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The Odyssey: Book 9 Analysis

Author: Poetry of Homer Type: Poetry Views: 258

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The Odyssey850 B.C.And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, it is a good thing to hear a

bard with such a divine voice as this man has. There is nothing better

or more delightful than when a whole people make merry together,

with the guests sitting orderly to listen, while the table is loaded

with bread and meats, and the cup-bearer draws wine and fills his

cup for every man. This is indeed as fair a sight as a man can see.

Now, however, since you are inclined to ask the story of my sorrows,

and rekindle my own sad memories in respect of them, I do not know how

to begin, nor yet how to continue and conclude my tale, for the hand

of heaven has been laid heavily upon me."Firstly, then, I will tell you my name that you too may know it,

and one day, if I outlive this time of sorrow, may become my there

guests though I live so far away from all of you. I am Ulysses son

of Laertes, reknowned among mankind for all manner of subtlety, so

that my fame ascends to heaven. I live in Ithaca, where there is a

high mountain called Neritum, covered with forests; and not far from

it there is a group of islands very near to one another- Dulichium,

Same, and the wooded island of Zacynthus. It lies squat on the

horizon, all highest up in the sea towards the sunset, while the

others lie away from it towards dawn. It is a rugged island, but it

breeds brave men, and my eyes know none that they better love to

look upon. The goddess Calypso kept me with her in her cave, and

wanted me to marry her, as did also the cunning Aeaean goddess

Circe; but they could neither of them persuade me, for there is

nothing dearer to a man than his own country and his parents, and

however splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it be far

from father or mother, he does not care about it. Now, however, I will

tell you of the many hazardous adventures which by Jove's will I met

with on my return from Troy."When I had set sail thence the wind took me first to Ismarus, which

is the city of the Cicons. There I sacked the town and put the

people to the sword. We took their wives and also much booty, which we

divided equitably amongst us, so that none might have reason to

complain. I then said that we had better make off at once, but my

men very foolishly would not obey me, so they stayed there drinking

much wine and killing great numbers of sheep and oxen on the sea

shore. Meanwhile the Cicons cried out for help to other Cicons who

lived inland. These were more in number, and stronger, and they were

more skilled in the art of war, for they could fight, either from

chariots or on foot as the occasion served; in the morning, therefore,

they came as thick as leaves and bloom in summer, and the hand of

heaven was against us, so that we were hard pressed. They set the

battle in array near the ships, and the hosts aimed their

bronze-shod spears at one another. So long as the day waxed and it was

still morning, we held our own against them, though they were more

in number than we; but as the sun went down, towards the time when men

loose their oxen, the Cicons got the better of us, and we lost half

a dozen men from every ship we had; so we got away with those that

were left."Thence we sailed onward with sorrow in our hearts, but glad to have

escaped death though we had lost our comrades, nor did we leave till

we had thrice invoked each one of the poor fellows who had perished by

the hands of the Cicons. Then Jove raised the North wind against us

till it blew a hurricane, so that land and sky were hidden in thick

clouds, and night sprang forth out of the heavens. We let the ships

run before the gale, but the force of the wind tore our sails to

tatters, so we took them down for fear of shipwreck, and rowed our

hardest towards the land. There we lay two days and two nights

suffering much alike from toil and distress of mind, but on the

morning of the third day we again raised our masts, set sail, and took

our places, letting the wind and steersmen direct our ship. I should

have got home at that time unharmed had not the North wind and the

currents been against me as I was doubling Cape Malea, and set me

off my course hard by the island of Cythera."I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the

sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eater,

who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to

take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore

near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company

to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they

had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among

the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the

lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring

about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened

to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the

Lotus-eater without thinking further of their return; nevertheless,

though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made

them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at

once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting

to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with

their oars."We sailed hence, always in much distress, till we came to the

land of the lawless and inhuman Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes neither

plant nor plough, but trust in providence, and live on such wheat,

barley, and grapes as grow wild without any kind of tillage, and their

wild grapes yield them wine as the sun and the rain may grow them.

