Homer The Odyssey Robert Fagles Pdf File 4,1/5 9809votes
Homer and His Guide (1874) by Today only the Iliad and Odyssey are associated with the name 'Homer'. In antiquity, a very large number of other works were sometimes attributed to him, including the, the, the, the, the, the, the, the comic mini-epic ('The Frog-Mouse War'), the, the, and the. These claims are not considered authentic today and were by no means universally accepted in the ancient world. As with the multitude of legends surrounding Homer's life, they indicate little more than the centrality of Homer to ancient Greek culture. Ancient biographies of Homer [ ]. For more details on this topic, see. Many traditions circulated in the ancient world concerning Homer, most of which are lost.
Modern scholarly consensus is that they have no value as history. Some claims were established early and repeated often - that Homer was blind (taking as self-referential a passage describing the blind bard ), that he was born in, that he was the son of the and a nymph, that he was a wandering bard, that he composed a varying list of other works (the ), that he died either in or after failing to solve a riddle set by fishermen, and various explanations for the name 'Homer'. The two best known ancient biographies of Homer are the by the Pseudo-Herodotus and the. Homeric studies and the Homeric question [ ]. Main article: Scholars continue to debate questions such as whether the Trojan War actually took place - and if so when and where - and to what extent the society depicted by Homer is based on his own or one which was, even at the time of the poems’ composition, known only as legend.
The Homeric epics are largely set in the east and center of the, with some scattered references to, and other distant lands, in a warlike society that resembles that of the Greek world slightly before the hypothesized date of the poems' composition. In ancient Greek chronology, the sack of Troy was dated to 1184 BC. By the nineteenth century there was widespread scholarly skepticism that Troy or the Trojan War had ever existed, but in 1873 announced to the world that he had discovered the ruins of Homer’s Troy at in modern. Some contemporary scholars think the destruction of Troy VIIa circa 1220 BC was the origin of the myth of the Trojan War, others that the poem was inspired by multiple similar sieges that took place over the centuries.
There are a number of places. (6th book, the directory lists other books as well ) You can also buy it for about 4$ (not a bad price). Sites such as sell it. This is a good site for. The Odyssey begins ten years after the end of the ten-year Trojan War (the subject of the Iliad), and Odysseus has still not returned home from the war.
However, Homer depicts customs that are not characteristic of any one historical period. For instance, his heroes use bronze weapons, characteristic of the rather than the later during which the poems were composed; yet they are cremated (an Iron Age practice) rather than buried (as they were in the Bronze Age). In the Iliad 10.260-265, Odysseus is described as wearing a. Such helmets were not worn in Homer's time, but were commonly worn by aristocratic warriors between 1600 and 1150 BC. The decipherment of in the 1950s by and continued archaeological investigation has increased modern scholars' understanding of, which in many ways resembles the ancient Near East more than the society described by Homer. Homeric language [ ]. Detail of (painted 1509-1510) by, depicting Homer wearing a crown of laurels atop, with on his right and on his left The Homeric epics are written in an artificial or 'Kunstsprache' only used in epic hexameteric poetry.
Homeric Greek shows features of multiple regional Greek dialects and periods, but is fundamentally based on, in keeping with the tradition that Homer was from Ionia. Linguistic analysis suggests that the Iliad was composed slightly before the Odyssey, and that Homeric formulae preserve older features than other parts of the poems. Homeric style [ ] The Homeric poems were composed in unrhymed; ancient Greek was quantity rather than stress based. Homer frequently uses set phrases such as ('crafty ', 'rosy-fingered ', 'owl-eyed ', etc), Homeric formulae ('and then answered [him/her], Agamemnon, king of men', 'when the early-born rose-fingered Dawn came to light', 'thus he/she spoke'),, type scenes, ring composition and repetition. These habits aid the extemporizing bard, and are characteristic of oral poetry. For instance, the main words of a Homeric sentence are generally placed towards the beginning, whereas literate poets like or use longer and more complicated syntactical structures. Homer then expands on these ideas in subsequent clauses; this technique is called.
The so-called ' ( typischen Scenen), were named by in 1933. He noted that Homer often, when describing frequently recurring activities such as eating, praying, fighting and dressing, used blocks of set phrases in sequence that were then elaborated by the poet.
The 'Analyst' school had considered these repetitions as un-Homeric, whereas Arend interpreted them philosophically. Parry and Lord noted that these conventions are found in many other cultures. 'Ring composition' or (when a phrase or idea is repeated at both the beginning and end of a story, or a series of such ideas first appears in the order A, B, C.
Before being reversed as.C, B, A) has been observed in the Homeric epics. Opinion differs as to whether these occurrences are a conscious artistic device, a mnemonic aid or a spontaneous feature of human storytelling. Both of the Homeric poems begin with an invocation to the.
In the Iliad, the poet invokes her to sing of 'the anger of Achilles', and, in the Odyssey, he asks her to sing of 'the man of many ways'. A similar opening was later employed by Virgil in his. Textual transmission [ ]. A Reading from Homer (1885) by The orally transmitted Homeric poems were put into written form at some point between the 8th and 6th centuries BC. Some scholars believe that they were dictated by the poet; noted that, in the process of dictating, the Balkan bards he recorded revised and extended their lays.
Some scholars hypothesize that a similar process occurred when the Homeric poems were first written. Other scholars such as hold that, after the poems were formed in the 8th century, they were orally transmitted with little deviation until they were written down in the 6th century. After textualisation, the poems were each divided into 24 rhapsodes, today referred to as books, and labelled by the letters of the. These divisions probably date from before 200 BC, and may have been made by Homer. In antiquity it was widely held that the Homeric poems were collected and organised in Athens by the tyrant (died 528/7 BC), in the famed 'Pesistratean recension'. From around 150 BC the text seems to have become relatively established. After the establishment of the, Homeric scholars such as of Ephesus, and in particular helped establish a canonical text.
The first printed edition of Homer was produced in 1488 in Milan. Today scholars use medieval manuscripts, and other sources; some argue for a 'multi-text' view, rather than seeking a single definitive text. The 19th century edition of mainly follows Aristarchus's work, whereas van Thiel's (1991,1996) follows the medieval vulgate. Others, such as (1998-2000) or T.W. Allen fall somewhere between these two extremes. See also [ ].
Full text of ' HOMER THE ODYSSEY TRANSLATED BY Robert Fagles Book I Athena Inspires the Prince Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns. Driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy. Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds, many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea, fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home. But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove — the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all, the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story. Muse, daughter of Zeus, start from where you will — sing for our time too. By now, all the survivors, all who avoided headlong death were safe at home, escaped the wars and waves. But one man alone. His heart set on his wife and his return — Calypso, the bewitching nymph, the lustrous goddess, held him back, deep in her arching caverns, craving him for a husband. But then, when the wheeling seasons brought the year around, that year spun out by the gods when he should reach his home, Ithaca — though not even there would he be free of trials, even among his loved ones — then every god took pity, all except Poseidon.
He raged on, seething against the great Odysseus till he reached his native land. But now Poseidon had gone to visit the Ethiopians worlds away, Ethiopians off at the farthest limits of mankind, a people split in two, one part where the Sungod sets and part where the Sungod rises. There Poseidon went to receive an offering, bulls and rams by the hundred — far away at the feast the Sea-lord sat and took his pleasure. But the other gods, at home in Olympian Zeus's halls, met for full assembly there, and among them now the father of men and gods was first to speak, sorely troubled, remembering handsome Aegisthus, the man Agamemnon's son, renowned Orestes, killed. Recalling Aegisthus, Zeus harangued the immortal powers: 'Ah how shameless — ^the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own reckless ways, compound their pains beyond their proper share. Look at Aegisthus now.
Above and beyond Azs share he stole Atrides' wife, he murdered the warlord coming home from Troy though he knew it meant his own total ruin. Far in advance we told him so ourselves, dispatching the guide, the giant-killer Hermes. 'Don't murder the man,' he said, 'don't court his wife. Beware, revenge will come from Orestes, Agamemnon's son, that day he comes of age and longs for his native land.' So Hermes warned, with all the good will in the world. But would Aegisthus' hardened heart give way? Now he pays the price — all at a single stroke.'
And sparkling-eyed Athena drove the matter home: 'Father, son of Cronus, our high and mighty king, surely he goes down to a death he earned in full! Let them all die so, all who do such things. But my heart breaks for Odysseus, that seasoned veteran cursed by fate so long — far from his loved ones still, he suffers torments off on a wave-washed island rising at the center of the seas. A dark wooded island, and there a goddess makes her home, daughter of Atlas, wicked Titan who sounds the deep in all its depths, whose shoulders lift on high the colossal pillars thrusting earth and sky apart. Atlas' daughter it is who holds Odysseus captive, luckless man — despite his tears, forever trying to spellbind his heart with suave, seductive words and wipe all thought of Ithaca from his mind. But he, straining for no more than a glimpse of hearth-smoke drifting up from his own land, Odysseus longs to die.
Olympian Zeus, have you no care for him 'm your lofty heart? Did he never win your favor with sacrifices burned beside the ships on the broad plain of Troy?
Why, Zeus, why so dead set against Odysseus?' 'My child,' Zeus who marshals the thunderheads replied, 'what nonsense you let slip through your teeth. Now, how on earth could 1 forget Odysseus?
Great Odysseus who excels all men in wisdom, excels in offerings too he gives the immortal gods who rule the vaulting skies? No, it's the Earth-Shaker, Poseidon, unappeased, forever fuming against him for the Cyclops whose giant eye he blinded: godlike Polyphemus, towering over all the Cyclops' clans in power. The nymph Thoosa bore him, daughter of Phorcys, lord of the barren salt sea — she met Poseidon once in his vaulted caves and they made love. And now for his blinded son the earthquake god — though he won't quite kill Odysseus — drives him far off course from native land. But come, all of us here put heads together now, work out his journey home so Odysseus can return.
Lord Poseidon, 1 trust, will let his anger go. How can he stand his ground against the will of all the gods at once — one god alone?'
Athena, her eyes flashing bright, exulted, 'Father, son of Cronus, our high and mighty king! If now it really pleases the blissful gods that wise Odysseus shall return — home at last — let us dispatch the guide and giant-killer Hermes down to Ogygia Island, down to announce at once to the nymph with lovely braids our fixed decree: Odysseus journeys home — ^the exile must return! While 1 myself go down to Ithaca, rouse his son to a braver pitch, inspire his heart with courage to summon the flowing-haired Achaeans to full assembly, speak his mind to all those suitors, slaughtering on and on his droves of sheep and shambling longhorn cattle. Next 1 will send him off to Sparta and sandy Pylos, there to learn of his dear father's journey home. Perhaps he will hear some news and make his name throughout the mortal world. ' So Athena vowed and under her feet she fastened the supple sandals, ever-glowing gold, that wing her over the waves and boundless earth with the rush of gusting winds.
She seized the rugged spear tipped with a bronze point — weighted, heavy, the massive shaft she wields to break the lines of heroes the mighty Father's daughter storms against. And down she swept from Olympus' craggy peaks and lit on Ithaca, standing tall at Odysseus' gates. The threshold of his court. Gripping her bronze spear, she looked for all the world like a stranger now, like Mentes, lord of the Taphians. There she found the swaggering suitors, just then amusing themselves with rolling dice before the doors, lounging on hides of oxen they had killed themselves.
While heralds and brisk attendants bustled round them, some at the mixing-bowls, mulling wine and water, others wiping the tables down with sopping sponges, setting them out in place, still other servants jointed and carved the great sides of meat. First by far to see her was Prince Telemachus, sitting among the suitors, heart obsessed with grief. He could almost see his magnificent father, here. In the mind's eye — if only might drop from the clouds and drive these suitors all in a rout throughout the halls and regain his pride of place and rule his own domains! Daydreaming so as he sat among the suitors, he glimpsed Athena now and straight to the porch he went, mortified that a guest might still be standing at the doors. Pausing beside her there, he clasped her right hand and relieving her at once of her long bronze spear, met her with winged words: 'Greetings, stranger!
Here in our house you'll find a royal welcome. Have supper first, then tell us what you need.' He led the way and Pallas Athena followed. Once in the high-roofed hall, he took her lance and fixed it firm in a burnished rack against a sturdy pillar, there where row on row of spears, embattled Odysseus' spears, stood stacked and waiting. Then he escorted her to a high, elaborate chair of honor, over it draped a cloth, and here he placed his guest with a stool to rest her feet.
But for himself he drew up a low reclining chair beside her, richly painted, clear of the press of suitors. Concerned his guest, offended by their uproar, might shrink from food in the midst of such a mob. He hoped, what's more, to ask him about his long-lost father.
A maid brought water soon in a graceful golden pitcher and over a silver basin tipped it out so they might rinse their hands, then pulled a gleaming table to their side. A staid housekeeper brought on bread to serve them, appetizers aplenty too, lavish with her bounty. A carver lifted platters of meat toward them, meats of every sort, and set beside them golden cups and time and again a page came round and poured them wine. But now the suitors trooped in with all their swagger and took their seats on low and high-backed chairs.
Heralds poured water over their hands for rinsing, serving maids brought bread heaped high in trays and the young men brimmed the mixing-bowls with wine. They reached out for the good things that lay at hand, and when they 'd put aside desire for food and drink the suitors set their minds on other pleasures, song and dancing, all that crowns a feast.
A herald placed an ornate lyre in Phemius' hands, the bard who always performed among them there; they forced the man to sing. A rippling prelude — and no sooner had he struck up his rousing song than Telemachus, head close to Athena's sparkling eyes, spoke low to his guest so no one else could hear: 'Dear stranger, would you be shocked by what 1 say? Look at them over there. Not a care in the world, just lyres and tunes!
Easy for them, all right, they feed on another's goods and go scot-free — a man whose white bones lie strewn in the rain somewhere, rotting away on land or rolling down the ocean's salty swells. But that man — if they caught sight of him home in Ithaca, by god, they 'd all pray to be faster on their feet than richer in bars of gold and heavy robes. But now, no use, he's died a wretched death. No comfort's left for us. Not even if someone, somewhere, says he's coming home. The day of his return will never dawn. Tell me about yourself now, clearly, point by point.
Where are you from? Your parents? What sort of vessel brought you? Why did the sailors land you here in Ithaca? Who did they say they are? 1 hardly think you came this way on foot! And tell me this for a fact — 1 need to know — is this your first time here?
Or are you a friend of father's, a guest from the old days? Once, crowds of other men would come to our house on visits — visitor that he was, when he walked among the living.' Her eyes glinting, goddess Athena answered, 'My whole story, of course, I'll tell it point by point.
Wise old Anchialus was my father. My own name is Mentes, lord of the Taphian men who love their oars.
And here I've come, just now, with ship and crew, sailing the wine-dark sea to foreign ports of call, to Temese, out for bronze — our cargo gleaming iron. Our ship lies moored off farmlands far from town, riding in Rithron Cove, beneath Mount Nion's woods.
As for the ties between your father and myself, we've been friends forever, I'm proud to say, and he would bear me out if you went and questioned old lord Laertes. He, 1 gather, no longer ventures into town but lives a life of hardship, all to himself, off on his farmstead with an aged serving-woman who tends him well, who gives him food and drink when weariness has taken hold of his withered limbs from hauling himself along his vineyard's steep slopes. And now I've come — and why? 1 heard that he was back. Your father, that is.
But no, the gods thwart his passage. Yet 1 tell you great Odysseus is not dead. He's still alive. Somewhere in this wide world, held captive, out at sea on a wave-washed island, and hard men, savages, somehow hold him back against his will. Wait, I'll make you a prophecy, one the immortal gods have planted in my mind — it will come true, 1 think, though I'm hardly a seer or know the flights of birds. He won't be gone long from the native land he loves, not even if iron shackles bind your father down. He's plotting a way to journey home at last; he's never at a loss.
But come, please, tell me about yourself now, point by point. You're truly Odysseus' son? You've sprung up so!
Uncanny resemblance. The head, and the fine eyes — 1 see him now. How often we used to meet in the old days before he embarked for Troy, where other Argive captains, all the best men, sailed in the long curved ships. From then to this very day I've not set eyes on Odysseus or he on me. ' And young Telemachus cautiously replied, 'I'll try, my friend, to give you a frank answer. Mother has always told me I'm his son, it's true, but 1 am not so certain.
Who, on his own, has ever really known who gave him life? Would to god I'd been the son of a happy man whom old age overtook in the midst of his possessions! Now, think of the most unlucky mortal ever born — since you ask me, yes, they say 1 am his son.' 'Still,' the clear-eyed goddess reassured him, 'trust me, the gods have not marked out your house for such an unsung future, not if Penelope has borne a son like you. But tell me about all this and spare me nothing.
What's this banqueting, this crowd carousing here? And what part do you play yourself? Some wedding-feast. Some festival? Hardly a potluck supper, 1 would say. How obscenely they lounge and swagger here, look, gorging in your house. Why, any man of sense who chanced among them would be outraged, seeing such behavior.
' Ready Telemachus took her up at once: 'Well, my friend, seeing you want to probe and press the question, once this house was rich, no doubt, beyond reproach when the man you mentioned still lived here, at home. Now the gods have reversed our fortunes with a vengeance — wiped that man from the earth like no one else before.
1 would never have grieved so much about his death if he'd gone down with comrades off in Troy or died in the arms of loved ones, once he had wound down the long coil of war. Then all united Achaea would have raised his tomb and he'd have won his son great fame for years to come. But now the whirlwinds have ripped him away, no fame for him! He's lost and gone now — out of sight, out of mind — and 1.
He's left me tears and grief. Nor do 1 rack my heart and grieve for him alone. Now the gods have invented other miseries to plague me.
All the nobles who rule the islands round about, Dulichion, and Same, and wooded Zacynthus too, and all who lord it in rocky Ithaca as well — down to the last man they court my mother, they lay waste my house! She neither rejects a marriage she despises nor can she bear to bring the courting to an end — while they continue to bleed my household white. Soon — you wait — ^they'll grind /nedown as well.' — brimming with indignation, Pallas Athena broke out.
'Oh how much you need Odysseus, gone so long — how (C/lay hands on all these brazen suitors! If only he would appear, now.
At his house's outer gates and take his stand, armed with his helmet, shield and pair of spears, as strong as the man I glimpsed that first time in our own house, drinking wine and reveling there. Just come in from Ephyra, visiting Ilus, Mermerus' son. Odysseus sailed that way, you see, in his swift trim ship, hunting deadly poison to smear on his arrows' bronze heads. Ilus refused — he feared the wrath of the everlasting gods — but father, so fond of him, gave him all he wanted.
If only ^Aa^ Odysseus sported with these suitors, a blood wedding, a quick death would take the lot! True, but all lies in the lap of the great gods, whether or not he'll come and pay them back, here, in his own house. But you, 1 urge you, think how to drive these suitors from your halls. Come now, listen closely. Take my words to heart. At daybreak summon the island's lords to full assembly, give your orders to all and call the gods to witness: tell the suitors to scatter, each to his own place. As for your mother, if the spirit moves her to marry, let her go back to her father's house, a man of power.
Her kin will arrange the wedding, provide the gifts, the array that goes with a daughter dearly loved. For you, 1 have some good advice, if only you will accept it. Fit out a ship with twenty oars, the best in sight, sail in quest of news of your long-lost father. Someone may tell you something or you may catch a rumor straight from Zeus, rumor that carries news to men like nothing else. First go down to Pylos, question old King Nestor, then cross over to Sparta, to red-haired Menelaus, of all the bronze-armored Achaeans the last man back. Now, if you hear your father's alive and heading home, hard-pressed as you are, brave out one more year.
If you hear he's dead, no longer among the living, then back you come to the native land you love. Raise his grave-mound, build his honors high with the full funeral rites that he deserves — and give your mother to another husband. Then, once you've sealed those matters, seen them through, think hard, reach down deep in your heart and soul for a way to kill these suitors in your house, by stealth or in open combat. You must not cling to your boyhood any longer — it's time you were a man.
Haven't you heard what glory Prince Orestes won throughout the world when he killed that cunning, murderous Aegisthus, who'd killed his famous father? And you, my friend — how tall and handsome 1 see you now — be brave, you too, so men to come will sing your praises down the years.
But now 1 must go back to my swift trim ship and all my shipmates, chafing there, I'm sure, waiting for my return. It all rests with you. Take my words to heart.' 'Oh stranger,' heedful Telemachus replied, 'indeed 1 will. You've counseled me with so much kindness now, like a father to a son. 1 won't forget a word.
But come, stay longer, keen as you are to sail, so you can bathe and rest and lift your spirits, then go back to your ship, delighted with a gift, a prize of honor, something rare and fine as a keepsake from myself. The kind of gift a host will give a stranger, friend to friend.' Her eyes glinting, Pallas declined in haste: 'Not now.
Don't hold me here. 1 long to be on my way. As for the gift — whatever you'd give in kindness — save it for my return so 1 can take it home. Choose something rare and fine, and a good reward that gift is going to bring you.' With that promise.
Off and away Athena the bright-eyed goddess flew Uke a bird in soaring flight but left his spirit filled with nerve and courage, charged with his father's memory more than ever now. He felt his senses quicken, overwhelmed with wonder — this was a god, he knew it well and made at once for the suitors, a man like a god himself. Amidst them still the famous bard sang on, and they sat in silence, listening as he performed The Achaeans' Journey Home from Troy, all the blows Athena doomed them to endure. And now, from high above in her room and deep in thought, she caught his inspired strains. Icarius' daughter Penelope, wary and reserved, and down the steep stair from her chamber she descended, not alone: two of her women followed close behind.
That radiant woman, once she reached her suitors, drawing her glistening veil across her cheeks, paused now where a column propped the sturdy roof, with one of her loyal handmaids stationed either side. Suddenly, dissolving in tears and bursting through the bard's inspired voice, she cried out, 'Phemius!
So many other songs you know to hold us spellbound, works of the gods and men that singers celebrate. Sing one of those as you sit beside them here and they drink their wine in silence. But break off this song — the unendurable song that always rends the heart inside me. The unforgettable grief, it wounds me most of all! How 1 long for my husband — alive in memory, always, that great man whose fame resounds through Hellas right to the depths of Argos!'
'Why, mother,' poised Telemachus put in sharply, 'why deny our devoted bard the chance to entertain us any way the spirit stirs him on? Bards are not to blame — Zeus is to blame. He deals to each and every laborer on this earth whatever doom he pleases. Why fault the bard if he sings the Argives' harsh fate? It's always the latest song, the one that echoes last in the listeners' ears, that people praise the most. Courage, mother.
Harden your heart, and listen. Odysseus was scarcely the only one, you know, whose journey home was blotted out at Troy. Others, so many others, died there too. So, mother, go back to your quarters. Tend to your own tasks, the distaff and the loom, and keep the women working hard as well. As for giving orders, men will see to that, but 1 most of all: /hold the reins of power in this house.
' Astonished, she withdrew to her own room. She took to heart the clear good sense in what her son had said.
Climbing up to the lofty chamber with her women, she fell to weeping for Odysseus, her beloved husband, till watchful Athena sealed her eyes with welcome sleep. But the suitors broke into uproar through the shadowed halls, all of them lifting prayers to lie beside her, share her bed, until discreet Telemachus took command: 'You suitors who plague my mother, you, you insolent, overweening.
For this evening let us dine and take our pleasure, no more shouting now. What a fine thing it is to listen to such a bard as we have here — the man sings like a god. But at first light we all march forth to assembly, take our seats so 1 can give my orders and say to you straight out: You must leave my palace!
See to your feasting elsewhere, devour your own possessions, house to house by turns. But if you decide the fare is better, richer here, destroying one man's goods and going scot-free, all right then, carve away! But I'll cry out to the everlasting gods in hopes that Zeus will pay you back with a vengeance — all of you destroyed in my house while /go scot-free myself! ' So Telemachus declared.
And they all bit their lips, amazed the prince could speak with so much daring. Eupithes' son Antinous broke their silence: 'Well, Telemachus, only the gods could teach you to sound so high and mighty! Such brave talk. 1 pray that Zeus will never make youVinq of Ithaca, though your father's crown is no doubt yours by birth.' But cool-headed Telemachus countered firmly: 'Antinous, even though my words may offend you, I'd be happy to take the crown if Zeus presents it.
You think that nothing worse could befall a man? It's really not so bad to be a king. All at once your palace grows in wealth, your honors grow as well. But there are hosts of other Achaean princes, look — young and old, crowds of them on our island here — and any one of the lot might hold the throne, now great Odysseus is dead.
But /77be lord of my own house and servants, all that King Odysseus won for me by force.' And now Eurymachus, Polybus' son, stepped in: 'Surely this must lie in the gods' lap, Telemachus — which Achaean will lord it over seagirt Ithaca. Do hold on to your own possessions, rule your house. God forbid that anyone tear your holdings from your hands while men still live in Ithaca. But about your guest, dear boy, 1 have some questions. Where does he come from? Where's his country, his birth, his father's old estates?
Did he bring some news of your father, his return? Or did he come on business of his own? How he leapt to his feet and off he went!
No waiting around for proper introductions. And no mean man, not by the looks of him, I'd say.' 'Eurymachus,' Telemachus answered shrewdly, 'clearly my father 's journey home is lost forever. 1 no longer trust in rumors — rumors from the blue — nor bother with any prophecy, when mother calls some wizard into the house to ask him questions. As for the stranger though, the man's an old family friend, from Taphos, wise Anchialus' son. He says his name is Mentes, lord of the Taphian men who love their oars.
' So he said but deep in his mind he knew the immortal goddess. Now the suitors turned to dance and song, to the lovely beat and sway, waiting for dusk to come upon them there. And the dark night came upon them, lost in pleasure.
Finally, to bed. Each to his own house.
Telemachus, off to his bedroom built in the fine courtyard — a commanding, lofty room set well apart — retired too, his spirit swarming with misgivings. His devoted nurse attended him, bearing a glowing torch, Eurycleia the daughter of Ops, Pisenor's son.
