The Odyssey



The Phæacians consult on the subject of Ulysses. Preparation is made for his departure. Antinoüs entertains them at his table. Games follow the entertainment. Demodocus the bard sings, first the loves of Mars and Venus, then the introduction of the wooden horse into Troy. Ulysses, much affected by his song, is questioned by Alcinoüs, whence, and who he is, and what is the cause of his sorrow.

But when Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
Blush’d in the East, then from his bed arose
The sacred might of the Phæacian King.
Then uprose also, city-waster Chief,
Ulysses, whom the King Alcinoüs
Led forth to council at the ships convened.
There, side by side, on polish’d stones they sat
Frequent; meantime, Minerva in the form
Of King Alcinoüs’ herald ranged the town,
With purpose to accelerate the return
Of brave Ulysses to his native home,
And thus to ev’ry Chief the Goddess spake.
Phæacian Chiefs and Senators, away!
Haste all to council on the stranger held,
Who hath of late beneath Alcinoüs’ roof
Our King arrived, a wand’rer o’er the Deep,
But, in his form, majestic as a God.
So saying, she roused the people, and at once
The seats of all the senate-court were fill’d
With fast-assembling throngs, no few of whom
Had mark’d Ulysses with admiring eyes.
Then, Pallas o’er his head and shoulders broad
Diffusing grace celestial, his whole form
Dilated, and to the statelier height advanced,
That worthier of all rev’rence he might seem
To the Phæacians, and might many a feat
Atchieve, with which they should assay his force.
When, therefore, the assembly now was full,
Alcinoüs, them addressing, thus began.
Phæacian Chiefs and Senators! I speak
The dictates of my mind, therefore attend.
This guest, unknown to me, hath, wand’ring, found
My palace, either from the East arrived,
Or from some nation on our western side.
Safe conduct home he asks, and our consent
Here wishes ratified, whose quick return
Be it our part, as usual, to promote;
For at no time the stranger, from what coast
Soe’er, who hath resorted to our doors,
Hath long complain’d of his detention here.
Haste—draw ye down into the sacred Deep
A vessel of prime speed, and, from among
The people, fifty and two youths select,
Approved the best; then, lashing fast the oars,
Leave her, that at my palace ye may make
Short feast, for which myself will all provide.
Thus I enjoin the crew; but as for those
Of sceptred rank, I bid them all alike
To my own board, that here we may regale
The stranger nobly, and let none refuse.
Call, too, Demodocus, the bard divine,
To share my banquet, whom the Gods have blest
With pow’rs of song delectable, unmatch’d
By any, when his genius once is fired.
He ceas’d, and led the way, whom follow’d all
The sceptred senators, while to the house
An herald hasted of the bard divine.
Then, fifty mariners and two, from all
The rest selected, to the coast repair’d,
And, from her station on the sea-bank, launched
The galley down into the sacred Deep.
They placed the canvas and the mast on board,
Arranged the oars, unfurl’d the shining sail,
And, leaving her in depth of water moor’d,
All sought the palace of Alcinoüs.
There, soon, the portico, the court, the hall
Were fill’d with multitudes of young and old,
For whose regale the mighty monarch slew
Two beeves, twelve sheep, and twice four fatted brawns.
They slay’d them first, then busily their task
Administ’ring, prepared the joyous feast.
And now the herald came, leading with care
The tuneful bard; dear to the muse was he,
Who yet appointed him both good and ill;
Took from him sight, but gave him strains divine.
For him, Pontonoüs in the midst disposed
An argent-studded throne, thrusting it close
To a tall column, where he hung his lyre
Above his head, and taught him where it hung.
He set before him, next, a polish’d board
And basket, and a goblet fill’d with wine
For his own use, and at his own command.
Then, all assail’d at once the ready feast,
And when nor hunger more nor thirst they felt,
Then came the muse, and roused the bard to sing
Exploits of men renown’d; it was a song,
In that day, to the highest heav’n extoll’d.
