Translation of: The Odyssey of Homer: Book VI

A poem by William Cowper

ARGUMENT

Minerva designing an interview between the daughter of Alcinoüs and Ulysses, admonishes her in a dream to carry down her clothes to the river, that she may wash them, and make them ready for her approaching nuptials. That task performed, the Princess and her train amuse themselves with play; by accident they awake Ulysses; he comes forth from the wood, and applies himself with much address to Nausicaa, who compassionating his distressed condition, and being much affected by the dignity of his appearance, interests himself in his favour, and conducts him to the city.


There then the noble suff'rer lay, by sleep
Oppress'd and labour; meantime, Pallas sought
The populous city of Phæacia's sons.
They, in old time, in Hypereia dwelt
The spacious, neighbours of a giant race
The haughty Cyclops, who, endued with pow'r
Superior, troubled them with frequent wrongs.
Godlike Nausithoüs then arose, who thence
To Scheria led them, from all nations versed
In arts of cultivated life, remote;
With bulwarks strong their city he enclosed,
Built houses for them, temples to the Gods,
And gave to each a portion of the soil.
But he, already by decree of fate
Had journey'd to the shades, and in his stead
Alcinoüs, by the Gods instructed, reign'd.
To his abode Minerva azure-eyed
Repair'd, neglecting nought which might advance
Magnanimous Ulysses' safe return.
She sought the sumptuous chamber where, in form
And feature perfect as the Gods, the young
Nausicaa, daughter of the King, reposed.
Fast by the pillars of the portal lay
Two damsels, one on either side, adorn'd
By all the Graces, and the doors were shut.
Soft as a breathing air, she stole toward
The royal virgin's couch, and at her head
Standing, address'd her. Daughter she appear'd
Of Dymas, famed for maritime exploits,
Her friend and her coeval; so disguised
Cærulean-eyed Minerva thus began.
Nausicaa! wherefore hath thy mother borne
A child so negligent? Thy garments share,
Thy most magnificent, no thought of thine.
Yet thou must marry soon, and must provide
Robes for thyself, and for thy nuptial train.
Thy fame, on these concerns, and honour stand;
These managed well, thy parents shall rejoice.
The dawn appearing, let us to the place
Of washing, where thy work-mate I will be
For speedier riddance of thy task, since soon
The days of thy virginity shall end;
For thou art woo'd already by the prime
Of all Phæacia, country of thy birth.
Come then--solicit at the dawn of day
Thy royal father, that he send thee forth
With mules and carriage for conveyance hence
Of thy best robes, thy mantles and thy zones.
Thus, more commodiously thou shalt perform
The journey, for the cisterns lie remote.
So saying, Minerva, Goddess azure-eyed,
Rose to Olympus, the reputed seat
Eternal of the Gods, which never storms
Disturb, rains drench, or snow invades, but calm
The expanse and cloudless shines with purest day.
There the inhabitants divine rejoice
For ever, (and her admonition giv'n)
Cærulean-eyed Minerva thither flew.
Now came Aurora bright-enthroned, whose rays
Awaken'd fair Nausicaa; she her dream
Remember'd wond'ring, and her parents sought
Anxious to tell them. Them she found within.
Beside the hearth her royal mother sat,
Spinning soft fleeces with sea-purple dyed
Among her menial maidens, but she met
Her father, whom the Nobles of the land
Had summon'd, issuing abroad to join
The illustrious Chiefs in council. At his side
She stood, and thus her filial suit preferr'd.
Sir![23] wilt thou lend me of the royal wains
A sumpter-carriage? for I wish to bear
My costly cloaths but sullied and unfit
For use, at present, to the river side.
It is but seemly that thou should'st repair
Thyself to consultation with the Chiefs
Of all Phæacia, clad in pure attire;
And my own brothers five, who dwell at home,
Two wedded, and the rest of age to wed,
Are all desirous, when they dance, to wear
Raiment new bleach'd; all which is my concern.
So spake Nausicaa; for she dared not name
Her own glad nuptials to her father's ear,
Who, conscious yet of all her drift, replied.
I grudge thee neither mules, my child, nor aught
That thou canst ask beside. Go, and my train
Shall furnish thee a sumpter-carriage forth
High-built, strong-wheel'd, and of capacious size.
So saying, he issued his command, whom quick
His grooms obey'd. They in the court prepared
The sumpter-carriage, and adjoin'd the mules.
