Homer’s Odyssey, Book XII: Selections

Ulysses_and_the_Sirens_by_H.J._DraperThey arrive back at Circe’s island and bury Elpenor. Circe finds out from Odysseus what exactly Teiresias’ prophecy was, and then warns him of major dangers ahead of him on his journey home.

“You will reach first the Sirens, who enchant
All men, whoever comes to them.
For whoever in ignorance draws near and hears the voice
Of the Sirens, for him no wife and infant children
Stand by, nor are they gladdened by his homeward journey,
But rather, the Sirens enchant him with their sweet-toned song
To lie in the meadow, among bones in a great heap,
From rotted men, their skins shrivelled away.
But row past, and stop up the ears of your companions,
Kneading honey-sweet bees-wax, so that no one may hear
Of the others; but if you wish to hear them yourself,
Let them tie you in your swift ship, your hands and feet,
Upright in the mast-housing, and the rope ends fastened to the mast itself,
So that rejoicing, you may hear the voice of the Sirens.
And if you beg your companions, and order them to untie you,
Let them bind you further in even more bonds.

“And when your companions drive past them,
At that point I will no longer thereafter counsel you from beginning to end.
Your journey is certain go one of two ways, but you yourself must
Deliberate according to your own heart: but I will tell to you of both ways.
For one, between overhanging cliffs, against them
The great swells of darkly-guised Amphitrite1 dash, roaring;
The blessed gods call them the Planctae.
This place, no winged creature passes, not even pigeons,
The timorous things, which bring ambrosia to father Zeus,
But even from them, the smooth rock always takes,
But the father sends another to make up their number.
This place, no ship of men has ever escaped in any way, any that approach,
But the swells of the sea and hurricanes of destructive fire bear
The planks of ships and the bodies of men, smashed together.
One sea-faring ship alone sailed past,
The Argo, cared for by all, which sailed from Aeëtes.2
And the sea would have thrown even that against the mighty rocks,
Except that Hera sent it past, since Jason was loved.

“For the other, two look-out points approach the broad sky,
On pointed peaks, clouds gather round them,
Dark and blue; they never draw back, nor does the clear sky ever
Hold the peak of that place, neither in the Summer, nor in the Fall.3
And no mortal man could climb or even set foot upon it,
Not even if had he twenty hands and feet:
For the rock is smooth, seemingly polished.
In the middle of the lookout, there is a misty cave,
Turned toward the nether darkness, to Erebus, to this very place you
Will steer your hollow ship, resplendent Odysseus.
And not even a vigorous man from a hollow ship
Shooting arrows with his bow could reach inside the vaulted cave.
Within dwells Scylla, baying terribly.
Her voice is as that of a new-born puppy,
But nevertheless she is an evil monster, and no one
Who sees her would rejoice, not even if a god faces her.
She has twenty feet, all pendulous,
And six necks, very long, on each
A disfigured head, and within, teeth in three rows,
Close-packed and crowded, full of black death.
Her middle she sinks down into the hollow cave,
Her heads she puts forth outside that terrible pit,
There, she fishes, searching round her lookout,
For dolphins and dog-fish, in hope to perchance take some larger
Sea-creature, which howling Amphitrite herds in multitude.
This place, no sailor ever yet boasts unscathed
To have fled past with his ship; with each head she takes
A man, snatching him away from his dark-prowed ship.

“You will see the second lookout is lower to the ground, Odysseus.
It is close to the other, you could reach across them with a bow shot.
At this place there is a mighty fig tree, lush with leaves.
Under this place, divine Charybdis sucks down black water.
For thrice each day she sends it up, and thrice she sucks it down
The dread water, and may you not happen to be there when she sucks it down;
For no one could rescue you from that evil, not even the Earth-shaker.
But quickly approaching close to the lookout of Scylla,
Row your ship past her, since verily, it is much better
To long for six companions in your ship than all of them at once.

1. Amphitrite: A sea goddess and wife of Poseidon.
2. Aeëtes: son of Helius and Perse, brother of Circe, owner of the golden fleece taken by the Argonauts.
3. The word I’m translating as Fall is ὀπώρα (opora). Literally, it refers to the end of summer, between the end of July and the beginning of September. But it was a time of harvest in Greece and later became associated with Autumn.

At dawn Odysseus rouses his men and they sail off. Circe sends them a favouring wind, and he tells his crew that the dangerous Sirens are ahead, and he must be lashed to the mast so that he can hear their song, and they must add more ropes is he asks them to release him.

Thus I spoke to the companions, telling them each thing.
Meanwhile the well-wrought ship swiftly reached
The island of the Sirens, for a propitious wind drove it onward.
Immediately thereupon the wind ceased and a calm
Came on, a stillness, and some deity lulled the waves.
The companions, raising the sails of the ship, furled them
And put them away in the hollow ship, and at the oars
They sat and churned the water white with the polished pines.
And I, with my sharp bronze I cut into little pieces
A great wheel of bees-wax, and I pressed it with my strong hands.
The bees-wax quickly melted, since my great strength compelled it,
And the rays of Lord Helios, son of Hyperion.
One after another I stopped up the ears of all the companions.
And they tied me in my ship, my hands and feet together,
Upright in the mast-housing, and the rope ends fastened to the mast itself.
And sitting, they beat the grey sea with their oars.
But once we were as far away as a man can be heard by shouting,
Fleetly chasing, the sea-swift ship did not escape their attention,
Being urged near, they prepared a sweet-toned song:

“Come here, come, much-praised Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans,
Bring your ship to land, so that you may hear the two of us, our voice,
For no one yet has sailed past this place in his dark ship,
At least not before he heard the melodious voice from our lips,
But he departs rejoicing, and has greater understanding.
For we know everything, whatsoever in far-reaching Troy
The Argives and Trojans suffered by the will of the gods,
And we know whatsoever happened on the all-nourishing earth.”

Thus they sang, sending forth their lovely voices, and my heart
Desired to hear them, and I ordered my companions to free me,
Nodding with my brow, but they fell to rowing.
And straightaway Perimedes and Eurylochus stood,
And they bound me in more bonds, squeezed me tight.
But once they indeed sailed past them, and no more thereafter
Did we hear the voice of the Sirens, nor their song,
My faithful companions took out the bees-wax
With which I had stopped up their ears, and they loosed me from the bonds.

But when we left behind the island, immediately thereafter
I saw smoke and a great wave, and I heard a thudding.
The oars flew from the hands of the frightened men,
They boomed down on the stream; the ship was held
There, since their hands no longer pressed the pointed oars.
And I went through the ship encouraging the companions
With honeyed words, standing by each man:
“My friends, indeed we are no longer in any way ignorant of misfortune,
Surely no greater evil here follows than when the Cyclops
Penned us in his hollow cave with his mighty strength.
But even there, by my excellence, counsel, and intelligence,
We escaped, and certainly I think we will remember this, too.
But now, come, just as I would say it, let us all be obedient.
You, sitting in the rowing benches beat the deep
Surf of the sea with your oars, in hope that Zeus somewhere
Should grant that we flee from and avoid this destruction.
And you, pilot, I enjoin you thus: and cast it
In your heart, since you control the rudder of the hollow ship.
From that smoke and those waves, drive away
The ship, and make for that lookout, lest unknown to you,
Setting out thither you should cast us into harm’s way.”

Thus I spoke, and they were soon persuaded by my words.
But I did not yet speak of Scylla, intractable problem,
Lest, being frightened in any way, they should desist
From rowing, and they would shut themselves close up within.
Then indeed, the grievous command of Circe
I did forget, since she did not in any way bid me to arm myself,
But I got into my splendid harness, and two spears,
Long, I took in my hands, and I stepped onto the deck of the ship’s
Prow; for there I expected the first sight of
Rock-dwelling Scylla, who brought disaster to my companions.
But I was not in any way able to perceive her, I wearied my eyes
Searching everything along the distant rock.

We sailed up the strait, grieving.
Scylla was within one, and in the other, divine Charybdis,
Horribly sucking up the briny water of the sea.
And then she would vomit it out, like a kettle in a hot fire
Roiled up, boils violently, and the sea-foam on high
Falls upon the look-outs on both sides;
But when she again sucks down the briny water of the sea,
She reveals everything roiled within, and all around the rock
Howls terribly, she shows the earth beneath,
Gleaming dark with sand. And fresh fear seized them.
And we—we looked toward her, fearing destruction,
And meanwhile, Scylla from her hollow cave grabbed six
Companions; they who were best in strength and arms.
And looking to the swift ship and at after my companions
I perceived the hands and feet already above
Of those men taken aloft. They cried out calling me
By name, and then for the last time, lamenting their doom.
Like when a fisherman on a jutting crag, with his long, long rod,
Casting food as bait for small fish,
He sends forth into the sea the horn of the field-dwelling ox,
Then catching one he throws it out, writhing,
Thus were they taken, writhing, to the rock,
And there within its entrance, she devoured the screaming men,
Reaching out their hands to me in dreadful throes.
With my own eyes I saw the most pitiable fate
Of all, for as long as I toiled, seeking passages of the sea.

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Homer’s Odyssey, Book XI: Selections

Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_063On the advice of Circe, Odysseus has travelled to Hades to ask the spirit of the seer, Teiresias, how he might find his way back to Ithaca. He has dug a trough and poured into it milk, honey, barley, and sheep’s blood. The dead come to drink it, but as instructed, he allows only those he wishes to question to drink.

Up came the spirit of my mother, she had died,
Anticleia, daughter of great-hearted Autolycus,
She was living when I left her to go to sacred Troy.
I wept when I saw her, and felt pity in my heart;
But did not thus permit her to be first, though grieving thick,
To come near the blood, not until I questioned Teiresias.

Up came the spirit of Teiresias of Thebes,
Holding his golden sceptre, he recognized me and said:
“Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, wily Odysseus,
At it again, you poor man. Why, pray tell, have you left behind the light of the sun,
why have you come, so as to look upon the dead and this joyless place?
But withdraw from the trough, hold off your sharp blade
From the blood, so that I may drink and I may speak to you unerring.”

Thus he spoke, and I withdrew my silver-studded sword,
I thrust it firmly in its sheathe. And then he drank the black blood,
And only then did the blameless prophet speak to me these words:
“You seek your homecoming, honey-sweet, illustrious Odysseus;
But a god shall make hardship for you. For I do not think you shall
Escape notice of the earth-shaker, who has laid away rancour in his heart,
Angered that you utterly blinded his own son.
But even so you may certainly still reach it, though you will suffer misfortunes,
If you are willing to restrain your passion, and that of your companions,
When first your draw your well-wrought ships near
The island of Thrinacia, in flight away from the violet-like sea,
You will find the grazing cattle and fat sheep
Of Helios, who oversees all and overhears everything.
These, if you permit them to remain unharmed, and are mindful of your homecoming,
You may certainly still come to Ithaca, though you will suffer misfortunes;
But if you do harm, then I calculate destruction for you,
And for your ship and companions. Even if you yourself avoid it,
You come in a bad way and late, after all your companions have perished,
On the ship of another man; you will meet with calamities in your home,
Arrogant men, who are consuming your livelihood
They court your godlike bedmate and give her bride-gifts.
But when you come, you shall surely repay the violent acts, at least of those men:
And the suitors in your halls, after
You kill them, whether by trickery or openly with your sharp copper,
Go then henceforth, taking a well-balanced oar,
Until you reach those who know not the sea,
Men who do not even eat food mixed with salt;
Nor even do they know red-cheeked ships,1
Nor well-balanced oars, which become wings for ships.
I shall tell you quite clearly a sign, nor shall it escape your notice:
Another wayfarer, falling in with you, when
He says you have a winnowing-fan on your glistening shoulder,
And then after you stick your well-handled oars in the earth,
After you make fine sacrifices to Lord Poseidon,
A young ram, and a bull, and a boar that mounts sows,
Go home and make sacrifices of a hecatomb2
To the undying gods, who occupy the wide sky,
To absolutely all of them in order. And for you yourself, death far from the sea
Shall come, of a very gentle kind, which strikes you
Worn out by a rich old age. The people around you
Will be blessed. To you I speak things without error.

1. A common epithet of ship. The bows were painted red.
2. A hecatomb is an offering of one hundred oxen.

Odysseus asks Teiresias how the soul of his mother can recognize that he is her son. The prophet tells him that any ghost which he allows to drink blood will speak to him and tell him the truth. Teiresias then goes back to the house of Hades.

And I remained there, steadfast, until my mother came
Upon and drank the cloudy-dark blood. She recognized me immediately,
And wailing, she addressed me with winged words:
“My son, how is it that you have come beneath the murky gloom,
Though you live? For it is difficult for the living to look upon these things.
For between there are mighty rivers and terrible flows,
Foremost the Ocean, which is not in any possible to traverse
If you are on foot, if one does not have a well-wrought ship.
Do you now, wandering from Troy, come to this place
With your ship and companions, after so long? Have you not yet gone
To Ithaca nor looked upon your wife in your halls?

Thus she spoke, and replying, I said to her:
“Dear mother, need has led me down to Hades’ realm,
To consult with the soul of Teiresias of Thebes.
For I have not yet come near Achaean land nor yet upon our
Soil have I stepped, but I endlessly wander, bearing sorrow,
From when I followed divine Agamenon at the very first,
To Ilios, rich in horses, so that I might fight Trojans.
But come, tell me this and say it straight:
What doom of death overtook you, that brings long woe?
Was it a long sickness, or did Artemis, shooter of arrows,
Slay you, attacking you with her gentle missiles?
And tell me of my father and my son, whom I left behind,
Whether my prize is still with those men, or already someone
Else of men holds it, and they say that I am no longer to return.
And tell me the plan and intent of my courted bed-mate,
Whether she remains with my son and guards everything steadfast,
Or she has already married one of the Achaeans, whoever is best.”