They have no laws nor assemblies of the people, but live in caves on

the tops of high mountains; each is lord and master in his family, and

they take no account of their neighbours."Now off their harbour there lies a wooded and fertile island not

quite close to the land of the Cyclopes, but still not far. It is

overrun with wild goats, that breed there in great numbers and are

never disturbed by foot of man; for sportsmen- who as a rule will

suffer so much hardship in forest or among mountain precipices- do not

go there, nor yet again is it ever ploughed or fed down, but it lies a

wilderness untilled and unsown from year to year, and has no living

thing upon it but only goats. For the Cyclopes have no ships, nor

yet shipwrights who could make ships for them; they cannot therefore

go from city to city, or sail over the sea to one another's country as

people who have ships can do; if they had had these they would have

colonized the island, for it is a very good one, and would yield

everything in due season. There are meadows that in some places come

right down to the sea shore, well watered and full of luscious

grass; grapes would do there excellently; there is level land for

ploughing, and it would always yield heavily at harvest time, for

the soil is deep. There is a good harbour where no cables are

wanted, nor yet anchors, nor need a ship be moored, but all one has to

do is to beach one's vessel and stay there till the wind becomes

fair for putting out to sea again. At the head of the harbour there is

a spring of clear water coming out of a cave, and there are poplars

growing all round it."Here we entered, but so dark was the night that some god must

have brought us in, for there was nothing whatever to be seen. A thick

mist hung all round our ships; the moon was hidden behind a mass of

clouds so that no one could have seen the island if he had looked

for it, nor were there any breakers to tell us we were close in

shore before we found ourselves upon the land itself; when, however,

we had beached the ships, we took down the sails, went ashore and

camped upon the beach till daybreak."When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, we admired

the island and wandered all over it, while the nymphs Jove's daughters

roused the wild goats that we might get some meat for our dinner. On

this we fetched our spears and bows and arrows from the ships, and

dividing ourselves into three bands began to shoot the goats. Heaven

sent us excellent sport; I had twelve ships with me, and each ship got

nine goats, while my own ship had ten; thus through the livelong day

to the going down of the sun we ate and drank our fill,- and we had

plenty of wine left, for each one of us had taken many jars full

when we sacked the city of the Cicons, and this had not yet run out.

While we were feasting we kept turning our eyes towards the land of

the Cyclopes, which was hard by, and saw the smoke of their stubble

fires. We could almost fancy we heard their voices and the bleating of

their sheep and goats, but when the sun went down and it came on dark,

we camped down upon the beach, and next morning I called a council."'Stay here, my brave fellows,' said I, 'all the rest of you,

while I go with my ship and exploit these people myself: I want to see

if they are uncivilized savages, or a hospitable and humane race.'"I went on board, bidding my men to do so also and loose the

hawsers; so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their

oars. When we got to the land, which was not far, there, on the face

of a cliff near the sea, we saw a great cave overhung with laurels. It

was a station for a great many sheep and goats, and outside there

was a large yard, with a high wall round it made of stones built

into the ground and of trees both pine and oak. This was the abode

of a huge monster who was then away from home shepherding his

flocks. He would have nothing to do with other people, but led the

life of an outlaw. He was a horrid creature, not like a human being at

all, but resembling rather some crag that stands out boldly against

the sky on the top of a high mountain."I told my men to draw the ship ashore, and stay where they were,