And now the virgin from her chamber, charged
With raiment, came, which on the car she placed,
And in the carriage-chest, meantime, the Queen,
Her mother, viands of all kinds disposed,
And fill'd a skin with wine. Nausicaa rose
Into her seat; but, ere she went, received
A golden cruse of oil from the Queen's hand
For unction of herself, and of her maids.
Then, seizing scourge and reins, she lash'd the mules.
They trampled loud the soil, straining to draw
Herself with all her vesture; nor alone
She went, but follow'd by her virgin train.
At the delightful rivulet arrived
Where those perennial cisterns were prepared
With purest crystal of the fountain fed
Profuse, sufficient for the deepest stains,
Loosing the mules, they drove them forth to browze
On the sweet herb beside the dimpled flood.
The carriage, next, light'ning, they bore in hand
The garments down to the unsullied wave,
And thrust them heap'd into the pools, their task
Dispatching brisk, and with an emulous haste.
When they had all purified, and no spot
Could now be seen, or blemish more, they spread
The raiment orderly along the beach
Where dashing tides had cleansed the pebbles most,
And laving, next, and smoothing o'er with oil
Their limbs, all seated on the river's bank,
They took repast, leaving the garments, stretch'd
In noon-day fervour of the sun, to dry.
Their hunger satisfied, at once arose
The mistress and her train, and putting off
Their head-attire, play'd wanton with the ball,
The princess singing to her maids the while.
Such as shaft-arm'd Diana roams the hills,
Täygetus sky-capt, or Erymanth,
The wild boar chasing, or fleet-footed hind,
All joy; the rural nymphs, daughters of Jove,
Sport with her, and Latona's heart exults;
She high her graceful head above the rest
And features lifts divine, though all be fair,
With ease distinguishable from them all;
So, all her train, she, virgin pure, surpass'd.
But when the hour of her departure thence
Approach'd (the mules now yoked again, and all
Her elegant apparel folded neat)
Minerva azure-eyed mused how to wake
Ulysses, that he might behold the fair
Virgin, his destin'd guide into the town.
The Princess, then, casting the ball toward
A maiden of her train, erroneous threw
And plunged it deep into the dimpling stream.
All shrieked; Ulysses at the sound awoke,
And, sitting, meditated thus the cause.
Ah me! what mortal race inhabit here?
Rude are they, contumacious and unjust?
Or hospitable, and who fear the Gods?
So shrill the cry and feminine of nymphs
Fills all the air around, such as frequent
The hills, clear fountains, and herbaceous meads.
Is this a neighbourhood of men endued
With voice articulate? But what avails
To ask; I will myself go forth and see.
So saying, divine Ulysses from beneath
His thicket crept, and from the leafy wood
A spreading branch pluck'd forcibly, design'd
A decent skreen effectual, held before.
So forth he went, as goes the lion forth,
The mountain-lion, conscious of his strength,
Whom winds have vex'd and rains; fire fills his eyes,
And whether herds or flocks, or woodland deer
He find, he rends them, and, adust for blood,
Abstains not even from the guarded fold,
Such sure to seem in virgin eyes, the Chief,
All naked as he was, left his retreat,
Reluctant, by necessity constrain'd.
Him foul with sea foam horror-struck they view'd,
And o'er the jutting shores fled all dispersed.
Nausicaa alone fled not; for her
Pallas courageous made, and from her limbs,
By pow'r divine, all tremour took away.
Firm she expected him; he doubtful stood,
Or to implore the lovely maid, her knees
Embracing, or aloof standing, to ask
In gentle terms discrete the gift of cloaths,
And guidance to the city where she dwelt.
Him so deliberating, most, at length,
This counsel pleas'd; in suppliant terms aloof
To sue to her, lest if he clasp'd her knees,
The virgin should that bolder course resent.
Then gentle, thus, and well-advised he spake.
Oh Queen! thy earnest suppliant I approach.
Art thou some Goddess, or of mortal race?
For if some Goddess, and from heaven arrived,
Diana, then, daughter of mighty Jove
I deem thee most, for such as hers appear
Thy form, thy stature, and thy air divine.
But if, of mortal race, thou dwell below,
Thrice happy then, thy parents I account,
And happy thrice thy brethren. Ah! the joy
Which always for thy sake, their bosoms fill,
When thee they view, all lovely as thou art,
Ent'ring majestic on the graceful dance.
But him beyond all others blest I deem,
The youth, who, wealthier than his rich compeers,
Shall win and lead thee to his honour'd home.
For never with these eyes a mortal form
Beheld I comparable aught to thine,
In man or woman. Wonder-wrapt I gaze.