Laertes had paid a price for the woman years ago, still in the bloom of youth. He traded twenty oxen, honored her on a par with his own loyal wife at home but fearing the queen's anger, never shared her bed. She was his grandson's escort now and bore a torch, for she was the one of all the maids who loved the prince the most — she'd nursed him as a baby. He spread the doors of his snug, well-made room, sat down on the bed and pulled his soft shirt off, tossed it into the old woman's conscientious hands, and after folding it neatly, patting it smooth, she hung it up on a peg beside his corded bed, then padded from the bedroom. Drawing the door shut with the silver hook, sliding the door bolt home with its rawhide strap.
There all night long, wrapped in a sheep's warm fleece, he weighed in his mind the course Athena charted. Book II Telemachus Sets Sail when young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more the true son of Odysseus sprang from bed and dressed, over his shoulder he slung his well-honed sword, fastened rawhide sandals under his smooth feet and stepped from his bedroom, handsome as a god. At once he ordered heralds to cry out loud and clear and summon the flowing-haired Achaeans to full assembly. Their cries rang out. The people filed in quickly. When they'd grouped, crowding the meeting grounds, Telemachus strode in too, a bronze spear in his grip and not alone: two sleek hounds went trotting at his heels. And Athena lavished a marvelous splendor on the prince so the people all gazed in wonder as he came forward, the elders making way as he took his father's seat.
The first to speak was an old lord, Aegyptius, stooped with age, who knew the world by heart. For one dear son had sailed with King Odysseus, bound in the hollow ships to the stallion-land of Troy — the spearman Antiphus — but the brutal Cyclops killed him, trapped in his vaulted cave, the last man the monster ate. Three other sons he had: one who mixed with the suitors, Eurynomus, and two kept working their father's farms. Still, he never forgot the soldier, desolate in his grief. In tears for the son he lost, he rose and said among them, 'Hear me, men of Ithaca.
Hear what 1 have to say. Not once have we held assembly, met in session since King Odysseus sailed in the hollow ships. Who has summoned us now — one of the young men, one of the old-timers? What crisis spurs him on?
Some news he's heard of an army on the march, word he's caught firsthand so he can warn us now? Or some other public matter he'll disclose and argue? He's a brave man, I'd say. God be with him, too! May Zeus speed him on to a happy end, whatever his heart desires!'
Winning words with a lucky ring. Odysseus' son rejoiced; the boy could sit no longer — fired up to speak, he took his stand among the gathered men. The herald Pisenor, skilled in custom's ways, put the staff in his hand, and then the prince, addressing old Aegyptius first, led off with, 'Sir, that man is not far off — you'll soon see for yourself — /was the one who called us all together. Something wounds me deeply. Not news I've heard of an army on the march, word I've caught firsthand so 1 can warn you now, or some other public matter I'll disclose and argue. No, the crisis is my own.
Trouble has struck my house — a double blow. First, 1 have lost my noble father who ruled among you years ago, each of you here, and kindly as a father to his children. But now this. A worse disaster that soon will grind my house down, ruin it all, and all my worldly goods in the bargain. Suitors plague my mother — against her will — sons of the very men who are your finest here!
They'd sooner die than approach her father's house so Icarius himself might see to his daughter's bridal, hand her to whom he likes, whoever meets his fancy. Not they — they infest our palace day and night, they butcher our cattle, our sheep, our fat goats, feasting themselves sick, swilling our glowing wine as if there's no tomorrow — all of it, squandered. Now we have no man like Odysseus in command to drive this curse from the house.
We ourselves? We're hardly the ones to fight them off. All we'd do is parade our wretched weakness. A boy inept at battle. Oh I'd swing to attack if 1 had the power in me. By god, it's intolerable, what they do — disgrace, my house a shambles!
You should be ashamed yourselves, mortified in the face of neighbors living round about! Fear the gods' wrath — before they wheel in outrage and make these crimes recoil on your heads. 1 beg you by Olympian Zeus, by Themis too, who sets assemblies free and calls us into session — stop, my friends!
Leave me alone to pine away in anguish. Unless, of course, you think my noble father Odysseus did the Achaean army damage, deliberate harm, and to pay me back you'd do me in, deliberately setting these parasites against me. Better for me if youynere devouring all my treasure, all my cattle — if you were the ones, we'd make amends in no time.
We'd approach you for reparations round the town, demanding our goods till you'd returned the lot. But now, look, you load my heart with grief — there's nothing 1 can do!' Filled with anger, down on the ground he dashed the speaker's scepter — bursting into tears. Pity seized the assembly. All just sat there, silent.
No one had the heart to reply with harshness. Only Antinous, who found it in himself to say, 'So high and mighty, Telemachus — such unbridled rage! Well now, fling your accusations at us? Think to pin the blame on us?Yo x think again. It's not the suitors here who deserve the blame, it's your own dear mother, the matchless queen of cunning.
For three years now, getting on to four, she's played it fast and loose with all our hearts, building each man's hopes — dangUng promises, dropping hints to each — but all the while with something else in mind. RA/5 was her latest masterpiece of guile: she set up a great loom in the royal halls and she began to weave, and the weaving finespun, the yarns endless, and she would lead us on: 'Young men, my suitors, now that King Odysseus is no more, go slowly, keen as you are to marry me, until 1 can finish off this web. So my weaving won't all fray and come to nothing.
This is a shroud for old lord Laertes, for that day when the deadly fate that lays us out at last will take him down. 1 dread the shame my countrywomen would heap upon me, yes, if a man of such wealth should lie in state without a shroud for cover.'
Her very words, and despite our pride and passion we believed her. So by day she'd weave at her great and growing web — by night, by the light of torches set beside her, she would unravel all she'd done. Three whole years she deceived us blind, seduced us with this scheme. Then, when the wheeling seasons brought the fourth year on, one of her women, in on the queen's secret, told the truth and we caught her in the act — unweaving her gorgeous web. So she finished it off.
Against her will. We forced her. Now Telemachus, here is how the suitors answer you — you burn it in your mind, you and all our people: send your mother back! Direct her to marry whomever her father picks, whoever pleases her. So long as she persists in tormenting us, quick to exploit the gifts Athena gave her — a skilled hand for elegant work, a fine mind and subtle wiles too — we've never heard the like, not even in old stories sung of all Achaea's well-coifed queens who graced the years gone by: Mycenae crowned with garlands.
Tyro and Alcmena. Not one could touch Penelope for intrigue, but in this case she intrigued beyond all limits. So, we will devour your worldly goods and wealth as long as sAf holds out, holds to that course the gods have charted deep inside her heart. Great renown she wins for herself, no doubt, great loss for you in treasure.
We'll not go back to our old estates or leave for other parts, not till she weds the Argive man she fancies.' But with calm good sense Telemachus replied: 'Antinous, how can 1 drive my mother from our house against her will, the one who bore me, reared me too?
My father is worlds away, dead or alive, who knows? Imagine the high price I'd have to pay Icarius if all on my own 1 send my mother home.
Oh what 1 would suffer from her father — and some dark god would hurt me even more when mother, leaving her own house behind, calls down her withering Furies on my head, and our people's cries of shame would hound my heels. 1 will never issue that ultimatum to my mother. And you, if you have any shame in your own hearts, you must leave my palace!
See to your feasting elsewhere, devour your own possessions, house to house by turns. But if you decide the fare is better, richer here, destroying one man's goods and going scot-free, all right then, carve away! But I'll cry out to the everlasting gods in hopes that Zeus will pay you back with a vengeance — all of you destroyed in my house while /go scot-free myself!' And to seal his prayer, farseeing Zeus sent down a sign. He launched two eagles soaring high from a mountain ridge and down they glided, borne on the wind's draft a moment, wing to wingtip, pinions straining taut till just above the assembly's throbbing hum they whirled, suddenly, wings thrashing, wild onslaught of wings and banking down at the crowd's heads — a glaring, fatal sign — talons slashing each other, tearing cheeks and throats they swooped away on the right through homes and city.
All were dumbstruck, watching the eagles trail from sight, people brooding, deeply, what might come to pass. Until the old warrior Halitherses, Master's son, broke the silence for them: the one who outperformed all men of his time at reading bird-signs, sounding out the omens, rose and spoke, distraught for each man there: 'Hear me, men of Ithaca! Hear what 1 have to say, though my revelations strike the suitors first of all — a great disaster is rolling like a breaker toward their heads. Clearly Odysseus won't be far from loved ones any longer — now, right now, he's somewhere near, 1 tell you, breeding bloody death for all these suitors here, pains aplenty too for the rest of us who live in Ithaca's sunlit air. Long before that, we must put heads together, find some way to stop these men, or let them stop themselves. Better for them that way, by far.
1 myself am no stranger to prophecy — 1 can see it now! All is working out for him, 1 say, just as 1 said it would that day the Argives sailed for Troy and the mastermind of battle boarded with them. 1 said then: after many blows, and all his shipmates lost, after twenty years had wheeled by, he would come home. Unrecognized by all.
And now, look, it all comes to pass!' 'Stop, old man!' Eurymachus, Polybus' son, rose up to take him on. 'Go home and babble your omens to your children — save tJiem from some catastrophe coming soon. I'm a better hand than you at reading portents.
Flocks of birds go fluttering under the sun's rays, not all are fraught with meaning. He's dead now, far from home — would to god that you'd died with him too. We'd have escaped your droning prophecies then and the way you've loosed the dogs of this boy's anger — your eyes peeled for a house-gift he might give you. Here's /72f/ prophecy, bound to come to pass. If you, you old codger, wise as the ages, talk him round, incite the boy to riot, he'll be the first to suffer, let me tell you. And you, old man, we'll clap some fine on you you'll weep to pay, a fine to crush your spirit!
Here in front of you all, here's my advice for Ajm. Let him urge his mother back to her father's house — her kin will arrange the wedding, provide the gifts, the array that goes with a daughter dearly loved. Not till then, I'd say, will the island princes quit their taxing courtship. Who's there to fear? Surely not Telemachus, with all his tiresome threats. Nor do we balk, old man, at the prophecies you mouth — they'll come to grief, they'll make us hate you more.
The prince's wealth will be devoured as always, mercilessly — no reparations, ever. Not while the queen drags out our hopes to wed her, waiting, day after day, all of us striving hard to win one matchless beauty. Never courting others, bevies of brides who'd suit each noble here.' Telemachus answered, firm in his resolve: 'Eurymachus — the rest of you fine, brazen suitors — I have done with appeals to you about these matters. I'll say no more. The gods know how things stand and so do all the Achaeans.
And now all 1 ask is a good swift ship and a crew of twenty men to speed me through my passage out and back. I'm sailing off to Sparta, sandy Pylos too, for news of my long-lost father's journey home. Someone may tell me something or 1 may catch a rumor straight from Zeus, rumor that carries news to men like nothing else. Now, if 1 hear my father's alive and heading home, hard-pressed as 1 am, I'll brave out one more year.
If 1 hear he's dead, no longer among the living, then back I'll come to the native land 1 love, raise his grave-mound, build his honors high with the full funeral rites that he deserves — and give my mother to another husband.' A declaration, and the prince sat down as Mentor took the floor, Odysseus' friend-in-arms to whom the king, sailing off to Troy, committed his household, ordering one and all to obey the old man and he would keep things steadfast and secure. With deep concern for the realm, he rose and warned, 'Hear me, men of Ithaca. Hear what 1 have to say. Never let any sceptered king be kind and gentle now, not with all his heart, or set his mind on justice — no, let him be cruel and always practice outrage. Think: not one of the people whom he ruled remembers Odysseus now, that godlike man, and kindly as a father to his children!
1 don't grudge these arrogant suitors for a moment, weaving their violent work with all their wicked hearts — they lay their lives on the line when they consume Odysseus' worldly goods, blind in their violence, telling themselves that he'll come home no more. But all the rest of you, how you rouse my fury! Sitting here in silence. Never a word put forth to curb these suitors, paltry few as they are and you so many.' Euenor 's son Leocritus rounded on him, shouting, 'Rabble-rousing fool, now what's this talk?
Goading them on to try and hold us back! It's uphill work, 1 warn you, fighting a force like ours — for just a meal. Even if Odysseus of Ithaca did arrive in person, to find us well-bred suitors feasting in his halls, and the man were hell-bent on routing us from the palace — little joy would his wife derive from his return, for all her yearning. Here on the spot he'd meet a humiliating end if he fought against such odds. You're talking nonsense — idiocy.
Come, dissolve the assembly. Each man return to his holdings. Mentor and Halitherses can speed our young prince on, his father's doddering friends since time began. He'll sit tight a good long while, 1 trust, scrabbling for news right here in Ithaca — he'll never make that trip.' This broke up the assembly, keen to leave. The people scattered quickly, each to his own house, while the suitors strolled back to King Odysseus' palace.
Telemachus, walking the beach now, far from others, washed his hands in the foaming surf and prayed to Pallas: 'Dear god, hear me! Yesterday you came to my house, you told me to ship out on the misty sea and learn if father, gone so long, is ever coming home. Look how my countrymen — the suitors most of all, the pernicious bullies — foil each move 1 make.' Athena came to his prayer from close at hand, for all the world with Mentor's build and voice.
And she urged him on with winging words: 'Telemachus, you'll lack neither courage nor sense from this day on, not if your father's spirit courses through your veins — now there was a man, I'd say, in words and action both! So how can your journey end in shipwreck or defeat? Only if you were not his stock, Penelope's too, then I'd fear your hopes might come to grief. Few sons are the equals of their fathers; most fall short, all too few surpass them.
But you, brave and adept from this day on — Odysseus' cunning has hardly given out in you — there's every hope that you will reach your goal. Put them out of your mind, these suitors' schemes and plots. They 're madmen. Not a shred of sense or decency in the crowd. Nor can they glimpse the death and black doom hovering just at their heads to crush them all in one short day. But you, the journey that stirs you now is not far off, not with the likes of me, your father's friend and yours, to rig you a swift ship and be your shipmate too. Now home you go and mix with the suitors there.
But get your rations ready, pack them all in vessels, the wine in jars, and barley -meal — ^the marrow of men's bones — in durable skins, while 1 make rounds in town and quickly enlist your crew of volunteers. Lots of ships in seagirt Ithaca, old and new. I'll look them over, choose the best in sight, we'll fit her out and launch her into the sea at once!' And so Athena, daughter of Zeus, assured him. No lingering now — he heard the goddess' voice — but back he went to his house with aching heart and there at the palace found the brazen suitors skinning goats in the courtyard, singeing pigs for roasting. Antinous, smiling warmly, sauntered up to the prince, grasped his hand and coaxed him, savoring his name: 'Telemachus, my high and mighty, fierce young friend, no more nursing those violent words and actions now.
Come, eat and drink with us, just like the old days. Whatever you want our people will provide. A ship and a picked crew to speed you to holy Pylos, out for the news about your noble father.'
But self-possessed Telemachus drew the line: 'Antinous, now how could 1 dine with you in peace and take my pleasure? You ruffians carousing here!
Isn't it quite enough that you, my mother's suitors, have ravaged it all, my very best, these many years, while 1 was still a boy? But now that I'm full-grown and can hear the truth from others, absorb it too — now, yes, that the anger seethes inside me. I'll stop at nothing to hurl destruction at your heads, whether 1 go to Pylos or sit tight here at home. But the trip 1 speak of will not end in failure.
Go 1 will, as a passenger, nothing more, since 1 don't seem to command my own crew. That, I'm sure, is the way that suits you best. ' With this he nonchalantly drew his hand from Antinous' hand while the suitors, busy feasting in the halls, mocked and taunted him, flinging insults now. 'God help us,' one young buck kept shouting, 'he wants to slaughter us all! He's off to sandy Pylos to hire cutthroats, even Sparta perhaps, so hot to have our heads. Why, he'd rove as far as Ephyra's dark rich soil and run back home with lethal poison, slip it into the bowl and wipe us out with drink!' Another young blade up and ventured.
'Off in that hollow ship of his, he just might drown, far from his friends, a drifter like his father. He'd double our work for us, splitting up his goods, parceling out his house to his mother and the man who weds the queen.' So they scoffed but Telemachus headed down to his father's storeroom, broad and vaulted, piled high with gold and bronze, chests packed with clothing, vats of redolent oil. And there, standing in close ranks against the wall, were jars of seasoned, mellow wine, holding the drink unmixed inside them, fit for a god, waiting the day Odysseus, worn by hardships, might come home again. Doors, snugly fitted, doubly hung, were bolted shut and a housekeeper was in charge by night and day — her care, her vigilance, guarding all those treasures — Eurycleia the daughter of Ops, Pisenor's son.
Telemachus called her into the storeroom: 'Come, nurse, draw me off some wine in smaller traveling jars, mellow, the finest vintage you've been keeping, next to what you reserve for our unlucky king — in case Odysseus might drop in from the blue and cheat the deadly spirits, make it home. Fill me an even dozen, seal them tightly. Pour me barley in well-stitched leather bags, twenty measures of meal, your stone-ground best. But no one else must know. These rations now, put them all together. I'll pick them up myself, toward evening, just about the time that mother climbs to her room and thinks of turning in. I'm sailing off to Sparta, sandy Pylos too, for news of my dear father's journey home.
Perhaps I'll catch some rumor.' A wail of grief — and his fond old nurse burst out in protest, sobbing: 'Why, dear child, what craziness got into your head? Why bent on rambling over the face of the earth? — a darling only son! Your father's worlds away, god's own Odysseus, dead in some strange land. And these brutes here, just wait, the moment you're gone they'll all be scheming against you.
Kill you by guile, they will, and carve your birthright up in pieces. No, sit tight here, guard your own things here. Don't go roving over the barren salt sea — no need to suffer so!' 'Courage, old woman, ' thoughtful Telemachus tried to reassure her, 'there's a god who made this plan. But swear you won't say anything to my mother. Not till ten or a dozen days have passed or she misses me herself and learns I'm gone.
She mustn't mar her lovely face with tears.' The old one swore a solemn oath to the gods and vowing she would never breathe a word, quickly drew off wine in two-eared jars and poured barley in well-stitched leather bags. Telemachus returned to the hall and joined the suitors. Then bright-eyed Pallas thought of one more step. Disguised as the prince, the goddess roamed through town, pausing beside each likely crewman, giving orders: 'Gather beside our ship at nightfall — be there.'
She asked Noemon, Phronius' generous son, to lend her a swift ship. He gladly volunteered. The sun sank and the roads of the world grew dark. Now the goddess hauled the swift ship down to the water, stowed in her all the tackle well-rigged vessels carry, moored her well away at the harbor's very mouth and once the crew had gathered, rallying round, she heartened every man. Then bright-eyed Pallas thought of one last thing. Back she went to King Odysseus' halls and there she showered sweet oblivion over the suitors, dazing them as they drank, knocking cups from hands.
No more loitering now, their eyes weighed down with sleep, they rose and groped through town to find their beds. But calling the prince outside his timbered halls, taking the build and voice of Mentor once again, flashing-eyed Athena urged him on: 'Telemachus, your comrades-at-arms are ready at the oars, waiting for your command to launch. So come, on with our voyage now, we're wasting time.' And Pallas Athena sped away in the lead as he followed in her footsteps, man and goddess.
Once they reached the ship at the water 's edge they found their long-haired shipmates on the beach. The prince, inspired, gave his first commands: 'Come, friends, get the rations aboard! They 're piled in the palace now.
My mother knows nothing of this. No servants either. Only one has heard our plan. ' He led them back and the men fell in and fetched down all the stores and stowed them briskly, deep in the well-ribbed holds as Odysseus' son directed.
Telemachus climbed aboard. Athena led the way, assuming the pilot's seat reserved astern, and he sat close beside her. Cables cast off, the crew swung to the oarlocks. Bright-eyed Athena sent them a stiff following wind rippling out of the west, ruffling over the wine-dark sea as Telemachus shouted out commands to all his shipmates: 'All lay hands to tackle!' They sprang to orders, hoisting the pinewood mast, they stepped it firm in its block amidships, lashed it fast with stays and with braided rawhide halyards hauled the white sail high.
Suddenly wind hit full and the canvas bellied out and a dark blue wave, foaming up at the bow, sang out loud and strong as the ship made way, skimming the whitecaps, cutting toward her goal. All running gear secure in the swift black craft, they set up bowls and brimmed them high with wine and poured libations out to the everlasting gods who never die — ^to Athena first of all, the daughter of Zeus with flashing sea-gray eyes — and the ship went plunging all night long and through the dawn. Book III King Nestor Remembers As the sun sprang up, leaving the brilliant waters in its wake, climbing the bronze sky to shower light on immortal gods and mortal men across the plowlands ripe with grain — the ship pulled into Pglos, Neleus' storied citadel, where the people lined the beaches, sacrificing sleek black bulls to Poseidon, god of the sea-blue mane who shakes the earth. They sat in nine divisions, each five hundred strong, each division offering up nine bulls, and while the people tasted the innards, burned the thighbones for the god, the craft and crew came heading straight to shore.
Striking sail, furling it in the balanced ship, they moored her well and men swung down on land. Telemachus climbed out last, Athena far in front and the bright-eyed goddess urged the prince along: 'Telemachus, no more shyness, this is not the time! We sailed the seas for this, for news of your father — where does he he buried?
What fate did he meet? So go right up to Nestor, breaker of horses.
We'll make him yield the secrets of his heart. Press him yourself to tell the whole truth: he'll never lie — the man is far too wise.' The prince replied, wise in his own way too, 'How can 1 greet him. Mentor, even approach the king? I'm hardly adept at subtle conversation. Someone my age mightteeX shy, what's more, interrogating an older man. ' 'Telemachus,' the bright-eyed goddess Athena reassured him, 'some of the words you'll find within yourself, the rest some power will inspire you to say.
You least of all — 1 know — were born and reared without the gods' good will.' And Pallas Athena sped away in the lead as he followed in her footsteps — man and goddess gained the place where the Pylians met and massed.
There sat Nestor among his sons as friends around them decked the banquet, roasted meats and skewered strips for broiling. As soon as they saw the strangers, all came crowding down, waving them on in welcome, urging them to sit. Nestor's son Pisistratus, first to reach them, grasped their hands and sat them down at the feast on fleecy throws spread out along the sandbanks, flanking his brother Thrasymedes and his father.
He gave them a share of innards, poured some wine in a golden cup and, lifting it warmly toward Athena, daughter of Zeus whose shield is storm and thunder, greeted the goddess now with an invitation: 'Say a prayer to lord Poseidon, stranger, hisis the feast you've found on your arrival. But once you've made your libation and your prayer — all according to ancient custom — hand this cup of hearty, seasoned wine to your comrade here so he can pour forth too.
He too, 1 think, should pray to the deathless ones himself. All men need the gods. But the man is younger, just about my age. That's why 1 give the gold cup first to you.' With that Pisistratus placed in her hand the cup of mellow wine and Pallas rejoiced at the prince's sense of tact in giving the golden winecup first to her. At once she prayed intensely to Poseidon: 'Hear me.
Sea-lord, you who embrace the earth — don't deny our wishes, bring our prayers to pass! First, then, to Nestor and all his sons grant glory. Then to all these Pylians, for their splendid rites grant a reward that warms their gracious hearts. Last, Poseidon, grant Telemachus and myself safe passage home, the mission accomplished that sped us here in our rapid black ship. ' So she prayed, and brought it all to pass. She offered the rich two-handled cup to Telemachus, Odysseus' son, who echoed back her prayer word for word.
They roasted the prime cuts, pulled them off the spits and sharing out the portions, fell to the royal feast. Once they'd put aside desire for food and drink, old Nestor the noble charioteer began, at last: 'Now's the time, now they've enjoyed their meal, to probe our guests and find out who they are.
Strangers — friends, who are you? Where did you sail from, over the running sea-lanes? Out on a trading spree or roving the waves like pirates, sea-wolves raiding at will, who risk their lives to plunder other men?' Poised Telemachus answered, filled with heart, the heart Athena herself inspired, to ask for the news about his father, gone so long. And make his name throughout the mortal world. 'Nestor, son of Neleus, Achaea's pride and glory — where are we from, you ask?
1 will tell you all. We hail from Ithaca, under the heights of Nion. Our mission here is personal, nothing public now. 1 am on the trail of my father's widespread fame, you see, searching the earth to catch some news of great-hearted King Odysseus who, they say, fought with you to demolish Troy some years ago. About all the rest who fought the Trojans there, we know where each one died his wretched death, but father. Even his death — the son of Cronus shrouds it all in mystery.
No one can say for certain where he died, whether he went down on land at enemy hands or out on the open sea in Amphitrite's breakers. That's why I've come to plead before you now, if you can tell me about his cruel death: perhaps you saw him die with your own eyes or heard the wanderer's end from someone else. More than all other men, that man was born for pain. Don't soften a thing, from pity, respect for me — tell me, clearly, all your eyes have witnessed. 1 beg you — if ever my father, lord Odysseus, pledged you his word and made it good in action once on the fields of Troy where you Achaeans suffered, remember his story now, tell me the truth.' Nestor the noble charioteer replied at length: 'Ah dear boy, since you call back such memories, such living hell we endured in distant Troy — we headstrong fighting forces of Achaea — so many raids from shipboard down the foggy sea, cruising for plunder, wherever Achilles led the way; so many battles round King Priam's walls we fought, so many gone, our best and bravest fell. There Ajax lies, the great man of war.
There lies Achilles too. There Patroclus, skilled as the gods in counsel. And there my own dear son, both strong and staunch, Antilochus — lightning on his feet and every inch a fighter! But so many other things we suffered, past that count — what mortal in this wide world could tell it all? Not if you sat and probed his memory, five, six years, delving for all the pains our brave Achaeans bore there. Your patience would fray, you'd soon head for home.
Nine years we wove a web of disaster for those Trojans, pressing them hard with every tactic known to man, and only after we slaved did Zeus award us victory. And no one there could hope to rival Odysseus, not for sheer cunning — at every twist of strategy he excelled us all. Your father, yes, if you are in fact his son. 1 look at you and a sense of wonder takes me. Your way with words — it's just like his — I'd swear no youngster could ever speak like you, so apt, so telling.
