeus who is much the most beautiful river in the
whole world. Once when she was taking a walk by his side as
usual, Neptune, disguised as her lover, lay with her at the
mouth of the river, and a huge blue wave arched itself like a
mountain over them to hide both woman and god, whereon he loosed
her virgin girdle and laid her in a deep slumber. When the god
had accomplished the deed of love, he took her hand in his own
and said, 'Tyro, rejoice in all good will; the embraces of the
gods are not fruitless, and you will have fine twins about this
time twelve months. Take great care of them. I am Neptune, so
now go home, but hold your tongue and do not tell any one.'

"Then he dived under the sea, and she in due course bore Pelias
and Neleus, who both of them served Jove with all their might.
Pelias was a great breeder of sheep and lived in Iolcus, but the
other lived in Pylos. The rest of her children were by Cretheus,
namely, Aeson, Pheres, and Amythaon, who was a mighty warrior
and charioteer.

"Next to her I saw Antiope, daughter to Asopus, who could boast
of having slept in the arms of even Jove himself, and who bore
him two sons Amphion and Zethus. These founded Thebes with its
seven gates, and built a wall all round it; for strong though
they were they could not hold Thebes till they had walled it.

"Then I saw Alcmena, the wife of Amphitryon, who also bore to
Jove indomitable Hercules; and Megara who was daughter to great
King Creon, and married the redoubtable son of Amphitryon.

"I also saw fair Epicaste mother of king Oedipodes whose awful
lot it was to marry her own son without suspecting it. He
married her after having killed his father, but the gods
proclaimed the whole story to the world; whereon he remained
king of Thebes, in great grief for the spite the gods had borne
him; but Epicaste went to the house of the mighty jailor Hades,
having hanged herself for grief, and the avenging spirits
haunted him as for an outraged mother--to his ruing bitterly

"Then I saw Chloris, whom Neleus married for her beauty, having
given priceless presents for her. She was youngest daughter to
Amphion son of Iasus and king of Minyan Orchomenus, and was
Queen in Pylos. She bore Nestor, Chromius, and Periclymenus, and
she also bore that marvellously lovely woman Pero, who was wooed
by all the country round; but Neleus would only give her to him
who should raid the cattle of Iphicles from the grazing grounds
of Phylace, and this was a hard task. The only man who would
undertake to raid them was a certain excellent seer, {95} but
the will of heaven was against him, for the rangers of the
cattle caught him and put him in prison; nevertheless when a
full year had passed and the same season came round again,
Iphicles set him at liberty, after he had expounded all the
oracles of heaven. Thus, then, was the will of Jove

"And I saw Leda the wife of Tyndarus, who bore him two famous
sons, Castor breaker of horses, and Pollux the mighty boxer.
Both these heroes are lying under the earth, though they are
still alive, for by a special dispensation of Jove, they die and
come to life again, each one of them every other day throughout
all time, and they have the rank of gods.

"After her I saw Iphimedeia wife of Aloeus who boasted the
embrace of Neptune. She bore two sons Otus and Ephialtes, but
both were short lived. They were the finest children that were
ever born in this world, and the best looking, Orion only
excepted; for at nine years old they were nine fathoms high, and
measured nine cubits round the chest. They threatened to make
war with the gods in Olympus, and tried to set Mount Ossa on the
top of Mount Olympus, and Mount Pelion on the top of Ossa, that
they might scale heaven itself, and they would have done it too
if they had been grown up, but Apollo, son of Leto, killed both
of them, before they had got so much as a sign of hair upon
their cheeks or chin.

"Then I saw Phaedra, and Procris, and fair Ariadne daughter of
the magician Minos, whom Theseus was carrying off from Crete to
Athens, but he did not enjoy her, for before he could do so
Diana killed her in the island of Dia on account of what Bacchus
had said against her.

"I also saw Maera and Clymene and hateful Eriphyle, who sold her
own husband for gold. But it would take me all night if I were
to name every single one of the wives and daughters of heroes
whom I saw, and it is time for me to go to bed, either on board
ship with my crew, or here. As for my escort, heaven and
yourselves will see to it."

Here he ended, and the guests sat all of them enthralled and
speechless throughout the covered cloister. Then Arete said to

"What do you think of this man, O Phaeacians? Is he not tall and
good looking, and is he not clever? True, he is my own guest,
but all of you share in the distinction. Do not be in a hurry to
send him away, nor niggardly in the presents you make to one who
is in such great need, for heaven has blessed all of you with
great abundance."

Then spoke the aged hero Echeneus who was one of the oldest men
among them, "My friends," said he, "what our august queen has
just said to us is both reasonable and to the purpose, therefore
be persuaded by it; but the decision whether in word or deed
rests ultimately with King Alcinous."

"The thing shall be done," exclaimed Alcinous, "as surely as I
still live and reign over the Phaeacians. Our guest is indeed
very anxious to get home, still we must persuade him to remain
with us until to-morrow, by which time I shall be able to get
together the whole sum that I mean to give him. As regards his
escort it will be a matter for you all, and mine above all
others as the chief person among you."

And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, if you were to bid me to
stay here for a whole twelve months, and then speed me on my
way, loaded with your noble gifts, I should obey you gladly and
it would redound greatly to my advantage, for I should return
fuller-handed to my own people, and should thus be more
respected and beloved by all who see me when I get back to

"Ulysses," replied Alcinous, "not one of us who sees you has any
idea that you are a charlatan or a swindler. I know there are
many people going about who tell such plausible stories that it
is very hard to see through them, but there is a style about
your language which assures me of your good disposition.
Moreover you have told the story of your own misfortunes, and
those of the Argives, as though you were a practiced bard; but
tell me, and tell me true, whether you saw any of the mighty
heroes who went to Troy at the same time with yourself, and
perished there. The evenings are still at their longest, and it
is not yet bed time--go on, therefore, with your divine story,
for I could stay here listening till tomorrow morning, so long
as you will continue to tell us of your adventures."

"Alcinous," answered Ulysses, "there is a time for making
speeches, and a time for going to bed; nevertheless, since you
so desire, I will not refrain from telling you the still sadder
tale of those of my comrades who did not fall fighting with the
Trojans, but perished on their return, through the treachery of
a wicked woman.

"When Proserpine had dismissed the female ghosts in all
directions, the ghost of Agamemnon son of Atreus came sadly up
to me, surrounded by those who had perished with him in the
house of Aegisthus. As soon as he had tasted the blood, he knew
me, and weeping bitterly stretched out his arms towards me to
embrace me; but he had no strength nor substance any more, and I
too wept and pitied him as I beheld him. 'How did you come by
your death,' said I, 'King Agamemnon? Did Neptune raise his
winds and waves against you when you were at sea, or did your
enemies make an end of you on the main land when you were
cattle-lifting or sheep-stealing, or while they were fighting in
defence of their wives and city?'

"'Ulysses,' he answered, 'noble son of Laertes, I was not lost
at sea in any storm of Neptune's raising, nor did my foes
despatch me upon the mainland, but Aegisthus and my wicked wife
were the death of me between them. He asked me to his house,
feasted me, and then butchered me most miserably as though I
were a fat beast in a slaughter house, while all around me my
comrades were slain like sheep or pigs for the wedding
breakfast, or picnic, or gorgeous banquet of some great
nobleman. You must have seen numbers of men killed either in a
general engagement, or in single combat, but you never saw
anything so truly pitiable as the way in which we fell in that
cloister, with the mixing bowl and the loaded tables lying all
about, and the ground reeking with our blood. I heard Priam's
daughter Cassandra scream as Clytemnestra killed her close
beside me. I lay dying upon the earth with the sword in my body,
and raised my hands to kill the slut of a murderess, but she
slipped away from me; she would not even close my lips nor my
eyes when I was dying, for there is nothing in this world so
cruel and so shameless as a woman when she has fallen into such
guilt as hers was. Fancy murdering her own husband! I thought I
was going to be welcomed home by my children and my servants,
but her abominable crime has brought disgrace on herself and all
women who shall come after--even on the good ones.'

"And I said, 'In truth Jove has hated the house of Atreus from
first to last in the matter of their women's counsels. See how
many of us fell for Helen's sake, and now it seems that
Clytemnestra hatched mischief against you too during your

"'Be sure, therefore,' continued Agamemnon, 'and not be too
friendly even with your own wife. Do not tell her all that you
know perfectly well yourself. Tell her a part only, and keep
your own counsel about the rest. Not that your wife, Ulysses, is
likely to murder you, for Penelope is a very admirable woman,
and has an excellent nature. We left her a young bride with an
infant at her breast when we set out for Troy. This child no
doubt is now grown up happily to man's estate, {96} and he and
his father will have a joyful meeting and embrace one another as
it is right they should do, whereas my wicked wife did not even
allow me the happiness of looking upon my son, but killed me ere
I could do so. Furthermore I say--and lay my saying to your
heart--do not tell people when you are bringing your ship to
Ithaca, but steal a march upon them, for after all this there is
no trusting women. But now tell me, and tell me true, can you
give me any news of my son Orestes? Is he in Orchomenus, or at
Pylos, or is he at Sparta with Menelaus--for I presume that he
is still living.'

"And I said, 'Agamemnon, why do you ask me? I do not know
whether your son is alive or dead, and it is not right to talk
when one does not know.'

"As we two sat weeping and talking thus sadly with one another
the ghost of Achilles came up to us with Patroclus, Antilochus,
and Ajax who was the finest and goodliest man of all the Danaans
after the son of Peleus. The fleet descendant of Aeacus knew me
and spoke piteously, saying, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes,
what deed of daring will you undertake next, that you venture
down to the house of Hades among us silly dead, who are but the
ghosts of them that can labour no more?'

"And I said, 'Achilles, son of Peleus, foremost champion of the
Achaeans, I came to consult Teiresias, and see if he could
advise me about my return home to Ithaca, for I have never yet
been able to get near the Achaean land, nor to set foot in my
own country, but have been in trouble all the time. As for you,
Achilles, no one was ever yet so fortunate as you have been, nor
ever will be, for you were adored by all us Argives as long as
you were alive, and now that you are here you are a great prince
among the dead. Do not, therefore, take it so much to heart even
if you are dead.'

"'Say not a word,' he answered, 'in death's favour; I would
rather be a paid servant in a poor man's house and be above
ground than king of kings among the dead. But give me news about
my son; is he gone to the wars and will he be a great soldier,
or is this not so? Tell me also if you have heard anything about
my father Peleus--does he still rule among the Myrmidons, or do
they show him no respect throughout Hellas and Phthia now that
he is old and his limbs fail him? Could I but stand by his side,
in the light of day, with the same strength that I had when I
killed the bravest of our foes upon the plain of Troy--could I
but be as I then was and go even for a short time to my father's
house, any one who tried to do him violence or supersede him
would soon rue it.'

"'I have heard nothing,' I answered, 'of Peleus, but I can tell
you all about your son Neoptolemus, for I took him in my own
ship from Scyros with the Achaeans. In our councils of war
before Troy he was always first to speak, and his judgement was
unerring. Nestor and I were the only two who could surpass him;
and when it came to fighting on the plain of Troy, he would
never remain with the body of his men, but would dash on far in
front, foremost of them all in valour. Many a man did he kill in
battle--I cannot name every single one of those whom he slew
while fighting on the side of the Argives, but will only say how
he killed that valiant hero Eurypylus son of Telephus, who was
the handsomest man I ever saw except Memnon; many others also of
the Ceteians fell around him by reason of a woman's bribes.
Moreover, when all the bravest of the Argives went inside the
horse that Epeus had made, and it was left to me to settle when
we should either open the door of our ambuscade, or close it,
though all the other leaders and chief men among the Danaans
were drying their eyes and quaking in every limb, I never once
saw him turn pale nor wipe a tear from his cheek; he was all the
time urging me to break out from the horse--grasping the handle
of his sword and his bronze-shod spear, and breathing fury
against the foe. Yet when we had sacked the city of Priam he got
his handsome share of the prize money and went on board (such is
the fortune of war) without a wound upon him, neither from a
thrown spear nor in close combat, for the rage of Mars is a
matter of great chance.'

"When I had told him this, the ghost of Achilles strode off
across a meadow full of asphodel, exulting over what I had said
concerning the prowess of his son.

"The ghosts of other dead men stood near me and told me each his
own melancholy tale; but that of Ajax son of Telamon alone held
aloof--still angry with me for having won the cause in our
dispute about the armour of Achilles. Thetis had offered it as
a prize, but the Trojan prisoners and Minerva were the judges.
Would that I had never gained the day in such a contest, for it
cost the life of Ajax, who was foremost of all the Danaans after
the son of Peleus, alike in stature and prowess.

