Alfred John Church.

The story of the Odyssey online

. (page 7 of 15)
Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchThe story of the Odyssey → online text (page 7 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Castor, the tamer of horses, and Pollux, the
mighty boxer, and Iphimedia, wife of Aloeus,
who bare Otus and Ephialtes, tallest of mortal
men, and fairest also, after noble Orion. Tall-
est they were ; for, being but nine years old,
they had fifty-and-four feet of height, and of
breadth fifteen. These were minded to make
war upon the gods, purposing to set Ossa on
Olympus, and Pelion, with all its woods, upon
Ossa. So they purposed ; and verily they had
done so, had they come to their full growth ;
but the son of Zeus, whom Latona bare to him,
slew them with his arrows before the down had
grown upon their cheeks. Ariadne also did I



THE DWELLINGS OF THE DEAD. 145

see, daughter of King Minos, whom Theseus
carried away from the land of Crete, and
would have wedded her, but Artemis smote
with her arrows ; and Eriphyle, that sold the
life of her husband for gold. These I saw,
and many others also, wives and daughters of
heroes.

" And when these had departed, for Queen
Persephone bade them go even as she had sent
them, there came the soul of Agamemnon, son
of Atreus. Sorely grieving it came, and about
it were the souls of all that had perished to-
gether with him by the evil craft of /Egisthus.
And when his spirit had drunk of the blood, it
knew me, and stretched out its hands to me,
seeking to lay hold of me, but could not, for it
was a shadow only, and had no substance in it.
And when I saw it, I had pity on the King,
and spake : ' Tell me, King Agamemnon, that
was greatest of all the kings of the earth, what

o o

doom of death hath come upon thee ? Did
Poseidon raise a mighty storm against thee,
and break thy ships ? or did men slay thee on
the land, when thou wast seeking to drive



146 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

away their cattle and sheep or to take their
city by force ? '

" Then Agamemnon made answer : ' Neither
did Poseidon break my ships, nor did men
slay me upon the land, but ^Egisthus con-
trived death against me ; he and my accursed
wife together took counsel against me. He

o o

called me to a feast, and after the feast he slew
me as a man smiteth an ox at the manger.

o

Thus did I die in lamentable fashion, I and
my comrades about me ; for they were slain
without mercy, as swine are slain in some rich
man's house for a marriage, or a common feast,
or a banquet. Verily, I have seen the deaths of
many men, of whom some were slain alone, and
some in the press of the battle ; but never saw
I slaughter so piteous as this, when about the
mixing bowls of wine, and the tables laden with
meat, we lay dying in the hall, and the pave-
ment ran with blood. And as I lay, I heard
the very piteous voice of Cassandra, the daugh-
ter of Priam, whom Clytemnestra, my wife,
slew for my sake. Then I laid my hands
upon my sword, even as I was dying, and



THE DWELLINGS OF THE DEAD. 147

would have raised it for a stroke. And she, my
evil wife, stood apart ; neither would she close
my eyes or my mouth. Surely there is nothing
on the earth more terrible or shameless than a
woman. For think what a deed this woman
did, contriving death against her own hus-

o o

band ! And I had thought that I should come

o

a welcome guest to my children and my house-
hold ; and lo ! the greeting that I had ! Verily,
this woman hath wrought that which shall be a

o

shame for all women hereafter, even for them
that shall do righteously.'

" Then I made answer to him : ' Verily, Zeus
hath wrought great evil to this house by
means of the race of women. Many they were
that were slain in war for Helen's sake, and
Clytemnestra also contrived death for thee.'

"Then King Agamemnon spake again:
' Mind that thou be not gentle with any
woman whatsoever, nor tell to any all thy
counsel, but rather show a part and hide a
part. Nevertheless, Ulysses, thy doom shall
not come to thee from thy wife, for Penelope,
the daughter of Icarus, is good and wise. We



148 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

left her, I mind me, a newly married wife in
thy house, when we sailed for Troy ; and she
had thy young son upon her breast. Now, I
take it, he hath come to man's estate. Happy
is he, for his dear father will see him when he
cometh to his home, and they two shall clasp
each other in their arms as father and son
should do. But as for me, my wife suffered
me not to satisfy my eyes with looking on my
son, but slew me first. And hearken thou
a^ain to this tiling that I tell thee. When

o o

thou comest back to thy native land, come not
openly, but in secret, for men may not trust in
women any more. Remember thou this, and
tell me also, didst thou hear perchance of my
son Orestes, that he lived, when thou wast in
Pylos, maybe, or in Sparta, with my brother
Menelalis ? For surely he is yet alive.'

