The Odyssey of Homer (Cowper)/Book X
We came to the Æolian isle; there dwells
Æolus, son of Hippotas, belov’d
By the Immortals, in an isle afloat.
A brazen wall impregnable on all sides
Girds it, and smooth its rocky coast ascends.
His children, in his own fair palace born,
Are twelve; six daughters, and six blooming sons.
He gave his daughters to his sons to wife;
They with their father hold perpetual feast
And with their royal mother, still supplied
With dainties numberless; the sounding dome
Is fill’d with sav’ry odours all the day,
And with their consorts chaste at night they sleep
On stateliest couches with rich arras spread.
Their city and their splendid courts we reach’d.
A month complete he, friendly, at his board
Regaled me, and enquiry made minute
Of Ilium’s fall, of the Achaian fleet,
And of our voyage thence. I told him all.
But now, desirous to embark again,
I ask’d dismission home, which he approved,
And well provided for my prosp’rous course.
He gave me, furnish’d by a bullock slay’d
In his ninth year, a bag; ev’ry rude blast
Which from its bottom turns the Deep, that bag
Imprison’d held; for him Saturnian Jove
Hath officed arbiter of all the winds,
To rouse their force or calm them, at his will.
He gave me them on board my bark, so bound
With silver twine that not a breath escaped,
Then order’d gentle Zephyrus to fill
Our sails propitious. Order vain, alas!
So fatal proved the folly of my friends.
Nine days continual, night and day we sail’d,
And on the tenth my native land appear’d.
Not far remote my Ithacans I saw
Fires kindling on the coast; but me with toil
Worn, and with watching, gentle sleep subdued;
For constant I had ruled the helm, nor giv’n
That charge to any, fearful of delay.
Then, in close conference combined, my crew
Each other thus bespake—He carries home
Silver and gold from Æolus received,
Offspring of Hippotas, illustrious Chief—
And thus a mariner the rest harangued.
Ye Gods! what city or what land soe’er
Ulysses visits, how is he belov’d
By all, and honour’d! many precious spoils
He homeward bears from Troy; but we return,
(We who the self-same voyage have perform’d)
With empty hands. Now also he hath gain’d
This pledge of friendship from the King of winds.
But come—be quick—search we the bag, and learn
What stores of gold and silver it contains.
So he, whose mischievous advice prevailed.
They loos’d the bag; forth issued all the winds,
And, caught by tempests o’er the billowy waste,
Weeping they flew, far, far from Ithaca.
I then, awaking, in my noble mind
Stood doubtful, whether from my vessel’s side
Immersed to perish in the flood, or calm
To endure my sorrows, and content to live.
I calm endured them; but around my head
Winding my mantle, lay’d me down below,
While adverse blasts bore all my fleet again
To the Æolian isle; then groan’d my people.
We disembark’d and drew fresh water there,
And my companions, at their galley’s sides
All seated, took repast; short meal we made,
When, with an herald and a chosen friend,
I sought once more the hall of Æolus.
Him banqueting with all his sons we found,
And with his spouse; we ent’ring, on the floor
Of his wide portal sat, whom they amazed
Beheld, and of our coming thus enquired.
Return’d? Ulysses! by what adverse Pow’r
Repuls’d hast thou arrived? we sent thee hence
Well-fitted forth to reach thy native isle,
Thy palace, or what place soe’er thou would’st.
So they—to whom, heart-broken, I replied.
My worthless crew have wrong’d me, nor alone
My worthless crew, but sleep ill-timed, as much.
Yet heal, O friends, my hurt; the pow’r is yours!
So I their favour woo’d. Mute sat the sons,
But thus their father answer’d. Hence—be gone—
Leave this our isle, thou most obnoxious wretch
Of all mankind. I should, myself, transgress,
Receiving here, and giving conduct hence
To one detested by the Gods as thou.
Away—for hated by the Gods thou com’st.
So saying, he sent me from his palace forth,
Groaning profound; thence, therefore, o’er the Deep
We still proceeded sorrowful, our force
Exhausting ceaseless at the toilsome oar,
And, through our own imprudence, hopeless now
Of other furth’rance to our native isle.
Six days we navigated, day and night,
The briny flood, and on the seventh reach’d
The city erst by Lamus built sublime,
Proud Læstrygonia, with the distant gates.
