The Odyssey: Book 23
Euryclea now went upstairs laughing to tell her mistress that her
dear husband had come home. Her aged knees became young again and
her feet were nimble for joy as she went up to her mistress and bent
over her head to speak to her. "Wake up Penelope, my dear child,"
she exclaimed, "and see with your own eyes something that you have
been wanting this long time past. Ulysses has at last indeed come home
again, and has killed the suitors who were giving so much trouble in
his house, eating up his estate and ill-treating his son."
"My good nurse," answered Penelope, "you must be mad. The gods
sometimes send some very sensible people out of their minds, and
make foolish people become sensible. This is what they must have
been doing to you; for you always used to be a reasonable person.
Why should you thus mock me when I have trouble enough already-
talking such nonsense, and waking me up out of a sweet sleep that
had taken possession of my eyes and closed them? I have never slept so
soundly from the day my poor husband went to that city with the
ill-omened name. Go back again into the women's room; if it had been
any one else, who had woke me up to bring me such absurd news I should
have sent her away with a severe scolding. As it is, your age shall
"My dear child," answered Euryclea, "I am not mocking you. It is
quite true as I tell you that Ulysses is come home again. He was the
stranger whom they all kept on treating so badly in the cloister.
Telemachus knew all the time that he was come back, but kept his
father's secret that he might have his revenge on all these wicked
Then Penelope sprang up from her couch, threw her arms round
Euryclea, and wept for joy. "But my dear nurse," said she, "explain
this to me; if he has really come home as you say, how did he manage
to overcome the wicked suitors single handed, seeing what a number
of them there always were?"
"I was not there," answered Euryclea, "and do not know; I only heard
them groaning while they were being killed. We sat crouching and
huddled up in a corner of the women's room with the doors closed, till
your son came to fetch me because his father sent him. Then I found
Ulysses standing over the corpses that were lying on the ground all
round him, one on top of the other. You would have enjoyed it if you
could have seen him standing there all bespattered with blood and
filth, and looking just like a lion. But the corpses are now all piled
up in the gatehouse that is in the outer court, and Ulysses has lit
a great fire to purify the house with sulphur. He has sent me to
call you, so come with me that you may both be happy together after
all; for now at last the desire of your heart has been fulfilled; your
husband is come home to find both wife and son alive and well, and
to take his revenge in his own house on the suitors who behaved so
badly to him."
"'My dear nurse," said Penelope, "do not exult too confidently
over all this. You know how delighted every one would be to see
Ulysses come home- more particularly myself, and the son who has
been born to both of us; but what you tell me cannot be really true.
It is some god who is angry with the suitors for their great
wickedness, and has made an end of them; for they respected no man
in the whole world, neither rich nor poor, who came near them, who
came near them, and they have come to a bad end in consequence of
their iniquity. Ulysses is dead far away from the Achaean land; he
will never return home again."
Then nurse Euryclea said, "My child, what are you talking about? but
you were all hard of belief and have made up your mind that your
husband is never coming, although he is in the house and by his own
fire side at this very moment. Besides I can give you another proof;
when I was washing him I perceived the scar which the wild boar gave
him, and I wanted to tell you about it, but in his wisdom he would not
let me, and clapped his hands over my mouth; so come with me and I
will make this bargain with you- if I am deceiving you, you may have
me killed by the most cruel death you can think of."
"My dear nurse," said Penelope, "however wise you may be you can
hardly fathom the counsels of the gods. Nevertheless, we will go in
search of my son, that I may see the corpses of the suitors, and the
man who has killed them."
On this she came down from her upper room, and while doing so she
considered whether she should keep at a distance from her husband
and question him, or whether she should at once go up to him and
embrace him. When, however, she had crossed the stone floor of the
cloister, she sat down opposite Ulysses by the fire, against the
wall at right angles [to that by which she had entered], while Ulysses
sat near one of the bearing-posts, looking upon the ground, and
waiting to see what his wife would say to him when she saw him. For
a long time she sat silent and as one lost in amazement. At one moment
she looked him full in the face, but then again directly, she was
misled by his shabby clothes and failed to recognize him, till
Telemachus began to reproach her and said:
"Mother- but you are so hard that I cannot call you by such a
name- why do you keep away from my father in this way? Why do you
not sit by his side and begin talking to him and asking him questions?
No other woman could bear to keep away from her husband when he had
come back to her after twenty years of absence, and after having
gone through so much; but your heart always was as hard as a stone."
Penelope answered, "My son, I am so lost in astonishment that I
can find no words in which either to ask questions or to answer
them. I cannot even look him straight in the face. Still, if he really
is Ulysses come back to his own home again, we shall get to understand
one another better by and by, for there are tokens with which we two
are alone acquainted, and which are hidden from all others."
Ulysses smiled at this, and said to Telemachus, "Let your mother put
me to any proof she likes; she will make up her mind about it
presently. She rejects me for the moment and believes me to be
somebody else, because I am covered with dirt and have such bad
clothes on; let us, however, consider what we had better do next. When
one man has killed another, even though he was not one who would leave
many friends to take up his quarrel, the man who has killed him must
still say good bye to his friends and fly the country; whereas we have
been killing the stay of a whole town, and all the picked youth of
Ithaca. I would have you consider this matter."
"Look to it yourself, father," answered Telemachus, "for they say
you are the wisest counsellor in the world, and that there is no other
mortal man who can compare with you. We will follow you with right
good will, nor shall you find us fail you in so far as our strength
"I will say what I think will be best," answered Ulysses. "First
wash and put your shirts on; tell the maids also to go to their own
room and dress; Phemius shall then strike up a dance tune on his lyre,
so that if people outside hear, or any of the neighbours, or some
one going along the street happens to notice it, they may think
there is a wedding in the house, and no rumours about the death of the
suitors will get about in the town, before we can escape to the
woods upon my own land. Once there, we will settle which of the
courses heaven vouchsafes us shall seem wisest."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. First they
washed and put their shirts on, while the women got ready. Then
Phemius took his lyre and set them all longing for sweet song and
stately dance. The house re-echoed with the sound of men and women
dancing, and the people outside said, "I suppose the queen has been
getting married at last. She ought to be ashamed of herself for not
continuing to protect her husband's property until he comes home."
This was what they said, but they did not know what it was that
had been happening. The upper servant Eurynome washed and anointed
Ulysses in his own house and gave him a shirt and cloak, while Minerva
made him look taller and stronger than before; she also made the
hair grow thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like
hyacinth blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders just
as a skilful workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan
or Minerva- and his work is full of beauty- enriches a piece of silver
plate by gilding it. He came from the bath looking like one of the
immortals, and sat down opposite his wife on the seat he had left. "My
dear," said he, "heaven has endowed you with a heart more unyielding
than woman ever yet had. No other woman could bear to keep away from
her husband when he had come back to her after twenty years of
absence, and after having gone through so much. But come, nurse, get a
bed ready for me; I will sleep alone, for this woman has a heart as
hard as iron."
"My dear," answered Penelope, "I have no wish to set myself up,
nor to depreciate you; but I am not struck by your appearance, for I
very well remember what kind of a man you were when you set sail
from Ithaca. Nevertheless, Euryclea, take his bed outside the bed
chamber that he himself built. Bring the bed outside this room, and
put bedding upon it with fleeces, good coverlets, and blankets."
She said this to try him, but Ulysses was very angry and said,
"Wife, I am much displeased at what you have just been saying. Who has
been taking my bed from the place in which I left it? He must have
found it a hard task, no matter how skilled a workman he was, unless
some god came and helped him to shift it. There is no man living,
however strong and in his prime, who could move it from its place, for
it is a marvellous curiosity which I made with my very own hands.
There was a young olive growing within the precincts of the house,
in full vigour, and about as thick as a bearing-post. I built my
room round this with strong walls of stone and a roof to cover them,
and I made the doors strong and well-fitting. Then I cut off the top
boughs of the olive tree and left the stump standing. This I dressed
roughly from the root upwards and then worked with carpenter's tools
well and skilfully, straightening my work by drawing a line on the
wood, and making it into a bed-prop. I then bored a hole down the
middle, and made it the centre-post of my bed, at which I worked
till I had finished it, inlaying it with gold and silver; after this I
stretched a hide of crimson leather from one side of it to the
other. So you see I know all about it, and I desire to learn whether
it is still there, or whether any one has been removing it by
cutting down the olive tree at its roots."
When she heard the sure proofs Ulysses now gave her, she fairly
broke down. She flew weeping to his side, flung her arms about his
neck, and kissed him. "Do not be angry with me Ulysses," she cried,
"you, who are the wisest of mankind. We have suffered, both of us.
Heaven has denied us the happiness of spending our youth, and of
growing old, together; do not then be aggrieved or take it amiss
that I did not embrace you thus as soon as I saw you. I have been
shuddering all the time through fear that someone might come here
and deceive me with a lying story; for there are many very wicked
people going about. Jove's daughter Helen would never have yielded
herself to a man from a foreign country, if she had known that the
sons of Achaeans would come after her and bring her back. Heaven put
it in her heart to do wrong, and she gave no thought to that sin,
which has been the source of all our sorrows. Now, however, that you
have convinced me by showing that you know all about our bed (which no
human being has ever seen but you and I and a single maid servant, the
daughter of Actor, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and
who keeps the doors of our room) hard of belief though I have been I
can mistrust no longer."
Then Ulysses in his turn melted, and wept as he clasped his dear and
faithful wife to his bosom. As the sight of land is welcome to men who
are swimming towards the shore, when Neptune has wrecked their ship
with the fury of his winds and waves- a few alone reach the land,
and these, covered with brine, are thankful when they find
themselves on firm ground and out of danger- even so was her husband
welcome to her as she looked upon him, and she could not tear her
two fair arms from about his neck. Indeed they would have gone on
indulging their sorrow till rosy-fingered morn appeared, had not
Minerva determined otherwise, and held night back in the far west,
while she would not suffer Dawn to leave Oceanus, nor to yoke the
two steeds Lampus and Phaethon that bear her onward to break the day
At last, however, Ulysses said, "Wife, we have not yet reached the
end of our troubles. I have an unknown amount of toil still to
undergo. It is long and difficult, but I must go through with it,
for thus the shade of Teiresias prophesied concerning me, on the day
when I went down into Hades to ask about my return and that of my
companions. But now let us go to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy
the blessed boon of sleep."
"You shall go to bed as soon as you please," replied Penelope,
"now that the gods have sent you home to your own good house and to
your country. But as heaven has put it in your mind to speak of it,
tell me about the task that lies before you. I shall have to hear
about it later, so it is better that I should be told at once."
"My dear," answered Ulysses, "why should you press me to tell you?
Still, I will not conceal it from you, though you will not like BOOK
it. I do not like it myself, for Teiresias bade me travel far and
wide, carrying an oar, till I came to a country where the people
have never heard of the sea, and do not even mix salt with their food.
They know nothing about ships, nor oars that are as the wings of a
ship. He gave me this certain token which I will not hide from you. He
said that a wayfarer should meet me and ask me whether it was a
winnowing shovel that I had on my shoulder. On this, I was to fix my
oar in the ground and sacrifice a ram, a bull, and a boar to
Neptune; after which I was to go home and offer hecatombs to all the
gods in heaven, one after the other. As for myself, he said that death
should come to me from the sea, and that my life should ebb away
very gently when I was full of years and peace of mind, and my
people should bless me. All this, he said, should surely come to
And Penelope said, "If the gods are going to vouchsafe you a happier
time in your old age, you may hope then to have some respite from
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Eurynome and the nurse took
torches and made the bed ready with soft coverlets; as soon as they
had laid them, the nurse went back into the house to go to her rest,
leaving the bed chamber woman Eurynome to show Ulysses and Penelope to
bed by torch light. When she had conducted them to their room she went
back, and they then came joyfully to the rites of their own old bed.
Telemachus, Philoetius, and the swineherd now left off dancing, and
made the women leave off also. They then laid themselves down to sleep
in the cloisters.
When Ulysses and Penelope had had their fill of love they fell
talking with one another. She told him how much she had had to bear in
seeing the house filled with a crowd of wicked suitors who had
killed so many sheep and oxen on her account, and had drunk so many
casks of wine. Ulysses in his turn told her what he had suffered,
and how much trouble he had himself given to other people. He told her
everything, and she was so delighted to listen that she never went
to sleep till he had ended his whole story.
He began with his victory over the Cicons, and how he thence reached
the fertile land of the Lotus-eaters. He told her all about the
Cyclops and how he had punished him for having so ruthlessly eaten his
brave comrades; how he then went on to Aeolus, who received him
hospitably and furthered him on his way, but even so he was not to
reach home, for to his great grief a hurricane carried him out to
sea again; how he went on to the Laestrygonian city Telepylos, where
the people destroyed all his ships with their crews, save himself
and his own ship only. Then he told of cunning Circe and her craft,
and how he sailed to the chill house of Hades, to consult the ghost of
the Theban prophet Teiresias, and how he saw his old comrades in arms,
and his mother who bore him and brought him up when he was a child;
how he then heard the wondrous singing of the Sirens, and went on to
the wandering rocks and terrible Charybdis and to Scylla, whom no
man had ever yet passed in safety; how his men then ate the cattle
of the sun-god, and how Jove therefore struck the ship with his
thunderbolts, so that all his men perished together, himself alone
being left alive; how at last he reached the Ogygian island and the
nymph Calypso, who kept him there in a cave, and fed him, and wanted
him to marry her, in which case she intended making him immortal so
that he should never grow old, but she could not persuade him to let
her do so; and how after much suffering he had found his way to the
Phaeacians, who had treated him as though he had been a god, and
sent him back in a ship to his own country after having given him
gold, bronze, and raiment in great abundance. This was the last
thing about which he told her, for here a deep sleep took hold upon
him and eased the burden of his sorrows.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. When she deemed that
Ulysses had had both of his wife and of repose, she bade
gold-enthroned Dawn rise out of Oceanus that she might shed light upon
mankind. On this, Ulysses rose from his comfortable bed and said to
Penelope, "Wife, we have both of us had our full share of troubles,
you, here, in lamenting my absence, and I in being prevented from
getting home though I was longing all the time to do so. Now, however,
that we have at last come together, take care of the property that
is in the house. As for the sheep and goats which the wicked suitors
have eaten, I will take many myself by force from other people, and
will compel the Achaeans to make good the rest till they shall have
filled all my yards. I am now going to the wooded lands out in the
country to see my father who has so long been grieved on my account,
and to yourself I will give these instructions, though you have little
need of them. At sunrise it will at once get abroad that I have been
killing the suitors; go upstairs, therefore, and stay there with
your women. See nobody and ask no questions."
As he spoke he girded on his armour. Then he roused Telemachus,
Philoetius, and Eumaeus, and told them all to put on their armour
also. This they did, and armed themselves. When they had done so, they
opened the gates and sallied forth, Ulysses leading the way. It was
now daylight, but Minerva nevertheless concealed them in darkness
and led them quickly out of the town.
- quotes about Minerva
- quotes about nurses
- quotes about me
- quotes about women
- quotes about olives
- quotes about home
- quotes about dance
- quotes about questions
- quotes about divine
The Odyssey: Book 21
Minerva now put it in Penelope's mind to make the suitors try
their skill with the bow and with the iron axes, in contest among
themselves, as a means of bringing about their destruction. She went
upstairs and got the store room key, which was made of bronze and
had a handle of ivory; she then went with her maidens into the store
room at the end of the house, where her husband's treasures of gold,
bronze, and wrought iron were kept, and where was also his bow, and
the quiver full of deadly arrows that had been given him by a friend
whom he had met in Lacedaemon- Iphitus the son of Eurytus. The two
fell in with one another in Messene at the house of Ortilochus,
where Ulysses was staying in order to recover a debt that was owing
from the whole people; for the Messenians had carried off three
hundred sheep from Ithaca, and had sailed away with them and with
their shepherds. In quest of these Ulysses took a long journey while
still quite young, for his father and the other chieftains sent him on
a mission to recover them. Iphitus had gone there also to try and
get back twelve brood mares that he had lost, and the mule foals
that were running with them. These mares were the death of him in
the end, for when he went to the house of Jove's son, mighty Hercules,
who performed such prodigies of valour, Hercules to his shame killed
him, though he was his guest, for he feared not heaven's vengeance,
nor yet respected his own table which he had set before Iphitus, but
killed him in spite of everything, and kept the mares himself. It
was when claiming these that Iphitus met Ulysses, and gave him the bow
which mighty Eurytus had been used to carry, and which on his death
had been left by him to his son. Ulysses gave him in return a sword
and a spear, and this was the beginning of a fast friendship, although
they never visited at one another's houses, for Jove's son Hercules
killed Iphitus ere they could do so. This bow, then, given him by
Iphitus, had not been taken with him by Ulysses when he sailed for
Troy; he had used it so long as he had been at home, but had left it
behind as having been a keepsake from a valued friend.
Penelope presently reached the oak threshold of the store room;
the carpenter had planed this duly, and had drawn a line on it so as
to get it quite straight; he had then set the door posts into it and
hung the doors. She loosed the strap from the handle of the door,
put in the key, and drove it straight home to shoot back the bolts
that held the doors; these flew open with a noise like a bull
bellowing in a meadow, and Penelope stepped upon the raised
platform, where the chests stood in which the fair linen and clothes
were laid by along with fragrant herbs: reaching thence, she took down
the bow with its bow case from the peg on which it hung. She sat
down with it on her knees, weeping bitterly as she took the bow out of
its case, and when her tears had relieved her, she went to the
cloister where the suitors were, carrying the bow and the quiver, with
the many deadly arrows that were inside it. Along with her came her
maidens, bearing a chest that contained much iron and bronze which her
husband had won as prizes. When she reached the suitors, she stood
by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister,
holding a veil before her face, and with a maid on either side of her.
Then she said:
"Listen to me you suitors, who persist in abusing the hospitality of
this house because its owner has been long absent, and without other
pretext than that you want to marry me; this, then, being the prize
that you are contending for, I will bring out the mighty bow of
Ulysses, and whomsoever of you shall string it most easily and send
his arrow through each one of twelve axes, him will I follow and
quit this house of my lawful husband, so goodly, and so abounding in
wealth. But even so I doubt not that I shall remember it in my
As she spoke, she told Eumaeus to set the bow and the pieces of iron
before the suitors, and Eumaeus wept as he took them to do as she
had bidden him. Hard by, the stockman wept also when he saw his
master's bow, but Antinous scolded them. "You country louts," said he,
"silly simpletons; why should you add to the sorrows of your
mistress by crying in this way? She has enough to grieve her in the
loss of her husband; sit still, therefore, and eat your dinners in
silence, or go outside if you want to cry, and leave the bow behind
you. We suitors shall have to contend for it with might and main,
for we shall find it no light matter to string such a bow as this
is. There is not a man of us all who is such another as Ulysses; for I
have seen him and remember him, though I was then only a child."
This was what he said, but all the time he was expecting to be
able to string the bow and shoot through the iron, whereas in fact
he was to be the first that should taste of the arrows from the
hands of Ulysses, whom he was dishonouring in his own house- egging
the others on to do so also.
Then Telemachus spoke. "Great heavens!" he exclaimed, "Jove must
have robbed me of my senses. Here is my dear and excellent mother
saying she will quit this house and marry again, yet I am laughing and
enjoying myself as though there were nothing happening. But,
suitors, as the contest has been agreed upon, let it go forward. It is
for a woman whose peer is not to be found in Pylos, Argos, or
Mycene, nor yet in Ithaca nor on the mainland. You know this as well
as I do; what need have I to speak in praise of my mother? Come on,
then, make no excuses for delay, but let us see whether you can string
the bow or no. I too will make trial of it, for if I can string it and
shoot through the iron, I shall not suffer my mother to quit this
house with a stranger, not if I can win the prizes which my father won
As he spoke he sprang from his seat, threw his crimson cloak from
him, and took his sword from his shoulder. First he set the axes in
a row, in a long groove which he had dug for them, and had Wade
straight by line. Then he stamped the earth tight round them, and
everyone was surprised when they saw him set up so orderly, though
he had never seen anything of the kind before. This done, he went on
to the pavement to make trial of the bow; thrice did he tug at it,
trying with all his might to draw the string, and thrice he had to
leave off, though he had hoped to string the bow and shoot through the
iron. He was trying for the fourth time, and would have strung it
had not Ulysses made a sign to check him in spite of all his
eagerness. So he said:
"Alas! I shall either be always feeble and of no prowess, or I am
too young, and have not yet reached my full strength so as to be
able to hold my own if any one attacks me. You others, therefore,
who are stronger than I, make trial of the bow and get this contest
On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door
[that led into the house] with the arrow standing against the top of
the bow. Then he sat down on the seat from which he had risen, and
"Come on each of you in his turn, going towards the right from the
place at which the. cupbearer begins when he is handing round the
The rest agreed, and Leiodes son of OEnops was the first to rise. He
was sacrificial priest to the suitors, and sat in the corner near
the mixing-bowl. He was the only man who hated their evil deeds and
was indignant with the others. He was now the first to take the bow
and arrow, so he went on to the pavement to make his trial, but he
could not string the bow, for his hands were weak and unused to hard
work, they therefore soon grew tired, and he said to the suitors,
"My friends, I cannot string it; let another have it; this bow shall
take the life and soul out of many a chief among us, for it is
better to die than to live after having missed the prize that we
have so long striven for, and which has brought us so long together.
Some one of us is even now hoping and praying that he may marry
Penelope, but when he has seen this bow and tried it, let him woo
and make bridal offerings to some other woman, and let Penelope
marry whoever makes her the best offer and whose lot it is to win
On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door,
with the arrow standing against the tip of the bow. Then he took his
seat again on the seat from which he had risen; and Antinous rebuked
"Leiodes, what are you talking about? Your words are monstrous and
intolerable; it makes me angry to listen to you. Shall, then, this bow
take the life of many a chief among us, merely because you cannot bend
it yourself? True, you were not born to be an archer, but there are
others who will soon string it."
Then he said to Melanthius the goatherd, "Look sharp, light a fire
in the court, and set a seat hard by with a sheep skin on it; bring us
also a large ball of lard, from what they have in the house. Let us
warm the bow and grease it we will then make trial of it again, and
bring the contest to an end."
Melanthius lit the fire, and set a seat covered with sheep skins
beside it. He also brought a great ball of lard from what they had
in the house, and the suitors warmed the bow and again made trial of
it, but they were none of them nearly strong enough to string it.
Nevertheless there still remained Antinous and Eurymachus, who were
the ringleaders among the suitors and much the foremost among them
Then the swineherd and the stockman left the cloisters together, and
Ulysses followed them. When they had got outside the gates and the
outer yard, Ulysses said to them quietly:
"Stockman, and you swineherd, I have something in my mind which I am
in doubt whether to say or no; but I think I will say it. What
manner of men would you be to stand by Ulysses, if some god should
bring him back here all of a sudden? Say which you are disposed to do-
to side with the suitors, or with Ulysses?"
"Father Jove," answered the stockman, "would indeed that you might
so ordain it. If some god were but to bring Ulysses back, you should
see with what might and main I would fight for him."
