Translated by Alexander Pope
|THE ODYSSEY OF HOMER|
Scepticism is as much the result of knowledge, as knowledge is of scepticism. To be content with what we at present know, is, for the most part, to shut our ears against conviction; since, from the very gradual character of our education, we must continually forget, and emancipate ourselves from, knowledge previously acquired; we must set aside old notions and embrace fresh ones; and, as we learn, we must be daily unlearning something which it has cost us no small labour and anxiety to acquire.
And this difficulty attaches itself more closely to an age in which progress has gained a strong ascendency over prejudice, and in which persons and things are, day by day, finding their real level, in lieu of their conventional value. The same principles which have swept away traditional abuses, and which are making rapid havoc among the revenues of sinecurists, and stripping the thin, tawdry veil from attractive superstitions, are working as actively in literature as in society. The credulity of one writer, or the partiality of another, finds as powerful a touchstone and as wholesome a chastisement in the healthy scepticism of a temperate class of antagonists, as the dreams of conservatism, or the impostures of pluralist sinecures in the Church. History and tradition, whether of ancient or comparatively recent times, are subjected to very different handling from that which the indulgence or credulity of former ages could allow. Mere statements are jealously watched, and the motives of the writer form as important an ingredient in the analysis or his history, as the facts he records. Probability is a powerful and troublesome test; and it is by this troublesome standard that a large portion of historical evidence is sifted. Consistency is no less pertinacious and exacting in its demands. In brief, to write a history, we must know more than mere facts. Human nature, viewed under an introduction of extended experience, is the best help to the criticism of human history. Historical characters can only be estimated by the standard which human experience, whether actual or traditionary, has furnished. To form correct views of individuals we must regard them as forming parts of a great whole—we must measure them by their relation to the mass of beings by whom they are surrounded; and, in contemplating the incidents in their lives or condition which tradition has handed down to us, we must rather consider the general bearing of the whole narrative, than the respective probability of its details.
It is unfortunate for us, that, of some of the greatest men, we know least, and talk most. Homer, Socrates, and Shakespere have, perhaps, contributed more to the intellectual enlightenment of mankind than any other three writers who could be named, and yet the history of all three has given rise to a boundless ocean of discussion, which has left us little save the option of choosing which theory or theories we will follow. The personality of Shakespere is, perhaps, the only thing in which critics will allow us to believe without controversy; but upon everything else, even down to the authorship of plays, there is more or less of doubt and uncertainty. Of Socrates we know as little as the contradictions of Plato and Xenophon will allow us to know. He was one of the dramatis personæ in two dramas as unlike in principles as in style. He appears as the enunciator of opinions as different in their tone as those of the writers who have handed them down. When we have read Plato or Xenophon, we think we know something of Socrates; when we have fairly read and examined both, we feel convinced that we are something worse than ignorant.
It has been an easy, and a popular expedient of late years, to deny the personal or real existence of men and things whose life and condition were too much for our belief. This system—which has often comforted the religious sceptic, and substituted the consolations of Strauss for those of the New Testament—has been of incalculable value to the historical theorists of the last and present centuries. To question the existence of Alexander the Great, would be a more excusable act, than to believe in that of Romulus. To deny a fact related in Herodotus, because it is inconsistent with a theory developed from an Assyrian inscription which no two scholars read in the same way, is more pardonable, than to believe in the good-natured old king whom the elegant pen of Florian has idealized—Numa Pompilius.
Scepticism has attained its culminating point with respect to Homer, and the state of our Homeric knowledge may be described as a free permission to believe any theory, provided we throw overboard all written tradition, concerning the author or authors of the Iliad and Odyssey. What few authorities exist on the subject, are summarily dismissed, although the arguments appear to run in a circle. “This cannot be true, because it is not true; and that is not true, because it cannot be true.” Such seems to be the style, in which testimony upon testimony, statement upon statement, is consigned to denial and oblivion.
It is, however, unfortunate that the professed biographies of Homer are partly forgeries, partly freaks of ingenuity and imagination, in which truth is the requisite most wanting. Before taking a brief review of the Homeric theory in its present conditions, some notice must be taken of the treatise on the Life of Homer which has been attributed to Herodotus.
According to this document, the city of Cumae in AEolia was, at an early period, the seat of frequent immigrations from various parts of Greece. Among the immigrants was Menapolus, the son of Ithagenes. Although poor, he married, and the result of the union was a girl named Critheis. The girl was left an orphan at an early age, under the guardianship of Cleanax, of Argos. It is to the indiscretion of this maiden that we “are indebted for so much happiness.” Homer was the first fruit of her juvenile frailty, and received the name of Melesigenes from having been born near the river Meles in Bœotia, whither Critheis had been transported in order to save her reputation.
“At this time,” continues our narrative, “there lived at Smyrna a man named Phemius, a teacher of literature and music, who, not being married, engaged Critheis to manage his household, and spin the flax he received as the price of his scholastic labours. So satisfactory was her performance of this task, and so modest her conduct, that he made proposals of marriage, declaring himself, as a further inducement, willing to adopt her son, who, he asserted, would become a clever man, if he were carefully brought up.”
They were married; careful cultivation ripened the talents which nature had bestowed, and Melesigenes soon surpassed his schoolfellows in every attainment, and, when older, rivalled his preceptor in wisdom. Phemius died, leaving him sole heir to his property, and his mother soon followed. Melesigenes carried on his adopted father’s school with great success, exciting the admiration not only of the inhabitants of Smyrna, but also of the strangers whom the trade carried on there, especially in the exportation of corn, attracted to that city. Among these visitors, one Mentes, from Leucadia, the modern Santa Maura, who evinced a knowledge and intelligence rarely found in those times, persuaded Melesigenes to close his school, and accompany him on his travels. He promised not only to pay his expenses, but to furnish him with a further stipend, urging, that, “While he was yet young, it was fitting that he should see with his own eyes the countries and cities which might hereafter be the subjects of his discourses.” Melesigenes consented, and set out with his patron, “examining all the curiosities of the countries they visited, and informing himself of everything by interrogating those whom he met.” We may also suppose, that he wrote memoirs of all that he deemed worthy of preservation. Having set sail from Tyrrhenia and Iberia, they reached Ithaca. Here Melesigenes, who had already suffered in his eyes, became much worse; and Mentes, who was about to leave for Leucadia, left him to the medical superintendence of a friend of his, named Mentor, the son of Alcinor. Under his hospitable and intelligent host, Melesigenes rapidly became acquainted with the legends respecting Ulysses, which afterwards formed the subject of the Odyssey. The inhabitants of Ithaca assert, that it was here that Melesigenes became blind, but the Colophonians make their city the seat of that misfortune. He then returned to Smyrna, where he applied himself to the study of poetry.
But poverty soon drove him to Cumae. Having passed over the Hermaean plain, he arrived at Neon Teichos, the New Wall, a colony of Cumae. Here his misfortunes and poetical talent gained him the friendship of one Tychias, an armourer. “And up to my time,” continues the author, “the inhabitants showed the place where he used to sit when giving a recitation of his verses; and they greatly honoured the spot. Here also a poplar grew, which they said had sprung up ever since Melesigenes arrived.”
But poverty still drove him on, and he went by way of Larissa, as being the most convenient road. Here, the Cumans say, he composed an epitaph on Gordius, king of Phrygia, which has however, and with greater probability, been attributed to Cleobulus of Lindus.
Arrived at Cumae, he frequented the conversaziones of the old men, and delighted all by the charms of his poetry. Encouraged by this favourable reception, he declared that, if they would allow him a public maintenance, he would render their city most gloriously renowned. They avowed their willingness to support him in the measure he proposed, and procured him an audience in the council. Having made the speech, with the purport of which our author has forgotten to acquaint us, he retired, and left them to debate respecting the answer to be given to his proposal.
The greater part of the assembly seemed favourable to the poet’s demand, but one man “observed that if they were to feed Homers, they would be encumbered with a multitude of useless people.” “From this circumstance,” says the writer, “Melesigenes acquired the name of Homer, for the Cumans call blind men Homers.” With a love of economy, which shows how similar the world has always been in its treatment of literary men, the pension was denied, and the poet vented his disappointment in a wish that Cumae might never produce a poet capable of giving it renown and glory.
At Phocaea Homer was destined to experience another literary distress. One Thestorides, who aimed at the reputation of poetical genius, kept Homer in his own house, and allowed him a pittance, on condition of the verses of the poet passing in his name. Having collected sufficient poetry to be profitable, Thestorides, like some would-be literary publishers, neglected the man whose brains he had sucked, and left him. At his departure, Homer is said to have observed: “O Thestorides, of the many things hidden from the knowledge of man, nothing is more unintelligible than the human heart.”
Homer continued his career of difficulty and distress, until some Chian merchants, struck by the similarity of the verses they heard him recite, acquainted him with the fact that Thestorides was pursuing a profitable livelihood by the recital of the very same poems. This at once determined him to set out for Chios. No vessel happened then to be setting sail thither, but he found one ready to start for Erythrae, a town of Ionia, which faces that island, and he prevailed upon the seamen to allow him to accompany them. Having embarked, he invoked a favourable wind, and prayed that he might be able to expose the imposture of Thestorides, who, by his breach of hospitality, had drawn down the wrath of Jove the Hospitable.
At Erythrae, Homer fortunately met with a person who had known him in Phocaea, by whose assistance he at length, after some difficulty, reached the little hamlet of Pithys. Here he met with an adventure, which we will continue in the words of our author. “Having set out from Pithys, Homer went on, attracted by the cries of some goats that were pasturing. The dogs barked on his approach, and he cried out. Glaucus (for that was the name of the goat-herd) heard his voice, ran up quickly, called off his dogs, and drove them away from Homer. For some time he stood wondering how a blind man should have reached such a place alone, and what could be his design in coming. He then went up to him and inquired who he was, and how he had come to desolate places and untrodden spots, and of what he stood in need. Homer, by recounting to him the whole history of his misfortunes, moved him with compassion; and he took him and led him to his cot, and, having lit a fire, bade him sup.
“The dogs, instead of eating, kept barking at the stranger, according to their usual habit. Whereupon Homer addressed Glaucus thus: O Glaucus, my friend, prythee attend to my behest. First give the dogs their supper at the doors of the hut: for so it is better, since, whilst they watch, nor thief nor wild beast will approach the fold.
“Glaucus was pleased with the advice and marvelled at its author. Having finished supper, they banqueted afresh on conversation, Homer narrating his wanderings, and telling of the cities he had visited.
“At length they retired to rest; but on the following morning, Glaucus resolved to go to his master, and acquaint him with his meeting with Homer. Having left the goats in charge of a fellow-servant, he left Homer at home, promising to return quickly. Having arrived at Bolissus, a place near the farm, and finding his mate, he told him the whole story respecting Homer and his journey. He paid little attention to what he said, and blamed Glaucus for his stupidity in taking in and feeding maimed and enfeebled persons. However, he bade him bring the stranger to him.
“Glaucus told Homer what had taken place, and bade him follow him, assuring him that good fortune would be the result. Conversation soon showed that the stranger was a man of much cleverness and general knowledge, and the Chian persuaded him to remain, and to undertake the charge of his children.”
Besides the satisfaction of driving the impostor Thestorides from the island, Homer enjoyed considerable success as a teacher. In the town of Chios he established a school, where he taught the precepts of poetry. “To this day,” says Chandler, “the most curious remain is that which has been named, without reason, the School of Homer. It is on the coast, at some distance from the city, northward, and appears to have been an open temple of Cybele, formed on the top of a rock. The shape is oval, and in the centre is the image of the goddess, the head and an arm wanting. She is represented, as usual, sitting. The chair has a lion carved on each side, and on the back. The area is bounded by a low rim, or seat, and about five yards over. The whole is hewn out of the mountain, is rude, indistinct, and probably of the most remote antiquity.”
So successful was this school, that Homer realised a considerable fortune. He married, and had two daughters, one of whom died single, the other married a Chian.
The following passage betrays the same tendency to connect the personages of the poems with the history of the poet, which has already been mentioned:—
“In his poetical compositions Homer displays great gratitude towards Mentor of Ithaca, in the Odyssey, whose name he has inserted in his poem as the companion of Ulysses, in return for the care taken of him when afflicted with blindness. He also testifies his gratitude to Phemius, who had given him both sustenance and instruction.”
His celebrity continued to increase, and many persons advised him to visit Greece whither his reputation had now extended. Having, it is said, made some additions to his poems calculated to please the vanity of the Athenians, of whose city he had hitherto made no mention, he set out for Samos. Here, being recognized by a Samian, who had met with him in Chios, he was handsomely received, and invited to join in celebrating the Apaturian festival. He recited some verses, which gave great satisfaction, and by singing the Eiresione at the New Moon festivals, he earned a subsistence, visiting the houses of the rich, with whose children he was very popular.
In the spring he sailed for Athens, and arrived at the island of Ios, now Ino, where he fell extremely ill, and died. It is said that his death arose from vexation, at not having been able to unravel an enigma proposed by some fishermen’s children.
Such is, in brief, the substance of the earliest life of Homer we possess, and so broad are the evidences of its historical worthlessness, that it is scarcely necessary to point them out in detail. Let us now consider some of the opinions to which a persevering, patient, and learned—but by no means consistent—series of investigations has led. In doing so, I profess to bring forward statements, not to vouch for their reasonableness or probability.
“Homer appeared. The history of this poet and his works is lost in doubtful obscurity, as is the history of many of the first minds who have done honour to humanity, because they rose amidst darkness. The majestic stream of his song, blessing and fertilizing, flows like the Nile, through many lands and nations; and, like the sources of the Nile, its fountains will ever remain concealed.”
Such are the words in which one of the most judicious German critics has eloquently described the uncertainty in which the whole of the Homeric question is involved. With no less truth and feeling he proceeds:—
“It seems here of chief importance to expect no more than the nature of things makes possible. If the period of tradition in history is the region of twilight, we should not expect in it perfect light. The creations of genius always seem like miracles, because they are, for the most part, created far out of the reach of observation. If we were in possession of all the historical testimonies, we never could wholly explain the origin of the Iliad and the Odyssey; for their origin, in all essential points, must have remained the secret of the poet.”
From this criticism, which shows as much insight into the depths of human nature as into the minute wire-drawings of scholastic investigation, let us pass on to the main question at issue. Was Homer an individual? or were the Iliad and Odyssey the result of an ingenious arrangement of fragments by earlier poets?
Well has Landor remarked: “Some tell us there were twenty Homers; some deny that there was ever one. It were idle and foolish to shake the contents of a vase, in order to let them settle at last. We are perpetually labouring to destroy our delights, our composure, our devotion to superior power. Of all the animals on earth we least know what is good for us. My opinion is, that what is best for us is our admiration of good. No man living venerates Homer more than I do.”
But, greatly as we admire the generous enthusiasm which rests contented with the poetry on which its best impulses had been nurtured and fostered, without seeking to destroy the vividness of first impressions by minute analysis, our editorial office compels us to give some attention to the doubts and difficulties with which the Homeric question is beset, and to entreat our reader, for a brief period, to prefer his judgment to his imagination, and to condescend to dry details. Before, however, entering into particulars respecting the question of this unity of the Homeric poems, (at least of the Iliad,) I must express my sympathy with the sentiments expressed in the following remarks:—
“We cannot but think the universal admiration of its unity by the better, the poetic age of Greece, almost conclusive testimony to its original composition. It was not till the age of the grammarians that its primitive integrity was called in question; nor is it injustice to assert, that the minute and analytical spirit of a grammarian is not the best qualification for the profound feeling, the comprehensive conception of an harmonious whole. The most exquisite anatomist may be no judge of the symmetry of the human frame; and we would take the opinion of Chantrey or Westmacott on the proportions and general beauty of a form, rather than that of Mr. Brodie or Sir Astley Cooper.
“There is some truth, though some malicious exaggeration, in the lines of Pope:—
“‘The critic eye—that microscope of wit—
Sees hairs and pores, examines bit by bit;
How parts relate to parts, or they to whole.
The body’s harmony, the beaming soul,
Are things which Kuster, Burmann, Wasse, shall see,
When man’s whole frame is obvious to a flea.’”
Long was the time which elapsed before any one dreamt of questioning the unity of the authorship of the Homeric poems. The grave and cautious Thucydides quoted without hesitation the Hymn to Apollo, the authenticity of which has been already disclaimed by modern critics. Longinus, in an oft-quoted passage, merely expressed an opinion touching the comparative inferiority of the Odyssey to the Iliad; and, among a mass of ancient authors, whose very names it would be tedious to detail, no suspicion of the personal non-existence of Homer ever arose. So far, the voice of antiquity seems to be in favour of our early ideas on the subject: let us now see what are the discoveries to which more modern investigations lay claim.
At the end of the seventeenth century, doubts had begun to awaken on the subject, and we find Bentley remarking that “Homer wrote a sequel of songs and rhapsodies, to be sung by himself, for small comings and good cheer, at festivals and other days of merriment. These loose songs were not collected together, in the form of an epic poem, till about Peisistratus’ time, about five hundred years after.”
Two French writers—Hedelin and Perrault—avowed a similar scepticism on the subject; but it is in the “Scienza Nuova” of Battista Vico, that we first meet with the germ of the theory, subsequently defended by Wolf with so much learning and acuteness. Indeed, it is with the Wolfian theory that we have chiefly to deal, and with the following bold hypothesis, which we will detail in the words of Grote:—
“Half a century ago, the acute and valuable Prolegomena of F. A. Wolf, turning to account the Venetian Scholia, which had then been recently published, first opened philosophical discussion as to the history of the Homeric text. A considerable part of that dissertation (though by no means the whole) is employed in vindicating the position, previously announced by Bentley, amongst others, that the separate constituent portions of the Iliad and Odyssey had not been cemented together into any compact body and unchangeable order, until the days of Peisistratus, in the sixth century before Christ. As a step towards that conclusion, Wolf maintained that no written copies of either poem could be shown to have existed during the earlier times, to which their composition is referred; and that without writing, neither the perfect symmetry of so complicated a work could have been originally conceived by any poet, nor, if realized by him, transmitted with assurance to posterity. The absence of easy and convenient writing, such as must be indispensably supposed for long manuscripts, among the early Greeks, was thus one of the points in Wolf’s case against the primitive integrity of the Iliad and Odyssey. By Nitzsch, and other leading opponents of Wolf, the connection of the one with the other seems to have been accepted as he originally put it; and it has been considered incumbent on those who defended the ancient aggregate character of the Iliad and Odyssey, to maintain that they were written poems from the beginning.
“To me it appears, that the architectonic functions ascribed by Wolf to Peisistratus and his associates, in reference to the Homeric poems, are nowise admissible. But much would undoubtedly be gained towards that view of the question, if it could be shown, that, in order to controvert it, we were driven to the necessity of admitting long written poems, in the ninth century before the Christian aera. Few things, in my opinion, can be more improbable; and Mr. Payne Knight, opposed as he is to the Wolfian hypothesis, admits this no less than Wolf himself. The traces of writing in Greece, even in the seventh century before the Christian aera, are exceedingly trifling. We have no remaining inscription earlier than the fortieth Olympiad, and the early inscriptions are rude and unskilfully executed; nor can we even assure ourselves whether Archilochus, Simonides of Amorgus, Kallinus Tyrtaeus, Xanthus, and the other early elegiac and lyric poets, committed their compositions to writing, or at what time the practice of doing so became familiar. The first positive ground which authorizes us to presume the existence of a manuscript of Homer, is in the famous ordinance of Solon, with regard to the rhapsodies at the Panathenaea: but for what length of time previously manuscripts had existed, we are unable to say.
“Those who maintain the Homeric poems to have been written from the beginning, rest their case, not upon positive proofs, nor yet upon the existing habits of society with regard to poetry—for they admit generally that the Iliad and Odyssey were not read, but recited and heard,—but upon the supposed necessity that there must have been manuscripts to ensure the preservation of the poems—the unassisted memory of reciters being neither sufficient nor trustworthy. But here we only escape a smaller difficulty by running into a greater; for the existence of trained bards, gifted with extraordinary memory, is far less astonishing than that of long manuscripts, in an age essentially non-reading and non-writing, and when even suitable instruments and materials for the process are not obvious. Moreover, there is a strong positive reason for believing that the bard was under no necessity of refreshing his memory by consulting a manuscript; for if such had been the fact, blindness would have been a disqualification for the profession, which we know that it was not, as well from the example of Demodokus, in the Odyssey, as from that of the blind bard of Chios, in the Hymn to the Delian Apollo, whom Thucydides, as well as the general tenor of Grecian legend, identifies with Homer himself. The author of that hymn, be he who he may, could never have described a blind man as attaining the utmost perfection in his art, if he had been conscious that the memory of the bard was only maintained by constant reference to the manuscript in his chest.”
The loss of the digamma, that crux of critics, that quicksand upon which even the acumen of Bentley was shipwrecked, seems to prove beyond a doubt, that the pronunciation of the Greek language had undergone a considerable change. Now it is certainly difficult to suppose that the Homeric poems could have suffered by this change, had written copies been preserved. If Chaucer’s poetry, for instance, had not been written, it could only have come down to us in a softened form, more like the effeminate version of Dryden, than the rough, quaint, noble original.
“At what period,” continues Grote, “these poems, or indeed any other Greek poems, first began to be written, must be matter of conjecture, though there is ground for assurance that it was before the time of Solon. If, in the absence of evidence, we may venture upon naming any more determinate period, the question at once suggests itself, What were the purposes which, in that state of society, a manuscript at its first commencement must have been intended to answer? For whom was a written Iliad necessary? Not for the rhapsodes; for with them it was not only planted in the memory, but also interwoven with the feelings, and conceived in conjunction with all those flexions and intonations of voice, pauses, and other oral artifices which were required for emphatic delivery, and which the naked manuscript could never reproduce. Not for the general public—they were accustomed to receive it with its rhapsodic delivery, and with its accompaniments of a solemn and crowded festival. The only persons for whom the written Iliad would be suitable would be a select few; studious and curious men; a class of readers capable of analyzing the complicated emotions which they had experienced as hearers in the crowd, and who would, on perusing the written words, realize in their imaginations a sensible portion of the impression communicated by the reciter. Incredible as the statement may seem in an age like the present, there is in all early societies, and there was in early Greece, a time when no such reading class existed. If we could discover at what time such a class first began to be formed, we should be able to make a guess at the time when the old epic poems were first committed to writing. Now the period which may with the greatest probability be fixed upon as having first witnessed the formation even of the narrowest reading class in Greece, is the middle of the seventh century before the Christian aera (B.C. 660 to B.C. 630), the age of Terpander, Kallinus, Archilochus, Simenides of Amorgus, &c. I ground this supposition on the change then operated in the character and tendencies of Grecian poetry and music—the elegiac and the iambic measures having been introduced as rivals to the primitive hexameter, and poetical compositions having been transferred from the epical past to the affairs of present and real life. Such a change was important at a time when poetry was the only known mode of publication (to use a modern phrase not altogether suitable, yet the nearest approaching to the sense). It argued a new way of looking at the old epical treasures of the people, as well as a thirst for new poetical effect; and the men who stood forward in it may well be considered as desirous to study, and competent to criticize, from their own individual point of view, the written words of the Homeric rhapsodies, just as we are told that Kallinus both noticed and eulogized the Thebais as the production of Homer. There seems, therefore, ground for conjecturing that (for the use of this newly-formed and important, but very narrow class), manuscripts of the Homeric poems and other old epics,—the Thebais and the Cypria, as well as the Iliad and the Odyssey,—began to be compiled towards the middle of the seventh century B.C. I; and the opening of Egypt to Grecian commerce, which took place about the same period, would furnish increased facilities for obtaining the requisite papyrus to write upon. A reading class, when once formed, would doubtless slowly increase, and the number of manuscripts along with it: so that before the time of Solon, fifty years afterwards, both readers and manuscripts, though still comparatively few, might have attained a certain recognized authority, and formed a tribunal of reference against the carelessness of individual rhapsodies.”