As long as 1 and great Odysseus soldiered there, never once did we speak out at odds, neither in open muster nor in royal council: forever one in mind, in judgment balanced, shrewd, we mapped our armies' plans so things might turn out best. But then, once we'd sacked King Priam's craggy city, Zeus contrived in his heart a fatal homeward run for all the Achaeans who were fools, at least, dishonest too, so many met a disastrous end, thanks to the lethal rage of the mighty Father's daughter. Eyes afire, Athena set them feuding, Atreus' two sons. They summoned all the Achaean ranks to muster, rashly, just at sunset — no hour to rally troops — and in they straggled, sodden with wine, our heroes. The brothers harangued them, told them why they'd met: a crisis — Menelaus urging the men to fix their minds on the voyage home across the sea's broad back, but it brought no joy to Agamemnon, not at all. Meant to detain us there and offer victims, anything to appease Athena's dreadful wrath — poor fool, he never dreamed Athena would not comply. The minds of the everlasting gods don't change so quickly.
So the two of them stood there, wrangling, back and forth till the armies sprang up, their armor clashing, ungodly uproar — two plans split the ranks. That night we barely slept, seething with hard feelings against our own comrades, for Zeus was brooding over us, poised to seal our doom. At dawn, half of us hauled our vessels down to sea, we stowed our plunder, our sashed and lovely women.
But half the men held back, camped on the beach, waiting it out for Agamemnon's next commands while our contingent embarked — we pushed off and sailed at a fast clip as a god smoothed out the huge troughing swells. We reached Tenedos quickly, sacrificed to the gods, the crews keen for home, but a quick return was not in Zeus's plans, not yet: that cruel power loosed a cursed feud on us once again. Some swung their rolling warships hard about — Odysseus sailed them back, the flexible, wily king, veering over to Agamemnon now to shore his fortunes up. Massing the ships that came in my flotilla, /sped away as the god's mischief kept on brewing, dawning on me now. And Tydeus' fighting son Diomedes fled too, rousing all his comrades. Late in the day the red-haired Menelaus joined us, overtook us at Lesbos, debating the long route home: whether to head north, over the top of rocky Chios, skirting Psy rie, keeping that island off to port or run south of Chios, by Mimas' gusty cape.
We asked the god for a sign. He showed us one, he urged us to cut out on the middle passage, straight to Euboea now, escape a catastrophe, fast as we could sail! A shrilling wind came up, stiff, driving us on and on we raced, over the sea-lanes rife with fish and we made Geraestus Point in the dead of night.
Many thighs of bulls we offered Poseidon there — thank god we'd crossed that endless reach of sea. Then on the fourth day out the crews of Diomedes, breaker of horses, moored their balanced ships at Argos port, but 1 held course for Pylos, yes, and never once did the good strong wind go limp from the first day the god unleashed its blast. And so, dear boy, 1 made it home from Troy, in total ignorance, knowing nothing of their fates, the ones who stayed behind: who escaped with their lives and who went down. But all I've gathered by hearsay, sitting here in my own house — that you'll learn, it's only right, I'll hide nothing now. They say the Myrmidons, those savage spearmen led by the shining son of lionhearted Achilles, traveled home unharmed. Philoctetes the gallant son of Poias, safe as well. Idomeneus brought his whole contingent back to Crete, all who'd escaped the war — ^the sea snatched none from him.
But Atreus' son Agamemnon. You yourselves, even in far-off Ithaca, must have heard how he returned, how Aegisthus hatched the king's horrendous death. But what a price Aepaid, in blood, in suffering. Ah how fine it is, when a man is brought down, to leave a son behind!
Orestes took revenge, he killed that cunning, murderous Aegisthus, who'd killed his famous father. And you, my friend — how tall and handsome 1 see you now — be brave, you too, so men to come will sing your praises down the years.' Telemachus, weighing the challenge closely, answered, 'Oh Nestor, son of Neleus, Achaea's pride and glory.
What a stroke of revenge that was! All Achaeans will spread Orestes' fame across the world, a song for those to come. If only the gods would arm me in such power I'd take revenge on the lawless, brazen suitors riding roughshod over me, plotting reckless outrage. But for meihe gods have spun out no such joy, for my father or myself. 1 must bear up, that's all.' And the old charioteer replied, 'Now that you mention it, dear boy, 1 do recall a mob of suitors, they say, besets your mother there in your own house, against your will, and plots your ruin.
Tell me, though, do you /e/^yourself be so abused, or do people round about, stirred up by the prompting of some god, despise you now? Who knows if he^Ni return someday to take revenge on all their violence?
Single-handed perhaps or with an Argive army at his back? If only the bright-eyed goddess chose to love you just as she lavished care on brave Odysseus, years ago in the land of Troy, where we Achaeans struggled! I've never seen the immortals show so much affection as Pallas openly showed AJm, standing by your father — if only she'd favor you, tend youyNith all her heart, many a suitor then would lose all thought of marriage, blotted out forever.' 'Never, your majesty,' Telemachus countered gravely, 'that will never come to pass, 1 know. What you say dumbfounds me, staggers imagination!
Hope, hope as 1 will, that day will never dawn. Not even if the gods should will it so.' Pallas Athena broke in sharply, her eyes afire — 'What's this nonsense slipping through your teeth? It's light work for a willing god to save a mortal even half the world away. Myself, I'd rather sail through years of trouble and labor home and see that blessed day, than hurry home to die at my own hearth like Agamemnon, killed by Aegisthus' cunning — by his own wife.
But the great leveler. Death: not even the gods can defend a man, not even one they love, that day when fate takes hold and lays him out at last.' 'Mentor,' wise Telemachus said, 'distraught as we are for him, let's speak of this no more. My father's return? It's inconceivable now. Long ago the undying gods have sealed his death, his black doom. But now there's another question 1 would put to Nestor: Nestor excels all men for sense and justice, his knowledge of the world.
Three generations he has ruled, they say, and to my young eyes he seems a deathless god! Nestor, son of Neleus, tell me the whole story — how did the great king Agamemnon meet his death? Where was Menelaus? What fatal trap did he set, that treacherous Aegisthus, to bring down a man far stronger than himself? Was Menelaus gone from Achaean Argos, roving the world somewhere, so the coward found the nerve to kill the king?'
And old Nestor the noble charioteer replied: 'Gladly, my boy, I'll tell you the story first to last. Right you are, you guess what would have happened if red-haired Menelaus, arriving back from Troy, had found Aegisthus alive in Agamemnon's palace.
No barrow piled high on the earth for JiJs dead body, no, the dogs and birds would have feasted on his corpse, sprawled on the plain outside the city gates, and no one, no woman in all Achaea, would have wept a moment, such a monstrous crime the man contrived! But there we were, camped at Troy, battling out the long hard campaign while he at his ease at home, in the depths of Argos, stallion-country — he lay siege to the wife of Agamemnon, luring, enticing her with talk.
At first, true, she spurned the idea of such an outrage, Cly temnestra the queen, her will was faithful still. And there was a man, what's more, a bard close by, to whom Agamemnon, setting sail for Troy, gave strict commands to guard his wife. But then, that day the doom of the gods had bound her to surrender, Aegisthus shipped the bard away to a desert island, marooned him there, sweet prize for the birds of prey, and swept her off to his own house, lover lusting for lover. And many thighbones he burned on the gods' holy altars, many gifts he hung on the temple walls — gold, brocades — in thanks for a conquest past his maddest hopes.
Now we, you see, were sailing home from Troy in the same squadron, Menelaus and 1, comrades-in-arms from years of war. But as we rounded holy Sounion, Athens' headland, lord Apollo attacked Atrides' helmsman, aye, with his gentle shafts he shot the man to death — an iron grip on the tiller, the craft scudding fast — Phrontis, Onetor's son, who excelled all men alive at steering ships when gales bore down in fury. So Menelaus, straining to sail on, was held back till he could bury his mate with fitting rites. But once he'd got off too, plowing the wine-dark sea in his ribbed ships, and made a run to Malea's beetling cape, farseeing Zeus decided to give the man rough sailing, poured a hurricane down upon him, shrilling winds, giant, rearing whitecaps, monstrous, mountains high.
There at a stroke he cut the fleet in half and drove one wing to Crete, where Cydonians make their homes along the lardanus River. Now, there's a sheer cliff plunging steep to the surf at the farthest edge of Gorty n, out on the mist-bound sea, where the South Wind piles breakers, huge ones, left of the headland's horn, toward Phaestos, with only a low reef to block the crushing tides.
In they sailed, and barely escaped their death — the ships' crews, that is — the rollers smashed their hulls against the rocks. But as for the other five with pitch-black prows, the wind and current swept them on toward Egypt. So Menelaus, amassing a hoard of stores and gold, was off cruising his ships to foreign ports of call while Aegisthus hatched his vicious work at home.
Seven years he lorded over Mycenae rich in gold, once he'd killed Agamemnon — he ground the people down. But the eighth year ushered in his ruin. Prince Orestes home from Athens, yes, he cut him down, that cunning, murderous Aegisthus, who'd killed his famous father.
Vengeance done, he held a feast for the Argives, to bury his hated mother, craven Aegisthus too, the very day Menelaus arrived, lord of the war cry, freighted with all the wealth his ships could carry. So you, dear boy, take care. Don't rove from home too long, too far, leaving your own holdings unprotected — crowds in your palace so brazen they'll carve up all your wealth, devour it all, and then your journey here will come to nothing. Still 1 advise you, urge you to visit Menelaus.
He's back from abroad at last, from people so removed you might abandon hope of ever returning home, once the winds had driven you that far off course, into a sea so vast not even cranes could wing their way in one year's flight — so vast it is, so awesome. So, off you go with your ships and shipmates now. Or if you'd rather go by land, there's team and chariot, my sons at your service too, and they'll escort you to sunny Lacedaemon, home of the red-haired king. Press him yourself to tell the whole truth: he'll never lie — the man is far too wise.' So he closed as the sun set and darkness swept across the earth and the bright-eyed goddess Pallas spoke for all: 'There was a tale, old soldier, so well told.
Come, cut out the victims' tongues and mix the wine, so once we've poured libations out to the Sea-lord and every other god, we'll think of sleep. High time — the light's already sunk in the western shadows. It's wrong to linger long at the gods' feast; we must be on our way.' Zeus's daughter — they all hung closely on every word she said. Heralds sprinkled water over their hands for rinsing, the young men brimmed the mixing bowls with wine, they tipped first drops for the god in every cup, then poured full rounds for all.
They rose and flung the victims' tongues on the fire and poured libations out. When they'd poured, and drunk to their hearts' content, Athena and Prince Telemachus both started up to head for their ship at once. But Nestor held them there, objecting strongly: 'Zeus forbid — and the other deathless gods as well — that you resort to your ship and put my house behind like a rank pauper's without a stitch of clothing, no piles of rugs, no blankets in his place for host and guests to slumber soft in comfort. Why, I've plenty of fine rugs and blankets here- No, by god, the true son of my good friend Odysseus won't bed down on a ship's deck, not while I'm alive or my sons are left at home to host our guests, whoever comes to our palace, newfound friends.'
'Dear old man, you're right,' Athena exclaimed, her eyes brightening now. 'Telemachus should oblige you. Much the better way. Let him follow you now, sleep in your halls, but I'll go back to our trim black ship. Hearten the crew and give each man his orders. I'm the only veteran in their ranks, I tell you.
All the rest, of an age with brave Telemachus, are younger men who sailed with him as friends. I'll bed down there by the dark hull tonight, at dawn push off for the proud Cauconians. Those people owe me a debt long overdue, and no mean sum, believe me. But you, seeing my friend is now your guest, speed him on his way with a chariot and your son and give him the finest horses that you have, bred for stamina, trained to race the wind.' With that the bright-eyed goddess winged away in an eagle's form and flight.
Amazement fell on all the Achaeans there. The old king, astonished by what he'd seen, grasped Telemachus' hand and cried out to the prince, 'Dear boy — never fear you'll be a coward or defenseless, not if at your young age the gods will guard you so. Of all who dwell on Olympus, this was none but she, Zeus's daughter, the glorious one, his third born, who prized your gallant father among the Argives. Now, 0 Queen, be gracious!
Give us high renown, myself, my children, my loyal wife and queen. 1 will make you a sacrifice, a yearling heifer broad in the brow, unbroken, never yoked by men. I'll offer it up to you — I'll sheathe its horns in gold.'
So he prayed, and Pallas Athena heard his prayer. And Nestor the noble chariot-driver led them on, his sons and sons-in-law, back to his regal palace. Once they reached the storied halls of the aged king they sat on rows of low and high-backed chairs.
As they arrived the old man mixed them all a bowl, stirring the hearty wine, seasoned eleven years before a servant broached it, loosed its seal. Mulling it in the bowl, old Nestor poured a libation out, praying hard to Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus whose shield is storm and thunder. Once they had poured their offerings, drunk their fill, the Pylians went to rest, each in his own house.
But the noble chariot-driver let Telemachus, King Odysseus' son, sleep at the palace now, on a corded bed inside the echoing colonnade, with Prince Pisistratus there beside him, the young spearman, already captain of armies, though the last son still unwed within the halls. The king retired to chambers deep in his lofty house where the queen his wife arranged and shared their bed. When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more old Nestor the noble chariot-driver climbed from bed, went out and took his seat on the polished stones, a bench glistening white, rubbed with glossy oil, placed for the king before his looming doors. There Neleus held his sessions years ago, a match for the gods in counsel, but his fate had long since forced him down to Death. Now royal Nestor in turn, Achaea's watch and ward, sat there holding the scepter while his sons, coming out of their chambers, clustered round him, hovering near: Echephron, Stratius, Perseus and Aretus, Thrasymedes like a god, and sixth, young lord Pisistratus came to join their ranks. They escorted Prince Telemachus in to sit beside them. Nestor, noble charioteer, began the celebration: 'Quickly, my children, carry out my wishes now so 1 may please the gods, Athena first of all — she came to me at Poseidon's flowing feast, Athena in all her glory!
Now someone go to the fields to fetch a heifer, lead her here at once — a herdsman drive her in. Someone hurry down to Prince Telemachus' black ship. Bring up all his crewmen, leave just two behind. And another tell our goldsmith, skilled Laerces, to come and sheathe the heifer's horns in gold. The rest stay here together. Tell the maids inside the hall to prepare a sumptuous feast — bring seats and firewood, bring pure water too.' They all pitched in to carry out his orders.
The heifer came from the fields, the crewmen came from brave Telemachus' ship, and the smith came in with all his gear in hand, the tools of his trade, the anvil, hammer and well-wrought tongs he used for working gold. And Athena came as well to attend her sacred rites.
The old horseman passed the gold to the smith, and twining the foil, he sheathed the heifer's horns so the goddess' eyes might dazzle, delighted with the gift. Next Stratius and Echephron led the beast by the horns. Aretus, coming up from the storeroom, brought them lustral water filling a flower-braided bowl, in his other hand, the barley in a basket.
Thrasymedes, staunch in combat, stood ready, whetted ax in his grasp to cut the heifer down, and Perseus held the basin for the blood. Now Nestor the old charioteer began the rite. Pouring the lustral water, scattering barley-meal, he lifted up his ardent prayers to Pallas Athena, launching the sacrifice, flinging onto the fire the first tufts of hair from the victim's head. Prayers said, the scattering barley strewn, suddenly Nestor's son impetuous Thrasymedes strode up close and struck — ^the ax chopped the neck tendons through — and the blow stunned the heifer's strength — The women shrilled their cry, Nestor's daughters, sons' wives and his own loyal wife Eurydice, Clymenus' eldest daughter. Then, hoisting up the victim's head from the trampled earth, they held her fast as the captain of men Pisistratus slashed her throat. Dark blood gushed forth, life ebbed from her limbs — they quartered her quickly, cut the thighbones out and all according to custom wrapped them round in fat, a double fold sliced clean and topped with strips of flesh.
And the old king burned these over dried split wood and over the fire poured out glistening wine while young men at his side held five-pronged forks. Once they 'd burned the bones and tasted the organs, they sliced the rest into pieces, spitted them on skewers and raising points to the fire, broiled all the meats. During the ritual lovely Polycaste, youngest daughter of Nestor, Neleus' son, had bathed Telemachus. Rinsing him off now, rubbing him down with oil, she drew a shirt and handsome cape around him.
Out of his bath he stepped, glowing like a god, strode in and sat by the old commander Nestor. They roasted the prime cuts, pulled them off the spits and sat down to the feast while ready stewards saw to rounds of wine and kept the gold cups flowing. When they'd put aside desire for food and drink, Nestor the noble chariot-driver issued orders: 'Hurry, my boys! Bring Telemachus horses, a good fuU-maned team — hitch them to a chariot — he must be off at once.' They listened closely, snapped to his commands and hitched a rapid team to a chariot's yoke in haste.
A housekeeper stowed some bread and wine aboard and meats too, food fit for the sons of kings. Telemachus vaulted onto the splendid chariot — right beside him Nestor's son Pisistratus, captain of armies, boarded, seized the reins, whipped the team to a run and on the horses flew.
Holding nothing back, out into open country, leaving the heights of Pylos fading in their trail, shaking the yoke across their shoulders all day long. The sun sank and the roads of the world grew dark as they reached Phera, pulling up to Diodes' halls, the son of Ortilochus, son of the Alpheus River. He gave them a royal welcome; there they slept the night. When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more they yoked their pair again, mounted the blazoned car and out through the gates and echoing colonnade they whipped the team to a run and on they flew, holding nothing back — and the princes reached the wheatlands, straining now for journey's end, so fast those purebred stallions raced them on as the sun sank and the roads of the world grew dark.
Book IV The King and Queen of Sparta At last they gained the ravines of Lacedaemon ringed by hills and drove up to the halls of Menelaus in his glory. They found the king inside his palace, celebrating with throngs of kinsmen a double wedding-feast for his son and lovely daughter. The princess he was sending on to the son of great Achilles, breaker of armies.
Years ago Menelaus vowed, he nodded assent at Troy and pledged her hand, and now the gods were sealing firm the marriage. So he was sending her on her way with team and chariot, north to the Myrmidons' famous city governed by her groom.
From Sparta he brought Alector's daughter as the bride for his own full-grown son, the hardy Megapenthes, born to him by a slave. To Helen the gods had granted no more offspring once she had borne her first child. The breathtaking Hermione, a luminous beauty gold as Aphrodite. So now they feasted within the grand, high-roofed palace, all the kin and clansmen of Menelaus in his glory, reveling warmly here as in their midst an inspired bard sang out and struck his lyre — and through them a pair of tumblers dashed and sprang, whirling in leaping handsprings, leading on the dance. The travelers, Nestor's shining son and Prince Telemachus, had brought themselves and their horses to a standstill just outside the court when good lord Eteoneus, passing through the gates now, saw them there, and the ready aide-in-arms of Menelaus took the message through his sovereign's halls and stepping close to his master broke the news: 'Strangers have just arrived, your majesty, Menelaus.
Two men, but they look like kin of mighty Zeus himself. Tell me, should we unhitch their team for them or send them to someone free to host them well?'
The red-haired king took great offense at that: 'Never a fool before, Eteoneus, son of Boethous, now 1 see you're babbling like a child! Just think of all the hospitality ivie enjoyed at the hands of other men before we made it home, and god save us from such hard treks in years to come. Quick, unhitch their team.
And bring them in, strangers, guests, to share our flowing feast.' Back through the halls he hurried, calling out to other brisk attendants to follow quickly. They loosed the sweating team from under the yoke, tethered them fast by reins inside the horse-stalls, tossing feed at their hoofs, white barley mixed with wheat, and canted the chariot up against the polished walls, shimmering in the sun, then ushered in their guests. Into that magnificent place.
Both struck by the sight, they marveled up and down the house of the warlord dear to Zeus — a radiance strong as the moon or rising sun came flooding through the high-roofed halls of illustrious Menelaus. Once they'd feasted their eyes with gazing at it all, into the burnished tubs they climbed and bathed. When women had washed them, rubbed them down with oil and drawn warm fleece and shirts around their shoulders, they took up seats of honor next to Atrides Menelaus.
A maid brought water soon in a graceful golden pitcher and over a silver basin tipped it out so they might rinse their hands, then pulled a gleaming table to their side. A staid housekeeper brought on bread to serve them, appetizers aplenty too, lavish with her bounty. As a carver lifted platters of meat toward them, meats of every sort, and set before them golden cups, the red-haired king Menelaus greeted both guests warmly. 'Help yourselves to food, and welcome! Once you've dined we'll ask you who you are.
But your parents' blood is hardly lost in you. You must be born of kings, bred by the gods to wield the royal scepter. No mean men could sire sons like you.' With those words he passed them a fat rich loin with his own hands, the choicest part, that he'd been served himself. They reached for the good things that lay outspread and when they'd put aside desire for food and drink, Telemachus, leaning his head close to Nestor's son, spoke low to the prince so no one else could hear: 'Look, Pisistratus— joy of my heart, my friend — the sheen of bronze, the blaze of gold and amber, silver, ivory too, through all this echoing mansion! Surely Zeus's court on Olympus must be just like this, the boundless glory of all this wealth inside!
My eyes dazzle. 1 am struck with wonder.' But the red-haired warlord overheard his guest and cut in quickly with winged words for both: 'No man alive could rival Zeus, dear boys, with his everlasting palace and possessions. But among men, 1 must say, few if any could rival mein riches. Believe me, much 1 suffered, many a mile 1 roved to haul such treasures home in my ships. Eight years out, wandering off as far as Cyprus, Phoenicia, even Egypt, 1 reached the Ethiopians, Sidonians, Erembians — Libya too, where lambs no sooner spring from the womb than they grow horns.
Three times in the circling year the ewes give birth. So no one, neither king nor shepherd could want for cheese or mutton, or sweet milk either, udders swell for the sucklings round the year. But while 1 roamed those lands, amassing a fortune, a stranger killed my brother, blind to the danger, duped blind — thanks to the cunning of his cursed, murderous queen! So 1 rule all this wealth with no great joy. You must have heard my story from your fathers, whoever they are — ^what hardships 1 endured, how 1 lost this handsome palace built for the ages, filled to its depths with hoards of gorgeous things.
Well, would to god I'd stayed right here in my own house with a third of all that wealth and they yN ere still alive, all who died on the wide plain of Troy those years ago, far from the stallion-land of Argos. And still, much as 1 weep for all my men, grieving sorely, time and again, sitting here in the royal halls, now indulging myself in tears, now brushing tears away — the grief that numbs the spirit gluts us quickly — for none of all those comrades, pained as 1 am, do 1 grieve as much for one. That man who makes sleep hateful, even food, as 1 pore over his memory.
No one, no Achaean, labored hard as Odysseus labored or achieved so much. And how did his struggles end? In suffering for that man; for me, in relentless, heartbreaking grief for him, lost and gone so long now — dead or alive, who knows? How they must mourn him too, Laertes, the old man, and self-possessed Penelope. Telemachus as well, the boy he left a babe in arms at home.'
Such memories stirred in the young prince a deep desire to grieve for Odysseus. Tears streamed down his cheeks and wet the ground when he heard his father's name, both hands clutching his purple robe before his eyes. Menelaus recognized him at once but pondered deeply whether to let him state his father's name or probe him first and prompt him step by step. While he debated all this now within himself, Helen emerged from her scented, lofty chamber — striking as Artemis with her golden shafts — and a train of women followed. Adreste drew up her carved reclining-chair, Alcippe brought a carpet of soft-piled fleece, Phylo carried her silver basket given by Alcandre, King Polybus' wife, who made his home in Egyptian Thebes where the houses overflow with the greatest troves of treasure. The king gave Menelaus a pair of bathing-tubs in silver, two tripods, ten bars of gold, and apart from these his wife presented Helen her own precious gifts: a golden spindle, a basket that ran on casters, solid silver polished off with rims of gold.
Now Phylo her servant rolled it in beside her, heaped to the brim with yarn prepared for weaving; the spindle swathed in violet wool lay tipped across it. Helen leaned back in her chair, a stool beneath her feet, and pressed her husband at once for each detail: 'Do we know, my lord Menelaus, who our visitors claim to be, our welcome new arrivals? Right or wrong, what can 1 say? My heart tells me to come right out and say I've never seen such a likeness, neither in man nor woman — I'm amazed at the sight. To the life he's Uke the son of great Odysseus, surely he's Telemachus!
The boy that hero left a babe in arms at home when all you Achaeans fought at Troy, launching your headlong battles just for my sake, shameless whore that 1 was.' 'My dear, my dear,' the red-haired king assured her, 'now that you mention it, 1 see the Ukeness too. Odysseus' feet were like the boy 's, his hands as well, his glancing eyes, his head, and the fine shock of hair.
Yes, and just now, as 1 was talking about Odysseus, remembering how he struggled, suffered, all for me, a flood of tears came streaming down his face and he clutched his purple robe before his eyes.' 'Right you are' — Pisistratus stepped in quickly — 'son of Atreus, King Menelaus, captain of armies: here is the son of that great hero, as you say. But the man is modest, he would be ashamed to make a show of himself, his first time here, and interrupt you.
We delight in your voice as if some god were speaking! The noble horseman Nestor sent me along to be his escort. Telemachus yearned to see you, so you could give him some advice or urge some action. When a father's gone, his son takes much abuse in a house where no one comes to his defense. So with Telemachus now.
His father's gone. No men at home will shield him from the worst.' The red-haired king cried out. 'The son of my dearest friend, here in my own house!
That man who performed a hundred feats of arms for me. And 1 swore that when he came I'd give him a hero's welcome, him above all my comrades — if only Olympian Zeus, farseeing Zeus, had granted us both safe passage home across the sea in our swift trim ships. Why, I'd have settled a city in Argos for him. Built him a palace, shipped him over from Ithaca, him and all his wealth, his son, his people too — emptied one of the cities nestling round about us, one I rule myself. Both fellow-countrymen then, how often we'd have mingled side-by-side!
Nothing could have parted us, bound by love for each other, mutual delight. Till death's dark cloud came shrouding round us both. But god himself, jealous of all this, no doubt, robbed that unlucky man, him and him alone, of the day of his return.