He sang of a dispute kindled between
The son of Peleus, and Laertes’[1] son,
Both seated at a feast held to the Gods.
That contest Agamemnon, King of men,
Between the noblest of Achaia’s host
Hearing, rejoiced; for when in Pytho erst
He pass’d the marble threshold to consult
The oracle of Apollo, such dispute
The voice divine had to his ear announced;
For then it was that, first, the storm of war
Came rolling on, ordain’d long time to afflict
Troy and the Greecians, by the will of Jove.
So sang the bard illustrious; then his robe
Of purple dye with both hands o’er his head
Ulysses drew, behind its ample folds
Veiling his face, through fear to be observed
By the Phæacians weeping at the song;
And ever as the bard harmonious ceased,
He wiped his tears, and, drawing from his brows
The mantle, pour’d libation to the Gods.
But when the Chiefs (for they delighted heard
Those sounds) solicited again the bard,
And he renew’d the strain, then cov’ring close
His count’nance, as before, Ulysses wept.
Thus, unperceiv’d by all, the Hero mourn’d,
Save by Alcinoüs; he alone his tears,
(Beside him seated) mark’d, and his deep sighs
O’erhearing, the Phæacians thus bespake.
Phæacia’s Chiefs and Senators, attend!
We have regaled sufficient, and the harp
Heard to satiety, companion sweet
And seasonable of the festive hour.
Now go we forth for honourable proof
Of our address in games of ev’ry kind,
That this our guest may to his friends report,
At home arriv’d, that none like us have learn’d
To leap, to box, to wrestle, and to run.
So saying, he led them forth, whose steps the guests
All follow’d, and the herald hanging high
The sprightly lyre, took by his hand the bard
Demodocus, whom he the self-same way
Conducted forth, by which the Chiefs had gone
Themselves, for that great spectacle prepared.
They sought the forum; countless swarm’d the throng
Behind them as they went, and many a youth
Strong and courageous to the strife arose.
Upstood Acroneus and Ocyalus,
Elatreus, Nauteus, Prymneus, after whom
Anchialus with Anabeesineus
Arose, Eretmeus, Ponteus, Proreus bold,
Amphialus and Thöon. Then arose,
In aspect dread as homicidal Mars,
Euryalus, and for his graceful form
(After Laodamas) distinguish’d most
Of all Phæacia’s sons, Naubolides.
Three also from Alcinoüs sprung, arose,
Laodamas, his eldest; Halius, next,
His second-born; and godlike Clytoneus.
Of these, some started for the runner’s prize.
They gave the race its limits.[2] All at once
Along the dusty champaign swift they flew.
But Clytoneus, illustrious youth, outstripp’d
All competition; far as mules surpass
Slow oxen furrowing the fallow ground,
So far before all others he arrived
Victorious, where the throng’d spectators stood.
Some tried the wrestler’s toil severe, in which
Euryalus superior proved to all.
In the long leap Amphialus prevail’d;
Elatreus most successful hurled the quoit,
And at the cestus,[3] last, the noble son
Of Scheria’s King, Laodamas excell’d.
When thus with contemplation of the games
All had been gratified, Alcinoüs’ son
Laodamas, arising, then address’d.
Friends! ask we now the stranger, if he boast
Proficiency in aught. His figure seems
Not ill; in thighs, and legs, and arms he shews
Much strength, and in his brawny neck; nor youth
Hath left him yet, though batter’d he appears
With num’rous troubles, and misfortune-flaw’d.
Nor know I hardships in the world so sure
To break the strongest down, as those by sea.
Then answer thus Euryalus return’d.
Thou hast well said, Laodamas; thyself
Approaching, speak to him, and call him forth.
Which when Alcinoüs’ noble offspring heard,
Advancing from his seat, amid them all
He stood, and to Ulysses thus began.
Stand forth, oh guest, thou also; prove thy skill
(If any such thou hast) in games like ours,
Which, likeliest, thou hast learn’d; for greater praise
Hath no man, while he lives, than that he know
His feet to exercise and hands aright.