all but the twelve best among them, who were to go along with

myself. I also took a goatskin of sweet black wine which had been

given me by Maron, Apollo son of Euanthes, who was priest of Apollo

the patron god of Ismarus, and lived within the wooded precincts of

the temple. When we were sacking the city we respected him, and spared

his life, as also his wife and child; so he made me some presents of

great value- seven talents of fine gold, and a bowl of silver, with

twelve jars of sweet wine, unblended, and of the most exquisite

flavour. Not a man nor maid in the house knew about it, but only

himself, his wife, and one housekeeper: when he drank it he mixed

twenty parts of water to one of wine, and yet the fragrance from the

mixing-bowl was so exquisite that it was impossible to refrain from

drinking. I filled a large skin with this wine, and took a wallet full

of provisions with me, for my mind misgave me that I might have to

deal with some savage who would be of great strength, and would

respect neither right nor law."We soon reached his cave, but he was out shepherding, so we went

inside and took stock of all that we could see. His cheese-racks

were loaded with cheeses, and he had more lambs and kids than his pens

could hold. They were kept in separate flocks; first there were the

hoggets, then the oldest of the younger lambs and lastly the very

young ones all kept apart from one another; as for his dairy, all

the vessels, bowls, and milk pails into which he milked, were swimming

with whey. When they saw all this, my men begged me to let them

first steal some cheeses, and make off with them to the ship; they

would then return, drive down the lambs and kids, put them on board

and sail away with them. It would have been indeed better if we had

done so but I would not listen to them, for I wanted to see the

owner himself, in the hope that he might give me a present. When,

however, we saw him my poor men found him ill to deal with."We lit a fire, offered some of the cheeses in sacrifice, ate others

of them, and then sat waiting till the Cyclops should come in with his

sheep. When he came, he brought in with him a huge load of dry

firewood to light the fire for his supper, and this he flung with such

a noise on to the floor of his cave that we hid ourselves for fear

at the far end of the cavern. Meanwhile he drove all the ewes

inside, as well as the she-goats that he was going to milk, leaving

the males, both rams and he-goats, outside in the yards. Then he

rolled a huge stone to the mouth of the cave- so huge that two and

twenty strong four-wheeled waggons would not be enough to draw it from

its place against the doorway. When he had so done he sat down and

milked his ewes and goats, all in due course, and then let each of

them have her own young. He curdled half the milk and set it aside

in wicker strainers, but the other half he poured into bowls that he

might drink it for his supper. When he had got through with all his

work, he lit the fire, and then caught sight of us, whereon he said:"'Strangers, who are you? Where do sail from? Are you traders, or do

you sail the as rovers, with your hands against every man, and every

man's hand against you?'"We were frightened out of our senses by his loud voice and

monstrous form, but I managed to say, 'We are Achaeans on our way home

from Troy, but by the will of Jove, and stress of weather, we have

been driven far out of our course. We are the people of Agamemnon, son

of Atreus, who has won infinite renown throughout the whole world,

by sacking so great a city and killing so many people. We therefore

humbly pray you to show us some hospitality, and otherwise make us

such presents as visitors may reasonably expect. May your excellency

fear the wrath of heaven, for we are your suppliants, and Jove takes

all respectable travellers under his protection, for he is the avenger

of all suppliants and foreigners in distress.'"To this he gave me but a pitiless answer, 'Stranger,' said he, 'you

are a fool, or else you know nothing of this country. Talk to me,

indeed, about fearing the gods or shunning their anger? We Cyclopes do

not care about Jove or any of your blessed gods, for we are ever so

much stronger than they. I shall not spare either yourself or your

companions out of any regard for Jove, unless I am in the humour for

doing so. And now tell me where you made your ship fast when you

came on shore. Was it round the point, or is she lying straight off

the land?'"He said this to draw me out, but I was too cunning to be caught

in that way, so I answered with a lie; 'Neptune,' said I, 'sent my

ship on to the rocks at the far end of your country, and wrecked it.