The herdsman, there, driving his cattle home,38
Summons the shepherd with his flocks abroad.
The sleepless there might double wages earn,
Attending, now, the herds, now, tending sheep,
For the night-pastures, and the pastures grazed
By day, close border, both, the city-walls.
To that illustrious port we came, by rocks
Uninterrupted flank’d on either side
Of tow’ring height, while prominent the shores
And bold, converging at the haven’s mouth
Leave narrow pass. We push’d our galleys in,
Then moor’d them side by side; for never surge
There lifts its head, or great or small, but clear
We found, and motionless, the shelter’d flood.
Myself alone, staying my bark without,
Secured her well with hawsers to a rock
At the land’s point, then climb’d the rugged steep,
And spying stood the country. Labours none
Of men or oxen in the land appear’d,
Nor aught beside saw we, but from the earth
Smoke rising; therefore of my friends I sent
Before me two, adding an herald third,
To learn what race of men that country fed.
Departing, they an even track pursued
Made by the waggons bringing timber down
From the high mountains to the town below.
Before the town a virgin bearing forth
Her ew’r they met, daughter of him who ruled
The Læstrygonian race, Antiphatas.
Descending from the gate, she sought the fount
Artacia; for their custom was to draw
From that pure fountain for the city’s use.
Approaching they accosted her, and ask’d
What King reign’d there, and over whom he reign’d.
She gave them soon to know where stood sublime
The palace of her Sire; no sooner they
The palace enter’d, than within they found,
In size resembling an huge mountain-top,
A woman, whom they shudder’d to behold.
She forth from council summon’d quick her spouse
Antiphatas, who teeming came with thoughts
Of carnage, and, arriving, seized at once
A Greecian, whom, next moment, he devoured.
With headlong terrour the surviving two
Fled to the ships. Then sent Antiphatas
His voice through all the town, and on all sides,
Hearing that cry, the Læstrygonians flock’d
Numberless, and in size resembling more
The giants than mankind. They from the rocks
Cast down into our fleet enormous stones,
A strong man’s burthen each; dire din arose
Of shatter’d galleys and of dying men,
Whom spear’d like fishes to their home they bore,
A loathsome prey. While them within the port
They slaughter’d, I, (the faulchion at my side
Drawn forth) cut loose the hawser of my ship,
And all my crew enjoin’d with bosoms laid
Prone on their oars, to fly the threaten’d woe.
They, dreading instant death tugg’d resupine
Together, and the galley from beneath
Those beetling39 rocks into the open sea
Shot gladly; but the rest all perish’d there.
Proceeding thence, we sigh’d, and roamed the waves,
Glad that we lived, but sorrowing for the slain.
We came to the Ææan isle; there dwelt
The awful Circe, Goddess amber-hair’d,
Deep-skill’d in magic song, sister by birth
Of the all-wise Æætes; them the Sun,
Bright luminary of the world, begat
On Perse, daughter of Oceanus.
Our vessel there, noiseless, we push’d to land
Within a spacious haven, thither led
By some celestial Pow’r. We disembark’d,
And on the coast two days and nights entire
Extended lay, worn with long toil, and each
The victim of his heart-devouring woes.
Then, with my spear and with my faulchion arm’d,
I left the ship to climb with hasty steps
An airy height, thence, hoping to espie
Some works of man, or hear, perchance, a voice.
Exalted on a rough rock’s craggy point
I stood, and on the distant plain, beheld
Smoke which from Circe’s palace through the gloom
Of trees and thickets rose. That smoke discern’d,
I ponder’d next if thither I should haste,
Seeking intelligence. Long time I mused,
But chose at last, as my discreter course,
To seek the sea-beach and my bark again,
And, when my crew had eaten, to dispatch
Before me, others, who should first enquire.
But, ere I yet had reach’d my gallant bark,
Some God with pity viewing me alone
In that untrodden solitude, sent forth
An antler’d stag, full-sized, into my path.
His woodland pastures left, he sought the stream,
For he was thirsty, and already parch’d
By the sun’s heat. Him issuing from his haunt,
Sheer through the back beneath his middle spine,
I wounded, and the lance sprang forth beyond.
Moaning he fell, and in the dust expired.