Thus I spoke and immediately my revered mother replied:
“That woman, at least, with her enduring heart, remains
In your halls; and for her, ever woeful,
The days and nights waste away while she sheds tears.
No one yet holds your fair prize, but without hindrance
Telemachus inhabits your domains and in equal measure at feasts
Is feasted, those which are fitting for a law-giving man to give heed;
For everyone invites him. But your father stays in one place,
In the country, and he does not go down to the city; nor are there for his bed,
Mattresses, or shining cloaks and blankets,
But during the winter he sleeps in the house where the bondsmen do,
In the ash near the fire, and he clothes his flesh in poor garments ;
And when the summer comes, and fruitful harvest,
All over along the slopes of the vineyard orchard,
A low bed of fallen leaves is strewn.
He lies there grieving, nurturing a great sorrow in his heart,
Yearning for your homecoming; he has come to a difficult old age.
For I too perished thus, and met my fate:
Neither in the halls did the keen-sighted one, the arrow-shooter
Slay me, attacking me with her gentle missiles,
Nor did any sickness come upon me, which often
By a loathsome consumption of the limbs destroys the spirit.
But rather, yearning for you and your counsels, radiant Odysseus,
And your kindliness robbed my honey-sweet spirit.”

Thus she spoke, and I wished, feeling anxiety in my heart,
To take the spirit of my mother, who had passed away.
Thrice I sprung forward, my heart urged me to take hold
Thrice from my hands, like a shadow or even a dream,
She flitted. I felt strongly a keen pain fill my heart,
And uttering winged words, I spoke to her:
“My dear mother, why do you not stay for me, since I am eager to hold you,
So that even in the house of Hades, by casting our arms around a loved one,
We might both have the enjoyment of chilly grief?
Or did glorious Persephone urge on a phantom
To me, so that lamenting, I might weep even more?”

Thus I spoke, and my revered mother immediately replied:
“Oh woe, my child, ill-fated above all men,
Persephone, daughter of Zeus, does not in any way cheat you,
But this is the way of mortals, whenever someone dies.
For no longer does sinew hold flesh and bone,
But rather the mighty strength of the burning flame
Consumes them, when first the spirit leaves behind the white bones,
And the soul, like a dream that flies away, flies about.
But do yearn earnestly lightward, quick as can be; and all these things
Do know, so that you may afterward tell your wife.”

Odysseus goes on to relate how Persephone sent a series of famous heroines for him to question, so that he could learn their stories. At this point his hosts, the Phaeacians, praise his eloquence, promise to send him splendid gifts and an escort home and urge him to tell more of his story. Odysseus moves on to his encounter with the ghost of Agamemnon.

Up came to me the spirit of Agamemnon son of Atreus,
Grieving, and around him others gathered, as many as with him
As in the house of Aegisthus had died and met their fate.
And that man recognized me immediately, after he drank the black blood;
He, at least, called out with a clear voice, letting fall an abundant flow of tears,
Spreading out his hands to me, with earnest desire to clasp me;
But no longer his was the steadfast strength and vigour
Which there formerly was in his limber arms.
And I wept to see him and felt pity in my heart,
And giving voice to winged words, I addressed him:
“Noblest son of Atreus, Agamemnon, lord of men,
What doom of death overtook you, that brings long woe?
Did Poseidon overtake you in your ships
Urging on the unenviable breath of troublesome winds?
Or did implacable men work mischief against you on dry land,
When you were intercepting cattle, or fine flocks of rams,
Or fighting over a city or women?”

Thus I spoke, and replying immediately, he said to me:
“Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, wily Odysseus,
No, Poseidon did not overtake me in my ship
By urging on the unenviable breath of troublesome winds,
Nor did implacable men work mischief against me on dry land,
But rather Aegisthus fashioned my fate and death
And with my accursed bed-mate he killed me after he summoned me to his home,
And feasted me, as someone might kill an ox at the manger.
Thus I died a most pitiable death; And my other companions around
Were killed without pause, like white-tusked boars
For a sumptuous feast; a wedding, or potluck, or the private banquet
Of wealthy men of great power.
You have been present at murder of many men,
Of men killed singly and in cruel combat;
But had you seen that one in particular you would have lamented in your heart,
How around wine vessels and the crowded tables
We laid in our hall, all the ground steeped in our blood.
And I heard the most-pitiable voice of the daughter of Priam,
Of Cassandra, whom scheming Clytemnestra killed
Beside me. And I, on the earth, raising my arms,
I cast them, though dying, for a sword; and the bitch
Turned away from me and did not venture, though I went to the house of Hades,
To close my eyes with her hands and shut my mouth.
Thus there is nothing more dread or more craven than a woman,
Who casts deeds of this sort in her mind;
Just as indeed that woman contrived this unseemly deed,
Who prepared a murder for her wedded husband. And here I, at least, considered myself
Well-pleased, since to my children and to my bondsmen
I came home. But she, having known eminent bane,
Poured out shame after shame for those who will exist hereafter,
For females, for wives, even she who would be upright.”

Thus he spoke, and I replied to him, saying:
“Oh woe, thundering Zeus has indeed the offspring of Atreus especially
Hated, terribly, through womanly plans
From the start: for the sake of Helen, many have perished,
And for you Clytemnestra prepared a trap from afar when you went.”

Thus I spoke, and he replied to me immediately, saying:
“Now, therefore, never be kind, not even you to your wife,
Nor tell her the whole story, which you know well,
But say one thing, and the other is to be hidden.
But at least for you, Odysseus, there will not be murder, at least not from your wife;
For by her mind, she knows exceedingly well wisdom and good counsel,
She, the daughter of Icarius, very wise Penelope.
We left her behind, a young bride,
To go to war; and she had a child, still on her breast,
The gentle thing, who doubtless now, at least, sits among a number of men,
The blessed man; for surely his beloved father will see when he comes,
And that man will embrace his father, which is meet and right.
But my bedfellow, not even to have my fill of my own son
With my eyes, did she permit; before that, she struck me and him.
But I will tell you something else, and cast it into your mind:
Secretly, not openly, to your beloved ancestral soil
Do steer your ship, since nothing is any longer trustworthy for women.
But come, tell me this and say it straight,
If you have heard from my child, since he doubtless still lives,
Either somewhere in Orchomenus, or in sandy Pylos,
Or somewhere with Menelaus, in far-reaching Sparta.
For noble Orestes does not yet lie dead upon the earth.”

Thus he spoke, and I replied to him, saying:
“Son of Atreus, why do you say these things to me? I do not know in any way,
Whether he lives or has died; and it is evil to speak empty words.”

For our part thus, exchanging hated words,
We stood, mourning, shedding one fat tear after another.
Up came the spirit of the son of Peleus, Achilles,
And that of Patrocles, and of blameless Antilochus,
And of Ajax, whose form and frame was best
Above all other Danaeans, after the son of Peleus.
The swift-footed ancestor of Aceaus recognized me,
And with a lament he spoke winged words to me:
“Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, wily Odysseus,
Foolish man! How, pray, will you yet plot some greater deed?
How did you venture to come down to Hades, where the dead
Dwell insensate, and the phantoms of weary mortals?”

Thus he spoke, and I replied to him, saying:
O Achilles, son of Peleus, by far the bravest of the Achaeans,
I came for need of Teiresias, in hope that he might tell me
A plan, so that I might reach craggy Ithaca.
For I have not yet come near Achaean lands, nor yet upon my
Soil set foot, but I ever have misfortunes. But as for you, Achilles,
No man before was so very blessed, nor any after.
For while you lived we Argives paid you honour equal
To the gods, and in turn you have great power among the dead,
Now that you are here. Do not therefore be grieved in any way that you died, Achilles.”

This I spoke and he immediately replied, saying:
“Do not speak lightly of death to me, glorious Odysseus.
I would prefer to be attached to the soil, a serf to another,
In the house of a man without portion, who has no great livelihood,
Than rule over all the wasting dead.
But come, tell me word of my noble son,
Tell me whether he was in the front rank in the war, or even if not.
Tell me of blameless Peleus, if you have learned anything,
If he yet has honour among the many Myrmidons,
Or if they dishonour him throughout Hellas, and at Phthia
Because old age grips his hands and feet tight.
For I am not there to be his helper beneath the rays of the sun,
Of the sort I once was in renowned Troy,
I struck the finest army, fighting for the Argives.
And if, such as this, I could come to the house of my father for just a short time,
I would make hateful to any man my might and invincible hands,
Who constrained and barred that man from honour.”

Thus he spoke, and I replied to him, saying:
“I have not learned anything of the blameless Peleus,
But of your son, at least, beloved Neoptolemus,
I shall speak the whole truth, as you bid me:
For I myself, upon my even, hollow ship,
I brought him from Scyros, to the well-grieved Achaeans.
Indeed whenever we considered our plans about the city, Troy,
He always spoke first, and words did not fail him.
Godlike Nestor and I alone excelled him.
And whenever we did battle with bronze on the Trojan plain,
He did not remain in a crowd of men or among a throng,
But rather he was far ahead, his might yielding to no man,
And he struck many men in the dread strife.
I could not tell you nor could I name everyone,
He struck so many warriors, defending the Argives,
But he killed such as the son of Telephus with his bronze,
The hero Eurypylus, and many companions around him
Of the tribe of Ketioi died for the sake of the prizes of women.
I thought him the most handsome after divine Memnon.
And when we went down into the horse which Epeius built,
We who were best of the Argives, and everything fell to me,
Both the open the crowded hiding place and close it,
The others within, leaders and counselors of the Danaeans,
Wiped away tears, and the legs beneath each man trembled.
But that man, with my own eyes, I never saw in any way
His handsome countenance turn pale, or from his cheeks
Wiping tears; and that man, at least, beseeched a great deal
To be permitted to exit the horse, and he gripped the hilt of his sword,
And his bronze-laden spears, eagerly desiring evils for the Trojans.
But after we consigned the city of Priam to sheer destruction,
He boarded the ship bearing his portion and a fine gift of honour
Unscathed, neither harmed by bronze sword
Nor wounded in the melee, as often
Happens in war: for Ares raged pell-mell.”

Thus I spoke, and the soul of the swift-footed seed of Aeacus
Roamed over the king’s-spear lily meadow, taking long strides,
Joyful that I was saying his son was glorious.

And other souls of the dead, of those who passed away,
Stood aggrieved, each asking after their cares.
Only the soul of Ajax, son of Telamon,
Stood away, aloof, angered on account of a victory,
Which I won over him, in pleading my case aboard the ships,
Over the arms of Achilles: his revered mother awarded it.
The sons of Trojans gave judgment, and Pallas Athena.
Would that I had not won in such a contest:
On account of this, the earth covers over such a man,
Ajax, who concerning form and concerning deeds had been well-wrought
Above the other Danaeans, after the blameless son of Peleus.
And I addressed him with honeyed words:
“Ajax, child of blameless Telemon, will you not,
Not even dead, forget your bile on account of the arms,
The accursed things? The gods set them as calamities for the Argives,
For such as you, a tower, was lost to us; for you the Achaeans
Equal to the head of Achilles, son of Peleus,
Were distressed by your passing for ever. But no one else
Is to blame, but that Zeus the army of Danaean spearmen
So terribly hated, he set your fate upon you.
But come hither, lord, so that you may hear our word and speech;
Subdue your rage and your headstrong heart.”

Thus I spoke, and he made no reply, but went toward other
Souls of the dead, those who passed away, into Erebus.
There, he might have spoken nevertheless, though angered, or I to him.
But a passion came into my very breast
To see the souls of others who had passed away.

Odysseus sees Minos (the judge of the dead), various sinners being punished and the wraith of Heracles, before leaving for fear that Persephone may send him the awful head of the Gorgon. He and his men sail off across the Ocean.

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Homer’s Odyssey, Book X: Selections


Circe, by Wright Barker (1889)

After escaping from Polyphemus, Odysseus arrives at the island of Aeolus (the king of the winds) and is given by him a leather bag containing all the winds apart from the one that will take his ships back to Ithaca. He sails off, but within sight of Ithaca he falls asleep, his men open the bag to see what is inside and the winds escape, blowing them back to Aeolus, who angrily dismisses them. They depart and, with no winds to help them, have to row for six days. Then they arrive at the land of the Laestrygonians.

On the seventh day we reached the lofty citadel of Lamos,
Laestrygonian Telepylus, where a shepherd does a shepherd
Hail when he drives his flock in, and the one driving his out replies.
There the sleepless man earns a double wage,
One tending cattle, the other pasturing silvery-white sheep;
For the courses of night and day are close.
We came then there, to the splendid harbour, around which a rock
Precipitous, continues straight through on both sides,
Jutting promontories facing each other,
They jutted out to the mouth, and there is a narrow entrance,
Where within the others all moored their ships, swaying to and fro.
And from within the empty harbour they were tied
Near to each other; for the waves did not ever rise in there,
Neither small nor large, but rather there was clear calm around.
And I alone moored my black ship without,
At its furthest reach, having tied the ship-cables from the rock.
I went up to a rugged look-out point and stood;
There the works were revealed neither of cattle nor men,
We saw only smoke, rising away from the ground.
So then I sent out companions, going forth, to learn
What men there were in the land who ate bread,
Having chosen two men, and making a third follow with as herald.
And when they disembarked, they found a smooth road, upon which wagons
Going townward from lofty mountains brought back wood.
They met up with a maiden fetching water outside of town,
The stalwart daughter of the Laestrygonian Antiphates.
She, indeed, had come down to the beautiful-flowing fountain,
Artacia; from there they would carry water for the town;
Standing beside this, they were calling out and asking:
Who the king was of these people and over whom he ruled.
And she straightaway pointed right to her high-vaulted house.
And when they went into the glorious hall, the woman
They discovered as great as the peak of a mountain, and they were horror-struck.
Forthwith she summoned Antiphates from the agora,
Her husband, who for them contrived woeful destruction.
At once, grabbing of one of the companions, he prepared a meal.
But the two slipped away in flight and reached the ships.
And he raised a hue through the town, and those who heard,
Stalwart Laestrygonians coming and going, from one place and another,
Countless, and not like men, but rather Giants.
And they, with boulders from the cliffs as large as a man can carry,
Struck us. Soon a terrible din arose throughout the ships
While men perished and ships alongside were crushed;
Spearing the men like fish, they carried away a joyless banquet.
While they killed those in the deepest harbour,
I pulled my sharp sword from my thigh,
With it I cut the ship-cables of the dark-prowed ship;
Straightaway I gave orders to my companions, urging them,
To fall upon the oars, so that we might flee from catastrophe;
And they all churned the sea, fearing destruction.
Gladly my ship fled the overhanging rocks
To the sea, but the others were destroyed all together, on the spot.