' So Menelaus mused and stirred in them all a deep desire to grieve. Helen of Argos, daughter of Zeus, dissolved in tears, Telemachus wept too, and so did Atreus' son Menelaus. Nor could Nestor's son Pisistratus stay dry-eyed, remembering now his gallant brother Antilochus, cut down by Memnon, splendid son of the Morning. Thinking of him, the young prince broke out: 'Old Nestor always spoke of you, son of Atreus, as the wisest man of all the men he knew, whenever we talked about you there at home, questioning back and forth. So now, please, if it isn't out of place, indulge me, won't you? Myself, 1 take no joy in weeping over supper. Morning will soon bring time enough for that.
Not that I'd grudge a tear for any man gone down to meet his fate. What other tribute can we pay to wretched men than to cut a lock, let tears roll down our cheeks? And 1 have a brother of my own among the dead, and hardly the poorest soldier in our ranks. You probably knew him. 1 never met him, never saw him myself. But they say he outdid our best, Antilochus — lightning on his feet and every inch a fighter!' 'Well said, my friend,' the red-haired king replied.
'Not even an older man could speak and do as well. Your father's son you are — your words have all his wisdom. It 's easy to spot the breed of a man whom Zeus has marked for joy in birth and marriage both. Take great King Nestor now: Zeus has blessed him, all his livelong days, growing rich and sleek in his old age at home, his sons expert with spears and full of sense. Download Hai Kich Van Son 48 Torrent more.
Well, so much for the tears that caught us just now; let's think again of supper. Come, rinse our hands. Tomorrow, at dawn, will offer me and Telemachus time to talk and trade our thoughts in full.' Asphalion quickly rinsed their hands with water, another of King Menelaus' ready aides-in arms. Again they reached for the good things set before them. Then Zeus's daughter Helen thought of something else. Into the mixing-bowl from which they drank their wine she slipped a drug, heart's-ease, dissolving anger, magic to make us all forget our pains.
No one who drank it deeply, mulled in wine, could let a tear roll down his cheeks that day, not even if his mother should die, his father die, not even if right before his eyes some enemy brought down a brother or darling son with a sharp bronze blade. So cunning the drugs that Zeus's daughter plied, potent gifts from Polydamna the wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt, land where the teeming soil bears the richest yield of herbs in all the world: many health itself when mixed in the wine, and many deadly poison. Every man is a healer there, more skilled than any other men on earth — Egyptians born of the healing god himself. So now Helen, once she had drugged the wine and ordered winecups filled, resuming the conversation, entertained the group: 'My royal king Menelaus — ^welcome guests here, sons of the great as well! Zeus can present us times of joy and times of grief in turn: all lies within his power. So come, let's sit back in the palace now, dine and warm our hearts with the old stories.
1 will tell something perfect for the occasion. Surely 1 can't describe or even list them all, the exploits crowding fearless Odysseus' record, but what a feat that hero dared and carried off in the land of Troy where you Achaeans suffered! Scarring his own body with mortifying strokes, throwing filthy rags on his back like any slave, he slipped into the enemy's city, roamed its streets — all disguised, a totally different man, a beggar, hardly the figure he cut among Achaea's ships. That's how Odysseus infiltrated Troy, and no one knew him at all. 1 alone, 1 spotted him for the man he was, kept questioning him — the crafty one kept dodging.
But after I'd bathed him, rubbed him down with oil, given him clothes to wear and sworn a binding oath not to reveal him as Odysseus to the Trojans, not till he was back at his swift ships and shelters, then at last he revealed to me, step by step, the whole Achaean strategy. And once he'd cut a troop of Trojans down with his long bronze sword, back he went to his comrades, filled with information. The rest of the Trojan women shrilled their grief. Not 1: my heart leapt up — my heart had changed by now — 1 yearned to sail back home again! 1 grieved too late for the madness Aphrodite sent me, luring me there, far from my dear land, forsaking my own child, my bridal bed, my husband too, a man who lacked for neither brains nor beauty.' And the red-haired Menelaus answered Helen: 'There was a tale, my lady. So well told.
Now then, 1 have studied, in my time. The plans and minds of great ones by the score. And I have traveled over a good part of the world but never once have 1 laid eyes on a man like him — what a heart that fearless Odysseus had inside him! What a piece of work the hero dared and carried off in the wooden horse where all our best encamped, our champions armed with bloody death for Troy.
When along you came, Helen — roused, no doubt, by a dark power bent on giving Troy some glory, and dashing Prince Deiphobus squired your every step. Three times you sauntered round our hollow ambush, feeling, stroking its flanks, challenging all our fighters, calling each by name — yours was the voice of all our long-lost wives! And Diomedes and 1, crouched tight in the midst with great Odysseus, hearing you singing out, were both keen to spring up and sally forth or give you a sudden answer from inside, but Odysseus damped our ardor, reined us back.
Then all the rest of the troops kept stock-still, all but Anticlus. He was hot to salute you now but Odysseus clamped his great hands on the man's mouth and shut it, brutally — yes, he saved us all, holding on grim-set till Pallas Athena lured you off at last.' But clear-sighted Telemachus ventured, 'Son of Atreus, King Menelaus, captain of armies, so much the worse, for not one bit of that saved himivom grisly death. Not even a heart of iron could have helped. But come, send us off to bed.
It's time to rest, time to enjoy the sweet relief of sleep.' And Helen briskly told her serving-women to make beds in the porch's shelter, lay down some heavy purple throws for the beds themselves, and over them spread some blankets, thick woolly robes. A warm covering laid on top. Torches in hand, they left the hall and made up beds at once. The herald led the two guests on and so they slept outside the palace under the forecourt's colonnade, young Prince Telemachus and Nestor's shining son. Menelaus retired to chambers deep in his lofty house with Helen the pearl of women loosely gowned beside him.
When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more the lord of the warcry climbed from bed and dressed, over his shoulder he slung his well-honed sword, fastened rawhide sandals under his smooth feet, stepped from his bedroom, handsome as a god, and sat beside Telemachus, asking, kindly, 'Now, my young prince, tell me what brings you here to sunny Lacedaemon, sailing over the sea's broad back. A public matter or private? Tell me the truth now.' And with all the poise he had, Telemachus replied, 'Son of Atreus, King Menelaus, captain of armies, 1 came in the hope that you can tell me now some news about my father.
My house is being devoured, my rich farms destroyed, my palace crammed with enemies, slaughtering on and on my droves of sheep and shambling longhorn cattle. Suitors plague my mother — ^the insolent, overweening. That's why I've come to plead before you now, if you can tell me about his cruel death: perhaps you saw him die with your own eyes or heard the wanderer's end from someone else. More than all other men, that man was born for pain. Don't soften a thing, from pity, respect for me — tell me, clearly, all your eyes have witnessed.
1 beg you — if ever my father, lord Odysseus, pledged you his word and made it good in action once on the fields of Troy where you Achaeans suffered, remember his story now, tell me the truth.' 'How shameful!'
The red-haired king burst out in anger. 'That's the bed of a brave man of war they'd like to crawl inside, those spineless, craven cowards!
Weak as the doe that beds down her fawns in a mighty lion's den — her newborn sucklings — then trails off to the mountain spurs and grassy bends to graze her fill, but back the lion comes to his own lair and the master deals both fawns a ghastly bloody death, just what Odysseus will deal that mob — ghastly death. Ah if only — Father Zeus, Athena and lord Apollo — that man who years ago in the games at Lesbos rose to Philomelides' challenge, wrestled him, pinned him down with one tremendous throw and the Argives roared with joy. If only ^Aa^ Odysseus sported with those suitors, a blood wedding, a quick death would take the lot! But about the things you've asked me, so intently, I'll skew and sidestep nothing, not deceive you, ever. Of all Aftold me — the Old Man of the Sea who never lies — I'll hide or hold back nothing, not a single word. It was in Egypt, where the gods still marooned me, eager as 1 was to voyage home.
I'd failed, you see, to render them full, flawless victims, and gods are always keen to see their rules obeyed. Now, there's an island out in the ocean's heavy surge, well off the Egyptian coast — they call it Pharos — far as a deep-sea ship can go in one day's sail with a whistling wind astern to drive her on. There's a snug harbor there, good landing beach where crews pull in, draw water up from the dark wells, then push their vessels off for passage out. But here the gods becalmed me twenty days. Not a breath of the breezes ruffling out to sea that speed a ship across the ocean's broad back.
Now our rations would all have been consumed, our crews' stamina too, if one of the gods had not felt sorry for me, shown me mercy. Eidothea, a daughter of Proteus, that great power, the Old Man of the Sea. My troubles must have moved her to the heart when she met me trudging by myself without my men.
They kept roaming around the beach, day in, day out, fishing with twisted hooks, their bellies racked by hunger. Well, she came right up to me, filled with questions: 'Are you a fool, stranger — soft in the head and lazy too? Or do you let things slide because you //Areyour pain? Here you are, cooped up on an island far too long, with no way out of it, none that you can find, while all your shipmates' spirit ebbs away.' So she prodded and 1 replied at once, 'Let me tell you, goddess — whoever you are — I'm hardly landlocked here of my own free will. So 1 must have angered one of the deathless gods who rule the skies up there. But you tell me — you immortals know it all — which one of you blocks my way here, keeps me from my voyage?
How can 1 cross the swarming sea and reach home at last?' And the glistening goddess reassured me warmly, 'Of course, my friend, I'll answer all your questions. Who haunts these parts? Proteus of Egypt does, the immortal Old Man of the Sea who never lies, who sounds the deep in all its depths, Poseidon's servant.
He's my father, they say, he gave me life. And he, if only you ambush him somehow and pin him down, will tell you the way to go, the stages of your voyage, how you can cross the swarming sea and reach home at last.
And he can tell you too, if you want to press him — you aredi king, it seems — all that's occurred within your palace, good and bad, while you've been gone your long and painful way.' 'Then you are the one' — 1 quickly took her up. 'Show me the trick to trap this ancient power. Or he'll see or sense me first and slip away. It's hard for a mortal man to force a god.' 'True, my friend,' the glistening one agreed, and again I'll tell you all you need to know.
When the sun stands striding at high noon, then up from the waves he comes — the Old Man of the Sea who never lies — under a West Wind's gust that shrouds him round in shuddering dark swells, and once he's out on land he heads for his bed of rest in deep hollow caves and around him droves of seals — sleek pups bred by his lovely ocean-lady — bed down too in a huddle, flopping up from the gray surf, giving off the sour reek of the salty ocean depths. I'll lead you there myself at the break of day and couch you all for attack, side-by-side. Choose three men from your crew, choose well, the best you've got aboard the good decked hulls. Now 1 will tell you all the old wizard's tricks. First he will make his rounds and count the seals and once he's checked their number, reviewed them all, down in their midst he'll lie, like a shepherd with his flock.
That's your moment. Soon as you see him bedded down, muster your heart and strength and hold him fast, wildly as he writhes and fights you to escape. He'll try all kinds of escape — ^twist and turn into every beast that moves across the earth, transforming himself into water, superhuman fire, but you hold on for dear life, hug him all the harder! And when, at last, he begins to ask you questions — back in the shape you saw him sleep at first — relax your grip and set the old god free and ask him outright, hero, which of the gods is up in arms against you? How can you cross the swarming sea and reach home at last?' So she urged and under the breaking surf she dove as I went back to our squadron beached in sand, my heart a heaving storm at every step.
Once I reached my ship hauled up on shore we made our meal and the godsent night came down and then we slept at the sea's smooth shelving edge. When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more 1 set out down the coast of the wide-ranging sea, praying hard to the gods for all their help, taking with me the three men 1 trusted most on every kind of mission. Eidothea, now, had slipped beneath the sea's engulfing folds but back from the waves she came with four sealskins, all freshly stripped, to deceive her father blind. She scooped out lurking-places deep in the sand and sat there waiting as we approached her post, then couching us side-by-side she flung a sealskin over each man's back. Now there was an ambush that would have overpowered us all — overpowering, true, the awful reek of all those sea-fed brutes! Who'd dream of bedding down with a monster of the deep? But the goddess sped to our rescue, found the cure with ambrosia, daubing it under each man's nose — that lovely scent, it drowned the creatures' stench.
So all morning we lay there waiting, spirits steeled, while seals came crowding, jostling out of the sea and flopped down in rows, basking along the surf. At high noon the old man emerged from the waves and found his fat-fed seals and made his rounds, counting them off, counting usthe first four, but he had no inkling of all the fraud afoot. Then down he lay and slept, but we with a battle-cry, we rushed him, flung our arms around him — he'd lost nothing, the old rascal, none of his cunning quick techniques!
First he shifted into a great bearded lion and then a serpent — a panther — a ramping wild boar — a torrent of water — a tree with soaring branchtops — but we held on for dear life, braving it out until, at last, that quick-change artist, the old wizard, began to weary of all this and burst out into rapid-fire questions: 'Which god, Menelaus, conspired with you to trap me in ambush? Seize me against my will? What on earth do you want?'
'You know, old man,' 1 countered now. Why put me off with questions? Here 1 am, cooped up on an island far too long, with no way out of it, none that 1 can find, while my spirit ebbs away. But you tell me — you immortals know it all — which one of you blocks my way here, keeps me from my voyage? How can 1 cross the swarming sea and reach home at last?'
'How wrong you were!' The seer shot back at once. 'You should have offered Zeus and the other gods a handsome sacrifice, then embarked, if you ever hoped for a rapid journey home across the wine-dark sea. It's not your destiny yet to see your loved ones, reach your own grand house, your native land at last, not till you sail back through Egyptian waters — the great Nile swelled by the rains of Zeus — and make a splendid rite to the deathless gods who rule the vaulting skies. Then, only then will the gods grant you the voyage you desire.' So he urged, and broke the heart inside me, having to double back on the mist-bound seas, back to Egypt, that, that long and painful way. Nevertheless 1 caught my breath and answered, 'That 1 will do, old man, as you command.
But tell me this as well, and leave out nothing: Did all the Achaeans reach home in the ships unharmed, all we left behind, Nestor and 1, en route from Troy? Or did any die some cruel death by shipwreck or die in the arms of loved ones, once they 'd wound down the long coil of war?' And he lost no time in saying, 'Son of Atreus, why do you ask me that? Why do you need to know?
Why probe my mind? You won't stay dry-eyed long, 1 warn you, once you have heard the whole story. Many of them were killed, many survived as well, but only two who captained your bronze-armored units died on the way home — you know who died in the fighting, you were there yourself. And one is still alive, held captive, somewhere, off in the endless seas. Ajax, now, went down with his long-oared fleet. First Poseidon drove him onto the cliffs of Gyrae, looming cliffs, then saved him from the breakers — he'd have escaped his doom, too, despite Athena's hate, if he hadn't flung that brazen boast, the mad blind fool. 'In the teeth of the gods,' he bragged, '1 have escaped the ocean's sheer abyss!'
Poseidon heard that frantic vaunt and the god grasped his trident in both his massive hands and struck the Gyraean headland, hacked the rock in two, and the giant stump stood fast but the jagged spur where Ajax perched at first, the raving madman — toppling into the sea, it plunged him down, down in the vast, seething depths. And so he died, having drunk his fill of brine.
Your brother? He somehow escaped that fate; Agamemnon got away in his beaked ships. Queen Hera pulled him through. But just as he came abreast of Malea's beetling cape a hurricane snatched him up and swept him way off course — groaning, desperate — driving him over the fish-infested sea to the wild borderland where Thgestes made his home in days of old and his son Aegisthus lived now. But even from there a safe return seemed likely.
Yes, the immortals swung the wind around to fair and the victors sailed home. How rejoiced, Atrides setting foot on his fatherland once more — he took that native earth in his hands and kissed it, hot tears flooding his eyes, so thrilled to see his land! But a watchman saw him too — from a lookout high above — a spy that cunning Aegisthus stationed there, luring the man with two gold bars in payment.
One whole year he'd watched. So the great king would not get past unseen. His fighting power intact for self-defense.
The spy ran the news to his master 's halls and Aegisthus quickly set his stealthy trap. Picking the twenty best recruits from town he packed them in ambush at one end of the house, at the other he ordered a banquet dressed and spread and went to welcome the conquering hero, Agamemnon, went with team and chariot, and a mind aswarm with evil. Up from the shore he led the king, he ushered him in — suspecting nothing of all his doom — he feasted him well then cut him down as a man cuts down some ox at the trough!
Not one of your brother's men-at-arms was left alive, none of Aegisthus' either. All, killed in the palace.' So Proteus said, and his story crushed my heart.
1 knelt down in the sand and wept. I'd no desire to go on living and see the rising light of day. But once I'd had my fill of tears and writhing there, the Old Man of the Sea who never lies continued, 'No more now, Menelaus.
How long must you weep? Withering tears, what good can come of tears? None 1 know of. Strive instead to return to your native country — hurry home at once! Either you'll find the murderer still alive or Orestes will have beaten you to the kill.
You'll be in time to share the funeral feast.' So he pressed, and I felt my heart, my old pride, for all my grieving, glow once more in my chest and 1 asked the seer in a rush of winging words, 'Those two 1 know now. Tell me the third man's name. Who is still alive, held captive off in the endless seas? Unless he's dead by now. 1 want to know the truth though it grieves me all the more.'
'Odysseus' — the old prophet named the third at once — 'Laertes' son, who makes his home in Ithaca. 1 saw him once on an island, weeping live warm tears in the nymph Calypso's house — she holds him there by force. He has no way to voyage home to his own native land, no trim ships in reach, no crew to ply the oars and send him scudding over the sea's broad back. But about your destiny, Menelaus, dear to Zeus, it's not for you to die and meet your fate in the stallion-land of Argos, no, the deathless ones will sweep you off to the world's end, the Elysian Fields, where gold-haired Rhadamanthys waits, where life glides on in immortal ease for mortal man; no snow, no winter onslaught, never a downpour there but night and day the Ocean River sends up breezes, singing winds of the West refreshing all mankind.
All this because you are Helen's husband now — the gods count you the son-in-law of Zeus.' So he divined and down the breaking surf he dove as 1 went back to the ships with my brave men, my heart a rising tide at every step.
Once 1 reached my craft hauled up on shore we made our meal and the godsent night came down and then we slept at the sea's smooth shelving edge. When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more we hauled the vessels down to the sunlit breakers first then stepped the masts amidships, canvas brailed — the crews swung aboard, they sat to the oars in ranks and in rhythm churned the water white with stroke on stroke. Back we went to the Nile swelled by the rains of Zeus, I moored the ships and sacrificed in a splendid rite, and once I'd slaked the wrath of the everlasting gods I raised a mound for Agamemnon, his undying glory. All this done, 1 set sail and the gods sent me a stiff following wind that sped me home, home to the native land 1 love.
But come, my boy, stay on in my palace now with me, at least till ten or a dozen days have passed. Then I'll give you a princely send-off — shining gifts, three stallions and a chariot burnished bright — and I'll add a gorgeous cup so you can pour libations out to the deathless gods on high and remember Menelaus all your days.' Telemachus, summoning up his newfound tact, replied, 'Please, Menelaus, don't keep me quite so long.
True, I'd gladly sit beside you one whole year without a twinge of longing for home or parents. It's wonderful how you tell your stories, all you say — 1 delight to listen! Yes, but now, I'm afraid, my comrades must be restless in sacred Pylos, and here you'd hold me just a little longer. As for the gift you give me, let it be a keepsake. Those horses 1 really cannot take to Ithaca; better to leave them here to be your glory. You rule a wide level plain where the fields of clover roll and galingale and wheat and oats and glistening full-grain barley.
No running-room for mares in Ithaca though, no meadows. Goat, not stallion, land, yet it means the world to me. None of the rugged islands slanting down to sea is good for pasture or good for bridle paths, but Ithaca, best of islands, crowns them all!' So he declared. The lord of the warcry smiled, patted him with his hand and praised his guest, concluding, 'Good blood runs in you, dear boy, your words are proof. Certainly I'll exchange the gifts. The power's mine.
Of all the treasures lying heaped in my palace you shall have the finest, most esteemed. Why, I'll give you a mixing-bowl, forged to perfection — it's solid silver finished off with a lip of gold.
Hephaestus made it himself. And a royal friend, Phaedimus, king of Sidon, lavished it on me when his palace welcomed me on passage home. How pleased I'd be if you took it as a gift! ' And now as the two confided in each other, banqueters arrived at the great king's palace, leading their own sheep, bearing their hearty wine, and their wives in lovely headbands sent along the food. And so they bustled about the halls preparing dinner. But all the while the suitors, before Odysseus' palace, amused themselves with discus and long throwing spears, out on the leveled grounds, free and easy as always, full of swagger.
But lord Antinous sat apart, dashing Eurymachus beside him, ringleaders, head and shoulders the strongest of the lot. Phronius' son Noemon approached them now, quick to press Antinous with a question: 'Antinous, have we any notion or not when Telemachus will return from sandy Pylos? He sailed in a ship of mine and now 1 need her back to cross over to Elis Plain where 1 keep a dozen horses, brood-mares suckling some heavy-duty mules, unbroken. I'd like to drive one home and break him in.'
That dumbfounded them both. They never dreamed the prince had gone to Pylos, Neleus' city — certain the boy was still nearby somewhere, out on his farm with flocks or with the swineherd. 'Tell me the truth!' Antinous wheeled on Noemon. 'When did he go?
And what young crew went with him? Ithaca's best? Or his own slaves and servants? Surely he has enough to man a ship. Tell me this — be clear — I've got to know: did he commandeer your ship against your will or did you volunteer it once he'd won you over?' '1 volunteered it, of course, ' Noemon said.
'What else could anyone do, when such a man, a prince weighed down with troubles, asked a favor? Hard to deny him anything. And the young crew that formed his escort? Well, they're the finest men on the island, next to us.
And Mentor took command — 1 saw him climb aboard — or a god who looked like Mentor head to foot, and that's what 1 find strange. 1 saw good Mentor yesterday, just at sunup, here. But clearly he boarded ship for Pylos days ago.' With that he headed back to his father's house, leaving the two lords stiff with indignation.
They made the suitors sit down in a group and stop their games at once. Eupithes' son Antinous rose up in their midst to speak, his dark heart filled with fury, blazing with anger — eyes like searing fire: 'By god, what a fine piece of work he's carried off!
Telemachus — ^what insolence — and we thought his little jaunt would come to grief. But in spite of us all, look, the young cub slips away, just like that— picks the best crew in the land and off he sails. And this is just the start of the trouble he can make.
Zeus kill that brazen boy before he hits his prime! Quick, fetch me a swift ship and twenty men — I'll waylay him from ambush, board him coming back in the straits between Ithaca and rocky Same.
This gallant voyage of his to find his father will find wrecked at last!' They all roared approval, urged him on, rose at once and retired to Odysseus' palace. But not for long was Penelope unaware of the grim plots her suitors planned in secret. The herald Medon told her.
He'd overheard their schemes, listening in outside the court while they wove on within. He rushed the news through the halls to tell the queen who greeted him as he crossed her chamber 's threshold: 'Herald, why have the young blades sent you now? To order King Odysseus' serving- women to stop their work and slave to fix their feast? 1 hate their courting, their running riot here — would to god that this meal, here and now, were their last meal on earth! Day after day, all of you swarming, draining our life's blood, my wary son's estate. What, didn't you listen to your fathers — when you were children, years ago — telling you how Odysseus treated them, your parents?
Never an unfair word, never an unfair action among his people here, though that's the way of our god-appointed kings, hating one man, loving the next, with luck. Not Odysseus. Never an outrage done to any man alive. But you, you and your ugly outbursts, shameful acts, they're plain to see. Look at the thanks he gets for all past acts of kindness!' Medon replied, sure of his own discretion, 'Ah my queen, if only tJiatyNsre the worst of all you face. Now your suitors are plotting something worse, harsher, cruder.
God forbid they bring it off! They 're poised to cut Telemachus down with bronze swords on his way back home. He's sailed off, you see. For news of his father — ^to sacred Pylos first, then out to the sunny hills of Lacedaemon.' Her knees gave way on the spot, her heart too.
She stood there speechless a while, struck dumb, tears filling her eyes, her warm voice choked. At last she found some words to make reply: 'Oh herald, why has my child gone and left me? No need in the world for him to board the ships, those chariots of the sea that sweep men on, driving across the ocean's endless wastes. Does he want his very name wiped off the earth?'
Medon, the soul of thoughtfulness, responded, '1 don't know if a god inspired your son or the boy 's own impulse led him down to Pylos, but he went to learn of his father's journey home, or whatever fate he's met.' Back through King Odysseus' house he went but a cloud of heartbreak overwhelmed the queen. She could bear no longer sitting on a chair though her room had chairs aplenty.
Down she sank on her well-built chamber's floor, weeping, pitifully, as the women whimpered round her, all the women, young and old, who served her house. Penelope, sobbing uncontrollably, cried out to them, 'Hear me, dear ones! Zeus has given me torment — me above all the others born and bred in my da ^. My lionhearted husband, lost, long years ago, who excelled the Argives all in every strength — that great man whose fame resounds through Hellas right to the depths of Argos! But now my son, my darling boy — the whirlwinds have ripped him out of the halls without a trace!
1 never heard he'd gone — not even from you, you hard, heartless. Not one of you even thought to rouse me from my bed, though well you knew when he boarded that black ship. Oh if only 1 had learned he was planning such a journey, he would have stayed, by god, keen as he was to sail — or left me dead right here within our palace. Go, someone, quickly! Call old Dolius now, the servant my father gave me when 1 came, the man who tends my orchard green with trees, so he can run to Laertes, sit beside him, tell him the whole story, blow-by-blow. Perhaps — who knows?
— he'll weave some plan, he'll come out of hiding, plead with all these people mad to destroy his line, his son's line of kings! ' 'Oh dear girl, ' Eurycleia the fond old nurse replied, 'kill me then with a bronze knife — no mercy — or let me live, here in the palace — I'll hide nothing from you now! 1 knew it all, 1 gave him all he asked for, bread and mellow wine, but he made me take a mighty oath that 1, 1 wouldn't tell you, no, not till ten or a dozen days had passed or you missed the lad yourself and learned he'd gone, so tears would never mar your lovely face. Come, bathe now, put some fresh clothes on, climb to the upper rooms with all your women and pray to Pallas, daughter of storming Zeus — 5Aemay save Telemachus yet, even at death's door. Don't worry an old man, worried enough by now. 1 can't believe the blessed gods so hate the heirs of King Arcesius, through and through.