We were driven on to them from the open sea, but I and those who are

with me escaped the jaws of death.'"The cruel wretch vouchsafed me not one word of answer, but with a

sudden clutch he gripped up two of my men at once and dashed them down

upon the ground as though they had been puppies. Their brains were

shed upon the ground, and the earth was wet with their blood. Then

he tore them limb from limb and supped upon them. He gobbled them up

like a lion in the wilderness, flesh, bones, marrow, and entrails,

without leaving anything uneaten. As for us, we wept and lifted up our

hands to heaven on seeing such a horrid sight, for we did not know

what else to do; but when the Cyclops had filled his huge paunch,

and had washed down his meal of human flesh with a drink of neat milk,

he stretched himself full length upon the ground among his sheep,

and went to sleep. I was at first inclined to seize my sword, draw it,

and drive it into his vitals, but I reflected that if I did we

should all certainly be lost, for we should never be able to shift the

stone which the monster had put in front of the door. So we stayed

sobbing and sighing where we were till morning came."When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, he again

lit his fire, milked his goats and ewes, all quite rightly, and then

let each have her own young one; as soon as he had got through with

all his work, he clutched up two more of my men, and began eating them

for his morning's meal. Presently, with the utmost ease, he rolled the

stone away from the door and drove out his sheep, but he at once put

it back again- as easily as though he were merely clapping the lid

on to a quiver full of arrows. As soon as he had done so he shouted,

and cried 'Shoo, shoo,' after his sheep to drive them on to the

mountain; so I was left to scheme some way of taking my revenge and

covering myself with glory."In the end I deemed it would be the best plan to do as follows. The

Cyclops had a great club which was lying near one of the sheep pens;

it was of green olive wood, and he had cut it intending to use it

for a staff as soon as it should be dry. It was so huge that we

could only compare it to the mast of a twenty-oared merchant vessel of

large burden, and able to venture out into open sea. I went up to this

club and cut off about six feet of it; I then gave this piece to the

men and told them to fine it evenly off at one end, which they

proceeded to do, and lastly I brought it to a point myself, charring

the end in the fire to make it harder. When I had done this I hid it

under dung, which was lying about all over the cave, and told the

men to cast lots which of them should venture along with myself to

lift it and bore it into the monster's eye while he was asleep. The

lot fell upon the very four whom I should have chosen, and I myself

made five. In the evening the wretch came back from shepherding, and

drove his flocks into the cave- this time driving them all inside, and

not leaving any in the yards; I suppose some fancy must have taken

him, or a god must have prompted him to do so. As soon as he had put

the stone back to its place against the door, he sat down, milked

his ewes and his goats all quite rightly, and then let each have her

own young one; when he had got through with all this work, he

gripped up two more of my men, and made his supper off them. So I went

up to him with an ivy-wood bowl of black wine in my hands:"'Look here, Cyclops,' said I, you have been eating a great deal

of man's flesh, so take this and drink some wine, that you may see

what kind of liquor we had on board my ship. I was bringing it to

you as a drink-offering, in the hope that you would take compassion

upon me and further me on my way home, whereas all you do is to go

on ramping and raving most intolerably. You ought to be ashamed

yourself; how can you expect people to come see you any more if you

treat them in this way?'"He then took the cup and drank. He was so delighted with the

taste of the wine that he begged me for another bowl full. 'Be so

kind,' he said, 'as to give me some more, and tell me your name at

once. I want to make you a present that you will be glad to have. We

have wine even in this country, for our soil grows grapes and the

sun ripens them, but this drinks like nectar and ambrosia all in one.'"I then gave him some more; three times did I fill the bowl for him,

and three times did he drain it without thought or heed; then, when

I saw that the wine had got into his head, I said to him as

plausibly as I could: 'Cyclops, you ask my name and I will tell it

you; give me, therefore, the present you promised me; my name is

Noman; this is what my father and mother and my friends have always

called me.'"But the cruel wretch said, 'Then I will eat all Noman's comrades

before Noman himself, and will keep Noman for the last. This is the

present that I will make him.'As he spoke he reeled, and fell sprawling face upwards on the

ground. His great neck hung heavily backwards and a deep sleep took

hold upon him. Presently he turned sick, and threw up both wine and

the gobbets of human flesh on which he had been gorging, for he was

very drunk. Then I thrust the beam of wood far into the embers to heat

it, and encouraged my men lest any of them should turn

faint-hearted. When the wood, green though it was, was about to blaze,

I drew it out of the fire glowing with heat, and my men gathered round

me, for heaven had filled their hearts with courage. We drove the

sharp end of the beam into the monster's eye, and bearing upon it with

all my weight I kept turning it round and round as though I were

boring a hole in a ship's plank with an auger, which two men with a

wheel and strap can keep on turning as long as they choose. Even

thus did we bore the red hot beam into his eye, till the boiling blood

bubbled all over it as we worked it round and round, so that the steam

from the burning eyeball scalded his eyelids and eyebrows, and the

roots of the eye sputtered in the fire. As a blacksmith plunges an axe

or hatchet into cold water to temper it- for it is this that gives

strength to the iron- and it makes a great hiss as he does so, even

thus did the Cyclops' eye hiss round the beam of olive wood, and his

hideous yells made the cave ring again. We ran away in a fright, but

he plucked the beam all besmirched with gore from his eye, and

hurled it from him in a frenzy of rage and pain, shouting as he did so

to the other Cyclopes who lived on the bleak headlands near him; so

they gathered from all quarters round his cave when they heard him

crying, and asked what was the matter with him."'What ails you, Polyphemus,' said they, 'that you make such a

noise, breaking the stillness of the night, and preventing us from

being able to sleep? Surely no man is carrying off your sheep?

Surely no man is trying to kill you either by fraud or by force?"But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, 'Noman is

killing me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force!'"'Then,' said they, 'if no man is attacking you, you must be ill;

when Jove makes people ill, there is no help for it, and you had

better pray to your father Neptune.'"Then they went away, and I laughed inwardly at the success of my

clever stratagem, but the Cyclops, groaning and in an agony of pain,

felt about with his hands till he found the stone and took it from the

door; then he sat in the doorway and stretched his hands in front of

it to catch anyone going out with the sheep, for he thought I might be

foolish enough to attempt this."As for myself I kept on puzzling to think how I could best save

my own life and those of my companions; I schemed and schemed, as

one who knows that his life depends upon it, for the danger was very

great. In the end I deemed that this plan would be the best. The

male sheep were well grown, and carried a heavy black fleece, so I

bound them noiselessly in threes together, with some of the withies on

which the wicked monster used to sleep. There was to be a man under

the middle sheep, and the two on either side were to cover him, so

that there were three sheep to each man. As for myself there was a ram

finer than any of the others, so I caught hold of him by the back,

esconced myself in the thick wool under his belly, and flung on

patiently to his fleece, face upwards, keeping a firm hold on it all

the time."Thus, then, did we wait in great fear of mind till morning came,

but when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the

male sheep hurried out to feed, while the ewes remained bleating about

the pens waiting to be milked, for their udders were full to bursting;

but their master in spite of all his pain felt the backs of all the

sheep as they stood upright, without being sharp enough to find out

that the men were underneath their bellies. As the ram was going

out, last of all, heavy with its fleece and with the weight of my

crafty self; Polyphemus laid hold of it and said:"'My good ram, what is it that makes you the last to leave my cave

this morning? You are not wont to let the ewes go before you, but lead

the mob with a run whether to flowery mead or bubbling fountain, and

are the first to come home again at night; but now you lag last of

all. Is it because you know your master has lost his eye, and are

sorry because that wicked Noman and his horrid crew have got him

down in his drink and blinded him? But I will have his life yet. If

you could understand and talk, you would tell me where the wretch is

hiding, and I would dash his brains upon the ground till they flew all

over the cave. I should thus have some satisfaction for the harm a

this no-good Noman has done me.'"As spoke he drove the ram outside, but when we were a little way