Such erst, in Delos, I beheld a palm
Beside the altar of Apollo, tall,
And growing still; (for thither too I sail'd,
And num'rous were my followers in a voyage
Ordain'd my ruin) and as then I view'd
That palm long time amazed, for never grew
So strait a shaft, so lovely from the ground,
So, Princess! thee with wonder I behold,
Charm'd into fixt astonishment, by awe
Alone forbidden to embrace thy knees,
For I am one on whom much woe hath fall'n.
Yesterday I escaped (the twentieth day
Of my distress by sea) the dreary Deep;
For, all those days, the waves and rapid storms
Bore me along, impetuous from the isle
Ogygia; till at length the will of heav'n
Cast me, that I might also here sustain
Affliction on your shore; for rest, I think,
Is not for me. No. The Immortal Gods
Have much to accomplish ere that day arrive.
But, oh Queen, pity me! who after long
Calamities endured, of all who live
Thee first approach, nor mortal know beside
Of the inhabitants of all the land.
Shew me your city; give me, although coarse,
Some cov'ring (if coarse cov'ring _thou_ canst give)
And may the Gods thy largest wishes grant,
House, husband, concord! for of all the gifts
Of heav'n, more precious none I deem, than peace
'Twixt wedded pair, and union undissolved;
Envy torments their enemies, but joy
Fills ev'ry virtuous breast, and most their own.
To whom Nausicaa the fair replied.
Since, stranger! neither base by birth thou seem'st,
Nor unintelligent, (but Jove, the King
Olympian, gives to good and bad alike
Prosperity according to his will,
And grief to thee, which thou must patient bear,)
Now, therefore, at our land and city arrived,
Nor garment thou shalt want, nor aught beside
Due to a suppliant guest like thee forlorn.
I will both show thee where our city stands,
And who dwell here. Phæacia's sons possess
This land; but I am daughter of their King
The brave Alcinoüs, on whose sway depends
For strength and wealth the whole Phæacian race.
She said, and to her beauteous maidens gave
Instant commandment--My attendants, stay!
Why flee ye thus, and whither, from the sight
Of a mere mortal? Seems he in your eyes
Some enemy of ours? The heart beats not,
Nor shall it beat hereafter, which shall come
An enemy to the Phæacian shores,
So dear to the immortal Gods are we.
Remote, amid the billowy Deep, we hold
Our dwelling, utmost of all human-kind,
And free from mixture with a foreign race.
This man, a miserable wand'rer comes,
Whom we are bound to cherish, for the poor
And stranger are from Jove, and trivial gifts
To such are welcome. Bring ye therefore food
And wine, my maidens, for the guest's regale,
And lave him where the stream is shelter'd most.
She spake; they stood, and by each other's words
Encouraged, placed Ulysses where the bank
O'erhung the stream, as fair Nausicaa bade,
Daughter of King Alcinoüs the renown'd.
Apparel also at his side they spread,
Mantle and vest, and, next, the limpid oil
Presenting to him in the golden cruse,
Exhorted him to bathe in the clear stream.
Ulysses then the maidens thus bespake.
Ye maidens, stand apart, that I may cleanse,
Myself, my shoulders from the briny surf,
And give them oil which they have wanted long.
But in your presence I bathe not, ashamed
To show myself uncloath'd to female eyes.
He said; they went, and to Nausicaa told
His answer; then the Hero in the stream
His shoulders laved, and loins incrusted rough
With the salt spray, and with his hands the scum
Of the wild ocean from his locks express'd.
Thus wash'd all over, and refresh'd with oil,
He put the garments on, Nausicaa's gift.
Then Pallas, progeny of Jove, his form
Dilated more, and from his head diffused
His curling locks like hyacinthine flowers.
As when some artist, by Minerva made
And Vulcan wise to execute all tasks
Ingenious, binding with a golden verge
Bright silver, finishes a graceful work,
Such grace the Goddess o'er his ample chest
Copious diffused, and o'er his manly brows.
Retiring, on the beach he sat, with grace
And dignity illumed, where, viewing him,
The virgin Princess, with amazement mark'd
His beauty, and her damsels thus bespake.
My white-arm'd maidens, listen to my voice!
Not hated, sure, by all above, this man
Among Phæacia's godlike sons arrives.
At first I deem'd him of plebeian sort
Dishonourable, but he now assumes
A near resemblance to the Gods above.
Ah! would to heaven it were my lot to call
Husband, some native of our land like him
Accomplish'd, and content to inhabit here!