But even Peisistratus has not been suffered to remain in possession of the credit, and we cannot help feeling the force of the following observations:—
“There are several incidental circumstances which, in our opinion, throw some suspicion over the whole history of the Peisistratid compilation, at least over the theory that the Iliad was cast into its present stately and harmonious form by the directions of the Athenian ruler. If the great poets, who flourished at the bright period of Grecian song, of which, alas! we have inherited little more than the fame, and the faint echo; if Stesichorus, Anacreon, and Simonides were employed in the noble task of compiling the Iliad and Odyssey, so much must have been done to arrange, to connect, to harmonize, that it is almost incredible that stronger marks of Athenian manufacture should not remain. Whatever occasional anomalies may be detected, anomalies which no doubt arise out of our own ignorance of the language of the Homeric age; however the irregular use of the digamma may have perplexed our Bentleys, to whom the name of Helen is said to have caused as much disquiet and distress as the fair one herself among the heroes of her age; however Mr. Knight may have failed in reducing the Homeric language to its primitive form; however, finally, the Attic dialect may not have assumed all its more marked and distinguishing characteristics:—still it is difficult to suppose that the language, particularly in the joinings and transitions, and connecting parts, should not more clearly betray the incongruity between the more ancient and modern forms of expression. It is not quite in character with such a period to imitate an antique style, in order to piece out an imperfect poem in the character of the original, as Sir Walter Scott has done in his continuation of Sir Tristram.
“If, however, not even such faint and indistinct traces of Athenian compilation are discoverable in the language of the poems, the total absence of Athenian national feeling is perhaps no less worthy of observation. In later, and it may fairly be suspected in earlier times, the Athenians were more than ordinarily jealous of the fame of their ancestors. But, amid all the traditions of the glories of early Greece embodied in the Iliad, the Athenians play a most subordinate and insignificant part. Even the few passages which relate to their ancestors, Mr. Knight suspects to be interpolations. It is possible, indeed, that in its leading outline, the Iliad may be true to historic fact; that in the great maritime expedition of western Greece against the rival and half-kindred empire of the Laomedontiadae, the chieftain of Thessaly, from his valour and the number of his forces, may have been the most important ally of the Peloponnesian sovereign: the pre-eminent value of the ancient poetry on the Trojan war may thus have forced the national feeling of the Athenians to yield to their taste. The songs which spoke of their own great ancestor were, no doubt, of far inferior sublimity and popularity, or, at first sight, a Theseid would have been much more likely to have emanated from an Athenian synod of compilers of ancient song, than an Achilleid or an Odysseid. Could France have given birth to a Tasso, Tancred would have been the hero of the Jerusalem. If, however, the Homeric ballads, as they are sometimes called, which related the wrath of Achilles, with all its direful consequences, were so far superior to the rest of the poetic cycle, as to admit no rivalry,—it is still surprising, that throughout the whole poem the callida junctura should never betray the workmanship of an Athenian hand; and that the national spirit of a race, who have at a later period not inaptly been compared to our self-admiring neighbours, the French, should submit with lofty self-denial to the almost total exclusion of their own ancestors—or, at least, to the questionable dignity of only having produced a leader tolerably skilled in the military tactics of his age.”
To return to the Wolfian theory. While it is to be confessed, that Wolf’s objections to the primitive integrity of the Iliad and Odyssey have never been wholly got over, we cannot help discovering that they have failed to enlighten us as to any substantial point, and that the difficulties with which the whole subject is beset, are rather augmented than otherwise, if we admit his hypothesis. Nor is Lachmann’s modification of his theory any better. He divides the first twenty-two books of the Iliad into sixteen different songs, and treats as ridiculous the belief that their amalgamation into one regular poem belongs to a period earlier than the age of Peisistratus. This as Grote observes, “ex-plains the gaps and contradictions in the narrative, but it explains nothing else.” Moreover, we find no contradictions warranting this belief, and the so-called sixteen poets concur in getting rid of the following leading men in the first battle after the secession of Achilles: Elphenor, chief of the Euboeans; Tlepolemus, of the Rhodians; Pandarus, of the Lycians; Odins, of the Halizonians: Pirous and Acamas, of the Thracians. None of these heroes again make their appearance, and we can but agree with Colonel Mure, that “it seems strange that any number of independent poets should have so harmoniously dispensed with the services of all six in the sequel.” The discrepancy, by which Pylaemenes, who is represented as dead in the fifth book, weeps at his son’s funeral in the thirteenth, can only be regarded as the result of an interpolation.
Grote, although not very distinct in stating his own opinions on the subject, has done much to clearly show the incongruity of the Wolfian theory, and of Lachmann’s modifications, with the character of Peisistratus. But he has also shown, and we think with equal success, that the two questions relative to the primitive unity of these poems, or, supposing that impossible, the unison of these parts by Peisistratus, and not before his time, are essentially distinct. In short, “a man may believe the Iliad to have been put together out of pre-existing songs, without recognising the age of Peisistratus as the period of its first compilation.” The friends or literary employés of Peisistratus must have found an Iliad that was already ancient, and the silence of the Alexandrine critics respecting the Peisistratic “recension,” goes far to prove, that, among the numerous manuscripts they examined, this was either wanting, or thought unworthy of attention.
“Moreover,” he continues, “the whole tenor of the poems themselves confirms what is here remarked. There is nothing, either in the Iliad or Odyssey, which savours of modernism, applying that term to the age of Peisistratus—nothing which brings to our view the alterations brought about by two centuries, in the Greek language, the coined money, the habits of writing and reading, the despotisms and republican governments, the close military array, the improved construction of ships, the Amphiktyonic convocations, the mutual frequentation of religious festivals, the Oriental and Egyptian veins of religion, &c., familiar to the latter epoch. These alterations Onomakritus, and the other literary friends of Peisistratus, could hardly have failed to notice, even without design, had they then, for the first time, undertaken the task of piecing together many self-existent epics into one large aggregate. Everything in the two great Homeric poems, both in substance and in language, belongs to an age two or three centuries earlier than Peisistratus. Indeed, even the interpolations (or those passages which, on the best grounds, are pronounced to be such) betray no trace of the sixth century before Christ, and may well have been heard by Archilochus and Kallinus—in some cases even by Arktinus and Hesiod—as genuine Homeric matter. As far as the evidences on the case, as well internal as external, enable us to judge, we seem warranted in believing that the Iliad and Odyssey were recited substantially as they now stand (always allowing for partial divergences of text and interpolations) in 776 B.C., our first trustworthy mark of Grecian time; and this ancient date, let it be added, as it is the best-authenticated fact, so it is also the most important attribute of the Homeric poems, considered in reference to Grecian history; for they thus afford us an insight into the anti-historical character of the Greeks, enabling us to trace the subsequent forward march of the nation, and to seize instructive contrasts between their former and their later condition.”
On the whole, I am inclined to believe, that the labours of Peisistratus were wholly of an editorial character, although I must confess that I can lay down nothing respecting the extent of his labours. At the same time, so far from believing that the composition or primary arrangement of these poems, in their present form, was the work of Peisistratus, I am rather persuaded that the fine taste and elegant, mind of that Athenian would lead him to preserve an ancient and traditional order of the poems, rather than to patch and reconstruct them according to a fanciful hypothesis. I will not repeat the many discussions respecting whether the poems were written or not, or whether the art of writing was known in the time of their reputed author. Suffice it to say, that the more we read, the less satisfied we are upon either subject.
I cannot, however, help thinking, that the story which attributes the preservation of these poems to Lycurgus, is little else than a version of the same story as that of Peisistratus, while its historical probability must be measured by that of many others relating to the Spartan Confucius.
I will conclude this sketch of the Homeric theories with an attempt, made by an ingenious friend, to unite them into something like consistency. It is as follows:—
“No doubt the common soldiers of that age had, like the common sailors of some fifty years ago, some one qualified to ‘discourse in excellent music’ among them. Many of these, like those of the negroes in the United States, were extemporaneous, and allusive to events passing around them. But what was passing around them? The grand events of a spirit-stirring war; occurrences likely to impress themselves, as the mystical legends of former times had done, upon their memory; besides which, a retentive memory was deemed a virtue of the first water, and was cultivated accordingly in those ancient times. Ballads at first, and down to the beginning of the war with Troy, were merely recitations, with an intonation. Then followed a species of recitative, probably with an intoned burden. Tune next followed, as it aided the memory considerably.
“It was at this period, about four hundred years after the war, that a poet flourished of the name of Melesigenes, or Moeonides, but most probably the former. He saw that these ballads might be made of great utility to his purpose of writing a poem on the social position of Hellas, and, as a collection, he published these lays connecting them by a tale of his own. This poem now exists, under the title of the ‘Odyssea.’ The author, however, did not affix his own name to the poem, which, in fact, was, great part of it, remodelled from the archaic dialect of Crete, in which tongue the ballads were found by him. He therefore called it the poem of Homeros, or the Collector; but this is rather a proof of his modesty and talent, than of his mere drudging arrangement of other people’s ideas; for, as Grote has finely observed, arguing for the unity of authorship, ‘a great poet might have re-cast pre-existing separate songs into one comprehensive whole; but no mere arrangers or compilers would be competent to do so.’
“While employed on the wild legend of Odysseus, he met with a ballad, recording the quarrel of Achilles and Agamemnon. His noble mind seized the hint that there presented itself, and the Achilleis grew under his hand. Unity of design, however, caused him to publish the poem under the same pseudonyme as his former work; and the disjointed lays of the ancient bards were joined together, like those relating to the Cid, into a chronicle history, named the Iliad. Melesigenes knew that the poem was destined to be a lasting one, and so it has proved; but, first, the poems were destined to undergo many vicissitudes and corruptions, by the people who took to singing them in the streets, assemblies, and agoras. However, Solon first, and then Peisistratus, and afterwards Aristoteles and others, revised the poems, and restored the works of Melesigenes Homeros to their original integrity in a great measure.”
Having thus given some general notion of the strange theories which have developed themselves respecting this most interesting subject, I must still express my conviction as to the unity of the authorship of the Homeric poems. To deny that many corruptions and interpolations disfigure them, and that the intrusive hand of the poetasters may here and there have inflicted a wound more serious than the negligence of the copyist, would be an absurd and captious assumption; but it is to a higher criticism that we must appeal, if we would either understand or enjoy these poems. In maintaining the authenticity and personality of their one author, be he Homer or Melesigenes, quocunque nomine vocari eum jus fasque sit, I feel conscious that, while the whole weight of historical evidence is against the hypothesis which would assign these great works to a plurality of authors, the most powerful internal evidence, and that which springs from the deepest and most immediate impulse of the soul, also speaks eloquently to the contrary.
The minutiae of verbal criticism I am far from seeking to despise. Indeed, considering the character of some of my own books, such an attempt would be gross inconsistency. But, while I appreciate its importance in a philological view, I am inclined to set little store on its aesthetic value, especially in poetry. Three parts of the emendations made upon poets are mere alterations, some of which, had they been suggested to the author by his Maecenas or Africanus, he would probably have adopted. Moreover, those who are most exact in laying down rules of verbal criticism and interpretation, are often least competent to carry out their own precepts. Grammarians are not poets by profession, but may be so per accidens. I do not at this moment remember two emendations on Homer, calculated to substantially improve the poetry of a passage, although a mass of remarks, from Herodotus down to Loewe, have given us the history of a thousand minute points, without which our Greek knowledge would be gloomy and jejune.
But it is not on words only that grammarians, mere grammarians, will exercise their elaborate and often tiresome ingenuity. Binding down an heroic or dramatic poet to the block upon which they have previously dissected his words and sentences, they proceed to use the axe and the pruning knife by wholesale; and, inconsistent in everything but their wish to make out a case of unlawful affiliation, they cut out book after book, passage after passage, till the author is reduced to a collection of fragments, or till those who fancied they possessed the works of some great man, find that they have been put off with a vile counterfeit got up at second hand. If we compare the theories of Knight, Wolf, Lachmann; and others, we shall feel better satisfied of the utter uncertainty of criticism than of the apocryphal position of Homer. One rejects what another considers the turning-point of his theory. One cuts a supposed knot by expunging what another would explain by omitting something else.
Nor is this morbid species of sagacity by any means to be looked upon as a literary novelty. Justus Lipsius, a scholar of no ordinary skill, seems to revel in the imaginary discovery, that the tragedies attributed to Seneca are by four different authors. Now, I will venture to assert, that these tragedies are so uniform, not only in their borrowed phraseology—a phraseology with which writers like Boethius and Saxo Grammaticus were more charmed than ourselves—in their freedom from real poetry, and last, but not least, in an ultra-refined and consistent abandonment of good taste, that few writers of the present day would question the capabilities of the same gentleman, be he Seneca or not, to produce not only these, but a great many more equally bad. With equal sagacity, Father Hardouin astonished the world with the startling announcement that the AEneid of Virgil, and the satires of Horace, were literary deceptions. Now, without wishing to say one word of disrespect against the industry and learning—nay, the refined acuteness—which scholars like Wolf have bestowed upon this subject, I must express my fears, that many of our modern Homeric theories will become matter for the surprise and entertainment, rather than the instruction, of posterity. Nor can I help thinking that the literary history of more recent times will account for many points of difficulty in the transmission of the Iliad and Odyssey to a period so remote from that of their first creation.
I have already expressed my belief that the labours of Peisistratus were of a purely editorial character; and there seems no more reason why corrupt and imperfect editions of Homer may not have been abroad in his day, than that the poems of Valerius Flaccus and Tibullus should have given so much trouble to Poggio, Scaliger, and others. But, after all, the main fault in all the Homeric theories is, that they demand too great a sacrifice of those feelings to which poetry most powerfully appeals, and which are its most fitting judges. The ingenuity which has sought to rob us of the name and existence of Homer, does too much violence to that inward emotion, which makes our whole soul yearn with love and admiration for the blind bard of Chios. To believe the author of the Iliad a mere compiler, is to degrade the powers of human invention; to elevate analytical judgment at the expense of the most ennobling impulses of the soul; and to forget the ocean in the contemplation of a polypus. There is a catholicity, so to speak, in the very name of Homer. Our faith in the author of the Iliad may be a mistaken one, but as yet nobody has taught us a better.
While, however, I look upon the belief in Homer as one that has nature herself for its mainspring; while I can join with old Ennius in believing in Homer as the ghost, who, like some patron saint, hovers round the bed of the poet, and even bestows rare gifts from that wealth of imagination which a host of imitators could not exhaust,—still I am far from wishing to deny that the author of these great poems found a rich fund of tradition, a well-stocked mythical storehouse, from whence he might derive both subject and embellishment. But it is one thing to use existing romances in the embellishment of a poem, another to patch up the poem itself from such materials. What consistency of style and execution can be hoped for from such an attempt? or, rather, what bad taste and tedium will not be the infallible result?
A blending of popular legends, and a free use of the songs of other bards, are features perfectly consistent with poetical originality. In fact, the most original writer is still drawing upon outward impressions—nay, even his own thoughts are a kind of secondary agents which support and feed the impulses of imagination. But unless there be some grand pervading principle—some invisible, yet most distinctly stamped archetypus of the great whole, a poem like the Iliad can never come to the birth. Traditions the most picturesque, episodes the most pathetic, local associations teeming with the thoughts of gods and great men, may crowd in one mighty vision, or reveal themselves in more substantial forms to the mind of the poet; but, except the power to create a grand whole, to which these shall be but as details and embellishments, be present, we shall have nought but a scrap-book, a parterre filled with flowers and weeds strangling each other in their wild redundancy; we shall have a cento of rags and tatters, which will require little acuteness to detect.
Sensible as I am of the difficulty of disproving a negative, and aware as I must be of the weighty grounds there are for opposing my belief, it still seems to me that the Homeric question is one that is reserved for a higher criticism than it has often obtained. We are not by nature intended to know all things; still less, to compass the powers by which the greatest blessings of life have been placed at our disposal. Were faith no virtue, then we might indeed wonder why God willed our ignorance on any matter. But we are too well taught the contrary lesson; and it seems as though our faith should be especially tried, touching the men and the events which have wrought most influence upon the condition of humanity. And there is a kind of sacredness attached to the memory of the great and the good, which seems to bid us repulse the scepticism which would allegorize their existence into a pleasing apologue, and measure the giants of intellect by an homaeopathic dynameter.
Long and habitual reading of Homer appears to familiarize our thoughts even to his incongruities; or rather, if we read in a right spirit and with a heartfelt appreciation, we are too much dazzled, too deeply wrapped in admiration of the whole, to dwell upon the minute spots which mere analysis can discover. In reading an heroic poem, we must transform ourselves into heroes of the time being, we in imagination must fight over the same battles, woo the same loves, burn with the same sense of injury, as an Achilles or a Hector. And if we can but attain this degree of enthusiasm (and less enthusiasm will scarcely suffice for the reading of Homer), we shall feel that the poems of Homer are not only the work of one writer, but of the greatest writer that ever touched the hearts of men by the power of song.
And it was this supposed unity of authorship which gave these poems their powerful influence over the minds of the men of old. Heeren, who is evidently little disposed in favour of modern theories, finely observes:—
“It was Homer who formed the character of the Greek nation. No poet has ever, as a poet, exercised a similar influence over his countrymen. Prophets, lawgivers, and sages have formed the character of other nations; it was reserved to a poet to form that of the Greeks. This is a feature in their character which was not wholly erased even in the period of their degeneracy. When lawgivers and sages appeared in Greece, the work of the poet had already been accomplished; and they paid homage to his superior genius. He held up before his nation the mirror in which they were to behold the world of gods and heroes, no less than of feeble mortals, and to behold them reflected with purity and truth. His poems are founded on the first feeling of human nature; on the love of children, wife, and country; on that passion which outweighs all others, the love of glory. His songs were poured forth from a breast which sympathized with all the feelings of man; and therefore they enter, and will continue to enter, every breast which cherishes the same sympathies. If it is granted to his immortal spirit, from another heaven than any of which he dreamed on earth, to look down on his race, to see the nations from the fields of Asia, to the forests of Hercynia, performing pilgrimages to the fountain which his magic wand caused to flow; if it is permitted to him to view the vast assemblage of grand, of elevated, of glorious productions, which had been called into being by means of his songs; wherever his immortal spirit may reside, this alone would suffice to complete his happiness.”
Can we contemplate that ancient monument, on which the “Apotheosis of Homer” is depictured, and not feel how much of pleasing association, how much that appeals most forcibly and most distinctly to our minds, is lost by the admittance of any theory but our old tradition? The more we read, and the more we think—think as becomes the readers of Homer,—the more rooted becomes the conviction that the Father of Poetry gave us this rich inheritance, whole and entire. Whatever were the means of its preservation, let us rather be thankful for the treasury of taste and eloquence thus laid open to our use, than seek to make it a mere centre around which to drive a series of theories, whose wildness is only equalled by their inconsistency with each other.
As the hymns, and some other poems usually ascribed to Homer, are not included in Pope’s translation, I will content myself with a brief account of the Battle of the Frogs and Mice, from the pen of a writer who has done it full justice:—
“This poem,” says Coleridge, “is a short mock-heroic of ancient date. The text varies in different editions, and is obviously disturbed and corrupt to a great degree; it is commonly said to have been a juvenile essay of Homer’s genius; others have attributed it to the same Pigrees mentioned above, and whose reputation for humour seems to have invited the appropriation of any piece of ancient wit, the author of which was uncertain; so little did the Greeks, before the age of the Ptolemies, know or care about that department of criticism employed in determining the genuineness of ancient writings. As to this little poem being a youthful prolusion of Homer, it seems sufficient to say that from the beginning to the end, it is a plain and palpable parody, not only of the general spirit, but of numerous passages of the Iliad itself; and, even if no such intention to parody were discernible in it, the objection would still remain, that to suppose a work of mere burlesque to be the primary effort of poetry in a simple age, seems to reverse that order in the development of national taste, which the history of every other people in Europe, and of many in Asia, has almost ascertained to be a law of the human mind; it is in a state of society much more refined and permanent than that described in the Iliad, that any popularity would attend such a ridicule of war and the gods as is contained in this poem; and the fact of there having existed three other poems of the same kind attributed, for aught we can see, with as much reason to Homer, is a strong inducement to believe that none of them were of the Homeric age. Knight infers from the usage of the word δὲλτος, ‘writing tablet,’ instead of διφθέρα, ‘skin,’ which, according to Herod 5, 58, was the material employed by the Asiatic Greeks for that purpose, that this poem was another offspring of Attic ingenuity; and generally that the familiar mention of the cock (v. 191) is a strong argument against so ancient a date for its composition.”
Having thus given a brief account of the poems comprised in Pope’s design, I will now proceed to make a few remarks on his translation, and on my own purpose in the present edition.
Pope was not a Grecian. His whole education had been irregular, and his earliest acquaintance with the poet was through the version of Ogilby. It is not too much to say that his whole work bears the impress of a disposition to be satisfied with the general sense, rather than to dive deeply into the minute and delicate features of language. Hence his whole work is to be looked upon rather as an elegant paraphrase than a translation. There are, to be sure, certain conventional anecdotes, which prove that Pope consulted various friends, whose classical attainments were sounder than his own, during the undertaking; but it is probable that these examinations were the result rather of the contradictory versions already existing, than of a desire to make a perfect transcript of the original. And in those days, what is called literal translation was less cultivated than at present. If something like the general sense could be decorated with the easy gracefulness of a practised poet; if the charms of metrical cadence and a pleasing fluency could be made consistent with a fair interpretation of the poet’s meaning, his words were less jealously sought for, and those who could read so good a poem as Pope’s Iliad had fair reason to be satisfied.
It would be absurd, therefore, to test Pope’s translation by our own advancing knowledge of the original text. We must be content to look at it as a most delightful work in itself,—a work which is as much a part of English literature as Homer himself is of Greek. We must not be torn from our kindly associations with the old Iliad, that once was our most cherished companion, or our most looked-for prize, merely because Buttmann, Loewe, and Liddell have made us so much more accurate as to ἀμφικύπελλον being an adjective, and not a substantive. Far be it from us to defend the faults of Pope, especially when we think of Chapman’s fine, bold, rough old English;—far be it from us to hold up his translation as what a translation of Homer might be. But we can still dismiss Pope’s Iliad to the hands of our readers, with the consciousness that they must have read a very great number of books before they have read its fellow.
THEODORE ALOIS BUCKLEY.
THE ODYSSEY OF HOMER.
MINERVA’S DESCENT TO ITHACA.
The poem opens within forty eight days of the arrival of Ulysses in his dominions. He had now remained seven years in the Island of Calypso, when the gods assembled in council, proposed the method of his departure from thence and his return to his native country. For this purpose it is concluded to send Mercury to Calypso, and Pallas immediately descends to Ithaca. She holds a conference with Telemachus, in the shape of Mantes, king of Taphians; in which she advises him to take a journey in quest of his father Ulysses, to Pylos and Sparta, where Nestor and Menelaus yet reigned; then, after having visibly displayed her divinity, disappears. The suitors of Penelope make great entertainments, and riot in her palace till night. Phemius sings to them the return of the Grecians, till Penelope puts a stop to the song. Some words arise between the suitors and Telemachus, who summons the council to meet the day following.
