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THE ODYSSEY
Book I. Homer's second great epic covers a period of forty-two days. After the opening invocation he proceeds to relate the adventures of Ulysses. Nearly ten years have elapsed since the taking of Troy, when the gods looking down from Olympus behold him—sole survivor of his troop—stranded on the Island of Calypso. After some mention of the fate of the other Greeks, Jupiter decrees that Ulysses shall return to Ithaca, where many suitors are besieging his wife Penelope. In obedience with this decree, Pallas (Minerva) dons golden sandals—which permit her to flit with equal ease over land and sea—and visits Ithaca, where Ulysses' son, Telemachus, mournfully views the squandering of his father's wealth. Here she is hospitably received, and, after some conversation, urges Telemachus to visit the courts of Nestor and Menelaus to inquire of these kings whether his father is dead.

Telemachus has just promised to carry out this suggestion, when the suitors' bard begins the recital of the woes which have befallen the various Greek chiefs on their return from Troy. These sad strains attract Penelope, who passionately beseeches the bard not to enhance her sorrows by his songs!

Assuming a tone of authority for the first time, Telemachus bids his mother retire and pray, then, addressing the suitors, vows that unless they depart he will call down upon them the vengeance of the gods. These words are resented by these men, who continue their revelry until the night, when Telemachus retires, to dream of his projected journey.

Book II. With dawn, Telemachus rises and betakes himself to the market-place, where in public council he complains of the suitors' depredations, and announces he is about to depart in quest of his sire. In reply to his denunciations the suitors accuse Penelope of deluding them, instancing how she promised to choose a husband as soon as she had finished weaving a winding sheet for her father-in-law Laertes. But, instead of completing this task as soon as possible, she ravelled by night the work done during the day, until the suitors discovered the trick.

  "The work she plied; but, studious of delay,
  By night reversed the labors of the day.
  While thrice the sun his annual journey made,
  The conscious lamp the midnight fraud survey'd;
  Unheard, unseen, three years her arts prevail:
  The fourth, her maid unfolds the amazing tale.
  We saw as unperceived we took our stand,
  The backward labors of her faithless hand"[3]

They now suggest that Telemachus send Penelope back to her father, but the youth indignantly refuses, and the council closes while he prays for vengeance. That he has not been unheard is proved by the appearance of two eagles, which peck out the eyes of some of the spectators. This is interpreted by an old man as an omen of Ulysses' speedy return, and he admonishes all present to prove faithful, lest they incur a master's wrath.

The assembly having dispersed, Telemachus hastens down to the shore, where Minerva visits him in the guise of his tutor Mentor, and instructs him to arrange for secret departure. Telemachus, therefore, returns to the palace, where the suitors are preparing a new feast. Refusing to join their revels, he seeks his old nurse Eurycleia, to whom he entrusts the provisioning of his vessel, bidding her if possible conceal his departure from Penelope for twelve days. Meantime, in the guise of Telemachus, Minerva scours the town to secure skilful oarsmen, and at sunset has a vessel ready to sail. Then, returning to the palace, she enchains the senses of the suitors in such deep slumber that Telemachus effects his, departure unseen, and embarking with Mentor sets sail, his vessel speeding smoothly over the waves all night.

Book III. At sunrise Telemachus reaches Pylos and finds Nestor and his friends offering a sacrifice on the shore. Joining the feasters,—who gather by fifties around tables groaning beneath the weight of nine oxen apiece,—Telemachus makes known his name and errand. In return, Nestor mentions the deaths of Patroclus and Achilles, the taking of Troy, and the Greeks' departure from its shores. He adds that, the gods having decreed they should not reach home without sore trials, half the army lingered behind with Agamemnon to offer propitiatory sacrifices, while the rest sailed on. Among these were Nestor and Ulysses, but, while the former pressed on and reached home, the latter, turning back to pacify the gods, was seen no more! Since his return, Nestor has been saddened by the death of Agamemnon, slain on his arrival at Mycenae by his faithless wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegistheus. His brother, Menelaus, more fortunate, has recently reached home, having been long delayed in Egypt by contrary winds.

While Nestor recounts these tales, day declines, so he invites Telemachus to his palace for the night, promising to send him on the morrow to Sparta, where he can question Menelaus himself. Although Mentor urges Telemachus to accept this invitation, he declares he must return to the ship, and vanishes in the shape of a bird, thus revealing to all present his divine origin. A sumptuous meal in the palace ensues, and the guest, after a good night, participates at break of day in a solemn sacrifice.

