The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (ed. Hutchinson, 1914)/The Cyclops

For other versions of this work, see Cyclops (Shelley).
For other English-language translations of this work, see Cyclops (Euripides).




[Published by Mrs. Shelley, Posthumous Poems, 1824; dated 1819. Amongst the Shelley MSS. at the Bodleian there is a copy, 'practically complete,' which has been collated by Mr. C. D. Locock. See Examination, &c, 1903, pp. 64–70. 'Though legible throughout, and comparatively free from corrections, it has the appearance of being a first draft' (Locock).]

Silenus. Ulysses.
Chorus of Satyrs. The Cyclops.

Silenus. O Bacchus, what a world of toil, both now
And ere these limbs were overworn with age,
Have I endured for thee! First, when thou fled'st
The mountain-nymphs who nursed thee, driven afar
By the strange madness Juno sent upon thee; 5
Then in the battle of the sons of Earth,
When I stood foot by foot close to thy side,
No unpropitious fellow-combatant,
And, driving through his shield my wingèd spear,
Slew vast Enceladus. Consider now, 10
Is it a dream of which I speak to thee?
By Jove, it is not, for you have the trophies!
And now I suffer more than all before.
For when I heard that Juno had devised
A tedious voyage for you, I put to sea 15
With all my children quaint in search of you,
And I myself stood on the beakèd prow
And fixed the naked mast; and all my boys
Leaning upon their oars, with splash and strain
Made white with foam the green and purple sea,— 20
And so we sought you, king. We were sailing
Near Malea, when an eastern wind arose,
And drove us to this waste Aetnean rock;
The one-eyed children of the Ocean God,
The man-destroying Cyclopses, inhabit, 25
On this wild shore, their solitary caves,
And one of these, named Polypheme, has caught us
To be his slaves; and so, for all delight
Of Bacchic sports, sweet dance and melody,
We keep this lawless giant's wandering flocks. 30
My sons indeed, on far declivities,
Young things themselves, tend on the youngling sheep,
But I remain to fill the water-casks,
Or sweeping the hard floor, or ministering
Some impious and abominable meal 35
To the fell Cyclops. I am wearied of it!
And now I must scrape up the littered floor
With this great iron rake, so to receive
My absent master and his evening sheep
In a cave neat and clean. Even now I see 40
My children tending the flocks hitherward.
Ha! what is this? are your Sicinnian measures
Even now the same, as when with dance and song
You brought young Bacchus to Althaea's halls?

Chorus of Satyrs.


Where has he of race divine 45
Wandered in the winding rocks?
Here the air is calm and fine
For the father of the flocks;—
Here the grass is soft and sweet,
And the river-eddies meet 50
In the trough beside the cave,
Bright as in their fountain wave.—
Neither here, nor on the dew
Of the lawny uplands feeding?
Oh, you come!—a stone at you 55
Will I throw to mend your breeding;—
Get along, you hornèd thing,
Wild, seditious, rambling!


An Iacchic melody
To the golden Aphrodite 60
Will I lift, as erst did I
Seeking her and her delight
With the Maenads, whose white feet
To the music glance and fleet.
Bacchus, O belovèd, where, 65
Shaking wide thy yellow hair,
Wanderest thou alone, afar?
To the one-eyed Cyclops, we,
Who by right thy servants are,
Minister in misery, 70
In these wretched goat-skins clad,
Far from thy delights and thee.

