Alfred John Church.

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" So they loosed the great bag of ox-hide,
and lo ! all the winds rushed out, and carried


us far away from our country. But I, waking
with the tumult, doubted much whether I
should not throw myself into the sea and so
die. But I endured, thinking it better to live.
Only I veiled my face and so lay still while the
ships drave before the winds, till we came
again to the island of yEolus. Then we
landed, and fetched water, and ate our meal by
the side of our ships. And when our meal
was ended, I took a herald and one of my com-
pany, and went to the palace of the King, and
found him feasting with his wife and children,


and I sat down on the threshold. Much did
they wonder to see me, saying, ' What evil
power has hindered thee, that thou didst not
reach thy country and home ? '

" Then I answered : ' Blame not me, but the
evil counsels of my comrades, and sleep, which
mastered me to my hurt. But do ye help me


" But he said, ' Begone ! we may not help
him w r hom the gods hate ; and hated of them
thou surely art.'

" So v^Eolus sent me away. Then again we


launched our ships and set forth, toiling wear-
ily at the oars, and sad at heart.

" Six days we rowed, nor rested at night ;
and on the seventh we came to Lamos, which
was a city of the Lasstrygons, in whose land
the night is as the day, so that a man might
earn double wage, if only he wanted not sleep
shepherd by day and herdsman by night.
There was a fair haven with cliffs about it, and
a narrow mouth with great rocks on either side.
And within are no waves, but always calm.

" Now I made fast my ship to the rocks that
were without, but the others entered the haven.
Then I sent two men, and a herald with them,
and these came upon a smooth road by which
wagons brought down wood from the moun-
tain to the city. Here they met a maiden, the
stalwart daughter of Antiphates, King of the
land, and asked of her who was lord of that
country. Whereupon she showed them her
father's lofty palace. And they, entering this,
saw the maiden's mother, big as a mountain,
horrible to behold, who straightway called to
Antiphates, her husband. The messengers,


indeed, fled to the ships ; but he made a great
shout, and the Laestrygons came flocking about
him, giants, not men. And these broke off
great stones from the cliffs, each stone as much
as a man could carry, and cast them at the
ships, so that they were broken. And the
men they speared, as if they were fishes, and
devoured them. So it happened to all the
ships in the haven. I only escaped, for I cut
the hawser with my sword, and bade my men
ply their oars, which indeed they did right will-

" After awhile we came to the island of
/Easa, where Circe dwelt, who is the daughter
of the Sun. Two days and nights we lay upon
the shore in great trouble and sorrow. On the
third I took my spear and sword and climbed
a hill that there was, for I wished to see to
what manner of land we had come. And
having climbed it, I saw the smoke rising from
the palace of Circe, where it stood in the midst
of a wood. Then I thought awhile : should I
go straightway to the palace that I saw, or first
return to my comrades on the shore. And it


seemed the better counsel to go to the ship
and bid my comrades make their midday meal,
and afterwards send them to search out the
place. But as I went, some god took pity on
me, and sent a great stag, with mighty antlers,
across my path. The stag was going down to
the river to drink, for indeed the sun was now
hot ; and casting my spear at it I pierced it
through. Then I fastened together the feet

<D O

with screen withes and a fathom's length of

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rope, and slinging the beast round my neck, so
carried it to the ship, leaning on my spear ;
for indeed it was heavy to bear, nor was it
possible for me to carry it on my shoulder with
one hand. And when I was come to the ship,
I cast down my burden. Now the men were
sitting with their faces muffled, so sad were


they. But when I bade them be of good
cheer, they looked up and marvelled at the
great stag. And all that day we feasted on
deer's flesh and sweet wine, and at night lay
down to sleep on the shore. But when morn-
ing was come, I called my comrades together,
and spake : ' I know not, friends, where we


are. Only I know, having seen smoke yester-
day from the hill, that there is a dwelling in
this island.