In like words Eumaeus prayed to all the gods that Ulysses might
return; when, therefore, he saw for certain what mind they were of,
Ulysses said, "It is I, Ulysses, who am here. I have suffered much,
but at last, in the twentieth year, I am come back to my own
country. I find that you two alone of all my servants are glad that
I should do so, for I have not heard any of the others praying for
my return. To you two, therefore, will I unfold the truth as it
shall be. If heaven shall deliver the suitors into my hands, I will
find wives for both of you, will give you house and holding close to
my own, and you shall be to me as though you were brothers and friends
of Telemachus. I will now give you convincing proofs that you may know
me and be assured. See, here is the scar from the boar's tooth that
ripped me when I was out hunting on Mount Parnassus with the sons of
As he spoke he drew his rags aside from the great scar, and when
they had examined it thoroughly, they both of them wept about Ulysses,
threw their arms round him and kissed his head and shoulders, while
Ulysses kissed their hands and faces in return. The sun would have
gone down upon their mourning if Ulysses had not checked them and
"Cease your weeping, lest some one should come outside and see us,
and tell those who a are within. When you go in, do so separately, not
both together; I will go first, and do you follow afterwards; Let this
moreover be the token between us; the suitors will all of them try
to prevent me from getting hold of the bow and quiver; do you,
therefore, Eumaeus, place it in my hands when you are carrying it
about, and tell the women to close the doors of their apartment. If
they hear any groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house,
they must not come out; they must keep quiet, and stay where they
are at their work. And I charge you, Philoetius, to make fast the
doors of the outer court, and to bind them securely at once."
When he had thus spoken, he went back to the house and took the seat
that he had left. Presently, his two servants followed him inside.
At this moment the bow was in the hands of Eurymachus, who was
warming it by the fire, but even so he could not string it, and he was
greatly grieved. He heaved a deep sigh and said, "I grieve for
myself and for us all; I grieve that I shall have to forgo the
marriage, but I do not care nearly so much about this, for there are
plenty of other women in Ithaca and elsewhere; what I feel most is the
fact of our being so inferior to Ulysses in strength that we cannot
string his bow. This will disgrace us in the eyes of those who are yet
"It shall not be so, Eurymachus," said Antinous, "and you know it
yourself. To-day is the feast of Apollo throughout all the land; who
can string a bow on such a day as this? Put it on one side- as for the
axes they can stay where they are, for no one is likely to come to the
house and take them away: let the cupbearer go round with his cups,
that we may make our drink-offerings and drop this matter of the
bow; we will tell Melanthius to bring us in some goats to-morrow-
the best he has; we can then offer thigh bones to Apollo the mighty
archer, and again make trial of the bow, so as to bring the contest to
The rest approved his words, and thereon men servants poured water
over the hands of the guests, while pages filled the mixing-bowls with
wine and water and handed it round after giving every man his
drink-offering. Then, when they had made their offerings and had drunk
each as much as he desired, Ulysses craftily said:
"Suitors of the illustrious queen, listen that I may speak even as I
am minded. I appeal more especially to Eurymachus, and to Antinous who
has just spoken with so much reason. Cease shooting for the present
and leave the matter to the gods, but in the morning let heaven give
victory to whom it will. For the moment, however, give me the bow that
I may prove the power of my hands among you all, and see whether I
still have as much strength as I used to have, or whether travel and
neglect have made an end of it."
This made them all very angry, for they feared he might string the
bow; Antinous therefore rebuked him fiercely saying, "Wretched
creature, you have not so much as a grain of sense in your whole body;
you ought to think yourself lucky in being allowed to dine unharmed
among your betters, without having any smaller portion served you than
we others have had, and in being allowed to hear our conversation.
No other beggar or stranger has been allowed to hear what we say among
ourselves; the wine must have been doing you a mischief, as it does
with all those drink immoderately. It was wine that inflamed the
Centaur Eurytion when he was staying with Peirithous among the
Lapithae. When the wine had got into his head he went mad and did
ill deeds about the house of Peirithous; this angered the heroes who
were there assembled, so they rushed at him and cut off his ears and
nostrils; then they dragged him through the doorway out of the
house, so he went away crazed, and bore the burden of his crime,
bereft of understanding. Henceforth, therefore, there was war
between mankind and the centaurs, but he brought it upon himself
through his own drunkenness. In like manner I can tell you that it
will go hardly with you if you string the bow: you will find no
mercy from any one here, for we shall at once ship you off to king
Echetus, who kills every one that comes near him: you will never get
away alive, so drink and keep quiet without getting into a quarrel
with men younger than yourself."
Penelope then spoke to him. "Antinous," said she, "it is not right
that you should ill-treat any guest of Telemachus who comes to this
house. If the stranger should prove strong enough to string the mighty
bow of Ulysses, can you suppose that he would take me home with him
and make me his wife? Even the man himself can have no such idea in
his mind: none of you need let that disturb his feasting; it would
be out of all reason."
"Queen Penelope," answered Eurymachus, "we do not suppose that
this man will take you away with him; it is impossible; but we are
afraid lest some of the baser sort, men or women among the Achaeans,
should go gossiping about and say, 'These suitors are a feeble folk;
they are paying court to the wife of a brave man whose bow not one
of them was able to string, and yet a beggarly tramp who came to the
house strung it at once and sent an arrow through the iron.' This is
what will be said, and it will be a scandal against us."
"Eurymachus," Penelope answered, "people who persist in eating up
the estate of a great chieftain and dishonouring his house must not
expect others to think well of them. Why then should you mind if men
talk as you think they will? This stranger is strong and well-built,
he says moreover that he is of noble birth. Give him the bow, and
let us see whether he can string it or no. I say- and it shall
surely be- that if Apollo vouchsafes him the glory of stringing it,
I will give him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a javelin to keep
off dogs and robbers, and a sharp sword. I will also give him sandals,
and will see him sent safely whereever he wants to go."
Then Telemachus said, "Mother, I am the only man either in Ithaca or
in the islands that are over against Elis who has the right to let any
one have the bow or to refuse it. No one shall force me one way or the
other, not even though I choose to make the stranger a present of
the bow outright, and let him take it away with him. Go, then,
within the house and busy yourself with your daily duties, your
loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants. This bow is a
man's matter, and mine above all others, for it is I who am master
She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son's saying in
her heart. Then going upstairs with her handmaids into her room, she
mourned her dear husband till Minerva sent sweet sleep over her
The swineherd now took up the bow and was for taking it to
Ulysses, but the suitors clamoured at him from all parts of the
cloisters, and one of them said, "You idiot, where are you taking
the bow to? Are you out of your wits? If Apollo and the other gods
will grant our prayer, your own boarhounds shall get you into some
quiet little place, and worry you to death."
Eumaeus was frightened at the outcry they all raised, so he put
the bow down then and there, but Telemachus shouted out at him from
the other side of the cloisters, and threatened him saying, "Father
Eumaeus, bring the bow on in spite of them, or young as I am I will
pelt you with stones back to the country, for I am the better man of
the two. I wish I was as much stronger than all the other suitors in
the house as I am than you, I would soon send some of them off sick
and sorry, for they mean mischief."
Thus did he speak, and they all of them laughed heartily, which
put them in a better humour with Telemachus; so Eumaeus brought the
bow on and placed it in the hands of Ulysses. When he had done this,
he called Euryclea apart and said to her, "Euryclea, Telemachus says
you are to close the doors of the women's apartments. If they hear any
groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house, they are not to
come out, but are to keep quiet and stay where they are at their
Euryclea did as she was told and closed the doors of the women's
Meanwhile Philoetius slipped quietly out and made fast the gates
of the outer court. There was a ship's cable of byblus fibre lying
in the gatehouse, so he made the gates fast with it and then came in
again, resuming the seat that he had left, and keeping an eye on
Ulysses, who had now got the bow in his hands, and was turning it
every way about, and proving it all over to see whether the worms
had been eating into its two horns during his absence. Then would
one turn towards his neighbour saying, "This is some tricky old
bow-fancier; either he has got one like it at home, or he wants to
make one, in such workmanlike style does the old vagabond handle it."
Another said, "I hope he may be no more successful in other things
than he is likely to be in stringing this bow."
But Ulysses, when he had taken it up and examined it all over,
strung it as easily as a skilled bard strings a new peg of his lyre
and makes the twisted gut fast at both ends. Then he took it in his
right hand to prove the string, and it sang sweetly under his touch
like the twittering of a swallow. The suitors were dismayed, and
turned colour as they heard it; at that moment, moreover, Jove
thundered loudly as a sign, and the heart of Ulysses rejoiced as he
heard the omen that the son of scheming Saturn had sent him.
He took an arrow that was lying upon the table- for those which
the Achaeans were so shortly about to taste were all inside the
quiver- he laid it on the centre-piece of the bow, and drew the
notch of the arrow and the string toward him, still seated on his
seat. When he had taken aim he let fly, and his arrow pierced every
one of the handle-holes of the axes from the first onwards till it had
gone right through them, and into the outer courtyard. Then he said to
"Your guest has not disgraced you, Telemachus. I did not miss what I
aimed at, and I was not long in stringing my bow. I am still strong,
and not as the suitors twit me with being. Now, however, it is time
for the Achaeans to prepare supper while there is still daylight,
and then otherwise to disport themselves with song and dance which are
the crowning ornaments of a banquet."
As he spoke he made a sign with his eyebrows, and Telemachus
girded on his sword, grasped his spear, and stood armed beside his
The Odyssey: Book 19
Ulysses was left in the cloister, pondering on the means whereby
with Minerva's help he might be able to kill the suitors. Presently he
said to Telemachus, "Telemachus, we must get the armour together and
take it down inside. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why you
have removed it. Say that you have taken it to be out of the way of
the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses went
away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this more
particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to quarrel
over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm which may
disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms sometimes
tempts people to use them."
Telemachus approved of what his father had said, so he called
nurse Euryclea and said, "Nurse, shut the women up in their room,
while I take the armour that my father left behind him down into the
store room. No one looks after it now my father is gone, and it has
got all smirched with soot during my own boyhood. I want to take it
down where the smoke cannot reach it."
"I wish, child," answered Euryclea, "that you would take the
management of the house into your own hands altogether, and look after
all the property yourself. But who is to go with you and light you
to the store room? The maids would have so, but you would not let
"The stranger," said Telemachus, "shall show me a light; when people
eat my bread they must earn it, no matter where they come from."
Euryclea did as she was told, and bolted the women inside their
room. Then Ulysses and his son made all haste to take the helmets,
shields, and spears inside; and Minerva went before them with a gold
lamp in her hand that shed a soft and brilliant radiance, whereon
Telemachus said, "Father, my eyes behold a great marvel: the walls,
with the rafters, crossbeams, and the supports on which they rest
are all aglow as with a flaming fire. Surely there is some god here
who has come down from heaven."
"Hush," answered Ulysses, "hold your peace and ask no questions, for
this is the manner of the gods. Get you to your bed, and leave me here
to talk with your mother and the maids. Your mother in her grief
will ask me all sorts of questions."
On this Telemachus went by torch-light to the other side of the
inner court, to the room in which he always slept. There he lay in his
bed till morning, while Ulysses was left in the cloister pondering
on the means whereby with Minerva's help he might be able to kill
Then Penelope came down from her room looking like Venus or Diana,
and they set her a seat inlaid with scrolls of silver and ivory near
the fire in her accustomed place. It had been made by Icmalius and had
a footstool all in one piece with the seat itself; and it was
covered with a thick fleece: on this she now sat, and the maids came
from the women's room to join her. They set about removing the
tables at which the wicked suitors had been dining, and took away
the bread that was left, with the cups from which they had drunk. They
emptied the embers out of the braziers, and heaped much wood upon them
to give both light and heat; but Melantho began to rail at Ulysses a
second time and said, "Stranger, do you mean to plague us by hanging
about the house all night and spying upon the women? Be off, you
wretch, outside, and eat your supper there, or you shall be driven out
with a firebrand."
Ulysses scowled at her and answered, "My good woman, why should
you be so angry with me? Is it because I am not clean, and my
clothes are all in rags, and because I am obliged to go begging
about after the manner of tramps and beggars generall? I too was a
rich man once, and had a fine house of my own; in those days I gave to
many a tramp such as I now am, no matter who he might be nor what he
wanted. I had any number of servants, and all the other things which
people have who live well and are accounted wealthy, but it pleased
Jove to take all away from me; therefore, woman, beware lest you too
come to lose that pride and place in which you now wanton above your
fellows; have a care lest you get out of favour with your mistress,
and lest Ulysses should come home, for there is still a chance that he
may do so. Moreover, though he be dead as you think he is, yet by
Apollo's will he has left a son behind him, Telemachus, who will
note anything done amiss by the maids in the house, for he is now no
longer in his boyhood."
Penelope heard what he was saying and scolded the maid, "Impudent
baggage, said she, "I see how abominably you are behaving, and you
shall smart for it. You knew perfectly well, for I told you myself,
that I was going to see the stranger and ask him about my husband, for
whose sake I am in such continual sorrow."
Then she said to her head waiting woman Eurynome, "Bring a seat with
a fleece upon it, for the stranger to sit upon while he tells his
story, and listens to what I have to say. I wish to ask him some
Eurynome brought the seat at once and set a fleece upon it, and as
soon as Ulysses had sat down Penelope began by saying, "Stranger, I
shall first ask you who and whence are you? Tell me of your town and
"Madam;" answered Ulysses, "who on the face of the whole earth can
dare to chide with you? Your fame reaches the firmament of heaven
itself; you are like some blameless king, who upholds righteousness,
as the monarch over a great and valiant nation: the earth yields its
wheat and barley, the trees are loaded with fruit, the ewes bring
forth lambs, and the sea abounds with fish by reason of his virtues,
and his people do good deeds under him. Nevertheless, as I sit here in
your house, ask me some other question and do not seek to know my race
and family, or you will recall memories that will yet more increase my
sorrow. I am full of heaviness, but I ought not to sit weeping and
wailing in another person's house, nor is it well to be thus
grieving continually. I shall have one of the servants or even
yourself complaining of me, and saying that my eyes swim with tears
because I am heavy with wine."
Then Penelope answered, "Stranger, heaven robbed me of all beauty,
whether of face or figure, when the Argives set sail for Troy and my
dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after my affairs
I should be both more respected and should show a better presence to
the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the
afflictions which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. The chiefs from
all our islands- Dulichium, Same, and Zacynthus, as also from Ithaca
itself, are wooing me against my will and are wasting my estate. I can
therefore show no attention to strangers, nor suppliants, nor to
people who say that they are skilled artisans, but am all the time
brokenhearted about Ulysses. They want me to marry again at once,
and I have to invent stratagems in order to deceive them. In the first
place heaven put it in my mind to set up a great tambour-frame in my
room, and to begin working upon an enormous piece of fine
needlework. Then I said to them, 'Sweethearts, Ulysses is indeed dead,
still, do not press me to marry again immediately; wait- for I would
not have my skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
finished making a pall for the hero Laertes, to be ready against the
time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women of
the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.' This was what I
said, and they assented; whereon I used to keep working at my great
web all day long, but at night I would unpick the stitches again by
torch light. I fooled them in this way for three years without their
finding it out, but as time wore on and I was now in my fourth year,
in the waning of moons, and many days had been accomplished, those
good-for-nothing hussies my maids betrayed me to the suitors, who
broke in upon me and caught me; they were very angry with me, so I was
forced to finish my work whether I would or no. And now I do not see
how I can find any further shift for getting out of this marriage.
My parents are putting great pressure upon me, and my son chafes at
the ravages the suitors are making upon his estate, for he is now
old enough to understand all about it and is perfectly able to look
after his own affairs, for heaven has blessed him with an excellent
disposition. Still, notwithstanding all this, tell me who you are
and where you come from- for you must have had father and mother of
some sort; you cannot be the son of an oak or of a rock."
Then Ulysses answered, "madam, wife of Ulysses, since you persist in
asking me about my family, I will answer, no matter what it costs
me: people must expect to be pained when they have been exiles as long
as I have, and suffered as much among as many peoples. Nevertheless,
as regards your question I will tell you all you ask. There is a
fair and fruitful island in mid-ocean called Crete; it is thickly
peopled and there are nine cities in it: the people speak many
different languages which overlap one another, for there are Achaeans,
brave Eteocretans, Dorians of three-fold race, and noble Pelasgi.
There is a great town there, Cnossus, where Minos reigned who every
nine years had a conference with Jove himself. Minos was father to
Deucalion, whose son I am, for Deucalion had two sons Idomeneus and
myself. Idomeneus sailed for Troy, and I, who am the younger, am
called Aethon; my brother, however, was at once the older and the more
valiant of the two; hence it was in Crete that I saw Ulysses and
showed him hospitality, for the winds took him there as he was on
his way to Troy, carrying him out of his course from cape Malea and
leaving him in Amnisus off the cave of Ilithuia, where the harbours
are difficult to enter and he could hardly find shelter from the winds
that were then xaging. As soon as he got there he went into the town
and asked for Idomeneus, claiming to be his old and valued friend, but
Idomeneus had already set sail for Troy some ten or twelve days
earlier, so I took him to my own house and showed him every kind of
hospitality, for I had abundance of everything. Moreover, I fed the
men who were with him with barley meal from the public store, and
got subscriptions of wine and oxen for them to sacrifice to their
heart's content. They stayed with me twelve days, for there was a gale
blowing from the North so strong that one could hardly keep one's feet
on land. I suppose some unfriendly god had raised it for them, but
on the thirteenth day the wind dropped, and they got away."
Many a plausible tale did Ulysses further tell her, and Penelope
wept as she listened, for her heart was melted. As the snow wastes
upon the mountain tops when the winds from South East and West have
breathed upon it and thawed it till the rivers run bank full with
water, even so did her cheeks overflow with tears for the husband
who was all the time sitting by her side. Ulysses felt for her and was
for her, but he kept his eyes as hard as or iron without letting
them so much as quiver, so cunningly did he restrain his tears.
Then, when she had relieved herself by weeping, she turned to him
again and said: "Now, stranger, I shall put you to the test and see
whether or no you really did entertain my husband and his men, as
you say you did. Tell me, then, how he was dressed, what kind of a man
he was to look at, and so also with his companions."
"Madam," answered Ulysses, "it is such a long time ago that I can
hardly say. Twenty years are come and gone since he left my home,
and went elsewhither; but I will tell you as well as I can
recollect. Ulysses wore a mantle of purple wool, double lined, and
it was fastened by a gold brooch with two catches for the pin. On
the face of this there was a device that showed a dog holding a
spotted fawn between his fore paws, and watching it as it lay
panting upon the ground. Every one marvelled at the way in which these
things had been done in gold, the dog looking at the fawn, and
strangling it, while the fawn was struggling convulsively to escape.
As for the shirt that he wore next his skin, it was so soft that it
fitted him like the skin of an onion, and glistened in the sunlight to
the admiration of all the women who beheld it. Furthermore I say,
and lay my saying to your heart, that I do not know whether Ulysses
wore these clothes when he left home, or whether one of his companions
had given them to him while he was on his voyage; or possibly some one
at whose house he was staying made him a present of them, for he was a
man of many friends and had few equals among the Achaeans. I myself
gave him a sword of bronze and a beautiful purple mantle, double
lined, with a shirt that went down to his feet, and I sent him on
board his ship with every mark of honour. He had a servant with him, a
little older than himself, and I can tell you what he was like; his
shoulders were hunched, he was dark, and he had thick curly hair.
His name was Eurybates, and Ulysses treated him with greater
familiarity than he did any of the others, as being the most
like-minded with himself."
Penelope was moved still more deeply as she heard the indisputable
proofs that Ulysses laid before her; and when she had again found
relief in tears she said to him, "Stranger, I was already disposed
to pity you, but henceforth you shall be honoured and made welcome
in my house. It was I who gave Ulysses the clothes you speak of. I
took them out of the store room and folded them up myself, and I
gave him also the gold brooch to wear as an ornament. Alas! I shall
never welcome him home again. It was by an ill fate that he ever set
out for that detested city whose very name I cannot bring myself
even to mention."
Then Ulysses answered, "Madam, wife of Ulysses, do not disfigure
yourself further by grieving thus bitterly for your loss, though I can
hardly blame you for doing so. A woman who has loved her husband and
borne him children, would naturally be grieved at losing him, even
though he were a worse man than Ulysses, who they say was like a
god. Still, cease your tears and listen to what I can tell I will hide
nothing from you, and can say with perfect truth that I have lately
heard of Ulysses as being alive and on his way home; he is among the
Thesprotians, and is bringing back much valuable treasure that he
has begged from one and another of them; but his ship and all his crew
were lost as they were leaving the Thrinacian island, for Jove and the
sun-god were angry with him because his men had slaughtered the
sun-god's cattle, and they were all drowned to a man. But Ulysses
stuck to the keel of the ship and was drifted on to the land of the
Phaecians, who are near of kin to the immortals, and who treated him
as though he had been a god, giving him many presents, and wishing
to escort him home safe and sound. In fact Ulysses would have been
here long ago, had he not thought better to go from land to land
gathering wealth; for there is no man living who is so wily as he
is; there is no one can compare with him. Pheidon king of the
Thesprotians told me all this, and he swore to me- making
drink-offerings in his house as he did so- that the ship was by the
water side and the crew found who would take Ulysses to his own
country. He sent me off first, for there happened to be a
Thesprotian ship sailing for the wheat-growing island of Dulichium,
but he showed me all treasure Ulysses had got together, and he had
enough lying in the house of king Pheidon to keep his family for ten
generations; but the king said Ulysses had gone to Dodona that he
might learn Jove's mind from the high oak tree, and know whether after
so long an absence he should return to Ithaca openly or in secret.
So you may know he is safe and will be here shortly; he is close at
hand and cannot remain away from home much longer; nevertheless I will
confirm my words with an oath, and call Jove who is the first and
mightiest of all gods to witness, as also that hearth of Ulysses to
which I have now come, that all I have spoken shall surely come to
pass. Ulysses will return in this self same year; with the end of this
moon and the beginning of the next he will be here."
"May it be even so," answered Penelope; "if your words come true you
shall have such gifts and such good will from me that all who see
you shall congratulate you; but I know very well how it will be.
Ulysses will not return, neither will you get your escort hence, for
so surely as that Ulysses ever was, there are now no longer any such
masters in the house as he was, to receive honourable strangers or
to further them on their way home. And now, you maids, wash his feet
for him, and make him a bed on a couch with rugs and blankets, that he
may be warm and quiet till morning. Then, at day break wash him and
anoint him again, that he may sit in the cloister and take his meals
with Telemachus. It shall be the worse for any one of these hateful
people who is uncivil to him; like it or not, he shall have no more to
do in this house. For how, sir, shall you be able to learn whether
or no I am superior to others of my sex both in goodness of heart
and understanding, if I let you dine in my cloisters squalid and ill
clad? Men live but for a little season; if they are hard, and deal
hardly, people wish them ill so long as they are alive, and speak
contemptuously of them when they are dead, but he that is righteous
and deals righteously, the people tell of his praise among all
lands, and many shall call him blessed."
Ulysses answered, "Madam, I have foresworn rugs and blankets from
the day that I left the snowy ranges of Crete to go on shipboard. I
will lie as I have lain on many a sleepless night hitherto. Night
after night have I passed in any rough sleeping place, and waited
for morning. Nor, again, do I like having my feet washed; I shall
not let any of the young hussies about your house touch my feet;
but, if you have any old and respectable woman who has gone through as
much trouble as I have, I will allow her to wash them."
To this Penelope said, "My dear sir, of all the guests who ever
yet came to my house there never was one who spoke in all things
with such admirable propriety as you do. There happens to be in the
house a most respectable old woman- the same who received my poor dear
husband in her arms the night he was born, and nursed him in
infancy. She is very feeble now, but she shall wash your feet."
