Translation of: The Odyssey of Homer: Book XIII

A poem by William Cowper

ARGUMENT

Ulysses, having finished his narrative, and received additional presents from the Phæacians, embarks; he is conveyed in his sleep to Ithaca, and in his sleep is landed on that island. The ship that carried him is in her return transformed by Neptune to a rock.

Minerva meets him on the shore, enables him to recollect his country, which, till enlightened by her, he believed to be a country strange to him, and they concert together the means of destroying the suitors. The Goddess then repairs to Sparta to call thence Telemachus, and Ulysses, by her aid disguised like a beggar, proceeds towards the cottage of Eumæus.


He ceas'd; the whole assembly silent sat,
Charm'd into ecstacy with his discourse
Throughout the twilight hall. Then, thus the King.
Ulysses, since beneath my brazen dome
Sublime thou hast arrived, like woes, I trust,
Thou shalt not in thy voyage hence sustain
By tempests tost, though much to woe inured.
To you, who daily in my presence quaff
Your princely meed of gen'rous wine and hear
The sacred bard, my pleasure, thus I speak.
The robes, wrought gold, and all the other gifts
To this our guest, by the Phæacian Chiefs
Brought hither in the sumptuous coffer lie.
But come--present ye to the stranger, each,
An ample tripod also, with a vase
Of smaller size, for which we will be paid
By public impost; for the charge of all
Excessive were by one alone defray'd.
So spake Alcinoüs, and his counsel pleased;
Then, all retiring, sought repose at home.
But when Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
Look'd rosy forth, each hasted to the bark
With his illustrious present, which the might
Of King Alcinoüs, who himself her sides
Ascended, safe beneath the seats bestowed,
Lest it should harm or hinder, while he toil'd
In rowing, some Phæacian of the crew.
The palace of Alcinoüs seeking next,
Together, they prepared a new regale.
For them, in sacrifice, the sacred might[59]
Of King Alcinoüs slew an ox to Jove
Saturnian, cloud-girt governor of all.
The thighs with fire prepared, all glad partook
The noble feast; meantime, the bard divine
Sang, sweet Demodocus, the people's joy.
But oft Ulysses to the radiant sun
Turn'd wistful eyes, anxious for his decline,
Nor longer, now, patient of dull delay.
As when some hungry swain whose sable beeves
Have through the fallow dragg'd his pond'rous plow
All day, the setting sun views with delight
For supper' sake, which with tir'd feet he seeks,
So welcome to Ulysses' eyes appear'd
The sun-set of that eve; directing, then,
His speech to maritime Phæacia's sons,
But to Alcinoüs chiefly, thus he said.
Alcinoüs, o'er Phæacia's realm supreme!
Libation made, dismiss ye me in peace,
And farewell all! for what I wish'd, I have,
Conductors hence, and honourable gifts
With which heav'n prosper me! and may the Gods
Vouchsafe to me, at my return, to find
All safe, my spotless consort and my friends!
May ye, whom here I leave, gladden your wives
And see your children blest, and may the pow'rs
Immortal with all good enrich you all,
And from calamity preserve the land!
He ended, they unanimous, his speech
Applauded loud, and bade dismiss the guest
Who had so wisely spoken and so well.
Then thus Alcinoüs to his herald spake.
Pontonoüs! charging high the beaker, bear
To ev'ry guest beneath our roof the wine,
That, pray'r preferr'd to the eternal Sire,
We may dismiss our inmate to his home.
Then, bore Pontonoüs to ev'ry guest
The brimming cup; they, where they sat, perform'd
Libation due; but the illustrious Chief
Ulysses, from his seat arising, placed
A massy goblet in Areta's hand,
To whom in accents wing'd, grateful, he said.
Farewell, O Queen, a long farewell, till age
Arrive, and death, the appointed lot of all!
I go; but be this people, and the King
Alcinoüs, and thy progeny, thy joy
Yet many a year beneath this glorious roof!