" It troubled the men much to hear this, for
they thought of the Cyclops and of the Laes-
trygons ; and they wailed aloud, but there was
no counsel in them. Wherefore I divided
them into two companies. I set Eurylochus
over the one and I myself took command of
the other, and I shook lots in a helmet who
should go and search out the island, and the
lot of Eurylochus leapt out. So he went, and
comrades twenty and two with him. And in
an open space in the wood they found the
palace of Circe. All about were wolves and
lions ; yet these harmed not the men, but stood
up on their hind legs, fawning upon them, as
dogs fawn upon their master when he comes
from his meal, because he brings the fragments
with him that they love. And the men were
afraid. And they stood in the porch and heard
the voice of Circe as she sang with a lovely
voice and plied the loom. Then said Polites,
who was dearest of all my comrades to me, in


whom also I most trusted : ' Some one within
plies a great loom, and sings with a loud voice.
Some goddess is she, or woman. Let us make
haste and call.'

" So they called to her, and she came out
and beckoned to them that they should follow.
So they went, in their folly. And she bade
them sit, and mixed for them a mess, red wine,
and in it barley-meal and cheese and honey,
and mighty drugs withal, of which, if a man
drank, he forgot all that he loved. And when
they had drunk she smote them with her wand.
And lo ! they had of a sudden the heads and
the voices and the bristles of swine, but the
heart of a man was in them still. And Circe
shut them in sties, and gave them mast and
acorns and cornel to eat.

" But Eurylochus fled back to the ship,
bringing tidings of what had befallen his com-
rades. For a time he could not speak a word,
so full was his heart of grief, and his eyes of
tears. But, at last, when we had asked him
many questions, he told us this tale, saying :
'We went through the wood, as thou badest


us ; and in the midst of the glades we found
a house, very fair, builded of polished stone.
And one within wove at a great loom, singing
with a clear voice, but whether she was a god-
dess or a woman we knew not. Then my com-
rades called to her, and she came out, and
opened the doors and bade them come in. So
they went in, but I alone stayed without, for I
feared lest there might be some treachery. I
saw not any of them again, though I tarried

" Thereupon I cast about my shoulder my
silver-studded sword, and took my bow also,
and bade him lead me by the way by which he
had gone. But he caught me by both my
hands, and besought me, saying : ' Take me
not thither against my will ; for I am per-
suaded that thou thyself wilt not return again,
nor bring any of thy comrades. -Let us rather
that remain flee, and escape death.' Then I
said, ' Stay here by the ship, eating and drink-
ing, if it be thy will, but I must go, for neces-
sity constrains me.'

" And when I had come to the house, there


met we Hermes of the golden wand, in the
shape of a fair youth, who said to me :

'" Art thou come to rescue thy comrades that
are now swine in Circe's house ? Nay, but
thou shalt never go back thyself. Yet, stay ;
I will give thee such a drug as shall give thee
power to resist all her charms. For when she
shall have mixed thee a mess, and smitten thee
with her wand, then do thou rush upon her
with thy sword, making as if thou wouldest slay
her. And when she shall pray for peace, do
thou make her swear by the great oath that
binds the gods that she will not harm thee.'

" Then Hermes showed me a certain herb,
whose root was black, but the flower white as
milk. ' Moly,' the gods call it, and very hard
it is for mortal man to find ; but to the gods
all things are possible.

" Thereupon Hermes departed to Olympus,
but I went on to the palace of the goddess,
much troubled in heart. When I came thither
I stood in the porch and called, and Circe
came, and opened the doors, and bade me
come in.


" Then she set me on a great chair, skilfully
carven, with a footstool for my feet. Afterward
she gave me drink in a cup of gold, but she
had mixed in it a deadly charm. This I drank,
but was not bewitched, for the herb saved me.
Then she smote me with her wand, saying :
' Go now to the sty and lie there with thy
fellows.' Thereupon I drew my sword, and
rushed upon her, as though I would have
slain her. Then she caught me by the
knees, and cried aloud : ' Who art thou ?
What is thy race ? I marvel that thou
couldest drink of this drink that I have
charmed, and yet take no hurt. I thought
that there was no mortal man that could so
do. Thou must have a soul against which
there is no enchantment. Verily, thou must
be that Ulysses who was to come to this island
as he returned from Troy, for so Hermes told
me. But come, let us be friends.' Then I
said to her : ' Nay, goddess, but how can we
two be friends, when thou hast turned my com-
panions into swine. I fear thee that thou hast
some deceit in thy heart, and thou wilt take


me unawares, and do me a great mischief. But
swear a mighty oath, even the oath by which the
gods are bound, that thou wilt not harm me.'

" Then Circe sware the mighty oath, even
the oath by which the gods are bound.