" To this I answered, ' Ask me not concern-
ing him, for I know not whether he be alive
or dead ; and it is ill to speak things that
profit not.'

" So we two spake together ; and afterwards
there came other souls, as of Achilles, and of



THE DWELLINGS OF THE DEAD. 149

Patroclus, and of Antilochus, that was eldest
son of King Nestor, and of Ajax, that was the
strongest of all the Greeks after the son of
Peleus.

" And first Achilles spake to me in a piteous
voice : ' What marvellous deed is that thou
hast done, son of Laertes ? How didst thou
dare to come down to the land wherein dwell
the spirits of the dead ? '

"To him I made answer: 'I came hither,
Achilles, to inquire of Teiresias the seer, if
he would show me some counsel by which I
might return to Ithaca. For I have not yet
attained to the land of Greece, nor to my
native land, but w r ander about in trouble with-
out end. So evil is my doom ; but there never
hath been man that was happier than thou,
no, nor shall be hereafter ; for while thou wast
yet alive, we Greeks honoured thee, as men
honour a god ; and now that thou art dead,
thou art the king of all the folk that dwell
therein.'

" But Achilles answered me forthwith :
1 Speak to me, Ulysses, no comfortable words



150 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

about death. Verily, I would desire to serve
for hire some man of little substance, that had
but scant provision for his house, so that I
might be alive upon the earth, rather than be
king over all the dead. But come, tell me
tidings of my son, if thou hast any. Did he go
to the war to be the first among the princes ?
Tell me, also, of the old man Peleus, my
father. Doth he yet hold his place of honour
among the Myrmidons ? or do they make him
of little account because old a^e hath come

o

upon him, taking from him the swiftness of
his feet and the strength of his hands ? Verily,
if I could come to help him under the light
of the sun, being such as I was in the old
days, when I slew heroes without number
before the walls of Troy, verily, I say, I would
hinder them who do him violence, and keep
him from the honour that is his.'

"I made answer: 'Of Peleus I have heard
nothing; but of thy son Neoptolemus I will
tell thee all the truth as thou wouldest have
me do. I brought him myself from the island
of Scyros to Troy, to the host of the Greeks.



THE DWELLINGS OF THE DEAD. 151

And when he came among us, he was behind
no man in counsel. And in battle he never
abode in the crowd, but was ever foremost,
and slew many in the host of the Trojans. I
could not tell their names, so many they were ;
but the chiefest of all was Eurypylus, the
Mysian, that was son to King Telephus, and
was the fairest of men that ever I beheld, save
only Memnon, the son of the Morning. And
when we entered into the Horse of Wood, that
Epelis wrought for the Greeks, that we might
take the city of Troy, then all the other
princes of the Greeks wept sore, and trembled
for fear; but he alone grew not pale at all,
nor wiped a tear from his cheek, but was ever
longing to go forth from the Horse, and had
his hand upon the hilt of his sword, purposing
evil against the men of Troy. And when we
sacked the fair city of King Priam, then he
had a goodly portion of the spoil, and sailed
home therewith in his ship ; nor was he
wounded at all with spear or sword, as oft-
times chanceth to men in the press of the bat-
tle.' So I spake, and the soul of Achilles de-



152 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

parted with great strides through the meadow
of asphodel, very glad because his son had
won for himself much renown in war.

" The souls of other heroes also spake to
me, and told their grief; but Ajax, the son of
Telamon, stood apart, and kept silence. For
he was wroth because I had prevailed over
him when we two had contended together for
the arms of Achilles. And I said : ' Art thou,
great Ajax, still angry by reason of these
accursed arms ? Surely the gods made them
a trouble to the Greeks, seeing that they
caused thee, who wast a very tower of strength
to the host, to perish. Truly the Greeks
mourned for thee, even as they mourned for
Achilles, the son of Peleus. Yet blame not
me, therefore, I pray thee, but Zeus, who bare
a grudge against the Greeks ; and come hither
and speak with me.'

" But Ajax spake not a word, but departed.

" After this I saw King Minos sitting on a
throne holding a sceptre of gold in his hand.
Thus he sat and judged the dead.

" Also 1 I saw the giant Orion driving the



THE DWELLINGS OF THE DEAD. 153

beasts together, as a hunter drives them, in a
meadow of asphodel, and he held in his hand
a great club wrought wholly of bronze.

" And I saw Tityos, the mighty son of
Earth. On the ground he lay, and covered
seven furlongs. Two vultures sat by him and
tare his liver ; nor could he keep them from
him with his hands.