Come then; make trial; scatter wide thy cares,
We will not hold thee long; the ship is launch’d
Already, and the crew stand all prepared.
To whom replied the wily Chief renown’d
Wherefore, as in derision, have ye call’d
Me forth, Laodamas, to these exploits?
No games have I, but many a grief, at heart,
And with far other struggles worn, here sit
Desirous only of conveyance home,
For which both King and people I implore.
Then him Euryalus aloud reproach’d.
I well believ’d it, friend! in thee the guise
I see not of a man expert in feats
Athletic, of which various are perform’d
In ev’ry land; thou rather seem’st with ships
Familiar; one, accustom’d to controul
Some crew of trading mariners; well-learn’d
In stowage, pilotage, and wealth acquired
By rapine, but of no gymnastic pow’rs.
To whom Ulysses, frowning dark, replied.
Thou hast ill spoken, sir, and like a man
Regardless whom he wrongs. Therefore the Gods
Give not endowments graceful in each kind,
Of body, mind, and utt’rance, all to one.
This man in figure less excels, yet Jove
Crowns him with eloquence; his hearers charm’d
Behold him, while with modest confidence
He bears the prize of fluent speech from all,
And in the streets is gazed on as a God!
Another, in his form the Pow’rs above
Resembles, but no grace around his words
Twines itself elegant. So, thou in form
Hast excellence to boast; a God, employ’d
To make a master-piece in human shape,
Could but produce proportions such as thine;
Yet hast thou an untutor’d intellect.
Thou much hast moved me; thy unhandsome phrase
Hath roused my wrath; I am not, as thou say’st,
A novice in these sports, but took the lead
In all, while youth and strength were on my side.
But I am now in bands of sorrow held,
And of misfortune, having much endured
In war, and buffeting the boist’rous waves.
Yet, though with mis’ry worn, I will essay
My strength among you; for thy words had teeth
Whose bite hath pinch’d and pain’d me to the proof.
He said; and mantled as he was, a quoit
Upstarting, seized, in bulk and weight all those
Transcending far, by the Phæacians used.
Swiftly he swung, and from his vig’rous hand
Sent it. Loud sang the stone, and as it flew
The maritime Phæacians low inclined
Their heads beneath it; over all the marks,
And far beyond them, sped the flying rock.
Minerva, in a human form, the cast
Prodigious measur’d, and aloud exclaim’d.
Stranger! the blind himself might with his hands
Feel out the ’vantage here. Thy quoit disdains
Fellowship with a crowd, borne far beyond.
Fear not a losing game; Phæacian none
Will reach thy measure, much less overcast.
She ceased; Ulysses, hardy Chief, rejoiced
That in the circus he had found a judge
So favorable, and with brisker tone,
As less in wrath, the multitude address’d.
Young men, reach this, and I will quickly heave
Another such, or yet a heavier quoit.
Then, come the man whose courage prompts him forth
To box, to wrestle with me, or to run;
For ye have chafed me much, and I decline
No strife with any here, but challenge all
Phæacia, save Laodamas alone.
He is mine host. Who combats with his friend?
To call to proof of hardiment the man
Who entertains him in a foreign land,
Would but evince the challenger a fool,
Who, so, would cripple his own interest there.
As for the rest, I none refuse, scorn none,
But wish for trial of you, and to match
In opposition fair my force with yours.
There is no game athletic in the use
Of all mankind, too difficult for me;
I handle well the polish’d bow, and first
Amid a thousand foes strike whom I mark,
Although a throng of warriors at my side
Imbattled, speed their shafts at the same time.
Of all Achaia’s sons who erst at Troy
Drew bow, the sole who bore the prize from me
Was Philoctetes; I resign it else
To none now nourish’d with the fruits of earth.
Yet mean I no comparison of myself
With men of antient times, with Hercules,
Or with Oechalian Eurytus, who, both,
The Gods themselves in archery defied.
Soon, therefore, died huge Eurytus, ere yet
Old age he reach’d; him, angry to be call’d
To proof of archership, Apollo slew.