So saying, the Hero through the palace-gate
Issued, whom, by Alcinoüs' command,
The royal herald to his vessel led.
Three maidens also of Areta's train
His steps attended; one, the robe well-bleach'd
And tunic bore; the corded coffer, one;
And food the third, with wine of crimson hue.
Arriving where the galley rode, each gave
Her charge to some brave mariner on board,
And all was safely stow'd. Meantime were spread
Linen and arras on the deck astern,
For his secure repose. And now the Chief
Himself embarking, silent lay'd him down.
Then, ev'ry rower to his bench repair'd;
They drew the loosen'd cable from its hold
In the drill'd rock, and, resupine, at once
With lusty strokes upturn'd the flashing waves.
His eye-lids, soon, sleep, falling as a dew,
Closed fast, death's simular, in sight the same.
She, as four harness'd stallions o'er the plain
Shooting together at the scourge's stroke,
Toss high their manes, and rapid scour along,
So mounted she the waves, while dark the flood
Roll'd after her of the resounding Deep.
Steady she ran and safe, passing in speed
The falcon, swiftest of the fowls of heav'n;
With such rapidity she cut the waves,
An hero bearing like the Gods above
In wisdom, one familiar long with woe
In fight sustain'd, and on the perilous flood,
Though sleeping now serenely, and resign'd
To sweet oblivion of all sorrow past.
The brightest star of heav'n, precursor chief
Of day-spring, now arose, when at the isle
(Her voyage soon perform'd) the bark arrived.
There is a port sacred in Ithaca
To Phorcys, hoary ancient of the Deep,
Form'd by converging shores, prominent both
And both abrupt, which from the spacious bay
Exclude all boist'rous winds; within it, ships
(The port once gain'd) uncabled ride secure.
An olive, at the haven's head, expands
Her branches wide, near to a pleasant cave
Umbrageous, to the nymphs devoted named
The Naiads. In that cave beakers of stone
And jars are seen; bees lodge their honey there;
And there, on slender spindles of the rock
The nymphs of rivers weave their wond'rous robes.
Perennial springs water it, and it shows
A twofold entrance; ingress one affords
To mortal man, which Northward looks direct,
But holier is the Southern far; by that
No mortal enters, but the Gods alone.
Familiar with that port before, they push'd
The vessel in; she, rapid, plow'd the sands
With half her keel, such rowers urged her on.
Descending from the well-bench'd bark ashore,
They lifted forth Ulysses first, with all
His splendid couch complete, then, lay'd him down
Still wrapt in balmy slumber on the sands.
His treasures, next, by the Phæacian Chiefs
At his departure given him as the meed
Due to his wisdom, at the olive's foot
They heap'd, without the road, lest, while he slept
Some passing traveller should rifle them.
Then homeward thence they sped. Nor Ocean's God
His threats forgot denounced against divine
Ulysses, but with Jove thus first advised.
Eternal Sire! I shall no longer share
Respect and reverence among the Gods,
Since, now, Phæacia's mortal race have ceas'd
To honour me, though from myself derived.
It was my purpose, that by many an ill
Harass'd, Ulysses should have reach'd his home,
Although to intercept him, whose return
Thyself had promis'd, ne'er was my intent.
But him fast-sleeping swiftly o'er the waves
They have conducted, and have set him down
In Ithaca, with countless gifts enrich'd,
With brass, and tissued raiment, and with gold;
Much treasure! more than he had home convey'd
Even had he arrived with all his share
Allotted to him of the spoils of Troy.
To whom the cloud-assembler God replied.
What hast thou spoken, Shaker of the shores,
Wide-ruling Neptune? Fear not; thee the Gods
Will ne'er despise; dangerous were the deed
To cast dishonour on a God by birth
More ancient, and more potent far than they.
But if, profanely rash, a mortal man
Should dare to slight thee, to avenge the wrong
Some future day is ever in thy pow'r.