out from the cave and yards, I first got from under the ram's belly,

and then freed my comrades; as for the sheep, which were very fat,

by constantly heading them in the right direction we managed to

drive them down to the ship. The crew rejoiced greatly at seeing those

of us who had escaped death, but wept for the others whom the

Cyclops had killed. However, I made signs to them by nodding and

frowning that they were to hush their crying, and told them to get all

the sheep on board at once and put out to sea; so they went aboard,

took their places, and smote the grey sea with their oars. Then,

when I had got as far out as my voice would reach, I began to jeer

at the Cyclops."'Cyclops,' said I, 'you should have taken better measure of your

man before eating up his comrades in your cave. You wretch, eat up

your visitors in your own house? You might have known that your sin

would find you out, and now Jove and the other gods have punished

you.'"He got more and more furious as he heard me, so he tore the top

from off a high mountain, and flung it just in front of my ship so

that it was within a little of hitting the end of the rudder. The

sea quaked as the rock fell into it, and the wash of the wave it

raised carried us back towards the mainland, and forced us towards the

shore. But I snatched up a long pole and kept the ship off, making

signs to my men by nodding my head, that they must row for their

lives, whereon they laid out with a will. When we had got twice as far

as we were before, I was for jeering at the Cyclops again, but the men

begged and prayed of me to hold my tongue."'Do not,' they exclaimed, 'be mad enough to provoke this savage

creature further; he has thrown one rock at us already which drove

us back again to the mainland, and we made sure it had been the

death of us; if he had then heard any further sound of voices he would

have pounded our heads and our ship's timbers into a jelly with the

rugged rocks he would have heaved at us, for he can throw them a

long way.'"But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my

rage, 'Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out

and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son

of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.'"On this he groaned, and cried out, 'Alas, alas, then the old

prophecy about me is coming true. There was a prophet here, at one

time, a man both brave and of great stature, Telemus son of Eurymus,

who was an excellent seer, and did all the prophesying for the

Cyclopes till he grew old; he told me that all this would happen to me

some day, and said I should lose my sight by the hand of Ulysses. I

have been all along expecting some one of imposing presence and

superhuman strength, whereas he turns out to be a little insignificant

weakling, who has managed to blind my eye by taking advantage of me in

my drink; come here, then, Ulysses, that I may make you presents to

show my hospitality, and urge Neptune to help you forward on your

journey- for Neptune and I are father and son. He, if he so will,

shall heal me, which no one else neither god nor man can do.'"Then I said, 'I wish I could be as sure of killing you outright and

sending you down to the house of Hades, as I am that it will take more

than Neptune to cure that eye of yours.'"On this he lifted up his hands to the firmament of heaven and

prayed, saying, 'Hear me, great Neptune; if I am indeed your own

true-begotten son, grant that Ulysses may never reach his home

alive; or if he must get back to his friends at last, let him do so

late and in sore plight after losing all his men [let him reach his

home in another man's ship and find trouble in his house.']"Thus did he pray, and Neptune heard his prayer. Then he picked up a

rock much larger than the first, swung it aloft and hurled it with

prodigious force. It fell just short of the ship, but was within a

little of hitting the end of the rudder. The sea quaked as the rock

fell into it, and the wash of the wave it raised drove us onwards on

our way towards the shore of the island."When at last we got to the island where we had left the rest of our

ships, we found our comrades lamenting us, and anxiously awaiting

our return. We ran our vessel upon the sands and got out of her on

to the sea shore; we also landed the Cyclops' sheep, and divided

them equitably amongst us so that none might have reason to

complain. As for the ram, my companions agreed that I should have it

as an extra share; so I sacrificed it on the sea shore, and burned its

thigh bones to Jove, who is the lord of all. But he heeded not my

sacrifice, and only thought how he might destroy my ships and my

comrades."Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we

feasted our fill on meat and drink, but when the sun went down and

it came on dark, we camped upon the beach. When the child of

morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I bade my men on board and

loose the hawsers. Then they took their places and smote the grey

sea with their oars; so we sailed on with sorrow in our hearts, but

glad to have escaped death though we had lost our comrades.


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