"Come here," said she, "Euryclea, and wash your master's age-mate; I
suppose Ulysses' hands and feet are very much the same now as his are,
for trouble ages all of us dreadfully fast."
On these words the old woman covered her face with her hands; she
began to weep and made lamentation saying, "My dear child, I cannot
think whatever I am to do with you. I am certain no one was ever
more god-fearing than yourself, and yet Jove hates you. No one in
the whole world ever burned him more thigh bones, nor gave him finer
hecatombs when you prayed you might come to a green old age yourself
and see your son grow up to take after you; yet see how he has
prevented you alone from ever getting back to your own home. I have no
doubt the women in some foreign palace which Ulysses has got to are
gibing at him as all these sluts here have been gibing you. I do not
wonder at your not choosing to let them wash you after the manner in
which they have insulted you; I will wash your feet myself gladly
enough, as Penelope has said that I am to do so; I will wash them both
for Penelope's sake and for your own, for you have raised the most
lively feelings of compassion in my mind; and let me say this
moreover, which pray attend to; we have had all kinds of strangers
in distress come here before now, but I make bold to say that no one
ever yet came who was so like Ulysses in figure, voice, and feet as
"Those who have seen us both," answered Ulysses, "have always said
we were wonderfully like each other, and now you have noticed it too.
Then the old woman took the cauldron in which she was going to
wash his feet, and poured plenty of cold water into it, adding hot
till the bath was warm enough. Ulysses sat by the fire, but ere long
he turned away from the light, for it occurred to him that when the
old woman had hold of his leg she would recognize a certain scar which
it bore, whereon the whole truth would come out. And indeed as soon as
she began washing her master, she at once knew the scar as one that
had been given him by a wild boar when he was hunting on Mount
Parnassus with his excellent grandfather Autolycus- who was the most
accomplished thief and perjurer in the whole world- and with the
sons of Autolycus. Mercury himself had endowed him with this gift, for
he used to burn the thigh bones of goats and kids to him, so he took
pleasure in his companionship. It happened once that Autolycus had
gone to Ithaca and had found the child of his daughter just born. As
soon as he had done supper Euryclea set the infant upon his knees
and said, you must find a name for your grandson; you greatly wished
that you might have one."
'Son-in-law and daughter," replied Autolycus, "call the child
thus: I am highly displeased with a large number of people in one
place and another, both men and women; so name the child 'Ulysses,' or
the child of anger. When he grows up and comes to visit his mother's
family on Mount Parnassus, where my possessions lie, I will make him a
present and will send him on his way rejoicing."
Ulysses, therefore, went to Parnassus to get the presents from
Autolycus, who with his sons shook hands with him and gave him
welcome. His grandmother Amphithea threw her arms about him, and
kissed his head, and both his beautiful eyes, while Autolycus
desired his sons to get dinner ready, and they did as he told them.
They brought in a five year old bull, flayed it, made it ready and
divided it into joints; these they then cut carefully up into
smaller pieces and spitted them; they roasted them sufficiently and
served the portions round. Thus through the livelong day to the
going down of the sun they feasted, and every man had his full share
so that all were satisfied; but when the sun set and it came on
dark, they went to bed and enjoyed the boon of sleep.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the sons of
Autolycus went out with their hounds hunting, and Ulysses went too.
They climbed the wooded slopes of Parnassus and soon reached its
breezy upland valleys; but as the sun was beginning to beat upon the
fields, fresh-risen from the slow still currents of Oceanus, they came
to a mountain dell. The dogs were in front searching for the tracks of
the beast they were chasing, and after them came the sons of
Autolycus, among whom was Ulysses, close behind the dogs, and he had a
long spear in his hand. Here was the lair of a huge boar among some
thick brushwood, so dense that the wind and rain could not get through
it, nor could the sun's rays pierce it, and the ground underneath
lay thick with fallen leaves. The boar heard the noise of the men's
feet, and the hounds baying on every side as the huntsmen came up to
him, so rushed from his lair, raised the bristles on his neck, and
stood at bay with fire flashing from his eyes. Ulysses was the first
to raise his spear and try to drive it into the brute, but the boar
was too quick for him, and charged him sideways, ripping him above the
knee with a gash that tore deep though it did not reach the bone. As
for the boar, Ulysses hit him on the right shoulder, and the point
of the spear went right through him, so that he fell groaning in the
dust until the life went out of him. The sons of Autolycus busied
themselves with the carcass of the boar, and bound Ulysses' wound;
then, after saying a spell to stop the bleeding, they went home as
fast as they could. But when Autolycus and his sons had thoroughly
healed Ulysses, they made him some splendid presents, and sent him
back to Ithaca with much mutual good will. When he got back, his
father and mother were rejoiced to see him, and asked him all about
it, and how he had hurt himself to get the scar; so he told them how
the boar had ripped him when he was out hunting with Autolycus and his
sons on Mount Parnassus.
As soon as Euryclea had got the scarred limb in her hands and had
well hold of it, she recognized it and dropped the foot at once. The
leg fell into the bath, which rang out and was overturned, so that all
the water was spilt on the ground; Euryclea's eyes between her joy and
her grief filled with tears, and she could not speak, but she caught
Ulysses by the beard and said, "My dear child, I am sure you must be
Ulysses himself, only I did not know you till I had actually touched
and handled you."
As she spoke she looked towards Penelope, as though wanting to
tell her that her dear husband was in the house, but Penelope was
unable to look in that direction and observe what was going on, for
Minerva had diverted her attention; so Ulysses caught Euryclea by
the throat with his right hand and with his left drew her close to
him, and said, "Nurse, do you wish to be the ruin of me, you who
nursed me at your own breast, now that after twenty years of wandering
I am at last come to my own home again? Since it has been borne in
upon you by heaven to recognize me, hold your tongue, and do not say a
word about it any one else in the house, for if you do I tell you- and
it shall surely be- that if heaven grants me to take the lives of
these suitors, I will not spare you, though you are my own nurse, when
I am killing the other women."
"My child," answered Euryclea, "what are you talking about? You know
very well that nothing can either bend or break me. I will hold my
tongue like a stone or a piece of iron; furthermore let me say, and
lay my saying to your heart, when heaven has delivered the suitors
into your hand, I will give you a list of the women in the house who
have been ill-behaved, and of those who are guiltless."
And Ulysses answered, "Nurse, you ought not to speak in that way;
I am well able to form my own opinion about one and all of them;
hold your tongue and leave everything to heaven."
As he said this Euryclea left the cloister to fetch some more water,
for the first had been all spilt; and when she had washed him and
anointed him with oil, Ulysses drew his seat nearer to the fire to
warm himself, and hid the scar under his rags. Then Penelope began
talking to him and said:
"Stranger, I should like to speak with you briefly about another
matter. It is indeed nearly bed time- for those, at least, who can
sleep in spite of sorrow. As for myself, heaven has given me a life of
such unmeasurable woe, that even by day when I am attending to my
duties and looking after the servants, I am still weeping and
lamenting during the whole time; then, when night comes, and we all of
us go to bed, I lie awake thinking, and my heart comes a prey to the
most incessant and cruel tortures. As the dun nightingale, daughter of
Pandareus, sings in the early spring from her seat in shadiest
covert hid, and with many a plaintive trill pours out the tale how
by mishap she killed her own child Itylus, son of king Zethus, even so
does my mind toss and turn in its uncertainty whether I ought to
stay with my son here, and safeguard my substance, my bondsmen, and
the greatness of my house, out of regard to public opinion and the
memory of my late husband, or whether it is not now time for me to
go with the best of these suitors who are wooing me and making me such
magnificent presents. As long as my son was still young, and unable to
understand, he would not hear of my leaving my husband's house, but
now that he is full grown he begs and prays me to do so, being
incensed at the way in which the suitors are eating up his property.
Listen, then, to a dream that I have had and interpret it for me if
you can. I have twenty geese about the house that eat mash out of a
trough, and of which I am exceedingly fond. I dreamed that a great
eagle came swooping down from a mountain, and dug his curved beak into
the neck of each of them till he had killed them all. Presently he
soared off into the sky, and left them lying dead about the yard;
whereon I wept in my room till all my maids gathered round me, so
piteously was I grieving because the eagle had killed my geese. Then
he came back again, and perching on a projecting rafter spoke to me
with human voice, and told me to leave off crying. 'Be of good
courage,' he said, 'daughter of Icarius; this is no dream, but a
vision of good omen that shall surely come to pass. The geese are
the suitors, and I am no longer an eagle, but your own husband, who am
come back to you, and who will bring these suitors to a disgraceful
end.' On this I woke, and when I looked out I saw my geese at the
trough eating their mash as usual."
"This dream, Madam," replied Ulysses, "can admit but of one
interpretation, for had not Ulysses himself told you how it shall be
fulfilled? The death of the suitors is portended, and not one single
one of them will escape."
And Penelope answered, "Stranger, dreams are very curious and
unaccountable things, and they do not by any means invariably come
true. There are two gates through which these unsubstantial fancies
proceed; the one is of horn, and the other ivory. Those that come
through the gate of ivory are fatuous, but those from the gate of horn
mean something to those that see them. I do not think, however, that
my own dream came through the gate of horn, though I and my son should
be most thankful if it proves to have done so. Furthermore I say-
and lay my saying to your heart- the coming dawn will usher in the
ill-omened day that is to sever me from the house of Ulysses, for I am
about to hold a tournament of axes. My husband used to set up twelve
axes in the court, one in front of the other, like the stays upon
which a ship is built; he would then go back from them and shoot an
arrow through the whole twelve. I shall make the suitors try to do the
same thing, and whichever of them can string the bow most easily,
and send his arrow through all the twelve axes, him will I follow, and
quit this house of my lawful husband, so goodly and so abounding in
wealth. But even so, I doubt not that I shall remember it in my
Then Ulysses answered, "Madam wife of Ulysses, you need not defer
your tournament, for Ulysses will return ere ever they can string
the bow, handle it how they will, and send their arrows through the
To this Penelope said, "As long, sir, as you will sit here and
talk to me, I can have no desire to go to bed. Still, people cannot do
permanently without sleep, and heaven has appointed us dwellers on
earth a time for all things. I will therefore go upstairs and
recline upon that couch which I have never ceased to flood with my
tears from the day Ulysses set out for the city with a hateful name."
She then went upstairs to her own room, not alone, but attended by
her maidens, and when there, she lamented her dear husband till
Minerva shed sweet sleep over her eyelids.
The Iliad: Book 10
Now the other princes of the Achaeans slept soundly the whole
night through, but Agamemnon son of Atreus was troubled, so that he
could get no rest. As when fair Juno's lord flashes his lightning in
token of great rain or hail or snow when the snow-flakes whiten the
ground, or again as a sign that he will open the wide jaws of hungry
war, even so did Agamemnon heave many a heavy sigh, for his soul
trembled within him. When he looked upon the plain of Troy he
marvelled at the many watchfires burning in front of Ilius, and at the
sound of pipes and flutes and of the hum of men, but when presently he
turned towards the ships and hosts of the Achaeans, he tore his hair
by handfuls before Jove on high, and groaned aloud for the very
disquietness of his soul. In the end he deemed it best to go at once
to Nestor son of Neleus, and see if between them they could find any
way of the Achaeans from destruction. He therefore rose, put on his
shirt, bound his sandals about his comely feet, flung the skin of a
huge tawny lion over his shoulders- a skin that reached his feet-
and took his spear in his hand.
Neither could Menelaus sleep, for he, too, boded ill for the Argives
who for his sake had sailed from far over the seas to fight the
Trojans. He covered his broad back with the skin of a spotted panther,
put a casque of bronze upon his head, and took his spear in his brawny
hand. Then he went to rouse his brother, who was by far the most
powerful of the Achaeans, and was honoured by the people as though
he were a god. He found him by the stern of his ship already putting
his goodly array about his shoulders, and right glad was he that his
brother had come.
Menelaus spoke first. "Why," said he, "my dear brother, are you thus
arming? Are you going to send any of our comrades to exploit the
Trojans? I greatly fear that no one will do you this service, and
spy upon the enemy alone in the dead of night. It will be a deed of
And King Agamemnon answered, "Menelaus, we both of us need shrewd
counsel to save the Argives and our ships, for Jove has changed his
mind, and inclines towards Hector's sacrifices rather than ours. I
never saw nor heard tell of any man as having wrought such ruin in one
day as Hector has now wrought against the sons of the Achaeans- and
that too of his own unaided self, for he is son neither to god nor
goddess. The Argives will rue it long and deeply. Run, therefore, with
all speed by the line of the ships, and call Ajax and Idomeneus.
Meanwhile I will go to Nestor, and bid him rise and go about among the
companies of our sentinels to give them their instructions; they
will listen to him sooner than to any man, for his own son, and
Meriones brother in arms to Idomeneus, are captains over them. It
was to them more particularly that we gave this charge."
Menelaus replied, "How do I take your meaning? Am I to stay with
them and wait your coming, or shall I return here as soon as I have
given your orders?" "Wait," answered King Agamemnon, "for there are so
many paths about the camp that we might miss one another. Call every
man on your way, and bid him be stirring; name him by his lineage
and by his father's name, give each all titular observance, and
stand not too much upon your own dignity; we must take our full
share of toil, for at our birth Jove laid this heavy burden upon us."
With these instructions he sent his brother on his way, and went
on to Nestor shepherd of his people. He found him sleeping in his tent
hard by his own ship; his goodly armour lay beside him- his shield,
his two spears and his helmet; beside him also lay the gleaming girdle
with which the old man girded himself when he armed to lead his people
into battle- for his age stayed him not. He raised himself on his
elbow and looked up at Agamemnon. "Who is it," said he, "that goes
thus about the host and the ships alone and in the dead of night, when
men are sleeping? Are you looking for one of your mules or for some
comrade? Do not stand there and say nothing, but speak. What is your
And Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, son of Neleus, honour to the
Achaean name, it is I, Agamemnon son of Atreus, on whom Jove has
laid labour and sorrow so long as there is breath in my body and my
limbs carry me. I am thus abroad because sleep sits not upon my
eyelids, but my heart is big with war and with the jeopardy of the
Achaeans. I am in great fear for the Danaans. I am at sea, and without
sure counsel; my heart beats as though it would leap out of my body,
and my limbs fail me. If then you can do anything- for you too
cannot sleep- let us go the round of the watch, and see whether they
are drowsy with toil and sleeping to the neglect of their duty. The
enemy is encamped hard and we know not but he may attack us by night."
Nestor replied, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon,
Jove will not do all for Hector that Hector thinks he will; he will
have troubles yet in plenty if Achilles will lay aside his anger. I
will go with you, and we will rouse others, either the son of
Tydeus, or Ulysses, or fleet Ajax and the valiant son of Phyleus. Some
one had also better go and call Ajax and King Idomeneus, for their
ships are not near at hand but the farthest of all. I cannot however
refrain from blaming Menelaus, much as I love him and respect him- and
I will say so plainly, even at the risk of offending you- for sleeping
and leaving all this trouble to yourself. He ought to be going about
imploring aid from all the princes of the Achaeans, for we are in
And Agamemnon answered, "Sir, you may sometimes blame him justly,
for he is often remiss and unwilling to exert himself- not indeed from
sloth, nor yet heedlessness, but because he looks to me and expects me
to take the lead. On this occasion, however, he was awake before I
was, and came to me of his own accord. I have already sent him to call
the very men whom you have named. And now let us be going. We shall
find them with the watch outside the gates, for it was there I said
that we would meet them."
"In that case," answered Nestor, "the Argives will not blame him nor
disobey his orders when he urges them to fight or gives them
With this he put on his shirt, and bound his sandals about his
comely feet. He buckled on his purple coat, of two thicknesses, large,
and of a rough shaggy texture, grasped his redoubtable bronze-shod
spear, and wended his way along the line of the Achaean ships. First
he called loudly to Ulysses peer of gods in counsel and woke him,
for he was soon roused by the sound of the battle-cry. He came outside
his tent and said, "Why do you go thus alone about the host, and along
the line of the ships in the stillness of the night? What is it that
you find so urgent?" And Nestor knight of Gerene answered, "Ulysses,
noble son of Laertes, take it not amiss, for the Achaeans are in great
straits. Come with me and let us wake some other, who may advise
well with us whether we shall fight or fly."
On this Ulysses went at once into his tent, put his shield about his
shoulders and came out with them. First they went to Diomed son of
Tydeus, and found him outside his tent clad in his armour with his
comrades sleeping round him and using their shields as pillows; as for
their spears, they stood upright on the spikes of their butts that
were driven into the ground, and the burnished bronze flashed afar
like the lightning of father Jove. The hero was sleeping upon the skin
of an ox, with a piece of fine carpet under his head; Nestor went up
to him and stirred him with his heel to rouse him, upbraiding him
and urging him to bestir himself. "Wake up," he exclaimed, "son of
Tydeus. How can you sleep on in this way? Can you not see that the
Trojans are encamped on the brow of the plain hard by our ships,
with but a little space between us and them?"
On these words Diomed leaped up instantly and said, "Old man, your
heart is of iron; you rest not one moment from your labours. Are there
no younger men among the Achaeans who could go about to rouse the
princes? There is no tiring you."
And Nestor knight of Gerene made answer, "My son, all that you
have said is true. I have good sons, and also much people who might
call the chieftains, but the Achaeans are in the gravest danger;
life and death are balanced as it were on the edge of a razor. Go
then, for you are younger than I, and of your courtesy rouse Ajax
and the fleet son of Phyleus."
Diomed threw the skin of a great tawny lion about his shoulders- a
skin that reached his feet- and grasped his spear. When he had
roused the heroes, he brought them back with him; they then went the
round of those who were on guard, and found the captains not
sleeping at their posts but wakeful and sitting with their arms
about them. As sheep dogs that watch their flocks when they are
yarded, and hear a wild beast coming through the mountain forest
towards them- forthwith there is a hue and cry of dogs and men, and
slumber is broken- even so was sleep chased from the eyes of the
Achaeans as they kept the watches of the wicked night, for they turned
constantly towards the plain whenever they heard any stir among the
Trojans. The old man was glad bade them be of good cheer. "Watch on,
my children," said he, "and let not sleep get hold upon you, lest
our enemies triumph over us."
With this he passed the trench, and with him the other chiefs of the
Achaeans who had been called to the council. Meriones and the brave
son of Nestor went also, for the princes bade them. When they were
beyond the trench that was dug round the wall they held their
meeting on the open ground where there was a space clear of corpses,
for it was here that when night fell Hector had turned back from his
onslaught on the Argives. They sat down, therefore, and held debate
with one another.
Nestor spoke first. "My friends," said he, "is there any man bold
enough to venture the Trojans, and cut off some straggler, or us
news of what the enemy mean to do whether they will stay here by the
ships away from the city, or whether, now that they have worsted the
Achaeans, they will retire within their walls. If he could learn all
this and come back safely here, his fame would be high as heaven in
the mouths of all men, and he would be rewarded richly; for the chiefs
from all our ships would each of them give him a black ewe with her
lamb- which is a present of surpassing value- and he would be asked as
a guest to all feasts and clan-gatherings."
They all held their peace, but Diomed of the loud war-cry spoke
saying, "Nestor, gladly will I visit the host of the Trojans over
against us, but if another will go with me I shall do so in greater
confidence and comfort. When two men are together, one of them may see
some opportunity which the other has not caught sight of; if a man
is alone he is less full of resource, and his wit is weaker."
On this several offered to go with Diomed. The two Ajaxes,
servants of Mars, Meriones, and the son of Nestor all wanted to go, so
did Menelaus son of Atreus; Ulysses also wished to go among the host
of the Trojans, for he was ever full of daring, and thereon
Agamemnon king of men spoke thus: "Diomed," said he, "son of Tydeus,
man after my own heart, choose your comrade for yourself- take the
best man of those that have offered, for many would now go with you.
Do not through delicacy reject the better man, and take the worst
out of respect for his lineage, because he is of more royal blood."
He said this because he feared for Menelaus. Diomed answered, "If
you bid me take the man of my own choice, how in that case can I
fail to think of Ulysses, than whom there is no man more eager to face
all kinds of danger- and Pallas Minerva loves him well? If he were
to go with me we should pass safely through fire itself, for he is
quick to see and understand."
"Son of Tydeus," replied Ulysses, "say neither good nor ill about
me, for you are among Argives who know me well. Let us be going, for
the night wanes and dawn is at hand. The stars have gone forward,
two-thirds of the night are already spent, and the third is alone left
They then put on their armour. Brave Thrasymedes provided the son of
Tydeus with a sword and a shield (for he had left his own at his ship)
and on his head he set a helmet of bull's hide without either peak
or crest; it is called a skull-cap and is a common headgear.
Meriones found a bow and quiver for Ulysses, and on his head he set
a leathern helmet that was lined with a strong plaiting of leathern
thongs, while on the outside it was thickly studded with boar's teeth,
well and skilfully set into it; next the head there was an inner
lining of felt. This helmet had been stolen by Autolycus out of
Eleon when he broke into the house of Amyntor son of Ormenus. He
gave it to Amphidamas of Cythera to take to Scandea, and Amphidamas
gave it as a guest-gift to Molus, who gave it to his son Meriones; and
now it was set upon the head of Ulysses.
When the pair had armed, they set out, and left the other chieftains
behind them. Pallas Minerva sent them a heron by the wayside upon
their right hands; they could not see it for the darkness, but they
heard its cry. Ulysses was glad when he heard it and prayed to
Minerva: "Hear me," he cried, "daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, you who
spy out all my ways and who are with me in all my hardships;
befriend me in this mine hour, and grant that we may return to the
ships covered with glory after having achieved some mighty exploit
that shall bring sorrow to the Trojans."
Then Diomed of the loud war-cry also prayed: "Hear me too," said he,
"daughter of Jove, unweariable; be with me even as you were with my
noble father Tydeus when he went to Thebes as envoy sent by the
Achaeans. He left the Achaeans by the banks of the river Aesopus,
and went to the city bearing a message of peace to the Cadmeians; on
his return thence, with your help, goddess, he did great deeds of
daring, for you were his ready helper. Even so guide me and guard me
now, and in return I will offer you in sacrifice a broad-browed heifer
of a year old, unbroken, and never yet brought by man under the
yoke. I will gild her horns and will offer her up to you in
Thus they prayed, and Pallas Minerva heard their prayer. When they
had done praying to the daughter of great Jove, they went their way
like two lions prowling by night amid the armour and blood-stained
bodies of them that had fallen.
Neither again did Hector let the Trojans sleep; for he too called
the princes and councillors of the Trojans that he might set his
counsel before them. "Is there one," said he, "who for a great
reward will do me the service of which I will tell you? He shall be
well paid if he will. I will give him a chariot and a couple of
horses, the fleetest that can be found at the ships of the Achaeans,
if he will dare this thing; and he will win infinite honour to boot;
he must go to the ships and find out whether they are still guarded as
heretofore, or whether now that we have beaten them the Achaeans
design to fly, and through sheer exhaustion are neglecting to keep
They all held their peace; but there was among the Trojans a certain
man named Dolon, son of Eumedes, the famous herald- a man rich in gold
and bronze. He was ill-favoured, but a good runner, and was an only
son among five sisters. He it was that now addressed the Trojans.
"I, Hector," said he, "Will to the ships and will exploit them. But
first hold up your sceptre and swear that you will give me the
chariot, bedight with bronze, and the horses that now carry the
noble son of Peleus. I will make you a good scout, and will not fail
you. I will go through the host from one end to the other till I
come to the ship of Agamemnon, where I take it the princes of the
Achaeans are now consulting whether they shall fight or fly."