Odysseus and his men reach the island of Aeaea, home of the dread goddess Circe (sister of malignant Aeetes). After seeing smoke, he splits his crew into two groups (one commanded by him, the other by his close relative Eurylochus), one of which is to go off and reconnoitre. Eurylochus and his group are selected by lot as the ones to go.

He set out to go, and with him two and twenty companions,
Lamenting, they left us behind also weeping.

They discovered in a wooded copse the home of Circe, built
With polished stone, in a conspicuous spot.
And all around it were wolves and mountain-dwelling lions,
And she enchanted them, when she gave them a wicked drug.
They did not rush the men, but rather, for them at least,
They sat up, wagging around their long tails.
Like dogs around their master when he comes from a feast,
They fawn; for he always brings their heart’s delight;
Thus around them the wolves and large-clawed lions
Fawned; and, let me tell you, they were afraid when they saw the dread monsters.
They stood at the front-door of the lovely-haired goddess,
They heard Circe within, singing with her beautiful voice,
Plying her mighty, divine loom, like that of goddesses
Delicate and elegant and shining works were made.
To them, Polites began a speech, leader of men,
Who was most cared for by me, and most cherished of my companions:
“My friends, someone plying a mighty loom within
Sings a beautiful song, and it echoes all around the entire ground,
Either god or woman; but let us quickly give utterance.”

Thus he spoke, and they gave utterance, calling her.
And she came out straightaway and opening the shining doors,
She invited them in; and they all followed with, in ignorance,
But Eurylochus remained behind; for he knew it to be a trick.
Leading them in she had them sit on chairs and couches.
For them, bread and cheese and fresh honey
She mixed with Pramnian wine; but she stirred with the food
A baneful drug, so that they would altogether forget their ancestral soil.
And when she gave it and they drank it down, immediately thereafter,
Striking them with her wand, she enclosed them all in a pig-sty.
And they had the head and voice and hair of wild swine,
And the bodies too, but their minds were as steadfast as ever before.

Eurylochus returns to Odysseus with news that his comrades disappeared in the house in the woods. Odysseus immediately wants to go there and asks Eurylochus to guide him. He refuses, terrified that Odysseus will not return or rescue any of the lost men, and urges flight instead. Odysseus tells Eurylochus to stay there by the ship eating and drinking, while he goes off, as he has to.

After he said this, away from the ship I went and the sea.
But going through the supernatural copse of wood, when I was about
To reach the great house of pharmacopious Circe,
There Hermias with his golden wand met with me,
Going to toward the house, in the form of a youthful man,
With his first downy beard, for whom the prime of manhood is most graceful;
Into my hand he put his, and spoke a word, and called me out by name:

“Where now this time, you unfortunate man, are you going alone through the hilltop,
Though you are ignorant of the place? Your companions, here, in Circe’s
Are enclosed like wild swine, they occupy a thick-barred hole.
Or do you come hither to free them? I say that you
Will not yourself return home, but you, at least, will remain here, with the others.
But come, I shall deliver you from misfortunes and be your saviour.
Here. Take this excellent drug and to the halls of Circe
Go. It wards evil off from the head for a day.
And I will tell you all of Circe’s deadly arts.
She will make a brew, and she will put drugs in the food;
But she will not be able to enchant you in this way, for this will not permit it,
The drug which I will give you, and I will tell you each and every thing.
When Circe drives you forth with her long, tall wand,
At that point, drawing your sharp sword from your thigh,
Rush at Circe as if you eagerly desire to kill her.
And she, when she cowers before you, will urge you to be bedded.
Thenceforth you are hereafter no longer to reject the bed of the goddess,
So that she may free your companions and take care of you;
But order her to swear the oath of the blessed ones,
So that she will not plan any other wicked calamity for you,
And she will not make you weak and unmanned when you are stripped bare.”

Once he said this, the Argus-slayer furnished the drug,
Plucking it from the ground, and he showed me its nature.
At the root it was dark, but the blossom was like milk;
The gods call it moly, and it is difficult to dig up
For mortal men, at least, but the gods can do anything.
Hermias then went away to high Olympus,
Up from the wooded island, and I to the house of Circe
Did go, my heart beating fast as I went.
I stood at the doors of the lovely-haired goddess;
Standing there I called out, and the goddess heard my cry.
And she came out straightaway and opening the shining doors,
She invited me in, and I followed, though my heart grieved.
Leading me in, she sat me upon a silver-studded chair,
Beautiful and cunningly wrought; there was a stool beneath my feet.
She prepared for me her brew in a golden goblet, so that I might drink,
And in it she put the drug, plotting evil in her heart.
She gave and I drank up but she did not enchant me,
Though she struck me with her wand, and spoke a word, and called me out by name:

“Go now to the pig-sty, and lay with your other companions.”
Thus she spoke, but I, drawing my sharp sword from my thigh,
Rushed at her, as though I eagerly desired to kill her.
She shrieked loudly, running below it and taking my knees,
Wailing, she addressed me with winged words:
“Who are you, from where of men? Where are your city and parents?
Wonder holds me, since you were not in any way enchanted, though you drank this drug.
No other man, in no way, has resisted these drugs,
Whoever drank, as soon as it passed across the enclosure of his teeth;
But the spirit you have in your breast is unenchantable.
You must be resourceful Odysseus, whom ever to me
The Argus-slayer with his golden wand said would come,
Sailing out from Troy with his swift, dark ship.
But come, put your sword in its sheath now, and we two shall henceforth
Climb into our bed, till at last, so that entwined together
In the bed and in affection, we may put our trust in one another.”

Thus she spoke, and replying to her I said:
“Circe, how can you command me to be kindly to you,
Who made my companions into swine in your halls,
You command me here with a guileful mind
To go to your room and climb into your bed,
So that when I am stripped bare you might make me weak and unmanned .
And I would not wish to climb into your bed,
At least not unless you venture, goddess, to swear the great oath,
Not to plan another wicked calamity for myself.”

Thus I spoke, and immediately she swore that she would not, just as I commanded.
And then indeed she swore and she completed her oath,
And only then did I climb into the bed of Circe, very lovely.

Next Circe bathes Odysseus and puts a fine meal before him, but he refuses to eat. She asks him why.

Thus she spoke, and replying, I said to her:
“Circe, what man indeed, who would be righteous,
Would sooner submit to partake of food and drink,
Before he freed his companions and he saw them with his own eyes?
But if indeed you eagerly bid me to eat and drink,
The free them, so that I may see my faithful companions with my own eyes.”
Thus I spoke, and Circe stepped out through the hall,
Taking her wand in her hand, and she opened the doors of the pig-sty,
And she drove them, looking like fat hogs in season.
When they stood facing her, through them she
Went, smearing another drug on each man.
And the hair fell from their frames, which the accursed drug
From before brought forth, the one revered Circe provided for them;
And they became men again, younger than they were before
And much more beautiful, and mightier to behold.
Those men recognized me, and each clasped me in his hands.
A yearning grief penetrated everyone, all around the house
Woeful cries resounded, and even the goddess herself took pity.

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Homer’s Odyssey Book II

Telemachus and Penelope

Telemachus and Penelope

When child of morn appeared, rosy-fingered dawn,
The beloved son of Odysseus rose from his bed,
And putting on his clothes, he placed his sharp sword by his shoulder,
And he tied fine sandals beneath his shining feet,
He got up and went from the inner chamber, to face him he resembled a god.
Immediately he ordered clear-voiced heralds
To herald the long-haired Achaean heads agora-ward.
They heralded and they were very quickly gathered.
And when they gathered and were assembled,
He got up and went to the agora, and he held a copper lance in his palm.
Not alone, but with him white dogs followed his steps.
And upon him surely Athene poured out inhuman grace.
And all the warriors gazed upon him when he came to them;
He sat in the chair of his father, and the old men gave way.

These men, then, the hero Aegyptius began to address,
Who was bent with old age and knew countless things.
And furthermore, his beloved son with godlike Odysseus
Went to foal-rich Ilios in a hollow ship:
The spearman, Antiphus; but the savage Cyclops killed him
In a deep cave, and he was made the beast’s last supper.
He had three others, one who consorted with the suitors,
Eurynomus, and two ever had charge of their ancestral toils;
But even so he did not forget the one, grieving and sorrowing.
Shedding tears for him, he sat in assembly and spoke among them:
“Hear me now, men of Ithaca, that I may speak:
Not once has there been an assembly or a council
Since noble Odysseus went in his hollow ship.
Who now gathers us here? To whom has such need come,
Whether of young men or to those who are earlier-born?
Has he heard some message of an approaching army,
Which he might clearly tell us, as soon as he learned of it?
Or does he disclose or declare some other public concern?
He seems noble to me, advantageous. For the man himself, may
Zeus accomplish whatever good he should set his mind to design.”

Thus he spoke and the beloved son of Odysseus rejoiced in his speech,
And he did not sit any longer; he was eager to address them.
He stood in the middle of the agora; and the herald Peisenor
Put the staff in his hand, knowing that his schemes were astute.
Then he spoke to the old man first, addressing him:
“Old man, this man is not far off, you will soon know,
It is I who gathered the host; and grief comes often to me.
But I have not heard any message of an approaching army,
Which I would clearly tell you, as soon as I learned of it,
Nor do I disclose any other public concern, and announce it,
But I there is a debt of my own, an evil which has fallen upon my house,
Twofold: one, that my noble father has perished, who once among you
Here was king, and he was like a kind father;
And now in turn, and greater by far, that soon my entire house
Will be completely shattered, my livelihood thoroughly destroyed.
Suitors assail my mother, though she does not wish it,
The very sons of men who are nobles in this place,
Who have shrunk away from going to the house of her father,
Icarius, so that he himself might dower his daughter,
And give her to whom he might wish and comes to him favoured.
But rather, coming to our household every day,
Sacrificing cattle, and sheep, and fatted goats,
They revel in great company and drink fiery wine
Recklessly; much is wasted. For there is no man in charge
Of the sort Odysseus was, to fend curse off from the house.
We are not at all the sort to fend them off; and then surely
We will be wretched, and inexperienced in might.
Certainly I would defend myself, if the might were with me;
For deeds no longer endurable have been wrought, and no longer nobly
Is my house brought to naught. And you yourselves: feel some righteous anger!
And have some respect for other people dwelling around you,
Who inhabit your neighborhood; and shrink from the wrath of the gods,
Lest, feeling anger at the wicked deeds, they turn to punishment.
I pray both by Olympian Zeus and by Themis,
Who both dissolves and convenes the assemblies of men;
Hold off, my friends, and permit me, alone and by painful sorrow,
To be worn away. Unless somehow, in some way, my noble father Odysseus
Bearing ill-will did the well-greaved Achaeans harm,
For which, to take revenge, bearing ill-will, you do me harm
By spurring on these men. Indeed it would be more profitable to me
Were you to consume my stores of wealth and cattle.
If you were to eat it, there would also someday soon be payback.
For I would repeat my claim throughout the town,
Demanding back our wealth, until it was all repaid.
But as it is you cast unprofitable pains upon my spirit.”

Thus he spoke, angered, and he cast the staff to the earth,
Letting tears burst forth, and compassion seized the entire host.
Thereafter all others were silent, no one dared
To answer Telemachus with bitter words;
Antinous alone, answered him, saying:
“Telemachus, braggart, unrestrained brute, how you speak,
Shaming us, perhaps you wish to lay blame.
But as for you, the Achaean suitors are not in any way culpable,
But rather your beloved mother is, who knows well the cunning arts.
For already it is the third year, and soon to be the fourth,
In which she maltreats the heart in the breasts of Achaean men.
She feeds the hopes of all, and promises each man,
Sending out tidings; but her thoughts eagerly desire something else.
Here is another trick she devises in her mind:
Having set up a great loom in the hall, she weaves,
Delicate and very large; and straightaway she speaks among us:

‘Boys, my suitors, since good Odysseus died,
Tarry from urging on my wedding until I finish
A length of cloth, lest my work be destroyed, woven in vain,
For the burial of the hero, Laertes, for when
The deletorious lot of death, bringing long sorrow, should put him down,
So that no one  throughout the public of Achaean lands may resent me,
Should he lie without a shroud, though he won much.’

“Thus she spoke, and our heroic spirit complied.
Thereupon during the day she weaved on the great loom,
But at night she unwove it, with a torch set beside her.
Thus for three years she escaped notice by trickery, and persuaded the Achaeans;
But when the fourth year came and the seasons came on,
Then indeed one of the women spoke, who knew with certainty,
And we discovered her undoing the work on the splendid loom.
Thus she finished it under compulsion, though she was not willing.
This is how the suitors answer you, so that you may know
Yourself, in your own heart, and all the Achaeans may know.
So send away your mother, and order her to be married
To whomever her father bids and is pleasing to her.
And if she much longer yet grieves the sons of Achaean men,
Understanding the things in her heart that Athene granted her in abundance,
To have expertise in very beautiful works and the noble faculties,
And the cunning arts, of a sort we have not anywhere heard of, not even of the ancients,
Of those who were formerly the fair-haired Achaeans,
Tyro, and Alcmene and also well-crowned Mycene;
Not one of whom had perception alike to Penelope;
But she did not perceive that this, at least, was ominous.—
For, really, so long as they consume your livelihood and wealth,
That’s how long she keeps this intent, this which presently
The gods have placed in her breast; for herself, she creates a great
Reputation, but for you, a want of much of your livelihood.
And we shall not in any way go to our former toils,
At least not until she is married to whomever of the Achaeans she might wish.”