Book IV. Riding in a chariot skilfully guided by one of Nestor's sons, Telemachus next speeds on to Sparta, where he finds Menelaus celebrating the marriages of a daughter and son. On learning that strangers have arrived, Menelaus orders every attention shown them, and only after they have been refreshed by food and drink, inquires their errand. He states that he himself reached home only after wandering seven years, and adds that he often yearns to know what has become of Ulysses. At this name Telemachus' tears flow, and Helen, who has just appeared, is struck by his resemblance to his father. When Telemachus admits his identity, Menelaus and Helen mingle their tears with his, for the memory of the past overwhelms them with sorrow. Then to restore a more cheerful atmosphere, Helen casts "nepenthe" into the wine, thanks to which beneficent drug all soon forget their woes. She next relates how Ulysses once entered Troy in the guise of a beggar, and how she alone recognized him in spite of his disguise. This reminds Menelaus of the time when Ulysses restrained him and the other Greeks in the wooden horse, and when Helen marched around it mimicking the voices of their wives!

Soothed by "nepenthe," all retire to rest, and when morning dawns Telemachus inquires whether Menelaus knows aught of his father. All the information Menelaus vouchsafes is that when he surprised Proteus, counting sea-calves on the island of Pharos, he was told he would reach home only after making due sacrifices in Egypt to appease the gods, that his brother had been murdered on arriving at Mycenae, and that Ulysses—sole survivor of his crew—was detained by Calypso in an island, whence he had no means of escape. The sea-god had further promised that Menelaus should never die, stating that, as husband of Helen and son-in-law of Jupiter, he would enjoy everlasting bliss in the Elysian Fields. Then, after describing the sacrifices which insured his return to Sparta, Menelaus invites Telemachus to tarry with him, although the youth insists he must return home.

Meantime the suitors in Ulysses' palace entertain themselves with games, in the midst of which they learn that Telemachus has gone. Realizing that if he were dead Penelope's fortunate suitor would become possessor of all Ulysses' wealth, they decide to man a vessel to guard the port and slay Telemachus on his return. This plot is overheard by a servant, who hastens to report it to Penelope. On learning her son has ventured out to sea, she wrings her hands, and reviles the nurse who abetted his departure until this wise woman advises her rather to pray for her son's safe return! While Penelope is offering propitiatory sacrifices, the suitors despatch a vessel in Antinous' charge to lie in wait for the youth. But, during the sleep which overcomes Penelope after her prayers, she is favored by a vision, in which her sister assures her Telemachus will soon be restored to her arms, although she refuses to give her any information in regard to Ulysses.

Book V. Aurora has barely announced the return of day to gods and men, when Jupiter assembles his council on Mount Olympus. There Minerva rehearses Ulysses' grievances, demanding that he be at last allowed to return home and his son saved from the suitors' ambush. In reply Jupiter sends Mercury to bid Calypso provide her unwilling guest with the means to leave her shores. Donning his golden sandals, the messenger-god flits to the Island of Ogygia, enters Calypso's wonderful cave, and delivers his message. Although reluctant to let Ulysses depart, Calypso—not daring oppose the will of Jupiter—goes in quest of her guest. Finding him gazing tearfully in the direction of home, she promises to supply him with the means to build a raft which, thanks to the gods, will enable him to reach Ithaca.

After a copious repast and a night's rest, Ulysses fells twenty trees and constructs a raft, in which, after it has been provisioned by Calypso, he sets sail. For seventeen days the stars serve as his guides, and he is nearing the island of Phaeacia, when Neptune becomes aware that his hated foe is about to escape. One stroke of the sea-god's mighty trident then stirs up a tempest which dashes the raft to pieces, and Ulysses is in imminent danger of perishing, when the sea-nymph Leucothea gives him her life-preserving scarf, bidding him cast it back into the waves when it has borne him safely to land! Buoyed up by this scarf, Ulysses finally reaches the shore, where, after obeying the nymph's injunctions, he buries himself in dead leaves and sinks into an exhausted sleep.

  Close to the cliff with both his hands he clung,
  And stuck adherent, and suspended hung;
  Till the huge surge roll'd off; then backward sweep
  The refluent tides, and plunge him in the deep.
  And when the polypus, from forth his cave
  Torn with full force, reluctant beats the wave,
  His ragged claws are stuck with stones and sands;
  So the rough rock had shagg'd Ulysses' hands.
  And now had perish'd, whelm'd beneath the main,
  The unhappy man; e'en fate had been in vain;
  But all-subduing Pallas lent her power,
  And prudence saved him in the needful hour.

Book VI. While Ulysses is thus sleeping, Minerva, in a dream admonishes Nausicaa, daughter of the Phaeacian king, to wash her garments in readiness for her wedding. On awakening, the princess, after bespeaking a chariot with mules to draw the clothes to the washing place, departs with her maids for the shore.

The clothes washed and hung out to dry, the princess and her attendants play ball, until their loud shrieks awaken Ulysses. Veiling his nakedness behind leafy branches, he timidly approaches the maidens, and addresses them from afar. Convinced he is, as he represents, a shipwrecked man in need of aid, the princess provides him with garments, and directs him to follow her chariot to the confines of the city. There he is to wait until she has reached home before presenting himself before her parents, as she does not wish his presence with her to cause gossip in town.