Then, treading on his breathless trunk, I pluck’d
My weapon forth, which leaving there reclined,
I tore away the osiers with my hands
And fallows green, and to a fathom’s length
Twisting the gather’d twigs into a band,
Bound fast the feet of my enormous prey,
And, flinging him athwart my neck, repair’d
Toward my sable bark, propp’d on my lance,
Which now to carry shoulder’d as before
Surpass’d my pow’r, so bulky was the load.
Arriving at the ship, there I let fall
My burthen, and with pleasant speech and kind,
Man after man addressing, cheer’d my crew.
My friends! we suffer much, but shall not seek
The shades, ere yet our destined hour arrive.
Behold a feast! and we have wine on board—
Pine not with needless famine! rise and eat.
I spake; they readily obey’d, and each
Issuing at my word abroad, beside
The galley stood, admiring, as he lay,
The stag, for of no common bulk was he.
At length, their eyes gratified to the full
With that glad spectacle, they laved their hands,
And preparation made of noble cheer.
That day complete, till set of sun, we spent
Feasting deliciously without restraint,
And quaffing generous wine; but when the sun
Went down, and darkness overshadow’d all,
Extended, then, on Ocean’s bank we lay;
And when Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
Look’d rosy forth, convening all my crew
To council, I arose, and thus began.
My fellow-voyagers, however worn
With num’rous hardships, hear! for neither West
Know ye, nor East, where rises, or where sets
The all-enlight’ning sun. But let us think,
If thought perchance may profit us, of which
Small hope I see; for when I lately climb’d
Yon craggy rock, plainly I could discern
The land encompass’d by the boundless Deep.
The isle is flat, and in the midst I saw
Dun smoke ascending from an oaken bow’r.
So I, whom hearing, they all courage lost,
And at remembrance of Antiphatas
The Læstrygonian, and the Cyclops’ deeds,
Ferocious feeder on the flesh of man,
Mourn’d loud and wept, but tears could nought avail.
Then numb’ring man by man, I parted them
In equal portions, and assign’d a Chief
To either band, myself to these, to those
Godlike Eurylochus. This done, we cast
The lots into the helmet, and at once
Forth sprang the lot of bold Eurylochus.
He went, and with him of my people march’d
Twenty and two, all weeping; nor ourselves
Wept less, at separation from our friends.
Low in a vale, but on an open spot,
They found the splendid house of Circe, built
With hewn and polish’d stones; compass’d she dwelt
By lions on all sides and mountain-wolves
Tamed by herself with drugs of noxious pow’rs.
Nor were they mischievous, but as my friends
Approach’d, arising on their hinder feet,
Paw’d them in blandishment, and wagg’d the tail.
As, when from feast he rises, dogs around
Their master fawn, accustom’d to receive
The sop conciliatory from his hand,
Around my people, so, those talon’d wolves
And lions fawn’d. They, terrified, that troop
Of savage monsters horrible beheld.
And now, before the Goddess’ gates arrived,
They heard the voice of Circe singing sweet
Within, while, busied at the loom, she wove
An ample web immortal, such a work
Transparent, graceful, and of bright design
As hands of Goddesses alone produce.
Thus then Polites, Prince of men, the friend
Highest in my esteem, the rest bespake.
Ye hear the voice, comrades, of one who weaves
An ample web within, and at her task
So sweetly chaunts that all the marble floor
Re-echoes; human be she or divine
I doubt, but let us call, that we may learn.
He ceas’d; they call’d; soon issuing at the sound,
The Goddess open’d wide her splendid gates,
And bade them in; they, heedless, all complied,
All save Eurylochus, who fear’d a snare.
She, introducing them, conducted each
To a bright throne, then gave them Pramnian wine,
With grated cheese, pure meal, and honey new,
But medicated with her pois’nous drugs
Their food, that in oblivion they might lose
The wish of home. She gave them, and they drank,—
When, smiting each with her enchanting wand,
She shut them in her sties. In head, in voice,
In body, and in bristles they became
All swine, yet intellected as before,
And at her hand were dieted alone
With acorns, chestnuts, and the cornel-fruit,
Food grateful ever to the grovelling swine.
Back flew Eurylochus toward the ship,
To tell the woeful tale; struggling to speak,
Yet speechless, there he stood, his heart transfixt
With anguish, and his eyes deluged with tears.