" Tantalus also I saw, that was in very
grievous plight ; for he stood in a pool, and
the water came near unto his chin ; but when
he would drink thereof, being sore athirst, he
could not. For so often as he stooped forward
to drink, so often the water was swallowed up
by the earth, and the ground was seen about
his feet. Trees also of fair fruitage hung over
his head, pears and pomegranates, and apples
very fair to behold, and sweet figs and olives ;
but so often as he reached his hand to lay hold
of them, so often the wind bore them away
even to the clouds.

" And Sisyphus I saw, and he also was in
sore distress. For with both his hands he
grasped a great stone, seeking to push it up



154 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

the side of a hill. With much toil of knees
and arms he pushed it, but so soon as it came
near to the top, then it brake from him and
leapt down very swiftly to the bottom of the

hill.

" Last of all, I saw the shadow of Hercules,
his shadow only, for the hero himself sat and
feasted with the gods above, having Hebe to
wife, the daughter of Zeus. And all about
him there was a great crying of the souls, as
is the crying of birds ; and he, with a coun-
tenance dark as night, stood with his bow
in his hand and an arrow ever on the string,
looking with a dreadful purpose in his eyes
like one about to shoot ; and about his breast
was a buckler of gold, and marvellous things
wrought thereupon, bears, and wild boars, and
lions with glaring eyes, battles also, and terri-
ble slaughters of men. And the shade of
Hercules spake to me, saying : ' Tell me, hast
thou also such an evil lot on earth as Zeus
gave to me. For he put me under the domin-
ion of a churl that ever set me hard labours to
perform. Yea, and he sent me hither to fetch



THE DWELLINGS OF THE DEAD. 155

hence the dog of hell, thinking that he could
give me no harder task than this. But I
brought him up from hell to the light of day,
for Hermes and Athene helped me on my
way.'

" So spake the shade of Hercules and de-
parted. Then I waited awhile, if haply I
might see the souls of other heroes that had
lived in old time ; but as I stood, lo ! there
came about me thousands and thousands of
the dead with a terrible cry, and I was sore
afraid. For I feared lest the great Queen
Persephone should send against me the terri-
ble head of the Gorgon. Therefore I departed
from his place, and bade my comrades embark
upon the ships and loose the ropes. And we
embarked and sat upon the benches ; and the
great stream of Ocean bare us onward, rowing
at the first, and afterwards hoisting the sails.



156 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE SIRENS ; SCYLLA ; THE OXEN OF THE SUN.

(THE TALE OF ULYSSES.)

"It was now evening when we came back to
the island of Circe. Therefore we beached the
ship, and lay down by the sea, and slept till
the morning. And when it was morning we
arose, and went to the palace of Circe, and
fetched thence the body of our comrade Elpe-
nor. We raised the funeral pile where the
farthest headland runs out into the sea, and
burned the dead man and his arms ; then we
raised a mound over his bones, and put a pillar
on the top of the mound, and on the top of the
pillar his oar.

" But Circe knew of our coming, and of what
we had done, and she came and stood in our
midst, her handmaids coming with her, and
bearing flesh and bread and wine in plenty.
Then she spake, saying : ' Overbold are ye, who




o
z



THE SIRENS-, SCYLLA. 157

have gone down twice into the house of death
which most men see but once. Come now, eat
and drink this day ; to-morrow shall ye sail
again over the sea, and I will tell you the way,
and declare all that shall happen, that ye may
suffer no hindrance as ye go.'

" So all that day we eat and feasted. And
when the darkness came over the land, my
comrades lay them down by the ship and slept.
But Circe took me by the hand, and led me
apart from my company, and inquired of what
I had seen and done. And when I had told
her all my tale, she spake, saying, * Hearken
now to what I shall tell thee. First of all thou
shalt come to the Sirens, who bewitch all men
with their singing. For whoso cometh nigh
to them not knowing, and listeneth to their
song, he seeth not wife or children any more ;
for the Sirens enchant him, and draw him to
where they sit, with a great heap of dead men's
bones about them. Speed thy ship past them,
and first fill the ears of thy comrades with wax,
lest any should hear the song ; but if thou art
minded thyself to hear the song, let them bind



158 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

thee fast to the mast. So shalt thou hear the
song, and take no harm. And if thou shalt
entreat thy comrades to loose thee, they must
bind the bonds all the faster.