One will still live on — 1 know it — born to rule this lofty house and the green fields far and wide.' With that she lulled Penelope's grief and dried her eyes of tears. And the queen bathed and put fresh clothing on, climbed to the upper rooms with all her women and sifting barley into a basket, prayed to Pallas, 'Hear me, daughter of Zeus whose shield is thunder — tireless one, Athena! If ever, here in his halls, resourceful King Odysseus burned rich thighs of sheep or oxen in your honor, oh remember it now for my sake, save my darling son, defend him from these outrageous, overbearing suitors! ' She shrilled a high cry and the goddess heard her prayer as the suitors burst into uproar through the shadowed halls and one of the lusty young men began to brag, 'Listen, our long-courted queen's preparing us all a marriage — with no glimmer at all how the murder of her son has been decreed.' Boasting so, with no glimmer at all of what had been decreed.
But Antinous took the floor and issued orders: 'Stupid fools! Muzzle your bragging now — before someone slips inside and reports us. Up now, not a sound, drive home our plan — it suits us well, we approved it one and all.' With that he picked out twenty first-rate men and down they went to the swift ship at the sea's edge. First they hauled the craft into deeper water, stepped the mast amidships, canvas brailed, made oars fast in the leather oarlock straps while zealous aides-in-arms brought weapons on. They moored her well out in the channel, disembarked and took their meal on shore, waiting for dusk to fall. But there in her upper rooms she lay, Penelope lost in thought, fasting, shunning food and drink, brooding now.
Would her fine son escape his death or go down at her overweening suitors' hands? Her mind in torment, wheeling like some lion at bay, dreading gangs of hunters closing their cunning ring around him for the finish. Harried so she was, when a deep kind sleep overcame her, back she sank and slept, her limbs fell limp and still. And again the bright-eyed goddess Pallas thought of one more way to help.
She made a phantom now, its build like a woman's build, Iphthime's, yes, another daughter of generous Lord Icarius, Eumelus' bride, who made her home in Pherae. Athena sped her on to King Odysseus' house to spare Penelope, worn with pain and sobbing, further spells of grief and storms of tears. The phantom entered her bedroom, passing quickly in through the doorbolt slit and hovering at her head she rose and spoke now: 'Sleeping, Penelope, your heart so wrung with sorrow? No need, 1 tell you, no, the gods who live at ease can't bear to let you weep and rack your spirit. Your son will still come home — it is decreed. He's never wronged the gods in any way.'
And Penelope murmured back, still cautious, drifting softly now at the gate of dreams, 'Why have you come, my sister? Your visits all too rare in the past, for you make your home so very far away. You tell me to lay to rest the grief and tears that overwhelm me now, torment me, heart and soul? With my lionhearted husband lost long years ago, who excelled the Argives all in every strength? That great man whose fame resounds through Hellas right to the depths of Argos. And now my darling boy, he's off and gone in a hollow ship!
Just a youngster, still untrained for war or stiff debate. Him, 1 mourn him even more than 1 do my husband — quake in terror for all that he might suffer either on open sea or shores he goes to visit. Hordes of enemies scheme against him now, keen to kill him off before he can reach his native land again.' The shadowy phantom reassured her.
'Don't be overwhelmed by all your direst fears. He travels with such an escort, one that others would pray to stand beside them. She has power — Pallas Athena. She pities you in your tears.
She wings me here to tell you all these things.' But the circumspect Penelope replied, 'If you area, god and have heard a god's own voice, come, tell me about that luckless man as well. Is he still alive? Does he see the light of day? Or is he dead already, lost in the House of Death? ' 'About that man, ' the shadowy phantom answered, '1 cannot tell you the story start to finish, whether he's dead or alive.
It's wrong to lead you on with idle words. ' At that she glided off by the doorpost past the bolt — gone on a lifting breeze. Icarius' daughter started up from sleep, her spirit warmed now that a dream so clear had come to her in darkest night.
But the suitors boarded now and sailed the sea-lanes, plotting in their hearts Telemachus' plunge to death. Off in the middle channel lies a rocky island, just between Ithaca and Same's rugged cliffs — Asteris — not large, but it has a cove, a harbor with two mouths where ships can hide.
Here the Achaeans lurked in ambush for the prince. BookV Odysseus — Nymph and Shipwreck As Dawn rose up from bed by her lordly mate Tithonus, bringing light to immortal gods and mortal men, the gods sat down in council, circling Zeus the thunder king whose power rules the world. Athena began, recalling Odysseus to their thoughts, the goddess deeply moved by the man's long ordeal, held captive still in the nymph Calypso's house: 'Father Zeus — you other happy gods who never die — never let any sceptered king be kind and gentle now, not with all his heart, or set his mind on justice — no, let him be cruel and always practice outrage. Think: not one of the people whom he ruled remembers Odysseus now, that godlike man, and kindly as a father to his children. Now he's left to pine on an island, racked with grief in the nymph Calypso's house — she holds him there by force. He has no way to voyage home to his own native land, no trim ships in reach, no crew to ply the oars and send him scudding over the sea's broad back. And now his dear son.
They plot to kill the boy on his way back home. Yes, he has sailed off for news of his father, to holy Pylos first, then out to the sunny hills of Lacedaemon.' 'My child, ' Zeus who marshals the thunderheads replied, 'what nonsense you let slip through your teeth.
Come now, wasn't the plan your own? You conceived it yourself: Odysseus shall return and pay the traitors back. Sail him home with all your skill — the power is yours, no doubt — home to his native country all unharmed while the suitors limp to port, defeated, baffled men.'
With those words, Zeus turned to his own son Hermes. 'You are our messenger, Hermes, sent on all our missions. Announce to the nymph with lovely braids our fixed decree: Odysseus journeys home — ^the exile must return. But not in the convoy of the gods or mortal men. No, on a lashed, makeshift raft and wrung with pains, on the twentieth day he will make his landfall, fertile Scheria, the land of Phaeacians, close kin to the gods themselves, who with all their hearts will prize him like a god and send him off in a ship to his own beloved land, giving him bronze and hoards of gold and robes — more plunder than he could ever have won from Troy if Odysseus had returned intact with his fair share. So his destiny ordains. He shall see his loved ones, reach his high-roofed house, his native land at last.'
So Zeus decreed and the giant-killing guide obeyed at once. Quickly under his feet he fastened the supple sandals, ever-glowing gold, that wing him over the waves and boundless earth with the rush of gusting winds.
He seized the wand that enchants the eyes of men whenever Hermes wants, or wakes us up from sleep. That wand in his grip, the powerful giant-killer, swooping down from Pieria, down the high clear air, plunged to the sea and skimmed the waves like a tern that down the deadly gulfs of the barren salt swells glides and dives for fish, dipping its beating wings in bursts of spray — so Hermes skimmed the crests on endless crests.
But once he gained that island worlds apart, up from the deep-blue sea he climbed to dry land and strode on till he reached the spacious cave where the nymph with lovely braids had made her home, and he found her there inside. A great fire blazed on the hearth and the smell of cedar cleanly split and sweetwood burning bright wafted a cloud of fragrance down the island. Deep inside she sang, the goddess Calypso, lifting her breathtaking voice as she glided back and forth before her loom, her golden shuttle weaving. Thick, luxuriant woods grew round the cave, alders and black poplars, pungent cypress too, and there birds roosted, folding their long wings, owls and hawks and the spread-beaked ravens of the sea, black skimmers who make their living off the waves.
And round the mouth of the cavern trailed a vine laden with clusters, bursting with ripe grapes. Four springs in a row, bubbling clear and cold, running side-by -side, took channels left and right.
Soft meadows spreading round were starred with violets, lush with beds of parsley. Why, even a deathless god who came upon that place would gaze in wonder, heart entranced with pleasure. Hermes the guide, the mighty giant-killer, stood there, spellbound. But once he'd had his fill of marveling at it all he briskly entered the deep vaulted cavern.
Calypso, lustrous goddess, knew him at once, as soon as she saw his features face-to-face. Immortals are never strangers to each other, no matter how distant one may make her home. But as for great Odysseus — Hermes could not find him within the cave. Off he sat on a headland, weeping there as always, wrenching his heart with sobs and groans and anguish, gazing out over the barren sea through blinding tears. But Calypso, lustrous goddess, questioned Hermes, seating him on a glistening, polished chair. 'God of the golden wand, why have you come?
A beloved, honored friend, but it's been so long, your visits much too rare. Tell me what's on your mind. I'm eager to do it, whatever I can do. Whatever can be done.'
And the goddess drew a table up beside him, heaped with ambrosia, mixed him deep-red nectar. Hermes the guide and giant-killer ate and drank. Once he had dined and fortified himself with food he launched right in, replying to her questions: 'As one god to another, you ask me why I've come. I'll tell you the whole story, mince no words — your wish is my command. It was Zeus who made me come, no choice of mine. Who would willingly roam across a salty waste so vast, so endless?
Think: no city of men in sight, and not a soul to offer the gods a sacrifice and burn the fattest victims. But there is no way, you know, for another god to thwart the will of storming Zeus and make it come to nothing. Zeus claims you keep beside you a most unlucky man, most harried of all who fought for Priam's Troy nine years, sacking the city in the tenth, and then set sail for home. But voyaging back they outraged Queen Athena who loosed the gales and pounding seas against them.
There all the rest of his loyal shipmates died but the wind drove him on, the current bore him here. Now Zeus commands you to send him off with all good speed: it is not his fate to die here, far from his own people.
Destiny still ordains that he shall see his loved ones, reach his high-roofed house, his native land at last.' But lustrous Calypso shuddered at those words and burst into a flight of indignation.
'Hard-hearted you are, you gods! You unrivaled lords of jealousy — scandalized when goddesses sleep with mortals, openly, even when one has made the man her husband. So when Dawn with her rose-red fingers took Orion, you gods in your everlasting ease were horrified till chaste Artemis throned in gold attacked him, out on Delos, shot him to death with gentle shafts. And so when Demeter the graceful one with lovely braids gave way to her passion and made love with lasion, bedding down in a furrow plowed three times — Zeus got wind of it soon enough, I'd say, and blasted the man to death with flashing bolts. So now at last, you gods, you train your spite on me for keeping a mortal man beside me. The man 1 saved, riding astride his keel-board, all alone, when Zeus with one hurl of a white-hot bolt had crushed his racing warship down the wine-dark sea.
There all the rest of his loyal shipmates died but the wind drove him on, the current bore him here. And /welcomed him warmly, cherished him, even vowed to make the man immortal, ageless, all his days. But since there is no way for another god to thwart the will of storming Zeus and make it come to nothing, let the man go — if the Almighty insists, commands — and destroy himself on the barren salt sea! I'll send him off, but not with any escort. 1 have no ships in reach, no crew to ply the oars and send him scudding over the sea's broad back.
But I will gladly advise him — I'll hide nothing — so he can reach his native country all unharmed.' And the guide and giant-killer reinforced her words: 'Release him at once, just so. Steer clear of the rage of Zeus!
Or down the years he'll fume and make your life a hell.' With that the powerful giant-killer sped away. The queenly nymph sought out the great Odysseus — the commands of Zeus still ringing in her ears — and found him there on the headland, sitting, still, weeping, his eyes never dry, his sweet life flowing away with the tears he wept for his foiled journey home, since the nymph no longer pleased. In the nights, true, he'd sleep with her in the arching cave — he had no choice — unwilling lover alongside lover all too willing. But all his days he'd sit on the rocks and beaches, wrenching his heart with sobs and groans and anguish, gazing out over the barren sea through blinding tears. So coming up to him now, the lustrous goddess ventured, 'No need, my unlucky one, to grieve here any longer, no, don't waste your life away. Now 1 am willing, heart and soul, to send you off at last.
Come, take bronze tools, cut your lengthy timbers, make them into a broad-beamed raft and top it off with a half-deck high enough to sweep you free and clear on the misty seas. And 1 myself will stock her with food and water, ruddy wine to your taste — all to stave off hunger — give you clothing, send you a stiff following wind so you can reach your native country all unharmed. If only the ffods are willing. They rule the vaulting skies.
They're stronger than 1 to plan and drive things home.' Long-enduring Odysseus shuddered at that and broke out in a sharp flight of protest.
'Passage home? Surely you're plotting something else, goddess, urging me — in a raft — to cross the ocean's mighty gulfs. So vast, so full of danger not even deep-sea ships can make it through, swift as they are and buoyed up by the winds of Zeus himself. 1 won't set foot on a raft until you showgood faith, until you consent to swear, goddess, a binding oath you'll never plot some new intrigue to harm me!' He was so intense the lustrous goddess smiled, stroked him with her hand, savored his name arid chided, 'Ah what a wicked man you are, and never at a loss.
What a thing to imagine, what a thing to say! Earth be my witness now, the vaulting Sky above and the dark cascading waters of the Styx — 1 swear by the greatest, grimmest oath that binds the happy gods; 1 will never plot some new intrigue to harm you- Never. All 1 have in mind and devise for you are the very plans I'd fashion for myself if 1 were in your straits. My every impulse bends to what is right. Not iron, trust me, the heart within my breast.
1 am all compassion.' And lustrous Calypso quickly led the way as he followed in the footsteps of the goddess. They reached the arching cavern, man and god as one, and Odysseus took the seat that Hermes just left, while the nymph set out before him every kind of food and drink that mortal men will take. Calypso sat down face-to-face with the king and the women served her nectar and ambrosia. They reached out for the good things that lay at hand and when they'd had their fill of food and drink the lustrous one took up a new approach.
'So then, royal son of Laertes, Odysseus, man of exploits, still eager to leave at once and hurry back to your own home, your beloved native land? Good luck to you, even so.
But if you only knew, down deep, what pains are fated to fill your cup before you reach that shore. You'd stay right here, preside in our house with me and be immortal. Much as you long to see your wife, the one you pine for all your days. And yet 1 just might claim to be nothing less than she, neither in face nor figure. Hardly right, is it, for mortal woman to rival immortal goddess? How, in build? 'Ah great goddess,' worldly Odysseus answered, 'don't be angry with me, please.
All that you say is true, how well 1 know. Look at my wise Penelope. She falls far short of you, your beauty, stature. She is mortal after all and you, you never age or die. Nevertheless 1 long — 1 pine, all my days — to travel home and see the dawn of my return. And if a god will wreck me yet again on the wine-dark sea, 1 can bear that too, with a spirit tempered to endure.
Much have 1 suffered, labored long and hard by now in the waves and wars. Add this to the total — bring the trial on!'
Even as he spoke the sun set and the darkness swept the earth. And now, withdrawing into the cavern's deep recesses, long in each other's arms they lost themselves in love. When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more Odysseus quickly dressed himself in cloak and shirt while the nymph slipped on a loose, glistening robe, filmy, a joy to the eye, and round her waist she ran a brocaded golden belt and over her head a scarf to shield her brow, then turned to plan the great man's voyage home. She gave him a heavy bronze ax that fit his grip, both blades well-honed, with a fine olive haft lashed firm to its head. She gave him a polished smoothing-adze as well and then she led the way to the island's outer edge where trees grew tall, alders, black poplars and firs that shot sky-high. Seasoned, drying for years, ideal for easy floating.
Once she'd shown her guest where the tall timber stood, Calypso the lustrous goddess headed home again. He set to cutting trunks — the work was done in no time.
Twenty in all he felled, he trimmed them clean with his ax and split them deftly, trued them straight to the line. Meanwhile the radiant goddess brought him drills — he bored through all his planks and wedged them snugly, knocking them home together, locked with pegs and bolts. Broad in the beam and bottom flat as a merchantman when a master shipwright turns out her hull, so broad the craft Odysseus made himself. Working away at speed he put up half -decks pinned to close-set ribs and a sweep of gunwales rounded off the sides.
He fashioned the mast next and sank its yard in deep and added a steering-oar to hold her right on course, then he fenced her stem to stern with twigs and wicker, bulwark against the sea-surge, floored with heaps of brush. And lustrous Calypso came again, now with bolts of cloth to make the sail, and he finished that off too, expertly. Braces, sheets and brails — he rigged all fast on board, then eased her down with levers into the sunlit sea. That was the fourth day and all his work was done. On the fifth, the lovely goddess launched him from her island, once she had bathed and decked him out in fragrant clothes.
And Calypso stowed two skins aboard — dark wine in one, the larger one held water — added a sack of rations, filled with her choicest meats to build his strength, and summoned a wind to bear him onward, fair and warm. The wind lifting his spirits high, royal Odysseus spread sail — gripping the tiller, seated astern — and now the master mariner steered his craft, sleep never closing his eyes, forever scanning the stars, the Pleiades and the Plowman late to set and the Great Bear that mankind also calls the Wagon: she wheels on her axis always fixed, watching the Hunter, and she alone is denied a plunge in the Ocean's baths. Hers were the stars the lustrous goddess told him to keep hard to port as he cut across the sea.
And seventeen days he sailed, making headway well; on the eighteenth, shadowy mountains slowly loomed. The Phaeacians' island reaching toward him now, over the misty breakers, rising like a shield.
But now Poseidon, god of the earthquake, saw him — just returning home from his Ethiopian friends, from miles away on the Solymi mountain-range he spied Odysseus sailing down the sea and it made his fury boil even more. He shook his head and rumbled to himself, 'Outrageous! Look how the gods have changed their minds about Odysseus — while /was off with my Ethiopians.
Just look at him there, nearing Phaeacia's shores where he's fated to escape his noose of pain that's held him until now. Still my hopes ride high — I'll give that man his swamping fill of trouble!' With that he rammed the clouds together — both hands clutching his trident — churned the waves into chaos, whipping all the gales from every quarter, shrouding over in thunderheads the earth and sea at once — and night swept down from the sky — East and South Winds clashed and the raging West and North, sprung from the heavens, roiled heaving breakers up — and Odysseus' knees quaked, his spirit too; numb with fear he spoke to his own great heart: 'Wretched man — ^what becomes of me now, at last? 1 fear the nymph foretold it all too well — on the high seas, she said, before 1 can reach my native land I'll fill my cup of pain! And now, look, it all comes to pass. What monstrous clouds — King Zeus crowning the whole wide heaven black — churning the seas in chaos, gales blasting, raging around my head from every quarter — my death-plunge in a flash, it's certain now! Three, four times blessed, my friends-in arms who died on the plains of Troy those years ago, serving the sons of Atreus to the end.
Would to god I'd died there too and met my fate that day the Trojans, swarms of them, hurled at me^Niih bronze spears, fighting over the corpse of proud Achilles! A hero's funeral then, my glory spread by comrades — now what a wretched death I'm doomed to die!'
At that a massive wave came crashing down on his head, a terrific onslaught spinning his craft round and round — he was thrown clear of the decks — the steering-oar wrenched from his grasp — and in one lightning attack the brawling galewinds struck full-force, snapping the mast mid-shaft and hurling the sail and sailyard far across the sea. He went under a good long while, no fast way out, no struggling up from under the giant wave's assault, his clothing dragged him down — divine Calypso's gifts — but at last he fought his way to the surface spewing bitter brine, streams of it pouring down his head. But half-drowned as he was, he'd not forget his craft — he lunged after her through the breakers, laying hold and huddling amidships, fled the stroke of death. Pell-mell the rollers tossed her along down-current, wild as the North Wind tossing thistle along the fields at high harvest — dry stalks clutching each other tightly — so the galewinds tumbled her down the sea, this way, that way, now the South Wind flinging her over to North to sport with, now the East Wind giving her up to West to harry on and on. But someone saw him — Cadmus' daughter with lovely ankles, Ino, a mortal woman once with human voice and called Leucothea now she lives in the sea's salt depths, esteemed by all the gods as she deserves. She pitied Odysseus, tossed, tormented so — she broke from the waves like a shearwater on the wing.
Lit on the wreck and asked him kindly, 'Ah poor man, why is the god of earthquakes so dead set against you? Strewing your way with such a crop of troubles! But he can't destroy you, not for all his anger. Just do as 1 say. You seem no fool to me. Strip off those clothes and leave your craft for the winds to hurl, and swim for it now, you must, strike out with your arms for landfall there, Phaeacian land where destined safety waits.
Here, take this scarf, tie it around your waist — it is immortal. Nothing to fear now, neither pain nor death. But once you grasp the mainland with your hands untie it quickly, throw it into the wine-dark sea, far from the shore, but you, you turn your head away!' With that the goddess handed him the scarf and slipped back in the heavy breaking seas like a shearwater once again — and a dark heaving billow closed above her.
But battle-weary Odysseus weighed two courses, deeply torn, probing his fighting spirit: 'Oh no — 1 fear another immortal weaves a snare to trap me, urging me to abandon ship! That shore's too far away — 1 glimpsed it myself — ^where sAesays refuge waits. No, here's what I'll do, it's what seems best to me. As long as the timbers cling and joints stand fast, I'll hold out aboard her and take a whipping — once the breakers smash my craft to pieces, then I'll swim — no better plan for now.' But just as great Odysseus thrashed things out, Poseidon god of the earthquake launched a colossal wave, terrible, murderous, arching over him, pounding down on him, hard as a windstorm blasting piles of dry parched chaff, scattering flying husks — so the long planks of his boat were scattered far and wide. But Odysseus leapt aboard one timber and riding it like a plunging racehorse stripped away his clothes, divine Calypso's gifts, and quickly tying the scarf around his waist he dove headfirst in the sea, stretched his arms and stroked for life itself. But again the mighty god of earthquakes spied him, shook his head and grumbled deep in his spirit, 'Go, go, after all you've suffered — rove your miles of sea — till you fall in the arms of people loved by Zeus.
Even so 1 can hardly think you'll find your punishments too light!' With that threat he lashed his team with their long flowing manes, gaining Aegae port where his famous palace stands.
But Zeus's daughter Athena countered him at once. The rest of the winds she stopped right in their tracks, commanding them all to hush now, go to sleep.
All but the boisterous North — she whipped him up and the goddess beat the breakers flat before Odysseus, dear to Zeus, so he could reach the Phaeacians, mingle with men who love their long oars and escape his death at last. Yes, but now, adrift on the heaving swells two nights, two days — quite lost — again and again the man foresaw his death.
Then when Dawn with her lovely locks brought on the third day, the wind fell in an instant, all glazed to a dead calm, and Odysseus, scanning sharply, raised high by a groundswell, looked up and saw it — landfall, just ahead. Warm as the joy that children feel when they see their father's life dawn again, one who's lain on a sickbed racked with torment, wasting away, slowly, under some angry power's onslaught — then what joy when the gods deliver him from his pains! So warm, Odysseus' joy when he saw that shore, those trees, as he swam on, anxious to plant his feet on solid ground again.
But just offshore, as far as a man's shout can carry, he caught the boom of a heavy surf on jagged reefs — roaring breakers crashing down on an ironbound coast, exploding in fury — the whole sea shrouded — sheets of spray — no harbors to hold ships, no roadstead where they'd ride, nothing but jutting headlands, riptooth reefs, cliffs. Odysseus' knees quaked and the heart inside him sank; he spoke to his fighting spirit, desperate: 'Worse and worse! Now that Zeus has granted a glimpse of land beyond my hopes, now I've crossed this waste of water, the end in sight, there's no way out of the boiling surf — 1 see no way! Rugged reefs offshore, around them breakers roaring, above them a smooth rock face, rising steeply, look, and the surge too deep inshore, no spot to stand on my own two legs and battle free of death. If 1 clamber out, some big comber will hoist me, dash me against that cliff — my struggles all a waste! If 1 keep on swimming down the coast, trying to find a seabeach shelving against the waves, a sheltered cove — 1 dread it — another gale will snatch me up and haul me back to the fish-infested sea, retching in despair. Or a dark power will loose some monster at me, rearing out of the waves — one of the thousands Amphitrite's breakers teem with.
Well 1 know the famous god of earthquakes hates my very name!' Just as that fear went churning through his mind a tremendous roller swept him toward the rocky coast where he'd have been flayed alive, his bones crushed, if the bright-eyed goddess Pallas had not inspired him now. He lunged for a reef, he seized it with both hands and clung for dear life, groaning until the giant wave surged past and so he escaped its force, but the breaker's backwash charged into him full fury and hurled him out to sea. Like pebbles stuck in the suckers of some octopus dragged from its lair — so strips of skin torn from his clawing hands stuck to the rock face.
A heavy sea covered him over, then and there unlucky Odysseus would have met his death — against the will of Fate — but the bright-eyed one inspired him yet again. Fighting out from the breakers pounding toward the coast, out of danger he swam on, scanning the land, trying to find a seabeach shelving against the waves, a sheltered cove, and stroking hard he came abreast of a river 's mouth, running calmly, the perfect spot, he thought. Free of rocks, with a windbreak from the gales.
As the current flowed he felt the river's god and prayed to him in spirit: 'Hear me, lord, whoever you are, I've come to you, the answer to all my prayers — rescue me from the sea, the Sea-lord's curse! Even immortal gods will show a man respect, whatever wanderer seeks their help — like me — 1 throw myself on your mercy, on your current now — 1 have suffered greatly. Pity me, lord, your suppliant cries for help!' So the man prayed and the god stemmed his current, held his surge at once and smoothing out the swells before Odysseus now, drew him safe to shore at the river's mouth. His knees buckled, massive arms fell limp, the sea had beaten down his striving heart.
His whole body swollen, brine aplenty gushing out of his mouth and nostrils — breathless, speechless, there he lay, with only a little strength left in him, deathly waves of exhaustion overwhelmed him now. But once he regained his breath and rallied back to life, at last he loosed the goddess' scarf from his body, dropped it into the river flowing out to sea and a swift current bore it far downstream and suddenly Ino caught it in her hands.