The man for wisdom’s various arts renown’d,
Long exercised in woes, O Muse! resound;
Who, when his arms had wrought the destined fall
Of sacred Troy, and razed her heaven-built wall,
Wandering from clime to clime, observant stray’d,
Their manners noted, and their states survey’d,
On stormy seas unnumber’d toils he bore,
Safe with his friends to gain his natal shore:
Vain toils! their impious folly dared to prey
On herds devoted to the god of day;
The god vindictive doom’d them never more
(Ah, men unbless’d!) to touch that natal shore.
Oh, snatch some portion of these acts from fate,
Celestial Muse! and to our world relate.
Now at their native realms the Greeks arrived;
All who the wars of ten long years survived;
And ’scaped the perils of the gulfy main.
Ulysses, sole of all the victor train,
An exile from his dear paternal coast,
Deplored his absent queen and empire lost.
Calypso in her caves constrain’d his stay,
With sweet, reluctant, amorous delay;
In vain-for now the circling years disclose
The day predestined to reward his woes.
At length his Ithaca is given by fate,
Where yet new labours his arrival wait;
At length their rage the hostile powers restrain,
All but the ruthless monarch of the main.
But now the god, remote, a heavenly guest,
In AEthiopia graced the genial feast
(A race divided, whom with sloping rays
The rising and descending sun surveys);
There on the world’s extremest verge revered
With hecatombs and prayer in pomp preferr’d,
Distant he lay: while in the bright abodes
Of high Olympus, Jove convened the gods:
The assembly thus the sire supreme address’d,
AEgysthus’ fate revolving in his breast,
Whom young Orestes to the dreary coast
Of Pluto sent, a blood-polluted ghost.
“Perverse mankind! whose wills, created free,
Charge all their woes on absolute degree;
All to the dooming gods their guilt translate,
And follies are miscall’d the crimes of fate.
When to his lust AEgysthus gave the rein,
Did fate, or we, the adulterous act constrain?
Did fate, or we, when great Atrides died,
Urge the bold traitor to the regicide?
Hermes I sent, while yet his soul remain’d
Sincere from royal blood, and faith profaned;
To warn the wretch, that young Orestes, grown
To manly years, should re-assert the throne.
Yet, impotent of mind, and uncontroll’d,
He plunged into the gulf which Heaven foretold.”
Here paused the god; and pensive thus replies
Minerva, graceful with her azure eyes:
“O thou! from whom the whole creation springs,
The source of power on earth derived to kings!
His death was equal to the direful deed;
So may the man of blood be doomed to bleed!
But grief and rage alternate wound my breast
For brave Ulysses, still by fate oppress’d.
Amidst an isle, around whose rocky shore
The forests murmur, and the surges roar,
The blameless hero from his wish’d-for home
A goddess guards in her enchanted dome;
(Atlas her sire, to whose far-piercing eye
The wonders of the deep expanded lie;
The eternal columns which on earth he rears
End in the starry vault, and prop the spheres).
By his fair daughter is the chief confined,
Who soothes to dear delight his anxious mind;
Successless all her soft caresses prove,
To banish from his breast his country’s love;
To see the smoke from his loved palace rise,
While the dear isle in distant prospect lies,
With what contentment could he close his eyes!
And will Omnipotence neglect to save
The suffering virtue of the wise and brave?
Must he, whose altars on the Phrygian shore
With frequent rites, and pure, avow’d thy power,
Be doom’d the worst of human ills to prove,
Unbless’d, abandon’d to the wrath of Jove?”
“Daughter! what words have pass’d thy lips unweigh’d!
(Replied the Thunderer to the martial maid;)
Deem not unjustly by my doom oppress’d,
Of human race the wisest and the best.
Neptune, by prayer repentant rarely won,
Afflicts the chief, to avenge his giant son,
Whose visual orb Ulysses robb’d of light;
Great Polypheme, of more than mortal might?
Him young Thousa bore (the bright increase
Of Phorcys, dreaded in the sounds and seas);
Whom Neptune eyed with bloom of beauty bless’d,
And in his cave the yielding nymph compress’d
For this the god constrains the Greek to roam,
A hopeless exile from his native home,
From death alone exempt—but cease to mourn;
Let all combine to achieve his wish’d return;
Neptune atoned, his wrath shall now refrain,
Or thwart the synod of the gods in vain.”
“Father and king adored!” Minerva cried,
“Since all who in the Olympian bower reside
Now make the wandering Greek their public care,
Let Hermes to the Atlantic isle repair;
Bid him, arrived in bright Calypso’s court,
The sanction of the assembled powers report:
That wise Ulysses to his native land
Must speed, obedient to their high command.
Meantime Telemachus, the blooming heir
Of sea-girt Ithaca, demands my care;
’Tis mine to form his green, unpractised years
In sage debates; surrounded with his peers,
To save the state, and timely to restrain
The bold intrusion of the suitor-train;
Who crowd his palace, and with lawless power
His herds and flocks in feastful rites devour.
To distant Sparta, and the spacious waste
Of Sandy Pyle, the royal youth shall haste.
There, warm with filial love, the cause inquire
That from his realm retards his god-like sire;
Delivering early to the voice of fame
The promise of a green immortal name.”
She said: the sandals of celestial mould,
Fledged with ambrosial plumes, and rich with gold,
Surround her feet: with these sublime she sails
The aerial space, and mounts the winged gales;
O’er earth and ocean wide prepared to soar,
Her dreaded arm a beamy javelin bore,
Ponderous and vast: which, when her fury burns,
Proud tyrants humbles, and whole hosts o’erturns.
From high Olympus prone her flight she bends,
And in the realms of Ithaca descends,
Her lineaments divine, the grave disguise
Of Mentes’ form conceal’d from human eyes
(Mentes, the monarch of the Taphian land);
A glittering spear waved awful in her hand.
There in the portal placed, the heaven-born maid
Enormous riot and misrule survey’d.
On hides of beeves, before the palace gate
(Sad spoils of luxury), the suitors sate.
With rival art, and ardour in their mien,
At chess they vie, to captivate the queen;
Divining of their loves. Attending nigh,
A menial train the flowing bowl supply.
Others, apart, the spacious hall prepare,
And form the costly feast with busy care.
There young Telemachus, his bloomy face
Glowing celestial sweet, with godlike grace
Amid the circle shines: but hope and fear
(Painful vicissitude!) his bosom tear.
Now, imaged in his mind, he sees restored
In peace and joy the people’s rightful lord;
The proud oppressors fly the vengeful sword.
While his fond soul these fancied triumphs swell’d,
The stranger guest the royal youth beheld;
Grieved that a visitant so long should wait
Unmark’d, unhonour’d, at a monarch’s gate;
Instant he flew with hospitable haste,
And the new friend with courteous air embraced.
“Stranger, whoe’er thou art, securely rest,
Affianced in my faith, a ready guest;
Approach the dome, the social banquet share,
And then the purpose of thy soul declare.”
Thus affable and mild, the prince precedes,
And to the dome the unknown celestial leads.
The spear receiving from the hand, he placed
Against a column, fair with sculpture graced;
Where seemly ranged in peaceful order stood
Ulysses’ arms now long disused to blood.
He led the goddess to the sovereign seat,
Her feet supported with a stool of state
(A purple carpet spread the pavement wide);
Then drew his seat, familiar, to her side;
Far from the suitor-train, a brutal crowd,
With insolence, and wine, elate and loud:
Where the free guest, unnoted, might relate,
If haply conscious, of his father’s fate.
The golden ewer a maid obsequious brings,
Replenish’d from the cool, translucent springs;
With copious water the bright vase supplies
A silver laver of capacious size;
They wash. The tables in fair order spread,
They heap the glittering canisters with bread:
Viands of various kinds allure the taste,
Of choicest sort and savour, rich repast!
Delicious wines the attending herald brought;
The gold gave lustre to the purple draught.
Lured with the vapour of the fragrant feast,
In rush’d the suitors with voracious haste;
Marshall’d in order due, to each a sewer
Presents, to bathe his hands, a radiant ewer.
Luxurious then they feast. Observant round
Gay stripling youths the brimming goblets crown’d.
The rage of hunger quell’d, they all advance
And form to measured airs the mazy dance;
To Phemius was consign’d the chorded lyre,
Whose hand reluctant touch’d the warbling wire;
Phemius, whose voice divine could sweetest sing
High strains responsive to the vocal string.
Meanwhile, in whispers to his heavenly guest
His indignation thus the prince express’d:
“Indulge my rising grief, whilst these (my friend)
With song and dance the pompous revel end.
Light is the dance, and doubly sweet the lays,
When for the dear delight another pays.
His treasured stores those cormarants consume,
Whose bones, defrauded of a regal tomb
And common turf, lie naked on the plain,
Or doom’d to welter in the whelming main.
Should he return, that troop so blithe and bold,
With purple robes inwrought, and stiff with gold,
Precipitant in fear would wing their flight,
And curse their cumbrous pride’s unwieldy weight.
But ah, I dream!-the appointed hour is fled.
And hope, too long with vain delusion fed,
Deaf to the rumour of fallacious fame,
Gives to the roll of death his glorious name!
With venial freedom let me now demand
Thy name, thy lineage, and paternal land;
Sincere from whence began thy course, recite,
And to what ship I owe the friendly freight?
Now first to me this visit dost thou deign,
Or number’d in my father’s social train?
All who deserved his choice he made his own,
And, curious much to know, he far was known.”
“My birth I boast (the blue-eyed virgin cries)
From great Anchialus, renown’d and wise;
Mentes my name; I rule the Taphian race,
Whose bounds the deep circumfluent waves embrace;
A duteous people, and industrious isle,
To naval arts inured, and stormy toil.
Freighted with iron from my native land,
I steer my voyage to the Brutian strand
To gain by commerce, for the labour’d mass,
A just proportion of refulgent brass.
Far from your capital my ship resides
At Reitorus, and secure at anchor rides;
Where waving groves on airy Neign grow,
Supremely tall and shade the deeps below.
Thence to revisit your imperial dome,
An old hereditary guest I come;
Your father’s friend. Laertes can relate
Our faith unspotted, and its early date;
Who, press’d with heart-corroding grief and years,
To the gay court a rural shed pretors,
Where, sole of all his train, a matron sage
Supports with homely fond his drooping age,
With feeble steps from marshalling his vines
Returning sad, when toilsome day declines.
“With friendly speed, induced by erring fame,
To hail Ulysses’ safe return I came;
But still the frown of some celestial power
With envious joy retards the blissful hour.
Let not your soul be sunk in sad despair;
He lives, he breathes this heavenly vital air,
Among a savage race, whose shelfy bounds
With ceaseless roar the foaming deep surrounds.
The thoughts which roll within my ravish’d breast,
To me, no seer, the inspiring gods suggest;
Nor skill’d nor studious, with prophetic eye
To judge the winged omens of the sky.
Yet hear this certain speech, nor deem it vain;
Though adamantine bonds the chief restrain,
The dire restraint his wisdom will defeat,
And soon restore him to his regal seat.
But generous youth! sincere and free declare,
Are you, of manly growth, his royal heir?
For sure Ulysses in your look appears,
The same his features, if the same his years.
Such was that face, on which I dwelt with joy
Ere Greece assembled stemm’d the tides to Troy;
But, parting then for that detested shore,
Our eyes, unhappy never greeted more.”
“To prove a genuine birth (the prince replies)
On female truth assenting faith relies.
Thus manifest of right, I build my claim
Sure-founded on a fair maternal fame,
Ulysses’ son: but happier he, whom fate
Hath placed beneath the storms which toss the great!
Happier the son, whose hoary sire is bless’d
With humble affluence, and domestic rest!
Happier than I, to future empire born,
But doom’d a father’s wretch’d fate to mourn!”
To whom, with aspect mild, the guest divine:
“Oh true descendant of a sceptred line!
The gods a glorious fate from anguish free
To chaste Penelope’s increase decree.
But say, yon jovial troops so gaily dress’d,
Is this a bridal or a friendly feast?
Or from their deed I rightlier may divine,
Unseemly flown with insolence and wine?
Unwelcome revellers, whose lawless joy
Pains the sage ear, and hurts the sober eye.”
“Magnificence of old (the prince replied)
Beneath our roof with virtue could reside;
Unblamed abundance crowned the royal board,
What time this dome revered her prudent lord;
Who now (so Heaven decrees) is doom’d to mourn,
Bitter constraint, erroneous and forlorn.
Better the chief, on Ilion’s hostile plain,
Had fall’n surrounded with his warlike train;
Or safe return’d, the race of glory pass’d,
New to his friends’ embrace, and breathed his last!
Then grateful Greece with streaming eyes would raise,
Historic marbles to record his praise;
His praise, eternal on the faithful stone,
Had with transmissive honour graced his son.
Now snatch’d by harpies to the dreary coast.
Sunk is the hero, and his glory lost;
Vanish’d at once! unheard of, and unknown!
And I his heir in misery alone.
Nor for a dear lost father only flow
The filial tears, but woe succeeds to woe
To tempt the spouseless queen with amorous wiles
Resort the nobles from the neighbouring isles;
From Samos, circled with the Ionian main,
Dulichium, and Zacynthas’ sylvan reign;
Ev’n with presumptuous hope her bed to ascend,
The lords of Ithaca their right pretend.
She seems attentive to their pleaded vows,
Her heart detesting what her ear allows.
They, vain expectants of the bridal hour,
My stores in riotous expense devour.
In feast and dance the mirthful months employ,
And meditate my doom to crown their joy.”
With tender pity touch’d, the goddess cried:
“Soon may kind Heaven a sure relief provide,
Soon may your sire discharge the vengeance due,
And all your wrongs the proud oppressors rue!
Oh! in that portal should the chief appear,
Each hand tremendous with a brazen spear,
In radiant panoply his limbs incased
(For so of old my fathers court he graced,
When social mirth unbent his serious soul,
O’er the full banquet, and the sprightly bowl);
He then from Ephyre, the fair domain
Of Ilus, sprung from Jason’s royal strain,
Measured a length of seas, a toilsome length, in vain.
For, voyaging to learn the direful art
To taint with deadly drugs the barbed dart;
Observant of the gods, and sternly just,
Ilus refused to impart the baneful trust;
With friendlier zeal my father’s soul was fired,
The drugs he knew, and gave the boon desired.
Appear’d he now with such heroic port,
As then conspicuous at the Taphian court;
Soon should you boasters cease their haughty strife,
Or each atone his guilty love with life.
But of his wish’d return the care resign,
Be future vengeance to the powers divine.
My sentence hear: with stern distaste avow’d,
To their own districts drive the suitor-crowd;
When next the morning warms the purple east,
Convoke the peerage, and the gods attest;
The sorrows of your inmost soul relate;
And form sure plans to save the sinking state.
Should second love a pleasing flame inspire,
And the chaste queen connubial rights require;
Dismiss’d with honour, let her hence repair
To great Icarius, whose paternal care
Will guide her passion, and reward her choice
With wealthy dower, and bridal gifts of price.
Then let this dictate of my love prevail:
Instant, to foreign realms prepare to sail,
To learn your father’s fortunes; Fame may prove,
Or omen’d voice (the messenger of Jove),
Propitious to the search. Direct your toil
Through the wide ocean first to sandy Pyle;
Of Nestor, hoary sage, his doom demand:
Thence speed your voyage to the Spartan strand;
For young Atrides to the Achaian coast
Arrived the last of all the victor host.
If yet Ulysses views the light, forbear,
Till the fleet hours restore the circling year.
But if his soul hath wing’d the destined flight,
Inhabitant of deep disastrous night;
Homeward with pious speed repass the main,
To the pale shade funereal rites ordain,
Plant the fair column o’er the vacant grave,
A hero’s honours let the hero have.
With decent grief the royal dead deplored,
For the chaste queen select an equal lord.
Then let revenge your daring mind employ,
By fraud or force the suitor train destroy,
And starting into manhood, scorn the boy.
Hast thou not heard how young Orestes, fired
With great revenge, immortal praise acquired?
His virgin-sword AEgysthus’ veins imbrued;
The murderer fell, and blood atoned for blood.
O greatly bless’d with every blooming grace!
With equal steps the paths of glory trace;
Join to that royal youth’s your rival name,
And shine eternal in the sphere of fame.
But my associates now my stay deplore,
Impatient on the hoarse-resounding shore.
Thou, heedful of advice, secure proceed;
My praise the precept is, be thine the deed.
“The counsel of my friend (the youth rejoin’d)
Imprints conviction on my grateful mind.
So fathers speak (persuasive speech and mild)
Their sage experience to the favourite child.
But, since to part, for sweet refection due,
The genial viands let my train renew;
And the rich pledge of plighted faith receive,
Worthy the air of Ithaca to give.”
“Defer the promised boon (the goddess cries,
Celestial azure brightening in her eyes),
And let me now regain the Reithrian port;
From Temese return’d, your royal court
I shall revisit, and that pledge receive;
And gifts, memorial of our friendship, leave.”
Abrupt, with eagle-speed she cut the sky;
Instant invisible to mortal eye.
Then first he recognized the ethereal guest;
Wonder and joy alternate fire his breast;
Heroic thoughts, infused, his heart dilate;
Revolving much his father’s doubtful fate.
At length, composed, he join’d the suitor-throng;
Hush’d in attention to the warbled song.
His tender theme the charming lyrist chose.
Minerva’s anger, and the dreadful woes
Which voyaging from Troy the victors bore,
While storms vindictive intercept the store.
The shrilling airs the vaulted roof rebounds,
Reflecting to the queen the silver sounds.
With grief renew’d the weeping fair descends;
Their sovereign’s step a virgin train attends:
A veil, of richest texture wrought, she wears,
And silent to the joyous hall repairs.
There from the portal, with her mild command,
Thus gently checks the minstrel’s tuneful hand:
“Phemius! let acts of gods, and heroes old,
What ancient bards in hall and bower have told,
Attemper’d to the lyre, your voice employ;
Such the pleased ear will drink with silent joy.
But, oh! forbear that dear disastrous name,
To sorrow sacred, and secure of fame;
My bleeding bosom sickens at the sound,
And every piercing note inflicts a wound.”
“Why, dearest object of my duteous love,
(Replied the prince,) will you the bard reprove?
Oft, Jove’s ethereal rays (resistless fire)
The chanters soul and raptured song inspire
Instinct divine? nor blame severe his choice,
Warbling the Grecian woes with heart and voice;
For novel lays attract our ravish’d ears;
But old, the mind with inattention hears:
Patient permit the sadly pleasing strain;
Familiar now with grief, your tears refrain,
And in the public woe forget your own;
You weep not for a perish’d lord alone.
What Greeks new wandering in the Stygian gloom,
Wish your Ulysses shared an equal doom!
Your widow’d hours, apart, with female toil
And various labours of the loom beguile;
There rule, from palace-cares remote and free;
That care to man belongs, and most to me.”
Mature beyond his years, the queen admires
His sage reply, and with her train retires.
Then swelling sorrows burst their former bounds,
With echoing grief afresh the dome resounds;
Till Pallas, piteous of her plaintive cries,
In slumber closed her silver-streaming eyes.
Meantime, rekindled at the royal charms,
Tumultuous love each beating bosom warms;
Intemperate rage a wordy war began;
But bold Telemachus assumed the man.
“Instant (he cried) your female discord end,
Ye deedless boasters! and the song attend;
Obey that sweet compulsion, nor profane
With dissonance the smooth melodious strain.
Pacific now prolong the jovial feast;
But when the dawn reveals the rosy east,
I, to the peers assembled, shall propose
The firm resolve, I here in few disclose;
No longer live the cankers of my court;
All to your several states with speed resort;
Waste in wild riot what your land allows,
There ply the early feast, and late carouse.
But if, to honour lost, ’tis still decreed
For you my bowl shall flow, my flock shall bleed;
Judge and revenge my right, impartial Jove!
By him and all the immortal thrones above
(A sacred oath), each proud oppressor slain,
Shall with inglorious gore this marble stain.”
Awed by the prince, thus haughty, bold, and young,
Rage gnaw’d the lip, and wonder chain’d the tongue.
Silence at length the gay Antinous broke,
Constrain’d a smile, and thus ambiguous spoke:
“What god to your untutor’d youth affords
This headlong torrent of amazing words?
May Jove delay thy reign, and cumber late
So bright a genius with the toils of state!”
“Those toils (Telemachus serene replies)
Have charms, with all their weight, t’allure the wise.
Fast by the throne obsequious fame resides,
And wealth incessant rolls her golden tides.
Nor let Antinous rage, if strong desire
Of wealth and fame a youthful bosom fire:
Elect by Jove, his delegate of sway,
With joyous pride the summons I’d obey.
Whene’er Ulysses roams the realm of night,
Should factious power dispute my lineal right,
Some other Greeks a fairer claim may plead;
To your pretence their title would precede.
At least, the sceptre lost, I still should reign
Sole o’er my vassals, and domestic train.”
To this Eurymachus: “To Heaven alone
Refer the choice to fill the vacant throne.
Your patrimonial stores in peace possess;
Undoubted, all your filial claim confess:
Your private right should impious power invade,
The peers of Ithaca would arm in aid.
But say, that stranger guest who late withdrew,
What and from whence? his name and lineage shew.
His grave demeanour and majestic grace
Speak him descended of no vulgar race:
Did he some loan of ancient right require,
Or came forerunner of your sceptr’d sire?”
“Oh son of Polybus!” the prince replies,
“No more my sire will glad these longing eyes;
The queen’s fond hope inventive rumour cheers,
Or vain diviners’ dreams divert her fears.
That stranger-guest the Taphian realm obeys,
A realm defended with encircling seas.
Mentes, an ever-honour’d name, of old
High in Ulysses’ social list enroll’d.”
Thus he, though conscious of the ethereal guest,
Answer’d evasive of the sly request.
Meantime the lyre rejoins the sprightly lay;
Love-dittied airs, and dance, conclude the day
But when the star of eve with golden light
Adorn’d the matron brow of sable night,
The mirthful train dispersing quit the court,
And to their several domes to rest resort.
A towering structure to the palace join’d;
To this his steps the thoughtful prince inclined:
In his pavilion there, to sleep repairs;
The lighted torch, the sage Euryclea bears
(Daughter of Ops, the just Pisenor’s son,
For twenty beeves by great Laertes won;
In rosy prime with charms attractive graced,
Honour’d by him, a gentle lord and chaste,
With dear esteem: too wise, with jealous strife
To taint the joys of sweet connubial life.
Sole with Telemachus her service ends,
A child she nursed him, and a man attends).
Whilst to his couch himself the prince address’d,
The duteous dame received the purple vest;
The purple vest with decent care disposed,
The silver ring she pull’d, the door reclosed,
The bolt, obedient to the silken cord,
To the strong staple’s inmost depth restored,
Secured the valves. There, wrapped in silent shade,
Pensive, the rules the goddess gave he weigh’d;
Stretch’d on the downy fleece, no rest he knows,
And in his raptured soul the vision glows.
THE COUNCIL OF ITHACA.
Telemachus in the assembly of the lords of Ithaca complains of the injustice done him by the suitors, and insists upon their departure from his palace; appealing to the princes, and exciting the people to declare against them. The suitors endeavour to justify their stay, at least till he shall send the queen to the court of Icarius her father; which he refuses. There appears a prodigy of two eagles in the sky, which an augur expounds to the ruin of the suitors. Telemachus then demands a vessel to carry him to Pylos and Sparta, there to inquire of his father’s fortunes. Pallas, in the shape of Mentor (an ancient friend of Ulysses), helps him to a ship, assists him in preparing necessaries for the voyage, and embarks with him that night; which concludes the second day from the opening of the poem. The scene continues in the palace of Ulysses, in Ithaca.
Now reddening from the dawn, the morning ray
Glow’d in the front of heaven, and gave the day
The youthful hero, with returning light,
Rose anxious from the inquietudes of night.
A royal robe he wore with graceful pride,
A two-edged falchion threaten’d by his side,
Embroider’d sandals glitter’d as he trod,
And forth he moved, majestic as a god.
Then by his heralds, restless of delay,
To council calls the peers: the peers obey.
Soon as in solemn form the assembly sate,
From his high dome himself descends in state.
Bright in his hand a ponderous javelin shined;
Two dogs, a faithful guard, attend behind;
Pallas with grace divine his form improves,
And gazing crowds admire him as he moves,
His father’s throne he fill’d; while distant stood
The hoary peers, and aged wisdom bow’d.
’Twas silence all. At last AEgyptius spoke;
AEgyptius, by his age and sorrow broke;
A length of days his soul with prudence crown’d,
A length of days had bent him to the ground.
His eldest hope in arms to Ilion came,
By great Ulysses taught the path to fame;
But (hapless youth) the hideous Cyclops tore
His quivering limbs, and quaff’d his spouting gore.
Three sons remain’d; to climb with haughty fires
The royal bed, Eurynomus aspires;
The rest with duteous love his griefs assuage,
And ease the sire of half the cares of age.
Yet still his Antiphus he loves, he mourns,
And, as he stood, he spoke and wept by turns,
“Since great Ulysses sought the Phrygian plains,
Within these walls inglorious silence reigns.
Say then, ye peers! by whose commands we meet?
Why here once more in solemn council sit?
Ye young, ye old, the weighty cause disclose:
Arrives some message of invading foes?
Or say, does high necessity of state
Inspire some patriot, and demand debate?
The present synod speaks its author wise;
Assist him, Jove, thou regent of the skies!”
He spoke. Telemachus with transport glows,
Embraced the omen, and majestic rose
(His royal hand the imperial sceptre sway’d);
Then thus, addressing to AEgyptius, said:
“Reverend old man! lo here confess’d he stands
By whom ye meet; my grief your care demands.
No story I unfold of public woes,
Nor bear advices of impending foes:
Peace the blest land, and joys incessant crown:
Of all this happy realm, I grieve alone.
For my lost sire continual sorrows spring,
The great, the good; your father and your king.
Yet more; our house from its foundation bows,
Our foes are powerful, and your sons the foes;
Hither, unwelcome to the queen, they come;
Why seek they not the rich Icarian dome?
If she must wed, from other hands require
The dowry: is Telemachus her sire?
Yet through my court the noise of revel rings,
And waste the wise frugality of kings.
Scarce all my herds their luxury suffice;
Scarce all my wine their midnight hours supplies.
Safe in my youth, in riot still they grow,
Nor in the helpless orphan dread a foe.
But come it will, the time when manhood grants
More powerful advocates than vain complaints.
Approach that hour! insufferable wrong
Cries to the gods, and vengeance sleeps too long.
Rise then, ye peers! with virtuous anger rise;
Your fame revere, but most the avenging skies.
By all the deathless powers that reign above,
By righteous Themis and by thundering Jove
(Themis, who gives to councils, or denies
Success; and humbles, or confirms the wise),
Rise in my aid! suffice the tears that flow
For my lost sire, nor add new woe to woe.
If e’er he bore the sword to strengthen ill,
Or, having power to wrong, betray’d the will,
On me, on me your kindled wrath assuage,
And bid the voice of lawless riot rage.
If ruin to your royal race ye doom,
Be you the spoilers, and our wealth consume.
Then might we hope redress from juster laws,
And raise all Ithaca to aid our cause:
But while your sons commit the unpunish’d wrong,
You make the arm of violence too strong.”
While thus he spoke, with rage and grief he frown’d,
And dash’d the imperial sceptre to the ground.
The big round tear hung trembling in his eye:
The synod grieved, and gave a pitying sigh,
Then silent sate—at length Antinous burns
With haughty rage, and sternly thus returns:
“O insolence of youth! whose tongue affords
Such railing eloquence, and war of words.
Studious thy country’s worthies to defame,
Thy erring voice displays thy mother’s shame.
Elusive of the bridal day, she gives
Fond hopes to all, and all with hopes deceives.
Did not the sun, through heaven’s wide azure roll’d,
For three long years the royal fraud behold?
While she, laborious in delusion, spread
The spacious loom, and mix’d the various thread:
Where as to life the wondrous figures rise,
Thus spoke the inventive queen, with artful sighs:
“Though cold in death Ulysses breathes no more,
Cease yet awhile to urge the bridal hour:
Cease, till to great Laertes I bequeath
A task of grief, his ornaments of death.
Lest when the Fates his royal ashes claim,
The Grecian matrons taint my spotless fame;
When he, whom living mighty realms obey’d,
Shall want in death a shroud to grace his shade.’
“Thus she: at once the generous train complies,
Nor fraud mistrusts in virtue’s fair disguise.
The work she plied; but, studious of delay,
By night reversed the labours 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 labours of her faithless hand.
Then urged, she perfects her illustrious toils;
A wondrous monument of female wiles!
“But you, O peers! and thou, O prince! give ear
(I speak aloud, that every Greek may hear):
Dismiss the queen; and if her sire approves
Let him espouse her to the peer she loves:
Bid instant to prepare the bridal train,
Nor let a race of princes wait in vain.
Though with a grace divine her soul is blest,
And all Minerva breathes within her breast,
In wondrous arts than woman more renown’d,
And more than woman with deep wisdom crown’d;
Though Tyro nor Mycene match her name,
Not great Alemena (the proud boasts of fame);
Yet thus by heaven adorn’d, by heaven’s decree
She shines with fatal excellence, to thee:
With thee, the bowl we drain, indulge the feast,
Till righteous heaven reclaim her stubborn breast.
What though from pole to pole resounds her name!
The son’s destruction waits the mother’s fame:
For, till she leaves thy court, it is decreed,
Thy bowl to empty and thy flock to bleed.”
While yet he speaks, Telemachus replies:
“Ev’n nature starts, and what ye ask denies.
Thus, shall I thus repay a mother’s cares,
Who gave me life, and nursed my infant years!
While sad on foreign shores Ulysses treads.
Or glides a ghost with unapparent shades;
How to Icarius in the bridal hour
Shall I, by waste undone, refund the dower?
How from my father should I vengeance dread!
How would my mother curse my hated head!
And while In wrath to vengeful fiends she cries,
How from their hell would vengeful fiends arise!
Abhorr’d by all, accursed my name would grow,
The earth’s disgrace, and human-kind my foe.
If this displease, why urge ye here your stay?
Haste from the court, ye spoilers, haste away:
Waste in wild riot what your land allows,
There ply the early feast, and late carouse.
But if to honour lost, ’tis still decreed
For you my bowl shall flow, my flocks shall bleed;
Judge, and assert my right, impartial Jove!
By him, and all the immortal host above
(A sacred oath), if heaven the power supply,
Vengeance I vow, and for your wrongs ye die.”
With that, two eagles from a mountain’s height
By Jove’s command direct their rapid flight;
Swift they descend, with wing to wing conjoin’d,
Stretch their broad plumes, and float upon the wind.
Above the assembled peers they wheel on high,
And clang their wings, and hovering beat the sky;
With ardent eyes the rival train they threat,
And shrieking loud denounce approaching fate.
They cuff, they tear; their cheeks and neck they rend,
And from their plumes huge drops of blood descend;
Then sailing o’er the domes and towers, they fly,
Full toward the east, and mount into the sky.
The wondering rivals gaze, with cares oppress’d,
And chilling horrors freeze in every breast,
Till big with knowledge of approaching woes,
The prince of augurs, Halitherses, rose:
Prescient he view’d the aerial tracks, and drew
A sure presage from every wing that flew.
“Ye sons (he cried) of Ithaca, give ear;
Hear all! but chiefly you, O rivals! hear.
Destruction sure o’er all your heads impends
Ulysses comes, and death his steps attends.
Nor to the great alone is death decreed;
We and our guilty Ithaca must bleed.
Why cease we then the wrath of heaven to stay?
Be humbled all, and lead, ye great! the way.
For lo my words no fancied woes relate;
I speak from science and the voice of fate.
“When great Ulysses sought the Phrygian shores
To shake with war proud Ilion’s lofty towers,
Deeds then undone my faithful tongue foretold:
Heaven seal’d my words, and you those deeds behold.
I see (I cried) his woes, a countless train;
I see his friends o’erwhelm’d beneath the main;
How twice ten years from shore to shore he roams:
Now twice ten years are past, and now he comes!”
To whom Eurymachus—“Fly, dotard fly,
With thy wise dreams, and fables of the sky.
Go prophesy at home, thy sons advise:
Here thou art sage in vain—I better read the skies
Unnumber’d birds glide through the aerial way;
Vagrants of air, and unforeboding stray.
Cold in the tomb, or in the deeps below,
Ulysses lies; oh wert thou laid as low!
Then would that busy head no broils suggest,
For fire to rage Telemachus’ breast,
From him some bribe thy venal tongue requires,
And interest, not the god, thy voice inspires.
His guideless youth, if thy experienced age
Mislead fallacious into idle rage,
Vengeance deserved thy malice shall repress.
And but augment the wrongs thou would’st redress,
Telemachus may bid the queen repair
To great Icarius, whose paternal care
Will guide her passion, and reward her choice
With wealthy dower, and bridal gifts of price.
Till she retires, determined we remain,
And both the prince and augur threat in vain:
His pride of words, and thy wild dream of fate,
Move not the brave, or only move their hate,
Threat on, O prince! elude the bridal day.
Threat on, till all thy stores in waste decay.
True, Greece affords a train of lovely dames,
In wealth and beauty worthy of our flames:
But never from this nobler suit we cease;
For wealth and beauty less than virtue please.”
To whom the youth: “Since then in vain I tell
My numerous woes, in silence let them dwell.
But Heaven, and all the Greeks, have heard my wrongs;
To Heaven, and all the Greeks, redress belongs;
Yet this I ask (nor be it ask’d in vain),
A bark to waft me o’er the rolling main,
The realms of Pyle and Sparta to explore,
And seek my royal sire from shore to shore;
If, or to fame his doubtful fate be known,
Or to be learn’d from oracles alone,
If yet he lives, with patience I forbear,
Till the fleet hours restore the circling year;
But if already wandering in the train
Of empty shades, I measure back the main,
Plant the fair column o’er the mighty dead,
And yield his consort to the nuptial bed.”
He ceased; and while abash’d the peers attend,
Mentor arose, Ulysses’ faithful friend:
(When fierce in arms he sought the scenes of war,
“My friend (he cried), my palace be thy care;
Years roll’d on years my godlike sire decay,
Guard thou his age, and his behests obey.”)
Stern as he rose, he cast his eyes around,
That flash’d with rage; and as spoke, he frown’d,
“O never, never more let king be just,
Be mild in power, or faithful to his trust!
Let tyrants govern with an iron rod,
Oppress, destroy, and be the scourge of God;
Since he who like a father held his reign,
So soon forgot, was just and mild in vain!
True, while my friend is grieved, his griefs I share;
Yet now the rivals are my smallest care:
They for the mighty mischiefs they devise,
Ere long shall pay—their forfeit lives the price.
But against you, ye Greeks! ye coward train!
Gods! how my soul is moved with just disdain!
Dumb ye all stand, and not one tongue affords
His injured prince the little aid of words.”
While yet he spoke, Leocritus rejoined:
“O pride of words, and arrogance of mind!
Would’st thou to rise in arms the Greeks advise?
Join all your powers? in arms, ye Greeks, arise!
Yet would your powers in vain our strength oppose.
The valiant few o’ermatch a host of foes.
Should great Ulysses stern appear in arms,
While the bowl circles and the banquet warms;
Though to his breast his spouse with transport flies,
Torn from her breast, that hour, Ulysses dies.
But hence retreating to your domes repair.
To arm the vessel, Mentor! be thy care,
And Halitherses! thine: be each his friend;
Ye loved the father: go, the son attend.
But yet, I trust, the boaster means to stay
Safe in the court, nor tempt the watery way.”
Then, with a rushing sound the assembly bend
Diverse their steps: the rival rout ascend
The royal dome; while sad the prince explores
The neighbouring main, and sorrowing treads the shores.
There, as the waters o’er his hands he shed,
The royal suppliant to Minerva pray’d:
“O goddess! who descending from the skies
Vouchsafed thy presence to my wondering eyes,
By whose commands the raging deeps I trace,
And seek my sire through storms and rolling seas!
Hear from thy heavens above, O warrior maid!
Descend once more, propitious to my aid.
Without thy presence, vain is thy command:
Greece, and the rival train, thy voice withstand.”
Indulgent to his prayer, the goddess took
Sage Mentor’s form, and thus like Mentor spoke:
“O prince, in early youth divinely wise,
Born, the Ulysses of thy age to rise
If to the son the father’s worth descends,
O’er the wide wave success thy ways attends
To tread the walks of death he stood prepared;
And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared.
Were not wise sons descendant of the wise,
And did not heroes from brave heroes rise,
Vain were my hopes: few sons attain the praise
Of their great sires, and most their sires disgrace.
But since thy veins paternal virtue fires,
And all Penelope thy soul inspires,
Go, and succeed: the rivals’ aims despise;
For never, never wicked man was wise.
Blind they rejoice, though now, ev’n now they fall;
Death hastes amain: one hour o’erwhelms them all!
And lo, with speed we plough the watery way;
My power shall guard thee, and my hand convey:
The winged vessel studious I prepare,
Through seas and realms companion of thy care.
Thou to the court ascend: and to the shores
(When night advances) bear the naval stores;
Bread, that decaying man with strength supplies,
And generous wine, which thoughtful sorrow flies.
Meanwhile the mariners, by my command,
Shall speed aboard, a valiant chosen band.
Wide o’er the bay, by vessel vessel rides;
The best I choose to waft then o’er the tides.”
She spoke: to his high dome the prince returns,
And, as he moves, with royal anguish mourns.
’Twas riot all, among the lawless train;
Boar bled by boar, and goat by goat lay slain.
Arrived, his hand the gay Antinous press’d,
And thus deriding, with a smile address’d:
“Grieve not, O daring prince! that noble heart;
Ill suits gay youth the stern heroic part.
Indulge the genial hour, unbend thy soul,
Leave thought to age, and drain the flowing bowl.
Studious to ease thy grief, our care provides
The bark, to waft thee o’er the swelling tides.”
“Is this (returns the prince) for mirth a time?
When lawless gluttons riot, mirth’s a crime;
The luscious wines, dishonour’d, lose their taste;
The song is noise, and impious is the feast.
Suffice it to have spent with swift decay
The wealth of kings, and made my youth a prey.
But now the wise instructions of the sage,
And manly thoughts inspired by manly age,
Teach me to seek redress for all my woe,
Here, or in Pyle—in Pyle, or here, your foe.
Deny your vessels, ye deny in vain:
A private voyager I pass the main.
Free breathe the winds, and free the billows flow;
And where on earth I live, I live your foe.”
He spoke and frown’d, nor longer deign’d to stay,
Sternly his hand withdrew, and strode away.
Meantime, o’er all the dome, they quaff, they feast,
Derisive taunts were spread from guest to guest,
And each in jovial mood his mate address’d:
“Tremble ye not, O friends, and coward fly,
Doom’d by the stern Telemachus to die?
To Pyle or Sparta to demand supplies,
Big with revenge, the mighty warrior flies;
Or comes from Ephyre with poisons fraught,
And kills us all in one tremendous draught!”
“Or who can say (his gamesome mate replies)
But, while the danger of the deeps he tries
He, like his sire, may sink deprived of breath,
And punish us unkindly by his death?
What mighty labours would he then create,
To seize his treasures, and divide his state,
The royal palace to the queen convey,
Or him she blesses in the bridal day!”
Meantime the lofty rooms the prince surveys,
Where lay the treasures of the Ithacian race:
Here ruddy brass and gold refulgent blazed;
There polished chests embroider’d vestures graced;
Here jars of oil breathed forth a rich perfume;
There casks of wine in rows adorn’d the dome
(Pure flavorous wine, by gods in bounty given
And worthy to exalt the feasts of heaven).
Untouch’d they stood, till, his long labours o’er,
The great Ulysses reach’d his native shore.
A double strength of bars secured the gates;
Fast by the door the wise Euryclea waits;
Euryclea, who great Ops! thy lineage shared,
And watch’d all night, all day, a faithful guard.
To whom the prince: “O thou whose guardian care
Nursed the most wretched king that breathes the air;
Untouch’d and sacred may these vessels stand,
Till great Ulysses views his native land.
But by thy care twelve urns of wine be fill’d;
Next these in worth, and firm these urns be seal’d;
And twice ten measures of the choicest flour
Prepared, are yet descends the evening hour.
For when the favouring shades of night arise,
And peaceful slumbers close my mother’s eyes,
Me from our coast shall spreading sails convey,
To seek Ulysses through the watery way.”
While yet he spoke, she fill’d the walls with cries,
And tears ran trickling from her aged eyes.
“O whither, whither flies my son (she cried)
To realms; that rocks and roaring seas divide?
In foreign lands thy father’s days decay’d.
And foreign lands contain the mighty dead.
The watery way ill-fated if thou try,
All, all must perish, and by fraud you die!
Then stay, my, child! storms beat, and rolls the main,
Oh, beat those storms, and roll the seas in vain!”
“Far hence (replied the prince) thy fears be driven:
Heaven calls me forth; these counsels are of Heaven.
But, by the powers that hate the perjured, swear,
To keep my voyage from the royal ear,
Nor uncompell’d the dangerous truth betray,
Till twice six times descends the lamp of day,
Lest the sad tale a mother’s life impair,
And grief destroy what time awhile would spare.”
Thus he. The matron with uplifted eyes
Attests the all-seeing sovereign of the skies.
Then studious she prepares the choicest flour,
The strength of wheat and wines an ample store.
While to the rival train the prince returns,
The martial goddess with impatience burns;
Like thee, Telemachus, in voice and size,
With speed divine from street to street she flies,
She bids the mariners prepared to stand,
When night descends, embodied on the strand.
Then to Noemon swift she runs, she flies,
And asks a bark: the chief a bark supplies.
And now, declining with his sloping wheels,
Down sunk the sun behind the western hills
The goddess shoved the vessel from the shores,
And stow’d within its womb the naval stores,
Full in the openings of the spacious main
It rides; and now descends the sailor-train,
Next, to the court, impatient of delay.
With rapid step the goddess urged her way;
There every eye with slumberous chains she bound,
And dash’d the flowing goblet to the ground.
Drowsy they rose, with heavy fumes oppress’d,
Reel’d from the palace, and retired to rest.
Then thus, in Mentor’s reverend form array’d,
Spoke to Telemachus the martial maid.
“Lo! on the seas, prepared the vessel stands,
The impatient mariner thy speed demands.”
Swift as she spoke, with rapid pace she leads;
The footsteps of the deity he treads.
Swift to the shore they move along the strand;
The ready vessel rides, the sailors ready stand.
He bids them bring their stores; the attending train
Load the tall bark, and launch into the main,
The prince and goddess to the stern ascend;
To the strong stroke at once the rowers bend.
Full from the west she bids fresh breezes blow;
The sable billows foam and roar below.
The chief his orders gives; the obedient band
With due observance wait the chief’s command;
With speed the mast they rear, with speed unbind
The spacious sheet, and stretch it to the wind.
High o’er the roaring waves the spreading sails
Bow the tall mast, and swell before the gales;
The crooked keel the parting surge divides,
And to the stern retreating roll the tides.
And now they ship their oars, and crown with wine
The holy goblet to the powers divine:
Imploring all the gods that reign above,
But chief the blue-eyed progeny of Jove.
Thus all the night they stem the liquid way,
And end their voyage with the morning ray.
THE INTERVIEW OF TELEMACHUS AND NESTOR.
Telemachus, guided by Pallas in the shape of Mentor, arrives in the morning at Pylos, where Nestor and his sons are sacrificing on the sea- shore to Neptune. Telemachus declares the occasion of his coming: and Nestor relates what passed in their return from Troy, how their fleets were separated, and he never since heard of Ulysses. They discourse concerning the death of Agamemnon, the revenge of Orestes, and the injuries of the suitors. Nestor advises him to go to Sparta, and inquire further of Menelaus. The sacrifice ending with the night, Minerva vanishes from them in the form of an eagle: Telemachus is lodged in the palace. The next morning they sacrifice a bullock to Minerva; and Telemachus proceeds on his journey to Sparta, attended by Pisistratus.
The scene lies on the sea-shore of Pylos.
The sacred sun, above the waters raised,
Through heaven’s eternal brazen portals blazed;
And wide o’er earth diffused his cheering ray,
To gods and men to give the golden day.
Now on the coast of Pyle the vessel falls,
Before old Neleus’ venerable walls.
There suppliant to the monarch of the flood,
At nine green theatres the Pylians stood,
Each held five hundred (a deputed train),
At each, nine oxen on the sand lay slain.
They taste the entrails, and the altars load
With smoking thighs, an offering to the god.
Full for the port the Ithacensians stand,
And furl their sails, and issue on the land.
Telemachus already press’d the shore;
Not first, the power of wisdom march’d before,
And ere the sacrificing throng he join’d,
Admonish’d thus his well-attending mind:
“Proceed, my son! this youthful shame expel;
An honest business never blush to tell.
To learn what fates thy wretched sire detain,
We pass’d the wide immeasurable main.
Meet then the senior far renown’d for sense
With reverend awe, but decent confidence:
Urge him with truth to frame his fair replies;
And sure he will; for wisdom never lies.”
“Oh tell me, Mentor! tell me, faithful guide
(The youth with prudent modesty replied),
How shall I meet, or how accost the sage,
Unskill’d in speech, nor yet mature of age?
Awful th’approach, and hard the task appears,
To question wisely men of riper years.”
To whom the martial goddess thus rejoin’d:
“Search, for some thoughts, thy own suggesting mind;
And others, dictated by heavenly power,
Shall rise spontaneous in the needful hour.
For nought unprosperous shall thy ways attend,
Born with good omens, and with heaven thy friend.”
She spoke, and led the way with swiftest speed;
As swift, the youth pursued the way she led;
and join’d the band before the sacred fire,
Where sate, encompass’d with his sons, the sire.
The youth of Pylos, some on pointed wood
Transfix’d the fragments, some prepared the food:
In friendly throngs they gather to embrace
Their unknown guests, and at the banquet place,
Pisistratus was first to grasp their hands,
And spread soft hides upon the yellow sands;
Along the shore the illustrious pair he led,
Where Nestor sate with the youthful Thrasymed,
To each a portion of the feast he bore,
And held the golden goblet foaming o’er;
Then first approaching to the elder guest,
The latent goddess in these words address’d:
“Whoe’er thou art, from fortune brings to keep
These rites of Neptune, monarch of the deep,
Thee first it fits, O stranger! to prepare
The due libation and the solemn prayer;
Then give thy friend to shed the sacred wine;
Though much thy younger, and his years like mine,
He too, I deem, implores the power divine;
For all mankind alike require their grace,
All born to want; a miserable race!”
He spake, and to her hand preferr’d the bowl;
A secret pleasure touch’d Athena’s soul,
To see the preference due to sacred age
Regarded ever by the just and sage.
Of Ocean’s king she then implores the grace.
“O thou! whose arms this ample globe embrace,
Fulfil our wish, and let thy glory shine
On Nestor first, and Nestor’s royal line;
Next grant the Pylian states their just desires,
Pleased with their hecatomb’s ascending fires;
Last, deign Telemachus and me to bless,
And crown our voyage with desired success.”
Thus she: and having paid the rite divine,
Gave to Ulysses’ son the rosy wine.
Suppliant he pray’d. And now the victims dress’d
They draw, divide, and celebrate the feast.
The banquet done, the narrative old man,
Thus mild, the pleasing conference began:
“Now gentle guests! the genial banquet o’er,
It fits to ask ye, what your native shore,
And whence your race? on what adventure say,
Thus far you wander through the watery way?
Relate if business, or the thirst of gain,
Engage your journey o’er the pathless main
Where savage pirates seek through seas unknown
The lives of others, venturous of their own.”
Urged by the precepts by the goddess given,
And fill’d with confidence infused from Heaven,
The youth, whom Pallas destined to be wise
And famed among the sons of men, replies:
“Inquir’st thou, father! from what coast we came?
(Oh grace and glory of the Grecian name!)
From where high Ithaca o’erlooks the floods,
Brown with o’er-arching shades and pendent woods
Us to these shores our filial duty draws,
A private sorrow, not a public cause.
My sire I seek, where’er the voice of fame
Has told the glories of his noble name,
The great Ulysses; famed from shore to shore
For valour much, for hardy suffering more.
Long time with thee before proud Ilion’s wall
In arms he fought; with thee beheld her fall.
Of all the chiefs, this hero’s fate alone
Has Jove reserved, unheard of, and unknown;
Whether in fields by hostile fury slain,
Or sunk by tempests in the gulfy main?
Of this to learn, oppress’d with tender fears,
Lo, at thy knee his suppliant son appears.
If or thy certain eye, or curious ear,
Have learnt his fate, the whole dark story clear
And, oh! whate’er Heaven destined to betide,
Let neither flattery soothe, nor pity hide.
Prepared I stand: he was but born to try
The lot of man; to suffer, and to die.
Oh then, if ever through the ten years’ war
The wise, the good Ulysses claim’d thy care;
If e’er he join’d thy council, or thy sword,
True in his deed, and constant to his word;
Far as thy mind through backward time can see
Search all thy stores of faithful memory:
’Tis sacred truth I ask, and ask of thee.”
To him experienced Nestor thus rejoin’d:
“O friend! what sorrows dost thou bring to mind!
Shall I the long, laborious scene review,
And open all the wounds of Greece anew?
What toils by sea! where dark in quest of prey
Dauntless we roved; Achilles led the way;
What toils by land! where mix’d in fatal fight
Such numbers fell, such heroes sunk to night;
There Ajax great, Achilles there the brave,
There wise Patroclus, fill an early grave:
There, too, my son—ah, once my best delight
Once swift of foot, and terrible in fight;
In whom stern courage with soft virtue join’d
A faultless body and a blameless mind;
Antilochus—What more can I relate?
How trace the tedious series of our fate?
Not added years on years my task could close,
The long historian of my country’s woes;
Back to thy native islands might’st thou sail,
And leave half-heard the melancholy tale.
Nine painful years on that detested shore;
What stratagems we form’d, what toils we bore!
Still labouring on, till scarce at last we found
Great Jove propitious, and our conquest crown’d.
Far o’er the rest thy mighty father shined,
In wit, in prudence, and in force of mind.
Art thou the son of that illustrious sire?
With joy I grasp thee, and with love admire.
So like your voices, and your words so wise,
Who finds thee younger must consult his eyes.
Thy sire and I were one; nor varied aught
In public sentence, or in private thought;
Alike to council or the assembly came,
With equal souls, and sentiments the same.
But when (by wisdom won) proud Ilion burn’d,
And in their ships the conquering Greeks return’d,
’Twas God’s high will the victors to divide,
And turn the event, confounding human pride;
Some be destroy’d, some scatter’d as the dust
(Not all were prudent, and not all were just).
Then Discord, sent by Pallas from above,
Stern daughter of the great avenger Jove,
The brother-kings inspired with fell debate;
Who call’d to council all the Achaian state,
But call’d untimely (not the sacred rite
Observed, nor heedful of the setting light,
Nor herald sword the session to proclaim),
Sour with debauch, a reeling tribe the came.
To these the cause of meeting they explain,
And Menelaus moves to cross the main;
Not so the king of men: be will’d to stay,
The sacred rites and hecatombs to pay,
And calm Minerva’s wrath. Oh blind to fate!
The gods not lightly change their love, or hate.
With ireful taunts each other they oppose,
Till in loud tumult all the Greeks arose.
Now different counsels every breast divide,
Each burns with rancour to the adverse side;
The unquiet night strange projects entertain’d
(So Jove, that urged us to our fate, ordain’d).
We with the rising morn our ships unmoor’d,
And brought our captives and our stores aboard;
But half the people with respect obey’d
The king of men, and at his bidding stay’d.
Now on the wings of winds our course we keep
(For God had smooth’d the waters of the deep);
For Tenedos we spread our eager oars,
There land, and pay due victims to the powers;
To bless our safe return, we join in prayer;
But angry Jove dispersed our vows in air,
And raised new discord. Then (so Heaven decreed)
Ulysses first and Neator disagreed!
Wise as he was, by various counsels away’d,
He there, though late, to please the monarch, stay’d.
But I, determined, stem the foamy floods,
Warn’d of the coming fury of the gods.
With us, Tydides fear’d, and urged his haste:
And Menelaus came, but came the last,
He join’d our vessels in the Lesbian bay,
While yet we doubted of our watery way;
If to the right to urge the pilot’s toil
(The safer road), beside the Psyrian isle;
Or the straight course to rocky Chios plough,
And anchor under Mimas’ shaggy brow?
We sought direction of the power divine:
The god propitious gave the guiding sign;
Through the mid seas he bid our navy steer,
And in Euboea shun the woes we fear.
The whistling winds already waked the sky;
Before the whistling winds the vessels fly,
With rapid swiftness cut the liquid way,
And reach Gerestus at the point of day.
There hecacombs of bulls, to Neptune slain,
High-flaming please the monarch of the main.
The fourth day shone, when all their labours o’er,
Tydides’ vessels touched the wish’d-for shore.
But I to Pylos scud before the gales,
The god still breathing on my swelling sails;
Separate from all, I safely landed here;
Their fates or fortunes never reach’d my ear.
Yet what I learn’d, attend; as here I sat,
And ask’d each voyager each hero’s fate;
Curious to know, and willing to relate.
“Safe reach’d the Myrmidons their native land,
Beneath Achilles’ warlike son’s command.
Those, whom the heir of great Apollo’s art,
Brave Philoctetes, taught to wing the dart;
And those whom Idomen from Ilion’s plain
Had led, securely cross’d the dreadful main
How Agamemnon touch’d his Argive coast,
And how his life by fraud and force he lost,
And how the murderer, paid his forfeit breath;
What lands so distant from that scene of death
But trembling heard the fame? and heard, admire.
How well the son appeased his slaughter’d sire!
Ev’n to the unhappy, that unjustly bleed,
Heaven gives posterity, to avenge the deed.
So fell Aegysthus; and mayest thou, my friend,
(On whom the virtues of thy sire descend,)
Make future times thy equal act adore,
And be what brave Orestes was before!”
The prudent youth replied: “O thou the grace
And lasting glory of the Grecian race!
Just was the vengeance, and to latest days
Shall long posterity resound the praise.
Some god this arm with equal prowess bless!
And the proud suitors shall its force confess;
Injurious men! who while my soul is sore
Of fresh affronts, are meditating more.
But Heaven denies this honour to my hand,
Nor shall my father repossess the land;
The father’s fortune never to return,
And the sad son’s to softer and to mourn!”
Thus he; and Nestor took the word: “My son,
Is it then true, as distant rumours run,
That crowds of rivals for thy mother’s charms
Thy palace fill with insults and alarms?
Say, is the fault, through tame submission, thine?
Or leagued against thee, do thy people join,
Moved by some oracle, or voice divine?
And yet who knows, but ripening lies in fate
An hour of vengeance for the afflicted state;
When great Ulysses shall suppress these harms,
Ulysses singly, or all Greece in arms.
But if Athena, war’s triumphant maid,
The happy son will as the father aid,
(Whose fame and safety was her constant care
In every danger and in every war:
Never on man did heavenly favour shine
With rays so strong, distinguish’d and divine,
As those with which Minerva mark’d thy sire)
So might she love thee, so thy soul inspire!
Soon should their hopes in humble dust be laid,
And long oblivion of the bridal bed.”
“Ah! no such hope (the prince with sighs replies)
Can touch my breast; that blessing Heaven denies.
Ev’n by celestial favour were it given,
Fortune or fate would cross the will of Heaven.”
“What words are these, and what imprudence thine?
(Thus interposed the martial maid divine)
Forgetful youth! but know, the Power above
With ease can save each object of his love;
Wide as his will, extends his boundless grace;
Nor lost in time nor circumscribed by place.
Happier his lot, who, many sorrows’ pass’d,
Long labouring gains his natal shore at last;
Than who, too speedy, hastes to end his life
By some stern ruffian, or adulterous wife.
Death only is the lot which none can miss,
And all is possible to Heaven but this.
The best, the dearest favourite of the sky,
Must taste that cup, for man is born to die.”
Thus check’d, replied Ulysses’ prudent heir:
“Mentor, no more—the mournful thought forbear;
For he no more must draw his country’s breath,
Already snatch’d by fate, and the black doom of death!
Pass we to other subjects; and engage
On themes remote the venerable sage
(Who thrice has seen the perishable kind
Of men decay, and through three ages shined
Like gods majestic, and like gods in mind);
For much he knows, and just conclusions draws,
From various precedents, and various laws.
O son of Neleus! awful Nestor, tell
How he, the mighty Agamemnon, fell;
By what strange fraud Aegysthus wrought, relate
(By force he could not) such a hero’s fate?
Live Menelaus not in Greece? or where
Was then the martial brother’s pious care?
Condemn’d perhaps some foreign short to tread;
Or sure Aegysthus had not dared the deed.”
To whom the full of days: Illustrious youth,
Attend (though partly thou hast guess’d) the truth.
For had the martial Menelaus found
The ruffian breathing yet on Argive ground;
Nor earth had bid his carcase from the skies,
Nor Grecian virgins shriek’d his obsequies,
But fowls obscene dismember’d his remains,
And dogs had torn him on the naked plains.
While us the works of bloody Mars employ’d,
The wanton youth inglorious peace enjoy’d:
He stretch’d at ease in Argos’ calm recess
(Whose stately steeds luxuriant pastures bless),
With flattery’s insinuating art
Soothed the frail queen, and poison’d all her heard.
At first, with the worthy shame and decent pride,
The royal dame his lawless suit denied.
For virtue’s image yet possess’d her mind.
Taught by a master of the tuneful kind;
Atrides, parting for the Trojan war,
Consign’d the youthful consort to his care.
True to his charge, the bard preserved her long
In honour’s limits; such the power of song.
But when the gods these objects of their hate
Dragg’d to the destruction by the links of fate;
The bard they banish’d from his native soil,
And left all helpless in a desert isle;
There he, the sweetest of the sacred train,
Sung dying to the rocks, but sung in vain.
Then virtue was no more; her guard away,
She fell, to lust a voluntary prey.
Even to the temple stalk’d the adulterous spouse,
With impious thanks, and mockery of the vows,
With images, with garments, and with gold;
And odorous fumes from loaded altars roll’d.
“Meantime from flaming Troy we cut the way
With Menelaus, through the curling sea.
But when to Sunium’s sacred point we came,
Crown’d with the temple of the Athenian dame;
Atride’s pilot, Phrontes, there expired
(Phrontes, of all the songs of men admired
To steer the bounding bark with steady toil,
When the storm thickens, and the billows boil);
While yet he exercised the steerman’s art,
Apollo touch’d him with his gentle dart;
Even with the rudder in his hand, he fell.
To pay whole honours to the shades of hell,
We check’d our haste, by pious office bound,
And laid our old companion in the ground.
And now the rites discharged, our course we keep
Far on the gloomy bosom of the deep:
Soon as Malae’s misty tops arise,
Sudden the Thunderer blackens all the skies,
And the winds whistle, and the surges roll
Mountains on mountains, and obscure the pole.
The tempest scatters, and divides our fleet;
Part, the storm urges on the coast of Crete,
Where winding round the rich Cydonian plain,
The streams of Jardan issue to the main.
There stands a rock, high, eminent and steep,
Whose shaggy brow o’erhangs the shady deep,
And views Gortyna on the western side;
On this rough Auster drove the impetuous tide:
With broken force the billows roll’d away,
And heaved the fleet into the neighb’ring bay.
Thus saved from death, the gain’d the Phaestan shores,
With shatter’d vessels and disabled oars;
But five tall barks the winds and water toss’d,
Far from their fellows, on the Aegyptian coast.
There wander’d Menelaus through foreign shores
Amassing gold, and gathering naval stores;
While cursed Aegysthus the detested deed
By fraud fulfilled, and his great brother bled.
Seven years, the traitor rich Mycenae sway’d,
And his stern rule the groaning land obey’d;
The eighth, from Athens to his realm restored,
Orestes brandish’d the avenging sword,
Slew the dire pair, and gave to funeral flame
The vile assassin and adulterous dame.
That day, ere yet the bloody triumphs cease,
Return’d Atrides to the coast of Greece,
And safe to Argos port his navy brought,
With gifts of price and ponderous treasure fraught.
Hence warn’d, my son, beware! nor idly stand
Too long a stranger to thy native land;
Lest heedless absence wear thy wealth away,
While lawless feasters in thy palace away;
Perhaps may seize thy realm, and share the spoil;
And though return, with disappointed toil,
From thy vain journey, to a rifled isle.
However, my friend, indulge one labour more,
And seek Atrides on the Spartan shore.
He, wandering long a wider circle made,
And many-languaged nations has survey’d:
And measured tracks unknown to other ships,
Amid the monstrous wonders of the deeps,
(A length of ocean and unbounded sky.
Which scarce the sea-fowl in a year o’erfly);
Go then; to Sparta take the watery way,
Thy ship and sailors but for orders stay;
Or, if my land then choose thy course to bend,
My steeds, my chariots, and my songs, attend;
Thee to Atrides they shall safe convey,
Guides of thy road, companions of thy way.
Urge him with truth to frame his wise replies,
And sure he will; for Menelaus is wise.”
Thus while he speaks the ruddy sun descends,
And twilight grey her evening shade extends.
Then thus the blue-eyed maid: “O full of days!
Wise are thy words, and just are all thy ways.
Now immolate the tongues, and mix the wine,
Sacred to Neptune and the powers divine,
The lamp of day is quench’d beneath the deep,
And soft approach the balmy hours of sleep;
Nor fits it to prolong the heavenly feast,
Timeless, indecent, but retire to rest.”
So spake Jove’s daughter, the celestial maid,
The sober train attended and obey’d.
The sacred heralds on their hands around
Pour’d the full urns; the youths the goblets crown’d;
From bowl to bowl the homely beverage flows;
While to the final sacrifice they rose.
The tongues they cast upon the fragrant flame,
And pour, above, the consecrated stream.
And now, their thirst by copious draughts allay’d,
The youthful hero and the Athenian maid
Propose departure from the finish’d rite,
And in their hollow bark to pass the night;
But this hospitable sage denied,
“Forbid it, Jove! and all the gods! (he cried),
Thus from my walls and the much-loved son to send
Of such a hero, and of such a friend!
Me, as some needy peasant, would ye leave,
Whom Heaven denies the blessing to relieve?
Me would ye leave, who boast imperial sway,
When beds of royal state invite your stay?
No—long as life this mortal shall inspire,
Or as my children imitate their sire.
Here shall the wandering stranger find his home,
And hospitable rites adorn the dome.”
“Well hast thou spoke (the blue-eyed maid replies),
Beloved old man! benevolent as wise.
Be the kind dictates of thy heart obey’d,
And let thy words Telemachus persuade:
He to thy palace shall thy steps pursue;
I to the ship, to give the orders due,
Prescribe directions and confirm the crew.
For I alone sustain their naval cares,
Who boast experience from these silver hairs;
All youths the rest, whom to this journey move
Like years, like tempers, and their prince’s love
There in the vessel shall I pass the night;
And, soon as morning paints the fields of light,
I go to challenge from the Caucons bold
A debt, contracted in the days of old,
But this, thy guest, received with friendly care
Let thy strong coursers swift to Sparta bear;
Prepare thy chariot at the dawn of day,
And be thy son companion of his way.”
Then, turning with the word, Minerva flies,
And soars an eagle through the liquid skies.
Vision divine! the throng’d spectators gaze
In holy wonder fix’d, and still amaze.
But chief the reverend sage admired; he took
The hand of young Telemachus, and spoke:
“Oh, happy youth! and favoured of the skies,
Distinguished care of guardian deities!
Whose early years for future worth engage,
No vulgar manhood, no ignoble age.
For lo! none other of the course above,
Then she, the daughter of almighty Jove,
Pallas herself, the war-triumphant maid;
Confess’d is thine, as once thy fathers aid.
So guide me, goddess! so propitious shine
On me, my consort, and my royal line!
A yearling bullock to thy name shall smoke,
Untamed, unconscious of the galling yoke,
With ample forehead, and yet tender horns,
Whose budding honours ductile gold adorns.”
Submissive thus the hoary sire preferr’d
His holy vow: the favouring goddess heard.
Then, slowly rising, o’er the sandy space
Precedes the father, follow’d by his race,
(A long procession) timely marching home
In comely order to the regal dome.
There when arrived, on thrones around him placed,
His sons and grandsons the wide circle graced.
To these the hospitable sage, in sign
Of social welcome, mix’d the racy wine
(Late from the mellowing cask restored to light,
By ten long years refined, and rosy bright).
To Pallas high the foaming bowl he crown’d,
And sprinkled large libations on the ground.
Each drinks a full oblivion of his cares,
And to the gifts of balmy sleep repairs.
Deep in a rich alcove the prince was laid,
And slept beneath the pompous colonnade;
Fast by his side Pisistratus was spread
(In age his equal) on a splendid bed:
But in an inner court, securely closed,
The reverend Nestor and his queen reposed.
When now Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
With rosy lustre purpled o’er the lawn,
The old man early rose, walk’d forth, and sate
On polish’d stone before his palace gate;
With unguents smooth the lucid marble shone,
Where ancient Neleus sate, a rustic throne;
But he descending to the infernal shade,
Sage Nestor fill’d it, and the sceptre sway’d.
His sons around him mild obeisance pay,
And duteous take the orders of the day.
First Eehephron and Stratius quit their bed;
Then Perseus, Aretus, and Thrasymed;
The last Pisistratus arose from rest:
They came, and near him placed the stranger-guest.
To these the senior thus declared his will:
“My sons! the dictates of your sire fulfil.
To Pallas, first of gods, prepare the feast,
Who graced our rites, a more than mortal guest
Let one, despatchful, bid some swain to lead
A well-fed bullock from the grassy mead;
One seek the harbour where the vessels moor,
And bring thy friends, Telemachus! ashore
(Leave only two the galley to attend);
Another Laerceus must we send,
Artist devine, whose skilful hands infold
The victim’s horn with circumfusile gold.
The rest may here the pious duty share,
And bid the handmaids for the feast prepare,
The seats to range, the fragrant wood to bring,
And limpid waters from the living spring.”
He said, and busy each his care bestow’d;
Already at the gates the bullock low’d,
Already came the Ithacensian crew,
The dexterous smith the tools already drew;
His ponderous hammer and his anvil sound,
And the strong tongs to turn the metal round.
Nor was Minerva absent from the rite,
She view’d her honours, and enjoyed the sight,
With reverend hand the king presents the gold,
Which round the intorted horns the gilder roll’d.
So wrought as Pallas might with pride behold.
Young Aretus from forth his bride bower
Brought the full laver, o’er their hands to pour,
And canisters of consecrated flour.
Stratius and Echephron the victim led;
The axe was held by warlike Thrasymed,
In act to strike; before him Perseus stood,
The vase extending to receive the blood.
The king himself initiates to the power:
Scatters with quivering hand the sacred flour,
And the stream sprinkles; from the curling brows
The hair collected in the fire he throws.
Soon as due vows on every part were paid,
And sacred wheat upon the victim laid,
Strong Thrasymed discharged the speeding blow
Full on his neck, and cut the nerves in two.
Down sunk the heavy beast; the females round
Maids, wives, and matrons, mix a shrilling sound.
Nor scorned the queen the holy choir to join
(The first born she, of old Clymenus’ line:
In youth by Nestor loved, of spotless fame.
And loved in age, Eurydice her name).
From earth they rear him, struggling now with death;
And Nestor’s youngest stops the vents of breath.
The soul for ever flies; on all sides round
Streams the black blood, and smokes upon the ground
The beast they then divide and disunite
The ribs and limbs, observant of the rite:
On these, in double cauls involved with art,
The choicest morsels lay from every part.
The sacred sage before his altar stands,
Turns the burnt offering with his holy hands,
And pours the wine, and bids the flames aspire;
The youth with instruments surround the fire.
The thighs now sacrificed, and entrails dress’d,
The assistants part, transfix, and broil the rest
While these officious tend the rites divine,
The last fair branch of the Nestorean line,
Sweet Polycaste, took the pleasing toil
To bathe the prince, and pour the fragrant oil.
O’er his fair limbs a flowery vest he throw,
And issued, like a god, to mortal view.
His former seat beside the king he found
(His people’s father with his peers around);
All placed at ease the holy banquet join,
And in the dazzling goblet laughs the wine.
The rage of thirst and hunger now suppress’d,
The monarch turns him to his royal guest;
And for the promised journey bids prepare
The smooth hair’d horses, and the rapid car.
Observant of his word, tire word scarce spoke,
The sons obey, and join them to the yoke.
Then bread and wine a ready handmaid brings,
And presents, such as suit the state of kings.
The glittering seat Telemachus ascends;
His faithful guide Pisistratus attends;
With hasty hand the ruling reins he drew;
He lash’d the coursers, and the coursers flew.
Beneath the bounding yoke alike they hold
Their equal pace, and smoked along the field.
The towers of Pylos sink, its views decay,
Fields after fields fly back, till close of day;
Then sunk the sun, and darken’d all the way.
To Pherae now, Diocleus’ stately seat
(Of Alpheus’ race), the weary youths retreat.
His house affords the hospitable rite,
And pleased they sleep (the blessing of the night).
But when Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
With rosy lustre purpled o’er the lawn,
Again they mount, their journey to renew,
And from the sounding portico they flew.
Along the waving fields their way they hold
The fields receding as their chariot roll’d;
Then slowly sunk the ruddy globe of light,
And o’er the shaded landscape rush’d the night.
THE CONFERENCE WITH MENELAUS.
Telemachus with Pisistratus arriving at Sparta, is hospitably received by Menelaus to whom he relates the cause of his coming, and learns from him many particulars of what befell the Greeks since the destruction of Troy. He dwells more at large upon the prophecies of Proteus to him in his return; from which he acquaints Telemachus that Ulysses is detained in the island of Calypso.
In the meantime the suitors consult to destroy Telemachus on the voyage home. Penelope is apprised of this; but comforted in a dream by Pallas, in the shape of her sister Iphthima.
And now proud Sparta with their wheels resounds,
Sparta whose walls a range of hills surrounds;
At the fair dome the rapid labour ends;
Where sate Atrides ’midst his bridal friends,
With double vows invoking Hymen’s power,
To bless his son’s and daughter’s nuptial hour.
That day, to great Achilles son resign’d,
Hermione, the fairest of her kind,
Was sent to crown the long-protracted joy,
Espoused before the final doom of Troy;
With steeds and gilded cars, a gorgeous train
Attend the nymphs to Phthia’s distant reign.
Meanwhile at home, to Megapentha’s bed
The virgin choir Alector’s daughter led.
Brave Megapenthas From a stolen amour
To great Atrides’ age his handmaid bore;
To Helen’s bed the gods alone assign
Hermione, to extend the regal line;
On whom a radiant pomp oh Graces wait,
Resembling Venus in attractive state.