Silenus. Be silent, sons; command the slaves to drive
The gathered flocks into the rock-roofed cave.
Chorus. Go! But what needs this serious haste, O father?
Silenus. I see a Grecian vessel on the coast, 76
And thence the rowers with some general
Approaching to this cave.—About their necks
Hang empty vessels, as they wanted food,
And water-flasks.—Oh, miserable strangers! 80
Whence come they, that they know not what and who
My master is, approaching in ill hour
The inhospitable roof of Polypheme,
And the Cyclopian jaw-bone, man-destroying?
Be silent, Satyrs, while I ask and hear 85
Whence coming, they arrive the Aetnean hill.
Ulysses. Friends, can you show me some clear water-spring,
The remedy of our thirst? Will any one
Furnish with food seamen in want of it?
Ha! what is this? We seem to be arrived 90
At the blithe court of Bacchus. I observe
This sportive band of Satyrs near the caves.
First let me greet the elder.—Hail!
Silenus. Hail thou,
O Stranger! tell thy country and thy race.
Ulysses. The Ithacan Ulysses and the king 95
Of Cephalonia.
Silenus. Oh! I know the man,
Wordy and shrewd, the son of Sisyphus.
Ulysses. I am the same, but do not rail upon me.—
Silenus. Whence sailing do you come to Sicily?
Ulysses. From Ilion, and from the Trojan toils. 100
Silenus. How, touched you not at your paternal shore?
Ulysses. The strength of tempests core me here by force.
Silenus. The self-same accident occurred to me.
Ulysses. Were you then driven here by stress of weather?
Silenus. Following the Pirates who had kidnapped Bacchus.
Ulysses. What land is this, and who inhabit it?— 106
Silenus. Aetna, the loftiest peak in Sicily.
Ulysses. And are there walls, and tower-surrounded towns?
Silenus. There are not.—These lone rocks are bare of men.
Ulysses. And who possess the land? the race of beasts?
Silenus. Cyclops, who live in caverns, not in houses. 111
Ulysses. Obeying whom? Or is the state popular?
Silenus. Shepherds: no one obeys any in aught.
Ulysses. How live they? do they sow the corn of Ceres?
Silenus. On milk and cheese, and on the flesh of sheep. 115
Ulysses. Have they the Bromian drink from the vine's stream?
Silenus. Ah! no; they live in an ungracious land.
Ulysses. And are they just to strangers?—hospitable?
Silenus. They think the sweetest thing a stranger brings
Is his own flesh.
Ulysses. What! do they eat man's flesh? 120
Silenus. No one comes here who is not eaten up.
Ulysses. The Cyclops now—where is he? Not at home?
Silenus. Absent on Aetna, hunting with his dogs.
Ulysses. Know'st thou what thou must do to aid us hence?
Silenus. I know not: we will help you all we can. 125
Ulysses. Provide us food, of which we are in want.
Silenus. Here is not anything, as I said, but meat.
Ulysses. But meat is a sweet remedy for hunger.
Silenus. Cow's milk there is, and store of curdled cheese.
Ulysses. Bring out:—I would see all before I bargain. 130
Silenus. But how much gold will you engage to give?
Ulysses. I bring no gold, but Bacchic juice.
Silenus. Oh, joy!
'Tis long since these dry lips were wet with wine.
Ulysses. Maron, the son of the God, gave it me.
Silenus. Whom I have nursed a baby in my arms. 135
Ulysses. The son of Bacchus, for your clearer knowledge.
Silenus. Have you it now?—or is it in the ship?
Ulysses. Old man, this skin contains it, which you see.
Silenus. Why, this would hardly be a mouthful for me.
Ulysses. Nay, twice as much as you can draw from thence. 140
Silenus. You speak of a fair fountain, sweet to me.
Ulysses. Would you first taste of the unmingled wine?
Silenus. 'Tis just—tasting invites the purchaser.
Ulysses. Here is the cup, together with the skin.
Silenus. Pour: that the draught may fillip my remembrance.
Ulysses. See!
Silenus. Papaiapax! what a sweet smell it has! 146
Ulysses. You see it then?—
Silenus. By Jove, no! but I smell it.
Ulysses. Taste, that you may not praise it in words only.
Silenus. Babai! Great Bacchus calls me forth to dance!
Joy! joy!
Ulysses. Did it flow sweetly down your throat? 150
Silenus. So that it tingled to my very nails.
Ulysses. And in addition I will give you gold.
Silenus. Let gold alone! only unlock the cask.
Ulysses. Bring out some cheeses now, or a young goat.
Silenus. That will I do, despising any master. 155
Yes, let me drink one cup, and I will give
All that the Cyclops feed upon their mountains.


Chorus. Ye have taken Troy and laid your hands on Helen?
Ulysses. And utterly destroyed the race of Priam.


Silenus. The wanton wretch! she was bewitched to see 160
The many-coloured anklets and the chain
Of woven gold which girt the neck of Paris,
And so she left that good man Menelaus.
There should be no more women in the world
But such as are reserved for me alone.— 165
See, here are sheep, and here are goats, Ulysses,
Here are unsparing cheeses of pressed milk;
Take them; depart with what good speed ye may;
First leaving my reward, the Bacchic dew
Of joy-inspiring grapes.
Ulysses. Ah me! Alas! 170
What shall we do? the Cyclops is at hand!
Old man, we perish! whither can we fly?
Silenus. Hide yourselves quick within that hollow rock.
Ulysses. 'Twere perilous to fly into the net.
Silenus. The cavern has recesses numberless; 175
Hide yourselves quick.
Ulysses. That will I never do!
The mighty Troy would be indeed disgraced
If I should fly one man. How many times
Have I withstood, with shield immovable.
Ten thousand Phrygians!—if I needs must die, 180
Yet will I die with glory;—if I live,
The praise which I have gained will yet remain.
Silenus. What, ho! assistance, comrades, haste, assistance!

The Cyclops, Silenus, Ulysses; Chorus.

Cyclops. What is this tumult? Bacchus is not here,
Nor tympanies nor brazen castanets. 185
How are my young lambs in the cavern? Milking
Their dams or playing by their sides? And is
The new cheese pressed into the bulrush baskets?
Speak! I'll beat some of you till you rain tears—
Look up, not downwards when I speak to you. 190
Silenus. See! I now gape at Jupiter himself;
I stare upon Orion and the stars.
Cyclops. Well, is the dinner fitly cooked and laid?
Silenus. All ready, if your throat is ready too.
Cyclops. Are the bowls full of milk besides?
Silenus. O'er-brimming;
So you may drink a tunful if you will. 196
Cyclops. Is it ewe's milk or cow's milk, or both mixed?—
Silenus. Both, either; only pray don't swallow me.
Cyclops. By no means.——