But if ye name the spear, mine flies a length
By no man’s arrow reach’d; I fear no foil
From the Phæacians, save in speed alone;
For I have suffer’d hardships, dash’d and drench’d
By many a wave, nor had I food on board
At all times, therefore I am much unstrung.
He spake; and silent the Phæacians sat,
Of whom alone Alcinoüs thus replied.
Since, stranger, not ungraceful is thy speech,
Who hast but vindicated in our ears
Thy question’d prowess, angry that this youth
Reproach’d thee in the presence of us all,
That no man qualified to give his voice
In public, might affront thy courage more;
Now mark me, therefore, that in time to come,
While feasting with thy children and thy spouse,
Thou may’st inform the Heroes of thy land
Even of our proficiency in arts
By Jove enjoin’d us in our father’s days.
We boast not much the boxer’s skill, nor yet
The wrestler’s; but light-footed in the race
Are we, and navigators well-inform’d.
Our pleasures are the feast, the harp, the dance,
Garments for change; the tepid bath; the bed.
Come, ye Phæacians, beyond others skill’d
To tread the circus with harmonious steps,
Come, play before us; that our guest, arrived
In his own country, may inform his friends
How far in seamanship we all excel,
In running, in the dance, and in the song.
Haste! bring ye to Demodocus his lyre
Clear-toned, left somewhere in our hall at home.
So spake the godlike King, at whose command
The herald to the palace quick return’d
To seek the charming lyre. Meantime arose
Nine arbiters, appointed to intend
The whole arrangement of the public games,
To smooth the circus floor, and give the ring
Its compass, widening the attentive throng.
Ere long the herald came, bearing the harp,
With which Demodocus supplied, advanced
Into the middle area, around whom
Stood blooming youths, all skilful in the dance.
With footsteps justly timed all smote at once
The sacred floor; Ulysses wonder-fixt,
The ceaseless play of twinkling[4] feet admired.
Then, tuning his sweet chords, Demodocus
A jocund strain began, his theme, the loves
Of Mars and Cytherea chaplet-crown’d;
How first, clandestine, they embraced beneath
The roof of Vulcan, her, by many a gift
Seduced, Mars won, and with adult’rous lust
The bed dishonour’d of the King of fire.
The sun, a witness of their amorous sport,
Bore swift the tale to Vulcan; he, apprized
Of that foul deed, at once his smithy sought,
In secret darkness of his inmost soul
Contriving vengeance; to the stock he heav’d
His anvil huge, on which he forged a snare
Of bands indissoluble, by no art
To be untied, durance for ever firm.
The net prepared, he bore it, fiery-wroth,
To his own chamber and his nuptial couch,
Where, stretching them from post to post, he wrapp’d
With those fine meshes all his bed around,
And hung them num’rous from the roof, diffused
Like spiders’ filaments, which not the Gods
Themselves could see, so subtle were the toils.
When thus he had encircled all his bed
On ev’ry side, he feign’d a journey thence
To Lemnos, of all cities that adorn
The earth, the city that he favours most.
Nor kept the God of the resplendent reins
Mars, drowsy watch, but seeing that the famed
Artificer of heav’n had left his home,
Flew to the house of Vulcan, hot to enjoy
The Goddess with the wreath-encircled brows.
She, newly from her potent Sire return’d
The son of Saturn, sat. Mars, ent’ring, seiz’d
Her hand, hung on it, and thus urg’d his suit.
To bed, my fair, and let us love! for lo!
Thine husband is from home, to Lemnos gone,
And to the Sintians, men of barb’rous speech.
He spake, nor she was loth, but bedward too
Like him inclined; so then, to bed they went,
And as they lay’d them down, down stream’d the net
Around them, labour exquisite of hands
By ingenuity divine inform’d.
Small room they found, so prison’d; not a limb
Could either lift, or move, but felt at once
Entanglement from which was no escape.