Struggling up from the banks, he flung himself in the deep reeds, he kissed the good green earth and addressed his fighting spirit, desperate still: 'Man of misery, what next? Is this the end? If I wait out a long tense night by the banks, I fear the sharp frost and the soaking dew together will do me in — I'm bone-weary, about to breathe my last, and a cold wind blows from a river on toward morning. But what if I climb that slope, go for the dark woods and bed down in the thick brush? What if I'm spared the chill, fatigue, and a sweet sleep comes my way? I fear wild beasts will drag me off as quarry.' But this was the better course, it struck him now.
He set out for the woods and not far from the water found a grove with a clearing all around and crawled beneath two bushy olives sprung from the same root, one olive wild, the other well-bred stock. No sodden gusty winds could ever pierce them, nor could the sun's sharp rays invade their depths, nor could a downpour drench them through and through, so dense they grew together, tangling side-by-side.
Odysseus crept beneath them, scraping up at once a good wide bed for himself with both hands. A fine litter of dead leaves had drifted in, enough to cover two men over, even three, in the wildest kind of winter known to man. Long-enduring great Odysseus, overjoyed at the sight, bedded down in the midst and heaped the leaves around him. As a man will bury his glowing brand in black ashes, off on a lonely farmstead, no neighbors near, to keep a spark alive — no need to kindle fire from somewhere else — so great Odysseus buried himself in leaves and Athena showered sleep upon his eyes. Sleep in a swift wave delivering him from all his pains and labors, blessed sleep that sealed his eyes at last. Book VI The Princess and the Stranger So there he lay at rest, the storm-tossed great Odysseus, borne down by his hard labors first and now deep sleep as Athena traveled through the countryside and reached the Phaeacians' city. Years ago they lived in a land of spacious dancing-circles, Hyperia, all too close to the overbearing Cyclops, stronger, violent brutes who harried them without end.
So their godlike king, Nausithous, led the people off in a vast migration, settled them in Scheria, far from the men who toil on this earth — he flung up walls around the city, built the houses, raised the gods' temples and shared the land for plowing. But his fate had long since forced him down to Death and now Alcinous ruled, and the gods made him wise. Straight to his house the clear-eyed Pallas went, full of plans for great Odysseus' journey home. She made her way to the gaily painted room where a young girl lay asleep. A match for the deathless gods in build and beauty, Nausicaa, the daughter of generous King Alcinous. Two handmaids fair as the Graces slept beside her, flanking the two posts, with the gleaming doors closed.
But the goddess drifted through like a breath of fresh air, rushed to the girl's bed and hovering close she spoke, in face and form like the shipman Dymas' daughter, a girl the princess' age, and dearest to her heart. Disguised, the bright-eyed goddess chided, 'Nausicaa, how could your mother bear a careless girl like you? Look at your fine clothes, lying here neglected — with your marriage not far off, the day you should be decked in all your glory and offer elegant dress to those who form your escort. That's how a bride's good name goes out across the world and it brings her father and queenly mother joy. Come, let's go wash these clothes at the break of day — I'll help you, lend a hand, and the work will fly! You won't stay unwed long. The noblest men in the country court you now, all Phaeacians just like you, Phaeacia-born and raised.
So come, first thing in the morning press your kingly father to harness the mules and wagon for you, all to carry your sashes, dresses, glossy spreads for your bed. It's so much nicer for you to ride than go on foot. The washing-pools are just too far from town.' With that the bright-eyed goddess sped away to Olympus, where, they say, the gods' eternal mansion stands unmoved, never rocked by galewinds, never drenched by rains, nor do the drifting snows assail it, no, the clear air stretches away without a cloud, and a great radiance plays across that world where the blithe gods live all their days in bliss.
There Athena went, once the bright-eyed one had urged the princess on. Dawn soon rose on her splendid throne and woke Nausicaa finely gowned. Still beguiled by her dream, down she went through the house to tell her parents now, her beloved father and mother. She found them both inside. Her mother sat at the hearth with several waiting- women, spinning yarn on a spindle, lustrous sea-blue wool.
Her father she met as he left to join the lords at a council island nobles asked him to attend. She stepped up close to him, confiding, 'Daddy dear, 1 wonder, won't you have them harness a wagon for me, the tall one with the good smooth wheels. So 1 can take our clothes to the river for a washing? Lovely things, but lying before me all soiled. And you yourself, sitting among the princes, debating points at your council, you really should be wearing spotless linen. Then you have five sons, full-grown in the palace, two of them married, but three are lusty bachelors always demanding crisp shirts fresh from the wash when they go out to dance.
Look at my duties — that all rests on me. ' So she coaxed, too shy to touch on her hopes for marriage, young warm hopes, in her father's presence. But he saw through it all and answered quickly, '1 won't deny you the mules, my darling girl. 1 won't deny you anything. Off you go, and the men will harness a wagon, the tall one with the good smooth wheels, fitted out with a cradle on the top.' With that he called to the stablemen and they complied.
They trundled the wagon out now, rolling smoothly, backed the mule-team into the traces, hitched them up, while the princess brought her finery from the room and piled it into the wagon's polished cradle. Her mother packed a hamper — treats of all kinds, favorite things to refresh her daughter's spirits — poured wine in a skin, and as Nausicaa climbed aboard, the queen gave her a golden flask of suppling olive oil for her and her maids to smooth on after bathing. Then, taking the whip in hand and glistening reins, she touched the mules to a start and out they clattered, trotting on at a clip, bearing the princess and her clothes and not alone: her maids went with her, stepping briskly too.
Once they reached the banks of the river flowing strong where the pools would never fail, with plenty of water cool and clear, bubbling up and rushing through to scour the darkest stains — they loosed the mules, out from under the wagon yoke, and chased them down the river's rippling banks to graze on luscious clover. Down from the cradle they lifted clothes by the armload, plunged them into the dark pools and stamped them down in the hollows, one girl racing the next to finish first until they'd scoured and rinsed off all the grime, then they spread them out in a line along the beach where the surf had washed a pebbly scree ashore. And once they'd bathed and smoothed their skin with oil, they took their picnic, sitting along the river's banks and waiting for all the clothes to dry in the hot noon sun. Now fed to their hearts' content, the princess and her retinue threw their veils to the wind, struck up a game of ball.
White-armed Nausicaa led their singing, dancing beat. As lithe as Artemis with her arrows striding down from a high peak — ^Taygetus' towering ridge or Erymanthus — thrilled to race with the wild boar or bounding deer, and nymphs of the hills race with her, daughters of Zeus whose shield is storm and thunder, ranging the hills in sport, and Leto's heart exults as head and shoulders over the rest her daughter rises, unmistakable — she outshines them all, though all are lovely. So Nausicaa shone among her maids, a virgin, still unwed. But now, as she was about to fold her clothes and yoke the mules and turn for home again, now clear-eyed Pallas thought of what came next, to make Odysseus wake and see this young beauty and she would lead him to the Phaeacians' town.
The ball— the princess suddenly tossed it to a maid but it missed the girl, splashed in a deep swirling pool and they all shouted out — and that woke great Odysseus. He sat up with a start, puzzling, his heart pounding: 'Man of misery, whose land have 1 lit on now? What arethey here — violent, savage, lawless? Or friendly to strangers, god-fearing men?
Listen: shouting, echoing round me — ^women, girls — or the nymphs who haunt the rugged mountaintops and the river springs and meadows lush with grass! Or am 1 really close to people who speak my language? Up with you, see how the land lies, see for yourself now.'
Muttering so, great Odysseus crept out of the bushes, stripping off with his massive hand a leafy branch from the tangled olive growth to shield his body, hide his private parts. And out he stalked as a mountain lion exultant in his power strides through wind and rain and his eyes blaze and he charges sheep or oxen or chases wild deer but his hunger drives him on to go for flocks, even to raid the best-defended homestead. So Odysseus moved out.
About to mingle with all those lovely girls, naked now as he was, for the need drove him on, a terrible sight, all crusted, caked with brine — they scattered in panic down the jutting beaches. Only Alcinous' daughter held fast, for Athena planted courage within her heart, dissolved the trembling in her limbs, and she firmly stood her ground and faced Odysseus, torn now — Should he fling his arms around her knees, the young beauty, plead for help, or stand back, plead with a winning word, beg her to lead him to the town and lend him clothing? This was the better way, he thought. Plead now with a subtle, winning word and stand well back, don't clasp her knees, the girl might bridle, yes. He launched in at once, endearing, sly and suave: 'Here 1 am at your mercy, princess — are you a goddess or a mortal? If one of the gods who rule the skies up there, you're Artemis to the life, the daughter of mighty Zeus — 1 see her now— just look at your build, your bearing, your lithe flowing grace. But if you're one of the mortals living here on earth, three times blest are your father, your queenly mother, three times over your brothers too.
How often their hearts must warm with joy to see you striding into the dances — such a bloom of beauty. True, but lie is the one more blest than all other men alive, that man who sways you with gifts and leads you home, his bride! 1 have never laid eyes on anyone like you, neither man nor woman. 1 look at you and a sense of wonder takes me. Wait, once 1 saw the like — in Delos, beside Apollo's altar — the young slip of a palm-tree springing into the light.
There I'd sailed, you see, with a great army in my wake, out on the long campaign that doomed my life to hardship. Just as 1 stood there gazing, rapt, for hours. No shaft like that had ever risen up from the earth — so now 1 marvel at you, my lady: rapt, enthralled, too struck with awe to grasp you by the knees though pain has ground me down. Only yesterday, the twentieth day, did 1 escape the wine-dark sea.
Till then the waves and the rushing gales had swept me on from the island of Ogygia. Now some power has tossed me here, doubtless to suffer still more torments on your shores. I can't believe they 'll stop. Long before that the gods will give me more, still more. Compassion — princess, please! You, after all that 1 have suffered, you are the first I've come to. 1 know no one else, none in your city, no one in your land.
Show me the way to town, give me a rag for cover, just some cloth, some wrapper you carried with you here. And may the good gods give you all your heart desires: husband, and house, and lasting harmony too. No finer, greater gift in the world than that.
When man and woman possess their home, two minds, two hearts that work as one. Despair to their enemies, joy to all their friends. Their own best claim to glory. ' 'Stranger,' the white-armed princess answered staunchly, 'friend, you're hardly a wicked man, and no fool, I'd say — it's Olympian Zeus himself who hands our fortunes out, to each of us in turn, to the good and bad, however Zeus prefers. He gave you pain, it seems. You simply have to bear it.
But now, seeing you've reached our city and our land, you'll never lack for clothing or any other gift, the right of worn-out suppliants come our way. I'll show you our town, tell you our people's name. Phaeacians we are, who hold this city and this land, and 1 am the daughter of generous King Alcinous. All our people's power stems from him.' She called out to her girls with lovely braids: 'Stop, my friends! Why run when you see a man?
Surely you don't think him an enemy, do you? There's no one alive, there never will be one, who'd reach Phaeacian soil and lay it waste. The immortals love us far too much for that. We live too far apart, out in the surging sea, off at the world's end — no other mortals come to mingle with us. But here's an unlucky wanderer strayed our way and we must tend him well.
Every stranger and beggar comes from Zeus, and whatever scrap we give him he'll be glad to get. So, quick, my girls, give our newfound friend some food and drink and bathe the man in the river, wherever you find some shelter from the wind.' At that they came to a halt and teased each other on and led Odysseus down to a sheltered spot where he could find a seat, just as great Alcinous' daughter told them. They laid out cloak and shirt for him to wear, they gave him the golden flask of suppling olive oil and pressed him to bathe himself in the river's stream.
Then thoughtful Odysseus reassured the handmaids, 'Stand where you are, dear girls, a good way off, so 1 can rinse the brine from my shoulders now and rub myself with oil. How long it's been since oil touched my skin! But 1 won't bathe in front of you. 1 would be embarrassed — stark naked before young girls with lovely braids.'
The handmaids scurried off to tell their mistress. Great Odysseus bathed in the river, scrubbed his body clean of brine that clung to his back and broad shoulders, scoured away the brackish scurf that caked his head. And then, once he had bathed all over, rubbed in oil and donned the clothes the virgin princess gave him, Zeus's daughter Athena made him taller to all eyes, his build more massive now, and down from his brow she ran his curls like thick hyacinth clusters full of blooms. As a master craftsman washes gold over beaten silver — a man the god of fire and Queen Athena trained in every fine technique — and finishes off his latest effort, handsome work, so she lavished splendor over his head and shoulders now. And down to the beach he walked and sat apart. Glistening in his glory, breathtaking, yes, and the princess gazed in wonder. Then turned to her maids with lovely braided hair: 'Listen, my white-armed girls, to what 1 tell you.
The gods of Olympus can't be all against this man who's come to mingle among our noble people. At first he seemed appalling, 1 must say — now he seems like a god who rules the skies up there! Ah, if only a man like tJlat^Nere called my husband, lived right here, pleased to stay forever. Give the stranger food and drink, my girls.'
They hung on her words and did her will at once, set before Odysseus food and drink, and he ate and drank, the great Odysseus, long deprived, so ravenous now — it seemed like years since he had tasted food. The white-armed princess thought of one last thing. Folding the clothes, she packed them into her painted wagon, hitched the sharp-hoofed mules, and climbing up herself, Nausicaa urged Odysseus, warmly urged her guest, 'Up with you now, my friend, and off to town we go. I'll see you into my wise father's palace where, 1 promise you, you'll meet all the best Phaeacians. Wait, let's do it this way.
You seem no fool to me. While we're passing along the fields and plowlands, you follow the mules and wagon, stepping briskly with all my maids. I'll lead the way myself. But once we reach our city, ringed by walls and strong high towers too, with a fine harbor either side.
And the causeway in is narrow; along the road the rolling ships are all hauled up, with a slipway cleared for every vessel. There's our assembly, round Poseidon's royal precinct, built of quarried slabs planted deep in the earth. Here the sailors tend their black ships' tackle, cables and sails, and plane their oarblades down.
Phaeacians, you see, care nothing for bow or quiver. Only for masts and oars and good trim ships themselves — we glory in our ships, crossing the foaming seas! But 1 shrink from all our sea-dogs' nasty gossip. Some old salt might mock us behind our backs — we have our share of insolent types in town and one of the coarser sort, spying us, might say, 'Now who's that tall, handsome stranger Nausicaa has in tow?
Where'd she light on himPHer husband-to-be, just wait! But who — some shipwrecked stray she's taken up with, some alien from abroad? Since nobody lives nearby. Unless it's really a god come down from the blue to answer all her prayers, and to have her all his days.
Good riddance! Let the girl go roving to find herself a man from foreign parts. She only spurns her own — countless Phaeacians round about who court her, nothing but our best. ' So they'll scoff.
Just think of the scandal that would face me then. I'd find fault with a girl who carried on that way, flouting her parents' wishes — father, mother, still alive — consorting with men before she'd tied the knot in public. No, stranger, listen closely to what 1 say, the sooner to win your swift voyage home at my father's hands. Now, you'll find a splendid grove along the road — poplars, sacred to Pallas — a bubbling spring's inside and meadows run around it. There lies my father's estate, his blooming orchard too, as far from town as a man's strong shout can carry.
Take a seat there, wait a while, and give us time to make it into town and reach my father's house. Then, when you think we're home, walk on yourself to the city, ask the way to my father's palace, generous King Alcinous. You cannot miss it, even an innocent child could guide you there.
No other Phaeacian's house is built like that: so grand, the palace of Alcinous, our great hero. Once the mansion and courtyard have enclosed you, go, quickly, across the hall until you reach my mother. Beside the hearth she sits in the fire's glare, spinning yarn on a spindle, sea-blue wool — a stirring sight, you'll see. She leans against a pillar, her ladies sit behind.
And my father's throne is drawn up close beside her; there he sits and takes his wine, a mortal like a god. Go past him, grasp my mother's knees — if you want to see the day of your return, rejoicing, soon, even if your home's a world away. If only the queen will take you to her heart, then there's hope that you will see your loved ones, reach your own grand house, your native land at last.' At that she touched the mules with her shining whip and they quickly left the running stream behind. The team trotted on, their hoofs wove in and out. She drove them back with care so all the rest, maids and Odysseus, could keep the pace on foot, and she used the whip discreetly.
The sun sank as they reached the hallowed grove, sacred to Athena, where Odysseus stopped and sat and said a prayer at once to mighty Zeus's daughter: 'Hear me, daughter of Zeus whose shield is thunder — tireless one, Athena! Now hear my prayer at last, for you never heard me then, when 1 was shattered, when the famous god of earthquakes wrecked my craft. Grant that here among the Phaeacian people 1 may find some mercy and some love!' So he prayed and Athena heard his prayer but would not yet appear to him undisguised.
She stood in awe of her Father's brother, lord of the sea who still seethed on, still churning with rage against the great Odysseus till he reached his native land. Book VII Phaeacia's Halls and Gardens Now as Odysseus, long an exile, prayed in Athena's grove, the hardy mule-team drew the princess toward the city.
Reaching her father's splendid halls, she reined in, just at the gates — her brothers clustering round her, men like gods, released the mules from the yoke and brought the clothes indoors as Nausicaa made her way toward her bedroom. There her chambermaid lit a fire for her — Eury medusa, the old woman who'd come from Apiraea years ago, when the rolling ships had sailed her in and the country picked her out as King Alcinous' prize, for he ruled all the Phaeacians, they obeyed him like a god. Once, she had nursed the white-armed princess in the palace. Now she lit a fire and made her supper in the room. At the same time, Odysseus set off toward the city. Pallas Athena, harboring kindness for the hero, drifted a heavy mist around him, shielding him from any swaggering islander who'd cross his path, provoke him with taunts and search out who he was. Instead, as he was about to enter the welcome city, the bright-eyed goddess herself came up to greet him there, for all the world like a young girl, holding a pitcher, standing face-to-face with the visitor, who asked, 'Little girl, now wouldn't you be my guide to the palace of the one they call Alcinous?
The king who rules the people of these parts. 1 am a stranger, you see, weighed down with troubles, come this way from a distant, far-off shore. So 1 know no one here, none at all in your city and the farmlands round about.
' 'Oh yes, sir, good old stranger,' the bright-eyed goddess said, 'I'll show you the very palace that you're after — the king lives right beside my noble father. Come, quietly too, and 1 will lead the way. Now not a glance at anyone, not a question. The men here never suffer strangers gladly, have no love for hosting a man from foreign lands.
All they really trust are their fast, flying ships that cross the mighty ocean. Gifts of Poseidon, ah what ships they are — quick as a bird, quick as a darting thought!'
And Pallas Athena sped away in the lead as he followed in her footsteps, man and goddess. But the famed Phaeacian sailors never saw him, right in their midst, striding down their streets. Athena the one with lovely braids would not permit it, the awesome goddess poured an enchanted mist around him, harboring kindness for Odysseus in her heart. And he marveled now at the balanced ships and havens, the meeting grounds of the great lords and the long ramparts looming, coped and crowned with palisades of stakes — an amazing sight to see. And once they reached the king's resplendent halls the bright-eyed goddess cried out, 'Good old stranger, here, here is the very palace that you're after — I've pointed you all the way.
Here you'll find our princes dear to the gods, busy feasting. You go on inside.
Be bold, nothing to fear. In every venture the bold man comes off best, even the wanderer, bound from distant shores. The queen is the first you'll light on in the halls. Arete, she is called, and earns the name: she answers all our prayers. She comes, in fact, from the same stock that bred our King Alcinous.
First came Nausithous, son of the earthquake god Poseidon and Periboea, the lovely, matchless beauty, the youngest daughter of iron- willed Eurymedon, king of the overweening Giants years ago. He led that reckless clan to its own ruin, killed himself in the bargain, but the Sea-lord lay in love with Periboea and she produced a son, Nausithous, that lionheart who ruled Phaeacia well. Now, Nausithous had two sons, Rhexenor and Alcinous, but the lord of the silver bow, Apollo, shot Rhexenor down — married, true, yet still without a son in the halls, he left one child behind, a daughter named Arete. Alcinous made the girl his wife and honors her as no woman is honored on this earth, of all the wives now keeping households under their husbands' sway. Such is her pride of place, and always will be so: dear to her loving children, to Alcinous himself and all our people. They gaze on Jier as a god, saluting her warmly on her walks through town.
She lacks nothing in good sense and judgment — she can dissolve quarrels, even among men, whoever wins her sympathies. If only our queen will take you to her heart, then there's hope that you will see your loved ones, reach your high-roofed house, your native land at last.' And with that vow the bright-eyed goddess sped away, over the barren sea, leaving welcome Scheria far behind, and reaching Marathon and the spacious streets of Athens, entered Erechtheus' sturdy halls, Athena's stronghold. Now as Odysseus approached Alcinous' famous house a rush of feelings stirred within his heart, bringing him to a standstill, even before he crossed the bronze threshold. A radiance strong as the moon or rising sun came flooding through the high-roofed halls of generous King Alcinous. Walls plated in bronze, crowned with a circling frieze glazed as blue as lapis, ran to left and right from outer gates to the deepest court recess. Solid golden doors enclosed the palace.
Up from the bronze threshold silver doorposts rose with silver lintel above, and golden handle hooks. And dogs of gold and silver were stationed either side, forged by the god of fire with all his cunning craft to keep watch on generous King Alcinous' palace now, his immortal guard-dogs, ageless, all their days. Inside to left and right, in a long unbroken row from farthest outer gate to the inmost chamber, thrones stood backed against the wall, each draped with a finely spun brocade, women's handsome work. Here the Phaeacian lords would sit enthroned, dining, drinking — ^the feast flowed on forever. And young boys, molded of gold, set on pedestals standing firm, were lifting torches high in their hands to flare through the nights and light the feasters down the hall. And Alcinous has some fifty serving-women in his house: some, turning the handmill, grind the apple-yellow grain, some weave at their webs or sit and spin their yarn, fingers flickering quick as aspen leaves in the wind and the densely woven woolens dripping oil droplets. Just as Phaeacian men excel the world at sailing, driving their swift ships on the open seas, so the women excel at all the arts of weaving.
That is Athena's gift to them beyond all others — a genius for lovely work, and a fine mind too. Outside the courtyard, fronting the high gates, a magnificent orchard stretches four acres deep with a strong fence running round it side-to-side. Here luxuriant trees are always in their prime, pomegranates and pears, and apples glowing red, succulent figs and olives swelling sleek and dark.
And the yield of all these trees will never flag or die, neither in winter nor in summer, a harvest all year round for the West Wind always breathing through will bring some fruits to the bud and others warm to ripeness — pear mellowing ripe on pear, apple on apple, cluster of grapes on cluster, fig crowding fig. And here is a teeming vineyard planted for the kings, beyond it an open level bank where the vintage grapes lie baking to raisins in the sun while pickers gather others; some they trample down in vats, and here in the front rows bunches of unripe grapes have hardly shed their blooms while others under the sunlight slowly darken purple. And there by the last rows are beds of greens, bordered and plotted, greens of every kind, glistening fresh, year in, year out. And last, there are two springs, one rippling in channels over the whole orchard — ^the other, flanking it, rushes under the palace gates to bubble up in front of the lofty roofs where the city people come and draw their water.
Such the gifts, the glories showered down by the gods on King Alcinous' realm. And there Odysseus stood, gazing at all this bounty, a man who'd borne so much.
Once he'd had his fill of marveling at it all. He crossed the threshold quickly, strode inside the palace. Here he found the Phaeacian lords and captains tipping out libations now to the guide and giant-killer Hermes, the god to whom they would always pour the final cup before they sought their beds. Odysseus went on striding down the hall, the man of many struggles shrouded still in the mist Athena drifted round him, till he reached Arete and Alcinous the king.
And then, the moment he flung his arms around Arete s knees, the godsent mist rolled back to reveal the great man. And silence seized the feasters all along the hall — seeing him right before their eyes, they marveled, gazing on him now as Odysseus pleaded, 'Queen, Arete, daughter of godlike King Rhexenor! Here after many trials 1 come to beg for mercy, your husband's, yours, and all these feasters' here.
May the gods endow them with fortune all their lives, may each hand down to his sons the riches in his house and the pride of place the realm has granted him. But as for myself, grant me a rapid convoy home to my own native land. How far away I've been from all my loved ones — how long 1 have suffered!'
Pleading so, the man sank down in the ashes, just at the hearth beside the blazing fire, while all the rest stayed hushed, stock-still. At last the old revered Echeneus broke the spell, the eldest lord in Phaeacia, finest speaker too, a past master at all the island's ancient ways.
Impelled by kindness now, he rose and said, 'This is no way, Alcinous. How indecent, look, our guest on the ground, in the ashes by the fire! Your people are holding back, waiting for your signal. Come, raise him up and seat the stranger now, in a silver-studded chair, and tell the heralds to mix more wine for all so we can pour out cups to Zeus who loves the lightning. Champion of suppliants — suppliants' rights are sacred.
And let the housekeeper give our guest his supper, unstinting with her stores.' Hearing that, Alcinous, poised in all his majesty, took the hand of the seasoned, worldly-wise Odysseus, raised him up from the hearth and sat him down in a burnished chair, displacing his own son, the courtly Lord Laodamas who had sat beside him, the son he loved the most. A maid brought water soon in a graceful golden pitcher and over a silver basin tipped it out so the guest might rinse his hands, then pulled a gleaming table to his side. A staid housekeeper brought on bread to serve him, appetizers aplenty too, lavish with her bounty.
As long-suffering great Odysseus ate and drank, the hallowed King Alcinous called his herald: 'Come, Pontonous! Mix the wine in the bowl, pour rounds to all our banqueters in the house so we can pour out cups to Zeus who loves the lightning, champion of suppliants — suppliants' rights are sacred.' At that Pontonous mixed the heady, honeyed wine and tipped first drops for the god in every cup, then poured full rounds for all. And once they'd poured libations out and drunk to their hearts' content, Alcinous rose and addressed his island people: 'Hear me, lords and captains of Phaeacia, hear what the heart inside me has to say.
