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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