What is this crowd I see beside the stalls? 200
Outlaws or thieves? for near my cavern-home
I see my young lambs coupled two by two
With willow bands; mixed with my cheeses lie
Their implements; and this old fellow here
Has his bald head broken with stripes.
Silenus. Ah me! 205
I have been beaten till I burn with fever.
Cyclops. By whom? Who laid his fist upon your head?
Silenus. Those men, because I would not suffer them
To steal your goods.
Cyclops. Did not the rascals know
I am a God, sprung from the race of Heaven? 210
Silenus. I told them so, but they bore off your things,
And ate the cheese in spite of all I said,
And carried out the lambs—and said, moreover,
They'd pin you down with a three-cubit collar,
And pull your vitals out through your one eye, 215
Furrow your back with stripes, then, binding you,
Throw you as ballast into the ship's hold,
And then deliver you, a slave, to move
Enormous rocks, or found a vestibule.
Cyclops. In truth? Nay, haste, and place in order quickly
The cooking-knives, and heap upon the hearth, 221
And kindle it, a great faggot of wood.—
As soon as they are slaughtered, they shall fill
My belly, broiling warm from the live coals,
Or boiled and seethed within the bubbling caldron. 225
I am quite sick of the wild mountain game;
Of stags and lions I have gorged enough,
And I grow hungry for the flesh of men.
Silenus. Nay, master, something new is very pleasant
After one thing forever, and of late 230
Very few strangers have approached our cave.
Ulysses. Hear, Cyclops, a plain tale on the other side.
We, wanting to buy food, came from our ship
Into the neighbourhood of your cave, and here
This old Silenus gave us in exchange 235
These lambs for wine, the which he took and drank,
And all by mutual compact, without force.
There is no word of truth in what he says,
For slyly he was selling all your store.
Silenus. I? May you perish, wretch—
Ulysses. If I speak false!
Silenus. Cyclops, I swear by Neptune who begot thee, 241
By mighty Triton and by Nereus old,
Calypso and the glaucous Ocean Nymphs,
The sacred waves and all the race of fishes—
Be these the witnesses, my dear sweet master, 245
My darling little Cyclops, that I never
Gave any of your stores to these false strangers;—
If I speak false may those whom most I love,
My children, perish wretchedly!
Chorus. There stop!
I saw him giving these things to the strangers. 250
If I speak false, then may my father perish,
But do not thou wrong hospitality.
Cyclops. You lie! I swear that he is juster far
Than Rhadamanthus—I trust more in him.
But let me ask, whence have ye sailed, O strangers? 255
Who are you? And what city nourished ye?
Ulysses. Our race is Ithacan—having destroyed
The town of Troy, the tempests of the sea
Have driven us on thy land, O Polypheme.
Cyclops. What, have ye shared in the unenvied spoil 260
Of the false Helen, near Scamander's stream?
Ulysses. The same, having endured a woful toil.
Cyclops. Oh, basest expedition! sailed ye not
From Greece to Phrygia for one woman's sake?
Ulysses. 'Twas the Gods' work—no mortal was in fault. 265
But, O great Offspring of the Ocean-King,
We pray thee and admonish thee with freedom,
That thou dost spare thy friends who visit thee,
And place no impious food within thy jaws.
For in the depths of Greece we have upreared 270
Temples to thy great Father, which are all
His homes. The sacred bay of Taenarus
Remains inviolate, and each dim recess
Scooped high on the Malean promontory,
And aëry Sunium's silver- veinèd crag, 275
Which divine Pallas keeps unprofaned ever,
The Gerastian asylums, and whate'er
Within wide Greece our enterprise has kept
From Phrygian contumely; and in which
You have a common care, for you inhabit 280
The skirts of Grecian land, under the roots
Of Aetna and its crags, spotted with fire.
Turn then to converse under human laws,
Receive us shipwrecked suppliants, and provide
Food, clothes, and fire, and hospitable gifts; 285
Nor fixing upon oxen-piercing spits
Our limbs, so fill your belly and your jaws.
Priam's wide land has widowed Greece enough;
And weapon-wingèd murder heaped together
Enough of dead, and wives are husbandless, 290
And ancient women and gray fathers wail
Their childless age;—if you should roast the rest—
And 'tis a bitter feast that you prepare—
Where then would any turn? Yet be persuaded;
Forgo the lust of your jaw-bone; prefer 295
Pious humanity to wicked will:
Many have bought too dear their evil joys.
Silenus. Let me advise you, do not spare a morsel
Of all his flesh. If you should eat his tongue
You would become most eloquent, O Cyclops. 300
Cyclops. Wealth, my good fellow, is the wise man's God,
All other things are a pretence and boast.
What are my father's ocean promontories,
The sacred rocks whereon he dwells, to me?
Stranger, I laugh to scorn Jove's thunderbolt, 305
I know not that his strength is more than mine.
As to the rest I care not.—When he pours
Rain from above, I have a close pavilion
Under this rock, in which I lie supine,
Feasting on a roast calf or some wild beast, 310
And drinking pans of milk, and gloriously
Emulating the thunder of high Heaven.
And when the Thracian wind pours down the snow,
I wrap my body in the skins of beasts,
Kindle a fire, and bid the snow whirl on. 315
The earth, by force, whether it will or no,
Bringing forth grass, fattens my flocks and herds,
Which, to what other God but to myself
And this great belly, first of deities,
Should I be bound to sacrifice? I well know 320
The wise man's only Jupiter is this.
To eat and drink during his little day,
And give himself no care. And as for those
Who complicate with laws the life of man,
I freely give them tears for their reward. 325
I will not cheat my soul of its delight,
Or hesitate in dining upon you:—
And that I may be quit of all demands,
These are my hospitable gifts;—fierce fire
And yon ancestral caldron, which o'er-bubbling 330
Shall finely cook your miserable flesh.
Creep in!—


Ulysses. Ai! ai! I have escaped the Trojan toils,
I have escaped the sea, and now I fall
Under the cruel grasp of one impious man. 335
O Pallas, Mistress, Goddess, sprung from Jove,
Now, now, assist me! Mightier toils than Troy
Are these;—I totter on the chasms of peril;—
And thou who inhabitest the thrones
Of the bright stars, look, hospitable Jove, 340
Upon this outrage of thy deity,
Otherwise be considered as no God!

Chorus (alone).