" After this her handmaids, that were fair
women born of the springs and streams and
woods, prepared a feast. One set coverlets of
purple on the chairs, and another brought up
tables of silver to the chair, and set on the
tables baskets of gold. A third mixed sweet
wine in a bowl of silver, and set thereby cups
of gold ; and the fourth filled a great caldron
with water, and put fire under it. And when
it boiled, she mixed it with water in the bath,
duly tempering it, and the bath took away the
weariness from my limbs. And when I had
bathed, a handmaid bare water in an ewer of
gold, and poured it over a basin of gold, that I
might wash my hands. Then the housekeeper
brought me wheaten bread, and set many
dainties on the table ; and Circe bade me
eat ; but I sat silent and sorrowful, having
other thoughts in my mind.











" And when the goddess perceived that I
was silent and ate not, she said : ' Why dost
thou sit, Ulysses, as though thou wert dumb ?
Fearest thou any craft of mine ? Nay, but that
may not be, for have I not sworn the great oath
that binds the gods ? '

" Then I made answer, ' Nay, but who
could think of meat and drink when such
things had befallen his companions ? '

" Then Circe led the way, holding her wand
in her hand, and opened the doors of the sties,
and drove out the swine that had been men.
Then she rubbed on each another mighty drug,
and the bristles fell from their bodies and they
became men, only younger and fairer than
before. And when they saw me, they clung to
me and wept for joy, and Circe herself was
moved with pity.

" Then said she to me : ' Go, Ulysses, to thy
ship, and put away all the goods and tackling
in the caves that are on the shore, but come
again hither thyself, and bring thy comrades
with thee.'

" Then I went. Right glad were they who


had stayed to see me, glad as are the calves
who have been penned in the fold-yard when
their mothers come back in the evening. And
when I told them what had been, and would
have them follow me, they were all willing,
save only Eurylochus, who said :

" ' O ye fools, whither are we going ? To
the dwelling of Circe, who will change us all
into swine, or wolves, or lions, and keep us in
prison, even as the Cyclops did ! For was it
not this same foolhardy Ulysses that lost our
comrades there ? '

" Then I was very wroth and would have
slain Eurylochus, though he was near of kin to
me. But my comrades hindered me, saying:
' Let him abide here and keep the ship, if he
will. But we will go with thee to the dwelling
of Circe.'

" Then I forebore to slay him. Nor did
Eurylochus stay behind, but followed with the
rest. So we went to the dwelling of Circe,
who feasted us royally, so that we remained
with her for a whole year, well content.

" But when the year was out my companions


said to me, " It were well to remember thy
country, if it is indeed the will of the gods that
thou shouldest return thither.'

" Then I besought Circe that she would send


me on my way homewards, as indeed she had
promised to do. And she answered, saying :

" ' I would not have you abide in my house
unwillingly. Yet must thou first go another
journey, even to the dwellings of the dead,
there to speak with the seer Teiresias.'

" But I was sore troubled to hear such
things, and wept aloud, saying, ' Who shall
guide us in this journey? for never yet did
ship make such a voyage as this.'

" Then Circe made answer : * Son of Laer-
tes, trouble not thyself because thou hast no
guide, only set up the mast in thy ship, and
spread out the sails, and sit thee down with thy
companions, and the north wind shall carry
thee to the place whereto thou art bound.
When thou shalt have sailed across the stream
of ocean, thou shalt come to a waste shore,
where are many tall poplar trees and willows.
Beach there thy ship on the shore of ocean,


and go thyself to the dwelling of Hades.
There is a certain rock, and near to it meet
two streams, to wit, Phlegethon, which is the
river of fire, and Cocytus, which is the river
of wailing. Dig there a trench ; it shall be a
cubit long and a cubit broad ; pour out thereby
a drink offering to the dead : first of mead,


and then of sweet wine, and thirdly of water ;
and sprinkle white barley thereon. And as
thou doest these things entreat the dead, and
promise that when thou shalt come again to
Ithaca, thou wilt offer a barren heifer, even
the best thou hast, and that thou wilt sacrifice
to Teiresias alone a black ram, without blem-
ish, the goodliest in the flock. And after thou
hast made thy prayers to the dead, offer up a
black ram and "a black ewe. See that thou
bend their heads towards Erebus, but turn
thyself to the shore of ocean. Then will come
many spirits of the dead, but suffer them not
to drink of the blood till thou shalt have
spoken to Teiresias. Speedily will the seer
come to thee, and will tell thee how thou
mayest return to thy home.'