Me boding terrours occupied. At length,
When, gazing on him, all had oft enquired,
He thus rehearsed to us the dreadful change.
Renown’d Ulysses! as thou bad’st, we went
Through yonder oaks; there, bosom’d in a vale,
But built conspicuous on a swelling knoll
With polish’d rock, we found a stately dome.
Within, some Goddess or some woman wove
An ample web, carolling sweet the while.
They call’d aloud; she, issuing at the voice,
Unfolded, soon, her splendid portals wide,
And bade them in. Heedless they enter’d, all,
But I remain’d, suspicious of a snare.
Ere long the whole band vanish’d, none I saw
Thenceforth, though, seated there, long time I watch’d.
He ended; I my studded faulchion huge
Athwart my shoulder cast, and seized my bow,
Then bade him lead me thither by the way
Himself had gone; but with both hands my knees
He clasp’d, and in wing’d accents sad exclaim’d.
My King! ah lead me not unwilling back,
But leave me here; for confident I judge
That neither thou wilt bring another thence,
Nor come thyself again. Haste—fly we swift
With these, for we, at least, may yet escape.
So he, to whom this answer I return’d.
Eurylochus! abiding here, eat thou
And drink thy fill beside the sable bark;
I go; necessity forbids my stay.
So saying, I left the galley and the shore.
But ere that awful vale ent’ring, I reach’d
The palace of the sorceress, a God
Met me, the bearer of the golden wand,
Hermes. He seem’d a stripling in his prime,
His cheeks cloath’d only with their earliest down,
For youth is then most graceful; fast he lock’d
His hand in mine, and thus, familiar, spake.
Unhappy! whither, wand’ring o’er the hills,
Stranger to all this region, and alone,
Go’st thou? Thy people—they within the walls
Are shut of Circe, where as swine close-pent
She keeps them. Comest thou to set them free?
I tell thee, never wilt thou thence return
Thyself, but wilt be prison’d with the rest.
Yet hearken—I will disappoint her wiles,
And will preserve thee. Take this precious drug;
Possessing this, enter the Goddess’ house
Boldly, for it shall save thy life from harm.
Lo! I reveal to thee the cruel arts
Of Circe; learn them. She will mix for thee
A potion, and will also drug thy food
With noxious herbs; but she shall not prevail
By all her pow’r to change thee; for the force
Superior of this noble plant, my gift,
Shall baffle her. Hear still what I advise.
When she shall smite thee with her slender rod,
With faulchion drawn and with death-threat’ning looks
Rush on her; she will bid thee to her bed
Affrighted; then beware. Decline not thou
Her love, that she may both release thy friends,
And may with kindness entertain thyself.
But force her swear the dreaded oath of heav’n
That she will other mischief none devise
Against thee, lest she strip thee of thy might,
And, quenching all thy virtue, make thee vile.
So spake the Argicide, and from the earth
That plant extracting, placed it in my hand,
Then taught me all its pow’rs. Black was the root,
Milk-white the blossom; Moly is its name
In heav’n; not easily by mortal man
Dug forth, but all is easy to the Gods.
Then, Hermes through the island-woods repair’d
To heav’n, and I to Circe’s dread abode,
In gloomy musings busied as I went.
Within the vestibule arrived, where dwelt
The beauteous Goddess, staying there my steps,
I call’d aloud; she heard me, and at once
Issuing, threw her splendid portals wide,
And bade me in. I follow’d, heart-distress’d.
Leading me by the hand to a bright throne
With argent studs embellish’d, and beneath
Footstool’d magnificent, she made me sit.
Then mingling for me in a golden cup
My bev’rage, she infused a drug, intent
On mischief; but when I had drunk the draught
Unchanged, she smote me with her wand, and said.
Hence—seek the sty. There wallow with thy friends.
She spake; I drawing from beside my thigh
My faulchion keen, with death-denouncing looks
Rush’d on her; she with a shrill scream of fear
Ran under my rais’d arm, seized fast my knees,
And in wing’d accents plaintive thus began.
Who? whence? thy city and thy birth declare.
Amazed I see thee with that potion drench’d,
Yet uninchanted; never man before
Once pass’d it through his lips, and liv’d the same;
But in thy breast a mind inhabits, proof
Against all charms. Come then—I know thee well.
Thou art Ulysses artifice-renown’d,
Of whose arrival here in his return
From Ilium, Hermes of the golden wand
Was ever wont to tell me. Sheath again
Thy sword, and let us, on my bed reclined,
Mutual embrace, that we may trust thenceforth
Each other, without jealousy or fear.
The Goddess spake, to whom I thus replied.
O Circe! canst thou bid me meek become
And gentle, who beneath thy roof detain’st
My fellow-voyagers transform’d to swine?
And, fearing my escape, invit’st thou me
Into thy bed, with fraudulent pretext
Of love, that there, enfeebling by thy arts
My noble spirit, thou may’st make me vile?
No—trust me—never will I share thy bed
Till first, O Goddess, thou consent to swear
The dread all-binding oath, that other harm
Against myself thou wilt imagine none.
I spake. She swearing as I bade, renounced
All evil purpose, and (her solemn oath
Concluded) I ascended, next, her bed
Magnificent. Meantime, four graceful nymphs
Attended on the service of the house,
Her menials, from the fountains sprung and groves,
And from the sacred streams that seek the sea.
Of these, one cast fine linen on the thrones,
Which, next, with purple arras rich she spread;
Another placed before the gorgeous seats
Bright tables, and set on baskets of gold.
The third, an argent beaker fill’d with wine
Delicious, which in golden cups she served;
The fourth brought water, which she warm’d within
An ample vase, and when the simm’ring flood
Sang in the tripod, led me to a bath,
And laved me with the pleasant stream profuse
Pour’d o’er my neck and body, till my limbs
Refresh’d, all sense of lassitude resign’d.
When she had bathed me, and with limpid oil
Anointed me, and cloathed me in a vest
And mantle, next, she led me to a throne
Of royal state, with silver studs emboss’d,
And footstool’d soft beneath; then came a nymph
With golden ewer charged and silver bowl,
Who pour’d pure water on my hands, and placed
The polish’d board before me, which with food
Various, selected from her present stores,
The cat’ress spread, then, courteous, bade me eat.
But me it pleas’d not; with far other thoughts
My spirit teem’d, on vengeance more intent.
Soon, then, as Circe mark’d me on my seat
Fast-rooted, sullen, nor with outstretch’d hands
Deigning to touch the banquet, she approach’d,
And in wing’d accents suasive thus began.
Why sits Ulysses like the Dumb, dark thoughts
His only food? loaths he the touch of meat,
And taste of wine? Thou fear’st, as I perceive,
Some other snare, but idle is that fear,
For I have sworn the inviolable oath.
She ceas’d, to whom this answer I return’d.
How can I eat? what virtuous man and just,
O Circe! could endure the taste of wine
Or food, till he should see his prison’d friends
Once more at liberty? If then thy wish
That I should eat and drink be true, produce
My captive people; let us meet again.
So I; then Circe, bearing in her hand
Her potent rod, went forth, and op’ning wide
The door, drove out my people from the sty,
In bulk resembling brawns of the ninth year.
They stood before me; she through all the herd
Proceeding, with an unctuous antidote
Anointed each, and at the wholesome touch
All shed the swinish bristles by the drug
Dread Circe’s former magic gift, produced.
Restored at once to manhood, they appear’d
More vig’rous far, and sightlier than before.
They knew me, and with grasp affectionate
Hung on my hand. Tears follow’d, but of joy,
And with loud cries the vaulted palace rang.
Even the awful Goddess felt, herself,
Compassion, and, approaching me, began.
Laertes’ noble son, for wiles renown’d!
Hence to the shore, and to thy gallant bark;
First, hale her safe aground, then, hiding all
Your arms and treasures in the caverns, come
Thyself again, and hither lead thy friends.
So spake the Goddess, and my gen’rous mind
Persuaded; thence repairing to the beach,
I sought my ship; arrived, I found my crew
Lamenting miserably, and their cheeks
With tears bedewing ceaseless at her side.
As when the calves within some village rear’d
Behold, at eve, the herd returning home
From fruitful meads where they have grazed their fill,
No longer in the stalls contain’d, they rush
With many a frisk abroad, and, blaring oft,
With one consent, all dance their dams around,
So they, at sight of me, dissolved in tears
Of rapt’rous joy, and each his spirit felt
With like affections warm’d as he had reach’d
Just then his country, and his city seen,
Fair Ithaca, where he was born and rear’d.