And in turn astute Telemachus addressed him in reply:
“Antinous, it is not in any way permitted to drive out unwilling from her home
She who gave birth, who raised me, and my father is on strange soils,
Whether he lives or he is dead; it would be a misfortune for me to repay so much
To Icarius, if I were willingly to send my mother away.
For I would suffer misfortunes at the hands of her father, and others that the divinities
Will grant, since my mother will invoke the loathsome Erinys,1
If she leaves her house; and the righteous anger of mankind
Will be mine. Thus I shall not ever say this thing.
If, then, your own hearts are righteously angered,
Then depart from my halls, prepare other feasts,
Consuming your own wealth, alternating between each of your houses.
But if it seems to you to be better and more agreeable,
That you destroy the livelihood of a single man, without compensation,
Then lay waste; and I shall call upon the gods, the eternal beings,
And may Zeus, wherever he is, grant that works be done in requital;
Since, unavenged, you would destroy my home from within.”

1. For more on the Erinys, read my translation of Aeschylus’ Eumenides! ( http://metaphrastes.wordpress.com/category/aeschylus-eumenides/ )

Thus spoke Telemachus, and to him thundering Zeus sent forth
Two eagles to fly from the lofty heights of his mountain summit.
And for a time they flew with blasts of wind,
Close to each other, stretching their wings;
But then they reached the middle of the many-voiced agora,
Thereupon they wheeled about, flapping their fast-beating wings,
They looked down on the heads of all, and they saw destruction in their eyes,
Tearing with their claws about the cheek and throat
They shot out the right-hand side, through their home and city.
The men were astonished by the birds when their eyes looked upon them;
They anxiously pondered in their hearts just what they intended to accomplish.
And the aged hero spoke among these men, Halitherses
Son of Mastor. For he alone surpassed his generation
In understanding birds of omen and explaining what was fitting;
Since he had a good understanding, he spoke among them and addressed the assembly:

“Hear me now, men of Ithaca, so that I may speak:
And I speak particularly to the suitors, to explain these things.
For a great disaster is rolling toward them; for Odysseus shall not
For long be far off from his loved ones, but is doubtless already
Near and for these men he begets slaughter and doom,
For them all; and for many others there will be misfortune,
We who inhabit far-seen Ithaca. But long before that
Let us ponder how we may put a stop to this; and these men here,
Let them cease; for this too is very much more agreeable to them.
For I do not prophesy inexperienced, but rather understanding quite well;
Yes indeed, I say that everything came to pass for that man,
Just as I was saying, when the Argives to Ilios
Embarked, and with them went Odysseus, he of many counsels.
I said that after he suffered many misfortunes, and all his companions perished,
That unknown to all, on the twentieth anniversary
He would come homeward; and indeed these things are now accomplished.”

In turn, Eurymachus, child of Polybus, spoke against him:
“Old man, come now and prophesy for your own young
When you go home, lest they somehow suffer some misfortune in the future;
These things, I am much better than you to prophesy.
Many birds beneath the rays of the sun
Come and go, and they are not all ominous; and Odysseus
Has perished far away, as with him you too ought
To waste away; then you would not harangue us so much with your prophesy,
Nor would you permit Telemachus to be enraged in this way,
In expectation of a gift for your house, which he would furnish.
But I shall speak out to you, and it will be accomplished;
Since you’ve seen many things long past, if you stir up
The younger man, coaxing him with arguments to be severe,
It will be more grievous, first of all, the man himself,
And, in any case, he will not be able to do anything for the sake of these things;
And as for you, old man, we shall impose a penalty, paying which
Would grieve your heart; it will be grievous and painful.
And I myself shall put it before him among everyone:
Let him advise his mother to depart to her father’s;
And they shall prepare a wedding and make ready wedding gifts,
A great many, as many as befitting to accompany one’s own child.
For until then I do not think that the sons of the Achaeans shall cease
From their troublesome courtship, since we do not fear anything in any case,
And especially not Telemachus, although he is very well spoken of,
Nor shall we heed prophecy, old man, that which you
mouth is futile, and you are hated even more.
Your wealth, in turn, will have been wickedly devoured, nor shall it ever
Be equaled, so long as she thwarts the Achaeans
Their wedding; And we in turn, in expectation every day,
Compete for the sake of her virtue, and after no other woman
Do we go, whom it is suitable for each man to marry.”

And Telemachus in turn addressed him in reply:
“Eurymachus and others, too, as many illustrious suitors as there are,
I no longer entreat you for these things, nor do I address you;
For the gods already know these things, and so do all the Achaeans.
But come, give me a swift ship and twenty companions,
Who would make a journey with me, hither and thither.
For I will go to Sparta and to sandy Pylos,
Enquiring after the homecoming of my long-departed father,
Whether someone of mortals tells me, or I hear a rumour
From Zeus, which often brings news to mankind.
If, then, I hear of the life and homecoming of my Father,
Though I may weary, I shall endure for a year;
But if I hear that he has died and he is no more,
After I come home to the beloved soil of my homeland
I shall construct a burial mound for his body, and bury him with due honours, with funeral gifts,
A great many, as many as is befitting, and I shall give my mother to a husband.”

And so you see, having spoken thus he sat right down, and among them stood
Mentor, who had been a companion of blameless Odysseus,
And to him, when he went in his ship, he entrusted the entire house,
To be obedient to the old man and steadfastedly to guard everything;
And he spoke among them and addressed them with good sense:
“Hear me now, men of Ithaca, so that I may speak;
Let no longer any gracious, kind, and gentle man be
The sceptered king, nor one knowing in his mind what is meet with the gods,
But rather may he ever be grievous and do what is ungodly,
Since no one remembers saintly Odysseus,
Not one of the peoples over whom he ruled, like a gentle father.
But I certainly do not in any way begrudge the arrogant suitors
To do violent deeds by the ill contrivances of their minds;
For having risked their own heads, they violently consumed
The house of Odysseus, whom they say is no longer to come home.
But presently I am indignant at another group, how you all
Sit silently, not in any way accosting them with words,
Do you restrain the suitors, small in numbers, though you are many.”

And the son of Euenor, Leocritus, addressed him in reply:
“Mentor troublemaker, crazy-hearted, how you speak
To us, urging us to desist. It is vexsome
To fight against men, and a greater number, about a feast.
For if indeed Odysseus himself, coming to Ithaca,
Eagerly desires in his heart to drive out from his halls
The illustrious suitors, feasting throughout his home,
His wife would not rejoice, though craving dearly
For him to come, but shamefully, he would meet his fate,
Should he do battle with so many men; but you do not speak by what is right.
But come, the people should disperse, each to his toils,
And for him, Mentor and Halitherses will urge on the journey,
Who, from the beginning, were companions of his father.
Otherwise, I think, by sitting so long he will learn
Of tidings in Ithaca, and he will never complete this journey.”

Thus he gave utterance, and they dissolved the assembly in haste.
And they dispersed, each to their own homes,
And the suitors went to the house of noble Odysseus.

And Telemachus, going off a ways to the shore of the sea,
And washing his hands in the salty grey, he prayed to Athene:
“Hear me, god who yesterday came to my house
And you bid me in a ship upon the cloudy sea,
For inquiry after the homecoming of my long departed father,
To go. The Achaeans waste everything,
The suitors most of all, being wickedly overbearing.”

Thus he spoke, praying, and Athene came to him from nearby,
Seeming like Mentor both in form and voice,
And speaking to him, she addressed him with winged words:
“Telemachus, hereafter you shall neither be weak nor ignorant;
If indeed the noble passion of your father has been instilled in you,
That man who was able to accomplish both word and deed,
For you, then, neither fruitless shall the journey be, nor unaccomplished.
But if you are not the issue of that man and Penelope,
Then I have no cause to hope that you will accomplish what you eagerly desire.
For few children become like their father,
Most are worse, few are braver than the father.
But since you will hereafter be neither ignorant nor weak,
And the cunning of Odysseus has not abandoned you, at least not altogether,
There is certainly hope, then, that you will accomplish these deeds.
For now, therefore, permit the plan and intent of the suitors,
Insensate men, although they are not in any way thoughtful nor righteous.
Nor do they in any way understand death and black doom,
Though it draws near to them to be destroyed, all on the same day.
The path you so eagerly desire is no longer long away;
Such a hereditary companion am I for you,
Who will rig a swift ship for you and will follow you myself.
But go now to your home and consort with the suitors,
Make provisions, and give everyone drink with vessels,
Wine in amphorae and barley, the marrow of men,
In watertight skins; and I from throughout your house shall gather
Companions, volunteers. There are ships,
Many of them, in sea-girt Ithaca, both new ones and old;
Of those I shall inspect for you which one is best,
Swiftly preparing, we shall plunge into the vast sea.”

Thus spoke Athenaia, daughter of Zeus; nor any longer did
Telemachus tarry, when he heard the voice of the god.
He got up and went to his house, sorrowing in his very heart,
And he found the suitors in his halls
Skinning goats and singeing fat hogs in the courtyard.
And Antinous came straightaway, making mockery of Telemachus;
He put a hand in his, and spoke a word, and called him out by name:
“Telemachus, braggart, unrestrained brute, let not any other
Evil be cared for in your heart, neither word nor deed,
But rather more to eating and drinking, like it was before.
The Achaeans will bring to pass all these things especially,
A ship and chosen rowers, so that you may quickly reach
Most holy Pylos after report of your illustrious father.”

And in turn astute Telemachus addressed him in reply:
“Antinous, it is not in any way possible among you arrogant men
For me to be feasted silently and to make merry at my ease.
Is it not enough that you formerly ravaged my possessions,
Abundant and good, and I was yet an infant?
And now when I am mighty, and listening to the words of other men,
I am learning, and indeed my spirit increases within me,
I will endeavour that I might cast you to terrible doom,
Whether after I have gone to Pylos, or here among my own people,
I shall go—and the journey which I propose will not be fruitless—
As a passenger; for in possession of neither a ship nor rowers
Am I; thus, then, this somehow seemed to be more profitable for you.”

So he was, and he pulled his hand from the hand of Antinous,
Easily; and the suitors throughout the house toiled at the feast.
And they mocked and taunted him with words;
Thus did one of the overbearing young men say:
“Telemachus much mulls over our slaughter, doesn’t he!
Maybe he will bring some defenders from sandy Pylos,
Or even from Sparta, since he is so terribly eager;
Or perhaps he wishes to Ephyra, with its fertile fields,
To go, so that he might inject some life-destroying drug,
Put it in our cups and kill us all.”

And in turn another of the arrogant young men spoke:
“Does anyone know if he himself, also going by hollow ship,
Will perish far from his family while wandering, just like Odysseus?
For he would thus be especially indebted to us for toil;
For we would divide up all his goods amongst ourselves, and his house in turn
We would give to his mother to have and whoever might marry her.”

Thus they spoke; and he went down to his father’s high-ceilinged room,
A large room, where heaped up  gold and copper lay,
And clothing in coffers, and fragrant olive oil in abundance.
And in large jugs of aged, sweet-tasting wine,
They stood, holding the divine, unmixed drink within,
All in a row against the wall, closely packed, if ever Odysseus
Returned homeward, though he suffered many hardships.
Closeable planks sat upon them, stoutly-fitted,
Double-folding; a woman, a housekeeper day and night
Was there, who guarded all of it with great keen-ness of mind,
Eurycleia, daughter of Ops, son of Peisenor.
To her, then, Telemachus spoke, after he summoned her to the room:

“Old mother, come, draw me wine into amphorae,
The sweet one, which is the most pleasant to taste after that which you guard,
You, thinking about that ill-fated man, whether he might come from somewhere,
Odysseus, sprung from Zeus, having avoided death and doom.
Fill up twelve and fasten them all with lids.
Pour barley for me into well-stitched leather sacks;
Let there be twenty measures of mill-ground corn barley.
Let you alone know of this; let everything be prepared in a pile.
In the evening I will take it, whenever
Mother goes to the upper rooms, with her mind on her bed.
For I am going to Sparta and to sandy Pylos
To learn of the homecoming of my beloved father, if I can somehow hear of it.”

Thus he spoke, and his beloved nurse Eurycleia wailed,
And lamenting she spoke winged words:
“Why oh why, my dear child, has this thought in your head
Come to be? Why do you wish to go to a distant soil
When you are an only child, and loved? Odysseus, sprung from Zeus,
Has perished far from his homeland, in an unknown country.
And the men, when you go, will contrive misfortunes for you hereafter,
So that you may decline by their treachery, and they may divide all this amongst themselves.
Instead, seated here in your own hall: there is no need for you
To suffer misfortunes on the barren sea, nor to roam.”

Astute Telemachus in turn addressed her in reply:
“Have courage, old mother, since I am not without god or at least counsel.
But swear that you will not recount this to my beloved mother,
At least not until the eleventh or twelfth day has passed,
Or she herself yearns for me and hears from me after I have gone,
So that she may not spoil her lovely skin by weeping.”

Thus he spoke, and the old woman swore the great oath of the gods.
And after she swore and completed the oath,
Immediately thereafter, she drew wine into amphorae,
And she poured barley into well-stitched leather sacks.
And going to his house, Telemachus consorted with the suitors.

Thereupon the goddess, shining-eyed Athene, conceived another plan:
She looked like Telemachus and she went through the entire city,
And standing beside each man, she said a word,
She bid them to come together that evening on a swift ship.
And furthermore, she asked Noemon, the resplendent son of Phronius,
For the swift ship; he eagerly acquiesced.