When he had done speaking Hector held up his sceptre, and swore
him his oath saying, "May Jove the thundering husband of Juno bear
witness that no other Trojan but yourself shall mount those steeds,
and that you shall have your will with them for ever."
The oath he swore was bootless, but it made Dolon more keen on
going. He hung his bow over his shoulder, and as an overall he wore
the skin of a grey wolf, while on his head he set a cap of ferret
skin. Then he took a pointed javelin, and left the camp for the ships,
but he was not to return with any news for Hector. When he had left
the horses and the troops behind him, he made all speed on his way,
but Ulysses perceived his coming and said to Diomed, "Diomed, here
is some one from the camp; I am not sure whether he is a spy, or
whether it is some thief who would plunder the bodies of the dead; let
him get a little past us, we can then spring upon him and take him.
If, however, he is too quick for us, go after him with your spear
and hem him in towards the ships away from the Trojan camp, to prevent
his getting back to the town."
With this they turned out of their way and lay down among the
corpses. Dolon suspected nothing and soon passed them, but when he had
got about as far as the distance by which a mule-plowed furrow exceeds
one that has been ploughed by oxen (for mules can plow fallow land
quicker than oxen) they ran after him, and when he heard their
footsteps he stood still, for he made sure they were friends from
the Trojan camp come by Hector's orders to bid him return; when,
however, they were only a spear's cast, or less away form him, he
saw that they were enemies as fast as his legs could take him. The
others gave chase at once, and as a couple of well-trained hounds
press forward after a doe or hare that runs screaming in front of
them, even so did the son of Tydeus and Ulysses pursue Dolon and cut
him off from his own people. But when he had fled so far towards the
ships that he would soon have fallen in with the outposts, Minerva
infused fresh strength into the son of Tydeus for fear some other of
the Achaeans might have the glory of being first to hit him, and he
might himself be only second; he therefore sprang forward with his
spear and said, "Stand, or I shall throw my spear, and in that case
I shall soon make an end of you."
He threw as he spoke, but missed his aim on purpose. The dart flew
over the man's right shoulder, and then stuck in the ground. He
stood stock still, trembling and in great fear; his teeth chattered,
and he turned pale with fear. The two came breathless up to him and
seized his hands, whereon he began to weep and said, "Take me alive; I
will ransom myself; we have great store of gold, bronze, and wrought
iron, and from this my father will satisfy you with a very large
ransom, should he hear of my being alive at the ships of the
"Fear not," replied Ulysses, "let no thought of death be in your
mind; but tell me, and tell me true, why are you thus going about
alone in the dead of night away from your camp and towards the
ships, while other men are sleeping? Is it to plunder the bodies of
the slain, or did Hector send you to spy out what was going on at
the ships? Or did you come here of your own mere notion?"
Dolon answered, his limbs trembling beneath him: "Hector, with his
vain flattering promises, lured me from my better judgement. He said
he would give me the horses of the noble son of Peleus and his
bronze-bedizened chariot; he bade me go through the darkness of the
flying night, get close to the enemy, and find out whether the ships
are still guarded as heretofore, or whether, now that we have beaten
them, the Achaeans design to fly, and through sheer exhaustion are
neglecting to keep their watches."
Ulysses smiled at him and answered, "You had indeed set your heart
upon a great reward, but the horses of the descendant of Aeacus are
hardly to be kept in hand or driven by any other mortal man than
Achilles himself, whose mother was an immortal. But tell me, and
tell me true, where did you leave Hector when you started? Where
lies his armour and his horses? How, too, are the watches and
sleeping-ground of the Trojans ordered? What are their plans? Will
they stay here by the ships and away from the city, or now that they
have worsted the Achaeans, will they retire within their walls?"
And Dolon answered, "I will tell you truly all. Hector and the other
councillors are now holding conference by the monument of great
Ilus, away from the general tumult; as for the guards about which
you ask me, there is no chosen watch to keep guard over the host.
The Trojans have their watchfires, for they are bound to have them;
they, therefore, are awake and keep each other to their duty as
sentinels; but the allies who have come from other places are asleep
and leave it to the Trojans to keep guard, for their wives and
children are not here."
Ulysses then said, "Now tell me; are they sleeping among the
Trojan troops, or do they lie apart? Explain this that I may
"I will tell you truly all," replied Dolon. "To the seaward lie
the Carians, the Paeonian bowmen, the Leleges, the Cauconians, and the
noble Pelasgi. The Lysians and proud Mysians, with the Phrygians and
Meonians, have their place on the side towards Thymbra; but why ask
about an this? If you want to find your way into the host of the
Trojans, there are the Thracians, who have lately come here and lie
apart from the others at the far end of the camp; and they have Rhesus
son of Eioneus for their king. His horses are the finest and strongest
that I have ever seen, they are whiter than snow and fleeter than
any wind that blows. His chariot is bedight with silver and gold,
and he has brought his marvellous golden armour, of the rarest
workmanship- too splendid for any mortal man to carry, and meet only
for the gods. Now, therefore, take me to the ships or bind me securely
here, until you come back and have proved my words whether they be
false or true."
Diomed looked sternly at him and answered, "Think not, Dolon, for
all the good information you have given us, that you shall escape
now you are in our hands, for if we ransom you or let you go, you will
come some second time to the ships of the Achaeans either as a spy
or as an open enemy, but if I kill you and an end of you, you will
give no more trouble."
On this Dolon would have caught him by the beard to beseech him
further, but Diomed struck him in the middle of his neck with his
sword and cut through both sinews so that his head fell rolling in the
dust while he was yet speaking. They took the ferret-skin cap from his
head, and also the wolf-skin, the bow, and his long spear. Ulysses
hung them up aloft in honour of Minerva the goddess of plunder, and
prayed saying, "Accept these, goddess, for we give them to you in
preference to all the gods in Olympus: therefore speed us still
further towards the horses and sleeping-ground of the Thracians."
With these words he took the spoils and set them upon a tamarisk
tree, and they marked the place by pulling up reeds and gathering
boughs of tamarisk that they might not miss it as they came back
through the' flying hours of darkness. The two then went onwards
amid the fallen armour and the blood, and came presently to the
company of Thracian soldiers, who were sleeping, tired out with
their day's toil; their goodly armour was lying on the ground beside
them all orderly in three rows, and each man had his yoke of horses
beside him. Rhesus was sleeping in the middle, and hard by him his
horses were made fast to the topmost rim of his chariot. Ulysses
from some way off saw him and said, "This, Diomed, is the man, and
these are the horses about which Dolon whom we killed told us. Do your
very utmost; dally not about your armour, but loose the horses at
once- or else kill the men yourself, while I see to the horses."
Thereon Minerva put courage into the heart of Diomed, and he smote
them right and left. They made a hideous groaning as they were being
hacked about, and the earth was red with their blood. As a lion
springs furiously upon a flock of sheep or goats when he finds without
their shepherd, so did the son of Tydeus set upon the Thracian
soldiers till he had killed twelve. As he killed them Ulysses came and
drew them aside by their feet one by one, that the horses might go
forward freely without being frightened as they passed over the dead
bodies, for they were not yet used to them. When the son of Tydeus
came to the king, he killed him too (which made thirteen), as he was
breathing hard, for by the counsel of Minerva an evil dream, the
seed of Oeneus, hovered that night over his head. Meanwhile Ulysses
untied the horses, made them fast one to another and drove them off,
striking them with his bow, for he had forgotten to take the whip from
the chariot. Then he whistled as a sign to Diomed.
But Diomed stayed where he was, thinking what other daring deed he
might accomplish. He was doubting whether to take the chariot in which
the king's armour was lying, and draw it out by the pole, or to lift
the armour out and carry it off; or whether again, he should not
kill some more Thracians. While he was thus hesitating Minerva came up
to him and said, "Get back, Diomed, to the ships or you may be
driven thither, should some other god rouse the Trojans."
Diomed knew that it was the goddess, and at once sprang upon the
horses. Ulysses beat them with his bow and they flew onward to the
ships of the Achaeans.
But Apollo kept no blind look-out when he saw Minerva with the son
of Tydeus. He was angry with her, and coming to the host of the
Trojans he roused Hippocoon, a counsellor of the Thracians and a noble
kinsman of Rhesus. He started up out of his sleep and saw that the
horses were no longer in their place, and that the men were gasping in
their death-agony; on this he groaned aloud, and called upon his
friend by name. Then the whole Trojan camp was in an uproar as the
people kept hurrying together, and they marvelled at the deeds of
the heroes who had now got away towards the ships.
When they reached the place where they had killed Hector's scout,
Ulysses stayed his horses, and the son of Tydeus, leaping to the
ground, placed the blood-stained spoils in the hands of Ulysses and
remounted: then he lashed the horses onwards, and they flew forward
nothing loth towards the ships as though of their own free will.
Nestor was first to hear the tramp of their feet. "My friends," said
he, "princes and counsellors of the Argives, shall I guess right or
wrong?- but I must say what I think: there is a sound in my ears as of
the tramp of horses. I hope it may Diomed and Ulysses driving in
horses from the Trojans, but I much fear that the bravest of the
Argives may have come to some harm at their hands."
He had hardly done speaking when the two men came in and dismounted,
whereon the others shook hands right gladly with them and
congratulated them. Nestor knight of Gerene was first to question
them. "Tell me," said he, "renowned Ulysses, how did you two come by
these horses? Did you steal in among the Trojan forces, or did some
god meet you and give them to you? They are like sunbeams. I am well
conversant with the Trojans, for old warrior though I am I never
hold back by the ships, but I never yet saw or heard of such horses as
these are. Surely some god must have met you and given them to you,
for you are both of dear to Jove, and to Jove's daughter Minerva."
And Ulysses answered, "Nestor son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean
name, heaven, if it so will, can give us even better horses than
these, for the gods are far mightier than we are. These horses,
however, about which you ask me, are freshly come from Thrace.
Diomed killed their king with the twelve bravest of his companions.
Hard by the ships we took a thirteenth man- a scout whom Hector and
the other Trojans had sent as a spy upon our ships."
He laughed as he spoke and drove the horses over the ditch, while
the other Achaeans followed him gladly. When they reached the strongly
built quarters of the son of Tydeus, they tied the horses with
thongs of leather to the manger, where the steeds of Diomed stood
eating their sweet corn, but Ulysses hung the blood-stained spoils
of Dolon at the stern of his ship, that they might prepare a sacred
offering to Minerva. As for themselves, they went into the sea and
washed the sweat from their bodies, and from their necks and thighs.
When the sea-water had taken all the sweat from off them, and had
refreshed them, they went into the baths and washed themselves.
After they had so done and had anointed themselves with oil, they
sat down to table, and drawing from a full mixing-bowl, made a
drink-offering of wine to Minerva.
The Odyssey: Book 10
Thence we went on to the Aeoli island where lives Aeolus son of
Hippotas, dear to the immortal gods. It is an island that floats (as
it were) upon the sea, iron bound with a wall that girds it. Now,
Aeolus has six daughters and six lusty sons, so he made the sons marry
the daughters, and they all live with their dear father and mother,
feasting and enjoying every conceivable kind of luxury. All day long
the atmosphere of the house is loaded with the savour of roasting
meats till it groans again, yard and all; but by night they sleep on
their well-made bedsteads, each with his own wife between the
blankets. These were the people among whom we had now come.
"Aeolus entertained me for a whole month asking me questions all the
time about Troy, the Argive fleet, and the return of the Achaeans. I
told him exactly how everything had happened, and when I said I must
go, and asked him to further me on my way, he made no sort of
difficulty, but set about doing so at once. Moreover, he flayed me a
prime ox-hide to hold the ways of the roaring winds, which he shut
up in the hide as in a sack- for Jove had made him captain over the
winds, and he could stir or still each one of them according to his
own pleasure. He put the sack in the ship and bound the mouth so
tightly with a silver thread that not even a breath of a side-wind
could blow from any quarter. The West wind which was fair for us did
he alone let blow as it chose; but it all came to nothing, for we were
lost through our own folly.
"Nine days and nine nights did we sail, and on the tenth day our
native land showed on the horizon. We got so close in that we could
see the stubble fires burning, and I, being then dead beat, fell
into a light sleep, for I had never let the rudder out of my own
hands, that we might get home the faster. On this the men fell to
talking among themselves, and said I was bringing back gold and silver
in the sack that Aeolus had given me. 'Bless my heart,' would one turn
to his neighbour, saying, 'how this man gets honoured and makes
friends to whatever city or country he may go. See what fine prizes he
is taking home from Troy, while we, who have travelled just as far
as he has, come back with hands as empty as we set out with- and now
Aeolus has given him ever so much more. Quick- let us see what it
all is, and how much gold and silver there is in the sack he gave
"Thus they talked and evil counsels prevailed. They loosed the sack,
whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm that
carried us weeping out to sea and away from our own country. Then I
awoke, and knew not whether to throw myself into the sea or to live on
and make the best of it; but I bore it, covered myself up, and lay
down in the ship, while the men lamented bitterly as the fierce
winds bore our fleet back to the Aeolian island.
"When we reached it we went ashore to take in water, and dined
hard by the ships. Immediately after dinner I took a herald and one of
my men and went straight to the house of Aeolus, where I found him
feasting with his wife and family; so we sat down as suppliants on the
threshold. They were astounded when they saw us and said, 'Ulysses,
what brings you here? What god has been ill-treating you? We took
great pains to further you on your way home to Ithaca, or wherever
it was that you wanted to go to.'
"Thus did they speak, but I answered sorrowfully, 'My men have
undone me; they, and cruel sleep, have ruined me. My friends, mend
me this mischief, for you can if you will.'
"I spoke as movingly as I could, but they said nothing, till their
father answered, 'Vilest of mankind, get you gone at once out of the
island; him whom heaven hates will I in no wise help. Be off, for
you come here as one abhorred of heaven. "And with these words he sent
me sorrowing from his door.
"Thence we sailed sadly on till the men were worn out with long
and fruitless rowing, for there was no longer any wind to help them.
Six days, night and day did we toil, and on the seventh day we reached
the rocky stronghold of Lamus- Telepylus, the city of the
Laestrygonians, where the shepherd who is driving in his sheep and
goats [to be milked] salutes him who is driving out his flock [to
feed] and this last answers the salute. In that country a man who
could do without sleep might earn double wages, one as a herdsman of
cattle, and another as a shepherd, for they work much the same by
night as they do by day.
"When we reached the harbour we found it land-locked under steep
cliffs, with a narrow entrance between two headlands. My captains took
all their ships inside, and made them fast close to one another, for
there was never so much as a breath of wind inside, but it was
always dead calm. I kept my own ship outside, and moored it to a
rock at the very end of the point; then I climbed a high rock to
reconnoitre, but could see no sign neither of man nor cattle, only
some smoke rising from the ground. So I sent two of my company with an
attendant to find out what sort of people the inhabitants were.
"The men when they got on shore followed a level road by which the
people draw their firewood from the mountains into the town, till
presently they met a young woman who had come outside to fetch
water, and who was daughter to a Laestrygonian named Antiphates. She
was going to the fountain Artacia from which the people bring in their
water, and when my men had come close up to her, they asked her who
the king of that country might be, and over what kind of people he
ruled; so she directed them to her father's house, but when they got
there they found his wife to be a giantess as huge as a mountain,
and they were horrified at the sight of her.
"She at once called her husband Antiphates from the place of
assembly, and forthwith he set about killing my men. He snatched up
one of them, and began to make his dinner off him then and there,
whereon the other two ran back to the ships as fast as ever they
could. But Antiphates raised a hue and cry after them, and thousands
of sturdy Laestrygonians sprang up from every quarter- ogres, not men.
They threw vast rocks at us from the cliffs as though they had been
mere stones, and I heard the horrid sound of the ships crunching up
against one another, and the death cries of my men, as the
Laestrygonians speared them like fishes and took them home to eat
them. While they were thus killing my men within the harbour I drew my
sword, cut the cable of my own ship, and told my men to row with alf
their might if they too would not fare like the rest; so they laid out
for their lives, and we were thankful enough when we got into open
water out of reach of the rocks they hurled at us. As for the others
there was not one of them left.
"Thence we sailed sadly on, glad to have escaped death, though we
had lost our comrades, and came to the Aeaean island, where Circe
lives a great and cunning goddess who is own sister to the magician
Aeetes- for they are both children of the sun by Perse, who is
daughter to Oceanus. We brought our ship into a safe harbour without a
word, for some god guided us thither, and having landed we there for
two days and two nights, worn out in body and mind. When the morning
of the third day came I took my spear and my sword, and went away from
the ship to reconnoitre, and see if I could discover signs of human
handiwork, or hear the sound of voices. Climbing to the top of a
high look-out I espied the smoke of Circe's house rising upwards
amid a dense forest of trees, and when I saw this I doubted whether,
having seen the smoke, I would not go on at once and find out more,
but in the end I deemed it best to go back to the ship, give the men
their dinners, and send some of them instead of going myself.
"When I had nearly got back to the ship some god took pity upon my
solitude, and sent a fine antlered stag right into the middle of my
path. He was coming down his pasture in the forest to drink of the
river, for the heat of the sun drove him, and as he passed I struck
him in the middle of the back; the bronze point of the spear went
clean through him, and he lay groaning in the dust until the life went
out of him. Then I set my foot upon him, drew my spear from the wound,
and laid it down; I also gathered rough grass and rushes and twisted
them into a fathom or so of good stout rope, with which I bound the
four feet of the noble creature together; having so done I hung him
round my neck and walked back to the ship leaning upon my spear, for
the stag was much too big for me to be able to carry him on my
shoulder, steadying him with one hand. As I threw him down in front of
the ship, I called the men and spoke cheeringly man by man to each
of them. 'Look here my friends,' said I, 'we are not going to die so
much before our time after all, and at any rate we will not starve
so long as we have got something to eat and drink on board.' On this
they uncovered their heads upon the sea shore and admired the stag,
for he was indeed a splendid fellow. Then, when they had feasted their
eyes upon him sufficiently, they washed their hands and began to
cook him for dinner.
"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
stayed there eating and drinking our fill, but when the sun went
down and it came on dark, we camped upon the sea shore. When the child
of morning, fingered Dawn, appeared, I called a council and said,
'My friends, we are in very great difficulties; listen therefore to
me. We have no idea where the sun either sets or rises, so that we
do not even know East from West. I see no way out of it; nevertheless,
we must try and find one. We are certainly on an island, for I went as
high as I could this morning, and saw the sea reaching all round it to
the horizon; it lies low, but towards the middle I saw smoke rising
from out of a thick forest of trees.'
"Their hearts sank as they heard me, for they remembered how they
had been treated by the Laestrygonian Antiphates, and by the savage
ogre Polyphemus. They wept bitterly in their dismay, but there was
nothing to be got by crying, so I divided them into two companies
and set a captain over each; I gave one company to Eurylochus, while I
took command of the other myself. Then we cast lots in a helmet, and
the lot fell upon Eurylochus; so he set out with his twenty-two men,
and they wept, as also did we who were left behind.
"When they reached Circe's house they found it built of cut
stones, on a site that could be seen from far, in the middle of the
forest. There were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling all round
it- poor bewitched creatures whom she had tamed by her enchantments
and drugged into subjection. They did not attack my men, but wagged
their great tails, fawned upon them, and rubbed their noses lovingly
against them. As hounds crowd round their master when they see him
coming from dinner- for they know he will bring them something- even
so did these wolves and lions with their great claws fawn upon my men,
but the men were terribly frightened at seeing such strange creatures.
Presently they reached the gates of the goddess's house, and as they
stood there they could hear Circe within, singing most beautifully
as she worked at her loom, making a web so fine, so soft, and of
such dazzling colours as no one but a goddess could weave. On this
Polites, whom I valued and trusted more than any other of my men,
said, 'There is some one inside working at a loom and singing most
beautifully; the whole place resounds with it, let us call her and see
whether she is woman or goddess.'
"They called her and she came down, unfastened the door, and bade
them enter. They, thinking no evil, followed her, all except
Eurylochus, who suspected mischief and stayed outside. When she had
got them into her house, she set them upon benches and seats and mixed
them a mess with cheese, honey, meal, and Pramnian but she drugged
it with wicked poisons to make them forget their homes, and when
they had drunk she turned them into pigs by a stroke of her wand,
and shut them up in her pigsties. They were like pigs-head, hair,
and all, and they grunted just as pigs do; but their senses were the
same as before, and they remembered everything.
"Thus then were they shut up squealing, and Circe threw them some
acorns and beech masts such as pigs eat, but Eurylochus hurried back
to tell me about the sad fate of our comrades. He was so overcome with
dismay that though he tried to speak he could find no words to do
so; his eyes filled with tears and he could only sob and sigh, till at
last we forced his story out of him, and he told us what had
happened to the others.
"'We went,' said he, as you told us, through the forest, and in
the middle of it there was a fine house built with cut stones in a
place that could be seen from far. There we found a woman, or else she
was a goddess, working at her loom and singing sweetly; so the men
shouted to her and called her, whereon she at once came down, opened
the door, and invited us in. The others did not suspect any mischief
so they followed her into the house, but I stayed where I was, for I
thought there might be some treachery. From that moment I saw them
no more, for not one of them ever came out, though I sat a long time
watching for them.'
"Then I took my sword of bronze and slung it over my shoulders; I
also took my bow, and told Eurylochus to come back with me and show me
the way. But he laid hold of me with both his hands and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Sir, do not force me to go with you, but let me
stay here, for I know you will not bring one of them back with you,
nor even return alive yourself; let us rather see if we cannot
escape at any rate with the few that are left us, for we may still
save our lives.'
"'Stay where you are, then, 'answered I, 'eating and drinking at the
ship, but I must go, for I am most urgently bound to do so.'
"With this I left the ship and went up inland. When I got through
the charmed grove, and was near the great house of the enchantress
Circe, I met Mercury with his golden wand, disguised as a young man in
the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the down just coming upon his
face. He came up to me and took my hand within his own, saying, 'My
poor unhappy man, whither are you going over this mountain top,
alone and without knowing the way? Your men are shut up in Circe's
pigsties, like so many wild boars in their lairs. You surely do not
fancy that you can set them free? I can tell you that you will never
get back and will have to stay there with the rest of them. But
never mind, I will protect you and get you out of your difficulty.
Take this herb, which is one of great virtue, and keep it about you
when you go to Circe's house, it will be a talisman to you against
every kind of mischief.
"'And I will tell you of all the wicked witchcraft that Circe will
try to practise upon you. She will mix a mess for you to drink, and
she will drug the meal with which she makes it, but she will not be
able to charm you, for the virtue of the herb that I shall give you
will prevent her spells from working. I will tell you all about it.
When Circe strikes you with her wand, draw your sword and spring
upon her as though you were goings to kill her. She will then be
frightened and will desire you to go to bed with her; on this you must
not point blank refuse her, for you want her to set your companions
free, and to take good care also of yourself, but you make her swear
solemnly by all the blessed that she will plot no further mischief
against you, or else when she has got you naked she will unman you and
make you fit for nothing.'
"As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground an showed me
what it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as white as
milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot uproot it, but
the gods can do whatever they like.