And now the glorious artist, ere he yet
Had reach’d the Lemnian isle, limping, return’d
From his feign’d journey, for his spy the sun
Had told him all. With aching heart he sought
His home, and, standing in the vestibule,
Frantic with indignation roar’d to heav’n,
And roar’d again, summoning all the Gods.—
Oh Jove! and all ye Pow’rs for ever blest!
Here; hither look, that ye may view a sight
Ludicrous, yet too monstrous to be borne,
How Venus always with dishonour loads
Her cripple spouse, doating on fiery Mars!
And wherefore? for that he is fair in form
And sound of foot, I ricket-boned and weak.
Whose fault is this? Their fault, and theirs alone
Who gave me being; ill-employ’d were they
Begetting me, one, better far unborn.
See where they couch together on my bed
Lascivious! ah, sight hateful to my eyes!
Yet cooler wishes will they feel, I ween,
To press my bed hereafter; here to sleep
Will little please them, fondly as they love.
But these my toils and tangles will suffice
To hold them here, till Jove shall yield me back
Complete, the sum of all my nuptial gifts
Paid to him for the shameless strumpet’s sake
His daughter, as incontinent as fair.
He said, and in the brazen-floor’d abode
Of Jove the Gods assembled. Neptune came
Earth-circling Pow’r; came Hermes friend of man,
And, regent of the far-commanding bow,
Apollo also came; but chaste reserve
Bashful kept all the Goddesses at home.
The Gods, by whose beneficence all live,
Stood in the portal; infinite arose
The laugh of heav’n, all looking down intent
On that shrewd project of the smith divine,
And, turning to each other, thus they said.
Bad works speed ill. The slow o’ertakes the swift.
So Vulcan, tardy as he is, by craft
Hath outstript Mars, although the fleetest far
Of all who dwell in heav’n, and the light-heel’d
Must pay the adult’rer’s forfeit to the lame.
So spake the Pow’rs immortal; then the King
Of radiant shafts thus question’d Mercury.
Jove’s son, heaven’s herald, Hermes, bounteous God!
Would’st thou such stricture close of bands endure
For golden Venus lying at thy side?
Whom answer’d thus the messenger of heav’n
Archer divine! yea, and with all my heart;
And be the bands which wind us round about
Thrice these innumerable, and let all
The Gods and Goddesses in heav’n look on,
So I may clasp Vulcan’s fair spouse the while.
He spake; then laugh’d the Immortal Pow’rs again.
But not so Neptune; he with earnest suit
The glorious artist urged to the release
Of Mars, and thus in accents wing’d he said.
Loose him; accept my promise; he shall pay
Full recompense in presence of us all.
Then thus the limping smith far-famed replied.
Earth-circler Neptune, spare me that request.
Lame suitor, lame security.[5] What bands
Could I devise for thee among the Gods,
Should Mars, emancipated once, escape,
Leaving both debt and durance, far behind?
Him answer’d then the Shaker of the shores.
I tell thee, Vulcan, that if Mars by flight
Shun payment, I will pay, myself, the fine.
To whom the glorious artist of the skies.
Thou must not, canst not, shalt not be refused.
So saying, the might of Vulcan loos’d the snare,
And they, detain’d by those coercive bands
No longer, from the couch upstarting, flew,
Mars into Thrace, and to her Paphian home
The Queen of smiles, where deep in myrtle groves
Her incense-breathing altar stands embow’r’d.
Her there, the Graces laved, and oils diffused
O’er all her form, ambrosial, such as add
Fresh beauty to the Gods for ever young,
And cloath’d her in the loveliest robes of heav’n.
Such was the theme of the illustrious bard.
Ulysses with delight that song, and all
The maritime Phæacian concourse heard.
Alcinoüs, then, (for in the dance they pass’d
All others) call’d his sons to dance alone,
Halius and Laodamas; they gave
The purple ball into their hands, the work
Exact of Polybus; one, re-supine,
Upcast it high toward the dusky clouds,
The other, springing into air, with ease
Received it, ere he sank to earth again.