The sun sank and the all the streets darkened;
And she drew the swift ship seaward at that time, and into it she placed
All the weapons which well-oared ships always carried.
She put it at the furthest reach of the harbour, the excellent companions in a crowd
Gathered round; the goddess inspired each man.

Thereupon the goddess, shining-eyed Athene, conceived another plan:
She got up and went to the house of noble Odysseus;
There, upon the suitors, she poured out sweet sleep,
She smote the drinkers, striking out the goblets from their hands.
They stirred throughout the city to sleep, and no longer there
Sat still, since sleep fell upon their eyelids.
And shining-eyed Athene said to Telemachus,
After she summoned him from the well-situated hall,
Appearing like Mentor, in both form and voice:
“Telemachus, already well-greaved companions
Sit at the oars for you, awaiting your departure;
But let us go, and let us not put off the journey for long.”

Having spoken thus, Pallas Athene led
Swiftly; and he then went in the footsteps of the god.
And then he went down to the sea and upon the ship,
And he found there, on the beach, long-haired heads, companions.
And the sacred might of Telemachus spoke among them:
“Come, my friends, let us bring provisions, for already all
Are piled in my hall. And my mother has not learned in any way,
Nor any of the bondswoman, one alone has gotten word.”

Having spoken thus, he led and, truly, they followed with.
And bringing everything, in the well-decked ship
They laid it down, as the beloved son of Odysseus bid them.
Telemachus stepped on the ship, but Athene was first,
She sat down at the ship stern, and near her
Sat Telemachus. She loosed [the ties] from the stern,
And the rest, going aboard, sat at the rowing benches.
For them shining-eyed Athene sent a favourable, fair wind,
Strong-blowing Zephrus, sounding over the wine-dark sea.
And Telemachus ordered the companions, encouraging them
To fasten on their weapons, and they surely heard him encouraging them.
The pine-wood mast, from within the curved tie-beams,
Lifting it, they stood it up, and they tied it down with the forestays,
And they pulled the white sail with well-twisted ox-hide ropes.
Wind inflated the belly of the sail, and a wave around
The keel of the ship, heaving, resounded greatly as it moved;
It ran, making its path across the wave.
After they tied their weapons throughout the ship, swift and black,
They stood up mixing bowls filled with wine,
And they poured libations for the undying gods, everlasting,
But of them all, especially for the shining-eyed daughter of Zeus.
And all night long and also in the dawn, the ship ran through its course.

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Homer’s Odyssey Book IX: 82-115, 228-566


They arrive in the land of the Lotus-Eaters and three of Odysseus’ men taste the lotus.
There for nine days I am borne by destructive winds
Upon the fish-filled sea; and on the tenth we set foot on
The land of the Lotus-Eaters, who eat a food of flowers.
There we trod upon the land and drew water,
Quickly my companions took a meal beside the swift ships,
So then I sent out companions, going forth, to learn
What men there were in the land who ate bread,
Having chosen two men, and making a third follow with as herald.
They, going quickly, mingled with men, the Lotus-Eaters;
And they, the Lotus-Eater, did not, certainly, devise a destruction for our
Companions, but they gave to them some of the lotus to partake of.
And of those, any who might eat the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus,
No longer wished to report back, nor to return,
But rather they wanted there, with those men, the Lotus-Eaters,
To remain, munching on the lotus, and to forget their homecoming.
These men, I brought onto the ships by force, though they wept,
And once I hauled them into the hollow ships, I bound them under the benches.

Odysseus orders his men to sea again and they approach the land of the Cyclopes who are uncivilised creatures.
And I ordered the rest of my trusty companions
To embark on the swift ships,
Lest somehow any, eating of the lotus, should forget his homecoming.
And they quickly got on and sat on their rowing benches,
And sitting in their rows they beat the grey sea with their oars.
Thence we sailed though our hearts grieved.
And to the land of the Cyclopes, lawless, arrogant,
We arrived, they who trusted in the undying gods,
They neither planted plants by hand, nor did they plough,
But rather everything grew, unsown and unploughed,
Wheat and barley and vine, which yielded
Wine of fine grapes, and the rain of Zeus makes them grow.
To these neither assemblies nor laws give counsel,
But rather they dwell on the peaks of high mountains
In hollow caves, and each lays the law
For his children and wife, and they do not care for anyone else.

I skip some text here. Odysseus and his men enter the cave of Polyphemus, the Cyclops. They find food there, but his men are afraid and they try to persuade him that they should leave.

Odysseus refuses and they wait for the monster to return with his sheep and goats. He closes the entrance with a mighty rock.
But I was not persuaded (though that would have been much better)
So that I might see him and whether he would give me guest-gifts.
But he was not destined, when he appeared, to be pleasant to my companions.
Thereupon, after we kindled a fire, we made offerings and, ourselves
Taking some cheeses, we ate and remained within the cave,
Seated until he came back from pasturing; he bore a heavy weight
Of dried wood, so that it would be there for his supper.
Throwing it within the cave, he put it down with a crash;
And we, fearing him, darted to the inner part of the cave.
And he drove his plump sheep into the wide cavern,
The whole lot, as many as he milked, and the males he left outside,
Both rams and goats, outside in the large open court.
And then, taking it up on high he set it in place a door-stone, great,
Mighty; this, at least, not two and twenty wagons,
Fine and four-wheeled, could heave up from the ground;
Such a towering stone did he put down in the doorway.
And sitting, he milked the ewes and bleating goats,
All of them in turn, and beneath each he placed her young.
Immediately, after he curdled half of the white milk,
Collecting it in a woven basket, he set it down,
And the other half he put in vessels so that it would be there for him
When he took it to drink and it would be there for his supper.

The monster catches sight of Odysseus and his men and in a frightful voice asks them who they are. Odysseus replies and they present themselves as suppliants under the protection of Zeus.
And then he hastened to toil at his works,
And when he lit a fire and saw, he asked us:
“Guests! Who are you? From what watery ways did you sail?
Do you wander for some trade or at random,
As pirates do, over the brine, who wander
Hazarding their lives, bringing harm to foreigners?”
Thus he spoke, and our very spirit was broken,
Since we feared his voice, deep, and him, monstrous.
But even so, replying with words, I addressed him:
“We are Achaeans, who have been driven off course from Troy
By winds of all kinds over the great deep of the sea,
Eager to be homeward, by another way, on other paths
We have come; thus, I suppose, as Zeus wished to devise.
We boast to be the warriors of Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
Whose fame, now at least, is the greatest under heaven;
For he laid waste to a city so great and destroyed many
Armies; we, however, having arrived do come
To your knees, in hope you might offer any hospitality, or even in some other way
You might give a gift, which is the due of guests.
Come, Sir, respect the gods; we are your suppliants.
And Zeus, the avenger of suppliants and guests,
The stranger’s god, who accompanies guests along, those worthy of respect.”

The Cyclops is contemptuous and asks them where their ship lies. Odysseus is evasive.
Thus did I speak, and he replied immediately, with a pitiless heart:
“You are foolish, stranger,1 surely, although you have come from afar,
Who has commanded me to fear and to flee the gods;
For the Cyclopes pay no heed to aegis-bearing Zeus,
Nor to the blessed gods, since we are surely much stronger.
And not even to escape the wrath of Zeus would I spare
You or your companions, unless my heart bade me so.
But tell me: where did you keep your well-wrought ship when you came?
Is it somewhere on the far end, or nearby? I wish to know.”

Thus he spoke, testing me, and since I know much, it did not escape my notice,
But I addressed him in return with cunning words:
“Poseidon earth-shaker has shattered my ship,
Throwing it against the rocks at the far end of your land,
Driving us against the headland; and a wind from the sea bore us;
But I, with these men, escaped sheer destruction.”

1. It’s worth pointing out, as I have elsewhere on the blog, that the word I translated here as stranger is the Greek, ξένος, which is a pretty loaded word in ancient Greek, meaning also guest, host, and sometimes friend. In Hellenistic Greek it later came to mean foreigner. It conveys the expectation of hospitality that was due to guests, and there were many customs and taboos surrounding the treatment of guests in one’s home. I translated it as guest above (referring to Zeus, the avenger of guests, and to the hospitality due to guests), but here, since the Cyclops has been and will continue to be contemptuous of the hospitality due to guests, I felt stranger was the better translation, but that translation does lose the irony implicit in the original.

The Cyclops callously slaughters two of Odysseus’ men and eats them; Odysseus wonders what to do.
Thus I spoke, and he made no reply to me in his pitiless heart,
But leaping up, to my companions he stretched his hands out,
And snatching two up, like puppies, against the ground
He dashed them; their brains flowed out on the ground, they soaked the earth.
And cutting limb up from limb, he prepared them for dinner.
And he ate them like a mountain-bred lion, and he left out nothing,
Not entrails nor flesh nor marrow-filled bones.
And we, weeping, stretched our hands out to Zeus,
To look upon the wretched deeds; helpless desperation clutched our hearts.
And after the Cyclops filled his great belly,
Eating human flesh and then drinking fresh milk,
He laid down, stretching out in the cave amidst his flock.
And I, reflecting in accordance with my great-hearted spirit,
Going nearer, drawing my sharp sword from my side,
To wound at the chest, where the midriff holds the liver,
Feeling about with my hand; but another thought stayed me.
For by this we too would be destroyed a sheer destruction;
For we would not be able to push away the mighty stone
From the lofty doorway with our hands, which he put there.
Thus we lamented there until dawn.

Next day the Cyclops kills and eats two more men. Odysseus makes a plan; he prepares a great stake, hides it and chooses four men to help him.
When the child of morn appeared, rosy-fingered dawn,
He lit a fire and milked his notable flock,
All of them in turn, and he placed the young under each.
And then he hastened to toil at his tasks,
And snatching two more men up, he made a meal.
And once he ate, he drove out his plump sheep from the cave,
Easily removing the mighty door-stop; and then
He put it back, as if putting the lid on a quiver.
With many whistles, the Cyclops turned his plump sheep toward
The mountain; and I was left brooding over my misfortunes,
If I might somehow take vengeance, should Athene grant my prayer.
And then, in accordance with my desire, the most excellent plan became clear.
For the Cyclops had a mighty club at the sheep pen,
Of green olive-wood; this he had cut down so that it might be carried
Once it was seasoned. Seeing it we reckoned it
As large as the mast of a twenty-oared black ship,
A wide merchant-ship, which crosses the great deep;
Thus was its length, thus its thickness to behold.
And I, standing beside it, cut off as much as an arm-span,
And I put it beside my companions, and bid them to harden it in fire;
And they made it smooth, while I, standing beside them, sharpened it
At the other end, and taking it at once they hardened it in the blazing fire.
And I put it well away, hiding it under dung.
Which, indeed, much was abundantly spread out throughout the cave;
And I ordered the others to shake the lots for a lottery,
Any who might be so bold as to lift the stake with me
To grind into his eye when sweet sleep came
And they chose by lot those I would have wished myself to choose,
Four, and with them I was reckoned a fifth.

The Cyclops returns in the evening and kills two more men. Odysseus offers him some wine.
In the evening he came herding his fine-wooled sheep;
He drove his fat sheep straight into the deep cave,
The whole lot, and he did not leave any outside in the high-walled courtyard,
Either suspecting something, or indeed a god ordered thus.
And then he lifted high the mighty door-stop and put it down,
And sitting, he milked the ewes and bleating goats,
All of them in turn, and he put the young under each.
And then indeed he hastened to toil at his tasks,
And snatching two more men up, he prepared his dinner.
And then I, standing near, addressed the Cyclops,
Holding in my hands a wooden bowl of black wine.
“Cyclops, take this, drink the wine, after you eat human meat,
So that you may know what sort of drink our ship
Contained; and for you I bring a drink-offering besides, in hope that pitying me,
You might send us homeward; and you are maddened, no longer bearably.
Cruel man, how might any other visit you in the future,
Of the many men, since you did not act with propriety?”

The Cyclops likes the wine, drinks more and asks Odysseus his name. Odysseus says his name is Noman.
Thus I spoke, and he took and drank up; and he was terribly pleased
Drinking the sweet drink, and he asked me again a second time:
“Give me more and be generous, and tell me your name
Right now, so that I may give you a hospitality gift, for which you will be thankful.
For to the Cyclopes fruitful ploughland yields
Wine of fine grapes, and the rain of Zeus makes them grow;
But this is kin to the ambrosia and nectar of the gods.

Thus he spoke; and in return I gave him fiery wine;
Thrice bringing it I gave, thrice he drank up in his foolishness.
And when the wine had gone to the Cyclops’ head,
Then I addressed him with soothing words:
“Cyclops, do you ask my renowned name? Well, I shall
Tell you; and you, give me a guest-gift, just as you promised.
My name is nobody; they call me nobody,
My mother and father and others, all my companions,”

Thus I spoke, and he immediately replied with a pitiless heart:
“I shall eat nobody last among his companions,
And the others before; this will be my guest-gift for you.”

The Cyclops falls into a sordid, drunken sleep. Odysseus and his men prepare the stake.
And he sank down and fell on his back, and then
He laid with his thick neck twisted round. Sleep took him
Down, tamer of all; wine was surged forth out of his throat,
And human scraps; and he belched, heavy with wine.
And then I drove the stake under a bunch of coals
Until it grew hot; and with words I encouraged
All the companions, lest fearing a little, someone draw back.
But then the stake of olive wood in the fire was just on the point
Of catching flame, although it was green, and it glowed bright,
And then I brought it nearer out of the fire, and companions on both sides
Stood; and a divinity breathed great courage into us.