"Then Mercury went back to high Olympus passing over the wooded
island; but I fared onward to the house of Circe, and my heart was
clouded with care as I walked along. When I got to the gates I stood
there and called the goddess, and as soon as she heard me she came
down, opened the door, and asked me to come in; so I followed her-
much troubled in my mind. She set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid
with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed a
mess in a golden goblet for me to drink; but she drugged it, for she
meant me mischief. When she had given it me, and I had drunk it
without its charming me, she struck she, struck me with her wand.
'There now,' she cried, 'be off to the pigsty, and make your lair with
the rest of them.'
"But I rushed at her with my sword drawn as though I would kill her,
whereon she fell with a loud scream, clasped my knees, and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Who and whence are you? from what place and people
have you come? How can it be that my drugs have no power to charm you?
Never yet was any man able to stand so much as a taste of the herb I
gave you; you must be spell-proof; surely you can be none other than
the bold hero Ulysses, who Mercury always said would come here some
day with his ship while on his way home form Troy; so be it then;
sheathe your sword and let us go to bed, that we may make friends
and learn to trust each other.'
"And I answered, 'Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly with
you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs? And now that
you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief when you ask me to
go to bed with you, and will unman me and make me fit for nothing. I
shall certainly not consent to go to bed with you unless you will
first take your solemn oath to plot no further harm against me.'
"So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had
completed her oath then I went to bed with her.
"Meanwhile her four servants, who are her housemaids, set about
their work. They are the children of the groves and fountains, and
of the holy waters that run down into the sea. One of them spread a
fair purple cloth over a seat, and laid a carpet underneath it.
Another brought tables of silver up to the seats, and set them with
baskets of gold. A third mixed some sweet wine with water in a
silver bowl and put golden cups upon the tables, while the fourth
she brought in water and set it to boil in a large cauldron over a
good fire which she had lighted. When the water in the cauldron was
boiling, she poured cold into it till it was just as I liked it, and
then she set me in a bath and began washing me from the cauldron about
the head and shoulders, to take the tire and stiffness out of my
limbs. As soon as she had done washing me and anointing me with oil,
she arrayed me in a good cloak and shirt and led me to a richly
decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also under my
feet. A maid servant then brought me water in a beautiful golden
ewer and poured it into a silver basin for me to wash my hands, and
she drew a clean table beside me; an upper servant brought me bread
and offered me many things of what there was in the house, and then
Circe bade me eat, but I would not, and sat without heeding what was
before me, still moody and suspicious.
"When Circe saw me sitting there without eating, and in great grief,
she came to me and said, 'Ulysses, why do you sit like that as
though you were dumb, gnawing at your own heart, and refusing both
meat and drink? Is it that you are still suspicious? You ought not
to be, for I have already sworn solemnly that I will not hurt you.'
"And I said, 'Circe, no man with any sense of what is right can
think of either eating or drinking in your house until you have set
his friends free and let him see them. If you want me to eat and
drink, you must free my men and bring them to me that I may see them
with my own eyes.'
"When I had said this she went straight through the court with her
wand in her hand and opened the pigsty doors. My men came out like
so many prime hogs and stood looking at her, but she went about
among them and anointed each with a second drug, whereon the
bristles that the bad drug had given them fell off, and they became
men again, younger than they were before, and much taller and better
looking. They knew me at once, seized me each of them by the hand, and
wept for joy till the whole house was filled with the sound of their
hullabalooing, and Circe herself was so sorry for them that she came
up to me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, go back at once
to the sea where you have left your ship, and first draw it on to
the land. Then, hide all your ship's gear and property in some cave,
and come back here with your men.'
"I agreed to this, so I went back to the sea shore, and found the
men at the ship weeping and wailing most piteously. When they saw me
the silly blubbering fellows began frisking round me as calves break
out and gambol round their mothers, when they see them coming home
to be milked after they have been feeding all day, and the homestead
resounds with their lowing. They seemed as glad to see me as though
they had got back to their own rugged Ithaca, where they had been born
and bred. 'Sir,' said the affectionate creatures, 'we are as glad to
see you back as though we had got safe home to Ithaca; but tell us all
about the fate of our comrades.'
"I spoke comfortingly to them and said, 'We must draw our ship on to
the land, and hide the ship's gear with all our property in some cave;
then come with me all of you as fast as you can to Circe's house,
where you will find your comrades eating and drinking in the midst
of great abundance.'
"On this the men would have come with me at once, but Eurylochus
tried to hold them back and said, 'Alas, poor wretches that we are,
what will become of us? Rush not on your ruin by going to the house of
Circe, who will turn us all into pigs or wolves or lions, and we shall
have to keep guard over her house. Remember how the Cyclops treated us
when our comrades went inside his cave, and Ulysses with them. It
was all through his sheer folly that those men lost their lives.'
"When I heard him I was in two minds whether or no to draw the
keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh and cut his head off in
spite of his being a near relation of my own; but the men interceded
for him and said, 'Sir, if it may so be, let this fellow stay here and
mind the ship, but take the rest of us with you to Circe's house.'
"On this we all went inland, and Eurylochus was not left behind
after all, but came on too, for he was frightened by the severe
reprimand that I had given him.
"Meanwhile Circe had been seeing that the men who had been left
behind were washed and anointed with olive oil; she had also given
them woollen cloaks and shirts, and when we came we found them all
comfortably at dinner in her house. As soon as the men saw each
other face to face and knew one another, they wept for joy and cried
aloud till the whole palace rang again. Thereon Circe came up to me
and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, tell your men to leave off
crying; I know how much you have all of you suffered at sea, and how
ill you have fared among cruel savages on the mainland, but that is
over now, so stay here, and eat and drink till you are once more as
strong and hearty as you were when you left Ithaca; for at present you
are weakened both in body and mind; you keep all the time thinking
of the hardships- you have suffered during your travels, so that you
have no more cheerfulness left in you.'
"Thus did she speak and we assented. We stayed with Circe for a
whole twelvemonth feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat and
wine. But when the year had passed in the waning of moons and the long
days had come round, my men called me apart and said, 'Sir, it is time
you began to think about going home, if so be you are to be spared
to see your house and native country at all.'
"Thus did they speak and I assented. Thereon through the livelong
day to the going down of the sun we feasted our fill on meat and wine,
but when the sun went down and it came on dark the men laid themselves
down to sleep in the covered cloisters. I, however, after I had got
into bed with Circe, besought her by her knees, and the goddess
listened to what I had got to say. 'Circe,' said I, 'please to keep
the promise you made me about furthering me on my homeward voyage. I
want to get back and so do my men, they are always pestering me with
their complaints as soon as ever your back is turned.'
"And the goddess answered, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you shall
none of you stay here any longer if you do not want to, but there is
another journey which you have got to take before you can sail
homewards. You must go to the house of Hades and of dread Proserpine
to consult the ghost of the blind Theban prophet Teiresias whose
reason is still unshaken. To him alone has Proserpine left his
understanding even in death, but the other ghosts flit about
"I was dismayed when I heard this. I sat up in bed and wept, and
would gladly have lived no longer to see the light of the sun, but
presently when I was tired of weeping and tossing myself about, I
said, 'And who shall guide me upon this voyage- for the house of Hades
is a port that no ship can reach.'
"'You will want no guide,' she answered; 'raise you mast, set your
white sails, sit quite still, and the North Wind will blow you there
of itself. When your ship has traversed the waters of Oceanus, you
will reach the fertile shore of Proserpine's country with its groves
of tall poplars and willows that shed their fruit untimely; here beach
your ship upon the shore of Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark
abode of Hades. You will find it near the place where the rivers
Pyriphlegethon and Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx)
flow into Acheron, and you will see a rock near it, just where the two
roaring rivers run into one another.
"'When you have reached this spot, as I now tell you, dig a trench a
cubit or so in length, breadth, and depth, and pour into it as a
drink-offering to all the dead, first, honey mixed with milk, then
wine, and in the third place water-sprinkling white barley meal over
the whole. Moreover you must offer many prayers to the poor feeble
ghosts, and promise them that when you get back to Ithaca you will
sacrifice a barren heifer to them, the best you have, and will load
the pyre with good things. More particularly you must promise that
Teiresias shall have a black sheep all to himself, the finest in all
"'When you shall have thus besought the ghosts with your prayers,
offer them a ram and a black ewe, bending their heads towards
Erebus; but yourself turn away from them as though you would make
towards the river. On this, many dead men's ghosts will come to you,
and you must tell your men to skin the two sheep that you have just
killed, and offer them as a burnt sacrifice with prayers to Hades
and to Proserpine. Then draw your sword and sit there, so as to
prevent any other poor ghost from coming near the split blood before
Teiresias shall have answered your questions. The seer will
presently come to you, and will tell you about your voyage- what
stages you are to make, and how you are to sail the see so as to reach
"It was day-break by the time she had done speaking, so she
dressed me in my shirt and cloak. As for herself she threw a beautiful
light gossamer fabric over her shoulders, fastening it with a golden
girdle round her waist, and she covered her head with a mantle. Then I
went about among the men everywhere all over the house, and spoke
kindly to each of them man by man: 'You must not lie sleeping here any
longer,' said I to them, 'we must be going, for Circe has told me
all about it.' And this they did as I bade them.
"Even so, however, I did not get them away without misadventure.
We had with us a certain youth named Elpenor, not very remarkable
for sense or courage, who had got drunk and was lying on the house-top
away from the rest of the men, to sleep off his liquor in the cool.
When he heard the noise of the men bustling about, he jumped up on a
sudden and forgot all about coming down by the main staircase, so he
tumbled right off the roof and broke his neck, and his soul went
down to the house of Hades.
"When I had got the men together I said to them, 'You think you
are about to start home again, but Circe has explained to me that
instead of this, we have got to go to the house of Hades and
Proserpine to consult the ghost of the Theban prophet Teiresias.'
"The men were broken-hearted as they heard me, and threw
themselves on the ground groaning and tearing their hair, but they did
not mend matters by crying. When we reached the sea shore, weeping and
lamenting our fate, Circe brought the ram and the ewe, and we made
them fast hard by the ship. She passed through the midst of us without
our knowing it, for who can see the comings and goings of a god, if
the god does not wish to be seen?
My Home Is Not Your Parents' House
I believe I misunderstood your last comment.
I could have sworn I heard you say...
As long as I do what I choose to do,
Just accept it.
What did you mean by that?
'It's all quite simple.
You do what you want and I do what I want.
What's the purpose for asking questions?
If I am going to choose to do what I wish,
That's exactly what I am going to do.'
Is the look of disbelief still on my face?
And you expect to share my space as room-mates?
I believe I misunderstood 'everything' about you.
My home is not your parents' house.
And I am not into role play.
I hope you got that to get it for good!
Now get out
This is no place for moochers or sponge cadets.
The Odyssey: Book 5
And now, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus- harbinger of
light alike to mortals and immortals- the gods met in council and with
them, Jove the lord of thunder, who is their king. Thereon Minerva
began to tell them of the many sufferings of Ulysses, for she pitied
him away there in the house of the nymph Calypso.
"Father Jove," said she, "and all you other gods that live in
everlasting bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a kind
and well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern equitably. I
hope they will be all henceforth cruel and unjust, for there is not
one of his subjects but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled them as
though he were their father. There he is, lying in great pain in an
island where dwells the nymph Calypso, who will not let him go; and he
cannot get back to his own country, for he can find neither ships
nor sailors to take him over the sea. Furthermore, wicked people are
now trying to murder his only son Telemachus, who is coming home
from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to see if he can get news
of his father."
"What, my dear, are you talking about?" replied her father, "did you
not send him there yourself, because you thought it would help Ulysses
to get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you are perfectly able to
protect Telemachus, and to see him safely home again, while the
suitors have to come hurry-skurrying back without having killed him."
When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Mercury, "Mercury, you
are our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have decreed
that poor Ulysses is to return home. He is to be convoyed neither by
gods nor men, but after a perilous voyage of twenty days upon a raft
he is to reach fertile Scheria, the land of the Phaeacians, who are
near of kin to the gods, and will honour him as though he were one
of ourselves. They will send him in a ship to his own country, and
will give him more bronze and gold and raiment than he would have
brought back from Troy, if he had had had all his prize money and
had got home without disaster. This is how we have settled that he
shall return to his country and his friends."
Thus he spoke, and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus, did
as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden sandals
with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea. He took the
wand with which he seals men's eyes in sleep or wakes them just as
he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand over Pieria; then he
swooped down through the firmament till he reached the level of the
sea, whose waves he skimmed like a cormorant that flies fishing
every hole and corner of the ocean, and drenching its thick plumage in
the spray. He flew and flew over many a weary wave, but when at last
he got to the island which was his journey's end, he left the sea
and went on by land till he came to the cave where the nymph Calypso
He found her at home. There was a large fire burning on the
hearth, and one could smell from far the fragrant reek of burning
cedar and sandal wood. As for herself, she was busy at her loom,
shooting her golden shuttle through the warp and singing
beautifully. Round her cave there was a thick wood of alder, poplar,
and sweet smelling cypress trees, wherein all kinds of great birds had
built their nests- owls, hawks, and chattering sea-crows that occupy
their business in the waters. A vine loaded with grapes was trained
and grew luxuriantly about the mouth of the cave; there were also four
running rills of water in channels cut pretty close together, and
turned hither and thither so as to irrigate the beds of violets and
luscious herbage over which they flowed. Even a god could not help
being charmed with such a lovely spot, so Mercury stood still and
looked at it; but when he had admired it sufficiently he went inside
Calypso knew him at once- for the gods all know each other, no
matter how far they live from one another- but Ulysses was not within;
he was on the sea-shore as usual, looking out upon the barren ocean
with tears in his eyes, groaning and breaking his heart for sorrow.
Calypso gave Mercury a seat and said: "Why have you come to see me,
Mercury- honoured, and ever welcome- for you do not visit me often?
Say what you want; I will do it for be you at once if I can, and if it
can be done at all; but come inside, and let me set refreshment before
As she spoke she drew a table loaded with ambrosia beside him and
mixed him some red nectar, so Mercury ate and drank till he had had
enough, and then said:
"We are speaking god and goddess to one another, one another, and
you ask me why I have come here, and I will tell you truly as you
would have me do. Jove sent me; it was no doing of mine; who could
possibly want to come all this way over the sea where there are no
cities full of people to offer me sacrifices or choice hecatombs?
Nevertheless I had to come, for none of us other gods can cross
Jove, nor transgress his orders. He says that you have here the most
ill-starred of alf those who fought nine years before the city of King
Priam and sailed home in the tenth year after having sacked it. On
their way home they sinned against Minerva, who raised both wind and
waves against them, so that all his brave companions perished, and
he alone was carried hither by wind and tide. Jove says that you are
to let this by man go at once, for it is decreed that he shall not
perish here, far from his own people, but shall return to his house
and country and see his friends again."
Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, "You gods," she
exclaimed, to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous and
hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with
him in open matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to
Orion, you precious gods were all of you furious till Diana went and
killed him in Ortygia. So again when Ceres fell in love with Iasion,
and yielded to him in a thrice ploughed fallow field, Jove came to
hear of it before so long and killed Iasion with his thunder-bolts.
And now you are angry with me too because I have a man here. I found
the poor creature sitting all alone astride of a keel, for Jove had
struck his ship with lightning and sunk it in mid ocean, so that all
his crew were drowned, while he himself was driven by wind and waves
on to my island. I got fond of him and cherished him, and had set my
heart on making him immortal, so that he should never grow old all his
days; still I cannot cross Jove, nor bring his counsels to nothing;
therefore, if he insists upon it, let the man go beyond the seas
again; but I cannot send him anywhere myself for I have neither
ships nor men who can take him. Nevertheless I will readily give him
such advice, in all good faith, as will be likely to bring him
safely to his own country."
"Then send him away," said Mercury, "or Jove will be angry with
you and punish you"'
On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for Ulysses,
for she had heard Jove's message. She found him sitting upon the beach
with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer
home-sickness; for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was
forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he,
that would have it so. As for the day time, he spent it on the rocks
and on the sea-shore, weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and
always looking out upon the sea. Calypso then went close up to him
"My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting
your life out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own free
will; so go, cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a large raft
with an upper deck that it may carry you safely over the sea. I will
put bread, wine, and water on board to save you from starving. I
will also give you clothes, and will send you a fair wind to take
you home, if the gods in heaven so will it- for they know more about
these things, and can settle them better than I can."
Ulysses shuddered as he heard her. "Now goddess," he answered,
"there is something behind all this; you cannot be really meaning to
help me home when you bid me do such a dreadful thing as put to sea on
a raft. Not even a well-found ship with a fair wind could venture on
such a distant voyage: nothing that you can say or do shall mage me go
on board a raft unless you first solemnly swear that you mean me no
Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: "You know a
great deal," said she, "but you are quite wrong here. May heaven above
and earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx-
and this is the most solemn oath which a blessed god can take- that
I mean you no sort of harm, and am only advising you to do exactly
what I should do myself in your place. I am dealing with you quite
straightforwardly; my heart is not made of iron, and I am very sorry
When she had thus spoken she led the way rapidly before him, and
Ulysses followed in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man, went on
and on till they came to Calypso's cave, where Ulysses took the seat
that Mercury had just left. Calypso set meat and drink before him of
the food that mortals eat; but her maids brought ambrosia and nectar
for herself, and they laid their hands on the good things that were
before them. When they had satisfied themselves with meat and drink,
Calypso spoke, saying:
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your
own land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only know
how much suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own
country, you would stay where you are, keep house along with me, and
let me make you immortal, no matter how anxious you may be to see this
wife of yours, of whom you are thinking all the time day after day;
yet I flatter myself that at am no whit less tall or well-looking than
she is, for it is not to be expected that a mortal woman should
compare in beauty with an immortal."
"Goddess," replied Ulysses, "do not be angry with me about this. I
am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall or so
beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an
immortal. Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing
else. If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I will bear it and
make the best of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and
sea already, so let this go with the rest."
Presently the sun set and it became dark, whereon the pair retired
into the inner part of the cave and went to bed.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Ulysses put
on his shirt and cloak, while the goddess wore a dress of a light
gossamer fabric, very fine and graceful, with a beautiful golden
girdle about her waist and a veil to cover her head. She at once set
herself to think how she could speed Ulysses on his way. So she gave
him a great bronze axe that suited his hands; it was sharpened on both
sides, and had a beautiful olive-wood handle fitted firmly on to it.
She also gave him a sharp adze, and then led the way to the far end of
the island where the largest trees grew- alder, poplar and pine,
that reached the sky- very dry and well seasoned, so as to sail
light for him in the water. Then, when she had shown him where the
best trees grew, Calypso went home, leaving him to cut them, which
he soon finished doing. He cut down twenty trees in all and adzed them
smooth, squaring them by rule in good workmanlike fashion. Meanwhile
Calypso came back with some augers, so he bored holes with them and
fitted the timbers together with bolts and rivets. He made the raft as
broad as a skilled shipwright makes the beam of a large vessel, and he
filed a deck on top of the ribs, and ran a gunwale all round it. He
also made a mast with a yard arm, and a rudder to steer with. He
fenced the raft all round with wicker hurdles as a protection
against the waves, and then he threw on a quantity of wood. By and
by Calypso brought him some linen to make the sails, and he made these
too, excellently, making them fast with braces and sheets. Last of
all, with the help of levers, he drew the raft down into the water.
In four days he had completed the whole work, and on the fifth
Calypso sent him from the island after washing him and giving him some
clean clothes. She gave him a goat skin full of black wine, and
another larger one of water; she also gave him a wallet full of
provisions, and found him in much good meat. Moreover, she made the
wind fair and warm for him, and gladly did Ulysses spread his sail
before it, while he sat and guided the raft skilfully by means of
the rudder. He never closed his eyes, but kept them fixed on the
Pleiads, on late-setting Bootes, and on the Bear- which men also
call the wain, and which turns round and round where it is, facing
Orion, and alone never dipping into the stream of Oceanus- for Calypso
had told him to keep this to his left. Days seven and ten did he
sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth the dim outlines of the
mountains on the nearest part of the Phaeacian coast appeared,
rising like a shield on the horizon.
But King Neptune, who was returning from the Ethiopians, caught
sight of Ulysses a long way off, from the mountains of the Solymi.
He could see him sailing upon the sea, and it made him very angry,
so he wagged his head and muttered to himself, saying, heavens, so the
gods have been changing their minds about Ulysses while I was away
in Ethiopia, and now he is close to the land of the Phaeacians,
where it is decreed that he shall escape from the calamities that have
befallen him. Still, he shall have plenty of hardship yet before he
has done with it."
Thereon he gathered his clouds together, grasped his trident,
stirred it round in the sea, and roused the rage of every wind that
blows till earth, sea, and sky were hidden in cloud, and night
sprang forth out of the heavens. Winds from East, South, North, and
West fell upon him all at the same time, and a tremendous sea got
up, so that Ulysses' heart began to fail him. "Alas," he said to
himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of me? I am afraid
Calypso was right when she said I should have trouble by sea before
I got back home. It is all coming true. How black is Jove making
heaven with his clouds, and what a sea the winds are raising from
every quarter at once. I am now safe to perish. Blest and thrice blest
were those Danaans who fell before Troy in the cause of the sons of
Atreus. Would that had been killed on the day when the Trojans were
pressing me so sorely about the dead body of Achilles, for then I
should have had due burial and the Achaeans would have honoured my
name; but now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end."
As he spoke a sea broke over him with such terrific fury that the
raft reeled again, and he was carried overboard a long way off. He let
go the helm, and the force of the hurricane was so great that it broke
the mast half way up, and both sail and yard went over into the sea.
For a long time Ulysses was under water, and it was all he could do to
rise to the surface again, for the clothes Calypso had given him
weighed him down; but at last he got his head above water and spat out
the bitter brine that was running down his face in streams. In spite
of all this, however, he did not lose sight of his raft, but swam as
fast as he could towards it, got hold of it, and climbed on board
again so as to escape drowning. The sea took the raft and tossed it
about as Autumn winds whirl thistledown round and round upon a road.
It was as though the South, North, East, and West winds were all
playing battledore and shuttlecock with it at once.
When he was in this plight, Ino daughter of Cadmus, also called
Leucothea, saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had
been since raised to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in what
great distress Ulysses now was, she had compassion upon him, and,
rising like a sea-gull from the waves, took her seat upon the raft.
"My poor good man," said she, "why is Neptune so furiously angry
with you? He is giving you a great deal of trouble, but for all his
bluster he will not kill you. You seem to be a sensible person, do
then as I bid you; strip, leave your raft to drive before the wind,
and swim to the Phaecian coast where better luck awaits you. And here,
take my veil and put it round your chest; it is enchanted, and you can
come to no harm so long as you wear it. As soon as you touch land take
it off, throw it back as far as you can into the sea, and then go away
again." With these words she took off her veil and gave it him. Then
she dived down again like a sea-gull and vanished beneath the dark
But Ulysses did not know what to think. "Alas," he said to himself
in his dismay, "this is only some one or other of the gods who is
luring me to ruin by advising me to will quit my raft. At any rate I
will not do so at present, for the land where she said I should be
quit of all troubles seemed to be still a good way off. I know what
I will do- I am sure it will be best- no matter what happens I will
stick to the raft as long as her timbers hold together, but when the
sea breaks her up I will swim for it; I do not see how I can do any
better than this."
While he was thus in two minds, Neptune sent a terrible great wave
that seemed to rear itself above his head till it broke right over the
raft, which then went to pieces as though it were a heap of dry
chaff tossed about by a whirlwind. Ulysses got astride of one plank
and rode upon it as if he were on horseback; he then took off the
clothes Calypso had given him, bound Ino's veil under his arms, and
plunged into the sea- meaning to swim on shore. King Neptune watched
him as he did so, and wagged his head, muttering to himself and
saying, "'There now, swim up and down as you best can till you fall in
with well-to-do people. I do not think you will be able to say that
I have let you off too lightly." On this he lashed his horses and
drove to Aegae where his palace is.