"When I saw him I tried to pacify him and said, 'Ajax, will you
not forget and forgive even in death, but must the judgement
about that hateful armour still rankle with you? It cost us
Argives dear enough to lose such a tower of strength as you were
to us. We mourned you as much as we mourned Achilles son of
Peleus himself, nor can the blame be laid on anything but on the
spite which Jove bore against the Danaans, for it was this that
made him counsel your destruction--come hither, therefore, bring
your proud spirit into subjection, and hear what I can tell

"He would not answer, but turned away to Erebus and to the other
ghosts; nevertheless, I should have made him talk to me in spite
of his being so angry, or I should have gone on talking to him,
{97} only that there were still others among the dead whom I
desired to see.

"Then I saw Minos son of Jove with his golden sceptre in his
hand sitting in judgement on the dead, and the ghosts were
gathered sitting and standing round him in the spacious house of
Hades, to learn his sentences upon them.

"After him I saw huge Orion in a meadow full of asphodel driving
the ghosts of the wild beasts that he had killed upon the
mountains, and he had a great bronze club in his hand,
unbreakable for ever and ever.

"And I saw Tityus son of Gaia stretched upon the plain and
covering some nine acres of ground. Two vultures on either side
of him were digging their beaks into his liver, and he kept on
trying to beat them off with his hands, but could not; for he
had violated Jove's mistress Leto as she was going through
Panopeus on her way to Pytho.

"I saw also the dreadful fate of Tantalus, who stood in a lake
that reached his chin; he was dying to quench his thirst, but
could never reach the water, for whenever the poor creature
stooped to drink, it dried up and vanished, so that there was
nothing but dry ground--parched by the spite of heaven. There
were tall trees, moreover, that shed their fruit over his
head--pears, pomegranates, apples, sweet figs and juicy olives,
but whenever the poor creature stretched out his hand to take
some, the wind tossed the branches back again to the clouds.

"And I saw Sisyphus at his endless task raising his prodigious
stone with both his hands. With hands and feet he tried to roll
it up to the top of the hill, but always, just before he could
roll it over on to the other side, its weight would be too much
for him, and the pitiless stone {98} would come thundering down
again on to the plain. Then he would begin trying to push it up
hill again, and the sweat ran off him and the steam rose after

"After him I saw mighty Hercules, but it was his phantom only,
for he is feasting ever with the immortal gods, and has lovely
Hebe to wife, who is daughter of Jove and Juno. The ghosts were
screaming round him like scared birds flying all whithers. He
looked black as night with his bare bow in his hands and his
arrow on the string, glaring around as though ever on the point
of taking aim. About his breast there was a wondrous golden belt
adorned in the most marvellous fashion with bears, wild boars,
and lions with gleaming eyes; there was also war, battle, and
death. The man who made that belt, do what he might, would
never be able to make another like it. Hercules knew me at once
when he saw me, and spoke piteously, saying, 'My poor Ulysses,
noble son of Laertes, are you too leading the same sorry kind of
life that I did when I was above ground? I was son of Jove, but
I went through an infinity of suffering, for I became bondsman
to one who was far beneath me--a low fellow who set me all
manner of labours. He once sent me here to fetch the
hell-hound--for he did not think he could find anything harder
for me than this, but I got the hound out of Hades and brought
him to him, for Mercury and Minerva helped me.'

"On this Hercules went down again into the house of Hades, but I
stayed where I was in case some other of the mighty dead should
come to me. And I should have seen still other of them that are
gone before, whom I would fain have seen--Theseus and
Pirithous--glorious children of the gods, but so many thousands
of ghosts came round me and uttered such appalling cries, that I
was panic stricken lest Proserpine should send up from the house
of Hades the head of that awful monster Gorgon. On this I
hastened back to my ship and ordered my men to go on board at
once and loose the hawsers; so they embarked and took their
places, whereon the ship went down the stream of the river
Oceanus. We had to row at first, but presently a fair wind
sprang up.

Book XII


"After we were clear of the river Oceanus, and had got out into
the open sea, we went on till we reached the Aeaean island where
there is dawn and sun-rise as in other places. We then drew our
ship on to the sands and got out of her on to the shore, where
we went to sleep and waited till day should break.

"Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
I sent some men to Circe's house to fetch the body of Elpenor.
We cut firewood from a wood where the headland jutted out into
the sea, and after we had wept over him and lamented him we
performed his funeral rites. When his body and armour had been
burned to ashes, we raised a cairn, set a stone over it, and at
the top of the cairn we fixed the oar that he had been used to
row with.