They drive it into the Cyclops’ eye. He is mad with pain and calls to the neighbouring Cyclopes.
And they, taking the stake of olive-wood, sharp at the point,
Into his eye they pushed it; and I, pressing down from above,
Twisted it, like when a man drills a hole into a ship timber
With a drill, and they get it going at the lower end with a leather strap,
Clasping it on both sides, and it runs non-stop in place;
Thus holding the stake, pointed in the fire, into his eye
We twisted it, and his hot blood flowed around it there.
The heat singed all around the eye-lid and eye-brow
Of his burning eyeball; the roots crackled with fire.
Like when a bronze-smith baptizes a mighty axe or adze
In cold water, it makes a huge noise,
To temper it; for this, contrarily, is the strength of the iron;
Thus his eye sizzled around the olive-wood stake.
He groaned great and terribly, and all around the stone cried out,
And becoming frightened we ran away; he pulled out
The stake from his eye splattered with much of his blood.
And then he hurled it from him with his hands, distraught,
And he called out to the mighty Cyclopes, who all around him
Dwelled in caves throughout the windswept peaks.

The Cyclopes ask Polyphemus what is wrong but Odysseus’ trick name ensures they do not come to help.
And those who heard his cry were going to and fro, from one place and another,
Standing around the cave they asked what troubled him;
“Why ever, Polyphemus, do you cry out so distressed
During the ambrosial night, and thus make us sleepless?
Surely some mortal is not driving away your flock against your will?
Surely no one is killing you by trickery or violence?”
And mighty Polyphemus addressed in reply them from the cave:
“My friends, nobody is killing me with trickery and violence.”
And replying, they spoke winged words:
“If indeed nobody is assaulting you, since you are alone,
It is in no way possible to avoid a disease from mighty Zeus,
But pray, at least, to our father, lord Poseidon.”
Thus speaking they departed, and my dear heart laughed,
Thus my name and excellent cunning deceived him.

The Cyclops hopes to catch Odysseus and his men as they leave the cave. Odysseus has a plan for escaping.
The Cyclops, lamenting and in agonizing pain,
Groping with his hands, lifted the stone away from the doorway,
He was lying in the doorway, both hands spread out,
In case he might somehow catch anyone making for the door with his sheep;
For somehow in his mind he expected me to be so simplistic.
But I made a plan so that things would turn out for the very best,
In hope that for my companions a release from death, and for myself
I might discover; I devised every trick and scheme,
Being a matter of life and death; for great misfortune hung near.
And in accordance with my desire, a most excellent plan became clear.
The best sheep were well-fed, thick fleeced,
Big and handsome, with cloudy-violet1 wool;
Silently, I tied them together with well-twisted willow twigs,
Upon which slept the monstrous Cyclops, versed in lawlessness,
I took hold of three together; and it carried a man in the middle,
And the two others went on each side, keeping my companions safe.
Three sheep each carried a man; and I too,
For there was a ram, by far the best of all the flock,
Taking hold of it along the back, curled up beneath its shaggy belly
I lay; and with my hands the wondrous fleece,
Having turned my back, I held fast without cease, my heart steadfast.
Thus lamenting we remained until dawn.

1. The word for cloudy-violet is ἰοδνεφής (iodnephes), from ἴον, violet and νέφος, cloud. Colour is an interesting subject in Homer, and ancient Greek in general. Just Google “colour in homer” and see! Homer seems to have a very limited range of colours. It is worth pointing out, of course, that colour very often has metaphorical meanings unrelated to appearance. Green, for example, often stands in for new or fresh in Greek just as it does in English. Thus in Euripides’ Hecuba, young Polyxena’s blood is called green when she is sacrificed. Consider that you might call someone blue if they’re sad, or yellow if they’re cowardly. The same is almost certainly true in this case. Violet may impart a sense of softness or scent, or have connotations that have since been lost.

The sheep go out to graze with Odysseus’ men tied under them. He himself is beneath a large ram of which Polyphemus is very fond.
When the child of morn appeared, rosy-fingered Dawn,
And then when the male sheep ran out pasture-ward,
The females bleated, un-milked, around the pen;
For their udders were bursting. Their master, though weakened
By terrible agony, patted the backs of every ewe,
That stood upright; but the simpleton did not notice,
How they were bound to the breast, beneath the thick-fleeced sheep.
The last ram of the flock made its way to the door,
Loaded with wool and shrewd-thinking me.
And reaching for it, mighty Polyphemus spoke:

“Dear ram tell me, why do you run through the cave last
Of the flock? You did not previously go after the ewes left you behind,
But you were first by far to graze on the tender petals of the pasture,
With your long strides, you were first to arrive to the stream of the rivers,
You were first to desire to return to the homestead
In the evening; but now, contrariwise, last of all. Surely you, at least, feel pity
For your master’s eye, whom a wicked man blinded
With his baneful companions after he overwhelmed my senses with wine,
This Nobody, whom I do not yet say to have escaped destruction.
Would that you could think as I do and were capable of speech
To tell me in what way that man flees from my might;
Whose brain would then be throughout the cave, all over the place,
Splattered from being struck against the ground, and my heart would be eased
Of the troubles which that good-for-nothing Nobody gave to me.”

The escape is successful and they return to the ships. When they are at sea, Odysseus taunts Polyphemus.
Having thus spoken to the ram, he sent it away from him to the door.
And when they had gone a little way from the cave and the courtyard
I untied myself from beneath the ram, and I untied my companions.
And nimbly the long-striding sheep, plump with fat,
Rounding up many, we drove them, until we arrived
At the ship. We were a welcome sight to my beloved companions,
Those of us who escaped death; but weeping, we lamented the others.
But I did not permit it, I shook my head to each brow
That would cry; but rather I ordered them that the fine-wooled sheep
Once they had thrown many on the ship, to sail upon the briny water.
And they quickly embarked and sat in their rowing benches;
Sitting in their rows they beat the grey sea with their oars,
But once we were away as far as one could call out by shouting,
Only then did I address the Cyclops with mockery
“Cyclops, you were not about to eat the companions of
Some feeble man in your hollow cave by force and violence.
And your wicked deeds were very soon to catch up with you,
You brute, since you were not ashamed to eat guests
In your home; for this, Zeus and the other gods shall take vengeance on you.”

Polyphemus hurls a great rock which nearly drives them ashore again. Odysseus’ men beg him not to provoke Polyphemus.
Thus I spoke, and he was then much angered in his heart;
He went and broke off the peak of a mighty mountain,
And he hurled it in front of the dark-prowed ship,
Just a little, and it missed reaching the tip of the rudder.
The sea was churned by the descending rock;
And a wave carried the ship, rushing back landward,
A swell from the ocean, it forced us to approach dry land.
And I, taking a very long pole in my hands,
Pushed us outward; riled up, I ordered my companions
To throw themselves on the oars, so that we might escape away from disaster,
I gave a nod of my head; falling forward, they rowed.
But once we had gone away, traversing twice as much of the sea,
I once again addressed the Cyclops; my companions around me
Tried to Restrain me from all sides with soothing words:

“Rash man, why ever did you wish to provoke the savage man?
Who even now, by throwing a missile, brought the seaward ship
Back toward land, and we really thought we were dead.
If he had heard someone crying out or giving voice,
He would have dashed our heads and the ship timers,
Striking them with a jagged rock; so great does he throw.”

Odysseus takes no notice and shouts back his true identity. Polyphemus recalls a prophecy and prays to Poseidon.
Thus they spoke, but they did not persuade my great-hearted spirit,
But I addressed him in return with a spiteful heart:
“Cyclops, if anyone of mortal men
Ever inquires after the disfiguring blinding of your eye,
Tell them, Odysseus blinded me, city-sacker,
Son of Laertes, who has his house in Ithaca.”

Thus I spoke, and groaning he replied to me with this speech:
“Oh woe, indeed! A divine decree spoken long ago comes back to me now.
There was a certain prophet here, a man good and great,
Telemos son of Eurymos, who excelled in prophecy
And he grow old, prophesying among the Cyclopes;
He told me everything I would accomplish hereafter,
That I would lose my sight at the hands of Odysseus.
But I always expected some noble and mighty man
To come here, arrayed in wondrous might;
But as it is one who is small, and good-for-nothing, and feeble
Blinded me of my eye, after he overcame me with wine.
But come here, Odysseus, so that I might place a guest gift beside you,
I will urge the renowned earth-shaker to give you safe passage;
For I am his son and he boasts to be my father.
And he, if he wishes it, will heal me, and not anyone else,
Neither of the blessed gods nor of mortal men.”

Thus he spoke and replying I said to him:
“Would that I had the power, after I’ve deprived you
Of your life and spirit, to send you into the house of Hades,
As surely as not even the earth-shaker will heal your eye.”

Thus I spoke, and he then to lord Poseidon
Did pray, reaching out his hands to the starry sky:
“Hear me, dark-haired Poseidon, earth-embracer:
At least if I am really your son, and you boast to be my father,
Grant me that Odysseus, city-sacker, not arrive homeward,
That son of Laertes, who has his house on Ithaca.
But if the fates are favourable for him to look upon and reach
His well-established house and to his ancestral soil,
May he come terribly late, after all his companions have perished,
On a foreign ship, and may he find his house amidst troubles.”

Polyphemus hurls another rock but Odysseus reaches the island and has a joyful reunion with the rest of his companions.
Thus he spoke, praying, and the dark-haired one heard him.
And lifting up a much greater rock
And swinging ‘round, he applied an immeasurable strength,
And hurled it behind the dark-prowed ship,
Just a little, and it missed reaching the tip of the rudder.
The sea was churned by the descending rock;
A wave carried us forward, it forced us to approach dry land.
But when we reached the island, right there the other
Well-benched ships waited all assembled, companions all around
Sat, weeping, ever waiting for us,
And going to that place we beached our ship on the sand,
And from there we ourselves went to the breakers of the sea.
Bringing the sheep of the Cyclops from the hollow ship,
We divvied them up, so that no one might depart cheated of his equal share.
And the well-greaved companions gave the best ram to me
Separately from the distributed sheep; that one upon the sandy shore
To Zeus, son of Cronus, dweller in the dark clouds, who rules over all,
Making sacrifice, I burned the thigh portions; but he did not take heed of the sacrifices,
But rather surely he pondered how all the well-benched ships
Might be destroyed, and my faithful companions, too.
As when all day long to the setting sun
We were seated feasting on meat in boundless quantity and sweet wine;
And when the sun sank and darkness came,
Only then did we fall asleep on the breakers of the sea.
And when child of morn appeared, rosy-fingered Dawn,
Only then after rousing my companions, did I order
Them to embark and to unloose the cables from the stern.
And quickly they went in and sat upon the rowing benches,
Sitting in their rows they beat the grey sea with their oars.

Thence we sailed onwards, grieving in our hearts,
Though glad to escape death, but for our beloved companions who perished.

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Homer’s Odyssey Book I

Telemachus and Mentes (Spoiler alert: it's Athene)

Telemachus and Mentes (Spoiler alert: it’s Athene)

Tell me of a man, o Muse, a resourceful man, who was very much
Driven about, after he sacked the sacred city of Troy;
Of many men, he saw their city and knew their mind,
And he, at least, suffered upon the sea many pains against his heart,
Striving for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.
But he did not thus safeguard his companions, although he was eager;
For they by their own recklessness destroyed themselves,
Foolish men, who upon the cattle of Helios on High
Did feed; and he took from them their day of homecoming.
Of these things, from some point, goddess daughter of Zeus, tell us as well.

Thereupon all others, as many as fled the sheer destruction,
Were home, having escaped both war and sea,
And he alone, though he longed for both his homecoming and his wife,
A nymph, the lady Calypso detained him, worthiest of the goddesses,
In hollow caves, anxious for him to be her husband.
But when the year finally came, the annual cycles going round,
In which the gods spun the thread of his fate to proceed homeward
To Ithaca, though not even there was he freed of struggles,
And among those who were his friends. And all the gods pitied him
Apart from Poseidon; he continued to be enraged
At godlike Odysseus before he reached his own soil.
But now Poseidon quested after the far-off Ethiopians,
The Ethiopians, the furthest of men, who are divided in two,
Some at the setting of he on High, the others at his rising,
He left to accept a great sacrifice of bulls and rams.
Hither he was satiated, sitting beside the god’s portion; but the others
Were all together in the palace of Zeus Olympias.
To them the father of men and gods was beginning a speech;
He brought to mind, in accordance with his heart, blameless Aegisthus,
Whom, indeed, renowned Orestes Agamemnon-son killed;
Making mention of him, he addressed the undying;
“Look at this! To think that mortals cast blame on gods.
For they say that misfortunes are from us; but they also themselves
By their own recklessness bear hardships beyond their allotment,
Just as even now, Aegisthus, beyond his portion, married
The wedded wife of Atreides, whom he killed upon his return home,
Although aware of sheer destruction; since we told him in advance,
Sending Hermes, sharp-eyed Argus-slayer,
Neither to kill him nor to court his wife;
For there will be vengeance from Orestes of Atreides,
When he reaches manhood and longs for his land.
Thus spoke Hermes, but he did not the mind of Aegisthus
Persuade, though he counselled the good; and now he pays the whole price all at once.”

The goddess answered him then, shining-eyed Athene:
“Father mine, son of Cronus, highest of rulers,
Quite surely that man, at least, lies in befitting destruction;
Likewise may whoever else who does such things be destroyed.
But for me, my heart is divided in two for skilled Odysseus,
Ill-fated, who indeed has long suffered miseries away from his family
On a sea-girt island, where lies the navel of the sea.
A forested island, and on it the goddess inhabits her palace,
The daughter of mischievous Atlas, who knows
Of all the sea its depths, and he bears, too, the tall
Pillars, which hold between heaven and earth.
His daughter detains the wretched man, who laments,
And ever with wheedling, conciliatory words
She beguiles, so that he might forget Ithaca; but Odysseus,
Eager even to observe the rising smoke
Of his land, longs to die. But, then, your heart
Does not much regard a friend, Olympian. Or was not Odysseus,
With the ships of the Argives pleasing, making sacrifices
In far-reaching Troy? Why, indeed, are you so angry at him, Zeus?”