Book VII. Having left Ulysses behind her, Nausicaa returns home, where her chariot is unloaded; but shortly after she has retired, Ulysses, guided by Minerva in disguise, enters the town and palace unseen. It is only when, obeying Nausicaa's instructions, he seeks her mother's presence and beseeches her aid, that he becomes visible to all. King and queen gladly promise their protection to the suppliant, who, while partaking of food, describes himself as a shipwrecked mariner and asks to be sent home. After he has refreshed himself, the queen, who has recognized the clothes he wears, learning how he obtained them, delights in her daughter's charity and prudence. Then she and her husband promise the wanderer their protection before retiring to rest.

Book VIII. At daybreak the king conducts his guest to the public square, where Minerva has summoned all the inhabitants. To this assembly Alcinous makes known that a nameless stranger bespeaks their aid, and proposes that after a banquet, where blind Demodocus will entertain them with his songs, they load the suppliant with gifts and send him home.

The projected festive meal is well under way when the bard begins singing of a quarrel between Ulysses and Achilles, strains which so vividly recall happier days that Ulysses, drawing his cloak over his head, gives way to tears. Noting this emotion, Alcinous checks the bard and proposes games. After displaying their skill in racing, wrestling, discus-throwing, etc., the contestants mockingly challenge Ulysses to give an exhibition of his proficiency in games of strength and skill. Stung by their covert taunts, the stranger casts the discus far beyond their best mark, and avers that although out of practice he is not afraid to match them in feats of strength, admitting, however, that he cannot compete with them in fleetness of foot or in the dance. His prowess in one line and frank confession of inferiority in another disarm further criticism, and the young men dance until the bard begins singing of Vulcan's stratagem to punish a faithless spouse.[4]

All the Phaeacians now present gifts to the stranger, who finds himself rich indeed, but who assures Nausicaa he will never forget she was the first to lend him aid. Toward the close of the festivities the blind bard sings of the wooden horse devised by Ulysses and abandoned on the shore by the retreating Greeks. Then he describes its triumphant entry into Troy, where for the first time in ten years all sleep soundly without dread of a surprise. But, while the too confident Trojans are thus resting peacefully upon their laurels, the Greeks, emerging from this wooden horse, open the gates to their comrades, and the sack of Troy begins! Because the stranger guest again shows great emotion, Alcinous begs him to relate his adventures and asks whether he has lost some relative in the war of Troy?

  Touch'd at the song, Ulysses straight resign'd
  To soft affliction all his manly mind:
  Before his eyes the purple vest he drew,
  Industrious to conceal the falling dew:
  But when the music paused, he ceased to shed
  The flowing tear, and raised his drooping head:
  And, lifting to the gods a goblet crown'd,
  He pour'd a pure libation to the ground.

Book IX. Thus invited to speak, Ulysses, after introducing himself and describing his island home, relates how, the ruin of Troy completed, he and his men left the Trojan shores. Driven by winds to Ismarus, they sacked the town, but, instead of sailing off immediately with their booty as Ulysses urged, tarried there until surprised by their foes, from whom they were glad to escape with their lives! Tossed by a tempest for many days, the Greek ships next neared the land of the Lotus-Eaters, people who feasted upon the buds and blossoms of a narcotic lotus. Sending three men ashore to reconnoitre, Ulysses vainly awaited their return; finally, mistrusting what had happened, he went in quest of them himself, only to find that having partaken of the lotus they were dead to the calls of home and ambition. Seizing these men, Ulysses conveyed them bound to his ship, and, without allowing the rest to land, sailed hastily away from those pernicious shores.

Before long he came to the land of the Cyclops, and disembarked on a small neighboring island to renew his stock of food and water. Then, unwilling to depart without having at least visited the Cyclops, he took twelve of his bravest men, a skin-bottle full of delicious wine, and set out to find Polyphemus, chief of the Cyclops. On entering the huge cave where this giant pursued his avocation of dairyman, Ulysses and his companions built a fire, around which they sat awaiting their host's return. Before long a huge one-eyed monster drove in his flocks, and, after closing the opening of his cave with a rock which no one else could move, proceeded to milk his ewes and make cheese.

It was only while at supper that he noticed Ulysses and his men, who humbly approached him as suppliants. After shrewdly questioning them to ascertain whether they were alone, believing Ulysses' tale that they were shipwrecked men, he seized and devoured two of them before he lay down to rest. Although sorely tempted to slay him while he was thus at their mercy, Ulysses refrained, knowing he and his companions would never be able to move the rock.