Now, our feast finished, home you go to sleep. But at dawn we call the elders in to full assembly, host our guest in the palace, sacrifice to the gods and then we turn our minds to his passage home, so under our convoy our new friend can travel back to his own land — no toil, no troubles — soon, rejoicing, even if his home's a world away. And on the way no pain or hardship suffered, not till he sets foot on native ground again. There in the future he must suffer all that Fate and the overbearing Spinners spun out on his life line the very day his mother gave him birth. But if he's one of the deathless powers, out of the blue, the gods are working now in strange, new ways. Always, up to now, they came to us face-to-face whenever we'd give them grand, glorious sacrifices — they always sat beside us here and shared our feasts. Even when some lonely traveler meets them on the roads, they never disguise themselves.
We're too close kin for that, close as the wild Giants are, the Cyclops too. ' 'Alcinous!' Wary Odysseus countered, 'cross that thought from your mind. I'm nothing like the immortal gods who rule the skies, either in build or breeding. I'm just a mortal man. Whom do you know most saddled down with sorrow? They are the ones I'd equal, grief for grief.
And 1 could tell a tale of still more hardship, all I've suffered, thanks to the gods' will. But despite my misery, let me finish dinner.
The belly's a shameless dog, there's nothing worse. Always insisting, pressing, it never lets us forget — destroyed as 1 am, my heart racked with sadness, sick with anguish, still it keeps demanding, 'Eat, drink!' It blots out all the memory of my pain, commanding, 'Fill me up!' But you, at the first light of day, hurry, please, to set your unlucky guest on his own home soil.
How much 1 have suffered. Oh just let me see my lands, my serving-men and the grand high-roofed house — then 1 can die in peace.' All burst into applause, urging passage home for their newfound friend, his pleading rang so true. And once they 'd poured libations out and drunk to their hearts' content, each one made his way to rest in his own house.
But King Odysseus still remained at hall, seated beside the royal Alcinous and Arete as servants cleared the cups and plates away. The white-armed Queen Arete took the lead; she'd spotted the cape and shirt Odysseus wore, fine clothes she'd made herself with all her women, so now her words flew brusquely, sharply: 'Stranger, I'll be the first to question you — myself. Where are you from? Who gave you the clothes you're wearing now? Didn't you say you reached us roving on the sea? ' 'What hard labor, queen, ' the man of craft replied, 'to tell you the story of my troubles start to finish.
The gods on high have given me my share. Still, this much 1 will tell you.
Seeing you probe and press me so intently. There is an island, Ogygia, lying far at sea, where the daughter of Atlas, Calypso, has her home, the seductive nymph with lovely braids — a danger too, and no one, god or mortal, dares approach her there. But 1, cursed as 1 am, some power brought me to her hearth, alone, when Zeus with a white-hot bolt had crushed my racing warship down the wine-dark sea. There all the rest of my loyal shipmates died but 1, locking my arms around my good ship's keel, drifted along nine days. On the tenth, at dead of night, the gods cast me up on Ogygia, Calypso's island, home of the dangerous nymph with glossy braids, and the goddess took me in in all her kindness, welcomed me warmly, cherished me, even vowed to make me immortal, ageless, all my days — but she never won the heart inside me, never. Seven endless years 1 remained there, always drenching with my tears the immortal clothes Calypso gave me. Then, at last, when the eighth came wheeling round, she insisted that 1 sail — inspired by warnings sent from Zeus, perhaps, or her own mind had changed.
She saw me on my way in a solid craft, tight and trim, and gave me full provisions, food and mellow wine, immortal clothes to wear and summoned a wind to bear me onward, fair and warm. And seventeen days 1 sailed, making headway well; on the eighteenth, shadowy mountains slowly loomed. My heart leapt up, unlucky as 1 am, doomed to be comrade still to many hardships. Many pains the god of earthquakes piled upon me, loosing the winds against me, blocking passage through, heaving up a terrific sea, beyond belief — nor did the whitecaps let me cling to my craft, for all my desperate groaning. No, the squalls shattered her stem to stern, but 1, 1 swam hard, 1 plowed my way through those dark gulfs till at last the wind and current bore me to your shores. But here, had 1 tried to land, the breakers would have hurled me, smashed me against the jagged cliffs of that grim coast, so 1 pulled away, swam back till 1 reached a river, the perfect spot at last, or so it struck me, free of rocks, with a windbreak from the gales.
So, fighting for life, 1 flung myself ashore and the godsent, bracing night came on at once. Clambering up from the river, big with Zeus's rains, 1 bedded down in the brush, my body heaped with leaves, and a god poured down a boundless sleep upon me, yes, and there in the leaves, exhausted, sick at heart, 1 slept the whole night through and on to the break of day and on into high noon and the sun was wheeling down when sweet sleep set me free.
And 1 looked up, and there were your daughter's maids at play on the beach, and she, she moved among them like a deathless goddess! 1 begged her for help and not once did her sense of tact desert her; she behaved as you'd never hope to find in one so young, not in a random meeting — time and again the youngsters prove so flighty. She gave me food aplenty and shining wine. A bath in the river too, and gave me all this clothing. That's my whole story. Wrenching to tell, but true.' 'Ah, but in one regard, my friend,' the king replied, 'her good sense missed the mark, this daughter of mine.
She never escorted you to our house with all her maids but sAe^Nas the first you asked for care and shelter.' 'Your majesty,' diplomatic Odysseus answered, 'don't find fault with a flawless daughter now, not for my sake, please. She urged me herself to follow with her maids.
1 chose not to, fearing embarrassment in fact — what if you took offense, seeing us both together? Suspicious we are, we men who walk the earth.' 'Oh no, my friend,' Alcinous stated flatly, 'I'm hardly a man for reckless, idle anger.
Balance is best in all things. Father Zeus, Athena and lord Apollo! If only — seeing the man you are, seeing we think as one — you could wed my daughter and be my son-in-law and stay right here with us. I'd give you a house and great wealth — if you chose to stay, that is.
No Phaeacian would hold you back by force. The curse of Father Zeus on such a thing! And about your convoy home, you rest assured: 1 have chosen the day and 1 decree it is tomorrow. And all that voyage long you'll lie in a deep sleep while my people sail you on through calm and gentle tides till you reach your land and house, or any place you please. True, even if landfall lies more distant than Euboea, off at the edge of the world. So say our crews, at least, who saw it once, that time they carried the gold-haired Rhadamanthys out to visit Tity us, son of Mother Earth. Imagine, there they sailed and back they came in the same day, they finished the homeward run with no strain at all.
You'll see for yourself how far they top the best — my ships and their young shipmates tossing up the whitecaps with their oars!' So he vowed and the Jong-enduring great Odysseus glowed with joy and raised a prayer and called the god by name: 'Father Zeus on high — may the king fulfill his promises one and all!
Then his fame would ring through the fertile earth and never die — and 1 should reach my native land at last!' And now as the two men exchanged their hopes, the white-armed queen instructed her palace maids to make a bed in the porch's shelter, lay down some heavy purple throws for the bed itself, and over it spread some blankets, thick woolly robes, a warm covering laid on top. Torches in hand, they left the hall and fell to work at once, briskly prepared a good snug resting-place and then returned to Odysseus, urged the guest, 'Up, friend, time for sleep.
Your bed is made.' How welcome the thought of sleep to that man now. So there after many trials Odysseus lay at rest on a corded bed inside the echoing colonnade. Alcinous slept in chambers deep in his lofty house where the queen his wife arranged and shared their bed. Book VIII A Day for Songs and Contests when young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more royal Alcinous, hallowed island king, rose from bed and great Odysseus, raider of cities, rose too.
Poised in his majesty, Alcinous led the way to Phaeacia's meeting grounds, built for all beside the harbored ships. Both men sat down on the polished stone benches side-by-side as Athena started roaming up and down the town, in build and voice the wise Alcinous' herald, furthering plans for Odysseus' journey home, and stopped beside each citizen, urged them all, 'Come this way, you lords and captains of Phaeacia, come to the meeting grounds and learn about the stranger!
A new arrival! Here at our wise king's palace now, he's here from roving the ocean, driven far off course — he looks like a deathless god!' Rousing their zeal, their curiosity, each and every man, and soon enough the assembly seats were filled with people thronging, gazing in wonder at the seasoned man of war. Over Odysseus' head and shoulders now Athena lavished a marvelous splendor, yes, making him taller, more massive to all eyes, so Phaeacians might regard the man with kindness, awe and respect as well, and he might win through the many trials they 'd pose to test the hero's strength.
Once they'd grouped, crowding the meeting grounds, Alcinous rose and addressed his island people: 'Hear me, lords and captains of Phaeacia, hear what the heart inside me has to say. This stranger here, our guest — 1 don't know who he is, or whether he comes from sunrise lands or the western lands of evening, but he has come in his wanderings to my palace; he pleads for passage, he begs we guarantee it. So now, as in years gone by, let us press on and grant him escort. No one, 1 tell you, no one who comes to my house will languish long here, heartsick for convoy home. Come, my people! Haul a black ship down to the bright sea, rigged for her maiden voyage — enlist a crew of fifty -two young sailors, the best in town, who've proved their strength before. Let all hands lash their oars to the thwarts then disembark, come to my house and fall in for a banquet, quickly.
I'll lay on a princely feast for all. So then, these are the orders 1 issue to our crews. For the rest, you sceptered princes here, you come to my royal halls so we can give this stranger a hero's welcome in our palace — no one here refuse.
Call in the inspired bard Demodocus. God has given the man the gift of song. To him beyond all others, the power to please, however the spirit stirs him on to sing.' With those commands Alcinous led the way and a file of sceptered princes took his lead, while the herald went to find the gifted bard. And the fifty -two young sailors, duly chosen, briskly following orders, went down to the shore of the barren salt sea.
And once they reached the ship at the surf 's edge, first they hauled the craft into deeper water, stepped the mast amidships, canvas brailed, they made oars fast in the leather oarlock straps, moored her riding high on the swell, then disembarked and made their way to wise Alcinous' high-roofed halls. There colonnades and courts and rooms were overflowing with crowds, a mounting host of people young and old. The king slaughtered a dozen sheep to feed his guests, eight boars with shining tusks and a pair of shambling oxen. These they skinned and dressed, and then laid out a feast to fill the heart with savor. In came the herald now, leading along the faithful bard the Muse adored above all others, true, but her gifts were mixed with good and evil both: she stripped him of sight but gave the man the power of stirring, rapturous song.
Pontonous brought the bard a silver-studded chair, right amid the feasters, leaning it up against a central column — hung his high clear lyre on a peg above his head and showed him how to reach up with his hands and lift it down. And the herald placed a table by his side with a basket full of bread and cup of wine for him to sip when his spirit craved refreshment.
All reached out for the good things that lay at hand and when they 'd put aside desire for food and drink, the Muse inspired the bard to sing the famous deeds of fighting heroes — the song whose fame had reached the skies those days: The Strife Between Odysseus and Achilles, Peleus' Son. How once at the gods' flowing feast the captains clashed in a savage war of words, while Agamemnon, lord of armies, rejoiced at heart that Achaea's bravest men were battling so. For this was the victory sign that Apollo prophesied at his shrine in Py tho when Agamemnon strode across the rocky threshold, asking the oracle for advice — the start of the tidal waves of ruin tumbling down on Troy 's and Achaea's forces, both at once, thanks to the will of Zeus who rules the world. That was the song the famous harper sang but Odysseus, clutching his flaring sea-blue cape in both powerful hands, drew it over his head and buried his handsome face, ashamed his hosts might see him shedding tears. Whenever the rapt bard would pause in the song, he'd lift the cape from his head, wipe off his tears and hoisting his double-handled cup, pour it out to the gods. But soon as the bard would start again, impelled to sing by Phaeacia's lords, who reveled in his tale, again Odysseus hid his face and wept.
His weeping went unmarked by all the others; only Alcinous, sitting close beside him, noticed his guest's tears, heard the groan in the man's labored breathing and said at once to the master mariners around him, 'Hear me, my lords and captains of Phaeacia! By now we've had our fill of food well-shared and the lyre too, our loyal friend at banquets. Now out we go again and test ourselves in contests, games of every kind — so our guest can tell his friends, when he reaches home, how far we excel the world at boxing, wrestling, jumping, speed of foot.' He forged ahead and the rest fell in behind.
The herald hung the ringing lyre back on its peg and taking Demodocus by the hand, led him from the palace, guiding him down the same path the island lords had just pursued, keen to watch the contests. They reached the meeting grounds with throngs of people streaming in their trail as a press of young champions rose for competition.
Topsail and Riptide rose, the helmsman Rowhard too and Seaman and Sternman, Surf-at-the-Beach and Stroke-Oar, Breaker and Bowsprit, Racing-the-Wind and Swing-Aboard and Seagirt the son of Greatfleet, Shipwrightson and the son of Launcher, Broadsea, rose up too, a match for murderous Ares, death to men — in looks and build the best of all Phaeacians after gallant Laodamas, the Captain of the People. Laodamas rose with two more sons of great Alcinous, Halius bred to the sea and Cly toneus famed for ships. And now the games began, the first event a footrace.
They toed the line — and broke flat out from the start with a fast pack flying down the field in a whirl of dust and Cly toneus the prince outstripped them all by far, flashing ahead the length two mules will plow a furrow before he turned for home, leaving the pack behind and raced to reach the crowds. Next the wrestling, grueling sport. They grappled, locked, and Broadsea, pinning the strongest champions, won the bouts.
Next, in the jumping. Seagirt leapt and beat the field.
In the discus Rowhard up and outhurled them all by far. And the king's good son Laodamas boxed them to their knees. When all had enjoyed the games to their hearts' content Alcinous' son Laodamas spurred them: 'Come, my friends, let's ask our guest if he knows the ropes of any sport. He's no mean man, not with a build like that. Look at his thighs, his legs, and what a pair of arms — his massive neck, his big, rippling strength! Nor is he past his prime, just beaten down by one too many blows.
Nothing worse than the sea, I always say, to crush a man, the strongest man ahve. ' And Broadsea put in quickly, 'Well said, Laodamas, right to the point. Go up to the fellow, challenge him yourself.
' On that cue, the noble prince strode up before Odysseus, front and center, asking, 'Come, stranger, sir, won't you try your hand at our contests now? If you have skill in any.
It's fit and proper for you to know your sports. What greater glory attends a man, while he's alive, than what he wins with his racing feet and striving hands?
Come and compete then, throw your cares to the wind! It won't be long, your journey's not far off — your ship's already hauled down to the sea, your crew is set to sail.' 'Laodamas,' quick to the mark Odysseus countered sharply, 'why do you taunt me so with such a challenge? Pains weigh on my spirit now, not your sports — I've suffered much already, struggled hard. But here 1 sit amid your assembly still, starved for passage home, begging your king, begging all your people.' 'Oh 1 knew it!' Broadsea broke in, mocking him to his face.
'1 never took you for someone skilled in games, the kind that real men play throughout the world. Not a chance.
You're some skipper of profiteers, roving the high seas in his scudding craft, reckoning up his freight with a keen eye out for home-cargo, grabbing the gold he can! You're no athlete.
With a dark glance wily Odysseus shot back, 'Indecent talk, my friend. You, you're a reckless fool — 1 see that. So, the gods don't hand out all their gifts at once, not build and brains and flowing speech to all. One man may fail to impress us with his looks but a god can crown his words with beauty, charm, and men look on with delight when he speaks out. Never faltering, filled with winning self-control, he shines forth at assembly grounds and people gaze at him like a god when /?£• walks through the streets. Another man may look like a deathless one on high but there's not a bit of grace to crown his words.
Just like you, my fine, handsome friend. Not even a god could improve those lovely looks of yours but the mind inside is worthless. Your slander fans the anger in my heart! I'm no stranger to sports — for all your taunts — I've held my place in the front ranks, 1 tell you, long as 1 could trust to my youth and striving hands. But now I'm wrestled down by pain and hardship, look, I've borne my share of struggles, cleaving my way through wars of men and pounding waves at sea. Nevertheless, despite so many blows, I'll give your games a whirl.
Your insults cut to the quick — you rouse my fighting blood!' Up he sprang, cloak and all, and seized a discus, huge and heavy, more weighty by far than those the Phaeacians used to hurl and test each other.
Wheeling round, he let loose with his great hand and the stone whirred on — and down to ground they went, those lords of the long oars and master mariners cringing under the rock's onrush, soaring lightly out of his grip, flying away past all the other marks, and Queen Athena, built like a man, staked out the spot and cried with a voice of triumph, 'Even a blind man, friend, could find your mark by groping round — it's not mixed up in the crowd, it's far in front! There's nothing to fear in this event — no one can touch you, much less beat your distance!' At that the heart of the long-suffering hero laughed, so glad to find a ready friend in the crowd that, lighter in mood, he challenged all Phaeacia's best: 'Now go match that, you young pups, and straightaway I'll hurl you another just as far, 1 swear, or even farther! All the rest of you, anyone with the spine and spirit, step right up and try me — you've incensed me so — at boxing, wrestling, racing; nothing daunts me. Any Phaeacian here except Laodamas himself.
The man's my host. Who would fight his friend? He'd have to be good-for-nothing, senseless, yes, to challenge his host and come to grips in games, in a far-off land at that. He'd cut his own legs short. But there are no others I'd deny or think beneath me — I'll take on all contenders, gladly, test them head-to-head! I'm not half bad in the world of games where men compete. Well 1 know how to handle a fine polished bow, the first to hit my man in a mass of enemies, even with rows of comrades pressing near me, taking aim with our shafts to hit our targets.
Philoctetes alone outshot me there at Troy when ranks of Achaean archers bent their bows. Of the rest I'd say that 1 outclass them all — men still alive, who eat their bread on earth. But I'd never vie with the men of days gone by, not Heracles, not Eurytus of Oechalia — archers who rivaled immortal powers with their bows. That's why noble Eurytus died a sudden death: no old age, creeping upon him in his halls. Apollo shot him down, enraged that the man had challenged hJjn, the Archer God. As for spears, 1 can fling a spear as far as the next man wings an arrow!
Only at sprinting 1 fear you'd leave me in the dust. I've taken a shameful beating out on heavy seas. No conditioning there on shipboard day by day. My legs have lost their spring. ' He finished. All stood silent, hushed. Only Alcinous found a way to answer.
'Stranger, friend — nothing you say among us seems ungracious. You simply want to display the gifts you're born with, stung that a youngster marched up to you in the games, mocking, ridiculing your prowess as no one would who had some sense of fit and proper speech.
But come now, hear me out, so you can tell our story to other lords as you sit and feast in your own halls someday, your own wife and your children by your side, remembering there our island prowess here: what skills great Zeus has given us as well, down all the years from our fathers' days till now. We're hardly world-class boxers or wrestlers, 1 admit, but we can race like the wind, we're champion sailors too, and always dear to our hearts, the feast, the lyre and dance and changes of fresh clothes, our warm baths and beds. So come — all you Phaeacian masters of the dance — now dance away!
So our guest can tell his friends, when he reaches home, how far we excel the world in sailing, nimble footwork, dance and song. Go, someone, quickly, fetch Demodocus now his ringing lyre. It must be hanging somewhere in the palace.' At the king's word the herald sprang to his feet and ran to fetch the ringing lyre from the house. And stewards rose, nine in all, picked from the realm to set the stage for contests: masters-at-arms who leveled the dancing-floor to make a fine broad ring. The herald returned and placed the vibrant lyre now in Demodocus' hands, and the bard moved toward the center, flanked by boys in the flush of youth, skilled dancers who stamped the ground with marvelous pulsing steps as Odysseus gazed at their flying, flashing feet, his heart aglow with wonder.
A rippling prelude — now the bard struck up an irresistible song: The Love of Ares and Aphrodite Crowned with flowers. How the two had first made love in Hephaestus' mansion, all in secret. Ares had showered her with gifts and showered Hephaestus' marriage bed with shame but a messenger ran to tell the god of fire — Helios, lord of the sun, who'd spied the couple lost in each other 's arms and making love. Hephaestus, hearing the heart- wounding story, bustled toward his forge, brooding on his revenge — planted the huge anvil on its block and beat out chains, not to be slipped or broken, all to pin the lovers on the spot.
This snare the Firegod forged, ablaze with his rage at War, then limped to the room where the bed of love stood firm and round the posts he poured the chains in a sweeping net with streams of others flowing down from the roofbeam, gossamer-fine as spider webs no man could see, not even a blissful god — the Smith had forged a masterwork of guile. Once he'd spun that cunning trap around his bed he feigned a trip to the well-built town of Lemnos, dearest to him by far of all the towns on earth. But the god of battle kept no blind man's watch.
As soon as he saw the Master Craftsman leave he plied his golden reins and arrived at once and entered the famous god of fire's mansion, chafing with lust for Aphrodite crowned with flowers. She'd just returned from her father's palace, mighty Zeus, and now she sat in her rooms as Ares strode right in and grasped her hand with a warm, seductive urging: 'Quick, my darling, come, let's go to bed and lose ourselves in love!
Your husband's away — by now he must be off in the wilds of Lemnos, consorting with his raucous Sintian friends. ' So he pressed and her heart raced with joy to sleep with War and off they went to bed and down they lay — and down around them came those cunning chains of the crafty god of fire, showering down now till the couple could not move a limb or lift a finger — then they knew at last: there was no way out, not now. But now the glorious crippled Smith was drawing near. He'd turned around, miles short of the Lemnos coast, for the Sungod kept Azswatch and told Hephaestus all, so back he rushed to his house, his heart consumed with anguish.
Halting there at the gates, seized with savage rage he howled a terrible cry, imploring all the gods, 'Father Zeus, look here — the rest of you happy gods who live forever — here is a sight to make you laugh, revolt you too! Just because 1 am crippled, Zeus's daughter Aphrodite will always spurn me and love that devastating Ares, just because of his stunning looks and racer's legs while 1 am a weakling, lame from birth, and who's to blame? Both my parents — ^who else? If only they 'd never bred me! Just look at the two lovers.
Crawled inside my bed, locked in each other's arms — ^the sight makes me burn! But 1 doubt they'll want to lie that way much longer, not a moment more — mad as they are for each other. No, they'll soon tire of bedding down together, but then my cunning chains will bind them fast till our Father pays my bride-gifts back in full, all 1 handed Jum for that shameless bitch his daughter, irresistible beauty — all unbridled too!' So Hephaestus wailed as the gods came crowding up to his bronze-floored house. Poseidon god of the earthquake came, and Hermes came, the running god of luck, and the Archer, lord Apollo, while modesty kept each goddess to her mansion. The immortals, givers of all good things, stood at the gates, and uncontrollable laughter burst from the happy gods when they saw the god of fire's subtle, cunning work. One would glance at his neighbor, laughing out.
'A bad day for adultery! Slow outstrips the Swift. ' 'Look how limping Hephaestus conquers War, quickest of all the gods who rule Olympus!' 'The cripple wins by craft.'
'The adulterer, Aewill pay the price!' So the gods would banter among themselves but lord Apollo goaded Hermes on: 'Tell me, Quicksilver, giver of all good things — even with those unwieldy shackles wrapped around you, how would you like to bed the golden Aphrodite?' 'Oh Apollo, if only!' The giant-killer cried. 'Archer, bind me down with triple those endless chains! Let all you gods look on, and all you goddesses too — how I'd love to bed that golden Aphrodite!'
A peal of laughter broke from the deathless ones but not Poseidon, not a smile from him; he kept on begging the famous Smith to loose the god of war, pleading, his words flying, 'Let him go! 1 guarantee you Ares will pay the price, whatever you ask, Hephaestus, whatever's right in the eyes of all the gods. ' But the famous crippled Smith appealed in turn, 'God of the earthquake, please don't urge this on me.
A pledge for a worthless man is a worthless pledge indeed. What if he slips out of his chains — his debts as well? How could 1 shackle youyNhile all the gods look on?' But the god of earthquakes reassured the Smith, 'Look, Hephaestus, if Ares scuttles off and away, squirming out of his debt, I'll pay the fine myself.'
And the famous crippled Smith complied at last: 'Now there's an offer 1 really can't refuse!' With all his force the god of fire loosed the chains and the two lovers, free of the bonds that overwhelmed them so, sprang up and away at once, and the Wargod sped to Thrace while Love with her telltale laughter sped to Paphos, Cyprus Isle, where her grove and scented altar stand. There the Graces bathed and anointed her with oil, ambrosial oil, the bloom that clings to the gods who never die, and swathed her round in gowns to stop the heart.
An ecstasy — a vision. That was the song the famous harper sang and Odysseus retished every note as the islanders, the lords of the long oars and master mariners rejoiced. Next the king asked Halius and Laodamas to dance, the two alone, since none could match that pair. So taking in hand a gleaming sea-blue ball, made by the craftsman Poly bus — arching back, one prince would hurl it toward the shadowy clouds as the other leaping high into the air would catch it quickly, nimbly, before his feet hit ground again. Once they'd vied at throwing the ball straight up, they tossed it back and forth in a blur of hands as they danced across the earth that feeds us all, while boys around the ring stamped out the beat and a splendid rhythmic drumming sound arose, and good Odysseus looked at his host, exclaiming, 'King Alcinous, shining among your island people, you boasted Phaeacia's dancers are the best — they prove your point — 1 watch and I'm amazed!'
His praises cheered the hallowed island king who spoke at once to the master mariners around him: 'Hear me, my lords and captains of Phaeacia, our guest is a man of real taste, I'd say. Come, let's give him the parting gifts a guest deserves. There are twelve peers of the realm who rule our land, thirteen, counting myself. Let each of us contribute a fresh cloak and shirt and a bar of precious gold.
Gather the gifts together, hurry, so our guest can have them all in hand when he goes to dine, his spirit filled with joy. As for Broadsea, let him make amends, man-to-man, with his words as well as gifts. His first remarks were hardly fit to hear. ' All assented and gave their own commands, each noble sent a page to fetch his gifts. And Broadsea volunteered in turn, obliging: 'Great Alcinous, shining among our island people, of course I'll make amends to our newfound friend as you request. I'll give the man this sword. It's solid bronze and the hilt has silver studs, the sheath around it ivory freshly carved.