For your gaping gulf and your gullet wide,
The ravin is ready on every side,
The limbs of the strangers are cooked and done; 345
There is boiled meat, and roast meat, and meat from the coal,
You may chop it, and tear it, and gnash it for fun,
An hairy goat's-skin contains the whole.
Let me but escape, and ferry me o'er
The stream of your wrath to a safer shore. 350
The Cyclops Aetnean is cruel and bold,
He murders the strangers
That sit on his hearth,
And dreads no avengers
To rise from the earth. 355
He roasts the men before they are cold,
He snatches them broiling from the coal,
And from the caldron pulls them whole,
And minces their flesh and gnaws their bone
With his cursèd teeth, till all be gone. 360
Farewell, foul pavilion:
Farewell, rites of dread!
The Cyclops vermilion,
With slaughter uncloying,
Now feasts on the dead, 365
In the flesh of strangers joying!
Ulysses. O Jupiter! I saw within the cave
Horrible things; deeds to be feigned in words,
But not to be believed as being done.
Chorus. What! sawest thou the impious Polypheme 370
Feasting upon your loved companions now?
Ulysses. Selecting two, the plumpest of the crowd,
He grasped them in his hands.—
Chorus. Unhappy man!


Ulysses. Soon as we came into this craggy place,
Kindling a fire, he cast on the broad hearth 375
The knotty limbs of an enormous oak,
Three waggon-loads at least, and then he strewed
Upon the ground, beside the red firelight,
His couch of pine-leaves; and he milked the cows,
And pouring forth the white milk, filled a bowl 380
Three cubits wide and four in depth, as much
As would contain ten amphorae, and bound it
With ivy wreaths; then placed upon the fire
A brazen pot to boil, and made red hot
The points of spits, not sharpened with the sickle, 385
But with a fruit tree bough, and with the jaws
Of axes for Aetnean slaughterings [1].
And when this God-abandoned Cook of Hell
Had made all ready, he seized two of us
And killed them in a kind of measured manner; 390
For he flung one against the brazen rivets
Of the huge caldron, and seized the other
By the foot's tendon, and knocked out his brains
Upon the sharp edge of the craggy stone:
Then peeled his flesh with a great cooking-knife 395
And put him down to roast. The other's limbs
He chopped into the caldron to be boiled.
And I, with the tears raining from my eyes,
Stood near the Cyclops, ministering to him;
The rest, in the recesses of the cave, 400
Clung to the rock like bats, bloodless with fear.
When he was filled with my companions' flesh,
He threw himself upon the ground and sent
A loathsome exhalation from his maw.
Then a divine thought came to me. I filled 405
The cup of Maron, and I offered him
To taste, and said:—'Child of the Ocean God,
Behold what drink the vines of Greece produce,
The exultation and the joy of Bacchus.'
He, satiated with his unnatural food, 410
Received it, and at one draught drank it off,
And taking my hand, praised me:—'Thou hast given
A sweet draught after a sweet meal, dear guest.'
And I, perceiving that it pleased him, filled
Another cup, well knowing that the wine 415
Would wound him soon and take a sure revenge.
And the charm fascinated him, and I
Plied him cup after cup, until the drink
Had warmed his entrails, and he sang aloud
In concert with my wailing fellow-seamen 420
A hideous discord—and the cavern rung.
I have stolen out, so that if you will
You may achieve my safety and your own.
But say, do you desire, or not, to fly
This uncompanionable man, and dwell 425
As was your wont among the Grecian Nymphs
Within the fanes of your belovèd God?
Your father there within agrees to it,
But he is weak and overcome with wine,
And caught as if with bird-lime by the cup, 430
He claps his wings and crows in doting joy.
You who are young escape with me, and find
Bacchus your ancient friend; unsuited he
To this rude Cyclops.
Chorus. Oh my dearest friend,
That I could see that day, and leave for ever. 435
The impious Cyclops.