While this gay friendly troop the king surround,
With festival and mirth the roofs resound;
A bard amid the joyous circle sings
High airs attemper’d to the vocal strings;
Whilst warbling to the varied strain, advance
Two sprightly youths to form the bounding dance,
’Twas then, that issuing through the palace gate,
The splendid car roll’d slow in regal state:
On the bright eminence young Nestor shone,
And fast beside him great Ulysses’ son;
Grave Eteoneous saw the pomp appear,
And speeding, thus address’d the royal ear;
“Two youths approach, whose semblant features prove
Their blood devolving from the source of Jove
Is due reception deign’d, or must they bend
Their doubtful course to seek a distant friend?”
“Insensate! (with a sigh the king replies,)
Too long, misjudging, have I thought thee wise
But sure relentless folly steals thy breast,
Obdurate to reject the stranger-guest;
To those dear hospitable rites a foe,
Which in my wanderings oft relieved my woe;
Fed by the bounty of another’s board,
Till pitying Jove my native realm restored—
Straight be the coursers from the car released,
Conduct the youths to grace the genial feast.”
The seneschal, rebuked, in haste withdrew;
With equal haste a menial train pursue:
Part led the coursers, from the car enlarged,
Each to a crib with choicest grain surcharged;
Part in a portico, profusely graced
With rich magnificence, the chariot placed;
Then to the dome the friendly pair invite,
Who eye the dazzling roofs with vast delight;
Resplendent as the blaze of summer noon,
Or the pale radiance of the midnight moon.
From room to room their eager view they bend
Thence to the bath, a beauteous pile, descend;
Where a bright damsel train attends the guests
With liquid odours, and embroider’d vests.
Refresh’d, they wait them to the bower of state,
Where, circled with his pears, Atrides sate;
Throned next the king, a fair attendant brings
The purest product of the crystal springs;
High on a massy vase of silver mould,
The burnish’d laver flames with solid gold,
In solid gold the purple vintage flows,
And on the board a second banquet rose.
When thus the king, with hospitable port;
“Accept this welcome to the Spartan court:
The waste of nature let the feast repair,
Then your high lineage and your names declare;
Say from what sceptred ancestry ye claim,
Recorded eminent in deathless fame,
For vulgar parents cannot stamp their race
With signatures of such majestic grace.”
Ceasing, benevolent he straight assigns
The royal portion of the choicest chines
To each accepted friend; with grateful haste
They share the honours of the rich repast.
Sufficed, soft whispering thus to Nestor’s son,
His head reclined, young Ithacus begun:
“View’st thou unmoved, O ever-honour’d most!
These prodigies of art, and wondrous cost!
Above, beneath, around the palace shines
The sunless treasure of exhausted mines;
The spoils of elephants the roofs inlay,
And studded amber darts the golden ray;
Such, and not nobler, in the realms above
My wonder dictates is the dome of Jove.”
The monarch took the word, and grave replied:
“Presumptuous are the vaunts, and vain the pride
Of man, who dares in pomp with Jove contest,
Unchanged, immortal, and supremely blest!
With all my affluence, when my woes are weigh’d,
Envy will own the purchase dearly paid.
For eight slow-circling years, by tempests toss’d,
From Cypress to the far Phoenician coast
(Sidon the capital), I stretch’d my toil
Through regions fatten’d with the flows of Nile.
Next Aethiopia’s utmost bound explore,
And the parch’d borders of the Arabian shore;
Then warp my voyage on the southern gales,
O’er the warm Lybian wave to spread my sails;
That happy clime, where each revolving year
The teeming ewes a triple offspring bear;
And two fair crescents of translucent horn
The brows of all their young increase adorn:
The shepherd swains, with sure abundance blest,
On the fat flock and rural dainties feast;
Nor want of herbage makes the dairy fail,
But every season fills the foaming pail.
Whilst, heaping unwash’d wealth, I distant roam,
The best of brothers, at his natal home,
By the dire fury of a traitress wife,
Ends the sad evening of a stormy life;
Whence, with incessant grief my soul annoy’d,
These riches are possess’d, but not enjoy’d!
My wars, the copious theme of every tongue,
To you your fathers have recorded long.
How favouring Heaven repaid my glorious toils
With a sack’d palace, and barbaric spoils.
Oh! had the gods so large a boon denied
And life, the just equivalent supplied
To those brave warriors, who, with glory fired
Far from their country, in my cause expired!
Still in short intervals of pleasing woe.
Regardful of the friendly dues I owe,
I to the glorious dead, for ever dear!
Indulge the tribute of a grateful tear.
But oh! Ulysses—deeper than the rest
That sad idea wounds my anxious breast!
My heart bleeds fresh with agonizing pain;
The bowl and tasteful viands tempt in vain;
Nor sleep’s soft power can close my streaming eyes,
When imaged to my soul his sorrows rise.
No peril in my cause he ceased to prove,
His labours equall’d only by my love:
And both alike to bitter fortune born,
For him to suffer, and for me to mourn!
Whether he wanders on some friendly coast,
Or glides in Stygian gloom a pensive ghost,
No fame reveals; but, doubtful of his doom,
His good old sire with sorrow to the tomb
Declines his trembling steps; untimely care
Withers the blooming vigour of his heir;
And the chaste partner of his bed and throne
Wastes all her widow’d hours in tender moan.”
While thus pathetic to the prince he spoke,
From the brave youth the streaming passion broke;
Studious to veil the grief, in vain repress’d,
His face he shrouded with his purple vest.
The conscious monarch pierced the coy disguise,
And view’d his filial love with vast surprise:
Dubious to press the tender theme, or wait
To hear the youth inquire his father’s fate.
In this suspense bright Helen graced the room;
Before her breathed a gale of rich perfume.
So moves, adorn’d with each attractive grace,
The silver shafted goddess of the chase!
The seat of majesty Adraste brings,
With art illustrious, for the pomp of kings;
To spread the pall (beneath the regal chair)
Of softest wool, is bright Alcippe’s care.
A silver canister, divinely wrought,
In her soft hands the beauteous Phylo brought;
To Sparta’s queen of old the radiant vase
Alcandra gave, a pledge of royal grace;
For Polybus her lord (whose sovereign sway
The wealthy tribes of Pharian Thebes obey),
When to that court Atrides came, caress’d
With vast munificence the imperial guest:
Two lavers from the richest ore refined,
With silver tripods, the kind host assign’d;
And bounteous from the royal treasure told
Ten equal talents of refulgent gold.
Alcandra, consort of his high command,
A golden distaff gave to Helen’s hand;
And that rich vase, with living sculpture wrought,
Which heap’d with wool the beauteous Phylo brought
The silken fleece, impurpled for the loom,
Rivall’d the hyacinth in vernal bloom.
The sovereign seat then Jove born Helen press’d,
And pleasing thus her sceptred lord address’d:
“Who grace our palace now, that friendly pair,
Speak they their lineage, or their names declare?
Uncertain of the truth, yet uncontroll’d,
Hear me the bodings of my breast unfold.
With wonder wrapp’d on yonder check I trace
The feature of the Ulyssean race:
Diffused o’er each resembling line appear,
In just similitude, the grace and air
Of young Telemachus! the lovely boy,
Who bless’d Ulysses with a father’s joy,
What time the Greeks combined their social arms,
To avenge the stain of my ill-fated charms!”
“Just is thy thought, (the king assenting cries,)
Methinks Ulysses strikes my wondering eyes;
Full shines the father in the filial frame,
His port, his features, and his shape the same;
Such quick regards his sparkling eyes bestow;
Such wavy ringlets o’er his shoulders flow
And when he heard the long disastrous store
Of cares, which in my cause Ulysses bore;
Dismay’d, heart-wounded with paternal woes,
Above restraint the tide of sorrow rose;
Cautious to let the gushing grief appear,
His purple garment veil’d the falling tear.”
“See there confess’d (Pisistratus replies)
The genuine worth of Ithacus the wise!
Of that heroic sire the youth is sprung,
But modest awe hath chain’d his timorous tongue.
Thy voice, O king! with pleased attention heard,
Is like the dictates of a god revered.
With him, at Nestor’s high command, I came,
Whose age I honour with a parent’s name.
By adverse destiny constrained to sue
For counsel and redress, he sues to you
Whatever ill the friendless orphan bears,
Bereaved of parents in his infant years,
Still must the wrong’d Telemachus sustain,
If, hopeful of your aid, he hopes in vain;
Affianced in your friendly power alone,
The youth would vindicate the vacant throne.”
“Is Sparta blest, and these desiring eyes
View my friend’s son? (the king exalting cries;)
Son of my friend, by glorious toils approved,
Whose sword was sacred to the man he loved;
Mirror of constant faith, revered and mourn’d—
When Troy was ruin’d, had the chief return’d,
No Greek an equal space had ere possess’d,
Of dear affection, in my grateful breast.
I, to confirm the mutual joys we shared,
For his abode a capital prepared;
Argos, the seat of sovereign rule, I chose;
Fair in the plan the future palace rose,
Where my Ulysses and his race might reign,
And portion to his tribes the wide domain,
To them my vassals had resign’d a soil,
With teeming plenty to reward their toil.
There with commutual zeal we both had strove
In acts of dear benevolence and love:
Brothers in peace, not rivals in command,
And death alone dissolved the friendly band!
Some envious power the blissful scene destroys;
Vanish’d are all the visionary joys;
The soul of friendship to my hope is lost,
Fated to wander from his natal coast!”
He ceased; a gush of grief began to rise:
Fast streams a tide from beauteous Helen’s eyes;
Fast for the sire the filial sorrows flow;
The weeping monarch swells the mighty woe;
Thy cheeks, Pisistratus, the tears bedew,
While pictured so thy mind appear’d in view,
Thy martial brother; on the Phrygian plain
Extended pale, by swarthy Memnon slain!
But silence soon the son of Nestor broke,
And melting with fraternal pity, spoke:
“Frequent, O king, was Nestor wont to raise
And charm attention with thy copious praise;
To crowd thy various gifts, the sage assign’d
The glory of a firm capacious mind;
With that superior attribute control
This unavailing impotence of soul,
Let not your roof with echoing grief resound,
Now for the feast the friendly bowl is crown’d;
But when, from dewy shade emerging bright,
Aurora streaks the sky with orient light,
Let each deplore his dead; the rites of woe
Are all, alas! the living can bestow;
O’er the congenial dust enjoin’d to shear
The graceful curl, and drop the tender tear.
Then, mingling in the mournful pomp with you,
I’ll pay my brother’s ghost a warrior’s due,
And mourn the brave Antilochus, a name
Not unrecorded in the rolls of fame;
With strength and speed superior form’d, in fight
To face the foe, or intercept his flight;
Too early snatch’d by fate ere known to me!
I boast a witness of his worth in thee.”
“Young and mature! (the monarch thus rejoins,)
In thee renew’d the soul of Nestor shines;
Form’d by the care of that consummate sage,
In early bloom an oracle of age.
Whene’er his influence Jove vouchsafes to shower,
To bless the natal and the nuptial hour;
From the great sire transmissive to the race,
The boon devolving gives distinguish’d grace.
Such, happy Nestor! was thy glorious doom,
Around thee, full of years, thy offspring bloom.
Expert of arms, and prudent in debate;
The gifts of Heaven to guard thy hoary state.
But now let each becalm his troubled breast,
Wash, and partake serene the friendly feast.
To move thy suit, Telemachus, delay,
Till heaven’s revolving lamp restores the day.”
He said, Asphalion swift the laver brings;
Alternate, all partake the grateful springs;
Then from the rites of purity repair,
And with keen gust the savoury viands share.
Meantime, with genial joy to warm the soul,
Bright Helen mix’d a mirth inspiring bowl;
Temper’d with drugs of sovereign use, to assuage
The boiling bosom of tumultuous rage;
To clear the cloudy front of wrinkled Care,
And dry the tearful sluices of Despair;
Charm’d with that virtuous draught, the exalted mind
All sense of woe delivers to the wind.
Though on the blazing pile his parent lay.
Or a loved brother groan’d his life away.
Or darling son, oppress’d by ruffian force,
Fell breathless at his feet, a mangled corse;
From morn to eve, impassive and serene,
The man entranced would view the dreadful scene
These drugs, so friendly to the joys of life.
Bright Helen learn’d from Thone’s imperial wife;
Who sway’d the sceptre, where prolific Nile
With various simples clothes the fatten’d soil.
With wholesome herbage mix’d, the direful bane
Of vegetable venom taints the plain;
From Paeon sprung, their patron-god imparts
To all the Pharian race his healing arts.
The beverage now prepared to inspire the feast,
The circle thus the beauteous queen addressed:
“Throned in omnipotence, supremest Jove
Tempers the fates of human race above;
By the firm sanction of his sovereign will,
Alternate are decreed our good and ill.
To feastful mirth be this white hour assign’d.
And sweet discourse, the banquet of the mind
Myself, assisting in the social joy,
Will tell Ulysses’ bold exploit in Troy,
Sole witness of the deed I now declare
Speak you (who saw) his wonders in the war.
“Seam’d o’er with wounds, which his own sabre gave,
In the vile habit of a village slave,
The foe deceived, he pass’d the tented plain,
In Troy to mingle with the hostile train.
In this attire secure from searching eyes,
Till happily piercing through the dark disguise,
The chief I challenged; he, whose practised wit
Knew all the serpent mazes of deceit,
Eludes my search; but when his form I view’d
Fresh from the bath, with fragrant oils renew’d,
His limbs in military purple dress’d,
Each brightening grace the genuine Greek confess’d.
A previous pledge of sacred faith obtain’d,
Till he the lines and Argive fleet regain’d,
To keep his stay conceal’d; the chief declared
The plans of war against the town prepared.
Exploring then the secrets of the state,
He learn’d what best might urge the Dardan fate;
And, safe returning to the Grecian host,
Sent many a shade to Pluto’s dreary coast.
Loud grief resounded through the towers of Troy,
But my pleased bosom glow’d with secret joy:
For then, with dire remorse and conscious shame
I view’d the effects of that disastrous flame.
Which, kindled by the imperious queen of love,
Constrain’d me from my native realm to rove:
And oft in bitterness of soul deplored
My absent daughter and my dearer lord;
Admired among the first of human race,
For every gift of mind and manly grace.”
“Right well (replied the king) your speech displays
The matchless merit of the chief you praise:
Heroes in various climes myself have found,
For martial deeds and depth of thought renown’d;
But Ithacus, unrivall’d in his claim,
May boast a title to the loudest fame:
In battle calm he guides the rapid storm,
Wise to resolve, and patient to perform.
What wondrous conduct in the chief appear’d,
When the vast fabric of the steed we rear’d!
Some demon, anxious for the Trojan doom,
Urged you with great Deiphobus to come,
To explore the fraud; with guile opposed to guile.
Slow-pacing thrice around the insidious pile,
Each noted leader’s name you thrice invoke,
Your accent varying as their spouses spoke!
The pleasing sounds each latent warrior warm’d,
But most Tydides’ and coy heart alarm’d:
To quit the steed we both impatient press
Threatening to answer from the dark recess.
Unmoved the mind of Ithacus remain’d;
And the vain ardours of our love restrain’d;
But Anticlus, unable to control,
Spoke loud the language of his yearning soul:
Ulysses straight, with indignation fired
(For so the common care of Greece required),
Firm to his lips his forceful hands applied,
Till on his tongue the fluttering murmurs died.
Meantime Minerva, from the fraudful horse,
Back to the court of Priam bent your course.”
“Inclement fate! (Telemachus replies,)
Frail is the boasted attribute of wise:
The leader mingling with the vulgar host,
Is in the common mass of matter lost!
But now let sleep the painful waste repair
Of sad reflection and corroding care.”
He ceased; the menial fair that round her wait,
At Helen’s beck prepare the room of state;
Beneath an ample portico they spread
The downy fleece to form the slumberous bed;
And o’er soft palls of purple grain unfold
Rich tapestry, stiff with interwoven gold:
Then, through the illumined dome, to balmy rest
The obsequious herald guides each princely guest;
While to his regal bower the king ascends,
And beauteous Helen on her lord attends.
Soon as the morn, in orient purple dress’d,
Unbarr’d the portal of the roseate east,
The monarch rose; magnificent to view,
The imperial mantle o’er his vest he threw;
The glittering zone athwart his shoulders cast,
A starry falchion low-depending graced;
Clasp’d on his feet the embroidered sandals shine;
And forth he moves, majestic and divine,
Instant to young Telemachus he press’d;
And thus benevolent his speech addressed:
“Say, royal youth, sincere of soul report
Whit cause hath led you to the Spartan court?
Do public or domestic care constrain
This toilsome voyage o’er the surgy main?”
“O highly-flavour’d delegate of Jove!
(Replies the prince) inflamed with filial love,
And anxious hope, to hear my parent’s doom,
A suppliant to your royal court I come:
Our sovereign seat a lewd usurping race
With lawless riot and misrule disgrace;
To pamper’d insolence devoted fall
Prime of the flock, and choicest of the stall:
For wild ambition wings their bold desire,
And all to mount the imperial bed aspire.
But prostrate I implore, O king! relate
The mournful series of my father’s fate:
Each known disaster of the man disclose,
Born by his mother to a world of woes!
Recite them; nor in erring pity fear
To wound with storied grief the filial ear.
If e’er Ulysses, to reclaim your right,
Avow’d his zeal in council or in fight,
If Phrygian camps the friendly toils attest,
To the sire’s merit give the son’s request.”
Deep from his inmost soul Atrides sigh’d,
And thus, indignant, to the prince replied:
“Heavens! would a soft, inglorious, dastard train
An absent hero’s nuptial joys profane!
So with her young, amid the woodland shades,
A timorous hind the lion’s court invades,
Leaves in the fatal lair the tender fawns,
Climbs the green cliff, or feeds the flowery lawns:
Meantime return’d, with dire remorseless sway,
The monarch-savage rends the trembling prey.
With equal fury, and with equal fame,
Ulysses soon shall reassert his claim.
O Jove supreme, whom gods and men revere!
And thou! to whom ’tis given to gild the sphere!
With power congenial join’d, propitious aid
The chief adopted by the martial maid!
Such to our wish the warrior soon restore,
As when contending on the Lesbian shore
His prowess Philomelidies confess’d,
And loud-acclaiming Greeks the victor bless’d;
Then soon the invaders of his bed and throne
Their love presumptuous shall with life atone.
With patient ear, O royal youth, attend
The storied labour of thy father’s friend:
Fruitful of deeds, the copious tale is long,
But truth severe shall dictate to my tongue:
Learn what I heard the sea-born seer relate,
Whose eye can pierce the dark recess of fate.
“Long on the Egyptian coast by calms confined,
Heaven to my fleet refused a prosperous wind;
No vows had we preferr’d, nor victims slain!
For this the gods each favouring gale restrain
Jealous, to see their high behests obey’d;
Severe, if men the eternal rights evade.
High o’er a gulfy sea, the Pharian isle
Fronts the deep roar of disemboguing Nile:
Her distance from the shore, the course begun
At dawn, and ending with the setting sun,
A galley measures; when the stiffer gales
Rise on the poop, and fully stretch the sails.
There, anchor’d vessels safe in harbour lie,
Whilst limpid springs the failing cask supply.
“And now the twentieth sun, descending, laves
His glowing axle in the western waves:
Still with expanded sails we court in vain
Propitious winds to waft us o’er the main;
And the pale mariner at once deplores
His drooping vigour and exhausted stores.
When lo! a bright cerulean form appears,
Proteus her sire divine. With pity press’d,
Me sole the daughter of the deep address’d;
What time, with hunger pined, my absent mates
Roam the wide isle in search of rural cates,
Bait the barb’d steel, and from the fishy flood
Appease the afflictive fierce desire of food.”
“‘Whoe’er thou art (the azure goddess cries)
Thy conduct ill-deserves the praise of wise:
Is death thy choice, or misery thy boast,
That here inglorious, on a barren coast,
Thy brave associates droop, a meagre train,
With famine pale, and ask thy care in vain?’
“Struck with the loud reproach, I straight reply:
‘Whate’er thy title in thy native sky,
A goddess sure! for more than moral grace
Speaks thee descendant of ethereal race;
Deem not that here of choice my fleet remains;
Some heavenly power averse my stay constrains:
O, piteous of my fate, vouchsafe to show
(For what’s sequester’d from celestial view?)
What power becalms the innavigable seas?
What guilt provokes him, and what vows appease?’
“I ceased, when affable the goddess cried:
‘Observe, and in the truths I speak confide;
The oracular seer frequents the Pharian coast,
From whose high bed my birth divine I boast;
Proteus, a name tremendous o’er the main,
The delegate of Neptune’s watery reign.
Watch with insidious care his known abode;
There fast in chains constrain the various god;
Who bound, obedient to superior force,
Unerring will prescribe your destined course.
If, studious on your realms, you then demand
Their state, since last you left your natal land,
Instant the god obsequious will disclose
Bright tracts of glory or a cloud of woes.’
“She ceased; and suppliant thus I made reply:
‘O goddess I on thy aid my hopes rely;
Dictate propitious to my duteous ear,
What arts can captivate the changeful seer;
For perilous the assay, unheard the toil,
To elude the prescience of a god by guile.’
“Thus to the goddess mild my suit I end.
Then she: ‘Obedient to my rule attend:
When through the zone of heaven the mounted sun
Hath journeyed half, and half remains to run;
The seer, while zephyrs curl the swelling deep,
Basks on the breezy shore, in grateful sleep,
His oozy limbs. Emerging from the wave,
The Phocas swift surround his rocky cave,
Frequent and full; the consecrated train
Of her, whose azure trident awes the main;
There wallowing warm, the enormous herd exhales
An oily steam, and taints the noontide gales.
To that recess, commodious for surprise,
When purple light shall next suffuse the skies,
With me repair; and from thy warrior-band
Three chosen chiefs of dauntless soul command;
Let their auxiliar force befriend the toil;
For strong the god, and perfected in guile.
Strech’d on the shelly shore, he first surveys
The flouncing herd ascending from the seas;
Their number summ’d, reposed in sleep profound
The scaly charge their guardian god surround;
So with his battening flocks the careful swain
Abides pavilion’d on the grassy plain.
With powers united, obstinately bold,
Invade him, couch’d amid the scaly fold;
Instant he wears, elusive of the rape,
The mimic force of every savage shape;
Or glides with liquid lapse a murmuring stream,
Or, wrapp’d in flame, he glows at every limb.
Yet, still retentive, with redoubled might,
Through each vain passive form constrain his flight
But when, his native shape renamed, he stands
Patient of conquest, and your cause demands;
The cause that urged the bold attempt declare,
And soothe the vanquish’d with a victor’s prayer.
The bands releas’d, implore the seer to say
What godhead interdicts the watery way.
Who, straight propitious, in prophetic strain
Will teach you to repass the unmeasured main.
She ceased, and bounding from the shelfy shore,
Round the descending nymph the waves resounding roar.
“High wrapp’d in wonder of the future deed,
with joy impetuous to the port I speed:
The wants of nature with repast suffice,
Till night with grateful shade involved the skies,
And shed ambrosial dews. Fast by the deep,
Along the tented shore, in balmy sleep,
Our cares were lost. When o’er the eastern lawn,
In saffron robes, the daughter of the dawn
Advanced her rosy steps, before the bay
Due ritual honours to the gods I pay;
Then seek the place the sea-born nymph assign’d,
With three associates of undaunted mind.
Arrived, to form along the appointed strand
For each a bed, she scoops the hilly sand;
Then, from her azure cave the finny spoils
Of four vast Phocae takes, to veil her wiles;
Beneath the finny spoils extended prone,
Hard toil! the prophet’s piercing eye to shun;
New from the corse, the scaly frauds diffuse
Unsavoury stench of oil, and brackish ooze;
But the bright sea-maid’s gentle power implored,
With nectar’d drops the sickening sense restored.
“Thus till the sun had travell’d half the skies,
Ambush’d we lie, and wait the bold emprise;
When, thronging quick to bask in open air,
The flocks of ocean to the strand repair;
Couch’d on the sunny sand, the monsters sleep;
Then Proteus, mounting from the hoary deep,
Surveys his charge, unknowing of deceit;
(In order told, we make the sum complete.)
Pleased with the false review, secure he lies,
And leaden slumbers press his drooping eyes.
Rushing impetuous forth, we straight prepare
A furious onset with the sound of war,
And shouting seize the god; our force to evade,
His various arts he soon resumes in aid;
A lion now, he curls a surgy mane;
Sudden our hands a spotted paid restrain;
Then, arm’d with tusks, and lightning in his eyes,
A boar’s obscener shape the god belies;
On spiry volumes, there a dragon rides;
Here, from our strict embrace a stream he glides.
At last, sublime, his stately growth he rears
A tree, and well-dissembled foliage wears.
Vain efforts with superior power compress’d,
Me with reluctance thus the seer address’d;
‘Say, son of Atreus, say what god inspired
This daring fraud, and what the boon desired?’
I thus: ‘O thou, whose certain eye foresees
The fix’d event of fate’s remote decrees;
After long woes, and various toil endured,
Still on this desert isle my fleet is moor’d,
Unfriended of the gales. All-knowing, say,
What godhead interdicts the watery way?
What vows repentant will the power appease,
To speed a prosperous voyage o’er the seas.’
“‘To Jove (with stern regard the god replies)
And all the offended synod of the skies,
Just hecatombs with due devotion slain,
Thy guilt absolved, a prosperous voyage gain.
To the firm sanction of thy fate attend!
An exile thou, nor cheering face of friend,
Nor sight of natal shore, nor regal dome,
Shalt yet enjoy, but still art doom’d to roam.
Once more the Nile, who from the secret source
Of Jove’s high seat descends with sweepy force,
Must view his billows white beneath thy oar,
And altars blaze along his sanguine shore.
Then will the gods with holy pomp adored,
To thy long vows a safe return accord.’
“He ceased: heart wounded with afflictive pain,
(Doom’d to repeat the perils of the main,
A shelfy track and long!) ‘O seer’ I cry,
‘To the stern sanction of the offended sky
My prompt obedience bows. But deign to say
What fate propitious, or what dire dismay,
Sustain those peers, the relics of our host,
Whom I with Nestor on the Phrygian coast
Embracing left? Must I the warriors weep,
Whelm’d in the bottom of the monstrous deep?
Or did the kind domestic friend deplore
The breathless heroes on their native shore?
“‘Press not too far,’ replied the god: ‘but cease
To know what, known, will violate thy peace;
Too curious of their doom! with friendly woe
Thy breast will heave, and tears eternal flow.
Part live! the rest, a lamentable train!
Range the dark bounds of Pluto’s dreary reign.
Two, foremost in the roll of Mars renown’d,
Whose arms with conquest in thy cause were crown’d,
Fell by disastrous fate: by tempests toss’d,
A third lives wretched on a distant coast.
“By Neptune rescued from Minerva’s hate,
On Gyrae, safe Oilean Ajax sate,
His ship o’erwhelm’d; but, frowning on the floods,
Impious he roar’d defiance to the gods;
To his own prowess all the glory gave:
The power defrauding who vouchsafed to save.
This heard the raging ruler of the main;
His spear, indignant for such high disdain,
He launched; dividing with his forky mace
The aerial summit from the marble base:
The rock rush’d seaward, with impetuous roar
Ingulf’d, and to the abyss the boaster bore.
“By Juno’s guardian aid, the watery vast,
Secure of storms, your royal brother pass’d,
Till, coasting nigh the cape where Malen shrouds
Her spiry cliffs amid surrounding clouds,
A whirling gust tumultuous from the shore
Across the deep his labouring vessel bore.
In an ill-fated hour the coast he gain’d,
Where late in regal pomp Thyestes reigned;
But, when his hoary honours bow’d to fate,
Aegysthus govern’d in paternal state,
The surges now subside, the tempest ends;
From his tall ship the king of men descends;
There fondly thinks the gods conclude his toil:
Far from his own domain salutes the soil;
With rapture oft the urge of Greece reviews,
And the dear turf with tears of joy bedews.
Him, thus exulting on the distant stand,
A spy distinguish’d from his airy stand;
To bribe whose vigilance, Aegysthus told
A mighty sum of ill-persuading gold:
There watch’d this guardian of his guilty fear,
Till the twelfth moon had wheel’d her pale career;
And now, admonish’d by his eye, to court
With terror wing’d conveys the dread report.
Of deathful arts expert, his lord employs
The ministers of blood in dark surprise;
And twenty youths, in radiant mail incased,
Close ambush’d nigh the spacious hall he placed.
Then bids prepare the hospitable treat:
Vain shows of love to veil his felon hate!
To grace the victor’s welcome from the wars,
A train of coursers and triumphal cars
Magnificent he leads: the royal guest,
Thoughtless of ill, accepts the fraudful feast.
The troop forth-issuing from the dark recess,
With homicidal rage the king oppress!
So, whilst he feeds luxurious in the stall,
The sovereign of the herd is doomed to fall,
The partners of his fame and toils at Troy,
Around their lord, a mighty ruin, lie:
Mix’d with the brave, the base invaders bleed;
Aegysthus sole survives to boast the deed.”
He said: chill horrors shook my shivering soul,
Rack’d wish convulsive pangs in dust I roll;
And hate, in madness of extreme despair,
To view the sun, or breathe the vital air.
But when, superior to the rage of woe,
I stood restored and tears had ceased to flow,
Lenient of grief the pitying god began:
‘Forget the brother, and resume the man.
To Fate’s supreme dispose the dead resign,
That care be Fate’s, a speedy passage thine
Still lives the wretch who wrought the death deplored,
But lives a victim for thy vengeful sword;
Unless with filial rage Orestes glow,
And swift prevent the meditated blow:
You timely will return a welcome guest,
With him to share the sad funereal feast.”
“He said: new thoughts my beating heart employ,
My gloomy soul receives a gleam of joy.
Fair hope revives; and eager I address’d
The prescient godhead to reveal the rest:
‘The doom decreed of those disastrous two
I’ve heard with pain, but oh! the tale pursue;
What third brave son of Mars the Fates constrain
To roam the howling desert of the main;
Or, in eternal shade of cold he lies,
Provoke new sorrows from these grateful eyes.’
“‘That chief (rejoin’d the god) his race derives
From Ithaca, and wondrous woes survives;
Laertes’ son: girt with circumfluous tides,
He still calamitous constraint abides.
Him in Calypso’s cave of late! view’d,
When streaming grief his faded cheek bedow’d.
But vain his prayer, his arts are vain, to move
The enamour’d goddess, or elude her love:
His vessel sunk, and dear companions lost,
He lives reluctant on a foreign coast.
But oh, beloved by Heaven! reserved to thee
A happier lot the smiling Fates decree:
Free from that law, beneath whose mortal sway
Matter is changed, and varying forms decay,
Elysium shall be thine: the blissful plains
Of utmost earth, where Rhadamanthus reigns.
Joys ever young, unmix’d with pain or fear,
Fill the wide circle of the eternal year:
Stern winter smiles on that auspicious clime:
The fields are florid with unfading prime;
From the bleak pole no winds inclement blow,
Mould the round hail, or flake the fleecy snow;
But from the breezy deep the blest inhale
The fragrant murmurs of the western gale.
This grace peculiar will the gods afford
To thee, the son of Jove, and beauteous Helen’s lord.’
“He ceased, and plunging in the vast profound,
Beneath the god and whirling billows bound.
Then speeding back, involved in various thought,
My friends attending at the shore I sought,
Arrived, the rage of hunger we control
Till night with silent shade invests the pole;
Then lose the cares of life in pleasing rest.
Soon as the morn reveals the roseate east,
With sails we wing the masts, our anchors weigh,
Unmoor the fleet, and rush into the sea.
Ranged on the banks, beneath our equal oars
White curl the waves, and the vex’d ocean roars
Then, steering backward from the Pharian isle,
We gain the stream of Jove-descended Nile;
There quit the ships, and on the destined shore
With ritual hecatombs the gods adore;
Their wrath atoned, to Agamemnon’s name
A cenotaph I raise of deathless fame.
These rites to piety and grief discharged,
The friendly gods a springing gale enlarged;
The fleet swift tilting o’er the surges flew,
Till Grecian cliffs appear’d a blissful view!
“Thy patient ear hath heard me long relate
A story, fruitful of disastrous fate.
And now, young prince, indulge my fond request;
Be Sparta honoured with his royal guest,
Till, from his eastern goal, the joyous sun
His twelfth diurnal race begins to run.
Meantime my train the friendly gifts prepare,
The sprightly coursers and a polish’d car;
With these a goblet of capacious mould,
Figured with art to dignify the gold
(Form’d for libation to the gods), shall prove
A pledge and monument of sacred love.”
“My quick return (young Ithacus rejoin’d),
Damps the warm wishes of my raptured mind;
Did not my fate my needful haste constrain,
Charm’d by your speech so graceful and humane,
Lost in delight the circling year would roll,
While deep attention fix’d my listening soul.
But now to Pyle permit my destined way,
My loved associates chide my long delay:
In dear remembrance of your royal grace,
I take the present of the promised vase;
The coursers, for the champaign sports retain;
That gift our barren rocks will render vain:
Horrid with cliffs, our meagre land allows
Thin herbage for the mountain goat to browse,
But neither mead nor plain supplies, to feed
The sprightly courser, or indulge his speed:
To sea-surrounded realms the gods assign
Small tract of fertile lawn, the least to mine.”
His hand the king with tender passion press’d,
And, smiling, thus the royal youth address’d:
“O early worth! a soul so wise, and young,
Proclaims you from the sage Ulysses sprung.
Selected from my stores, of matchless price,
An urn shall recompense your prudent choice;
By Vulcan’s art, the verge with gold enchased.
A pledge the sceptred power of Sidon gave,
When to his realm I plough’d the orient wave.”
Thus they alternate; while, with artful care,
The menial train the regal feast prepare.
The firstlings of the flock are doom’d to die:
Rich fragrant wines the cheering bowl supply;
A female band the gift of Ceres bring;
And the gilt roofs with genial triumph ring.
Meanwhile, in Ithaca, the suitor powers
In active games divide their jovial hours;
In areas varied with mosaic art,
Some whirl the disk, and some the javelin dart,
Aside, sequester’d from the vast resort,
Antinous sole spectator of the sport;
With great Eurymachus, of worth confess’d,
And high descent, superior to the rest;
Whom young Noemon lowly thus address’d:—
“My ship, equipp’d within the neighboring port,
The prince, departing for the Pylian court,
Requested for his speed; but, courteous, say
When steers he home, or why this long delay?
For Elis I should sail with utmost speed.
To import twelve mares which there luxurious feed,
And twelve young mules, a strong laborious race,
New to the plow, unpractised in the trace.”
Unknowing of the course to Pyle design’d,
A sudden horror seized on either mind;
The prince in rural bower they fondly thought,
Numbering his flocks and herds, not far remote.
“Relate (Antinous cries), devoid of guile,
When spread the prince his sale for distant Pyle?
Did chosen chiefs across the gulfy main
Attend his voyage, or domestic train?
Spontaneous did you speed his secret course,
Or was the vessel seized by fraud or force?”
“With willing duty, not reluctant mind
(Noemon cried), the vessel was resign’d,
Who, in the balance, with the great affairs
Of courts presume to weigh their private cares?
With him, the peerage next in power to you;
And Mentor, captain of the lordly crew,
Or some celestial in his reverend form,
Safe from the secret rock and adverse storm,
Pilot’s the course; for when the glimmering ray
Of yester dawn disclosed the tender day,
Mentor himself I saw, and much admired,”
Then ceased the youth, and from the court retired.
Confounded and appall’d, the unfinish’d game
The suitors quit, and all to council came.
Antinous first the assembled peers address’d.
Rage sparkling in his eyes, and burning in his breast
“O shame to manhood! shall one daring boy
The scheme of all our happiness destroy?
Fly unperceived, seducing half the flower
Of nobles, and invite a foreign power?
The ponderous engine raised to crush us all,
Recoiling, on his head is sure to fall.
Instant prepare me, on the neighbouring strand,
With twenty chosen mates a vessel mann’d;
For ambush’d close beneath the Samian shore
His ship returning shall my spies explore;
He soon his rashness shall with life atone,
Seek for his father’s fate, but find his own.”
With vast applause the sentence all approve;
Then rise, and to the feastful hall remove;
Swift to the queen the herald Medon ran,
Who heard the consult of the dire divan:
Before her dome the royal matron stands,
And thus the message of his haste demands;
“What will the suitors? must my servant-train
The allotted labours of the day refrain,
For them to form some exquisite repast?
Heaven grant this festival may prove their last!
Or, if they still must live, from me remove
The double plague of luxury and love!
Forbear, ye sons of insolence! forbear,
In riot to consume a wretched heir.
In the young soul illustrious thought to raise,
Were ye not tutor’d with Ulysses’ praise?
Have not your fathers oft my lord defined,
Gentle of speech, beneficent of mind?
Some kings with arbitrary rage devour,
Or in their tyrant-minions vest the power;
Ulysses let no partial favours fall,
The people’s parent, he protected all;
But absent now, perfidious and ingrate!
His stores ye ravage, and usurp his state.”
He thus: “O were the woes you speak the worst!
They form a deed more odious and accursed;
More dreadful than your boding soul divines;
But pitying Jove avert the dire designs!
The darling object of your royal care
Is marked to perish in a deathful snare;
Before he anchors in his native port,
From Pyle re-sailing and the Spartan court;
Horrid to speak! in ambush is decreed
The hope and heir of Ithaca to bleed!”
Sudden she sunk beneath the weighty woes,
The vital streams a chilling horror froze;
The big round tear stands trembling in her eye,
And on her tongue imperfect accents die.
At length in tender language interwove
With sighs, she thus expressed her anxious love;
“Why rarely would my son his fate explore,
Ride the wild waves, and quit the safer shore?
Did he with all the greatly wretched, crave
A blank oblivion, and untimely grave?”
“Tis not (replied the sage) to Medon given
To know, if some inhabitant of heaven
In his young breast the daring thought inspired
Or if, alone with filial duty fired,
The winds end waves he tempts in early bloom,
Studious to learn his absent father’s doom.”
The sage retired: unable to control
The mighty griefs that swell her labouring soul
Rolling convulsive on the floor is seen
The piteous object of a prostrate queen.
Words to her dumb complaint a pause supplies,
And breath, to waste in unavailing cries.
Around their sovereign wept the menial fair,
To whom she thus address’d her deep despair:
“Behold a wretch whom all the gods consign
To woe! Did ever sorrows equal mine?
Long to my joys my dearest lord is lost,
His country’s buckler, and the Grecian boast;
Now from my fond embrace, by tempests torn,
Our other column of the state is borne;
Nor took a kind adieu, nor sought consent!—
Unkind confederates in his dire intent!
Ill suits it with your shows of duteous zeal,
From me the purposed voyage to conceal;
Though at the solemn midnight hour he rose,
Why did you fear to trouble my repose?
He either had obey’d my fond desire,
Or seen his mother pierced with grief expire.
Bid Dolius quick attend, the faithful slave
Whom to my nuptial train Icarius gave
To tend the fruit groves: with incessant speed
He shall this violence of death decreed
To good Laertes tell. Experienced age
May timely intercept the ruffian rage.
Convene the tribes the murderous plot reveal,
And to their power to save his race appeal.”
Then Euryclea thus: “My dearest dread;
Though to the sword I bow this hoary head,
Or if a dungeon be the pain decreed,
I own me conscious of the unpleasing deed;
Auxiliar to his flight, my aid implored,
With wine and viands I the vessel stored;
A solemn oath, imposed, the secret seal’d,
Till the twelfth dawn the light of day reveal’d.
Dreading the effect of a fond mother’s fear,
He dared not violate your royal ear.
But bathe, and, in imperial robes array’d,
Pay due devotions to the martial maid,
And rest affianced in her guardian aid.
Send not to good Laertes, nor engage
In toils of state the miseries of age:
Tis impious to surmise the powers divine
To ruin doom the Jove-descended line;
Long shall the race of just Arcesius reign,
And isles remote enlarge his old domain.”
The queen her speech with calm attention hears,
Her eyes restrain the silver-streaming tears:
She bathes, and robed, the sacred dome ascends;
Her pious speed a female train attends:
The salted cakes in canisters are laid,
And thus the queen invokes Minerva’s aid;
“Daughter divine of Jove, whose arm can wield
The avenging bolt, and shake the dreadful shield
If e’er Ulysses to thy fane preferr’d
The best and choicest of his flock and herd;
Hear, goddess, hear, by those oblations won;
And for the pious sire preserve the son;
His wish’d return with happy power befriend,
And on the suitors let thy wrath descend.”
She ceased; shrill ecstasies of joy declare
The favouring goddess present to the prayer;
The suitors heard, and deem’d the mirthful voice
A signal of her hymeneal choice;
Whilst one most jovial thus accosts the board:
“Too late the queen selects a second lord;
In evil hour the nuptial rite intends,
When o’er her son disastrous death impends.”
Thus he, unskill’d of what the fates provide!
But with severe rebuke Antinous cried:
“These empty vaunts will make the voyage vain:
Alarm not with discourse the menial train:
The great event with silent hope attend,
Our deeds alone our counsel must commend.”
His speech thus ended short, he frowning rose,
And twenty chiefs renowned for valour chose;
Down to the strand he speeds with haughty strides,
Where anchor’d in the bay the vessel rides,
Replete with mail and military store,
In all her tackle trim to quit the shore.
The desperate crew ascend, unfurl the sails
(The seaward prow invites the tardy gales);
Then take repast till Hesperus display’d
His golden circlet, in the western shade.
Meantime the queen, without reflection due,
Heart-wounded, to the bed of state withdrew:
In her sad breast the prince’s fortunes roll,
And hope and doubt alternate seize her soul.
So when the woodman’s toil her cave surrounds,
And with the hunter’s cry the grove resounds,
With grief and rage the mother-lion stung.
Fearless herself, yet trembles for her young
While pensive in the silent slumberous shade,
Sleep’s gentle powers her drooping eyes invade;
Minerva, life-like, on embodied air
Impress’d the form of Iphthima the fair;
(Icarius’ daughter she, whose blooming charms
Allured Eumelus to her virgin arms;
A sceptred lord, who o’er the fruitful plain
Of Thessaly wide stretched his ample reign:)
As Pallas will’d, along the sable skies,
To calm the queen, the phantom sister flies.
Swift on the regal dome, descending right,
The bolted valves are pervious to her flight.
Close to her head the pleasing vision stands,
And thus performs Minerva’s high commands
“O why, Penelope, this causeless fear,
To render sleep’s soft blessing unsincere?
Alike devote to sorrow’s dire extreme
The day-reflection, and the midnight-dream!
Thy son the gods propitious will restore,
And bid thee cease his absence to deplore.”
To whom the queen (whilst yet in pensive mind
Was in the silent gates of sleep confined):
“O sister to my soul forever dear,
Why this first visit to reprove my fear?
How in a realm so distant should you know
From what deep source ceaseless sorrows flow?
To all my hope my royal lord is lost,
His country’s buckler, and the Grecian boast;
And with consummate woe to weigh me down,
The heir of all his honours and his crown,
My darling son is fled! an easy prey
To the fierce storms, or men more fierce than they;
Who, in a league of blood associates sworn,
Will intercept the unwary youth’s return.”
“Courage resume (the shadowy form replied);
In the protecting care of Heaven confide;
On him attends the blue eyed martial maid:
What earthly can implore a surer aid?
Me now the guardian goddess deigns to send,
To bid thee patient his return attend.”
The queen replies: “If in the blest abodes,
A goddess, thou hast commerce with the gods;
Say, breathes my lord the blissful realm of light,
Or lies he wrapp’d in ever-during night?”
“Inquire not of his doom, (the phantom cries,)
I speak not all the counsel of the skies;
Nor must indulge with vain discourse, or long,
The windy satisfaction of the tongue.”
Swift through the valves the visionary fair
Repass’d, and viewless mix’d with common air.
The queen awakes, deliver’d of her woes;
With florid joy her heart dilating glows:
The vision, manifest of future fate,
Makes her with hope her son’s arrival wait.
Meantime the suitors plough the watery plain,
Telemachus in thought already slain!
When sight of lessening Ithaca was lost
Their sail directed for the Samian coast
A small but verdant isle appear’d in view,
And Asteris the advancing pilot knew;
An ample port the rocks projected form,
To break the rolling waves and ruffling storm:
That safe recess they gain with happy speed,
And in close ambush wait the murderous deed.
THE DEPARTURE OF ULYSSES FROM CALYPSO
Pallas in a council of the gods complains of the detention of Ulysses in the Island of Calypso: whereupon Mercury is sent to command his removal. The seat of Calypso described. She consents with much difficulty; and Ulysses builds a vessel with his own hands, in which he embarks. Neptune overtakes him with a terrible tempest, in which he is shipwrecked, and in the last danger of death; till Lencothea, a sea-goddess, assists him, and, after innumerable perils, he gets ashore on Phaeacia.
The saffron morn, with early blushes spread,
Now rose refulgent from Tithonus’ bed;
With new-born day to gladden mortal sight,
And gild the courts of heaven with sacred light.
Then met the eternal synod of the sky,
Before the god, who thunders from on high,
Supreme in might, sublime in majesty.
Pallas, to these, deplores the unequal fates
Of wise Ulysses and his toils relates:
Her hero’s danger touch’d the pitying power,
The nymph’s seducements, and the magic bower.
Thus she began her plaint: “Immortal Jove!
And you who fill the blissful seats above!
Let kings no more with gentle mercy sway,
Or bless a people willing to obey,
But crush the nations with an iron rod,
And every monarch be the scourge of God.
If from your thoughts Ulysses you remove,
Who ruled his subjects with a father’s love,
Sole in an isle, encircled by the main,
Abandon’d, banish’d from his native reign,
Unbless’d he sighs, detained by lawless charms,
And press’d unwilling in Calypso’s arms.
Nor friends are there, nor vessels to convey,
Nor oars to cut the immeasurable way.
And now fierce traitors, studious to destroy
His only son, their ambush’d fraud employ;
Who, pious, following his great father’s fame,
To sacred Pylos and to Sparta came.”
“What words are these? (replied the power who forms
The clouds of night, and darkens heaven with storms;)
Is not already in thy soul decreed,
The chief’s return shall make the guilty bleed?
What cannot Wisdom do? Thou may’st restore
The son in safety to his native shore;
While the fell foes, who late in ambush lay,
With fraud defeated measure back their way.”
Then thus to Hermes the command was given:
“Hermes, thou chosen messenger of heaven!
Go, to the nymph be these our orders borne
’Tis Jove’s decree, Ulysses shall return:
The patient man shall view his old abodes,
Nor helped by mortal hand, nor guiding gods
In twice ten days shall fertile Scheria find,
Alone, and floating to the wave and wind.
The bold Phaecians there, whose haughty line
Is mixed with gods, half human, half divine,
The chief shall honour as some heavenly guest,
And swift transport him to his place of rest,
His vessels loaded with a plenteous store
Of brass, of vestures, and resplendent ore
(A richer prize than if his joyful isle
Received him charged with Ilion’s noble spoil),
His friends, his country, he shall see, though late:
Such is our sovereign will, and such is fate.”
He spoke. The god who mounts the winged winds
Fast to his feet the golden pinions binds,
That high through fields of air his flight sustain
O’er the wide earth, and o’er the boundless main:
He grasps the wand that causes sleep to fly,
Or in soft slumber seals the wakeful eye;
Then shoots from heaven to high Pieria’s steep,
And stoops incumbent on the rolling deep.
So watery fowl, that seek their fishy food,
With wings expanded o’er the foaming flood,
Now sailing smooth the level surface sweep,
Now dip their pinions in the briny deep;
Thus o’er the word of waters Hermes flew,
Till now the distant island rose in view:
Then, swift ascending from the azure wave,
he took the path that winded to the cave.
Large was the grot, in which the nymph he found
(The fair-hair’d nymph with every beauty crown’d).
The cave was brighten’d with a rising blaze;
Cedar and frankincense, an odorous pile,
Flamed on the hearth, and wide perfumed the isle;
While she with work and song the time divides,
And through the loom the golden shuttle guides.
Without the grot a various sylvan scene
Appear’d around, and groves of living green;
Poplars and alders ever quivering play’d,
And nodding cypress form’d a fragrant shade:
On whose high branches, waving with the storm,
The birds of broadest wing their mansions form,—
The chough, the sea-mew, the loquacious crow,—
and scream aloft, and skim the deeps below.
Depending vines the shelving cavern screen.
With purple clusters blushing through the green.
Four limped fountains from the clefts distil:
And every fountain pours a several rill,
In mazy windings wandering down the hill:
Where bloomy meads with vivid greens were crown’d,
And glowing violets threw odours round.
A scene, where, if a god should cast his sight,
A god might gaze, and wander with delight!
Joy touch’d the messenger of heaven: he stay’d
Entranced, and all the blissful haunts surveyed.
Him, entering in the cave, Calypso knew;
For powers celestial to each other’s view
Stand still confess’d, though distant far they lie
To habitants of earth, or sea, or sky.
But sad Ulysses, by himself apart,
Pour’d the big sorrows of his swelling heard;
All on the lonely shore he sate to weep,
And roll’d his eyes around the restless deep:
Toward his loved coast he roll’d his eyes in vain,
Till, dimm’d with rising grief, they stream’d again.
Now graceful seated on her shining throne,
To Hermes thus the nymph divine begun:
“God of the golden wand! on what behest
Arrivest thou here, an unexpected guest?
Loved as thou art, thy free injunctions lay;
’Tis mine with joy and duty to obey.
Till now a stranger, in a happy hour
Approach, and taste the dainties of my bower.”
Thus having spoke, the nymph the table spread
(Ambrosial cates, with nectar rosy-red);
Hermes the hospitable rite partook,
Divine refection! then, recruited, spoke:
“What moves this journey from my native sky,
A goddess asks, nor can a god deny.
Hear then the truth. By mighty Jove’s command
Unwilling have I trod this pleasing land:
For who, self-moved, with weary wing would sweep
Such length of ocean and unmeasured deep;
A world of waters! far from all the ways
Where men frequent, or sacred altars blaze!
But to Jove’s will submission we must pay;
What power so great to dare to disobey?
A man, he says, a man resides with thee,
Of all his kind most worn with misery.
The Greeks, (whose arms for nine long year employ’d
Their force on Ilion, in the tenth destroy’d,)
At length, embarking in a luckless hour,
With conquest proud, incensed Minerva’s power:
Hence on the guilty race her vengeance hurl’d,
With storms pursued them through the liquid world.
There all his vessels sunk beneath the wave!
There all his dear companions found their grave!
Saved from the jaws of death by Heaven’s decree,
The tempest drove him to these shores and thee.
Him, Jove now orders to his native lands
Straight to dismiss: so destiny commands:
Impatient Fate his near return attends,
And calls him to his country, and his friends.”
E’en to her inmost soul the goddess shook;
Then thus her anguish, and her passion broke:
“Ungracious gods! with spite and envy cursed!
Still to your own ethereal race the worst!
Ye envy mortal and immortal joy,
And love, the only sweet of life destroy,
Did ever goddess by her charms engage
A favour’d mortal, and not feel your rage?
So when Aurora sought Orion’s love,
Her joys disturbed your blissful hours above,
Till, in Ortygia Dian’s winged dart
Had pierced the hapless hunter to the heart,
So when the covert of the thrice-eared field
Saw stately Ceres to her passion yield,
Scarce could Iasion taste her heavenly charms,
But Jove’s swift lightning scorched him in her arms.
And is it now my turn, ye mighty powers!
Am I the envy of your blissful bowers?
A man, an outcast to the storm and wave,
It was my crime to pity, and to save;
When he who thunders rent his bark in twain,
And sunk his brave companions in the main,
Alone, abandon’d, in mid-ocean tossed,
The sport of winds, and driven from every coast,
Hither this man of miseries I led,
Received the friendless, and the hungry fed;
Nay promised (vainly promised) to bestow
Immortal life, exempt from age and woe.
’Tis past-and Jove decrees he shall remove;
Gods as we are, we are but slaves to Jove.
Go then he must (he must, if he ordain,
Try all those dangers, all those deeps, again);
But never, never shall Calypso send
To toils like these her husband and her friend.
What ships have I, what sailors to convey,
What oars to cut the long laborious way?
Yet I’ll direct the safest means to go;
That last advice is all I can bestow.”
To her the power who hears the charming rod;
“Dismiss the man, nor irritate the god;
Prevent the rage of him who reigns above,
For what so dreadful as the wrath of Jove?”
Thus having said, he cut the cleaving sky,
And in a moment vanished from her eye,
The nymph, obedient to divine command,
To seek Ulysses, paced along the sand,
Him pensive on the lonely beach she found,
With streaming eyes in briny torrents drown’d,
And inly pining for his native shore;
For now the soft enchantress pleased no more;
For now, reluctant, and constrained by charms,
Absent he lay in her desiring arms,
In slumber wore the heavy night away,
On rocks and shores consumed the tedious day;
There sate all desolate, and sighed alone,
With echoing sorrows made the mountains groan.
And roll’d his eyes o’er all the restless main,
Till, dimmed with rising grief, they streamed again.
Here, on his musing mood the goddess press’d,
Approaching soft, and thus the chief address’d:
“Unhappy man! to wasting woes a prey,
No more in sorrows languish life away:
Free as the winds I give thee now to rove:
Go, fell the timber of yon lofty grove,
And form a raft, and build the rising ship,
Sublime to bear thee o’er the gloomy deep.
To store the vessel let the care be mine,
With water from the rock and rosy wine,
And life-sustaining bread, and fair array,
And prosperous gales to waft thee on the way.
These, if the gods with my desire comply
(The gods, alas, more mighty far than I,
And better skill’d in dark events to come),
In peace shall land thee at thy native home.”
With sighs Ulysses heard the words she spoke,
Then thus his melancholy silence broke:
“Some other motive, goddess! sways thy mind
(Some close design, or turn of womankind),
Nor my return the end, nor this the way,
On a slight raft to pass the swelling sea,
Huge, horrid, vast! where scarce in safety sails
The best-built ship, though Jove inspires the gales.
The bold proposal how shall I fulfil,
Dark as I am, unconscious of thy will?
Swear, then, thou mean’st not what my soul forebodes;
Swear by the solemn oath that binds the gods.”
Him, while he spoke, with smiles Calypso eyed,
And gently grasp’d his hand, and thus replied:
“This shows thee, friend, by old experience taught,
And learn’d in all the wiles of human thought,
How prone to doubt, how cautious, are the wise!
But hear, O earth, and hear, ye sacred skies!
And thou, O Styx! whose formidable floods
Glide through the shades, and bind the attesting gods!
No form’d design, no meditated end,
Lurks in the counsel of thy faithful friend;
Kind the persuasion, and sincere my aim;
The same my practice, were my fate the same.
Heaven has not cursed me with a heart of steel,
But given the sense to pity, and to feel.”
Thus having said, the goddess marched before:
He trod her footsteps in the sandy shore.
At the cool cave arrived, they took their state;
He filled the throne where Mercury had sate.
For him the nymph a rich repast ordains,
Such as the mortal life of man sustains;
Before herself were placed the the cates divine,
Ambrosial banquet and celestial wine.
Their hunger satiate, and their thirst repress’d,
Thus spoke Calypso to her godlike guest:
“Ulysses! (with a sigh she thus began;)
O sprung from gods! in wisdom more than man!
Is then thy home the passion of thy heart?
Thus wilt thou leave me, are we thus to part?
Farewell! and ever joyful mayst thou be,
Nor break the transport with one thought of me.
But ah, Ulysses! wert thou given to know
What Fate yet dooms these still to undergo,
Thy heart might settle in this scene of ease.
And e’en these slighted charms might learn to please.
A willing goddess, and immortal life.
Might banish from thy mind an absent wife.
Am I inferior to a mortal dame?
Less soft my feature less august my frame?
Or shall the daughters of mankind compare
Their earth born beauties with the heavenly fair?”
“Alas! for this (the prudent man replies)
Against Ulysses shall thy anger rise?
Loved and adored, O goddess as thou art,
Forgive the weakness of a human heart.
Though well I see thy graces far above
The dear, though mortal, object of my love,
Of youth eternal well the difference know,
And the short date of fading charms below;
Yet every day, while absent thus I roam,
I languish to return and die at home.
Whate’er the gods shall destine me to bear;
In the black ocean or the watery war,
’Tis mine to master with a constant mind;
Inured to perils, to the worst resign’d,
By seas, by wars, so many dangers run;
Still I can suffer; their high will he done!”
Thus while he spoke, the beamy sun descends,
And rising night her friendly shade extends,
To the close grot the lonely pair remove,
And slept delighted with the gifts of love.
When rose morning call’d them from their rest,
Ulysses robed him in the cloak and vest.
The nymph’s fair head a veil transparent graced,
Her swelling loins a radiant zone embraced
With flowers of gold; an under robe, unbound,
In snowy waves flow’d glittering on the ground.
Forth issuing thus, she gave him first to wield
A weighty axe with truest temper steeled,
And double-edged; the handle smooth and plain,
Wrought of the clouded olive’s easy grain;
And next, a wedge to drive with sweepy sway
Then to the neighboring forest led the way.
On the lone island’s utmost verge there stood
Of poplars, pine, and firs, a lofty wood,
Whose leafless summits to the skies aspire,
Scorch’d by the sun, or seared by heavenly fire
(Already dried). These pointing out to view,
The nymph just show’d him, and with tears withdrew.
Now toils the hero: trees on trees o’erthrown
Fall crackling round him, and the forests groan:
Sudden, full twenty on the plain are strow’d,
And lopp’d and lighten’d of their branchy load.
At equal angles these disposed to join,
He smooth’d and squared them by the rule and line,
(The wimbles for the work Calypso found)
With those he pierced them and with clinchers bound.
Long and capacious as a shipwright forms
Some bark’s broad bottom to out-ride the storms,
So large he built the raft; then ribb’d it strong
From space to space, and nail’d the planks along;
These form’d the sides: the deck he fashion’d last;
Then o’er the vessel raised the taper mast,
With crossing sail-yards dancing in the wind;
And to the helm the guiding rudder join’d
(With yielding osiers fenced, to break the force
Of surging waves, and steer the steady course).
Thy loom, Calypso, for the future sails
Supplied the cloth, capacious of the gales.
With stays and cordage last he rigged the ship,
And, roll’d on levers, launch’d her in the deep.
Four days were pass’d, and now the work complete,
Shone the fifth morn, when from her sacred seat
The nymph dismiss’d him (odorous garments given),
And bathed in fragrant oils that breathed of heaven:
Then fill’d two goatskins with her hands divine,
With water one, and one with sable wine:
Of every kind, provisions heaved aboard;
And the full decks with copious viands stored.
The goddess, last, a gentle breeze supplies,
To curl old Ocean, and to warm the skies.
And now, rejoicing in the prosperous gales,
With beating heart Ulysses spreads his sails;
Placed at the helm he sate, and mark’d the skies,
Nor closed in sleep his ever-watchful eyes.
There view’d the Pleiads, and the Northern Team,
And great Orion’s more refulgent beam.
To which, around the axle of the sky,
The Bear, revolving, points his golden eye:
Who shines exalted on the ethereal plain,
Nor bathes his blazing forehead in the main.
Far on the left those radiant fires to keep
The nymph directed, as he sail’d the deep.
Full seventeen nights he cut the foaming way:
The distant land appear’d the following day:
Then swell’d to sight Phaeacia’s dusky coast,
And woody mountains, half in vapours lost;
That lay before him indistinct and vast,
Like a broad shield amid the watery waste.
But him, thus voyaging the deeps below,
From far, on Solyme’s aerial brow,
The king of ocean saw, and seeing burn’d
(From AEthiopia’s happy climes return’d);
The raging monarch shook his azure head,
And thus in secret to his soul he said:
“Heavens! how uncertain are the powers on high!
Is then reversed the sentence of the sky,
In one man’s favour; while a distant guest
I shared secure the AEthiopian feast?
Behold how near Phoenecia’s land he draws;
The land affix’d by Fate’s eternal laws
To end his toils. Is then our anger vain?
No; if this sceptre yet commands the main.”
He spoke, and high the forky trident hurl’d,
Rolls clouds on clouds, and stirs the watery world,
At once the face of earth and sea deforms,
Swells all the winds, and rouses all the storms.
Down rushed the night: east, west, together roar;
And south and north roll mountains to the shore.
Then shook the hero, to despair resign’d,
And question’d thus his yet unconquer’d mind;
“Wretch that I am! what farther fates attend
This life of toils, and what my destined end?
Too well, alas! the island goddess knew
On the black sea what perils should ensue.
New horrors now this destined head inclose;
Untill’d is yet the measure of my woes;
With what a cloud the brows of heaven are crown’d;
What raging winds! what roaring waters round!
’Tis Jove himself the swelling tempest rears;
Death, present death, on every side appears.
Happy! thrice happy! who, in battle slain,
Press’d in Atrides’ cause the Trojan plain!
Oh! had I died before that well-fought wall!
Had some distinguish’d day renown’d my fall
(Such as was that when showers of javelins fled
From conquering Troy around Achilles dead),
All Greece had paid me solemn funerals then,
And spread my glory with the sons of men.
A shameful fate now hides my hapless head,
Unwept, unnoted, and for ever dead!”
A mighty wave rush’d o’er him as he spoke,
The raft is cover’d, and the mast is broke;
Swept from the deck and from the rudder torn,
Far on the swelling surge the chief was borne;
While by the howling tempest rent in twain
Flew sail and sail-yards rattling o’er the main.
Long-press’d, he heaved beneath the weighty wave,
Clogg’d by the cumbrous vest Calypso gave;
At length, emerging, from his nostrils wide
And gushing mouth effused the briny tide;
E’en then not mindless of his last retreat,
He seized the raft, and leap’d into his seat,
Strong with the fear of death. In rolling flood,
Now here, now there, impell’d the floating wood
As when a heap of gather’d thorns is cast,
Now to, now fro, before the autumnal blast;
Together clung, it rolls around the field;
So roll’d the float, and so its texture held:
And now the south, and now the north, bear sway,
And now the east the foamy floods obey,
And now the west wind whirls it o’er the sea.
The wandering chief with toils on toils oppress’d,
Leucothea saw, and pity touch’d her breast.
(Herself a mortal once, of Cadmus’ strain,
But now an azure sister of the main)
Swift as a sea-mew springing from the flood,
All radiant on the raft the goddess stood;
Then thus address’d him: “Thou whom heaven decrees
To Neptune’s wrath, stern tyrant of the seas!
(Unequal contest!) not his rage and power,
Great as he is, such virtue shall devour.
What I suggest, thy wisdom will perform:
Forsake thy float, and leave it to the storm;
Strip off thy garments; Neptune’s fury brave
With naked strength, and plunge into the wave.
To reach Phaeacia all thy nerves extend,
There Fate decrees thy miseries shall end.
This heavenly scarf beneath thy bosom bind,
And live; give all thy terrors to the wind.
Soon as thy arms the happy shore shall gain,
Return the gift, and cast it in the main:
Observe my orders, and with heed obey,
Cast it far off, and turn thy eyes away.”
With that, her hand the sacred veil bestows,
Then down the deeps she dived from whence she rose;
A moment snatch’d the shining form away,
And all was covered with the curling sea.
Struck with amaze, yet still to doubt inclined,
He stands suspended, and explores his mind:
“What shall I do? unhappy me! who knows
But other gods intend me other woes?
Whoe’er thou art, I shall not blindly join
Thy pleaded reason, but consult with mine:
For scarce in ken appears that distant isle
Thy voice foretells me shall conclude my toil.
Thus then I judge: while yet the planks sustain
The wild waves’ fury, here I fix’d remain:
But, when their texture to the tempest yields,
I launch adventurous on the liquid fields,
Join to the help of gods the strength of man,
And take this method, since the best I can.”
While thus his thoughts an anxious council hold,
The raging god a watery mountain roll’d;
Like a black sheet the whelming billows spread,
Burst o’er the float, and thunder’d on his head.
Planks, beams, disparted fly; the scatter’d wood
Rolls diverse, and in fragments strews the flood.
So the rude Boreas, o’er the field new-shorn,
Tosses and drives the scatter’d heaps of corn.
And now a single beam the chief bestrides:
There poised a while above the bounding tides,
His limbs discumbers of the clinging vest,
And binds the sacred cincture round his breast:
Then prone an ocean in a moment flung,
Stretch’d wide his eager arms, and shot the seas along.
All naked now, on heaving billows laid,
Stern Neptune eyed him, and contemptuous said:
“Go, learn’d in woes, and other foes essay!
Go, wander helpless on the watery way;
Thus, thus find out the destined shore, and then
(If Jove ordains it) mix with happier men.
Whate’er thy fate, the ills our wrath could raise
Shall last remember’d in thy best of days.”
This said, his sea-green steeds divide the foam,
And reach high Aegae and the towery dome.
Now, scarce withdrawn the fierce earth-shaking power,
Jove’s daughter Pallas watch’d the favouring hour.
Back to their caves she bade the winds to fly;
And hush’d the blustering brethren of the sky.
The drier blasts alone of Boreas away,
And bear him soft on broken waves away;
With gentle force impelling to that shore,
Where fate has destined he shall toil no more.
And now, two nights, and now two days were pass’d,
Since wide he wander’d on the watery waste;
Heaved on the surge with intermitting breath,
And hourly panting in the arms of death.
The third fair morn now blazed upon the main;
Then glassy smooth lay all the liquid plain;
The winds were hush’d, the billows scarcely curl’d,
And a dead silence still’d the watery world;
When lifted on a ridgy wave he spies
The land at distance, and with sharpen’d eyes.
As pious children joy with vast delight
When a loved sire revives before their sight
(Who, lingering along, has call’d on death in vain,
Fix’d by some demon to his bed of pain,
Till heaven by miracle his life restore);
So joys Ulysses at the appearing shore;
And sees (and labours onward as he sees)
The rising forests, and the tufted trees.
And now, as near approaching as the sound
Of human voice the listening ear may wound,
Amidst the rocks he heard a hollow roar
Of murmuring surges breaking on the shore;
Nor peaceful port was there, nor winding bay,
To shield the vessel from the rolling sea,
But cliffs and shaggy shores, a dreadful sight!
All rough with rocks, with foamy billows white.
Fear seized his slacken’d limbs and beating heart,
As thus he communed with his soul apart;
“Ah me! when, o’er a length of waters toss’d,
These eyes at last behold the unhoped-for coast,
No port receives me from the angry main,
But the loud deeps demand me back again.
Above, sharp rocks forbid access; around
Roar the wild waves; beneath, is sea profound!
No footing sure affords the faithless sand,
To stem too rapid, and too deep to stand.
If here I enter, my efforts are vain,
Dash’d on the cliffs, or heaved into the main;
Or round the island if my course I bend,
Where the ports open, or the shores descend,
Back to the seas the rolling surge may sweep,
And bury all my hopes beneath the deep.
Or some enormous whale the god may send
(For many such an Amphitrite attend);
Too well the turns of mortal chance I know,
And hate relentless of my heavenly foe.”
While thus he thought, a monstrous wave upbore
The chief, and dash’d him on the craggy shore;
Torn was his skin, nor had the ribs been whole,
But Instant Pallas enter’d in his soul.
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.
As 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.
Beyond the beating surge his course he bore,
(A wider circle, but in sight of shore),
With longing eyes, observing, to survey
Some smooth ascent, or safe sequester’d bay.
Between the parting rocks at length he spied
A failing stream with gentler waters glide;
Where to the seas the shelving shore declined,
And form’d a bay impervious to the wind.
To this calm port the glad Ulysses press’d,
And hail’d the river, and its god address’d:
“Whoe’er thou art, before whose stream unknown
I bend, a suppliant at thy watery throne,
Hear, azure king! nor let me fly in vain
To thee from Neptune and the raging main
Heaven hears and pities hapless men like me,
For sacred even to gods is misery:
Let then thy waters give the weary rest,
And save a suppliant, and a man distress’d.”
He pray’d, and straight the gentle stream subsides,
Detains the rushing current of his tides,
Before the wanderer smooths the watery way,
And soft receives him from the rolling sea.
That moment, fainting as he touch’d the shore,
He dropp’d his sinewy arms: his knees no more
Perform’d their office, or his weight upheld:
His swoln heart heaved; his bloated body swell’d:
From mouth and nose the briny torrent ran;
And lost in lassitude lay all the man,
Deprived of voice, of motion, and of breath;
The soul scarce waking in the arms of death.
Soon as warm life its wonted office found,
The mindful chief Leucothea’s scarf unbound;
Observant of her word, he turn’d aside
HIs head, and cast it on the rolling tide.
Behind him far, upon the purple waves,
The waters waft it, and the nymph receives.
Now parting from the stream, Ulysses found
A mossy bank with pliant rushes crown’d;
The bank he press’d, and gently kiss’d the ground;
Where on the flowery herb as soft he lay,
Thus to his soul the sage began to say:
“What will ye next ordain, ye powers on high!
And yet, ah yet, what fates are we to try?
Here by the stream, if I the night out-wear,
Thus spent already, how shall nature bear
The dews descending, and nocturnal air;
Or chilly vapours breathing from the flood
When morning rises?—If I take the wood,
And in thick shelter of innumerous boughs
Enjoy the comfort gentle sleep allows;
Though fenced from cold, and though my toil be pass’d,
What savage beasts may wander in the waste?
Perhaps I yet may fall a bloody prey
To prowling bears, or lions in the way.”
Thus long debating in himself he stood:
At length he took the passage to the wood,
Whose shady horrors on a rising brow
Waved high, and frown’d upon the stream below.
There grew two olives, closest of the grove,
With roots entwined, the branches interwove;
Alike their leaves, but not alike they smiled
With sister-fruits; one fertile, one was wild.
Nor here the sun’s meridian rays had power,
Nor wind sharp-piercing, nor the rushing shower;
The verdant arch so close its texture kept:
Beneath this covert great Ulysses crept.
Of gather’d leaves an ample bed he made
(Thick strewn by tempest through the bowery shade);
Where three at least might winter’s cold defy,
Though Boreas raged along the inclement sky.
This store with joy the patient hero found,
And, sunk amidst them, heap’d the leaves around.
As some poor peasant, fated to reside
Remote from neighbours in a forest wide,
Studious to save what human wants require,
In embers heap’d, preserves the seeds of fire:
Hid in dry foliage thus Ulysses lies,
Till Pallas pour’d soft slumbers on his eyes;
And golden dreams (the gift of sweet repose)
Lull’d all his cares, and banish’d all his woes.