Zeus cloud-gatherer, making reply, addressed her:
“My child, what a speech that escapes the fence of your teeth!
How, then, would I fail to note divine Odysseus,
Who of mortals excels in mind, and gives excess sacrifices
To the undying gods, they who hold the spacious sky?
But earth-encircling Poseidon ever unceasingly
Has been angered on behalf of the Cyclops, whose eye was blinded,
God-like Polyphemus, whose might is greatest
Of all the Cyclopes; The nymph, Thousa, gave birth to him,
Daughter of Phorcys, a ruler of the barren sea,
After she had intercourse with Poseidon in a hollow cave.
For this Poseidon earth-shaker did Odysseus
Not in any way kill, but drove him from the soil of his father.
But come, let all of us here deliberate concerning
His homecoming, so that he may come; and Poseidon will yield
His wrath; for he will not at all be able, against all
The undying, to contend alone against the will of gods.”

And then the shining-eyed goddess, Athene, answered him:
“Father mine, son of Cronus, highest of rulers,
If indeed this is now favoured by the blessed gods,
That ingenious Odysseus return to his home,
Then Hermes, your minister, Argus-slayer,
Let us spur him on to the island, Ogygia, so that he may most swiftly
Tell our unerring counsel to the fair-haired nymph,
The homecoming of stout-hearted Odysseus, that he might return.
And I shall go to Ithaca, so that I might better
Urge on his son, and put a passion in his mind,
Summoning the long-haired Achaean heads to the agora,
To speak out against all the suitors, who ever his
Fatted sheep do slaughter, and his lumbering, curve-horned cattle.
And I shall send him to Sparta and to sandy Pylos,
To enquire into the homecoming of his beloved father, if he might hear of it somewhere,
And so that he might have a noble repute among men.”

Having thus spoken, she bound upon her feet fine sandals,
Golden, divine, that carry her both on the flowing water
And on the boundless earth as a blast of wind.
And she took her sturdy lance, sharpened keen with copper,
Heavy, mighty, strong, with which she subdues the ranks of men,
Of heroes, against whomever the daughter of mighty sire bears anger.
She went down from Olympus, shooting out from the peaks,
And she stands in the house of Odysseus of Ithaca, at the front-door
Of the threshold of the courtyard; she held her copper lance in her palm,
Appearing like a foreign guest, like the leader of the Taphians, Mentes.
She found the arrogant suitors. They thereupon
Turned their hearts to gaming stones in front of the doors,
Seated upon the hides of cattle, which they themselves had killed:
And they had heralds, and busy attendants,
Some who mixed wine and water in mixing bowls,
Others in turn who, with porous sponges, washed
The tables and set them out, and others divvied out much meat.

Godlike Telemachus was first by far to see her,
For he was sitting amidst the suitors, his own heart grieved,
Keeping his noble father in mind, if coming from somewhere
He should make a route of the suitors here, throughout the palace,
And he might have payment and over his possessions be master.
He was thinking of this, sitting amongst the suitors, when he saw Athene.
He went straight to the gate of the courtyard, feeling indignation in his heart
That a guest stood so long at the door; and standing near,
He took her right hand and received her copper lance,
And he addressed her, speaking feathered words:
“Welcome, my guest, among us you will be loved; and once
You have partaken of a meal, you will tell of any need you have.”

Speaking thus, he led her, and Pallas Athene followed.
And when they were well within the lofty hall,
He placed the lance he carried to the tall support
Of the well-crafted spear-rack within, where the many
Other spears of stout-hearted Odysseus were placed,
And leading her to a chair he made her to sit, spreading a cloth under her,
Fine and curiously wrought; and there was a stool underneath for her feet.
He placed a finely-wrought divan alongside, apart from the other
Suitors, lest his guest, vexed by the din,
Be not sated by his meal, being amidst inconsiderate men,
And so that he might question him concerning his departed father.

An attendant bearing clean water in a washing bowl, fine, golden,
Poured it over his hands, over a silver basin,
To wash his hands; she arranged a polished table alongside.
An honored housekeeper bearing bread, placed it before him,
She placed also a great variety of food, pleasing him with what was available;
A meat carver who fetched a platter of meat of all kinds
Set it before him, he brought golden cups to them,
And a herald visited them often, pouring wine.

To them came the macho suitors. And then they
Sat themselves, one after the other, on chairs and divans.
For them, heralds poured water over their hands,
Bondswomen piled up bread in bread-baskets alongside,
And young boys filled vessels to the brim with drink.
And they stretched their hands to what was set before them, at the ready for good cheer.
But when they were rid of their desire for food and drink,
The suitors, who had in mind care for other things,
Sport and dance; for these were the accompaniment of a meal.
And a herald put a fine cithara in the hands
Of Phemius, who sang for the suitors under compulsion.
Indeed, playing the lyre, he started to sing a fine song,
And Telemachus spoke to shining-eyed Athene,
Holding his head close, so that others might not hear:

“My dear guest, in truth will you be offended at me if I should speak to you?
These things concern these sorts of men, the cithara and song.
It’s easy, since they consume the livelihood of another without compensation,
That of a man whose shining bones rot somewhere in the rain
Either lying on land, or a wave rolls them in the sea.
If they were to see that man come home to Ithaca,
They all would pray to be swifter of foot
Than richer in gold and raiment.
But as it is, since he has been destroyed, a wicked fate, and for us there is no
Warmth, even if someone of earth-dwelling men
should say that he comes; the day of his homecoming is gone.
But come, tell me this and speak it straight:
What family are you from? What city and parents are yours?
And you have come on a ship of some kind; How did sailors
Bring you to Ithaca? Who did they boast to be?
For, indeed, I do not believe that you came here on foot.
And orate to me the real, so that I might know well,
Whether you are new among us, or you are a guest
Of my father’s, since many other men arrived at our
House, when that man still walked among the living.”

And in reply, shining-eyed Athene said to him:
“So then, I shall address this to you with especial accuracy.
I boast to be Mentes, of skilled Anchialus
The son, and I am the ruler of the oar-loving Taphians.
And presently I have thus come down here by ship with my companions,
sailing upon the wine-dark sea to people of other tongues,
To Temesa after copper, and I bring gleaming iron.
And my ship sits upon the shore of a far-off city,
In Reithron harbour, beneath forested Neius.
We declare each other to be guests of our fathers
From the beginning, if indeed you were to go and ask the old man,
The warrior Laertes, who they say no longer comes
To the city, but rather suffers woes upon a distant shore
With his old handmaiden, who sets before him
Food and drink, whenever toil seizes him in his limbs,
the broken man crawling up the swell of the vine-bearing orchard.
And now I came; for indeed they said he was among his own people,
your father; but now the gods strike him from his course.
For godlike Odysseus does not lie dead on the ground somewhere,
But rather doubtless living still, he is held back by the wide sea,
On a sea-girt island, and grievous men hold him,
Savages, who somehow restrain him, unwilling.
But now I will foretell to you, as in my heart
The Undying cast it, and as I know it will be fulfilled,
Although I am neither at all a seer, nor do I know it clearly from birds of omen.
Not much longer indeed from the beloved earth of his father
Shall he be, not even if iron bonds hold him;
He devises how he might return home, since he is resourceful.
But come, tell me this and speak it straight,
If a one such as you is indeed the son of this man, Odysseus.
With respect to your head and beautiful eyes, you do seem strikingly alike
To that man, since we often met with each other,
Before he embarked for Troy, where indeed the others,
The best men of the Argives went in hollow ship;
From that point neither have I seen Odysseus nor he me.”

Astute Telemachus, in turn, said to him in reply:
“Indeed I too shall address you, my guest, with especial accuracy.
My mother tells me that I am his, but I
Do not know; for no one, I suppose, recognizes his parentage himself.
As indeed I, at least, would that I were the son of some fortunate
man, whom old age had overtaken when he had charge of his wealth.
But as it is, he who if the most ill-fated of mortal beings,
of this man, they say I am born, since you ask me this.”

The shining-eyed goddess Athene said to him in return:
“The gods did not set an undistinguished heritage for you
Hereafter, since Penelope gave birth to such as you.
But come, tell me this and say it straight:
What feast, what throng is this? What is your need?
A banquet or wedding? Since this, at least, is no potluck.
For these insolent men seem to me to partake
Inconsiderately throughout the palace. Any man would be offended
To see so much insult, at least any sensible man who should come among them.”

Astute Telemachus in turn said to her:
“My guest, since you fastened to me and asked after these things,
This house was once destined to be wealthy and blameless,
So long as that man was yet among his own;
But now, the gods will differently, contriving misfortunes,
Who put that man unseen, above all other
Men, since I would not even mourn thus for him for having died,
If among his companions he was overcome in the land of the Trojans,
Or in the arms of his family, after he wound up the war.
For him all the Achaeans would have made a tomb,
And moreover, they would have carried back great renown for his child.
But as it is, the Hurricanes have fed on him ignominiously;
He departed unseen, unsung, and to me he has bequeathed
Grief and sorrow; nor in any way, mourning do I lament that man
Alone, since now, for me, the gods have wrought other, foul misfortunes.
For, as many nobles as rule over the islands,
Doulicheum and Same and wooded Zacynthus,
And as many lords there are throughout rocky Ithaca,
That’s how many court my mother, and consume our house.
And she, neither refuses hated marriage nor is she able
To make an end of it; Indeed, by eating, they lay waste
To my house; soon they will destroy it, and me as well.”

And Pallas Athena, full of wrath, addressed him:
“Shocking! Indeed for departed Odysseus, you have great
Need, who would strike his fists against the shameless suitors.
For if he now came home and at his front gates
Stood, bearing his helmet and shield and a pair of spears,
If he were as much the man as I understood him to be in former times,
Drinking and making merry in our house,
Returned from Ephyra, from the house of Ilus, son of Mermesus;
For Odysseus departed also for that place upon his swift ship
Seeking a man-slaying drug, so that he might have it
To anoint his bronze-tipped arrows; but Ilus did not to him
Give it, since he stood in awe of the gods, eternal beings,
But my father gave it to him; for he held him strangely dear.
Being such a man, Odysseus would join battle with the suitors;
And they would all be quick to die and bitterly wedded.
But, indeed, these things lie in the lap of the gods,
Whether, returning home, he will exact payment, or not,
In his halls; and I urge you to consider
How you would drive out the suitors from the halls.
Come now, take note and pay heed to my words:
Tomorrow, after you call the Achaean warriors into the agora,
To them all say this, and let the gods be there as witnesses.
Bid the suitors to be dispersed to their own places,
And your mother, if her heart is stirred to be married,
Let her go back to the hall of your greatly capable father;
And they will prepare a wedding and get together wedding gifts,
A great many, too, as many as is befitting to go with a beloved child.
And you yourself, I shall advise you shrewdly, if you will obey:
After you have equipped a ship for twenty rowers, your best one,
Go to enquire after your long departed father,
If anyone of mortal men would tell you, or you hear a rumour
From Zeus, which most often bears report to people.
Go first to Pylos and speak to noble Nestor,
Then Sparta-ward to fair-haired Menelaus;
For he came last of the bronze-clad Achaeans.
If, then, you hear of the life of your father and his homecoming,
Or, although you will be wearied, you should yet endure a year;
But if you hear that he has died, and he is no more,
After you come home thereafter, to the beloved soil of your father
Construct a burial mound for his body, and bury him with due honours, with funeral gifts,
A great many, as many as are befitting, and give your mother to a husband.
And when you finish that and accomplish it,
Consider then in accordance with your heart and mind
How the suitors in your halls you might
Slay whether by trickery or openly; for there is no need for you
To cling to childishness, since you are no longer so young.
Or have you not heard what fame noble Orestes acquired
Among all people, when he killed the father-killer,
Wily Aegisthus, who killed his famous father?
And you, dear friend, I see that you are especially good and mighty,
Be brave, so that any of the next generation may speak well of you.
But I shall now return to my swift ship
And my companions, who are doubtless vexed to wait so long;
Let it be your own concern, and heed my words.”

And again wise Telemachus spoke in reply to her:
“My guest, you have spoken with understanding on things dear to me,
Like a father to a son, nor shall I soon forget them.
But come, tarry a while, though eager for your journey,
So that after you have bathed and your heart has taken pleasure
You may go to your ship bearing gifts, rejoicing in your heart,
A prized thing, very fine, it will be a keepsake for you
From me, just as beloved hosts give to their guests.”

And then the shining-eyed goddess Athene replied to him:
“Do not keep me any longer now, since I do indeed long to be on my way.
The gift which your very heart bids you to give to me,
Give to me when I return again to carry homeward,
And you can choose one especially fine; it will be worthy of one in return for you.”

Having spoken thus, shining-eyed Athene then departed,
And she flew out, upward like a bird; and in his heart
She placed passion and courage, and she made him think of his father
More still than before. And turning it over in his mind,
He was amazed to the depths of his heart; for he knew her to be a god.
And straightaway that god-like hero went ‘round the suitors.
To them sang a renowned bard, and they in silence
Sat idle, listening; he sang of the Achaeans, their homecoming,
Pitiable, which Pallas Athene ordained from Troy.

From an upper room she perceived in her mind the lay of the singer,
The daughter of Icarius, sagacious Penelope.
She descended the lofty stair of her house,
Not alone, but two attendants followed along with her.
And when she reached the suitors, divine among women,
And she stood by the pillar of the thick-built hall,
With a shining head-dress against her cheeks;
A trusted attendant stood by her on either side.
Then, though she wept, she addressed the godlike bard:
Phemius, indeed you know many other spells of mortals,
The deeds of men and gods both, which bards celebrate;
Sing one of these while you sit beside those who silently
Drink their wine; cease this song
So mournful, which ever the very heart within my breast
Do distress, since inconsolable sorrow much assails me.
For I desire a such a head, always remembering
A man, whose fame is wide throughout Hellas and middle Argus.”