Ulysses. Listen then what a punishment I have
For this fell monster, how secure a flight
From your hard servitude.
Chorus. O sweeter far
Than is the music of an Asian lyre 440
Would be the news of Polypheme destroyed.
Ulysses. Delighted with the Bacchic drink he goes
To call his brother Cyclops—who inhabit
A village upon Aetna not far off.
Chorus. I understand, catching him when alone 445
You think by some measure to dispatch him,
Or thrust him from the precipice.
Ulysses. Oh no;
Nothing of that kind; my device is subtle.
Chorus. How then? I heard of old that thou wert wise.
Ulysses. I will dissuade him from this plan, by saying 450
It were unwise to give the Cyclopses
This precious drink, which if enjoyed alone
Would make life sweeter for a longer time.
When, vanquished by the Bacchic power, he sleeps,
There is a trunk of olive wood within, 455
Whose point having made sharp with this good sword
I will conceal in fire, and when I see
It is alight, will fix it, burning yet,
Within the socket of the Cyclops' eye
And melt it out with fire—as when a man 460
Turns by its handle a great auger round,
Fitting the framework of a ship with beams,
So will I, in the Cyclops' fiery eye
Turn round the brand and dry the pupil up.
Chorus. Joy! I am mad with joy at your device. 465
Ulysses. And then with you, my friends, and the old man,
We'll load the hollow depth of our black ship,
And row with double strokes from this dread shore.
Chorus. May I, as in libations to a God,
Share in the blinding him with the red brand? 470
I would have some communion in his death.
Ulysses. Doubtless: the brand is a great brand to hold.
Chorus. Oh! I would lift an hundred waggon-loads,
If like a wasp's nest I could scoop the eye out
Of the detested Cyclops.
Ulysses. Silence now! 475
Ye know the close device—and when I call,
Look ye obey the masters of the craft.
I will not save myself and leave behind
My comrades in the cave: I might escape,
Having got clear from that obscure recess, 480
But 'twere unjust to leave in jeopardy
The dear companions who sailed here with me.


Come! who is first, that with his hand
Will urge down the burning brand
Through the lids, and quench and pierce 485
The Cyclops' eye so fiery fierce?

Semichorus I. (Song within.)

Listen! listen! he is coming,
A most hideous discord humming.
Drunken, museless, awkward, yelling,
Far along his rocky dwelling; 490
Let us with some comic spell
Teach the yet unteachable.
By all means he must be blinded,
If my counsel be but minded.

Semichorus II.

Happy thou made odorous 495
With the dew which sweet grapes weep,
To the village hastening thus,
Seek the vines that soothe to sleep;
Having first embraced thy friend,
Thou in luxury without end, 500
With the strings of yellow hair,
Of thy voluptuous leman fair,
Shalt sit playing on a bed!—
Speak! what door is openèd?


Ha! ha! ha! I'm full of wine, 505
Heavy with the joy divine,
With the young feast oversated;
Like a merchant's vessel freighted
To the water's edge, my crop
Is laden to the gullet's top. 510
The fresh meadow grass of spring
Tempts me forth thus wandering
To my brothers on the mountains,
Who shall share the wine's sweet fountains.
Bring the cask, O stranger, bring! 515


One with eyes the fairest
Cometh from his dwelling;
Some one loves thee, rarest,
Bright beyond my telling.
In thy grace thou shinest 520
Like some nymph divinest
In her caverns dewy:—
All delights pursue thee,
Soon pied flowers, sweet-breathing,
Shall thy head be wreathing. 525