At dawn the giant again milked his flock, and devoured—as a relish for his breakfast—two more Greeks. Then he easily rolled aside the rock, which he replaced when he and his flock had gone out for the day, thus imprisoning Ulysses and his eight surviving men. During that long day Ulysses sharpened to a point a young pine, and, after hardening this weapon in the fire, secured by lot the helpers he needed to execute his plan. That evening Polyphemus, having finished his chores and cannibal repast, graciously accepted the wine which Ulysses offered him. Pleased with its taste, he even promised the giver a reward if he would only state his name. The wily Ulysses declaring he was called Noman, the giant facetiously promised to eat him last, before he fell into a drunken sleep. Then Ulysses and his four men, heating the pointed pine, bored out the eye of Polyphemus, who howled with pain:

  "Sudden I stir the embers, and inspire
  With animating breath the seeds of fire;
  Each drooping spirit with bold words repair,
  And urge my train the dreadful deed to dare.
  The stake now glow'd beneath the burning bed
  (Green as it was) and sparkled fiery red.
  Then forth the vengeful instrument I bring;
  With beating hearts my fellows form a ring.
  Urged by some present god, they swift let fall
  The pointed torment on his visual ball.
  Myself above them from a rising ground
  Guide the sharp stake, and twirl it round and round.
  As when a shipwright stands his workmen o'er,
  Who ply the wimble, some huge beam to bore;
  Urged on all hands it nimbly spins about,
  The grain deep-piercing till it scoops it out;
  In his broad eye so whirls the fiery wood;
  From the pierced pupil spouts the boiling blood;
  Singed are his brows; the scorching lids grow black;
  The jelly bubbles, and the fibres crack."

His fellow-Cyclops, awakened by his cries, gathered without his cave, asking what was the matter. But, hearing him vehemently howl that Noman was hurting him, they all declared he was evidently being punished by the gods and left him to his plight!

When morning came, the groaning Cyclops rolled aside the rock, standing beside it with arms outstretched to catch his prisoners should they attempt to escape. Seeing this, Ulysses tied his men under the sheep, and, clinging to the fleece of the biggest ram, had himself dragged out of the cave. Passing his hand over the backs of the sheep to make sure the strangers were not riding on them, Polyphemus recognized by touch his favorite ram, and feelingly ascribed its slow pace to sympathy with his woes.

  The master ram at last approach'd the gate,
  Charged with his wool and with Ulysses' fate.
  Him, while he pass'd, the monster blind bespoke:
  "What makes my ram the lag of all the flock?
  First thou wert wont to crop the flowery mead,
  First to the field and river's bank to lead,
  And first with stately step at evening hour
  Thy fleecy fellows usher to their bower.
  Now far the last, with pensive pace and slow
  Thou movest, as conscious of thy master's woe!
  Seest thou these lids that now unfold in vain,
  (The deed of Noman and his wicked train?)
  Oh! didst thou feel for thy afflicted lord,
  And would but fate the power of speech afford;
  Soon might'st thou tell me where in secret here
  The dastard lurks, all trembling with his fear:
  Swung round and round and dash'd from rock to rock,
  His batter'd brains should on the pavement smoke.
  No ease, no pleasure my sad heart receives,
  While such a monster as vile Noman lives."

Once out of the cave, Ulysses cut the bonds of his men, with whose aid he drove part of Polyphemus' flock on board of his ship, which he had hidden in a cove. He and his companions were scudding safely past the headland where blind Polyphemus idly sat, when Ulysses tauntingly raised his voice to make known his escape and real name. With a cry of rage, the giant flung huge masses of rock in the direction of his voice, hotly vowing his father Neptune would yet avenge his wrongs!

Book X. After leaving the island of the Cyclops, Ulysses visited Aeolus, king of the winds, and was hospitably entertained in his cave. In token of friendship and to enable Ulysses to reach home quickly, Aeolus bottled up all the contrary winds, letting loose only those which would speed him on his way. On leaving Aeolus, Ulysses so carefully guarded the skin bottle containing the adverse gales that his men fancied it must contain jewels of great price. For nine days and nights Ulysses guided the rudder, and only when the shores of Ithaca came in sight closed his eyes in sleep. This moment was seized by his crew to open the bottle, whence the captive winds escaped with a roar, stirring up a hurricane which finally drove them back to Aeolus' isle.

  "They said: and (oh cursed fate!) the thongs unbound!
  The gushing tempest sweeps the ocean round;
  Snatch'd in the whirl, the hurried navy flew,
  The ocean widen'd and the shores withdrew.
  Roused from my fatal sleep, I long debate
  If still to live, or desperate plunge to fate;
  Thus doubting, prostrate on the deck I lay,
  Till all the coward thoughts of death gave way."

On seeing them return with tattered sails, Aeolus averred they had incurred the wrath of some god and therefore drove them away from his realm. Toiling at the oar, they reached, after seven days, the harbor of the Laestrigonians, cannibal giants, from whose clutches only a few ships escaped. Sorrowing for their lost friends, the Greeks next landed in the island of Circe, where Ulysses remained with half his men by the ships, while the rest set out to renew their supplies. This party soon discovered the abode of the enchantress Circe, who, aware of their approach, had prepared a banquet and a magic drug. Enticed by her sweet voice, all the men save one sat down to her banquet, and ate so greedily that the enchantress, contemptuously waving her wand over them, bade them assume the forms of the animals they most resembled! A moment later a herd of grunting pigs surrounded her, pigs which, however, retained a distressing consciousness of their former human estate.