Then in wing’d accents tender thus they spake.
Noble Ulysses! thy appearance fills
Our soul with transports, such as we should feel
Arrived in safety on our native shore.
Speak—say how perish’d our unhappy friends?
So they; to whom this answer mild I gave.
Hale we our vessel first ashore, and hide
In caverns all our treasures and our arms,
Then, hasting hence, follow me, and ere long
Ye shall behold your friends, beneath the roof
Of Circe banqueting and drinking wine
Abundant, for no dearth attends them there.
So I; whom all with readiness obey’d,
All save Eurylochus; he sought alone
To stay the rest, and, eager, interposed.
Ah whither tend we, miserable men?
Why covet ye this evil, to go down
To Circe’s palace? she will change us all
To lions, wolves or swine, that we may guard
Her palace, by necessity constrain’d.
So some were pris’ners of the Cyclops erst,
When, led by rash Ulysses, our lost friends
Intruded needlessly into his cave,
And perish’d by the folly of their Chief.
He spake, whom hearing, occupied I stood
In self-debate, whether, my faulchion keen
Forth-drawing from beside my sturdy thigh,
To tumble his lopp’d head into the dust,
Although he were my kinsman in the bonds
Of close affinity; but all my friends
As with one voice, thus gently interposed.
Noble Ulysses! we will leave him here
Our vessel’s guard, if such be thy command,
But us lead thou to Circe’s dread abode.
So saying, they left the galley, and set forth
Climbing the coast; nor would Eurylochus
Beside the hollow bark remain, but join’d
His comrades by my dreadful menace awed.
Meantime the Goddess, busily employ’d,
Bathed and refresh’d my friends with limpid oil,
And clothed them. We, arriving, found them all
Banqueting in the palace; there they met;
These ask’d, and those rehearsed the wond’rous tale,
And, the recital made, all wept aloud
Till the wide dome resounded. Then approach’d
The graceful Goddess, and address’d me thus.
Laertes’ noble son, for wiles renown’d!
Provoke ye not each other, now, to tears.
I am not ignorant, myself, how dread
Have been your woes both on the fishy Deep,
And on the land by force of hostile pow’rs.
But come—Eat now, and drink ye wine, that so
Your freshen’d spirit may revive, and ye
Courageous grow again, as when ye left
The rugged shores of Ithaca, your home.
For now, through recollection, day by day,
Of all your pains and toils, ye are become
Spiritless, strengthless, and the taste forget
Of pleasure, such have been your num’rous woes.
She spake, whose invitation kind prevail’d,
And won us to her will. There, then, we dwelt
The year complete, fed with delicious fare
Day after day, and quaffing gen’rous wine.
But when (the year fulfill’d) the circling hours
Their course resumed, and the successive months
With all their tedious days were spent, my friends,
Summoning me abroad, thus greeted me.
Sir! recollect thy country, if indeed
The fates ordain thee to revisit safe
That country, and thy own glorious abode.
So they; whose admonition I receiv’d
Well-pleas’d. Then, all the day, regaled we sat
At Circe’s board with sav’ry viands rare,
And quaffing richest wine; but when, the sun
Declining, darkness overshadow’d all,
Then, each within the dusky palace took
Custom’d repose, and to the Goddess’ bed
Magnificent ascending, there I urged
My earnest suit, which gracious she receiv’d,
And in wing’d accents earnest thus I spake.
O Circe! let us prove thy promise true;
Dismiss us hence. My own desires, at length,
Tend homeward vehement, and the desires
No less of all my friends, who with complaints
Unheard by thee, wear my sad heart away.
So I; to whom the Goddess in return.
Laertes’ noble son, Ulysses famed
For deepest wisdom! dwell not longer here,
Thou and thy followers, in my abode
Reluctant; but your next must be a course
Far diff’rent; hence departing, ye must seek
The dreary house of Ades and of dread
Persephone there to consult the Seer
Theban Tiresias, prophet blind, but blest
With faculties which death itself hath spared.
To him alone, of all the dead, Hell’s Queen
Gives still to prophesy, while others flit
Mere forms, the shadows of what once they were.
She spake, and by her words dash’d from my soul
All courage; weeping on the bed I sat,
Reckless of life and of the light of day.