And astute Telemachus addressed her in reply:
“My dear mother, why do you begrudge the loyal bard
To entertain in whatever way his mind inspires him? For the bards are not
Responsible, but Zeus somewhere is responsible, who gives
To enterprising men however he wishes to each.
There is no retribution for this man to sing of the evil fate of the Danaans;
For people extol this song more
Which is the newest that floats around the listeners.
Let your heart and mind venture to listen;
For not only Odysseus lost his day of homecoming
At Troy, but many other men perishedk.
But go to your chambers and attend to your own tasks,
The loom and distaff, and bid your attendants
To ply their work; counsel will be the concern for men
All of them, especially for myself; for power is his in the household.”

And she went back to her chamber astonished;
For she took the astute speech of her son to heart.
Going up to the upper parts with her women, her attendants,
She lamented then for Odysseus, her beloved husband until sweet
Sleep upon her eyelids shining-eyed Athene did cast.

The suitors made a loud din throughout the shadowy hall;
They all prayed to lie beside her in the marriage-bed.
To them astute Telemachus began this speech:
“Suitors of my mother, who are so wantonly insolent,
Let us now take pleasure in feasting, and let there not be
A clamour, since it is a fine thing to listen to a singer
Of the sort that this man here is, like the gods, his voice.
And at dawn let us all go to the Assembly and take our
Seats, so that I might make a speech for you without concern for consequences,
To send you out from my halls, and you, prepare other feasts,
Consuming your own wealth, taking turns from house to house.
But if this seems to you to be better and more agreeable,
That the livelihood of one man be destroyed unavenged,
Then do ravage; but I shall call upon the gods who live eternal,
And may Zeus at some point grant that your deeds be avenged.;
That you be destroyed, unavenged, from within my house.”

Thus he spoke, and they all bit their lips with their teeth,
Amazed at Telemachus, who addressed them so boldly.

And Antinous, son of Eupeithes, spoke to him in reply:
“Telemachus, either the gods themselves much instruct you
To be a braggart and address us so boldly;
May the son of Cronus not make you a king in sea-girt
Ithaca, which is your patrimony by birth.”

And astute Telemachus in turn addressed him in reply:
“Antinous, even if you feel jealous of me that I would speak,
I too would wish to win this, at least if Zeus should grant it.
Or would you say this is the worst thing to have been accomplished among men?
For it is no evil thing to be a king; all of a sudden one’s house
Becomes wealthy and oneself more honoured.
But indeed there are other kings of the Achaeans,
Many in sea-girt Ithaca, new ones and those of old,
And any of them would have this, when noble Odysseus died;
But I shall be master of my own household
And its servants, which noble Odysseus won for me as booty.”

Then in turn Eurymachus, child of Polybus, said in response:
“Telemachus, in truth this lies in the lap of the gods,
Whoever will be king of the Achaeans in sea-girt Ithaca;
May you yourself keep your wealth and be master in your own household.
May that man not come who would by force against your will
Bereave you of your possessions while Ithaca exists.
But I wish, Sir, to ask about your guest,
Where this man is from, what land he professes to be from,
Where the arable land of his father and kin lies;
Was he bearing any tidings the goings of your father,
Or did he come here chasing after duties of his own?
How quickly he sprang up to depart, and did not stay behind
To get to know us; for he did not seem like someone wicked on the face.”

And astute Telemachus in turn addressed him in reply:
“Eurymachus, in truth the homecoming of my father has been destroyed;
Nor do I any longer trust tidings, wherever they might come from,
Nor do I pay attention to prophecy, which my mother
Inquires after, having summoned an oracle-messenger to the hall.
This man, my guest, a friend the family, is from Taphus,
He professes to be Mentes, of battle-tested Anchialus
The son, and he is lord over the oar-loving Taphians.”

Thus spoke Telemachus though he knew in his heart it was an undying god.
And they to the dance and the charming song
Turning their attention, took their pleasure, they stayed for evening to come.
And to those taking their pleasure the black night came;
Then they went each to their chamber to lie down.
And Telemachus, where an inner chamber of the very beautiful hall,
Was built on high, in a conspicuous spot,
There he went to bed, many things on his mind worrying him.
Beside him, Eurycleia, daughter of Ops of Peisenor,
Trusty and knowing, bore a burning torch for him,
Whom Laertes once purchased with his wealth,
When she was yet in her prime, he gave twenty oxen worth,
He valued her equal to his loyal bedmate in his halls.
But he did not once couple in her bed, and he avoided the wrath of his wife;
She bore a burning torch beside him, and she especially
Of the captured slave-women1 was fond of him, she had raised him when he was little.
He opened the door of the well-built inner chamber,
He sat in the bed and took off his soft chiton;
And tossed it into the hands of the shrewd old woman.
She folded and shaped the chiton,
Hung it from a peg beside the inlaid bedstead,
And she got up and went from the inner chamber, pulled the door with the handle
Of silver, and extended the bolt with its strap.
And there for the whole night, alone, covered with choicest wool,
He turned over in his mind the path that Athene had advised.

1. This translates δμωή (dmoa), a female slave taken in war, — then, generally, a female slave, serving-woman. I translated it earlier as bondswoman, but here I decided to go with the former definition because of the recent mention that Odysseus had won the riches and servants of the household as spoils of battle.

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Homer’s Odyssey, Book VI: 15-70; 119-197; 227-250

Odysseus the dirty old man.

The goddess brings a message in a dream to Nausicaa
She set out to go to her richly-decorated chamber wherein
The maiden sleeps, in form and stature like to the undying,
Nausicaa, daughter of great-hearted Alcinous,
And two attendants beside her, bearing beauty from the Graces,
On either side of the door-posts; and the shining doors are closed.
Like a breath of wind, she sped to the bed of the maiden,
Hovered over her head, and spoke to her a word,
Seeming as the daughter of Dymas, famed for his ships,
Who was her peer, and was dear to her heart.
Appearing to her, shining-eyed Athena spoke:
“Nausicaa! Why, then, did your mother give birth to you, so careless?
Your shining clothes lie neglected,
Though your marriage is nigh, where you must clothe yourself
In finery, and provide some also to whoever escorts you.
For from such things, you know, a noble reputation spreads among
Men, and your father and revered mother rejoice.
Come, let us go wash with the appearing dawn.
And I will follow with you, a fellow-worker, so that you may quickly
Prepare yourself, since not much longer indeed shall you be an unwed girl;
For already they court you, the best of all Phaeacians
Across the land, where you have your own family.
But go, urge on your renowned father with the dawn
To equip the mules and the wagon, which will carry
The girdles and dresses and shining cloaks.
And also thus for you yourself, much more pleasant than to go
By foot; for the washing troughs are far away from the city.

Athene returns to Olympus
As soon as she had spoken, shining-eyed Athene departed
For Olympus, where they say the seat of the gods is ever
Fixed; it is not shaken by winds nor ever wetted
By rain, nor does snow come near, but the clear air stretches
Wide, cloudless, and the bright radiance floats over;
In this the fortunate gods take pleasure for all the days.
Hither departed the shining-eyed one, after she admonished the maiden.

Nausicaa and her parents
Immediately came golden-throned dawn, which roused her,
Beautifully-robed Nausicaa; at once, marvelling at the dream,
She got up to go through the palace, so as to herald it to her parents,
Her beloved father and mother; she found them there within.
Her mother was seated at the hearth with her female attendants,
Spinning sea-purple thread, her father she encountered
Going to the door after his famous nobles
For a council, where illustrious Phaeacians called him.
Standing quite close she addressed her beloved father:
“Dear papa, could you please prepare a wagon for me,
High and well-wheeled, so that I might bring my clothes
To the river to wash, mine that lie dirtied?
And for you yourself, since you are with foremost men, it is fitting
To hold council wearing clean clothes on your body.
And you have five beloved sons in the house,
Two are married, three are flourishing bachelors;
They always want to go to the dancing-hall
Wearing newly-washed clothes; all these things are on my mind.”
Thus she spoke; for she was ashamed to invoke fertile marriage by name
To her beloved father; but he understood everything and he answered this:
“I do at all not begrudge the mules, child, nor anything else.
Go, and the servants will prepare a wagon,
High, well-wheeled, fitted with a canopy.”

cont’d from A game of ball wakes Odysseus
“Oh me, to the land of what mortals have I reached this time?
Are they insolent and also wild, not righteous,
Or are they guest-friendly, and do they have god-fearing sense?
As if it were of maidens, a female sound surrounds me,
Of nymphs, who possess the lofty peaks of mountains,
And the sources of rivers, and grassy meadows.
Or can it be that I am near people who speak with human voice?
But come, let me test it myself and let me see.”

Odysseus sets out from his hiding place like a lion
Thus speaking, noble Odysseus came out from under the bushes,
From the dense thicket, with his sturdy hand he broke a branch
Of leaves, so that it might cover round his body, the genitals of a man.
He got up and went like a mountain-bred lion, confident in his strength,
Who was rain-drenched and wind-beaten, but in whom eyes
Blazed; and it goes among cattle or sheep
Or after deer in the wild; and its belly commands him
To make an attempt on the herds, even to go into the stoutly-built fold;
Thus Odysseus was about with the lovely haired maidens
To mix, although he was naked; for necessity had come.
He appeared terrifying to them, disfigured by brine,
They fled in different directions on the jutting beaches;
Alone the daughter of Alcinous remained; for Athene
Placed courage in her heart and removed fear from her limbs.
And holding her ground, she stood facing him; and Odysseus deliberated,
Whether he should supplicate, taking the beautiful maiden by the knees,
Or, standing as he was, he should supplicate from afar with
Gentle words, in hope that she would point him to a city and give him clothes.
Thus it seemed better to his thinking
To supplicate from afar with gentle words,
Lest, by taking her knees, the maiden should be angered in her heart.

Odysseus’ supplication to Nausicaa
At once he spoke a gentle and cunning speech:
“I beg at your knees, my queen; are you, then, mortal or some god?
If you are some god, surely they possess the expanse of heaven,
I, at least, liken your form and size and stature most closely
To Artemis, the great daughter of Zeus;
And if you are someone of mortals, indeed they dwell upon the earth,
Thrice-blessed are your father and revered mother,
And thrice-blessed are your brothers; their heart, no doubt
Is always much-warmed with joy on account of you,
Looking upon a young shoot such as this entering the dance-hall.
And that man would be, in his heart, the most fortunate, beyond other men,
Who, when he won you with his bridal gifts, brought you home.
Indeed, I have not yet seen one such as this with my eyes,
Neither man nor woman; awe grips me when I look upon you.
Indeed, at Delos once, a thing such as this at the altar of Apollo
I did perceive, the young shoot of a palm springing up;
For I went there as well, and a large tribe followed me
On the journey for which there was fated for me to have troubles, misfortunes.
Just as I am, thus was I then, seeing it, I was astonished in my heart
For a long time, since not before did a shaft such as this rise up,
Likewise you, dear lady, I am astonished, and I admire, and I fear terribly
To clasp at your knees; but a painful sorrow comes upon me.
Yesterday, on the twentieth day, I escaped the wine-dark sea.
During that time the waves and quick squalls ever carried me
Away from the island Ogygia; and now, here, the divinity has cast me ashore,
Doubtless so that I might also hither suffer misfortunes, for I do not think
That it will cease, but rather, the gods have much to accomplish before that.
But, my queen, have pity; for having suffered many misfortunes, I came
First to you, and I know not of any other
People who possess this city and land.
Show me your town, and give me a rag to put on,
If, perchance, you had any wrapping of cloth when you came.
And may the gods give you as much as your heart should desire,
And may they grant husband and household and excellent
Harmony; for there is nothing stronger or better than this,
Than when a husband and wife keep their household in
Harmony; many sorrows to their enemies
And delights to their well-wishers; and they themselves are much reputed.”

Nausicaa’s reply
White-armed Nausicaa spoke in answer to this;
“My foreign guest, since you seem like a man neither wicked nor foolish,
And Zeus Olympios himself allots prosperity to people,
Noble or wicked, just as he should wish to each;
And, doubtless, he gave these to you, but you must have heart nevertheless.
And now, since you have arrived at our land and city,
You shall want neither for clothes nor anything else,
Of which it befits a long-suffering supplicant who encounters someone.
I shall show you my town, I tell you the name of our people.
The Phaeacians possess this land and city,
And I am the daughter of great-hearted Alcinous,
On whom the strength and might of the Phaeacians depends.”

cont’d from Odysseus bathes and Athene enhances his beauty
And then he washed everything and richly anointed himself,
And put on clothes about him which the unmarried maiden provided him,
And Athene , she born of Zeus, made him
Seem stronger and taller, and down from his head
Made thick hair flow down, like hyacinth blossoms.
As when a man spreads gold over silver,
A skilful man, whom Hephaestus and Pallas Athene taught
Crafts of every kind, he accomplishes a delightful work,
Thus here, she pours her grace over him, his head and shoulders.
He sat then, going apart on the shores of the sea,
Shining with beauty and graces; the maiden gazed with wonder.

Nausicaa’s reaction to Odysseus’ transformation
Then indeed she addressed her fair-haired attendants:
“Hear me, my white-armed attendants, so that I may say something.
Not against the will of the gods, who posses Olympus,
Does this man mingle with the godlike Phaeacians;
For previously, indeed, he seemed to me to be disreputable,
Whereas now he is alike to the gods, who possess the wide sky.
If only such a man could be called my husband,
Dwelling here, and who would be pleased to remain here.
Come my servants, give him food and drink.”

Thus she spoke and they heard and eagerly obeyed,
And they placed food and drink before Odysseus.
Indeed long-suffering, noble Odysseus drank and ate
Greedily; for he had been long without tasting food.

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