Ulysses. Listen, O Cyclops, for I am well skilled
In Bacchus, whom I gave thee of to drink.
Cyclops. What sort of God is Bacchus then accounted?
Ulysses. The greatest among men for joy of life.
Cyclops. I gulped him down with very great delight. 530
Ulysses. This is a God who never injures men.
Cyclops. How does the God like living in a skin?
Ulysses. He is content wherever he is put.
Cyclops. Gods should not have their body in a skin.
Ulysses. If he gives joy, what is his skin to you? 535
Cyclops. I hate the skin, but love the wine within.
Ulysses. Stay here now: drink, and make your spirit glad.
Cyclops. Should I not share this liquor with my brothers?
Ulysses. Keep it yourself, and be more honoured so.
Cyclops. I were more useful, giving to my friends. 540
Ulysses. But village mirth breeds contests, broils, and blows.
Cyclops. When I am drunk none shall lay hands on me.—
Ulysses. A drunken man is better within doors.
Cyclops. He is a fool, who drinking, loves not mirth.
Ulysses. But he is wise, who drunk, remains at home. 545
Cyclops. What shall I do, Silenus? Shall I stay?
Silenus. Stay—for what need have you of pot companions?
Cyclops. Indeed this place is closely carpeted
With flowers and grass.
Silenus. And in the sun-warm noon
'Tis sweet to drink. Lie down beside me now, 550
Placing your mighty sides upon the ground.
Cyclops. What do you put the cup behind me for?
Silenus. That no one here may touch it.
Cyclops. Thievish one!
You want to drink;—here place it in the midst.
And thou, O stranger, tell how art thou called? 555
Ulysses. My name is Nobody. What favour now
Shall I receive to praise you at your hands?
Cyclops. I'll feast on you the last of your companions.
Ulysses. You grant your guest a fair reward, O Cyclops.
Cyclops. Ha! what is this? Stealing the wine, you rogue!
Silenus. It was this stranger kissing me because 561
I looked so beautiful.
Cyclops. You shall repent
For kissing the coy wine that loves you not.
Silenus. By Jupiter! you said that I am fair.
Cyclops. Pour out, and only give me the cup full. 565
Silenus. How is it mixed? let me observe.
Cyclops. Curse you!
Give it me so.
Silenus. Not till I see you wear
That coronal, and taste the cup to you.
Cyclops. Thou wily traitor!
Silenus. But the wine is sweet.
Ay, you will roar if you are caught in drinking. 570
Cyclops. See now, my lip is clean and all my beard.
Silenus. Now put your elbow right and drink again.
As you see me drink— . . .
Cyclops. How now?
Silenus. Ye Gods, what a delicious gulp!
Cyclops. Guest, take it;—you pour out the wine for me. 575
Ulysses. The wine is well accustomed to my hand.
Cyclops. Pour out the wine!
Ulysses. I pour; only be silent.
Cyclops. Silence is a hard task to him who drinks.
Ulysses. Take it and drink it off; leave not a dreg.
Oh, that the drinker died with his own draught! 580
Cyclops. Papai! the vine must be a sapient plant.
Ulysses. If you drink much after a mighty feast,
Moistening your thirsty maw, you will sleep well;
If you leave aught, Bacchus will dry you up.
Cyclops. Ho! ho! I can scarce rise. What pure delight!
The heavens and earth appear to whirl about 586
Confusedly. I see the throne of Jove
And the clear congregation of the Gods.
Now if the Graces tempted me to kiss
I would not—for the loveliest of them all 590
I would not leave this Ganymede.
Silenus. Polypheme,
I am the Ganymede of Jupiter.
Cyclops. By Jove, you are; I bore you off from Dardanus.


Ulysses and the Chorus.

Ulysses. Come, boys of Bacchus, children of high race,
This man within is folded up in sleep, 595
And soon will vomit flesh from his fell maw;
The brand under the shed thrusts out its smoke,
No preparation needs, but to burn out
The monster's eye;—but bear yourselves like men.
Chorus. We will have courage like the adamant rock, 600
All things are ready for you here; go in,
Before our father shall perceive the noise.
Ulysses. Vulcan, Aetnean king! burn out with fire
The shining eye of this thy neighbouring monster!
And thou, O Sleep, nursling of gloomy Night, 605
Descend unmixed on this God-hated beast,
And suffer not Ulysses and his comrades,
Returning from their famous Trojan toils,
To perish by this man, who cares not either
For God or mortal; or I needs must think 610
That Chance is a supreme divinity,
And things divine are subject to her power.


Soon a crab the throat will seize
Of him who feeds upon his guest,
Fire will burn his lamp-like eyes 615
In revenge of such a feast!
A great oak stump now is lying
In the ashes yet undying.
Come, Maron, come
Raging let him fix the doom, 620
Let him tear the eyelid up
Of the Cyclops—that his cup
May be evil!
Oh! I long to dance and revel
With sweet Bromian, long desired, 625
In loved ivy wreaths attired;
Leaving this abandoned home—
Will the moment ever come?