But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of all
the winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she roused
a good stiff breeze from the North that should lay the waters till
Ulysses reached the land of the Phaeacians where he would be safe.
Thereon he floated about for two nights and two days in the water,
with a heavy swell on the sea and death staring him in the face; but
when the third day broke, the wind fell and there was a dead calm
without so much as a breath of air stirring. As he rose on the swell
he looked eagerly ahead, and could see land quite near. Then, as
children rejoice when their dear father begins to get better after
having for a long time borne sore affliction sent him by some angry
spirit, but the gods deliver him from evil, so was Ulysses thankful
when he again saw land and trees, and swam on with all his strength
that he might once more set foot upon dry ground. When, however, he
got within earshot, he began to hear the surf thundering up against
the rocks, for the swell still broke against them with a terrific
roar. Everything was enveloped in spray; there were no harbours
where a ship might ride, nor shelter of any kind, but only
headlands, low-lying rocks, and mountain tops.
Ulysses' heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly to
himself, "Alas, Jove has let me see land after swimming so far that
I had given up all hope, but I can find no landing place, for the
coast is rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are smooth and rise sheer
from the sea, with deep water close under them so that I cannot
climb out for want of foothold. I am afraid some great wave will
lift me off my legs and dash me against the rocks as I leave the
water- which would give me a sorry landing. If, on the other hand, I
swim further in search of some shelving beach or harbour, a
hurricane may carry me out to sea again sorely against my will, or
heaven may send some great monster of the deep to attack me; for
Amphitrite breeds many such, and I know that Neptune is very angry
While he was thus in two minds a wave caught him and took him with
such force against the rocks that he would have been smashed and
torn to pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to do. He caught hold
of the rock with both hands and clung to it groaning with pain till
the wave retired, so he was saved that time; but presently the wave
came on again and carried him back with it far into the sea-tearing
his hands as the suckers of a polypus are torn when some one plucks it
from its bed, and the stones come up along with it even so did the
rocks tear the skin from his strong hands, and then the wave drew
him deep down under the water.
Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of his
own destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits about him.
He swam seaward again, beyond reach of the surf that was beating
against the land, and at the same time he kept looking towards the
shore to see if he could find some haven, or a spit that should take
the waves aslant. By and by, as he swam on, he came to the mouth of
a river, and here he thought would be the best place, for there were
no rocks, and it afforded shelter from the wind. He felt that there
was a current, so he prayed inwardly and said:
"Hear me, O King, whoever you may be, and save me from the anger
of the sea-god Neptune, for I approach you prayerfully. Any one who
has lost his way has at all times a claim even upon the gods,
wherefore in my distress I draw near to your stream, and cling to
the knees of your riverhood. Have mercy upon me, O king, for I declare
myself your suppliant."
Then the god stayed his stream and stilled the waves, making all
calm before him, and bringing him safely into the mouth of the
river. Here at last Ulysses' knees and strong hands failed him, for
the sea had completely broken him. His body was all swollen, and his
mouth and nostrils ran down like a river with sea-water, so that he
could neither breathe nor speak, and lay swooning from sheer
exhaustion; presently, when he had got his breath and came to
himself again, he took off the scarf that Ino had given him and
threw it back into the salt stream of the river, whereon Ino
received it into her hands from the wave that bore it towards her.
Then he left the river, laid himself down among the rushes, and kissed
the bounteous earth.
"Alas," he cried to himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of
me, and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the river bed
through the long watches of the night, I am so exhausted that the
bitter cold and damp may make an end of me- for towards sunrise
there will be a keen wind blowing from off the river. If, on the other
hand, I climb the hill side, find shelter in the woods, and sleep in
some thicket, I may escape the cold and have a good night's rest,
but some savage beast may take advantage of me and devour me."
In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found
one upon some high ground not far from the water. There he crept
beneath two shoots of olive that grew from a single stock- the one
an ungrafted sucker, while the other had been grafted. No wind,
however squally, could break through the cover they afforded, nor
could the sun's rays pierce them, nor the rain get through them, so
closely did they grow into one another. Ulysses crept under these
and began to make himself a bed to lie on, for there was a great
litter of dead leaves lying about- enough to make a covering for two
or three men even in hard winter weather. He was glad enough to see
this, so he laid himself down and heaped the leaves all round him.
Then, as one who lives alone in the country, far from any neighbor,
hides a brand as fire-seed in the ashes to save himself from having to
get a light elsewhere, even so did Ulysses cover himself up with
leaves; and Minerva shed a sweet sleep upon his eyes, closed his
eyelids, and made him lose all memories of his sorrows.
OUT of the little chapel I burst
Into the fresh night air again.
I had waited a good five minutes first
In the doorway, to escape the rain
That drove in gusts down the common’s centre,
At the edge of which the chapel stands,
Before I plucked up heart to enter:
Heaven knows how many sorts of hands
Reached past me, groping for the latch
Of the inner door that hung on catch,
More obstinate the more they fumbled,
Till, giving way at last with a scold
Of the crazy hinge, in squeezed or tumbled
One sheep more to the rest in fold,
And left me irresolute, standing sentry
In the sheepfold’s lath-and-plaster entry,
Four feet long by two feet wide,
Partitioned off from the vast inside—
I blocked up half of it at least.
No remedy; the rain kept driving:
They eyed me much as some wild beast,
The congregation, still arriving,
Some of them by the mainroad, white
A long way past me into the night,
Skirting the common, then diverging;
Not a few suddenly emerging
From the common’s self thro’ the paling-gaps,—
—They house in the gravel-pits perhaps,
Where the road stops short with its safeguard border
Of lamps, as tired of such disorder;—
But the most turned in yet more abruptly
From a certain squalid knot of alleys,
Where the town’s bad blood once slept corruptly,
Which now the little chapel rallies
And leads into day again,—its priestliness
Lending itself to hide their beastliness
So cleverly (thanks in part to the mason),
And putting so cheery a whitewashed face on
Those neophytes too much in lack of it,
That, where you cross the common as I did,
And meet the party thus presided,
“Mount Zion,” with Love-lane at the back of it,
They front you as little disconcerted,
As, bound for the hills, her fate averted
And her wicked people made to mind him,
Lot might have marched with Gomorrah behind him.
Well, from the road, the lanes or the common,
In came the flock: the fat weary woman,
Panting and bewildered, down-clapping
Her umbrella with a mighty report,
Grounded it by me, wry and flapping,
A wreck of whalebones; then, with a snort,
Like a startled horse, at the interloper
Who humbly knew himself improper,
But could not shrink up small enough,
Round to the door, and in,—the gruff
Hinge’s invariable scold
Making your very blood run cold.
Prompt in the wake of her, up-pattered
On broken clogs, the many-tattered
Little old-faced, peaking sister-turned-mother
Of the sickly babe she tried to smother
Somehow up, with its spotted face,
From the cold, on her breast, the one warm place;
She too must stop, wring the poor suds dry
Of a draggled shawl, and add thereby
Her tribute to the door-mat, sopping
Already from my own clothes’ dropping,
Which yet she seemed to grudge I should stand on;
Then stooping down to take off her pattens,
She bore them defiantly, in each hand one,
Planted together before her breast
And its babe, as good as a lance in rest.
Close on her heels, the dingy satins
Of a female something, past me flitted,
With lips as much too white, as a streak
Lay far too red on each hollow cheek;
And it seemed the very door-hinge pitied
All that was left of a woman once,
Holding at least its tongue for the nonce.
Then a tall yellow man, like the Penitent Thief,
With his jaw bound up in a handkerchief,
And eyelids screwed together tight,
Led himself in by some inner light.
And, except from him, from each that entered,
I had the same interrogation—
“What, you, the alien, you have ventured
“To take with us, elect, your station?
“A carer for none of it, a Gallio?”—
Thus, plain as print, I read the glance
At a common prey, in each countenance,
As of huntsman giving his hounds the tallyho:
And, when the door’s cry drowned their wonder,
The draught, it always sent in shutting,
Made the flame of the single tallow candle
In the cracked square lanthorn I stood under,
Shoot its blue lip at me, rebutting,
As it were, the luckless cause of scandal:
I verily thought the zealous light
(In the chapel’s secret, too!) for spite,
Would shudder itself clean off the wick,
With the airs of a St. John’s Candlestick.
There was no standing it much longer.
“Good folks,” said I, as resolve grew stronger,
“This way you perform the Grand-Inquisitor,
“When the weather sends you a chance visitor?
“You are the men, and wisdom shall die with you,
“And none of the old Seven Churches vie with you!
“But still, despite the pretty perfection
“To which you carry your trick of exclusiveness,
“And, taking God’s word under wise protection,
“Correct its tendency to diffusiveness,
“Bidding one reach it over hot ploughshares,—
“Still, as I say, though you’ve found salvation,
“If I should choose to cry—as now—‘Shares!’—
“See if the best of you bars me my ration!
“Because I prefer for my expounder
“Of the laws of the feast, the feast’s own Founder:
“Mine’s the same right with your poorest and sickliest,
“Supposing I don the marriage-vestiment;
“So, shut your mouth, and open your Testament,
“And carve me my portion at your quickliest!”
Accordingly, as a shoemaker’s lad
With wizened face in want of soap,
And wet apron wound round his waist like a rope,
After stopping outside, for his cough was bad,
To get the fit over, poor gentle creature,
And so avoid disturbing the preacher,
Passed in, I sent my elbow spikewise
At the shutting door, and entered likewise,—
Received the hinge’s accustomed greeting,
Crossed the threshold’s magic pentacle,
And found myself in full conventicle,
—To wit, in Zion Chapel Meeting,
On the Christmas-Eve of ’Forty-nine,
Which, calling its flock to their special clover,
Found them assembled and one sheep over,
Whose lot, as the weather pleased, was mine.
I very soon had enough of it.
The hot smell and the human noises,
And my neighbour’s coat, the greasy cuff of it,
Were a pebble-stone that a child’s hand poises,
Compared with the pig-of-lead-like pressure
Of the preaching-man’s immense stupidity,
As he poured his doctrine forth, full measure,
To meet his audience’s avidity.
You needed not the wit of the Sybil
To guess the cause of it all, in a twinkling—
No sooner had our friend an inkling
Of treasure hid in the Holy Bible,
(Whenever it was the thought first struck hin
How Death, at unawares, might duck him
Deeper than the grave, and quench
The gin-shop’s light in Hell’s grim drench)
Than he handled it so, in fine irreverence,
As to hug the Book of books to pieces:
And, a patchwork of chapters and texts in severance,
Not improved by the private dog’s-ears and creases,
Having clothed his own soul with, he’d fain see equipt yours,—
So tossed you again your Holy Scriptures.
And you picked them up, in a sense, no doubt:
Nay, had but a single face of my neighbours
Appeared to suspect that the preacher’s labours
Were help which the world could be saved without,
’Tis odds but I had borne in quiet
A qualm or two at my spiritual diet;
Or, who can tell? had even mustered
Somewhat to urge in behalf of the sermon:
But the flock sate on, divinely flustered,
Sniffing, methought, its dew of Hermon
With such content in every snuffle,
As the devil inside us loves to ruffle.
My old fat woman purred with pleasure,
And thumb round thumb went twirling faster
While she, to his periods keeping measure,
Maternally devoured the pastor.
The man with the handkerchief, untied it.
Showed us a horrible wen inside it,
Gave his eyelids yet another screwing.
And rocked himself as the woman was doing.
The shoemaker’s lad, discreetly choking,
Kept down his cough. ’Twas too provoking!
My gorge rose at the nonsense and stuff of it,
And saying, like Eve when she plucked the apple,
“I wanted a taste, and now there’s enough of it,”
I flung out of the little chapel.
There was a lull in the rain, a lull
In the wind too; the moon was risen,
And would have shone out pure and full,
But for the ramparted cloud-prison,
Block on block built up in the west,
For what purpose the wind knows best,
Who changes his mind continually.
And the empty other half of the sky
Seemed in its silence as if it knew
What, any moment, might look through
A chance-gap in that fortress massy:—
Through its fissures you got hints
Of the flying moon, by the shifting tints,
Now, a dull lion-colour, now, brassy
Burning to yellow, and whitest yellow,
Like furnace-smoke just ere the flames bellow,
All a-simmer with intense strain
To let her through,—then blank again,
At the hope of her appearance failing.
Just by the chapel, a break in the railing
Shows a narrow path directly across;
’Tis ever dry walking there, on the moss—
Besides, you go gently all the way uphill:
I stooped under and soon felt better:
My head grew light, my limbs more supple,
As I walked on, glad to have slipt the fetter;
My mind was full of the scene I had left,
That placid flock, that pastor vociferant,
—How this outside was pure and different!
The sermon, now—what a mingled weft
Of good and ill! were either less,
Its fellow had coloured the whole distinctly;
But alas for the excellent earnestness,
And the truths, quite true if stated succinctly,
But as surely false, in their quaint presentment,
However to pastor and flock’s contentment!
Say rather, such truths looked false to your eyes,
With his provings and parallels twisted and twined,
Till how could you know them, grown double their size,
In the natural fog of the good man’s mind?
Like yonder spots of our roadside lamps,
Haloed about with the common’s damps.
Truth remains true, the fault’s in the prover;
The zeal was good, and the aspiration;
And yet, and yet, yet, fifty times over,
Pharaoh received no demonstration
By his Baker’s dream of Baskets Three,
Of the doctrine of the Trinity,—
Although, as our preacher thus embellished it,
Apparently his hearers relished it
With so unfeigned a gust—who knows if
They did not prefer our friend to Joseph?
But so it is everywhere, one way with all of them!
These people have really felt, no doubt,
A something, the motion they style the Call of them;
And this is their method of bringing about,
By a mechanism of words and tones,
(So many texts in so many groans)
A sort of reviving or reproducing,
More or less perfectly, (who can tell?—)
Of the mood itself, that strengthens by using;
And how it happens, I understand well.
A tune was born in my head last week,
Out of the thump-thump and shriek-shriek
Of the train, as I came by it, up from Manchester;
And when, next week, I take it back again,
My head will sing to the engine’s clack again,
While it only makes my neighbour’s haunches stir,
—Finding no dormant musical sprout
In him, as in me, to be jolted out.
’Tis the taught already that profit by teaching;
He gets no more from the railway’s preaching,
Than, from this preacher who does the rail’s office, I,
Whom therefore the flock casts a jealous eye on.
Still, why paint over their door “Mount Zion,”
To which all flesh shall come, saith the prophecy?
But wherefore be harsh on a single case?
After how many modes, this Christmas-Eve,
Does the selfsame weary thing take place?
The same endeavour to make you believe,
And much with the same effect, no more:
Each method abundantly convincing,
As I say, to those convinced before,
But scarce to he swallowed without wincing,
By the not-as-yet-convinced. For me,
I have my own church equally.
And in this church my faith sprang first!
(I said, as I reached the rising ground,
And the wind began again, with a burst
Of rain in my face, and a glad rebound
From the heart beneath, as if, God speeding me,
I entered His church-door, Nature leading me)
—In youth I looked to these very skies,
And probing their immensities,
I found God there, His visible power;
Yet felt in my heart, amid all its sense
Of that power, an equal evidence
That His love, there too, was the nobler dower.
For the loving worm within its clod,
Were diviner than a loveless god
Amid his worlds, I will dare to say.
You know what I mean: God’s all, man’s nought:
But also, God, whose pleasure brought
Man into being, stands away
As it were, an handbreadth off, to give
Room for the newly-made to live,
And look at Him from a place apart,
And use his gifts of brain and heart,
Given, indeed, but to keep for ever.
Who speaks of man, then, must not sever
Man’s very elements from man,
Saying, “But all is God’s”—whose plan
Was to create man and then leave him
Able, His own word saith, to grieve Him,
But able to glorify Him too,
As a mere machine could never do,
That prayed or praised, all unaware
Of its fitness for aught but praise and prayer,
Made perfect as a thing of course.
Man, therefore, stands on his own stock
Of love and power as a pin-point rock,
And, looking to God who ordained divorce
Of the rock from His boundless continent,
Sees in His Power made evident,
Only excess by a million fold
O’er the power God gave man in the mould.
For, see: Man’s hand, first formed to carry
A few pounds’ weight, when taught to marry
Its strength with an engine’s, lifts a mountain,
—Advancing in power by one degree;
And why count steps through eternity?
But Love is the ever springing fountain:
Man may enlarge or narrow his bed
For the water’s play, but the water head—
How can he multiply or reduce it?
As easy create it, as cause it to cease:
He may profit by it, or abuse it;
But ’tis not a thing to bear increase
As power will: be love less or more
In the heart of man, he keeps it shut
Or opes it wide as he pleases, but
Love’s sum remains what it was before.
So, gazing up, in my youth, at love
As seen through power, ever above
All modes which make it manifest,
My soul brought all to a single test—
That He, the Eternal First and Last,
Who, in His power, had so surpassed
All man conceives of what is might,—
Whose wisdom, too, showed infinite,
—Would prove as infinitely good;
Would never, my soul understood,
With power to work all love desires,
Bestow e’en less than man requires:
That He who endlessly was teaching,
Above my spirit’s utmost reaching,
What love can do in the leaf or stone,
(So that to master this alone,
This done in the stone or leaf for me,
I must go on learning endlessly)
Would never need that I, in turn,
Should point him out a defect unheeded,
And show that God had yet to learn
What the meanest human creature needed,—
—Not life, to wit, for a few short years,
Tracking His way through doubts and fears,
While the stupid earth on which I stay
Suffers no change, but passive adds
Its myriad years to myriads,
Though I, He gave it to, decay,
Seeing death come and choose about me,
And my dearest ones depart without me.
No! love which, on earth, amid all the shows of it,
Has ever been seen the sole good of life in it,
The love, ever growing there, spite of the strife in it,
Shall arise, made perfect, from death’s repose of it!
And I shall behold Thee, face to face,
O God, and in Thy light retrace
How in all I loved here, still wast Thou!
Whom pressing to, then, as I fain would now,
I shall find as able to satiate
The love, Thy gift, as my spirit’s wonder
Thou art able to quicken and sublimate,
Was this sky of Thine, that I now walk under,
And glory in Thee as thus I gaze,
—Thus, thus! oh, let men keep their ways
Of seeking Thee in a narrow shrine—
Be this my way! And this is mine!
For lo, what think you? suddenly
The rain and the wind ceased, and the sky
Received at once the full fruition
Of the moon’s consummate apparition.
The black cloud-barricade was riven,
Ruined beneath her feet, and driven
Deep in the west; while, bare and breathless,
North and south and east lay ready
For a glorious Thing, that, dauntless, deathless,
Sprang across them, and stood steady.
’Twas a moon-rainbow, vast and perfect,
From heaven to heaven extending, perfect
As the mother-moon’s self, full in face.
It rose, distinctly at the base
With its seven proper colours chorded,
Which still, in the rising, were compressed,
Until at last they coalesced,
And supreme the spectral creature lorded
In a triumph of whitest white,—
Above which intervened the night.
But above night too, like the next,
The second of a wondrous sequence,
Reaching in rare and rarer frequence,
Till the heaven of heavens be circumflext,
Another rainbow rose, a mightier,
Fainter, flushier, and flightier,—
Rapture dying along its verge!
Oh, whose foot shall I see emerge,
WHOSE, from the straining topmost dark,
On to the keystone of that arc?
This sight was shown me, there and then,—
Me, one out of a world of men,
Singled forth, as the chance might hap
To another, if in a thunderclap
Where I heard noise, and you saw flame,
Some one man knew God called his name.
For me, I think I said, “Appear!
“Good were it to be ever here.
“If Thou wilt, let me build to Thee
“Where, for ever in Thy presence,
“In extatic acquiescence,
“Far alike from thriftless learning
“And ignorance’s undiscerning,
“ I may worship and remain!”
Thus, at the show above me, gazing
With upturned eyes, I felt my brain
Glutted with the glory, blazing
Throughout its whole mass, over and under,
Until at length it burst asunder,
And out of it bodily there streamed
The too-much glory, as it seemed,
Passing from out me to the ground,
Then palely serpentining round
Into the dark with mazy error.
All at once I looked up with terror.
He was there.
He Himself with His human air,
On the narrow pathway, just before:
I saw the back of Him, no more—
He had left the chapel, then, as I.
I forgot all about the sky.
No face: only the sight
Of a sweepy Garment, vast and white,
With a hem that I could recognise.
I felt terror, no surprise:
My mind filled with the cataract,
At one bound, of the mighty fact.
I remembered, He did say
Doubtless, that, to this world’s end,
Where two or three should meet and pray,
He would be in the midst, their Friend:
Certainly He was there with them.
And my pulses leaped for joy
Of the golden thought without alloy,
That I saw His very Vesture’s hem.
Then rushed the blood back, cold and clear
With a fresh enhancing shiver of fear,
And I hastened, cried out while I pressed
To the salvation of the Vest,
“But not so, Lord! It cannot be
“That Thou, indeed, art leaving me—
“Me, that have despised Thy friends.
“Did my heart make no amends?
“Thou art the Love of God—above
“His Power, didst hear me place His Love,
“And that was leaving the world for Thee!
“Therefore Thou must not turn from me
“As if I had chosen the other part.
“Folly and pride o’ercame my heart.
“Our best is bad, nor bears Thy test
“Still it should be our very best.
“I thought it best that Thou, the Spirit,
“Be worshipped in spirit and in truth,
“And in beauty, as even we require it—
“Not in the forms burlesque, uncouth,
“I left but now, as scarcely fitted
“For Thee: I knew not what I pitied:
“But, all I felt there, right or wrong,
“What is it to Thee, who curest sinning?
“Am I not weak as Thou art strong?
“I have looked to Thee from the beginning,
“Straight up to Thee through all the world
“Which, like an idle scroll, lay furled
“To nothingness on either side:
“And since the time Thou wast descried,
“Spite of the weak heart, so have I
“Lived ever, and so fain would die,
“Living and dying, Thee before!
“But if Thou leavest me—”
Less or more,
I suppose that I spoke thus.
When,—have mercy, Lord, on us!
The whole Face turned upon me full.
And I spread myself beneath it,
As when the bleacher spreads, to seethe it
In the cleansing sun, his wool,—
Steeps in the flood of noontide whiteness
Some defiled, discoloured web—
So lay I, saturate with brightness.
And when the flood appeared to ebb,
Lo, I was walking, light and swift,
With my senses settling fast and steadying,
But my body caught up in the whirl and drift
Of the Vesture’s amplitude, still eddying
On, just before me, still to be followed,
As it carried me after with its motion:
What shall I say?—as a path were hollowed
And a man went weltering through the ocean,
Sucked along in the flying wake
Of the luminous water-snake.
Darkness and cold were cloven, as through
I passed, upborne yet walking too.
And I turned to myself at intervals,—
“So He said, and so it befals.
“God who registers the cup
“Of mere cold water, for His sake
“To a disciple rendered up,
“Disdains not His own thirst to slake
“At the poorest love was ever offered:
“And because it was my heart I proffered,
“With true love trembling at the brim,
“He suffers me to follow Him
“For ever, my own way,—dispensed
“From seeking to be influenced
“By all the less immediate ways
“That earth, in worships manifold,
“Adopts to reach, by prayer and praise,
‘The Garment’s hem, which, lo, I hold!”