Accomplish all thy pleasure, thou art free.
Him answer'd, then, the Shaker of the shores.
Jove cloud-enthroned! that pleasure I would soon
Perform, as thou hast said, but that I watch
Thy mind continual, fearful to offend.
My purpose is, now to destroy amid
The dreary Deep yon fair Phæacian bark,
Return'd from safe conveyance of her freight;
So shall they waft such wand'rers home no more,
And she shall hide their city, to a rock
Transform'd of mountainous o'ershadowing size.
Him, then, Jove answer'd, gath'rer of the clouds.
Perform it, O my brother, and the deed
Thus done, shall best be done--What time the people
Shall from the city her approach descry,
Fix her to stone transform'd, but still in shape
A gallant bark, near to the coast, that all
May wonder, seeing her transform'd to stone
Of size to hide their city from the view.
These words once heard, the Shaker of the shores
Instant to Scheria, maritime abode
Of the Phæacians, went. Arrived, he watch'd.
And now the flying bark full near approach'd,
When Neptune, meeting her, with out-spread palm
Depress'd her at a stroke, and she became
Deep-rooted stone. Then Neptune went his way.
Phæacia's ship-ennobled sons meantime
Conferring stood, and thus, in accents wing'd,
Th' amazed spectator to his fellow spake.
Ah! who hath sudden check'd the vessel's course
Homeward? this moment she was all in view.
Thus they, unconscious of the cause, to whom
Alcinoüs, instructing them, replied.
Ye Gods! a prophecy now strikes my mind
With force, my father's. He was wont to say--
Neptune resents it, that we safe conduct
Natives of ev'ry region to their home.
He also spake, prophetic, of a day
When a Phæacian gallant bark, return'd
After conveyance of a stranger hence,
Should perish in the dreary Deep, and changed
To a huge mountain, cover all the town.
So spake my father, all whose words we see
This day fulfill'd. Thus, therefore, act we all
Unanimous; henceforth no longer bear
The stranger home, when such shall here arrive;
And we will sacrifice, without delay,
Twelve chosen bulls to Neptune, if, perchance,
He will commiserate us, and forbear
To hide our town behind a mountain's height.
He spake, they, terrified, the bulls prepared.
Thus all Phæacia's Senators and Chiefs
His altar compassing, in pray'r adored
The Ocean's God. Meantime, Ulysses woke,
Unconscious where; stretch'd on his native soil
He lay, and knew it not, long-time exiled.
For Pallas, progeny of Jove, a cloud
Drew dense around him, that, ere yet agnized
By others, he might wisdom learn from her,
Neither to citizens, nor yet to friends
Reveal'd, nor even to his own espoused,
Till, first, he should avenge complete his wrongs
Domestic from those suitors proud sustained.
All objects, therefore, in the Hero's eyes
Seem'd alien, foot-paths long, commodious ports,
Heav'n-climbing rocks, and trees of amplest growth.
Arising, fixt he stood, his native soil
Contemplating, till with expanded palms
Both thighs he smote, and, plaintive, thus began.
Ah me! what mortal race inhabits here?
Rude are they, contumacious and unjust,
Or hospitable, and who fear the Gods?
Where now shall I secrete these num'rous stores?
Where wander I, myself? I would that still
Phæacians own'd them, and I had arrived
In the dominions of some other King
Magnanimous, who would have entertain'd
And sent me to my native home secure!
Now, neither know I where to place my wealth,
Nor can I leave it here, lest it become
Another's prey. Alas! Phæacia's Chiefs
Not altogether wise I deem or just,
Who have misplaced me in another land,
Promis'd to bear me to the pleasant shores
Of Ithaca, but have not so perform'd.
Jove, guardian of the suppliant's rights, who all
Transgressors marks, and punishes all wrong,
Avenge me on the treach'rous race!--but hold--
I will revise my stores, so shall I know
If they have left me here of aught despoiled.
So saying, he number'd carefully the gold,
The vases, tripods bright, and tissued robes,
But nothing miss'd of all. Then he bewail'd
His native isle, with pensive steps and slow
Pacing the border of the billowy flood,
Forlorn; but while he wept, Pallas approach'd,
In form a shepherd stripling, girlish fair
In feature, such as are the sons of Kings;
A sumptuous mantle o'er his shoulders hung
Twice-folded, sandals his nice feet upbore,
And a smooth javelin glitter'd in his hand.
Ulysses, joyful at the sight, his steps
Turn'd brisk toward her, whom he thus address'd.
Sweet youth! since thee, of all mankind, I first
Encounter in this land unknown, all hail!
Come not with purposes of harm to me!
These save, and save me also. I prefer
To thee, as to some God, my pray'r, and clasp
Thy knees a suppliant. Say, and tell me true,
What land? what people? who inhabit here?
Is this some isle delightful, or a shore
Of fruitful main-land sloping to the sea?
Then Pallas, thus, Goddess cærulean-eyed.
Stranger! thou sure art simple, or hast dwelt
Far distant hence, if of this land thou ask.
It is not, trust me, of so little note,
But known to many, both to those who dwell
Toward the sun-rise, and to others placed
Behind it, distant in the dusky West.
Rugged it is, not yielding level course
To the swift steed, and yet no barren spot,
However small, but rich in wheat and wine;
Nor wants it rain or fertilising dew,
But pasture green to goats and beeves affords,
Trees of all kinds, and fountains never dry.
Ithaca therefore, stranger, is a name
Known ev'n at Troy, a city, by report,
At no small distance from Achaia's shore.
The Goddess ceased; then, toil-enduring Chief
Ulysses, happy in his native land,
(So taught by Pallas, progeny of Jove)
In accents wing'd her answ'ring, utter'd prompt
Not truth, but figments to truth opposite,
For guile, in him, stood never at a pause.
O'er yonder flood, even in spacious Crete[60]
I heard of Ithaca, where now, it seems,
I have, myself, with these my stores arrived;
Not richer stores than, flying thence, I left
To my own children; for from Crete I fled
For slaughter of Orsilochus the swift,
Son of Idomeneus, whom none in speed
Could equal throughout all that spacious isle.
His purpose was to plunder me of all
My Trojan spoils, which to obtain, much woe
I had in battle and by storms endured,
For that I would not gratify his Sire,
Fighting beside him in the fields of Troy,
But led a diff'rent band. Him from the field
Returning homeward, with my brazen spear
I smote, in ambush waiting his return
At the road-side, with a confed'rate friend.
Unwonted darkness over all the heav'ns
That night prevailed, nor any eye of man
Observed us, but, unseen, I slew the youth.
No sooner, then, with my sharp spear of life
I had bereft him, than I sought a ship
Mann'd by renown'd Phæacians, whom with gifts
Part of my spoils, and by requests, I won.
I bade them land me on the Pylian shore,
Or in fair Elis by th' Epeans ruled,
But they, reluctant, were by violent winds
Driv'n devious thence, for fraud they purposed none.
Thus through constraint we here arrived by night,
And with much difficulty push'd the ship
Into safe harbour, nor was mention made
Of food by any, though all needed food,
But, disembark'd in haste, on shore we lay.
I, weary, slept profound, and they my goods
Forth heaving from the bark, beside me placed
The treasures on the sea-beach where I slept,
Then, reimbarking, to the populous coast
Steer'd of Sidonia, and me left forlorn.
He ceased; then smiled Minerva azure-eyed
And stroaked his cheek, in form a woman now,
Beauteous, majestic, in all elegant arts
Accomplish'd, and with accents wing'd replied.
Who passes thee in artifice well-framed
And in imposture various, need shall find
Of all his policy, although a God.
Canst thou not cease, inventive as thou art
And subtle, from the wiles which thou hast lov'd
Since thou wast infant, and from tricks of speech
Delusive, even in thy native land?
But come, dismiss we these ingenious shifts
From our discourse, in which we both excel;
For thou of all men in expedients most
Abound'st and eloquence, and I, throughout
All heav'n have praise for wisdom and for art.
And know'st thou not thine Athenæan aid,
Pallas, Jove's daughter, who in all thy toils
Assist thee and defend? I gave thee pow'r
T' engage the hearts of all Phæacia's sons,
And here arrive ev'n now, counsels to frame
Discrete with thee, and to conceal the stores
Giv'n to thee by the rich Phæacian Chiefs
On my suggestion, at thy going thence.
I will inform thee also what distress
And hardship under thy own palace-roof
Thou must endure; which, since constraint enjoins,
Bear patiently, and neither man apprize
Nor woman that thou hast arrived forlorn
And vagabond, but silent undergo
What wrongs soever from the hands of men.
To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied.
O Goddess! thou art able to elude,
Wherever met, the keenest eye of man,
For thou all shapes assum'st; yet this I know
Certainly, that I ever found thee kind,
Long as Achaia's Heroes fought at Troy;
But when (the lofty tow'rs of Priam laid
In dust) we re-embark'd, and by the will
Of heav'n Achaia's fleet was scatter'd wide,
Thenceforth, O daughter wise of Jove, I thee
Saw not, nor thy appearance in my ship
Once mark'd, to rid me of my num'rous woes,
But always bearing in my breast a heart
With anguish riv'n, I roam'd, till by the Gods
Relieved at length, and till with gracious words
Thyself didst in Phæacia's opulent land
Confirm my courage, and becam'st my guide.
But I adjure thee in thy father's name--
O tell me truly, (for I cannot hope
That I have reach'd fair Ithaca; I tread
Some other soil, and thou affirm'st it mine
To mock me merely, and deceive) oh say--
Am I in Ithaca? in truth, at home?
Thus then Minerva the cærulean-eyed.
Such caution in thy breast always prevails
Distrustful; but I know thee eloquent,
With wisdom and with ready thought endued,
And cannot leave thee, therefore, thus distress'd
For what man, save Ulysses, new-return'd
After long wand'rings, would not pant to see
At once his home, his children, and his wife?
But thou preferr'st neither to know nor ask
Concerning them, till some experience first
Thou make of her whose wasted youth is spent
In barren solitude, and who in tears
Ceaseless her nights and woeful days consumes.
I ne'er was ignorant, but well foreknew
That not till after loss of all thy friends
Thou should'st return; but loth I was to oppose
Neptune, my father's brother, sore incensed
For his son's sake deprived of sight by thee.
But, I will give thee proof--come now--survey
These marks of Ithaca, and be convinced.
This is the port of Phorcys, sea-born sage;
That, the huge olive at the haven's head;
Fast by it, thou behold'st the pleasant cove
Umbrageous, to the nymphs devoted named
The Naiads; this the broad-arch'd cavern is
Where thou wast wont to offer to the nymphs
Many a whole hecatomb; and yonder stands
The mountain Neritus with forests cloath'd.
So saying, the Goddess scatter'd from before
His eyes all darkness, and he knew the land.
Then felt Ulysses, Hero toil-inured,
Transport unutterable, seeing plain
Once more his native isle. He kiss'd the glebe,
And with uplifted hands the nymphs ador'd.
Nymphs, Naiads, Jove's own daughters! I despair'd
To see you more, whom yet with happy vows
I now can hail again. Gifts, as of old,
We will hereafter at your shrines present,
If Jove-born Pallas, huntress of the spoils,
Grant life to me, and manhood to my son.
Then Pallas, blue-eyed progeny of Jove.
Take courage; trouble not thy mind with thoughts
Now needless. Haste--delay not--far within
This hallow'd cave's recess place we at once
Thy precious stores, that they may thine remain,
Then muse together on thy wisest course.
So saying, the Goddess enter'd deep the cave
Caliginous, and its secret nooks explored
From side to side; meantime, Ulysses brought
All his stores into it, the gold, the brass,
And robes magnificent, his gifts received
From the Phæacians; safe he lodg'd them all,
And Pallas, daughter of Jove Ægis-arm'd,
Closed fast, herself, the cavern with a stone.
Then, on the consecrated olive's root
Both seated, they in consultation plann'd
The deaths of those injurious suitors proud,
And Pallas, blue-eyed Goddess, thus began.
Laertes' noble son, Ulysses! think
By what means likeliest thou shalt assail
Those shameless suitors, who have now controuled
Three years thy family, thy matchless wife
With language amorous and with spousal gifts
Urging importunate; but she, with tears
Watching thy wish'd return, hope gives to all
By messages of promise sent to each,
Framing far other purposes the while.
Then answer thus Ulysses wise return'd.
Ah, Agamemnon's miserable fate
Had surely met me in my own abode,
But for thy gracious warning, pow'r divine!
Come then--Devise the means; teach me, thyself,
The way to vengeance, and my soul inspire
With daring fortitude, as when we loos'd
Her radiant frontlet from the brows of Troy.
Would'st thou with equal zeal, O Pallas! aid
Thy servant here, I would encounter thrice
An hundred enemies, let me but perceive
Thy dread divinity my prompt ally.
Him answer'd then Pallas cærulean-eyed.
And such I will be; not unmark'd by me,
(Let once our time of enterprize arrive)
Shalt thou assail them. Many, as I judge,
Of those proud suitors who devour thy wealth
Shall leave their brains, then, on thy palace floor.
But come. Behold! I will disguise thee so
That none shall know thee! I will parch the skin
On thy fair body; I will cause thee shed
Thy wavy locks; I will enfold thee round
In such a kirtle as the eyes of all
Shall loath to look on; and I will deform
With blurring rheums thy eyes, so vivid erst;
So shall the suitors deem thee, and thy wife,
And thy own son whom thou didst leave at home,
Some sordid wretch obscure. But seek thou first
Thy swine-herd's mansion; he, alike, intends
Thy good, and loves, affectionate, thy son
And thy Penelope; thou shalt find the swain
Tending his herd; they feed beneath the rock
Corax, at side of Arethusa's fount,
On acorns dieted, nutritious food
To them, and drinking of the limpid stream.
There waiting, question him of thy concerns,
While I from Sparta praised for women fair
Call home thy son Telemachus, a guest
With Menelaus now, whom to consult
In spacious Lacedæmon he is gone,
Anxious to learn if yet his father lives.
To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied.
And why, alas! all-knowing as thou art,
Him left'st thou ignorant? was it that he,
He also, wand'ring wide the barren Deep,
Might suffer woe, while these devour his wealth?
Him answer'd then Pallas cærulean-eyed.
Grieve thou not much for him. I sent him forth
Myself, that there arrived, he might acquire
Honour and fame. No suff'rings finds he there,
But in Atrides' palace safe resides,
Enjoying all abundance. Him, in truth,
The suitors watch close ambush'd on the Deep,
Intent to slay him ere he reach his home,
But shall not as I judge, till of themselves
The earth hide some who make thee, now, a prey.
So saying, the Goddess touch'd him with a wand.
At once o'er all his agile limbs she parch'd
The polish'd skin; she wither'd to the root
His wavy locks; and cloath'd him with the hide
Deform'd of wrinkled age; she charged with rheums
His eyes before so vivid, and a cloak
And kirtle gave him, tatter'd, both, and foul,
And smutch'd with smoak; then, casting over all
An huge old deer-skin bald, with a long staff
She furnish'd him, and with a wallet patch'd
On all sides, dangling by a twisted thong.
Thus all their plan adjusted, diff'rent ways
They took, and she, seeking Ulysses' son,
To Lacedæmon's spacious realm repair'd.

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