Ulysses. Be silent, ye wild things! Nay, hold your peace,
And keep your lips quite close; dare not to breathe, 630
Or spit, or e'en wink, lest ye wake the monster,
Until his eye be tortured out with fire.
Chorus. Nay, we are silent, and we chaw the air.
Ulysses. Come now, and lend a hand to the great stake
Within—it is delightfully red hot. 635
Chorus. You then command who first should seize the stake
To burn the Cyclops' eye, that all may share
In the great enterprise.
Semichorus I. We are too far;
We cannot at this distance from the door
Thrust fire into his eye.
Semichorus II. And we just now 640
Have become lame! cannot move hand or foot.
Chorus. The same thing has occurred to us,—our ankles
Are sprained with standing here, I know not how.
Ulysses. What, sprained with standing still?
Chorus. And there is dust
Or ashes in our eyes, I know not whence. 645
Ulysses. Cowardly dogs! ye will not aid me then?
Chorus. With pitying my own back and my back-bone,
And with not wishing all my teeth knocked out,
This cowardice comes of itself—but stay,
I know a famous Orphic incantation 650
To make the brand stick of its own accord
Into the skull of this one-eyed son of Earth.
Ulysses. Of old I knew ye thus by nature; now
I know ye better.—I will use the aid
Of my own comrades. Yet though weak of hand 655
Speak cheerfully, that so ye may awaken
The courage of my friends with your blithe words.
Chorus. This I will do with peril of my life,
And blind you with my exhortations, Cyclops.
Hasten and thrust, 660
And parch up to dust,
The eye of the beast
Who feeds on his guest.
Burn and blind
The Aetnean hind! 665
Scoop and draw.
But he ware lest he claw
Your limbs near his maw.
Cyclops. Ah me! my eyesight is parched up to cinders.
Chorus. What a sweet paean! sing me that again! 670
Cyclops. Ah me! indeed, what woe has fallen upon me!
But, wretched nothings, think ye not to flee
Out of this rock; I, standing at the outlet,
Will bar the way and catch you as you pass.
Chorus. What are you roaring out, Cyclops?
Cyclops. I perish! 675
Chorus. For you are wicked.
Cyclops. And besides miserable.
Chorus. What, did you fall into the fire when drunk?
Cyclops. 'Twas Nobody destroyed me.
Chorus. Why then no one
Can be to blame.
Cyclops. I say 'twas Nobody
Who blinded me.
Chorus. Why then you are not blind. 680
Cyclops. I wish you were as blind as I am.
Chorus. Nay,
It cannot be that no one made you blind.
Cyclops. You jeer me; where, I ask, is Nobody?
Chorus. Nowhere, O Cyclops.
Cyclops. It was that stranger ruined me:—the wretch 685
First gave me wine and then burned out my eye,
For wine is strong and hard to struggle with.
Have they escaped, or are they yet within?
Chorus. They stand under the darkness of the rock
And cling to it.
Cyclops. At my right hand or left? 690
Chorus. Close on your right.
Cyclops. Where?
Chorus. Near the rock itself.
You have them.
Cyclops. Oh, misfortune on misfortune!
I've cracked my skull.
Chorus. Now they escape you—there.
Cyclops. Not there, although you say so.
Chorus. Not on that side.
Cyclops. Where then?
Chorus. They creep about you on your left. 695
Cyclops. Ah! I am mocked! They jeer me in my ills.
Chorus. Not there! he is a little there beyond you.
Cyclops. Detested wretch! where are you?
Ulysses. Far from you
I keep with care this body of Ulysses.
Cyclops. What do you say? You proffer a new name. 700
Ulysses. My father named me so; and I have taken
A full revenge for your unnatural feast;
I should have done ill to have burned down Troy
And not revenged the murder of my comrades.
Cyclops. Ai! ai! the ancient oracle is accomplished; 705
It said that I should have my eyesight blinded
By your coming from Troy, yet it foretold
That you should pay the penalty for this
By wandering long over the homeless sea.
Ulysses. I bid thee weep—consider what I say; 710
I go towards the shore to drive my ship
To mine own land, o'er the Sicilian wave.
Cyclops. Not so, if, whelming you with this huge stone,
I can crush you and all your men together;
I will descend upon the shore, though blind, 715
Groping my way adown the steep ravine.
Chorus. And we, the shipmates of Ulysses now,
Will serve our Bacchus all our happy lives.



  1. I confess I do not understand this.—[Shelley's Note.]

Line notes

23 waste B.; wild 1824; 'cf. 26, where waste is cancelled for wild' (Locock).

216 Furrow B.; Torture (evidently misread for Furrow) 1824.

344 ravin Rossetti; spelt ravine in B., edd. 1824, 1839.

369 not to be believed B.; not believed 1824.

382 ten cj. Swinburne; four 1824; four cancelled for ten (possibly) B.

416 take] grant (as alternative) B.

446 by some measure 1824; with some measures B.

495 thou cj. Swinburne, Rossetti; those 1824; 'the word is doubtful in B.' (Locock).

500 Thou B.; There 1824.

508 merchant's 1824; merchant B.

537 Stay here now. drink B.; stay here, now drink 1824.

606 God-hated 1824; God-hating (as an alternative) B.

693 So B.; Now they escape you there 1824.

Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.