"While we were doing all this, Circe, who knew that we had got
back from the house of Hades, dressed herself and came to us as
fast as she could; and her maid servants came with her bringing
us bread, meat, and wine. Then she stood in the midst of us and
said, 'You have done a bold thing in going down alive to the
house of Hades, and you will have died twice, to other people's
once; now, then, stay here for the rest of the day, feast your
fill, and go on with your voyage at daybreak tomorrow morning.
In the meantime I will tell Ulysses about your course, and will
explain everything to him so as to prevent your suffering from
misadventure either by land or sea.'

"We agreed to do as she had said, and feasted through the
livelong day to the going down of the sun, but when the sun had
set and it came on dark, the men laid themselves down to sleep
by the stern cables of the ship. Then Circe took me by the hand
and bade me be seated away from the others, while she reclined
by my side and asked me all about our adventures.

"'So far so good,' said she, when I had ended my story, 'and now
pay attention to what I am about to tell you--heaven itself,
indeed, will recall it to your recollection. First you will come
to the Sirens who enchant all who come near them. If any one
unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens,
his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for
they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the
sweetness of their song. There is a great heap of dead men's
bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them.
Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men's ears with
wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you can listen
yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you stand
upright on a cross piece half way up the mast, {99} and they
must lash the rope's ends to the mast itself, that you may have
the pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to
unloose you, then they must bind you faster.

"'When your crew have taken you past these Sirens, I cannot give
you coherent directions {100} as to which of two courses you are
to take; I will lay the two alternatives before you, and you
must consider them for yourself. On the one hand there are some
overhanging rocks against which the deep blue waves of
Amphitrite beat with terrific fury; the blessed gods call these
rocks the Wanderers. Here not even a bird may pass, no, not even
the timid doves that bring ambrosia to Father Jove, but the
sheer rock always carries off one of them, and Father Jove has
to send another to make up their number; no ship that ever yet
came to these rocks has got away again, but the waves and
whirlwinds of fire are freighted with wreckage and with the
bodies of dead men. The only vessel that ever sailed and got
through, was the famous Argo on her way from the house of Aetes,
and she too would have gone against these great rocks, only that
Juno piloted her past them for the love she bore to Jason.

"'Of these two rocks the one reaches heaven and its peak is lost
in a dark cloud. This never leaves it, so that the top is never
clear not even in summer and early autumn. No man though he had
twenty hands and twenty feet could get a foothold on it and
climb it, for it runs sheer up, as smooth as though it had been
polished. In the middle of it there is a large cavern, looking
West and turned towards Erebus; you must take your ship this
way, but the cave is so high up that not even the stoutest
archer could send an arrow into it. Inside it Scylla sits and
yelps with a voice that you might take to be that of a young
hound, but in truth she is a dreadful monster and no one--not
even a god--could face her without being terror-struck. She has
twelve mis-shapen feet, and six necks of the most prodigious
length; and at the end of each neck she has a frightful head
with three rows of teeth in each, all set very close together,
so that they would crunch any one to death in a moment, and she
sits deep within her shady cell thrusting out her heads and
peering all round the rock, fishing for dolphins or dogfish or
any larger monster that she can catch, of the thousands with
which Amphitrite teems. No ship ever yet got past her without
losing some men, for she shoots out all her heads at once, and
carries off a man in each mouth.

"'You will find the other rock lie lower, but they are so close
together that there is not more than a bow-shot between them. [A
large fig tree in full leaf {101} grows upon it], and under it
lies the sucking whirlpool of Charybdis. Three times in the day
does she vomit forth her waters, and three times she sucks them
down again; see that you be not there when she is sucking, for
if you are, Neptune himself could not save you; you must hug the
Scylla side and drive ship by as fast as you can, for you had
better lose six men than your whole crew.'

"'Is there no way,' said I, 'of escaping Charybdis, and at the
same time keeping Scylla off when she is trying to harm my men?'

"'You dare devil,' replied the goddess, 'you are always wanting
to fight somebody or something; you will not let yourself be
beaten even by the immortals. For Scylla is not mortal; moreover
she is savage, extreme, rude, cruel and invincible. There is no
help for it; your best chance will be to get by her as fast as
ever you can, for if you dawdle about her rock while you are
putting on your armour, she may catch you with a second cast of
her six heads, and snap up another half dozen of your men; so
drive your ship past her at full speed, and roar out lustily to
Crataiis who is Scylla's dam, bad luck to her; she will then
stop her from making a second raid upon you.'

"'You will now come to the Thrinacian island, and here you will
see many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep belonging to the
sun-god--seven herds of cattle and seven flocks of sheep, with
fifty head in each flock. They do not breed, nor do they become
fewer in number, and they are tended by the goddesses Phaethusa
and Lampetie, who are children of the sun-god Hyperion by
Neaera. Their mother when she had borne them and had done
suckling them sent them to the Thrinacian island, which was a
long way off, to live there and look after their father's flocks
and herds. If you leave these flocks unharmed, and think of
nothing but getting home, you may yet after much hardship reach
Ithaca; but if you harm them, then I forewarn you of the
destruction both of your ship and of your comrades; and even
though you may yourself escape, you will return late, in bad
plight, after losing all your men.'

"Here she ended, and dawn enthroned in gold began to show in
heaven, whereon she returned inland. I then went on board and
told my men to loose the ship from her moorings; so they at once
got into her, took their places, and began to smite the grey sea
with their oars. Presently the great and cunning goddess Circe
befriended us with a fair wind that blew dead aft, and staid
steadily with us, keeping our sails well filled, so we did
whatever wanted doing to the ship's gear, and let her go as wind
and helmsman headed her.

"Then, being much troubled in mind, I said to my men, 'My
friends, it is not right that one or two of us alone should know
the prophecies that Circe has made me, I will therefore tell you
about them, so that whether we live or die we may do so with our
eyes open. First she said we were to keep clear of the Sirens,
who sit and sing most beautifully in a field of flowers; but she
said I might hear them myself so long as no one else did.
Therefore, take me and bind me to the crosspiece half way up the
mast; bind me as I stand upright, with a bond so fast that I
cannot possibly break away, and lash the rope's ends to the mast
itself. If I beg and pray you to set me free, then bind me more
tightly still.'

"I had hardly finished telling everything to the men before we
reached the island of the two Sirens, {102} for the wind had
been very favourable. Then all of a sudden it fell dead calm;
there was not a breath of wind nor a ripple upon the water, so
the men furled the sails and stowed them; then taking to their
oars they whitened the water with the foam they raised in
rowing. Meanwhile I look a large wheel of wax and cut it up
small with my sword. Then I kneaded the wax in my strong hands
till it became soft, which it soon did between the kneading and
the rays of the sun-god son of Hyperion. Then I stopped the ears
of all my men, and they bound me hands and feet to the mast as I
stood upright on the cross piece; but they went on rowing
themselves. When we had got within earshot of the land, and the
ship was going at a good rate, the Sirens saw that we were
getting in shore and began with their singing.

"'Come here,' they sang, 'renowned Ulysses, honour to the
Achaean name, and listen to our two voices. No one ever sailed
past us without staying to hear the enchanting sweetness of our
song--and he who listens will go on his way not only charmed,
but wiser, for we know all the ills that the gods laid upon the
Argives and Trojans before Troy, and can tell you everything
that is going to happen over the whole world.'

"They sang these words most musically, and as I longed to hear
them further I made signs by frowning to my men that they should
set me free; but they quickened their stroke, and Eurylochus and
Perimedes bound me with still stronger bonds till we had got out
of hearing of the Sirens' voices. Then my men took the wax from
their ears and unbound me.

"Immediately after we had got past the island I saw a great wave
from which spray was rising, and I heard a loud roaring sound.
The men were so frightened that they loosed hold of their oars,
for the whole sea resounded with the rushing of the waters,
{103} but the ship stayed where it was, for the men had left off
rowing. I went round, therefore, and exhorted them man by man
not to lose heart.

"'My friends,' said I, 'this is not the first time that we have
been in danger, and we are in nothing like so bad a case as when
the Cyclops shut us up in his cave; nevertheless, my courage and
wise counsel saved us then, and we shall live to look back on
all this as well. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say, trust
in Jove and row on with might and main. As for you, coxswain,
these are your orders; attend to them, for the ship is in your
hands; turn her head away from these steaming rapids and hug the
rock, or she will give you the slip and be over yonder before
you know where you are, and you will be the death of us.'

"So they did as I told them; but I said nothing about the awful
monster Scylla, for I knew the men would not go on rowing if I
did, but would huddle together in the hold. In one thing only
did I disobey Circe's strict instructions--I put on my armour.
Then seizing two strong spears I took my stand on the ship's
bows, for it was there that I expected first to see the monster
of the rock, who was to do my men so much harm; but I could not
make her out anywhere, though I strained my eyes with looking
the gloomy rock all over and over.

"Then we entered the Straits in great fear of mind, for on the
one hand was Scylla, and on the other dread Charybdis kept
sucking up the salt water. As she vomited it up, it was like the
water in a cauldron when it is boiling over upon a great fire,
and the spray reached the top of the rocks on either side. When
she began to suck again, we could see the water all inside
whirling round and round, and it made a deafening sound as it
broke against the rocks. We could see the bottom of the
whirlpool all black with sand and mud, and the men were at their
wits ends for fear. While we were taken up with this, and were
expecting each moment to be our last, Scylla pounced down
suddenly upon us and snatched up my six best men. I was looking
at once after both ship and men, and in a moment I saw their
hands and feet ever so high above me, struggling in the air as
Scylla was carrying them off, and I heard them call out my name
in one last despairing cry. As a fisherman, seated, spear in
hand, upon some jutting rock {104} throws bait into the water to
deceive the poor little fishes, and spears them with the ox's
horn with which his spear is shod, throwing them gasping on to
the land as he catches them one by one--even so did Scylla land
these panting creatures on her rock and munch them up at the
mouth of her den, while they screamed and stretched out their
hands to me in their mortal agony. This was the most sickening
sight that I saw throughout all my voyages.

"When we had passed the [Wandering] rocks, with Scylla and
terrible Charybdis, we reached the noble island of the sun-god,
where were the goodly cattle and sheep belonging to the sun
Hyperion. While still at sea in my ship I could bear the cattle
lowing as they came home to the yards, and the sheep bleating.
Then I remembered what the blind Theban prophet Teiresias had
told me, and how carefully Aeaean Circe had warned me to shun
the island of the blessed sun-god. So being much troubled I said
to the men, 'My men, I know you are hard pressed, but listen
while I tell you the prophecy that Teiresias made me, and how
carefully Aeaean Circe warned me to shun the island of the
blessed sun-god, for it was here, she said, that our worst
danger would lie. Head the ship, therefore, away from the

"The men were in despair at this, and Eurylochus at once gave me
an insolent answer. 'Ulysses,' said he, 'you are cruel; you are
very strong yourself and never get worn out; you seem to be made
of iron, and now, though your men are exhausted with toil and
want of sleep, you will not let them land and cook themselves a
good supper upon this island, but bid them put out to sea and go
faring fruitlessly on through the watches of the flying night.
It is by night that the winds blow hardest and do so much
damage; how can we escape should one of those sudden squalls
spring up from South West or West, which so often wreck a vessel
when our lords the gods are unpropitious? Now, therefore, let
us obey the behests of night and prepare our supper here hard by
the ship; to-morrow morning we will go on board again and put
out to sea.'

"Thus spoke Eurylochus, and the men approved his words. I saw
that heaven meant us a mischief and said, 'You force me to
yield, for you are many against one, but at any rate each one of
you must take his solemn oath that if he meet with a herd of
cattle or a large flock of sheep, he will not be so mad as to
kill a single head of either, but will be satisfied with the
food that Circe has given us.'

"They all swore as I bade them, and when they had completed
their oath we made the ship fast in a harbour that was near a
stream of fresh water, and the men went ashore and cooked their
suppers. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, they
began talking about their poor comrades whom Scylla had snatched
up and eaten; this set them weeping and they went on crying till
they fell off into a sound sleep.

"In the third watch of the night when the stars had shifted
their places, Jove raised a great gale of wind that flew a
hurricane so that land and sea were covered with thick clouds,
and night sprang forth out of the heavens. When the child of
morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, we brought the ship to
land and drew her into a cave wherein the sea-nymphs hold their
courts and dances, and I called the men together in council.

"'My friends,' said I, 'we have meat and drink in the ship, let
us mind, therefore, and not touch the cattle, or we shall suffer
for it; for these cattle and sheep belong to the mighty sun, who

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