But when, with tears and rolling to and fro
Satiate, I felt relief, thus I replied.
O Circe! with what guide shall I perform
This voyage, unperform’d by living man?
I spake, to whom the Goddess quick replied.
Brave Laertiades! let not the fear
To want a guide distress thee. Once on board,
Your mast erected, and your canvas white
Unfurl’d, sit thou; the breathing North shall waft
Thy vessel on. But when ye shall have cross’d
The broad expanse of Ocean, and shall reach
The oozy shore, where grow the poplar groves
And fruitless willows wan of Proserpine,
Push thither through the gulphy Deep thy bark,
And, landing, haste to Pluto’s murky abode.
There, into Acheron runs not alone
Dread Pyriphlegethon, but Cocytus loud,
From Styx derived; there also stands a rock,
At whose broad base the roaring rivers meet.
There, thrusting, as I bid, thy bark ashore,
O Hero! scoop the soil, op’ning a trench
Ell-broad on ev’ry side; then pour around
Libation consecrate to all the dead,
First, milk with honey mixt, then luscious wine,
Then water, sprinkling, last, meal over all.
Next, supplicate the unsubstantial forms
Fervently of the dead, vowing to slay,
(Return’d to Ithaca) in thy own house,
An heifer barren yet, fairest and best
Of all thy herds, and to enrich the pile
With delicacies such as please the shades;
But, in peculiar, to Tiresias vow
A sable ram, noblest of all thy flocks.
When thus thou hast propitiated with pray’r
All the illustrious nations of the dead,
Next, thou shalt sacrifice to them a ram
And sable ewe, turning the face of each
Right toward Erebus, and look thyself,
Meantime, askance toward the river’s course.
Souls num’rous, soon, of the departed dead
Will thither flock; then, strenuous urge thy friends,
Flaying the victims which thy ruthless steel
Hath slain, to burn them, and to sooth by pray’r
Illustrious Pluto and dread Proserpine.
While thus is done, thou seated at the foss,
Faulchion in hand, chace thence the airy forms
Afar, nor suffer them to approach the blood,
Till with Tiresias thou have first conferr’d.
Then, glorious Chief! the Prophet shall himself
Appear, who will instruct thee, and thy course
Delineate, measuring from place to place
Thy whole return athwart the fishy flood.
While thus she spake, the golden dawn arose,
When, putting on me my attire, the nymph
Next, cloath’d herself, and girding to her waist
With an embroider’d zone her snowy robe
Graceful, redundant, veil’d her beauteous head.
Then, ranging the wide palace, I aroused
My followers, standing at the side of each—
Up! sleep no longer! let us quick depart,
For thus the Goddess hath, herself, advised.
So I, whose early summons my brave friends
With readiness obey’d. Yet even thence
I brought not all my crew. There was a youth,
Youngest of all my train, Elpenor; one
Not much in estimation for desert
In arms, nor prompt in understanding more,
Who overcharged with wine, and covetous
Of cooler air, high on the palace-roof
Of Circe slept, apart from all the rest.
Awaken’d by the clamour of his friends
Newly arisen, he also sprang to rise,
And in his haste, forgetful where to find
The deep-descending stairs, plunged through the roof.
With neck-bone broken from the vertebræ
Outstretch’d he lay; his spirit sought the shades.
Then, thus to my assembling friends I spake.
Ye think, I doubt not, of an homeward course,
But Circe points me to the drear abode
Of Proserpine and Pluto, to consult
The spirit of Tiresias, Theban seer.
I ended, and the hearts of all alike
Felt consternation; on the earth they sat
Disconsolate, and plucking each his hair,
Yet profit none of all their sorrow found.
But while we sought my galley on the beach
With tepid tears bedewing, as we went,
Our cheeks, meantime the Goddess to the shore
Descending, bound within the bark a ram
And sable ewe, passing us unperceived.
For who hath eyes that can discern a God
Going or coming, if he shun the view?
- ^ It is supposed by Eustathius that the pastures being infested by gad flies and other noxious insects in the day-time, they drove their sheep a-field in the morning, which by their wool were defended from them, and their cattle in the evening, when the insects had withdrawn. It is one of the few passages in Homer that must lie at the mercy of conjecture.
- ^ The word has the authority of Shakspeare, and signifies overhanging.