Here's a gift our guest will value highly.' He placed the silver-studded sword in Odysseus' hands with a burst of warm words: 'Farewell, stranger, sir — if any remark of mine gave you offense, may stormwinds snatch it up and sweep it off! May the gods grant you safe passage home to see your wife — you've been so far from loved ones, suffered so!' Tactful Odysseus answered him in kind: 'And a warm farewell to you, too, my friend. May the gods grant you good fortune — may you never miss this sword, this gift you give with such salutes. You've made amends in full.'
With that he slung the silver-studded sword across his shoulder. As the sun sank, his glittering gifts arrived and proud heralds bore them into the hall where sons of King Alcinous took them over, spread them out before their noble mother's feet — a grand array of gifts. The king in all his majesty led the rest of his peers inside, following in a file and down they sat on rows of high-backed chairs. The king turned to the queen and urged her, 'Come, my dear, bring in an elegant chest, the best you have, and lay inside it a fresh cloak and shirt, your own gifts.
Then heat a bronze cauldron over the fire, boil water, so once our guest has bathed and reviewed his gifts — all neatly stacked for sailing, gifts our Phaeacian lords have brought him now — he'll feast in peace and hear the harper's songs. And 1 will give him this gorgeous golden cup of mine, so he'll remember Alcinous all his days to come when he pours libations out in his own house to Father Zeus and the other gods on high-' And at that Arete told her serving-women, 'Set a great three-legged cauldron over the fire — do it right away!' And hoisting over the blaze a cauldron, filling it brimful with bathing water, they piled fresh logs beneath and lit them quickly. The fire lapped at the vessel's belly, the water warmed. Meanwhile the queen had a polished chest brought forth from an inner room and laid the priceless gifts inside, the clothes and gold the Phaeacian lords had brought, and added her own gifts, a cloak and a fine shirt, and gave her guest instructions quick and clear: 'Now look to the lid yourself and bind it fast with a good tight knot, so no one can rob you on your voyage — drifting into a sweet sleep as the black ship sails you home.' Hearing that, the storm-tossed man secured the lid straightway, he battened it fast with a swift, intricate knot the lady Circe had taught him long ago. And the housekeeper invited him at once to climb into a waiting tub and bathe — a hot, steaming bath.
What a welcome sight to Odysseus' eyes! He'd been a stranger to comforts such as these since he left the lovely-haired Calypso's house, yet all those years he enjoyed such comforts there, never-ending, as if he were a god.
And now, when maids had washed him, rubbed him down with oil and drawn warm fleece and a shirt around his shoulders, he stepped from the bath to join the nobles at their wine. And there stood Nausicaa as he passed. Beside a column that propped the sturdy roof she paused, endowed by the gods with all her beauty, gazing at Odysseus right before her eyes. Wonderstruck, she hailed her guest with a winning flight of words: 'Farewell, my friend! And when you are at home, home in your own land, remember me at times. Mainly to me you owe the gift of life.' Odysseus rose to the moment deftly, gently: 'Nausicaa, daughter of generous King Alcinous, may Zeus the Thunderer, Hera's husband, grant it so — that 1 travel home and see the dawn of my return- Even at home I'll pray to you as a deathless goddess all my days to come.
You saved my life, dear girl.' And he went and took his seat beside the king.
By now they were serving out the portions, mixing wine, and the herald soon approached, leading the faithful bard Demodocus, prized by all the people — seated him in a chair amid the feasters, leaning it against a central column. At once alert Odysseus carved a strip of loin, rich and crisp with fat, from the white-tusked boar that still had much meat left, and called the herald over: 'Here, herald, take this choice cut to Demodocus so he can eat his fill — ^with warm regards from a man who knows what suffering is. From all who walk the earth our bards deserve esteem and awe, for the Muse herself has taught them paths of song.
She loves the breed of harpers.' The herald placed the gift in Demodocus' hands and the famous blind bard received it, overjoyed. They reached for the good things that lay outspread and when they 'd put aside desire for food and drink, Odysseus, master of many exploits, praised the singer: '1 respect you, Demodocus, more than any man alive — surely the Muse has taught you, Zeus's daughter, or god Apollo himself. How true to life, all too true. You sing the Achaeans' fate, all they did and suffered, all they soldiered through, as if you were there yourself or heard from one who was. But come now, shift your ground. Sing of the wooden horse Epeus built with Athena's help, the cunning trap that good Odysseus brought one day to the heights of Troy, filled with fighting men who laid the city waste.
Sing thattoT me — true to life as it deserves — and 1 will tell the world at once how freely the Muse gave youXhe gods' own gift of song.' Stirred now by the Muse, the bard launched out in a fine blaze of song, starting at just the point where the main Achaean force, setting their camps afire, had boarded the oarswept ships and sailed for home but famed Odysseus' men already crouched in hiding — in the heart of Troy's assembly — dark in that horse the Trojans dragged themselves to the city heights. Now it stood there, looming. And round its bulk the Trojans sat debating, clashing, days on end. Three plans split their ranks: either to hack open the hollow vault with ruthless bronze or haul it up to the highest ridge and pitch it down the cliffs or let it stand — a glorious offering made to pacify the gods — and that, that final plan, was bound to win the day. For Troy was fated to perish once the city lodged inside her walls the monstrous wooden horse where the prime of Argive power lag in wait with death and slaughter bearing down on Troy. And he sang how troops of Achaeans broke from cover, streaming out of the horse's hollow flanks to plunder Troy — he sang how left and right they ravaged the steep city, sang how Odysseus marched right up to Deiphobus' house like the god of war on attack with diehard Menelaus.
There, he sang, Odysseus fought the grimmest fight he had ever braved but he won through at last, thanks to Athena's superhuman power. That was the song the famous harper sang but great Odysseus melted into tears, running down from his eyes to wet his cheeks. As a woman weeps, her arms flung round her darling husband, a man who fell in battle, fighting for town and townsmen, trying to beat the day of doom from home and children.
Seeing the man go down, dying, gasping for breath, she clings for dear life, screams and shrills — but the victors, just behind her, digging spear-butts into her back and shoulders, drag her off in bondage, yoked to hard labor, pain, and the most heartbreaking torment wastes her cheeks. So from Odysseus' eyes ran tears of heartbreak now. But his weeping went unmarked by all the others; only Alcinous, sitting close beside him, noticed his guest's tears, heard the groan in the man's labored breathing and said at once to the master mariners around him, 'Hear me, my lords and captains of Phaeacia! Let Demodocus rest his ringing lyre now — this song he sings can hardly please us all. Ever since our meal began and the stirring bard launched his song, our guest has never paused in his tears and throbbing sorrow. Clearly grief has overpowered his heart. Break off this song!
Let us a77enjoy ourselves, the hosts and guest together. Much the warmer way. All these things are performed for him, our honored guest, the royal send-off here and gifts we give in love.
Treat your guest and suppliant like a brother: anyone with a touch of sense knows that. So don't be crafty now, my friend, don't hide the truth I'm after. Fair is fair, speak out! Come, tell us the name they call you there at home — your mother, father, townsmen, neighbors round about.
Surely no man in the world is nameless, all told. Born high, born low, as soon as he sees the light his parents always name him, once he's born. And tell me your land, your people, your city too, so our ships can sail you home — their wits will speed them there. For we have no steersmen here among Phaeacia's crews or steering-oars that guide your common craft.
Our ships know in a flash their mates' intentions, know all ports of call and all the rich green fields. With wings of the wind they cross the sea's huge gulfs, shrouded in mist and cloud — no fear in the world of foundering, fatal shipwreck. True, there's an old tale 1 heard my father telling once. Nausithous used to say that lord Poseidon was vexed with us because we escorted all mankind and never came to grief.
He said that one day, as a well-built ship of ours sailed home on the misty sea from such a convoy, the god would crush it, yes, and pile a huge mountain round about our port. So the old king foretold. And as for the god, well, he can do his worst or leave it quite undone, whatever warms his heart. But come, my friend, tell us your own story now, and tell it truly. Where have your rovings forced you? What lands of men have you seen, what sturdy towns, what men themselves? Who were wild, savage, lawless?
Who were friendly to strangers, god-fearing men? Tell me, why do you weep and grieve so sorely when you hear the fate of the Argives, hear the fall of Troy? That is the gods' work, spinning threads of death through the lives of mortal men, and all to make a song for those to come. Did one of your kinsmen die before the walls of Troy, some brave man — a son by marriage? Father by marriage? Next to our own blood kin, our nearest, dearest ties.
Or a friend perhaps, someone close to your heart, staunch and loyal? No less dear than a brother, the brother-in-arms who shares our inmost thoughts.'
Book IX In the One-Eyed Giant's Cave Odysseus, the great teller of tales, launched out on his story: 'Alcinous, majesty, shining among your island people, what a fine thing it is to listen to such a bard as we have here — ^the man sings like a god. The crown of life, I'd say. There's nothing better than when deep joy holds sway throughout the realm and banqueters up and down the palace sit in ranks, enthralled to hear the bard, and before them all, the tables heaped with bread and meats, and drawing wine from a mixing-bowl the steward makes his rounds and keeps the winecups flowing. This, to my mind, is the best that life can offer. But now you're set on probing the bitter pains I've borne, so I'm to weep and grieve, it seems, still more.
Well then, what shall 1 go through first, what shall 1 save for last? What pains — the gods have given me my share. Now let me begin by telling you my name. So you may know it well and 1 in times to come, if 1 can escape the fatal day, will be your host, your sworn friend, though my home is far from here. 1 am Odysseus, son of Laertes, known to the world for every kind of craft — my fame has reached the skies.
Sunny Ithaca is my home. Atop her stands our seamark, Mount Neriton's leafy ridges shimmering in the wind. Around her a ring of islands circle side-by-side, Dulichion, Same, wooded Zacynthus too, but mine lies low and away, the farthest out to sea, rearing into the western dusk while the others face the east and breaking day. Mine is a rugged land but good for raising sons — and 1 myself, 1 know no sweeter sight on earth than a man's own native country. Calypso the lustrous goddess tried to hold me back, deep in her arching caverns, craving me for a husband.
So did Circe, holding me just as warmly in her halls, the bewitching queen of Aeaea keen to have me too. But they never won the heart inside me, never. So nothing is as sweet as a man's own country, his own parents, even though he's settled down in some luxurious house, off in a foreign land and far from those who bore him. Come, let me tell you about the voyage fraught with hardship Zeus inflicted on me, homeward bound from Troy. The wind drove me out of Ilium on to Ismarus, the Cicones' stronghold. There 1 sacked the city, killed the men, but as for the wives and plunder, that rich haul we dragged away from the place — we shared it round so no one, not on my account, would go deprived of his fair share of spoils. Then I urged them to cut and run, set sail, but would they listen?
Not those mutinous fools; there was too much wine to swill, too many sheep to slaughter down along the beach, and shambling longhorn cattle. And all the while the Cicones sought out other Cicones, called for help from their neighbors living inland: a larger force, and stronger soldiers too, skilled hands at fighting men from chariots, skilled, when a crisis broke, to fight on foot. Out of the morning mist they came against us — packed as the leaves and spears that flower forth in spring — and Zeus presented us with disaster, me and my comrades doomed to suffer blow on mortal blow.
Lining up, both armies battled it out against our swift ships, both raked each other with hurtling bronze lances. Long as morning rose and the blessed day grew stronger we stood and fought them off, massed as they were, but then, when the sun wheeled past the hour for unyoking oxen, the Cicones broke our lines and beat us down at last. Out of each ship, six men-at-arms were killed; the rest of us rowed away from certain doom. From there we sailed on, glad to escape our death yet sick at heart for the dear companions we had lost. But 1 would not let our rolling ships set sail until the crews had raised the triple cry, saluting each poor comrade cut down by the fierce Cicones on that plain.
Now Zeus who masses the stormclouds hit the fleet with the North Wind — a howling, demonic gale, shrouding over in thunderheads the earth and sea at once — and night swept down from the sky and the ships went plunging headlong on, our sails slashed to rags by the hurricane's blast! We struck them — cringing at death we rowed our ships to the nearest shoreline, pulled with all our power. There, for two nights, two days, we lay by, no letup, eating our hearts out, bent with pain and bone-tired.
When Dawn with her lovely locks brought on the third day, then stepping the masts and hoisting white sails high, we lounged at the oarlocks, letting wind and helmsmen keep us true on course. And now, at long last, 1 might have reached my native land unscathed, but just as 1 doubled Malea's cape, a tide-rip and the North Wind drove me way off course, careering past Cythera. Nine whole days 1 was borne along by rough, deadly winds on the fish-infested sea. Then on the tenth our squadron reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, people who eat the lotus, mellow fruit and flower.
We disembarked on the coast, drew water there and crewmen snatched a meal by the swift ships. Once we'd had our fill of food and drink 1 sent a detail ahead, two picked men and a third, a runner, to scout out who might live there — men like us perhaps, who live on bread? So off they went and soon enough they mingled among the natives. Lotus-eaters, Lotus-eaters who had no notion of killing my companions, not at all, they simply gave them the lotus to taste instead. Any crewmen who ate the lotus, the honey -sweet fruit, lost all desire to send a message back, much less return, their only wish to linger there with the Lotus-eaters, grazing on lotus, all memory of the journey home dissolved forever.
But /brought them back, back to the hollow ships, and streaming tears — 1 forced them, hauled them under the rowing benches, lashed them fast and shouted out commands to my other, steady comrades: 'Quick, no time to lose, embark in the racing ships!' — so none could eat the lotus, forget the voyage home. They swung aboard at once, they sat to the oars in ranks and in rhythm churned the water white with stroke on stroke. From there we sailed on, our spirits now at a low ebb, and reached the land of the high and mighty Cyclops, lawless brutes, who trust so to the everlasting gods they never plant with their own hands or plow the soil.
Unsown, unplowed, the earth teems with all they need, wheat, barley and vines, swelled by the rains of Zeus to yield a big full-bodied wine from clustered grapes. They have no meeting place for council, no laws either, no, up on the mountain peaks they live in arching caverns — each a law to himself, ruling his wives and children, not a care in the world for any neighbor. Now, a level island stretches flat across the harbor, not close inshore to the Cyclops' coast, not too far out, thick with woods where the wild goats breed by hundreds. No trampling of men to start them from their lairs, no hunters roughing it out on the woody ridges, stalking quarry, ever raid their haven. No flocks browse, no plowlands roll with wheat; unplowed, unsown forever — empty of humankind — the island just feeds droves of bleating goats. For the Cyclops have no ships with crimson prows, no shipwrights there to build them good trim craft that could sail them out to foreign ports of call as most men risk the seas to trade with other men.
Such artisans would have made this island too a decent place to live in. No mean spot, it could bear you any crop you like in season. The water-meadows along the low foaming shore run soft and moist, and your vines would never flag. The land's clear for plowing. Harvest on harvest, a man could reap a healthy stand of grain — the subsoil's dark and rich.
There's a snug deep-water harbor there, what's more, no need for mooring-gear, no anchor-stones to heave, no cables to make fast. Just beach your keels, ride out the days till your shipmates' spirit stirs for open sea and a fair wind blows. And last, at the harbor's head there's a spring that rushes fresh from beneath a cave and black poplars flourish round its mouth. Well, here we landed, and surely a god steered us in through the pitch-black night. Not that he ever showed himself, with thick fog swirling around the ships, the moon wrapped in clouds and not a glimmer stealing through that gloom. Not one of us glimpsed the island — scanning hard — or the long combers rolling us slowly toward the coast, not till our ships had run their keels ashore.
Beaching our vessels smoothly, striking sail, the crews swung out on the low shelving sand and there we fell asleep, awaiting Dawn's first light. When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more we all turned out, intrigued to tour the island.
The local nymphs, the daughters of Zeus himself, flushed mountain-goats so the crews could make their meal. Quickly we fetched our curved bows and hunting spears from the ships and, splitting up into three bands, we started shooting, and soon enough some god had sent us bags of game to warm our hearts. A dozen vessels sailed in my command and to each crew nine goats were shared out and mine alone took ten. Then all day long till the sun went down we sat and feasted well on sides of meat and rounds of heady wine.
The good red stock in our vessels' holds had not run out, there was still plenty left; the men had carried off a generous store in jars when we stormed and sacked the Cicones' holy city. Now we stared across at the Cyclops' shore, so near we could even see their smoke, hear their voices, their bleating sheep and goats. And then when the sun had set and night came on we lay down and slept at the water's shelving edge. When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more 1 called a muster briskly, commanding all the hands. The rest of you stay here, my friends-in arms. I'll go across with my own ship and crew and probe the natives living over there. What are they — violent, savage, lawless?
Or friendly to strangers, god-fearing men?' With that 1 boarded ship and told the crew to embark at once and cast off cables quickly. They swung aboard, they sat to the oars in ranks and in rhythm churned the water white with stroke on stroke. But as soon as we reached the coast 1 mentioned — no long trip — we spied a cavern just at the shore, gaping above the surf, towering, overgrown with laurel.
And here big flocks, sheep and goats, were stalled to spend the nights, and around its mouth a yard was walled up with quarried boulders sunk deep in the earth and enormous pines and oak-trees looming darkly. Here was a giant's lair, in fact, who always pastured his sheepflocks far afield and never mixed with others. A grim loner, dead set in his own lawless ways. Here was a piece of work, by god, a monster built like no mortal who ever supped on bread, no, like a shaggy peak, I'd say — a man-mountain rearing head and shoulders over the world. Now then, 1 told most of my good trusty crew to wait, to sit tight by the ship and guard her well while 1 picked out my dozen finest fighters and off 1 went. But 1 took a skin of wine along, the ruddy, irresistible wine that Maron gave me once, Euanthes' son, a priest of Apollo, lord of Ismarus, because we'd rescued him, his wife and children, reverent as we were; he lived, you see, in Apollo's holy grove.
And so in return he gave me splendid gifts, he handed me seven bars of well-wrought gold, a mixing-bowl of solid silver, then this wine. He drew it off in generous wine-jars, twelve in all, all unmixed — and such a bouquet, a drink fit for the gods! No maid or man of his household knew that secret store, only himself, his loving wife and a single servant. Whenever they 'd drink the deep-red mellow vintage, twenty cups of water he'd stir in one of wine and what an aroma wafted from the bowl — what magic, what a godsend — no joy in holding back when tJlat^Nas poured! Filling a great goatskin now, 1 took this wine, provisions too in a leather sack. A sudden foreboding told my righting spirit I'd soon come up against some giant clad in power like armor-plate — a savage deaf to justice, blind to law.
Our party quickly made its way to his cave but we failed to find our host himself inside; he was off in his pasture, ranging his sleek flocks. So we explored his den, gazing wide-eyed at it all, the large flat racks loaded with drying cheeses, the folds crowded with young lambs and kids, split into three groups — here the spring-born, here mid-yearlings, here the fresh sucklings off to the side — each sort was penned apart.
And all his vessels, pails and hammered buckets he used for milking, were brimming full with whey. From the start my comrades pressed me, pleading hard, 'Let's make away with the cheeses, then come back — hurry, drive the lambs and kids from the pens to our swift ship, put out to sea at once!'
But 1 would not give way — and how much better it would have been — not till 1 saw him, saw what gifts he'd give. But he proved no lovely sight to my companions. There we built a fire, set our hands on the cheeses, offered some to the gods and ate the bulk ourselves and settled down inside, awaiting his return. And back he came from pasture, late in the day, herding his flocks home, and lugging a huge load of good dry logs to fuel his fire at supper.
He flung them down in the cave — a jolting crash — we scuttled in panic into the deepest dark recess. And next he drove his sleek flocks into the open vault, all he'd milk at least, but he left the males outside, rams and billy goats out in the high- walled yard. Then to close his door he hoisted overhead a tremendous, massive slab — no twenty -two wagons, rugged and four-wheeled, could budge that boulder off the ground, 1 tell you, such an immense stone the monster wedged to block his cave! Then down he squatted to milk his sheep and bleating goats, each in order, and put a suckUng underneath each dam.
And half of the fresh white milk he curdled quickly, set it aside in wicker racks to press for cheese, the other half let stand in pails and buckets, ready at hand to wash his supper down. As soon as he'd briskly finished all his chores he lit his fire and spied us in the blaze and 'Strangers! 'he thundered out, 'now who are you?
Where did you sail from, over the running sea-lanes? Out on a trading spree or roving the waves like pirates, sea-wolves raiding at will, who risk their lives to plunder other men?' The hearts inside us shook, terrified by his rumbling voice and monstrous hulk. Nevertheless 1 found the nerve to answer, firmly, 'Men of Achaea we are and bound now from Troy! Driven far off course by the warring winds, over the vast gulf of the sea — battling home on a strange tack, a route that's off the map, and so we've come to you. So it must please King Zeus's plotting heart. We're glad to say we're men of Atrides Agamemnon, whose fame is the proudest thing on earth these days, so great a city he sacked, such multitudes he killed!
But since we've chanced on you, we're at your knees in hopes of a warm welcome, even a guest-gift. The sort that hosts give strangers. That's the custom. Respect the gods, my friend. We're suppliants — at your mercy!
Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants: strangers are sacred — Zeus will avenge their rights!' 'Stranger/ he grumbled back from his brutal heart, 'you must be a fool, stranger, or come from nowhere, telling me to fear the gods or avoid their wrath! We Cyclops never blink at Zeus and Zeus's shield of storm and thunder, or any other blessed god — we've got more force by far.
I'd never spare you in fear of Zeus's hatred, you or your comrades here, unless 1 had the urge. But tell me, where did you moor your sturdy ship when you arrived? Up the coast or close in? I'd just like to know.'
So he laid his trap but he never caught me, no, wise to the world 1 shot back in my crafty way, 'My ship? Poseidon god of the earthquake smashed my ship, he drove it against the rocks at your island's far cape, dashed it against a cliff as the winds rode us in.
1 and the men you see escaped a sudden death.' Not a word in reply to that, the ruthless brute. Lurching up, he lunged out with his hands toward my men and snatching two at once, rapping them on the ground he knocked them dead like pups — their brains gushed out all over, soaked the floor — and ripping them limb from limb to fbc his meal he bolted them down like a mountain-lion, left no scrap, devoured entrails, flesh and bones, marrow and all!
We flung our arms to Zeus, we wept and cried aloud, looking on at his grisly work — paralyzed, appalled. But once the Cyclops had stuffed his enormous gut with human flesh, washing it down with raw milk, he slept in his cave, stretched out along his flocks. And 1 with my fighting heart, 1 thought at first to steal up to him, draw the sharp sword at my hip and stab his chest where the midriff packs the liver — 1 groped for the fatal spot but a fresh thought held me back. There at a stroke we'd finish off ourselves as well — how could tvewith our bare hands heave back that slab he set to block his cavern's gaping maw?
So we lay there groaning, waiting Dawn's first light. When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more the monster relit his fire and milked his handsome ewes, each in order, putting a suckling underneath each dam, and as soon as he'd briskly finished all his chores he snatched up two more men and fixed his meal. Well-fed, he drove his fat sheep from the cave, lightly lifting the huge doorslab up and away, then slipped it back in place as a hunter flips the lid of his quiver shut. Piercing whistles — turning his flocks to the hills he left me there, the heart inside me brooding on revenge: how could 1 pay him back? Would Athena give me glory? Here was the plan that struck my mind as best.
The Cyclops' great club: there it lay by the pens, olivewood, full of sap. He'd lopped it off to brandish once it dried. Looking it over, we judged it big enough to be the mast of a pitch-black ship with her twenty oars, a freighter broad in the beam that plows through miles of sea — so long, so thick it bulked before our eyes.
Well, flanking it now, 1 chopped off a fathom's length, pushed it to comrades, told them to plane it down, and they made the club smooth as 1 bent and shaved the tip to a stabbing point. 1 turned it over the blazing fire to char it good and hard, then hid it well, buried deep under the dung that littered the cavern's floor in thick wet clumps.
And now 1 ordered my shipmates all to cast lots — who'd brave it out with me to hoist our stake and grind it into his eye when sleep had overcome him? Luck of the draw: I got the very ones I would have picked myself, four good men, and 1 in the lead made five. Nightfall brought him back, herding his woolly sheep and he quickly drove the sleek flock into the vaulted cavern, rams and all — none left outside in the walled yard — his own idea, perhaps, or a god led him on. Then he hoisted the huge slab to block the door and squatted to milk his sheep and bleating goats, each in order, putting a suckling underneath each dam, and as soon as he'd briskly finished all his chores he snatched up two more men and fixed his meal. But this time 1 lifted a carved wooden bowl, brimful of my ruddy wine, and went right up to the Cyclops, enticing, 'Here, Cyclops, try this wine — to top off the banquet of human flesh you've bolted down! Judge for yourself what stock our ship had stored.
1 brought it here to make you a fine libation, hoping you would pity me, Cyclops, send me home, but your rages are insufferable. You barbarian — how can any man on earth come visit you after this? What you've done outrages all that's right!' At that he seized the bowl and tossed it off and the heady wine pleased him immensely.
'More' — he demanded a second bowl — 'a hearty helping! And tell me your name now, quickly, so 1 can hand my guest a gift to warm Azs heart. Our soil yields the Cyclops powerful, full-bodied wine and the rains from Zeus build its strength. But this, this is nectar, ambrosia — this flows from heaven!' So he declared. 1 poured him another fiery bowl — three bowls 1 brimmed and three he drank to the last drop, the fool, and then, when the wine was swirling round his brain, 1 approached my host with a cordial, winning word: 'So, you ask me the name I'm known by, Cyclops?
I will tell you. But you must give me a guest-gift as you've promised. Nobody — that's my name.
Nobody — so my mother and father call me, all my friends.' But he boomed back at me from his ruthless heart, 'Nobody? ' eat Nobody last of all his friends — I'll eat the others first!
That's my gift to you!' With that he toppled over, sprawled full-length, flat on his back and lay there, his massive neck slumping to one side, and sleep that conquers all overwhelmed him now as wine came spurting, flooding up from his gullet with chunks of human flesh — he vomited, blind drunk. Now, at last, 1 thrust our stake in a bed of embers to get it red-hot and rallied all my comrades: Courage — no panic, no one hang back now!' And green as it was, just as the olive stake was about to catch fire — the glow terrific, yes — 1 dragged it from the flames, my men clustering round as some god breathed enormous courage through us all.