When thus they oft had sported with the ball
Thrown upward, next, with nimble interchange
They pass’d it to each other many a time,
Footing the plain, while ev’ry youth of all
The circus clapp’d his hands, and from beneath
The din of stamping feet fill’d all the air.
Then, turning to Alcinoüs, thus the wise
Ulysses spake: Alcinoüs! mighty King!
Illustrious above all Phæacia’s sons!
Incomparable are ye in the dance,
Ev’n as thou said’st. Amazement-fixt I stand!
So he, whom hearing, the imperial might
Exulted of Alcinoüs, and aloud
To his oar-skill’d Phæacians thus he spake.
Phæacian Chiefs and Senators, attend!
Wisdom beyond the common stint I mark
In this our guest; good cause in my account,
For which we should present him with a pledge
Of hospitality and love. The Chiefs
Are twelve, who, highest in command, controul
The people, and the thirteenth Chief am I.
Bring each a golden talent, with a vest
Well-bleach’d, and tunic; gratified with these,
The stranger to our banquet shall repair
Exulting; bring them all without delay;
And let Euryalus by word and gift
Appease him, for his speech was unadvised.
He ceas’d, whom all applauded, and at once
Each sent his herald forth to bring the gifts,
When thus Euryalus his Sire address’d.
Alcinoüs! o’er Phæacia’s sons supreme!
I will appease our guest, as thou command’st.
This sword shall be his own, the blade all steel.
The hilt of silver, and the unsullied sheath
Of iv’ry recent from the carver’s hand,
A gift like this he shall not need despise.
So saying, his silver-studded sword he gave
Into his grasp, and, courteous, thus began.
Hail, honour’d stranger! and if word of mine
Have harm’d thee, rashly spoken, let the winds
Bear all remembrance of it swift away!
May the Gods give thee to behold again
Thy wife, and to attain thy native shore,
Whence absent long, thou hast so much endured!
To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied.
Hail also thou, and may the Gods, my friend,
Grant thee felicity, and may never want
Of this thy sword touch thee in time to come,
By whose kind phrase appeas’d my wrath subsides!
He ended, and athwart his shoulders threw
The weapon bright emboss’d. Now sank the sun,
And those rich gifts arrived, which to the house
Of King Alcinoüs the heralds bore.
Alcinoüs’ sons receiv’d them, and beside
Their royal mother placed the precious charge.
The King then led the way, at whose abode
Arrived, again they press’d their lofty thrones,
And to Areta thus the monarch spake.
Haste, bring a coffer; bring thy best, and store
A mantle and a sumptuous vest within;
Warm for him, next, a brazen bath, by which
Refresh’d, and viewing in fair order placed
The noble gifts by the Phæacian Lords
Conferr’d on him, he may the more enjoy
Our banquet, and the bard’s harmonious song.
I give him also this my golden cup
Splendid, elaborate; that, while he lives
What time he pours libation forth to Jove
And all the Gods, he may remember me.
He ended, at whose words Areta bade
Her maidens with dispatch place o’er the fire
A tripod ample-womb’d; obedient they
Advanced a laver to the glowing hearth,
Water infused, and kindled wood beneath
The flames encircling bright the bellied vase,
Warm’d soon the flood within. Meantime, the Queen
Producing from her chamber-stores a chest
All-elegant, within it placed the gold,
And raiment, gifts of the Phæacian Chiefs,
With her own gifts, the mantle and the vest,
And in wing’d accents to Ulysses said.
Now take, thyself, the coffer’s lid in charge;
Girdle it quickly with a cord, lest loss
Befall thee on thy way, while thou perchance
Shalt sleep secure on board the sable bark.
Which when Ulysses heard, Hero renown’d,
Adjusting close the lid, he cast a cord
Around it which with many a mazy knot
He tied, by Circe taught him long before.
And now, the mistress of the household charge
Summon’d him to his bath; glad he beheld
The steaming vase, uncustom’d to its use
E’er since his voyage from the isle of fair
Calypso, although, while a guest with her,
Ever familiar with it, as a God.