And so we crossed the world and stopped.
For where am I, in city or plain,
Since I am ’ware of the world again?
And what is this that rises propped
With pillars of prodigious girth?
Is it really on the earth,
This miraculous Dome of God?
Has the angel’s measuring-rod
Which numbered cubits, gem from gem,
’Twixt the gates of the New Jerusalem,
Meted it out,—and what he meted,
Have the sons of men completed?
—Binding, ever as he bade,
Columns in this colonnade
With arms wide open to embrace
The entry of the human race
To the breast of . . . what is it, yon building,
Ablaze in front, all paint and gilding,
With marble for brick, and stones of price
For garniture of the edifice?
Now I see: it is no dream:
It stands there and it does not seem;
For ever, in pictures, thus it looks,
And thus I have read of it in books,
Often in England, leagues away,
And wondered how those fountains play,
Growing up eternally
Each to a musical water-tree,
Whose blossoms drop, a glittering boon,
Before my eyes, in the light of the moon,
To the granite lavers underneath.
Liar and dreamer in your teeth!
I, the sinner that speak to you,
Was in Rome this night, and stood, and knew
Both this and more! For see, for see,
The dark is rent, mine eye is free
To pierce the crust of the outer wall,
And I view inside, and all there, all,
As the swarming hollow of a hive,
The whole Basilica alive!
Men in the chancel, body, and nave,
Men on the pillars’ architrave,
Men on the statues, men on the tombs
With popes and kings in their porphyry wombs,
All famishing in expectation
Of the main-altar’s consummation.
For see, for see, the rapturous moment
Approaches, and earth’s best endowment
Blends with heaven’s: the taper-fires
Pant up, the winding brazen spires
Heave loftier yet the baldachin:
The incense-gaspings, long kept in,
Suspire in clouds; the organ blatant
Holds his breath and grovels latent,
As if God’s hushing finger grazed him,
(Like Behemoth when He praised him)
At the silver bell’s shrill tinkling,
Quick cold drops of terror sprinkling
On the sudden pavement strewed
With faces of the multitude.
Earth breaks up, time drops away,
In flows heaven, with its new day
Of endless life, when He who trod,
Very Man and very God,
This earth in weakness, shame and pain,
Dying the death whose signs remain
Up yonder on the accursed tree,—
Shall come again, no more to be
Of captivity the thrall,
But the one God, all in all,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
As His servant John received the words,
“I died, and live for evermore!”
Yet I was left outside the door.
Why sate I there on the threshold-stone,
Left till He returns, alone
Save for the Garment’s extreme fold
Abandoned still to bless my hold?—
My reason, to my doubt, replied,
As if a book were opened wide,
And at a certain page I traced
Every record undefaced,
Added by successive years,—
The harvestings of truth’s stray ears
Singly gleaned, and in one sheaf
Bound together for belief.
Yes, I said—that He will go
And sit with these in turn, I know.
Their faith’s heart beats, though her head swims
Too giddily to guide her limbs,
Disabled by their palsy-stroke
From propping me. Though Rome’s gross yoke
Drops off, no more to be endured,
Her teaching is not so obscured
By errors and perversities,
That no truth shines athwart the lies:
And He, whose eye detects a spark
Even where, to man’s, the whole seems dark,
May well see flame where each beholder
Acknowledges the embers smoulder.
But I, a mere man, fear to quit
The clue God gave me as most fit
To guide my footsteps through life’s maze,
Because Himself discerns all ways
Open to reach Him: I, a man
He gave to mark where faith began
To swerve aside, till from its summit
Judgment drops her damning plummet,
Pronouncing such a fatal space
Departed from the Founder’s base:
He will not bid me enter too,
But rather sit, as now I do,
Awaiting His return outside.
—’Twas thus my reason straight replied,
And joyously I turned, and pressed
The Garment’s skirt upon my breast,
Until, afresh its light suffusing me,
My heart cried,—what has been abusing me
That I should wait here lonely and coldly,
Instead of rising, entering boldly,
Baring truth’s face, and letting drift
Her veils of lies as they choose to shift?
Do these men praise Him? I will raise
My voice up to their point of praise!
I see the error; but above
The scope of error, see the love.—
Oh, love of those first Christian days!
—Fanned so soon into a blaze,
From the spark preserved by the trampled sect,
That the antique sovereign Intellect
Which then sate ruling in the world,
Like a change in dreams, was hurled
From the throne he reigned upon:
—You looked up, and he was gone!
Gone, his glory of the pen!
—Love, with Greece and Rome in ken,
Bade her scribes abhor the trick
Of poetry and rhetoric,
And exult, with hearts set free,
In blessed imbecility
Scrawled, perchance, on some torn sheet,
Leaving Livy incomplete.
Gone, his pride of sculptor, painter!
—Love, while able to acquaint her
With the thousand statues yet
Fresh from chisel, pictures wet
From brush, she saw on every side,
Chose rather with an infant’s pride
To frame those portents which impart
Such unction to true Christian Art.
Gone, Music too! The air was stirred
By happy wings: Terpander’s bird
(That, when the cold came, fled away)
Would tarry not the wintry day,—
As more-enduring sculpture must,
Till a filthy saint rebuked the gust
With which he chanced to get a sight
Of some dear naked Aphrodite
He glanced a thought above the toes of,
By breaking zealously her nose off.
Love, surely, from that music’s lingering,
Might have filched her organ-fingering,
Nor chose rather to set prayings
To hog-grunts, praises to horse-neighings.
Love was the startling thing, the new;
Love was the all-sufficient too;
And seeing that, you see the rest.
As a babe can find its mother’s breast
As well in darkness as in light,
Love shut our eyes, and all seemed right.
True, the world’s eyes are open now:
—Less need for me to disallow
Some few that keep Love’s zone unbuckled,
Peevish as ever to be suckled,
Lulled by the same old baby-prattle
With intermixture of the rattle,
When she would have them creep, stand steady
Upon their feet, or walk already,
Not to speak of trying to climb.
I will be wise another time,
And not desire a wall between us,
When next I see a church-roof cover
So many species of one genus,
All with foreheads bearing Lover
Written above the earnest eyes of them;
All with breasts that beat for beauty,
Whether sublimed, to the surprise of them,
In noble daring, steadfast duty,
The heroic in passion, or in action,—
Or, lowered for the senses’ satisfaction,
To the mere outside of human creatures,
Mere perfect form and faultless features.
What! with all Rome here, whence to levy
Such contributions to their appetite,
With women and men in a gorgeous bevy,
They take, as it were, a padlock, and clap it tight
On their southern eyes, restrained from feeding
On the glories of their ancient reading,
On the beauties of their modern singing,
On the wonders of the builder’s bringing,
On the majesties of Art around them,—
And, all these loves, late struggling incessant,
When faith has at last united and bound them,
They offer up to God for a present!
Why, I will, on the whole, be rather proud of it,—
And, only taking the act in reference
To the other recipients who might have allowed of it
I will rejoice that God had the preference!
So I summed up my new resolves:
Too much love there can never be.
And where the intellect devolves
Its function on love exclusively,
I, as one who possesses both,
Will accept the provision, nothing loth,
—Will feast my love, then depart elsewhere,
That my intellect may find its share.
And ponder, O soul, the while thou departest,
And see thou applaud the great heart of the artist,
Who, examining the capabilities
Of the block of marble he has to fashion
Into a type of thought or passion,—
Not always, using obvious facilities,
Shapes it, as any artist can,
Into a perfect symmetrical man,
Complete from head to foot of the life-size,
Such as old Adam stood in his wife’s eyes,—
But, now and then, bravely aspires to consummate
A Colossus by no means so easy to come at,
And uses the whole of his block for the bust,
Leaving the minds of the public to finish it,
Since cut it ruefully short he must:
On the face alone he expends his devotion;
He rather would mar than resolve to diminish it,
—Saying, “Applaud me for this grand notion
“Of what a face may be! As for completing it
“In breast and body and limbs, do that, you!”
All hail! I fancy how, happily meeting it,
A trunk and legs would perfect the statue,
Could man carve so as to answer volition.
And how much nobler than petty cavils,
A hope to find, in my spirit-travels,
Some artist of another ambition,
Who having a block to carve, no bigger,
Has spent his power on the opposite quest,
And believed to begin at the feet was best—
For so may I see, ere I die, the whole figure!
No sooner said than out in the night!
And still as we swept through storm and night,
My heart beat lighter and more light:
And lo, as before, I was walking swift,
With my senses settling fast and steadying,
But my body caught up in the whirl and drift
Of the Vesture’s amplitude, still eddying
On just before me, still to be followed,
As it carried me after with its motion,
—What shall I say?—as a path were hollowed,
And a man went weltering through the ocean
Sucked along in the flying wake
Of the luminous water-snake.
Alone! I am left alone once more—
(Save for the Garment’s extreme fold
Abandoned still to bless my hold)
Alone, beside the entrance-door
Of a sort of temple,—perhaps a college,
—Like nothing I ever saw before
At home in England, to my knowledge.
The tall, old, quaint, irregular town!
It may be . . though which, I can’t affirm . . any
Of the famous middle-age towns of Germany;
And this flight of stairs where I sit down,
Is it Halle, Weimar, Cassel, or Frankfort,
Or Göttingen, that I have to thank for’t?
It may be Göttingen,—most likely.
Through the open door I catch obliquely
Glimpses of a lecture-hall;
And not a bad assembly neither—
Ranged decent and symmetrical
On benches, waiting what’s to see there;
Which, holding still by the Vesture’s hem,
I also resolve to see with them,
Cautious this time how I suffer to slip
The chance of joining in fellowship
With any that call themselves His friends,
As these folks do, I have a notion.
But hist—a buzzing and emotion!
All settle themselves, the while ascends
By the creaking rail to the lecture-desk,
Step by step, deliberate
Because of his cranium’s over-freight,
Three parts sublime to one grotesque,
If I have proved an accurate guesser,
The hawk-nosed, high-cheek-boned Professor.
I felt at once as if there ran
A shoot of love from my heart to the man—
That sallow, virgin-minded, studious
Martyr to mild enthusiasm,
As he uttered a kind of cough-preludious
That woke my sympathetic spasm,
(Beside some spitting that made me sorry)
And stood, surveying his auditory
With a wan pure look, well nigh celestial,—
—Those blue eyes had survived so much!
While, under the foot they could not smutch,
Lay all the fleshly and the bestial.
Over he bowed, and arranged his notes,
Till the auditory’s clearing of throats
Was done with, died into silence;
And, when each glance was upward sent,
Each bearded mouth composed intent,
And a pin might be heard drop half a mile hence,—
He pushed back higher his spectacles,
Let the eyes stream out like lamps from cells,
And giving his head of hair—a hake
Of undressed tow, for colour and quantity—
One rapid and impatient shake,
(As our own young England adjusts a jaunty tie
When about to impart, on mature digestion,
Some thrilling view of the surplice-question)
—The Professor’s grave voice, sweet though hoarse,
Broke into his Christmas-Eve’s discourse.
And he began it by observing
How reason dictated that men
Should rectify the natural swerving,
By a reversion, now and then,
To the well-heads of knowledge, few
And far away, whence rolling grew
The life-stream wide whereat we drink,
Commingled, as we needs must think,
With waters alien to the source:
To do which, aimed this Eve’s discourse.
Since, where could be a fitter time
For tracing backward to its prime,
This Christianity, this lake,
This reservoir, whereat we slake,
From one or other bank, our thirst?
So he proposed inquiring first
Into the various sources whence
This Myth of Christ is derivable;
Demanding from the evidence,
(Since plainly no such life was liveable)
How these phenomena should class?
Whether ’twere best opine Christ was,
Or never was at all, or whether
He was and was not, both together—
It matters little for the name,
So the Idea be left the same:
Only, for practical purpose’ sake,
’Twas obviously as well to take
The popular story,—understanding
How the ineptitude of the time,
And the penman’s prejudice, expanding
Fact into fable fit for the clime,
Had, by slow and sure degrees, translated it
Into this myth, this Individuum,—
Which, when reason had strained and abated it
Of foreign matter, gave, for residuum,
A Man!—a right true man, however,
Whose work was worthy a man’s endeavour!
Work, that gave warrant almost sufficient
To his disciples, for rather believing
He was just omnipotent and omniscient,
As it gives to us, for as frankly receiving
His word, their tradition,—which, though it meant
Something entirely different
From all that those who only heard it,
In their simplicity thought and averred it,
Had yet a meaning quite as respectable:
For, among other doctrines delectable,
Was he not surely the first to insist on,
The natural sovereignty of our race?—
Here the lecturer came to a pausing-place.
And while his cough, like a drouthy piston,
Tried to dislodge the husk that grew to him,
I seized the occasion of bidding adieu to him,
The Vesture still within my hand.
I could interpret its command.
This time He would not bid me enter
The exhausted air-bell of the Critic.
Truth’s atmosphere may grow mephitic
When Papist struggles with Dissenter,
Impregnating its pristine clarity,
—One, by his daily fare’s vulgarity,
Its gust of broken meat and garlic;
—One, by his soul’s too-much presuming,
To turn the frankincense’s fuming
And vapours of the candle starlike
Into the cloud her wings she buoys on:
And each, that sets the pure air seething,
Poisoning it for healthy breathing—
But the Critic leaves no air to poison;
Pumps out by a ruthless ingenuity
Atom by atom, and leaves you—vacuity.
Thus much of Christ, does he reject?
And what retain? His intellect?
What is it I must reverence duly?
Poor intellect for worship, truly,
Which tells me simply what was told
(If mere morality, bereft
Of the God in Christ, be all that’s left)
Elsewhere by voices manifold;
With this advantage, that the stater
Made nowise the important stumble
Of adding, he, the sage and humble,
Was also one with the Creator.
You urge Christ’s followers’ simplicity:
But how does shifting blame, evade it?
Have wisdom’s words no more felicity?
The stumbling-block, His speech—who laid it?
How comes it that for one found able,
To sift the truth of it from fable,
Millions believe it to the letter?
Christ’s goodness, then—does that fare better?
Strange goodness, which upon the score
Of being goodness, the mere due
Of man to fellow-man, much more
To God,—should take another view
Of its possessor’s privilege,
And bid him rule his race! You pledge
Your fealty to such rule? What, all—
From Heavenly John and Attic Paul,
And that brave weather-battered Peter
Whose stout faith only stood completer
For buffets, sinning to be pardoned,
As the more his hands hauled nets, they hardened,—
All, down to you, the man of men,
Professing here at Göttingen,
Compose Christ’s flock! So, you and I
Are sheep of a good man! and why?
The goodness,—how did he acquire it?
Was it self-gained, did God inspire it?
Choose which; then tell me, on what ground
Should its possessor dare propound
His claim to rise o’er us an inch?
Were goodness all some man’s invention,
Who arbitrarily made mention
What we should follow, and where flinch,—
What qualities might take the style
Of right and wrong,—and had such guessing
Met with as general acquiescing
As graced the Alphabet erewhile,
When A got leave an Ox to be,
No Camel (quoth the Jews) like G,—
For thus inventing thing and title
Worship were that man’s fit requital.
But if the common conscience must
Be ultimately judge, adjust
Its apt name to each quality
Already known,—I would decree
Worship for such mere demonstration
And simple work of nomenclature,
Only the day I praised, not Nature,
But Harvey, for the circulation.
I would praise such a Christ, with pride
And joy, that he, as none beside,
Had taught us how to keep the mind
God gave him, as God gave his kind,
Freer than they from fleshly taint!
I would call such a Christ our Saint,
As I declare our Poet, him
Whose insight makes all others dim:
A thousand poets pried at life,
And only one amid the strife
Rose to be Shakespeare! Each shall take
His crown, I’d say, for the world’s sake—
Though some objected—“Had we seen
“The heart and head of each, what screen
“Was broken there to give them light,
“While in ourselves it shuts the sight,
“We should no more admire, perchance,
“That these found truth out at a glance,
“Than marvel how the bat discerns
“Some pitch-dark cavern’s fifty turns,
“Led by a finer tact, a gift
“He boasts, which other birds must shift
“Without, and grope as best they can.”
No, freely I would praise the man.—
Nor one whit more, if he contended
That gift of his, from God, descended.
Ah, friend, what gift of man’s does not?
No nearer Something, by a jot,
Rise an infinity of Nothings
Than one: take Euclid for your teacher:
Distinguish kinds: do crownings, clothings,
Make that Creator which was creature?
Multiply gifts upon his head,
And what, when all’s done, shall be said
But . . . the more gifted he, I ween!
That one’s made Christ, another, Pilate,
And This might be all That has been,—
So what is there to frown or smile at?
What is left for us, save, in growth,
Of soul, to rise up, far past both,
From the gift looking to the Giver,
And from the cistern to the River,
And from the finite to Infinity,
And from man’s dust to God’s divinity?
Take all in a word: the Truth in God’s breast
Lies trace for trace upon ours impressed:
Though He is so bright and we so dim,
We are made in His image to witness Him;
And were no eye in us to tell,
Instructed by no inner sense.
The light of Heaven from the dark of Hell,
That light would want its evidence,—
Though Justice, Good and Truth were still
Divine, if by some demon’s will,
Hatred and wrong had been proclaimed
Law through the worlds, and Right misnamed.
No mere exposition of morality
Made or in part or in totality,
Should win you to give it worship, therefore:
And, if no better proof you will care for,
—Whom do you count the worst man upon earth?
Be sure, he knows, in his conscience, more
Of what Right is, than arrives at birth
In the best man’s acts that we bow before:
This last knows better—true; but my fact is,
’Tis one thing to know, and another to practise;
And thence I conclude that the real God-function
Is to furnish a motive and injunction
For practising what we know already.
And such an injunction and such a motive
As the God in Christ, do you waive, and “heady
High minded,” hang your tablet-votive
Outside the fane on a finger-post?
Morality to the uttermost,
Supreme in Christ as we all confess,
Why need we prove would avail no jot
To make Him God, if God He were not?
What is the point where Himself lays stress
Does the precept run “Believe in Good,
“In Justice, Truth, now understood
“For the first time?”—or, “Believe in ME,
“Who lived and died, yet essentially
“Am Lord of Life?” Whoever can take
The same to his heart and for mere love’s sake
Conceive of the love,—that man obtains
A new truth; no conviction gains
Of an old one only, made intense
By a fresh appeal to his faded sense.
Can it be that He stays inside?
Is the Vesture left me to commune with?
Could my soul find aught to sing in tune with
Even at this lecture, if she tried?
Oh, let me at lowest sympathise
With the lurking drop of blood that lies
In the desiccated brain’s white roots
Without a throb for Christ’s attributes,
As the Lecturer makes his special boast!
If love’s dead there, it has left a ghost.
Admire we, how from heart to brain
(Though to say so strike the doctors dum
One instinct rises and falls again,
Restoring the equilibrium.
And how when the Critic had done his best,
And the Pearl of Price, at reason’s test,
Lay dust and ashes levigable
On the Professor’s lecture-table;
When we looked for the inference and monition
That our faith, reduced to such a condition,
Be swept forthwith to its natural dust-hole,—
He bids us, when we least expect it,
Take back our faith,—if it be not just whole,
Yet a pearl indeed, as his tests affect it,
Which fact pays the damage done rewardingly,
So, prize we our dust and ashes accordingly!
“Go home and venerate the Myth
“I thus have experimented with—
“This Man, continue to adore him
“Rather than all who went before him,
“And all who ever followed after!”—
Surely for this I may praise you, my brother!
Will you take the praise in tears or laughter?
That’s one point gained: can I compass another?
Unlearned love was safe from spurning—
Can’t we respect your loveless learning?
Let us at least give Learning honour!
What laurels had we showered upon her,
Girding her loins up to perturb
Our theory of the Middle Verb;
Or Turklike brandishing a scimetar
O’er anapests in comic-trimeter;
Or curing the halt and maimed Iketides,
While we lounged on at our indebted ease:
Instead of which, a tricksy demon
Sets her at Titus or Philemon!
When Ignorance wags his ears of leather
And hates God’s word, ’tis altogether;
Nor leaves he his congenial thistles
To go and browze on Paul’s Epistles.
—And you, the audience, who might ravage
The world wide, enviably savage
Nor heed the cry of the retriever,
More than Herr Heine (before his fever),—
I do not tell a lie so arrant
As say my passion’s wings are furled up,
And, without the plainest Heavenly warrant,
I were ready and glad to give this world up—
But still, when you rub the brow meticulous,
And ponder the profit of turning holy
If not for God’s, for your own sake solely,
—God forbid I should find you ridiculous!
Deduce from this lecture all that eases you,
Nay, call yourselves, if the calling pleases you,
“Christians,”—abhor the Deist’s pravity,—
Go on, you shall no more move my gravity,
Than, when I see boys ride a-cockhorse
I find it in my heart to embarrass them
By hinting that their stick’s a mock horse,
And they really carry what they say carries them.
So sate I talking with my mind.
I did not long to leave the door
And find a new church, as before,
But rather was quiet and inclined
To prolong and enjoy the gentle resting
From further tracking and trying and testing.
This tolerance is a genial mood!
(Said I, and a little pause ensued).
One trims the bark ’twixt shoal and shelf,
And sees, each side, the good effects of it,
A value for religion’s self,
A carelessness about the sects of it.
Let me enjoy my own conviction,
Not watch my neighbour’s faith with fretfulness,
Still spying there some dereliction
Of truth, perversity, forgetfulness!
Better a mild indifferentism,
To teach that all our faiths (though duller
His shines through a dull spirit’s prism)
Originally had one colour—
Sending me on a pilgrimage
Through ancient and through modern times
To many peoples, various climes,
Where I may see Saint, Savage, Sage
Fuse their respective creeds in one
Before the general Father’s throne!
. . . ’T was the horrible storm began afresh!
The black night caught me in his mesh
Whirled me up, and flung me prone.
I was left on the college-step alone.
I looked, and far there, ever fleeting
Far, far away, the receding gesture,
And looming of the lessening Vesture,
Swept forward from my stupid hand,
While I watched my foolish heart expand
In the lazy glow of benevolence,
O’er the various modes of man’s belief.
I sprang up with fear’s vehemence.
—Needs must there be one way, our chief
Best way of worship: let me strive
To find it, and when found, contrive
My fellows also take their share.
This constitutes my earthly care:
God’s is above it and distinct!
For I, a man, with men am linked,
And not a brute with brutes; no gain
That I experience, must remain
Unshared: but should my best endeavour
To share it, fail—subsisteth ever
God’s care above, and I exult
That God, by God’s own ways occult,
May—doth, I will believe—bring back
All wanderers to a single track!
Meantime, I can but testify
God’s care for me—no more, can I—
It is but for myself I know.
The world rolls witnessing around me
Only to leave me as it found me;
Men cry there, but my ear is slow.
Their races flourish or decay
—What boots it, while yon lucid way
Loaded with stars, divides the vault?
How soon my soul repairs its fault
When, sharpening senses’ hebetude,
She turns on my own life! So viewed,
No mere mote’s-breadth but teems immense
With witnessings of providence:
And woe to me if when I look
Upon that record, the sole book
Unsealed to me, I take no heed
Of any warning that I read!
Have I been sure, this Christmas-Eve;
God’s own hand did the rainbow weave,
Whereby the truth from heaven slid
Into my soul?—I cannot bid
The world admit He stooped to heal
My soul, as if in a thunder-peal
Where one heard noise, and one saw flame,
I only knew He named my name.