Give him, my maidens, food, and give him wine.
She ended; they obedient to her will,
Both wine and food, dispatchful, placed, and glad,
Before Ulysses; he rapacious ate,
Toil-suff'ring Chief, and drank, for he had lived
From taste of aliment long time estranged.
On other thoughts meantime intent, her charge
Of folded vestments neat the Princess placed
Within the royal wain, then yoked the mules,
And to her seat herself ascending, call'd
Ulysses to depart, and thus she spake.
Up, stranger! seek the city. I will lead
Thy steps toward my royal Father's house,
Where all Phæacia's Nobles thou shalt see.
But thou (for I account thee not unwise)
This course pursue. While through the fields we pass,
And labours of the rural hind, so long
With my attendants follow fast the mules
And sumpter-carriage. I will be thy guide.
But, once the summit gain'd, on which is built
Our city with proud bulwarks fenced around,
And laved on both sides by its pleasant port
Of narrow entrance, where our gallant barks
Line all the road, each station'd in her place,
And where, adjoining close the splendid fane
Of Neptune, stands the forum with huge stones
From quarries thither drawn, constructed strong,
In which the rigging of their barks they keep,
Sail-cloth and cordage, and make smooth their oars;
(For bow and quiver the Phæacian race
Heed not, but masts and oars, and ships well-poised,
With which exulting they divide the flood)
Then, cautious, I would shun their bitter taunts
Disgustful, lest they mock me as I pass;
For of the meaner people some are coarse
In the extreme, and it may chance that one,
The basest there seeing us shall exclaim--
What handsome stranger of athletic form
Attends the Princess? Where had she the chance
To find him? We shall see them wedded soon.
Either she hath received some vagrant guest
From distant lands, (for no land neighbours ours)
Or by her pray'rs incessant won, some God
Hath left the heav'ns to be for ever hers.
'Tis well if she have found, by her own search,
An husband for herself, since she accounts
The Nobles of Phæacia, who her hand
Solicit num'rous, worthy to be scorn'd--
Thus will they speak, injurious. I should blame
A virgin guilty of such conduct much,
Myself, who reckless of her parents' will,
Should so familiar with a man consort,
Ere celebration of her spousal rites.
But mark me, stranger! following my advice,
Thou shalt the sooner at my father's hands
Obtain safe conduct and conveyance home.
Sacred to Pallas a delightful grove
Of poplars skirts the road, which we shall reach
Ere long; within that grove a fountain flows,
And meads encircle it; my father's farm
Is there, and his luxuriant garden plot;
A shout might reach it from the city-walls.
There wait, till in the town arrived, we gain
My father's palace, and when reason bids
Suppose us there, then ent'ring thou the town,
Ask where Alcinoüs dwells, my valiant Sire.
Well known is his abode, so that with ease
A child might lead thee to it, for in nought
The other houses of our land the house
Resemble, in which dwells the Hero, King
Alcinoüs. Once within the court received
Pause not, but, with swift pace advancing, seek
My mother; she beside a column sits
In the hearth's blaze, twirling her fleecy threads
Tinged with sea-purple, bright, magnificent!
With all her maidens orderly behind.
There also stands my father's throne, on which
Seated, he drinks and banquets like a God.
Pass that; then suppliant clasp my mother's knees,
So shalt thou quickly win a glad return
To thy own home, however far remote.
Her favour, once, and her kind aid secured,
Thenceforth thou may'st expect thy friends to see,
Thy dwelling, and thy native soil again.
So saying, she with her splendid scourge the mules
Lash'd onward. They (the stream soon left behind)
With even footsteps graceful smote the ground;
But so she ruled them, managing with art
The scourge, as not to leave afar, although
Following on foot, Ulysses and her train.
The sun had now declined, when in that grove
Renown'd, to Pallas sacred, they arrived,
In which Ulysses sat, and fervent thus
Sued to the daughter of Jove Ægis-arm'd.
Daughter invincible of Jove supreme!
Oh, hear me! Hear me now, because when erst
The mighty Shaker of the shores incensed
Toss'd me from wave to wave, thou heard'st me not.
Grant me, among Phæacia's sons, to find
Benevolence and pity of my woes!
He spake, whose pray'r well-pleas'd the Goddess heard,
But, rev'rencing the brother of her sire,[24]
Appear'd not to Ulysses yet, whom he
Pursued with fury to his native shores.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Translation of: The Odyssey of Homer: Book VI' by William Cowper

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy