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    Chapter 23

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    Chapter 23
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    Chapter XXIII
    The Odyssey (continued)


    Ulysses clung to the raft while any of its timbers kept together,
    and when it no longer yielded him support, binding the girdle
    around him, he swam. Minerva smoothed the billows before him and
    sent him a wind that rolled the waves towards the shore. The
    surf beat high on the rocks and seemed to forbid approach; but at
    length finding calm water at the mouth of a gentle stream, he
    landed, spent with toil, breathless and speechless and almost
    dead. After some time reviving, he kissed the soil, rejoicing,
    yet at a loss what course to take. At a short distance he
    perceived a wood, to which he turned his steps. There finding a
    covert sheltered by intermingling branches alike from the sun and
    the rain, he collected a pile of leaves and formed a bed, on
    which he stretched himself, and heaping the leaves over him, fell

    The land where he was thrown was Scheria, the country of the
    Phaecians. These people dwelt originally near the Cyclopes; but
    being oppressed by that savage race, they migrated to the isle of
    Scheria, under the conduct of Nausithous their king. They were,
    the poet tells us, a people akin to the gods, who appeared
    manifestly and feasted among them when they offered sacrifices,
    and did not conceal themselves from solitary wayfarers when they
    met them. They had abundance of wealth and lived in the
    enjoyment of it undisturbed by the alarms of war, for as they
    dwelt remote from gain-seeking man, no enemy ever approached
    their shores, and they did not even require to make use of bows
    and quivers. Their chief employment was navigation. Their
    ships, which went with the velocity of birds, were endued with
    intelligence; they knew every port and needed no pilot.
    Alcinous, the son of Nausithous, was now their king, a wise and
    just sovereign, beloved by his people.

    Now it happened that the very night on which Ulysses was cast
    ashore on the Phaeacian island, and while he lay sleeping on his
    bed of leaves, Nausicaa, the daughter of the king, had a dream
    sent by Minerva, reminding her that her wedding-day was not far
    distant, and that it would be but a prudent preparation for that
    event to have a general washing of the clothes of the family.
    This was no slight affair, for the fountains were at some
    distance and the garments must be carried thither. On awaking,
    the princess hastened to her parents to tell them what was on her
    mind; not alluding to her wedding-day, but finding other reasons
    equally good. Her father readily assented and ordered the grooms
    to furnish forth a wagon for the purpose. The clothes were put
    therein, and the queen mother placed in the wagon, likewise an
    abundant supply of food and wine. The princess took her seat and
    plied the lash, her attendant virgins following her on foot.
    Arrived at the river side they turned out the mules to graze, and
    unloading the carriage, bore the garments down to the water, and
    working with cheerfulness and alacrity soon dispatched their
    labor. Then having spread the garments on the shore to dry, and
    having themselves bathed, they sat down to enjoy their meal;
    after which they rose and amused themselves with a game of ball,
    the princess singing to them while they played. But when they
    had refolded the apparel and were about to resume their way to
    the town, Minerva caused the ball thrown by the princess to fall
    into the water, whereat they all screamed, and Ulysses awaked at
    the sound.

    Now we must picture to ourselves Ulysses, a shipwrecked mariner,
    but just escaped from the waves, and utterly destitute of
    clothing, awaking and discovering that only a few bushes were
    interposed between him and a group of young maidens, whom, by
    their deportment and attire, he discovered to be not mere peasant
    girls, but of a higher class. Sadly needing help, how could he
    yet venture, naked as he was, to discover himself and make his
    wants known? It certainly was a case worthy of the interposition
    of his patron goddess Minerva, who never failed him at a crisis.
    Breaking off a leafy branch from a tree, he held it before him
    and stepped out from the thicket. The virgins, at sight of him,
    fled in all directions, Nausicaa alone excepted, for Minerva
    aided and endowed her with courage and discernment. Ulysses,
    standing respectfully aloof, told his sad case, and besought the
    fair object (whether queen or goddess he professed he knew not)
    for food and clothing. The princess replied courteously,
    promising present relief and her father's hospitality when he
    should become acquainted with the facts. She called back her
    scattered maidens, chiding their alarm, and reminding them that
    the Phaeacians had no enemies to fear. This man, she told them,
    was an unhappy wanderer, whom it was a duty to cherish, for the
    poor and stranger are from Jove. She bade them bring food and
    clothing, for some of her brothers' garments were among the
    contents of the wagon. When this was done, and Ulysses, retiring
    to a sheltered place, had washed his body free from the sea-foam,
    clothed and refreshed himself with food, Pallas dilated his form
    and diffused grace over his ample chest and manly brows.

    The princess, seeing him, was filled with admiration, and
    scrupled not to say to her damsels that she wished the gods would
    send her such a husband. To Ulysses she recommended that he
    should repair to the city, following herself and train so far as
    the way lay through the fields; but when they should approach the
    city she desired that he would no longer be seen in her company,
    for she feared the remarks which rude and vulgar people might
    make on seeing her return accompanied by such a gallant stranger;
    to avoid which she directed him to stop at a grove adjoining the
    city, in which were a farm and garden belonging to the king.
    After allowing time for the princess and her companions to reach
    the city, he was then to pursue his way thither, and would be
    easily guided by any he might meet to the royal abode.

    Ulysses obeyed the directions, and in due time proceeded to the
    city, on approaching which he met a young woman bearing a pitcher
    forth for water. It was Minerva, who had assumed that form.
    Ulysses accosted her, and desired to be directed to the palace of
    Alcinous the king. The maiden replied respectfully, offering to
    be his guide; for the palace, she informed him, stood near her
    father's dwelling. Under the guidance of the goddess, and by her
    power enveloped in a cloud which shielded him from observation,
    Ulysses passed among the busy crowd, and with wonder observed
    their harbor, their ships, their forum (the resort of heroes),
    and their battlements, till they came to the palace, where the
    goddess, having first given him some information of the country,
    king, and people he was about to meet, left him. Ulysses, before
    entering the courtyard of the palace, stood and surveyed the
    scene. Its splendor astonished him. Brazen walls stretched from
    the entrance to the interior house, of which the doors were gold,
    the door-posts silver, the lintels silver ornamented with gold.
    On either side were figures of mastiffs wrought in gold and
    silver, standing in rows as if to guard the approach. Along the
    walls were seats spread through all their length with mantles of
    finest texture, the work of Phaeacian maidens. On these seats
    the princes sat and feasted, while golden statues of graceful
    youths held in their hands lighted torches, which shed radiance
    over the scene. Full fifty female menials served in household
    offices, some employed to grind the corn, others to wind off the
    purple wool or ply the loom. For the Phaeacian women as far
    exceeded all other women in household arts as the mariners of
    that country did the rest of mankind in the management of ships.
    Without the court a spacious garden lay, in which grew many a
    lofty tree, pomegranate, pear, apple, fig, and olive. Neither
    winter's cold nor summer's drought arrested their growth, but
    they flourished in constant succession, some budding while others
    were maturing. The vineyard was equally prolific. In one
    quarter you might see the vines, some in blossom, some loaded
    with ripe grapes, and in another observe the vintagers treading
    the wine-press. On the garden's borders flowers of every hue
    bloomed all the year round, arranged with neatest art. In the
    midst two fountains poured forth their waters, one flowing by
    artificial channels over all the garden, the other conducted
    through the courtyard of the palace, whence every citizen might
    draw his supplies.

    Ulysses stood gazing in admiration, unobserved himself, for the
    cloud which Minerva spread around him still shielded him. At
    length, having sufficiently observed the scene, he advanced with
    rapid step into the hall where the chiefs and senators were
    assembled, pouring libation to Mercury, whose worship followed
    the evening meal. Just then Minerva dissolved the cloud and
    disclosed him to the assembled chiefs. Advancing toward the
    queen, he knelt at her feet and implored her favor and assistance
    to enable him to return to his native country. Then withdrawing,
    he seated himself in the manner of suppliants, at the hearth-

    For a time none spoke. At last an aged statesman, addressing the
    king, said, "It is not fit that a stranger who asks our
    hospitality should be kept waiting in suppliant guise, none
    welcoming him. Let him therefore be led to a seat among us and
    supplied with food and wine." At these words the king rising
    gave his hand to Ulysses and led him to a seat, displacing thence
    his own son to make room for the stranger. Food and wine were
    set before him and he ate and refreshed himself.

    The king then dismissed his guests, notifying them that the next
    day he would call them to council to consider what had best be
    done for the stranger.

    When the guests had departed and Ulysses was left alone with the
    king and queen, the queen asked him who he was and whence he
    came, and (recognizing the clothes which he wore as those which
    her maidens and herself had made) from whom he received his
    garments. He told them of his residence in Calypso's isle and
    his departure thence; of the wreck of his raft, his escape by
    swimming, and of the relief afforded by the princess. The
    parents heard approvingly, and the king promised to furnish him a
    ship in which he might return to his own land.

    The next day the assembled chiefs confirmed the promise of the
    king. A bark was prepared and a crew of stout rowers selected,
    and all betook themselves to the palace, where a bounteous repast
    was provided. After the feast the king proposed that the young
    men should show their guest their proficiency in manly sports,
    and all went forth to the arena for games of running, wrestling,
    and other exercises. After all had done their best, Ulysses
    being challenged to show what he could do, at first declined, but
    being taunted by one of the youths, seized a quoit of weight far
    heavier than any the Phaeacians had thrown, and sent it farther
    than the utmost throw of theirs. All were astonished, and viewed
    their guest with greatly increased respect.

    After the games they returned to the hall, and the herald led in
    Demodocus, the blind bard,

    "Dear to the Muse,
    Who yet appointed him both good and ill,
    Took from him sight, but gave him strains divine."

    He took for his theme the wooden horse, by means of which the
    Greeks found entrance into Troy. Apollo inspired him, and he
    sang so feelingly of the terrors and the exploits of that
    eventful time that all were delighted, but Ulysses was moved to
    tears. Observing which, Alcinous, when the song was done,
    demanded of him why at the mention of troy his sorrows awaked.
    Had he lost there a father or brother, or any dear friend?
    Ulysses in reply announced himself by his true name, and at their
    request, recounted the adventures which had befallen him since
    his departure from Troy. This narrative raised the sympathy and
    admiration of the Phaeacians for their guest to the highest
    pitch. The king proposed that each chief should present him with
    a gift, himself setting the example. They obeyed, and vied with
    one another in loading the illustrious stranger with costly

    The next day Ulysses set sail in the Phaeacian vessel, and in a
    short time arrived safe at Ithaca, his own island. When the
    vessel touched the strand he was asleep. The mariners, without
    waking him, carried him on shore, and landed with him the chest
    containing his presents, and then sailed away.

    But Neptune was displeased at the conduct of the Phaeacians in
    thus rescuing Ulysses from his hands. In revenge, on the return
    of the vessel to port, he transformed it into a rock, right
    opposite the mouth of the harbor.

    Homer's description of the ships of the Phaeacians has been
    thought to look like an anticipation of the wonders of modern
    steam navigation. Alcinous says to Ulysses,

    "Say from what city, from what regions tossed,
    And what inhabitants those regions boast?
    So shalt thou quickly reach the realm assigned,
    In wondrous ships, self-moved, instinct with mind;
    No helm secures their course, no pilot guides;
    Like man intelligent they plough the tides,
    Conscious of every coast and every bay
    That lies beneath the sun's all-seeing ray."
    Odyssey, Book VIII

    Lord Carlisle, in his Diary in the Turkish and Greek Waters, thus
    speaks of Corfu, which he considers to be the ancient Phaeacian

    "The sites explain the Odyssey. The temple of the sea-god could
    not have been more fitly placed, upon a grassy platform of the
    most elastic turf, on the brow of a crag commanding harbor, and
    channel, and ocean. Just at the entrance of the inner harbor
    there is a picturesque rock with a small convent perched atop it,
    which by one legend is the transformed pinnace of Ulysses.

    "Almost the only river in the island is just at the proper
    distance from the probable site of the city and palace of the
    king, to justify the princess Nausicaa having had resort to her
    chariot and to luncheon when she went with the maidens of the
    court to wash their garments."


    It was now twenty years that Ulysses had been away from Ithaca,
    and when he awoke he did not recognize his native land. But
    Minerva, appearing to him in the form of a young shepherd,
    informed him where he was, and told him the state of things at
    his palace. More than a hundred nobles of Ithaca and of the
    neighboring islands had been for years suing for the hand of
    Penelope, his wife, imagining him dead, and lording it over his
    palace and people, as if they were owners of both. That he might
    be able to take vengeance upon them, it was important that he
    should not be recognized. Minerva accordingly metamorphosed him
    into an unsightly beggar, and as such he was kindly received by
    Eumaeus, the swine-herd, a faithful servant of his house.

    Telemachus, his son, was absent in quest of his father. He had
    gone to the courts of the other kings, who had returned from the
    Trojan expedition. While on the search, he received counsel from
    Minerva to return home. Arriving at Ithaca, he sought Eumaeus to
    learn something of the state of affairs at the palace before
    presenting himself among the suitors. Finding a stranger with
    Eumaeus, he treated him courteously, though in the garb of a
    beggar, and promised him assistance. Eumaeus was sent to the
    palace to inform Penelope privately of her son's arrival, for
    caution was necessary with regard to the suitors, who, as
    Telemachus had learned, were plotting to intercept and kill him.
    When Eumaeus was gone, Minerva presented herself to Ulysses, and
    directed him to make himself known to his son. At the same time
    she touched him, removed at once from him the appearance of age
    and penury, and gave him the aspect of vigorous manhood that
    belonged to him. Telemachus viewed him with astonishment, and at
    first thought he must be more than mortal. But Ulysses announced
    himself as his father, and accounted for the change of appearance
    by explaining that it was Minerva's doing.

    "Then threw Telemachus
    His arms around his father's neck and wept,
    Desire intense of lamentation seized
    On both; soft murmurs uttering, each indulged
    His grief."

    The father and son took counsel together how they should get the
    better of the suitors and punish them for their outrages. It was
    arranged that Telemachus should proceed to the palace and mingle
    with the suitors as formerly; that Ulysses should go also, as a
    beggar, a character which in the rude old times had different
    privileges from those we concede to it now. As traveller and
    story-teller, the beggar was admitted in the halls of chieftains,
    and often treated like a guest; though sometimes, also, no doubt,
    with contumely. Ulysses charged his son not to betray, by any
    display of unusual interest in him, that he knew him to be other
    than he seemed, and even if he saw him insulted, or beaten, not
    to interpose otherwise than he might do for any stranger.

    At the palace they found the usual scene of feasting and riot
    going on. The suitors pretended to receive Telemachus with joy
    at his return, though secretly mortified at the failure of their
    plots to take his life. The old beggar was permitted to enter,
    and provided with a portion from the table. A touching incident
    occurred as Ulysses entered the court-yard of the palace. An old
    dog lay in the yard almost dead with age, and seeing a stranger
    enter, raised his head, with ears erect. It was Argus, Ulysses'
    own dog, that he had in other days often led to the chase.

    "Soon he perceived
    Long-lost Ulysses nigh, down fell his ears
    Clapped close, and with his tail glad signs he gave
    Of gratulation, impotent to rise,
    And to approach his master as of old.
    Ulysses, noting him, wiped off a tear
    . . . Then his destiny released
    Old Argus, soon as he had lived to see
    Ulysses in the twentieth year restored."

    As Ulysses sat eating his portion in the hall, the suitors soon
    began to exhibit their insolence to him. When he mildly
    remonstrated, one of them raised a stool and with it gave him a
    blow. Telemachus had hard work to restrain his indignation at
    seeing his father so treated in his own hall, but remembering his
    father's injunctions, said no more than what became him as master
    of the house and protector of his guests.

    Penelope had protracted her decision in favor of any one of her
    suitors so long, that there seemed to be no further pretence for
    delay. The continued absence of her husband seemed to prove that
    his return was no longer to be expected. Meanwhile her son had
    grown up, and was able to manage his own affairs. She therefore
    consented to submit the question of her choice to a trial of
    skill among the suitors. The test selected was shooting with the
    bow. Twelve rings were arranged in a line, and he whose arrow
    was sent through the whole twelve, was to have the queen for his
    prize. A bow that one of his brother heroes had given to Ulysses
    in former times, was brought from the armory, and with its quiver
    full of arrows was laid in the hall. Telemachus had taken care
    that all other weapons should be removed, under pretence that in
    the heat of competition, there was danger, in some rash moment,
    of putting them to an improper use.

    All things being prepared for the trial, the first thing to be
    done was to bend the bow in order to attach the string.
    Telemachus endeavored to do it, but found all his efforts
    fruitless; and modestly confessing that he had attempted a task
    beyond his strength, he yielded the bow to another. HE tried it
    with no better success, and, amidst the laughter and jeers of his
    companions, gave it up. Another tried it and another; they
    rubbed the bow with tallow, but all to no purpose; it would not
    bend. Then spoke Ulysses, humbly suggesting that he should be
    permitted to try; for, said he, "beggar as I am, I was once a
    soldier, and there is still some strength in these old limbs of
    mine." The suitors hooted with derision, and commanded to turn
    him out of the hall for his insolence. But Telemachus spoke up
    for him, and merely to gratify the old man, bade him try.
    Ulysses took the bow, and handled it with the hand of a master.
    With ease he adjusted the cord to its notch, then fitting an
    arrow to the bow he drew the string and sped the arrow unerring
    through the rings.

    Without allowing them time to express their astonishment, he
    said, "Now for another mark!" and aimed direct at the most
    insolent one of the suitors. The arrow pierced through his throat
    and he fell dead. Telemachus, Eumaeus, and another faithful
    follower, well armed, now sprang to the side of Ulysses. The
    suitors, in amazement, looked round for arms but found none,
    neither was there any way of escape, for Eumaeus had secured the
    door. Ulysses left them not long in uncertainty; he announced
    himself as the long-lost chief, whose house they had invaded,
    whose substance they had squandered, whose wife and son they had
    persecuted for ten long years; and told them he meant to have
    ample vengeance. All the suitors were slain, except Phemius the
    bard and Medon the herald, and Ulysses was left master of his own
    palace and possessor of his kingdom and his wife.

    Among Schiller's works is the following epigram on Ulysses:

    "To gain his home all oceans he explored;
    Here Scylla frowned, and there Charybdis roared;
    Horror on sea, and horror on the land,
    In hell's dark boat he sought the spectre land,
    Till borne a slumberer to his native spot,
    He woke, and sorrowing, knew his country not."
    Sir Edward Bulwer"s translation

    Tennyson's poem of Ulysses represents the old hero, after his
    dangers past and nothing left but to stay at home and be happy,
    growing tired of inaction and resolving to set forth again in
    quest of new adventures.

    "Come my friends,
    'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
    Push off, and sitting well in order smite
    The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
    To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
    Of all the western stars, until I die.
    It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
    It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
    And see the great Achilles whom we knew,
    Tho'much is taken, much abides; and tho'
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

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