" The next morning I roused my compan-
ions, saying, ' Sleep no more ; we will go on
our way, for Circe hath shown to me the whole

" So I spake, and they consented to my
words. Yet did not I take all my company
safe from the dwelling of the goddess. There
was a certain Elpenor, who was the youngest
of them all, and was neither valiant nor of an
understanding mind. He was sleeping apart
from his fellows, on the housetop, for being
heavy with wine, he had craved for the cool-
ness of the air. He, then, hearing our voice,
and the sound of the men's feet, as they moved
hither and thither, leapt up of a sudden, and
thought not to come down by the ladder by
which he had gone up, but fell down from the
roof, so that his neck was broken, and he went
down to the dwellings of the dead.

" But as my men were on their way, I spake
to them, saying : ' Ye think that ye are going
to your native country ; not so, for Circe hath
showed me another journey that we must
take, even to the dwelling of Hades, that I


may speak with the spirit of Teiresias the

" So I spake, and their spirit was broken
within them, and they sat down where they
were, and mourned, and tare their hair. But
their weeping profited nothing.

" Meanwhile Circe had gone, and made fast
a ram and a black ewe to the ship, passing on
as we went, for none may mark the goings of
the immortal gods.






" AFTER this we made ready the ship for
sailing, and put the black sheep on board, and
so departed ; and Circe sent a wind from
behind that rilled the sails ; and all the day
through our ship passed quickly over the sea.

"And when the sun had set we came to the
utmost border of the ocean, where the Cimme-
rians dwell, being compassed about with mist
and cloud. Never doth the Sun behold them,
either when he climbs into the heaven, or
when he descends therefrom ; but darkness
surrounds them. Then I bade two of my
comrades make ready the sheep for sacrifice ;
and I myself dug a pit of a cubit every way,
and poured in it a drink-offering of honey and
milk, and sweet wine, and water, and sprinkled
barley upon the drink-offering. Afterwards
I took the sheep and slew them, that their


blood ran into the trench. And the sons oi:
the dead were gathered to the place, maidens,
and old men who had borne the sorrows oi
many years, and warriors that had been slain
in battle, having their arms covered with blood.
All these gathered about the pit with a terrible
cry; and I was sore afraid. Then I bade my
comrades flay the carcasses of the sheep, and
burn them with fire, and pray to the gods of
the dead ; but I myself sat down by the pit's,
side, and would not suffer the souls of the dead
to come near unto the blood until I had in-
quired of Teiresias.

" First of all came the soul of my comrade
Elpenor. Much did I wonder to see him, and
I asked, ' How comest thou hither, Elpenor, to
the land of darkness ? and how have thy feet
outstripped my ship?' Then said Elpenor:
' I fell from the roof of the palace of Circe, not
bethinking me of the ladder, and so brake my
neck. But now, I pray thee, if thou lovest
wife and father and son, forget me not, when
thou returnest to the island of Circe, neither
leave me without lamentation or burial. Burn


me with fire and my arms with me ; and make
a mound for me by the shore of the sea, that
men may hear of me and of my fate in after
time. And set up my oar upon my tomb,
even the oar which I was wont to ply among
my comrades.'

"Then I said to him, 'All this shall be done
as thou desirest.'

" And we sat on either side of the trench as
we talked, and I held my sword over the blood.,

" After him came to me the soul of my mother,
whom I had left alive when I sailed to Troy.
Sorely I wept to see her, yet suffered her not
to come near and drink of the blood till I had
inquired of Teiresias. Then came Teiresias,
holding a golden sceptre in his hand, and
spake, saying : ' Why hast thou left the light
of day, and come hither to this land of the
dead, wherein is no delight ? But come, de-
part from the pit, and take away thy sword,
that I may come near and tell thee true.'