And what is the world to me, for sorrow
Or joy in its censures, when to-morrow
It drops the remark, with just-turned head
Then, on again—That man is dead?
Yes,—but for me—my name called,—drawn
As a conscript’s lot from the lap’s black yawn,
He has dipt into on a battle-dawn:
Bid out of life by a nod, a glance,—
Stumbling, mute-mazed, at nature’s chance,—
With a rapid finger circled round,
Fixed to the first poor inch of ground,
To light from, where his foot was found;
Whose ear but a minute since lay free
To the wide camp’s buzz and gossipry—
Summoned, a solitary man,
To end his life where his life began,
From the safe glad rear, to the dreadful van!
Soul of mine, hadst thou caught and held
By the hem of the Vesture . . .
And I caught
At the flying Robe, and unrepelled
Was lapped again in its folds full-fraught
With warmth and wonder and delight,
God’s mercy being infinite.
And scarce had the words escaped my tongue,
When, at a passionate bound, I sprung
Out of the wandering world of rain,
Into the little chapel again.
How else was I found there, bolt upright
On my bench, as if I had never left it?
—Never flung out on the common at night
Nor met the storm and wedge-like cleft it,
Seen the raree-show of Peter’s successor,
Or the laboratory of the Professor!
For the Vision, that was true, I wist,
True as that heaven and earth exist.
There sate my friend, the yellow and tall,
With his neck and its wen in the selfsame place;
Yet my nearest neighbour’s cheek showed gall,
She had slid away a contemptuous space:
And the old fat woman, late so placable,
Eyed me with symptoms, hardly mistakeable,
Of her milk of kindness turning rancid:
In short a spectator might have fancied
That I had nodded betrayed by a slumber,
Yet kept my seat, a warning ghastly,
Through the heads of the sermon, nine in number,
To wake up now at the tenth and lastly.
But again, could such a disgrace have happened?
Each friend at my elbow had surely nudged it;
And, as for the sermon, where did my nap end?
Unless I heard it, could I have judged it?
Could I report as I do at the close,
First, the preacher speaks through his nose:
Second, his gesture is too emphatic:
Thirdly, to waive what’s pedagogic,
The subject-matter itself lacks logic:
Fourthly, the English is ungrammatic.
Great news! the preacher is found no Pascal,
Whom, if I pleased, I might to the task call
Of making square to a finite eye
The circle of infinity,
And find so all-but-just-succeeding!
Great news! the sermon proves no reading
Where bee-like in the flowers I may bury me,
Like Taylor’s, the immortal Jeremy!
And now that I know the very worst of him,
What was it I thought to obtain at first of him?
Ha! Is God mocked, as He asks?
Shall I take on me to change His tasks,
And dare, despatched to a river-head
For a simple draught of the element,
Neglect the thing for which He sent,
And return with another thing instead?—
Saying . . . “Because the water found
“Welling up from underground,
“Is mingled with the taints of earth,
“While Thou, I know, dost laugh at dearth,
“And couldest, at a word, convulse
“The world with the leap of its river-pulse,—
“Therefore I turned from the oozings muddy,
“And bring thee a chalice I found, instead:
“See the brave veins in the breccia ruddy!
“One would suppose that the marble bled.
“What matters the water? A hope I have nursed,
“That the waterless cup will quench my thirst.”
—Better have knelt at the poorest stream
That trickles in pain from the straitest rift!
For the less or the more is all God’s gift,
Who blocks up or breaks wide the granite-seam.
And here, is there water or not, to drink?
I, then, in ignorance and weakness,
Taking God’s help, have attained to think
My heart does best to receive in meekness
This mode of worship, as most to His mind,
Where earthly aids being cast behind,
His All in All appears serene,
With the thinnest human veil between,
Letting the mystic Lamps, the Seven,
The many motions of His spirit,
Pass, as they list, to earth from Heaven.
For the preacher’s merit or demerit,
It were to be wished the flaws were fewer
In the earthen vessel, holding treasure,
Which lies as safe in a golden ewer;
But the main thing is, does it hold good measure?
Heaven soon sets right all other matters!—
Ask, else, these ruins of humanity,
This flesh worn out to rags and tatters,
This soul at struggle with insanity,
Who thence take comfort, can I doubt,
Which an empire gained, were a loss without.
May it be mine! And let us hope
That no worse blessing befal the Pope,
Turn’d sick at last of the day’s buffoonery,
Of his posturings and his petticoatings,
Beside the Bourbon bully’s gloatings
In the bloody orgies of drunk poltroonery!
Nor may the Professor forego its peace
At Göttingen, presently, when, in the dusk
Of his life, if his cough, as I fear, should increase,
Prophesied of by that horrible husk;
And when, thicker and thicker, the darkness fills
The world through his misty spectacles,
And he gropes for something more substantial
Than a fable, myth, or personification,
May Christ do for him, what no mere man shall,
And stand confessed as the God of salvation!
Meantime, in the still recurring fear
Lest myself, at unawares, be found,
While attacking the choice of my neighbours round,
Without my own made—I choose here!
The giving out of the hymn reclaims me;
I have done!—And if any blames me,
Thinking that merely to touch in brevity
The topics I dwell on, were unlawful,—
Or, worse, that I trench, with undue levity,
On the bounds of the Holy and the awful,
I praise the heart, and pity the head of him,
And refer myself to THEE, instead of him;
Who head and heart alike discernest,
Looking below light speech we utter,
When the frothy spume and frequent sputter
Prove that the soul’s depths boil in earnest!
May the truth shine out, stand ever before us!
I put up pencil and join chorus
To Hepzibah Tune, without further apology,
The last five verses of the third section
Of the seventeenth hymn in Whitfield’s Collection,
To conclude with the doxology.
- quotes about receiving
- quotes about poverty
- quotes about perfection
- quotes about myth
- quotes about fables
- quotes about Rome
- quotes about inventors
- quotes about diversity
- quotes about yellow
Happy Birthday, Dear Child!
Each birthday tells you that you are
Much older, day by day!
And that you are a brighter star,
That shines in heaven's way!
Remember that your health is first,
Apart from loving God;
Obedience to your parents, Christ,
Will spare you from all rod!
We must grow wiser by the years,
And live pious, life-time;
With Christ beside, we shouldn't have fears,
As God gives us good clime.
We do not live by strength, our own,
But by God's blessings, grace!
And speak alive, and not by phone,
And keep a pleasant face!
‘Happy Birthday, Dear Cathy! '
Most lovingly wished by your dearest
mom Mercy, sister Diana and dad Dr. Celestine
Copyright by Dr John Celes 29-08-'12
For The Late Maurice Callard
Dear friend it has been a long time
since I last spoke to you.
Sadly, I will never get that chance again.
You are gone now,
sitting at God’s side.
While you were here,
you were my tutor,
my surrogate father and my friend.
I remember our first meeting
so very vividly.
You headed up a class of five
and the year was 1976.
For the next 17 years or so,
you became the lifeblood of me.
I remember how you patiently
guided me through each novel that I wrote.
Proclaiming that I got better with each one.
Too bad the publishers never saw it that way.
However, you never let me get discouraged by that.
There is always the next one you would say.
You called me your good luck charm
as every class I attended
always seemed to be a good one.
I made many friends thanks to you.
Just before your health started failing
we got together and gave a night to you.
They asked me to speak about you.
I abandoned the script I had written
and just recollected the happy years that we had.
In a year or so, you were gone
with one wish left behind.
For nearly 14 years,
I carried that wish with me.
Then finally I got a chance to fulfil it
and your last wish came true.
It was paying back only a small measure
of what you had given me.
Of those five students you had in 1976
two have been granted
the success you wished on them.
One became a renown novelist
and the other a poet - me.
Dear friend you may be gone
but you are not forgotten
by me or anyone
who was touched by your generosity.
2 April 2009
Stories Of Hope Series #8 Old Friend
I came across a friend today
It had been so long I didn’t know what to say.
The words seemed to escape my mind
For it had been such a long time.
She asked me about my family
and how life was treating me.
Not wanting to tell her all I had been through
I said: fine! How about you?
She sensed that there was something on my mind
That I did not want to speak about.
She carefully chose her words, and told me
What she was going through
And all the things that she had to do.
She had lost her job, lost her family to divorce
It was the only solution, it was the only course.
She had fallen into a depression
All because of the economic recession
She started to bicker and fight
And blame her husband, which wasn’t right.
I then started to tell her that I was in the same boat as she
And I felt that the world was closing in on me.
I found the bills so hard to meet
And that soon I would be in the street.
I was supposed to be the man, the bread winner.
And I couldn’t even buy a TVs. dinner.
She looked at me and said: I know!
But there was a place to go.
To go to the house of GOD, and you will
Find the strength within, for there is your
Family, and there is your friend.
I went with her to the house of GOD
And as I walked in, I felt a sense of relief
For I had been released of all my anguish and grief.
I walked towards the altar and got down
On my knees to pray.
There was so much to GOD that I had to say.
Why is it that I’m going through all these aches and pains
I have been good, and there is nothing of which I am ashamed.
I am trying to meet my obligations to all the ones I love
But I need your help, so send me an angel from the heavens up above.
I then heard music, and a voice so gently say.
Your angel has been with you, and you met her just today.
I did not understand just what he had meant
The only one I met was just an old friend.
The thought then entered my mind and I looked back to see.
She was an angel which GOD had chosen for me.
to lead me on this path, to his house of prayer
For that is where he wanted me to show that he cared.
I walked out of the church with a new found HOPE
For he had given me strength and showed me how to cope.
HOPE IS THE KEY, IT WILL SET YOU FREE.
Hello Dear Child
Hello dear child
You never mind
When you come to me
Come as fresh and free
Neither have you needed to worry
Nor to feel lonely and sorry
Just pray in a way you like
There is nothing that I may dislike
Why you need flower to offer?
When you are a beautiful flower
You are my special child
To have come in this beautiful world
Just close the eyes and remember
You are nice soul and member
Part of my universe and beautiful flower
Rain god has blessed you with divine shower
Better late than never
Start the day as new beginner
Everything will move on smoothly
Prayers are accepted and go now happily
My Dear Child
Come hither my dear child
It's late - The E'en has fallen
Hark now my dear child
Hie to bed - Thou should'st
Thee forgot thy keys again my dear child
Wait for thou - I must
Methinks that it's getting late my dear child
Perchance - Something has happened to her
Wherefore have thou forgotten thy keys my dear child
I sit here heavy - Awaiting your anon arrival
Wherefore have thou left aroint from me my dear child
I lie here and pray - That thee arrives safely
Doth thou not realise of your keys my dear child
Why art thou - Do this oft to me and leave me heavy
Hark she has arrived my dear child
Mark me - Thou would'st not do this again
Hark now my dear child
Hie to your bed - Aroint in your dreams
Oh Dear Child...
Do not worry dear child
Have faith in what you have left to believe in
You have been deprived from all the goodness in you
Now you lie in nothing but an immortal sin
Your worries no longer exist
All the pain and agony that you’ve once suffered will never take place
Your cries have not been heard
It was the path of pain and sadness you had to chase
Your heart lied in hopelessness
Every hour and day
And now you live in despair
In loneliness and misery that will never be taken away
Your happiness was stolen for no reason at all
Never have you known the meaning of childhood
Never has anyone answered your desperate call
Working all day just to support your family
Was something you knew you had to do
Never have you felt the taste of freedom
You’ve always been someone else other than you
Have you ever asked yourself why?
Why everything turned out wrong?
Have you ever wondered, oh dear child?
Where you truly belong?
Many children out there are being trapped under abuse and war
No one really knows what happens behind these closed doors
If we look deeper into the world
We will discover what we never knew
Now imagine that that poor child was you
How would you feel?
What would you do?
Let's Make This Clear
Let's make this clear,
And get it over with right now.
If I come home one more time,
To find you crying...
And this house is not clean?
You will have much more on your mind,
Than what people are saying about you.
I work too hard to fill your eyes with tears.
Especially when I could dropp a few myself.
And I'll give you one guess as to who has not time,
To do it!
I care about you and what you are going through,
I don't want you to think I don't.
There is something about priorities,
You are going to remember.
Do as I say...
Or suffer the consequences!
WHY do you keep saying the same things to me,
Over and over again.
As if I'm blind! '
There is a lot you need to learn about life...
And what to value.
If I give you something to do,
And you leave that not done...
Your concerns about what people say about you,
Is going to be further and further away from your mind.
AND I'm doing the best I can to avoid that from happening.
What's it going to be?
My house cleaned?
Or a monster you have never seen?
With a sore behind and weeks of punishment delivered.
I have the magic to restore your 'vision'.
And eventually you will toughen up.
I guarantee it.
We're still lovers!
*Ali Baba (Arabic: ع ل ي ب ا ب ا ʿ Ali Bā ba) is a fictional character from medieval Arabic literature. He is described in the adventure tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Some critics believe that this story was added to One Thousand and One Nights by one of its European translators, Antoine Galland, an 18th-century French orientalist who may have heard it in oral form from a Middle Eastern story-teller from Aleppo. However, Richard F. Burton claimed it to be part of the original One Thousand and One Nights. The American Orientalist Duncan Black MacDonald discovered an Arabic-language manuscript of the legend at the Bodleian Library;  however, it was later found to be counterfeited.
This story has been used as a popular pantomime plot such as in the pantomime/musical Chu Chin Chow (1916) . Like many other folk tales frequently adapted for children, the original tale is darker and more violent than the more familiar bowdlerised versions. Popular perception of Ali Baba, and the way he is treated in popular media, sometimes implies that he was the leader of the 'Forty Thieves': in the story he is actually an 'honest man' whom fortune enables to take advantage of the thieves' robberies.
When I cry
And I asked why?
She said; 'You too smiled.'
Then we smiled together.
She sad; 'Hey! Mr.Grigori Rasputin life begins at forty! '
'O Is that true?
Then I am twenty now.
How about a Son? '
And I want to send him to the University of Harvard to make him a kind Doctor to serve the poor people. What's your plan? '
'Really I want to send him to an Underground University to make him an *Ali Baba to snatch the decaying money in big banks for the needy! '
Again we smiled together as we realized that we're old now!
to my friend who's on leave now Paddy Martin!
In a Gondola
I send my heart up to thee, all my heart
In this my singing.
For the stars help me, and the sea bears part;
The very night is clinging
Closer to Venice' streets to leave one space
Above me, whence thy face
May light my joyous heart to thee its dwelling-place.
Say after me, and try to say
My very words, as if each word
Came from you of your own accord,
In your own voice, in your own way:
"This woman's heart and soul and brain
Are mine as much as this gold chain
She bids me wear, which (say again)
I choose to make by cherishing
A precious thing, or choose to fling
Over the boat-side, ring by ring."
And yet once more say . . . no word more!
Since words are only words. Give o'er!
Unless you call me, all the same,
Familiarly by my pet name,
Which if the Three should hear you call,
And me reply to, would proclaim
At once our secret to them all.
Ask of me, too, command me, blame--
Do, break down the partition-wall
'Twixt us, the daylight world beholds
Curtained in dusk and splendid folds!
What's left but--all of me to take?
I am the Three's: prevent them, slake
Your thirst! 'Tis said, the Arab sage,
In practising with gems, can loose
Their subtle spirit in his cruce
And leave but ashes: so, sweet mage,
Leave them my ashes when thy use
Sucks out my soul, thy heritage!
Past we glide, and past, and past!
What's that poor Agnese doing
Where they make the shutters fast?
Grey Zanobi's just a-wooing
To his couch the purchased bride:
Past we glide!
Past we glide, and past, and past!
Why's the Pucci Palace flaring
Like a beacon to the blast?
Guests by hundreds, not one caring
If the dear host's neck were wried:
Past we glide!
The moth's kiss, first!
Kiss me as if you made believe
You were not sure, this eve,
How my face, your flower, had pursed
Its petals up; so, here and there
You brush it, till I grow aware
Who wants me, and wide ope I burst..
The bee's kiss, now!
Kiss me as if you entered gay
My heart at some noonday,
A bud that dares not disallow
The claim, so all is rendered up,
And passively its shattered cup
Over your head to sleep I bow.
What are we two?
I am a Jew,
And carry thee, farther than friends can pursue,
To a feast of our tribe;
Where they need thee to bribe
The devil that blasts them unless he imbibe.
Thy . . . Scatter the vision for ever! And now
As of old, I am I, thou art thou!
Say again, what we are?
The sprite of a star,
I lure thee above where the destinies bar
My plumes their full play
Till a ruddier ray
Than my pale one announce there is withering away
Some . . . Scatter the vision forever! And now,
As of old, I am I, thou art thou!
Oh, which were best, to roam or rest?
The land's lap or the water's breast?
To sleep on yellow millet-sheaves,
Or swim in lucid shallows just
Eluding water-lily leaves,
An inch from Death's black fingers, thrust
To lock you, whom release he must;
Which life were best on Summer eves?
He speaks, musing.
Lie back; could thought of mine improve you?
From this shoulder let there spring
A wing; from this, another wing;
Wings, not legs and feet, shall move you!
Snow-white must they spring, to blend
With your flesh, but I intend
They shall deepen to the end,
Broader, into burning gold,
Till both wings crescent-wise enfold
Your perfect self, from 'neath your feet
To o'er your head, where, lo, they meet
As if a million sword-blades hurled
Defiance from you to the world!
Rescue me thou, the only real!
And scare away this mad ideal
That came, nor motions to depart!
Thanks! Now, stay ever as thou art!
Still he muses.
What if the Three should catch at last
Thy serenader? While there's cast
Paul's cloak about my head, and fast
Gian pinions me, Himself has past
His stylet thro' my back; I reel;
And . . . is it thou I feel?
They trail me, these three godless knaves,
Past every church that saints and saves,
Nor stop till, where the cold sea raves
By Lido's wet accursed graves,
They scoop mine, roll me to its brink,
And . . . on thy breast I sink!
She replies, musing.
Dip your arm o'er the boat-side, elbow-deep,
As I do: thus: were death so unlike sleep,
Caught this way? Death's to fear from flame or steel,
Or poison doubtless; but from water--feel!
Go find the bottom! Would you stay me? There!
Now pluck a great blade of that ribbon-grass
To plait in where the foolish jewel was,
I flung away: since you have praised my hair,
'Tis proper to be choice in what I wear.
Row home? must we row home? Too surely
Know I where its front's demurely
Over the Giudecca piled;
Window just with window mating,
Door on door exactly waiting,
All's the set face of a child:
But behind it, where's a trace
Of the staidness and reserve,
And formal lines without a curve,
In the same child's playing-face?
No two windows look one way
O'er the small sea-water thread
Below them. Ah, the autumn day
I, passing, saw you overhead!
First, out a cloud of curtain blew,
Then a sweet cry, and last came you--
To catch your lory that must needs
Escape just then, of all times then,
To peck a tall plant's fleecy seeds,
And make me happiest of men.
I scarce could breathe to see you reach
So far back o'er the balcony
To catch him ere he climbed too high
Above you in the Smyrna peach
That quick the round smooth cord of gold,
This coiled hair on your head, unrolled,
Fell down you like a gorgeous snake
The Roman girls were wont, of old,
When Rome there was, for coolness' sake
To let lie curling o'er their bosoms.
Dear lory, may his beak retain
Ever its delicate rose stain
As if the wounded lotus-blossoms
Had marked their thief to know again!
Stay longer yet, for others' sake
Than mine! What should your chamber do?
--With all its rarities that ache
In silence while day lasts, but wake
At night-time and their life renew,
Suspended just to pleasure you
Who brought against their will together
These objects, and, while day lasts, weave
Around them such a magic tether
That dumb they look: your harp, believe,
With all the sensitive tight strings
Which dare not speak, now to itself
Breathes slumberously, as if some elf
Went in and out the chords, his wings
Make murmur wheresoe'er they graze,
As an angel may, between the maze
Of midnight palace-pillars, on
And on, to sow God's plagues, have gone
Through guilty glorious Babylon.
And while such murmurs flow, the nymph
Bends o'er the harp-top from her shelI
As the dry limpet for the Iymph
Come with a tune he knows so well.
And how your statues' hearts must swell!
And how your pictures must descend
To see each other, friend with friend!
Oh, could you take them by surprise,
You'd find Schidone's eager Duke
Doing the quaintest courtesies
To that prim saint by Haste-thee-Luke!
And, deeper into her rock den,
Bold Castelfranco's Magdalen
You'd find retreated from the ken
Of that robed counsel-keeping Ser--
As if the Tizian thinks of her,
And is not, rather, gravely bent
On seeing for himself what toys
Are these, his progeny invent,
What litter now the board employs
Whereon he signed a document
That got him murdered! Each enjoys
Its night so well, you cannot break
The sport up, so, indeed must make
More stay with me, for others' sake.
To-morrow, if a harp-string, say,
Is used to tie the jasmine back
That overfloods my room with sweets,
Contrive your Zorzi somehow meets
My Zanze! If the ribbon's black,
The Three are watching: keep away!
Your gondola--let Zorzi wreathe
A mesh of water weeds about
Its prow, as if he unaware
Had struck some quay or bridge-foot stair!
That I may throw a paper out
As you and he go underneath.
There's Zanze's vigilant taper; safe are we.
Only one minute more to-night with me?
Resume your past self of a month ago!
Be you the bashful gallant, I will be
The lady with the colder breast than snow.
Now bow you, as becomes, nor touch my hand
More than I touch yours when I step to land,
And say, "All thanks, Siora!"--
Heart to heart
And lips to lips! Yet once more, ere we part,
Clasp me and make me thine, as mine thou art!
[He is surprised, and stabbed.
It was ordained to be so, sweet!--and best
Comes now, beneath thine eyes, upon thy breast.
Still kiss me! Care not for the cowards! Care
Only to put aside thy beauteous hair
My blood will hurt! The Three, I do not scorn
To death, because they never lived: but I
Have lived indeed, and so--(yet one more kiss)--can die!
I Don't Really Understand, Mama
when you said that Papa is good
and that he loves you and that he loves us all
i really find it hard to understand Mama
why he kicked you with his feet
why he hit you with his fists
why he left us for such a long time
and why he came back always drunk
make me understand Mama, i am too old
to be dumb.
I'll keep a little tavern
Below the high hill's crest,
Wherein all grey-eyed people
May set them down and rest.
There shall be plates a-plenty,
And mugs to melt the chill
Of all the grey-eyed people
Who happen up the hill.
There sound will sleep the traveller,
And dream his journey's end,
But I will rouse at midnight
The falling fire to tend.
Aye, 'tis a curious fancy—
But all the good I know
Was taught me out of two grey eyes
A long time ago.
Sons of Vulcan for Colin
The Smith strikes sparks with every blow.
He is a master of his trade
The inert metal seems to grow,
by magic it becomes a blade.
If myths and legends do not lie
I see no reason why they should.
Smiths are adept at wizardry
but use their magic lore for good,
Vulcan: Blacksmith to the Gods
passed on to smiths his secret lore.
Which has survived against the odds?
The smiths still use their magic for
creating artefacts by hand.
Their artistry still in demand.
Let Us Have Madness
Let us have madness openly.
O men Of my generation.
Let us follow
The footsteps of this slaughtered age:
See it trail across Time's dim land
Into the closed house of eternity
With the noise that dying has,
With the face that dead things wear--
nor ever say
We wanted more; we looked to find
An open door, an utter deed of love,
Transforming day's evil darkness;
but We found extended hell and fog Upon the earth,
and within the head
A rotting bog of lean huge graves.