  Milk newly press'd, the sacred flour of wheat,
  And honey fresh, and Pramnian wines the treat:
  But venom'd was the bread, and mix'd the bowl,
  With drugs of force to darken all the soul:
  Soon in the luscious feast themselves they lost,
  And drank oblivion of their native coast.
  Instant her circling wand the goddess waves,
  To hogs transforms them, and the sty receives.
  No more was seen the human form divine;
  Head, face, and members, bristle into swine:
  Still cursed with sense, their minds remain alone,
  And their own voice affrights them when they groan.

This dire transformation was viewed with horror by the man lurking outside, who fled back to the ships, imploring Ulysses to depart. Unwilling to desert his men, Ulysses on the contrary set out for Circe's dwelling, meeting on the way thither Mercury in disguise, who gave him an herb to annul the effect of Circe's drugs and directed him how to free his companions.

Following these instructions, Ulysses entered Circe's abode, partook of the refreshments offered him, and, when she waved her wand over him, threatened to kill her unless she restored his men to their wonted forms! The terrified Circe not only complied, but detained Ulysses and his companions with her a full year. As at the end of that time the men pleaded to return home, Ulysses told his hostess he must leave. Then she informed him he must first visit the Cimmerian shore and consult the shade of the blind seer Tiresias. The prospect of such a journey greatly alarmed Ulysses, but when Circe had told him just how to proceed, he bravely set out.

Wafted by favorable winds, Ulysses' ship soon reached the country of eternal night. On landing there he dug a trench, and slew the black victims Circe had given him, and with drawn sword awaited the approach of a host of shades, among whom he recognized a man killed by accident on Circe's island, who begged for proper funeral rites. By Circe's order, Ulysses, after allowing the ghost of Tiresias to partake of the victim's blood, learned from him that, although pursued by Neptune's vengeance, he and his men would reach home safely, provided they respected the cattle of the Sun on the island of Trinacria. The seer added that all who attacked them would perish, and that, even if he should escape death and return home, he would have to slay his wife's insolent suitors before he could rest in peace.

After this had been accomplished, Ulysses was to resume his wanderings until he came to a land where the oar he carried would be mistaken for a winnowing fan. There he was to offer a propitiatory sacrifice to Neptune, after which he would live to serene old age and die peacefully among his own people. His conversation with Tiresias finished, Ulysses interviewed his mother—of whose demise he had not been aware—and conversed with the shades of sundry women noted for having borne sons to gods or to famous heroes.

Book XI. This account had been heard with breathless interest by the Phaeacians, whose king now implored Ulysses to go on. The hero then described his interview with the ghost of Agamemnon,—slain by his wife and her paramour on his return from Troy,—who predicted his safe return home, and begged for tidings of his son Orestes, of whom Ulysses knew nought. Ulysses next beheld Achilles, who, although ruler of the dead, bitterly declared he would rather be the meanest laborer on earth than monarch among shades!

  "Talk not of ruling in this dolorous gloom,
  Nor think vain words (he cried) can ease my doom.
  Rather I'd choose laboriously to bear
  A weight of woes and breathe the vital air,
  A slave to some poor hind that toils for bread,
  Than reign the sceptered monarch of the dead."

To comfort him, Ulysses described how bravely his son had fought at the taking of Troy, where he had been one of the men in the wooden horse. The only shade which refused to approach Ulysses was that of Ajax, who still resented his having won the armor of Achilles. Besides these shades, Ulysses beheld the judges of Hades and the famous culprits of Tartarus. But, terrified by the "innumerable nation of the dead" crowding around him, he finally fled in haste to his vessel, and was soon wafted back to Circe's shore.

Book XII. There Ulysses buried his dead companion and, after describing his visit to Hades, begged his hostess' permission to depart. Circe consented, warning him to beware of the Sirens, of the threatening rocks, of the monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis on either side of the Messenian Strait, and of the cattle of Trinacria, giving him minute directions how to escape unharmed from all these perils.

Morning having come, Ulysses took leave of Circe, and, on nearing the reef of the Sirens, directed his men to bind him fast to the mast, paying no heed to his gestures, after he had stopped their ears with soft wax. In this way he heard, without perishing, the Sirens' wonderful song, and it was only when it had died away in the distance and the spell ceased that his men unbound him from the mast.

  "Thus the sweet charmers warbled o'er the main;
  My soul takes wing to meet the heavenly strain;
  I give the sign, and struggle to be free:
  Swift row my mates, and shoot along the sea;
  New chains they add, and rapid urge the way,
  Till, dying off, the distant sounds decay:
  Then scudding swiftly from the dangerous ground,
  The deafen'd ears unlock'd, the chains unbound."