Laved by attendant damsels, and with oil
Refresh’d, he put his sumptuous tunic on
And mantle, and proceeding from the bath
To the symposium, join’d the num’rous guests;
But, as he pass’d, the Princess all divine
Beside the pillars of the portal, lost
In admiration of his graceful form,
Stood, and in accents wing’d him thus address’d.
Hail, stranger! at thy native home arrived
Remember me, thy first deliv’rer here.
To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied.
Nausicaa! daughter of the noble King
Alcinoüs! So may Jove, high-thund’ring mate
Of Juno, grant me to behold again
My native land, and my delightful home,
As, even there, I will present my vows
To thee, adoring thee as I adore
The Gods themselves, virgin, by whom I live!
He said, and on his throne beside the King
Alcinoüs sat. And now they portion’d out
The feast to all, and charg’d the cups with wine,
And introducing by his hand the bard
Phæacia’s glory, at the column’s side
The herald placed Demodocus again.
Then, carving forth a portion from the loins
Of a huge brawn, of which uneaten still
Large part and delicate remain’d, thus spake
Ulysses—Herald! bear it to the bard
For his regale, whom I will soon embrace
In spite of sorrow; for respect is due
And veneration to the sacred bard
From all mankind, for that the muse inspires
Herself his song, and loves the tuneful tribe.
He ended, and the herald bore his charge
To the old hero who with joy received
That meed of honour at the bearer’s hand.
Then, all, at once, assail’d the ready feast,
And hunger now, and thirst both satisfied,
Thus to Demodocus Ulysses spake.
Demodocus! I give thee praise above
All mortals, for that either thee the muse
Jove’s daughter teaches, or the King, himself,
Apollo; since thou so record’st the fate,
With such clear method, of Achaia’s host,
Their deeds heroic, and their num’rous toils,
As thou hadst present been thyself, or learnt
From others present there, the glorious tale.
Come, then, proceed; that rare invention sing,
The horse of wood, which by Minerva’s aid
Epeus framed, and which Ulysses erst
Convey’d into the citadel of Troy
With warriors fill’d, who lay’d all Ilium waste.
These things rehearse regular, and myself
Will, instant, publish in the ears of all
Thy fame, reporting thee a bard to whom
Apollo free imparts celestial song.
He ended; then Apollo with full force
Rush’d on Demodocus, and he began
What time the Greeks, first firing their own camp
Steer’d all their galleys from the shore of Troy.
Already, in the horse conceal’d, his band
Around Ulysses sat; for Ilium’s sons
Themselves had drawn it to the citadel.
And there the mischief stood. Then, strife arose
Among the Trojans compassing the horse,
And threefold was the doubt; whether to cleave
The hollow trunk asunder, or updrawn
Aloft, to cast it headlong from the rocks,
Or to permit the enormous image, kept
Entire, to stand an off’ring to the Gods,
Which was their destined course; for Fate had fix’d
Their ruin sure, when once they had received
Within their walls that engine huge, in which
Sat all the bravest Greecians with the fate
Of Ilium charged, and slaughter of her sons.
He sang, how, from the horse effused, the Greeks
Left their capacious ambush, and the town
Made desolate. To others, in his song,
He gave the praise of wasting all beside,
But told how, fierce as Mars, Ulysses join’d
With godlike Menelaus, to the house
Flew of Deiphobus; him there engaged
In direst fight he sang, and through the aid
Of glorious Pallas, conqu’ror over all.
So sang the bard illustrious, at whose song
Ulysses melted, and tear after tear
Fell on his cheeks. As when a woman weeps,
Her husband, who hath fallen in defence
Of his own city and his babes before
The gates; she, sinking, folds him in her arms
And, gazing on him as he pants and dies,
Shrieks at the sight; meantime, the enemy
Smiting her shoulders with the spear to toil
Command her and to bondage far away,
And her cheek fades with horror at the sound;
Ulysses, so, from his moist lids let fall,
The frequent tear. Unnoticed by the rest
Those drops, but not by King Alcinoüs, fell
Who, seated at his side, his heavy sighs
Remark’d, and the Phæacians thus bespake.