u So I thrust my sword into the scabbard ;
and Teiresias drank of the blood ; and when
he had drunk, he spake : ' Thou seekest to


hear of thy going back to thy home. Know,
therefore, that it shall be with peril and toil.
For Poseidon will not easily lay aside his
wrath against thee, because thou didst take
from his dear son, the Cyclops, the sight of
his eye. Yet for all this ye may yet come safe
to your home, if only thou canst restrain thy-
self and thy comrades when ye come to the
island of the Three Capes, and find there the
oxen and the sheep of the Sun. If ye let them
be and harm them not, then may ye yet return
to Ithaca, though it be after grievous toil.
But if not, then shall ye perish. And if thou
escape thyself, after long time shalt thou
return, having lost all thy comrades, and the
ship of strangers shall carry thee ; and thou
shalt find trouble in thy house, even men of
violence that will devour thy substance while
they seek thy wife in marriage. And when
thou shalt have avenged thyself on these,
whether it be by craft, or openly with the
sword, then take thine oar and travel till thou
come into the land of men that know not the
sea, and eat not their meat mingled with salt,


and have never looked on ships nor on oars,
which are as the wings of ships. And this
shall be a clear token to thee, when another
traveller, meeting thee in the way, shalt say
that thou bearest a winnowing fan upon thy
shoulders : then fix thine oar in the ground
and do sacrifice to Poseidon, even a sheep,
and a bull, and a boar. And afterwards re-
turn to thy home, and offer sacrifice of a hun-
dred beasts to all the gods. And death shall
come to thee far from the sea, very gentle,
and thou shalt die in thy old age, with thy
people dwelling in peace about thee.'

" To him I made answer : ' So be it, Teire-
sias. All these things the gods have ordered
after their own will. But tell me this. Here
I see the soul of my mother that is dead ; and
she sits near the blood, but regards me not,
nor speaks to me. How can she know me,
that I am indeed her son ? '

" Then said Teiresias : * Whomsoever of the
dead thou shalt suffer to drink of the blood,
he will speak to thee ; but whomsoever thou
sufferest not, he will depart in silence/


" So I abode in my place ; and the soul of
my mother came near and drank of the blood.
And when she had drunk, she knew her son,
and said : ' My son, why hast thou come into
the land of darkness, being yet alive ? Hast
thou not yet returned to thy home ? '

" To her I made answer: ' I came hither to
inquire of Teiresias of Thebes, and my home
have I not seen. Truly trouble hath followed
me from the day that I first went with King
Agamemnon to the land of Troy. But tell
me, how didst thou die ? Did a wasting dis-
ease slay thee, or did Artemis smite thee with
sudden stroke of her arrow ? And my father
and my son, have they enjoyment of that which
is mine, or have others taken it from them ?
And my wife, is she true to me, or hath she
wedded some prince among the Greeks ? '

" Then said my mother : ' Thy wife is true,
and sits weeping for thee day and night. And
thy son hath enjoyment of thy possessions,
and hath his due place at the feasts of the
people. But thy father cometh no longer to
the city, but abideth in the country. Nor


hath he any couch for his bed, but in winter-
tide he sleeps, even as sleep the slaves, in the
ashes near unto the fire, and when the sum-
mer comes, in the corner of the vineyard upon
leaves. Greatly doth he sorrow, waiting for
thy return, and the burden of old age lies
heavy upon him. But as for me, no wasting
disease slew me, nor did Artemis smite me
with her arrows ; but I died of longing for thee,
so sorely did I miss thy wisdom and thy love.'
" Then I was fain to lay hold upon the soul
of my mother. Thrice I sprang forward, eager
to embrace her, and thrice she passed from out
my hands, even as passeth a shadow. And
when I said, ' How is this, my mother ? art
thou then but a phantom, that the Queen of
the dead hath sent me ? ' my mother answered
me : * Thus it is with the dead, my son. They
have no more any flesh and bones ; for these
the might of the fire devours ; but their souls
are even as dreams, flying hither and thither.
But do thou return so soon as may be to the

light, and tell all that thou hast seen and heard

to thy wife.'


" After I had ended my talk with my mother,
there came to me, by the sending of Queen
Persephone, the souls of the famous women
that had been of old. And I suffered them
to come near, one by one, and drink of the
blood ; and each, when she had drunk, told
me her name and her lineage. Thus I saw


Alcmena, that bare Hercules to Zeus, and
Chloris, that was mother of Nestor, the wisest
of mortal men, and Leda, whose sons were

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchThe story of the Odyssey → online text (page 6 of 15)