" ' When thou shalt have passed the island
of the Sirens, then thou must choose for thy-
self which path thou shalt take. On the one
side are the rocks that men call the Wan-
dering Rocks. By these not even winged
creatures can pass unharmed. Of the very
doves that carry ambrosia to Father Zeus the
rocks take every one, and the father sendeth
another to fill his place. No ship can pass
them by unhurt ; all round them do the waves
toss timbers of broken ships and bodies of
men that are drowned. One ship only hath
ever passed them by, even the ship Argo, and
even her \vould the waves have dashed upon
the rocks, but that Hera, for love of Jason,
caused her to pass by.

" ' These there are on the one side, and on
the other are two rocks. The first rock reach-
eth with a sharp peak to the heavens, and
about the peak is a dark cloud that passeth



THE SIRENS', SCYLLA. 159

not away from it, no, not in summer time or
harvest. This rock no man could climb, even
though he had twenty hands and feet, for it
is steep and smooth. In the midst of this cliff
i.s a cave wherein dwelleth Scylla, the dreadful
monster of the sea. Her voice is but as the
voice of a w r help newly born, and her twelve
feet are small and ill-grown, but she hath six
necks, exceeding long, and on each a head
dreadful to behold, and in each head three
rows of teeth, thick set and full of death. She
is hidden up to her middle in the cave, but she
putteth her heads out of it, fishing for dol-
phins, or sea-dogs, or other creatures of the
sea, for indeed there are countless flocks of
them. No ship can pass her by unharmed,
for with each head she carrieth off a man,
snatching them from the ship's deck. Hard
by, even a bow-shot off, is the other rock,
lower by far, and with a great fig tree growing
on the top. Beneath it Charybdis thrice a day
sucketh in the water, and thrice a day spouteth
it forth. If thou chance to be there when she
sucks it in, not even Poseidon's help could save



160 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

thee. See, therefore, that thou guide thy ship
near to Scylla rather than to the other, for it
is better for thee to lose six men out of thy
ship, than all thy company together.'

"So Circe spake, and I said: 'Tell me,
goddess, can I by any means escape from
Charybdis on the one hand, and, on the other,
avenge me on this monster, when she would
take my comrades for a prey ? '

" But the goddess said : ' Overbold thou art,
and thinkest ever of deeds of battle. Verily,
thou wouldest do battle with the gods them-
selves ; and surely Scylla is not of mortal race,
and against her there is no help. Thou wilt
do better to flee. For if thou tarry to put on
thy armour, then will she dart forth again, and
take as many as before. Drive on thy ship,
therefore, with what speed may be, and call
upon the mother that bare this Scylla to be a
bane to man, if haply she may keep her daugh-
ter from darting forth a second time.

o

" * After this, thou wilt come to the island of
the Three Capes, where are the herds and the
flocks of the Sun. Seven herds of kine there



THE SIRENS; SCYLLA. l6l

are and seven flocks of sheep, and fifty in each.
These neither are born, nor die, and they have
two goddesses to herd them. If ye do these
no hurt, then shall ye return, all of you, to
Ithaca, but if ye harm them, then shall thy
ship be broken, and all thy company shall
perish, and thou shalt return alone and after
long delay.'

" Having so spoken the goddess departed.
Then I roused my men and they launched the
ship, and smote the water with their oars, and
the goddess sending a favourable wind, we
hoisted the sails, and rested.

" But, as we went, I spake to my companions,
saying : ' Friends, it is not well that one or two
only should know the things that Circe prophe-
sied to me. Therefore I will declare them to
you, that we may know beforehand the things
that shall come to pass, and so either die or
live.'

" And first I told them of the Sirens ; and
while I spake we came to the Sirens' Island.
Then did the breeze cease, and there was a
windless calm. So my comrades took down



1 62 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

the sails and put out the oars, and I cleft a
great round of wax with my sword, and, melt-
ing it in the sun, I anointed therewith the
ears of my men ; afterwards they bound me by
hands and feet, as I stood upright by the mast.
And when we were so near the shore as that
the shout of a man could be heard therefrom,
the Sirens perceived the ship, and began their
song. And their song was this:

" l Hither, Ulysses, great Achaian name,

Turn thy swift keel, and listen to our lay ;

Since never pilgrim near these regions came,

In black ship on the azure fields astray,

But heard our sweet voice ere he sailed away,

And in his joy passed on with ampler mind.

We know what labours were in ancient day

Wrought in wide Troia, as the gods assigned ;

We know from land to land all toils of all mankind?

" Then I prayed that they would loose me,
nodding my head with a frown, for their ears
were stopped ; but they plied their oars, and
Eurylochus and Perimedes put new bonds
upon me. And when we had passed by the
island, then they took the wax from their ears,
and loosed my bonds.