Not daring describe to his companions the threatened horrors of Charybdis and Scylla, Ulysses bade his steersman avoid the whirlpool, and, fully armed, prepared to brave the monster Scylla. But, notwithstanding his preparations, she snatched from his galley six men who were seen no more! Although reluctant to land on Trinacria for fear his sailors would steal the cattle of the Sun, Ulysses was constrained to do so to allow them to rest. While they were there, unfavorable winds began to blow, and continued so long that the Greeks consumed all their provisions, and, in spite of their efforts to supply their larder by hunting and fishing, began to suffer from hunger. During one of Ulysses' brief absences the men, breaking their promises, slew some of the beeves of the Sun, which although slain moved and lowed as if still alive! Undeterred by such miracles, the men feasted, but, on embarking six days later, they were overtaken by a tempest in which all perished save Ulysses. Clinging to the mast of his wrecked ship, he drifted between Charybdis and Scylla, escaping from the whirlpool only by clinging to the branches at an overhanging fig-tree. Then, tossed by the waves for nine days longer, Ulysses was finally cast on the isle of Ogygia, whence he had come directly to Phaeacia as already described.

Book XIII. Having finished this account of his ten years' wanderings, Ulysses, after banqueting with Alcinous, was conveyed with his gifts to the ship which was to take him home. Then, while he slept in the prow, the skilful Phaeacian rowers entered a sheltered Ithacan bay, where they set sleeper and gifts ashore and departed without awaiting thanks. They were about to re-enter their own port when Neptune, discovering they had taken his enemy home, struck their vessel with his trident, thus transforming it into the galley-shaped rock still seen there to-day.

Meantime Ulysses, awakening, hid his treasures away in a cave. Then, accosted by Minerva in disguise, he gave a fantastic account of himself, to which she lent an amused ear, before assuring him of her identity and of his wife's fidelity. She then reported the insolence of the suitors lying in wait to murder Telemachus at his return, and suggested that Ulysses, in the guise of an aged beggar, should visit his faithful swineherd until time to make his presence known.

Book XIV. Transformed by Minerva into a sordid mendicant, Ulysses next visits the swineherd, who sets before him the best he has, complaining that the greedy suitors deplete his herds. This old servant is comforted when the beggar assures him his master will soon return and reports having seen him lately. Ulysses' fictitious account of himself serves as entertainment until the hour for rest, when the charitable swineherd covers his guest with his best cloak.

Book XV. Meantime Minerva, hastening to Sparta, awakens in the heart of the sleeping Telemachus a keen desire to return home, warns him of the suitors' ambush, instructs him how to avoid it, and cautions him on his return to trust none save the women on whose fidelity he can depend. At dawn, therefore, Telemachus, after offering a sacrifice and receiving Menelaus' and Helen's parting gifts, sets out, cheered by favorable omens. Without pausing to visit Nestor,—whose son is to convey his thanks,—Telemachus embarks, and, following Minerva's instructions, lands near the swineherd's hut.

Book XVI. The swineherd is preparing breakfast, when Ulysses warns him a friend is coming, for his dogs fawn upon the stranger and do not bark. A moment later Telemachus enters the hut, and is warmly welcomed by his servant, who wishes him to occupy the place of honor at his table. But Telemachus modestly declines it in favor of the aged stranger, to whom he promises clothes and protection as soon as he is master in his own house. Then he bids the swineherd notify his mother of his safe arrival, directing her to send word to Laertes of his return. This man has no sooner gone than Minerva restores Ulysses to more than his wonted vigor and good looks, bidding him make himself known to his son and concert with him how to dispose of the suitors. Amazed to see the beggar transformed into an imposing warrior, Telemachus is overjoyed to learn who he really is. The first transports of joy over, Ulysses advises his son to return home, lull the suitors' suspicions by specious words, and, after removing all weapons from the banquet hall, await the arrival of his father who will appear in mendicant's guise.

While father and son are thus laying their plans, Telemachus' vessel reaches port, where the suitors mourn the escape of their victim. They dare not, however, attack Telemachus openly, for fear of forfeiting Penelope's regard, and assure her they intend to befriend him. Meantime, having delivered his message to his mistress, the swineherd returns to his hut, where he spends the evening with Telemachus and the beggar, little suspecting the latter is his master.

Book XVII. At daybreak Telemachus hastens back to the palace, whither the swineherd is to guide the stranger later in the day, and is rapturously embraced by his mother. After a brief interview, Telemachus sends her back to her apartment to efface the trace of her tears, adding that he is on his way to the market-place to meet a travelling companion whom he wishes to entertain. After welcoming this man with due hospitality, Telemachus gives his mother an account of his trip. While he is thus occupied, Ulysses is wending his way to the palace, where he arrives just as the suitors' wonted revels reach their height. But as he enters the court-yard, his favorite hunting dog expires for joy on recognizing him.