Phæacian Chiefs and Senators attend!
Now let Demodocus enjoin his harp
Silence, for not alike grateful to all
His music sounds; during our feast, and since
The bard divine began, continual flow
The stranger’s sorrows, by remembrance caused
Of some great woe which wraps his soul around.
Then, let the bard suspend his song, that all
(As most befits th’ occasion) may rejoice,
Both guest and hosts together; since we make
This voyage, and these gifts confer, in proof
Of hospitality and unfeign’d love,
Judging, with all wise men, the stranger-guest
And suppliant worthy of a brother’s place.
And thou conceal not, artfully reserv’d,
What I shall ask, far better plain declared
Than smother’d close; who art thou? speak thy name,
The name by which thy father, mother, friends
And fellow-citizens, with all who dwell
Around thy native city, in times past
Have known thee; for of all things human none
Lives altogether nameless, whether good
Or whether bad, but ev’ry man receives
Ev’n in the moment of his birth, a name.
Thy country, people, city, tell; the mark
At which my ships, intelligent, shall aim,
That they may bear thee thither; for our ships
No pilot need or helm, as ships are wont,
But know, themselves, our purpose; know beside
All cities, and all fruitful regions well
Of all the earth, and with dark clouds involv’d
Plough rapid the rough Deep, fearless of harm,
(Whate’er betide) and of disast’rous wreck.
Yet thus, long since, my father I have heard
Nausithoüs speaking; Neptune, he would say,
Is angry with us, for that safe we bear
Strangers of ev’ry nation to their home;
And he foretold a time when he would smite
In vengeance some Phæacian gallant bark
Returning after convoy of her charge,
And fix her in the sable flood, transform’d
Into a mountain, right before the town.
So spake my hoary Sire, which let the God
At his own pleasure do, or leave undone.
But tell me truth, and plainly. Where have been
Thy wand’rings? in what regions of the earth
Hast thou arrived? what nations hast thou seen,
What cities? say, how many hast thou found
Harsh, savage and unjust? how many, kind
To strangers, and disposed to fear the Gods?
Say also, from what secret grief of heart
Thy sorrows flow, oft as thou hear’st the fate
Of the Achaians, or of Ilium sung?
That fate the Gods prepared; they spin the thread
Of man’s destruction, that in after days
The bard may make the sad event his theme.
Perish’d thy father or thy brother there?
Or hast thou at the siege of Ilium lost
Father-in-law, or son-in-law? for such
Are next and dearest to us after those
Who share our own descent; or was the dead
Thy bosom-friend, whose heart was as thy own?
For worthy as a brother of our love
The constant friend and the discrete I deem.

  1. Agamemnon having inquired at Delphos, at what time the Trojan war would end, was answered that the conclusion of it should happen at a time when a dispute should arise between two of his principal commanders. That dispute occurred at the time here alluded to, Achilles recommending force as most likely to reduce the city, and Ulysses stratagem.
  2. Τοισι δ’ απο νυσοης τετατο δρομος—This expression is by the commentators generally understood to be significant of the effort which they made at starting, but it is not improbable that it relates merely to the measurement of the course, otherwise, καρπαλιμως επετοντο will be tautologous.
  3. In boxing.
  4. The Translator is indebted to Mr Grey for an epithet more expressive of the original (Μαρμαρυγας) than any other, perhaps, in all our language. See the Ode on the Progress of Poetry.
    “To brisk notes in cadence beating, Glance their many-twinkling feet”
  5. The original line has received such a variety of interpretations, that a Translator seems free to choose. It has, however, a proverbial turn, which I have endeavoured to preserve, and have adopted the sense of the words which appears best to accord with what immediately follows. Vulcan pleads his own inability to enforce the demand, as a circumstance that made Neptune’s promise unacceptable.


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