THE SIRENS] SCYLLA. 163

" After this they saw a smoke and surf, and
heard a mighty roar, and their oars dropped
out of their hands for fear; but I bade them
be of good heart, for that by my counsel they
had escaped other dangers in past time. And
the rowers I bade row as hard as they might.
But to the helmsman I said : ' Steer the ship
outside the smoke and the surf, and steer close
to the cliffs, lest the ship shoot off unawares
and destroy us.' But of Scylla I said nothing,
fearing lest they should lose heart, and cease
rowing altogether. Then I armed myself, and
stood in the prow waiting till Scylla should
appear.

" So we sailed up the strait ; and there was
sore trouble in my heart, for on the one side
was Scylla, and on the other Charybdis, suck-
ing down the water after a terrible sort. Now
would she vomit it forth, seething the while as
a great caldron seethes upon the fire, and the
spray fell on the very tops of the cliffs on either
side. And then again she gulped the water
down, so that we could see to her very depths,
even the white sand that was at the bottom of



164 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

the sea. Towards her we looked, fearing de-
struction, and while we looked, Scylla caught
out of my ship six of my companions, the
strongest and bravest of them all. When I
looked to my ships to find my crew, then I saw
their feet and hands, and I heard them call me
by the name, speaking to me for the last time.
Even as a fisher, standing on some headland,
lets down his long line with a bait, that he
may ensnare the fishes of the sea, and each, as
he catches it, he flings writhing ashore, so did
Scylla bear the men writhing up the cliff to
her cave. There did she devour them ; and
they cried to me terribly the while. Verily, of
all the things that I have seen upon the sea,
this was the most piteous of all.

" After this we came to the island of the
Three Capes ; and from my ship I heard the
lowing of the kine and the bleating of the
sheep. Thereupon I called to mind the saying
of Teiresias the seer, how he charged me to
shun the island of the Sun. So I spake to my
comrades, saying : * Hear now the counsels of
Teiresias the seer and Circe. Straitly did



THE SIRENS; SCYLLA. 165

they charge me to sail by the island of the
Sun ; for they said that there the most dread-
ful evil would overtake us. Do ye then row
the ship past.'

" So I spake ; but Eurylochus made answer
in wrath : ' Surely, Ulysses, thou knowest not
weariness, and art made of iron, thus forbid-
ding thy comrades, weary though they be with
toil and watching, to land upon this island,
where we might well refresh ourselves. Rash,
also, art thou in that thou commandest us to
sail all night; at night deadly winds spring up,
and how shall we escape, if some sudden storm
from the west or the south smite our ship, and
break it in pieces ? Rather let us stay, and
take our meal and sleep by the ship's side, and
to-morrow will we sail a^ain across the sea.'

o

" Thus he spake, and all consented to his
speech. Then I knew that the gods were
minded to work us mischief, and I made
answer: 'Ye constrain me, being many against
one. But swear ye all an oath, that if ye find
here either herd or flock, ye will not be tempted
by lawless appetite to slay either bullock or



1 66 THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.

sheep, but will rest content with the food that
Circe gave us.'

" Then they all made oath that they would
so do ; and w r hen they had sworn, they moored
the ship within a creek, where there was a
spring of fresh water; and so we took our
meal. But when we had enough of meat and
drink, we remembered our comrades whom
Scylla had snatched from the ship and de-
voured, and we mourned for them till slumber
fell upon us.

" The next morning I spake to my company,
saying : ' Friends, we have yet food, both bread
and wine. Stay, therefore, your hands from the
flocks and herds, lest some mischief take us,
for they are the flocks and herds of the Sun, a
mighty god whose eye none may escape.'

" With these words I persuaded them. For
a month the south wind blew without ceasing;
there was no other wind, unless it were haply
the east. So long, indeed, as the bread and
wine failed not the men, they harmed not the
herds, fearing to die. And afterwards, when
our stores were consumed, they wandered



THE SIRENS-, SCYLLA. 1 67

about the island, and searched for food, snar-
ing fishes and birds with hooks, for hunger

o o

pressed them sorely. But I roamed ever by
myself, praying to the gods that they would
send us deliverance. So it chanced one day
that slumber overcame me, for this answer
only did the gods give me, and I slept far
away from my companions.

" Meanwhile Eurylochus spake then to the
others, using fatal craft : ' Friends, listen to
one who suffers the like affliction with you.
Always is death a thing to be avoided ; but of
all deaths the most to be feared is the death by


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchThe story of the Odyssey → online text (page 7 of 15)