  He knew his lord;—he knew, and strove to meet;
  In vain he strove to crawl and kiss his feet;
  Yet (all he could) his tail, his ears, his eyes,
  Salute his master and confess his joys.
  Soft pity touch'd the mighty master's soul:
  Adown his cheek a tear unbidden stole;
  Stole unperceived: he turn'd his head, and dried
  The drop humane.

Humbly making the rounds of the tables like the beggar he seems, Ulysses is treated kindly by Telemachus, but grossly insulted by the suitors, one of whom, Antinous, actually flings a stool at him. Such a violation of the rights of hospitality causes some commotion in the palace, and so rouses the indignation of Penelope that she expresses a wish to converse with the beggar, who may have heard of her absent spouse.

Book XVIII. Meantime Ulysses has also come into conflict with the town-beggar (Irus), a lusty youth, who challenges him to fight. To his dismay, Ulysses displays such a set of muscles on laying aside his robe that the insolent challenger wishes to withdraw. He is, however, compelled by the suitors to fight, and is thoroughly beaten by Ulysses, whose strength arouses the suitors' admiration. Then, in reply to their questions, Ulysses favors them with another of those tales which do far more honor to his imagination than to his veracity.

Meantime Penelope indulges in a nap, during which Minerva restores all her youthful charms. Then she descends into the hall, to chide Telemachus for allowing a stranger to be insulted beneath his father's roof. She next remarks that she foresees she will soon have to choose a husband among the suitors present, as it is only too evident Ulysses is dead, and, under pretext of testing their generosity, induces them all to bestow upon her gifts, which she thriftily adds to her stores. Beside themselves with joy at the prospect that their long wooing will soon be over, the suitors sing and dance, until Telemachus advises them to return home.

Book XIX. The suitors having gone, Ulysses helps Telemachus remove all the weapons, while the faithful nurse mounts guard over the palace women. Secretly helped by Minerva, father and son accomplish their task, and are sitting before the fire when Penelope comes to ask the beggar to relate when and how he met Ulysses. This time the stranger gives so accurate a description of Ulysses, that Penelope, wishing to show him some kindness, summons the old nurse to bathe his feet. Because she herself dozes while this homely task is being performed, she is not aware that the old nurse recognizes her master by a scar on his leg, and is cautioned by him not to make his presence known.

  Deep o'er his knee inseam'd, remain'd the scar:
  Which noted token of the woodland war
  When Euryclea found, the ablution ceased;
  Down dropp'd the leg, from her slack hand released:
  The mingled fluids from the base redound;
  The vase reclining floats the floor around!
  Smiles dew'd with tears the pleasing strife express'd
  Of grief, and joy, alternate in her breast.
  Her fluttering words in melting murmurs died;
  At length abrupt—"My son!—my king!" she cried.

Her nap ended, Penelope resumes her conversation with the beggar, telling him she has been favored by a dream portending the death of the suitors. Still, she realizes there are two kinds of dreams,—those that come true issuing from Somnus' palace by the gate of horn, while deceptive dreams pass through an ivory gate. After providing for the beggar's comfort, Penelope retires, and as usual spends most of the night mourning for her absent partner.

Book XX. Sleeping beneath the portico on the skins of the animals slain to feast the horde of suitors, Ulysses sees the maids slip out of the palace to join the suitors, who have wooed them surreptitiously. Then he falls asleep and is visited by Minerva, who infuses new strength and courage in his veins. At dawn Ulysses is awakened by Telemachus, and soon after the house is once more invaded by the suitors, who with their own hands slay the animals provided for their food. Once more they display their malevolence by ill treating the beggar, and taunt Telemachus, who apparently pays no heed to their words.

Book XXI. Meantime Minerva has prompted Penelope to propose to the suitors to string Ulysses' bow and shoot an arrow through twelve rings. Armed with this weapon, and followed by handmaids bearing bow, string, and arrows, Penelope appears in the banquet-hall, where the suitors eagerly accept her challenge. But, after Antinous has vainly striven to bend the bow, the others warily try sundry devices to ensure its pliancy.

Meantime, noticing that the swineherd and one of his companions—upon whose fidelity he counts—have left the hall, Ulysses follows them, makes himself known by means of his scar, and directs them what to do. Then, returning into the hall, he silently watches the suitors' efforts to bend the bow, and, when the last has tried and failed, volunteers to make the attempt, thereby rousing general ridicule. All gibes are silenced, however, when the beggar not only spans the bow, but sends his first arrow through the twelve rings. At the same time the faithful servants secure the doors of the apartment, and Telemachus, darting to his father's side, announces he is ready to take part in the fray.

Book XXII.

  Then fierce the hero o'er the threshold strode;
  Stript of his rags, he blazed out like a god.
  Full in their face the lifted bow he bore,
  And quiver'd deaths, a formidable store;
  Before his feet the rattling shower he threw,
  And thus, terrific, to the suitor-crew:
  "One venturous game this hand hath won to-day;
  Another, princes! yet remains to play:
  Another mark our arrow must attain.
  Phoebus, assist! nor be the labor vain."
  Swift as the word the parting arrow sings;
  And bears thy fate, Antinous, on its wings.
  Wretch that he was, of unprophetic soul!
  High in his hands he rear'd the golden bowl:
  E'en then to drain it lengthen'd out his breath;
  Changed to the deep, the bitter draught of death!
  For fate who fear'd amidst a feastful band?
  And fate to numbers, by a single hand?
  Full through his throat Ulysses' weapon pass'd,
  And pierced his neck. He falls, and breathes his last.

Grimly announcing his second arrow will reach a different goal by Apollo's aid, Ulysses shoots the insolent Antinous through the heart and then begins to taunt and threaten the other suitors. Gazing wildly around them for weapons or means of escape, these men discover how cleverly they have been trapped. One after another now falls beneath the arrows of Ulysses, who bids his son hasten to the storeroom and procure arms for them both as there are not arrows enough to dispose of his foes. Through Telemachus' heedlessness in leaving the doors open, the suitors contrive to secure weapons too, and the fight in the hall rages until they all have been slain. Then the doors are thrown open, and the faithless maids are compelled to remove the corpses and purify the room, before they are hanged!

Book XXIII. The old nurse has meantime had the privilege of announcing Ulysses' safe return to his faithful retainers, and last of all to the sleeping Penelope. Unable to credit such tidings,—although the nurse assures her she has seen his scar,—Penelope imagines the suitors must have been slain by some god who has come to her rescue. She decides, therefore, to go down and congratulate her son upon being rid of those who preyed upon his wealth. Seeing she does not immediately fall upon his father's neck, Telemachus hotly reproaches her, but she rejoins she must have some proof of the stranger's identity and is evidently repelled by his unprepossessing appearance. Hearing this, Ulysses suggests that all present purify themselves, don fresh garments, and partake of a feast, enlivened by the songs of their bard. While he is attended by the old nurse, Minerva sheds upon him such grace that, when he reappears, looking like a god, he dares reproach Penelope for not recognizing him. Then, hearing her order that his bed be removed to the portico, he hotly demands who cut down the tree which formed one of its posts? Because this fact is known only to Penelope and to the builder of the bed, she now falls upon Ulysses' neck, begging his pardon. Their joy at being united is marred only by Ulysses' determination soon to resume his travels, and pursue them until Tiresias' prediction has been fulfilled. That night is spent in mutual confidences in regard to all that has occurred during their twenty years' separation, and when morning dawns Ulysses and his son go to visit Laertes.

Book XXIV. Mindful of his office as conductor of souls to Hades, Mercury has meanwhile entered the palace of Ulysses, and, waving his wand, has summoned the spirits of the suitors, who, uttering plaintive cries, follow him down to the infernal regions.

  Cyllenius now to Pluto's dreary reign
  Conveys the dead, a lamentable train!
  The golden wand, that causes sleep to fly,
  Or in soft slumber seals the wakeful eye,
  That drives the ghosts to realms of night or day,
  Points out the long uncomfortable way.
  Trembling the spectres glide, and plaintive vent
  Thin hollow screams, along the deep descent.
  As in the cavern of some rifty den,
  Where flock nocturnal bats and birds obscene,
  Cluster'd they hang, till at some sudden shock,
  They move, and murmurs run through all the rock:
  So cowering fled the sable heaps of ghosts;
  And such a scream fill'd all the dismal coasts.

There they overhear Ajax giving Achilles a minute account of his funeral,—the grandest ever seen,—and when questioned describe Penelope's stratagem in regard to the Web and to Ulysses' bow.

Meanwhile Ulysses has arrived at his father's farm, where the old man is busy among his trees. To prepare Laertes for his return, Ulysses relates one of his fairy tales ere he makes himself known. Like Penelope, Laertes proves incredulous, until Ulysses points out the trees given him when a child and exhibits his scar.

  Smit with the signs which all his doubts explain,
  His heart within him melts; his knees sustain
  Their feeble weight no more; his arms alone
  Support him, round the loved Ulysses thrown:
  He faints, he sinks, with mighty joys oppress'd:
  Ulysses clasps him to his eager breast.

To celebrate their reunion, a banquet is held, which permits the Ithacans to show their joy at their master's return. Meanwhile the friends of the suitors, having heard of the massacre, determine to avenge them by slaying father and son. But, aided by Minerva and Jupiter, these two heroes present so formidable an appearance, that the attacking party concludes a treaty, which restores peace to Ithaca and ends the Odyssey.



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