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The Odyssey: Book 7 Analysis



Author: Poetry of Homer Type: Poetry Views: 112

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The Odyssey850 B.C.Thus, then, did Ulysses wait and pray; but the girl drove on to

the town. When she reached her father's house she drew up at the

gateway, and her brothers- comely as the gods- gathered round her,

took the mules out of the waggon, and carried the clothes into the

house, while she went to her own room, where an old servant,

Eurymedusa of Apeira, lit the fire for her. This old woman had been

brought by sea from Apeira, and had been chosen as a prize for

Alcinous because he was king over the Phaecians, and the people obeyed

him as though he were a god. She had been nurse to Nausicaa, and had

now lit the fire for her, and brought her supper for her into her

own room.Presently Ulysses got up to go towards the town; and Minerva shed

a thick mist all round him to hide him in case any of the proud

Phaecians who met him should be rude to him, or ask him who he was.

Then, as he was just entering the town, she came towards him in the

likeness of a little girl carrying a pitcher. She stood right in front

of him, and Ulysses said:"My dear, will you be so kind as to show me the house of king

Alcinous? I am an unfortunate foreigner in distress, and do not know

one in your town and country."Then Minerva said, "Yes, father stranger, I will show you the

house you want, for Alcinous lives quite close to my own father. I

will go before you and show the way, but say not a word as you go, and

do not look at any man, nor ask him questions; for the people here

cannot abide strangers, and do not like men who come from some other

place. They are a sea-faring folk, and sail the seas by the grace of

Neptune in ships that glide along like thought, or as a bird in the

air."On this she led the way, and Ulysses followed in her steps; but

not one of the Phaecians could see him as he passed through the city

in the midst of them; for the great goddess Minerva in her good will

towards him had hidden him in a thick cloud of darkness. He admired

their harbours, ships, places of assembly, and the lofty walls of

the city, which, with the palisade on top of them, were very striking,

and when they reached the king's house Minerva said:"This is the house, father stranger, which you would have me show

you. You will find a number of great people sitting at table, but do

not be afraid; go straight in, for the bolder a man is the more likely

he is to carry his point, even though he is a stranger. First find the

queen. Her name is Arete, and she comes of the same family as her

husband Alcinous. They both descend originally from Neptune, who was

father to Nausithous by Periboea, a woman of great beauty. Periboea

was the youngest daughter of Eurymedon, who at one time reigned over

the giants, but he ruined his ill-fated people and lost his own life

to boot."Neptune, however, lay with his daughter, and she had a son by

him, the great Nausithous, who reigned over the Phaecians.

Nausithous had two sons Rhexenor and Alcinous; Apollo killed the first

of them while he was still a bridegroom and without male issue; but he

left a daughter Arete, whom Alcinous married, and honours as no

other woman is honoured of all those that keep house along with

their husbands."Thus she both was, and still is, respected beyond measure by her

children, by Alcinous himself, and by the whole people, who look

upon her as a goddess, and greet her whenever she goes about the city,

for she is a thoroughly good woman both in head and heart, and when

any women are friends of hers, she will help their husbands also to

settle their disputes. If you can gain her good will, you may have

every hope of seeing your friends again, and getting safely back to

your home and country."Then Minerva left Scheria and went away over the sea. She went to

Marathon and to the spacious streets of Athens, where she entered

the abode of Erechtheus; but Ulysses went on to the house of Alcinous,

and he pondered much as he paused a while before reaching the

threshold of bronze, for the splendour of the palace was like that

of the sun or moon. The walls on either side were of bronze from end

to end, and the cornice was of blue enamel. The doors were gold, and

hung on pillars of silver that rose from a floor of bronze, while

the lintel was silver and the hook of the door was of gold.On either side there stood gold and silver mastiffs which Vulcan,

with his consummate skill, had fashioned expressly to keep watch

over the palace of king Alcinous; so they were immortal and could

never grow old. Seats were ranged all along the wall, here and there

from one end to the other, with coverings of fine woven work which the

women of the house had made. Here the chief persons of the Phaecians

used to sit and eat and drink, for there was abundance at all seasons;

and there were golden figures of young men with lighted torches in

their hands, raised on pedestals, to give light by night to those

who were at table. There are fifty maid servants in the house, some of

whom are always grinding rich yellow grain at the mill, while others

work at the loom, or sit and spin, and their shuttles go, backwards

and forwards like the fluttering of aspen leaves, while the linen is

so closely woven that it will turn oil. As the Phaecians are the

best sailors in the world, so their women excel all others in weaving,

for Minerva has taught them all manner of useful arts, and they are

very intelligent.Outside the gate of the outer court there is a large garden of about

four acres with a wall all round it. It is full of beautiful trees-

pears, pomegranates, and the most delicious apples. There are luscious

figs also, and olives in full growth. The fruits never rot nor fail

all the year round, neither winter nor summer, for the air is so

soft that a new crop ripens before the old has dropped. Pear grows

on pear, apple on apple, and fig on fig, and so also with the

grapes, for there is an excellent vineyard: on the level ground of a

part of this, the grapes are being made into raisins; in another

part they are being gathered; some are being trodden in the wine tubs,

others further on have shed their blossom and are beginning to show

fruit, others again are just changing colour. In the furthest part

of the ground there are beautifully arranged beds of flowers that

are in bloom all the year round. Two streams go through it, the one

turned in ducts throughout the whole garden, while the other is

carried under the ground of the outer court to the house itself, and

the town's people draw water from it. Such, then, were the

splendours with which the gods had endowed the house of king Alcinous.So here Ulysses stood for a while and looked about him, but when

he had looked long enough he crossed the threshold and went within the

precincts of the house. There he found all the chief people among

the Phaecians making their drink-offerings to Mercury, which they

always did the last thing before going away for the night. He went

straight through the court, still hidden by the cloak of darkness in

which Minerva had enveloped him, till he reached Arete and King

Alcinous; then he laid his hands upon the knees of the queen, and at

that moment the miraculous darkness fell away from him and he became

visible. Every one was speechless with surprise at seeing a man there,

but Ulysses began at once with his petition."Queen Arete," he exclaimed, "daughter of great Rhexenor, in my

distress I humbly pray you, as also your husband and these your guests

(whom may heaven prosper with long life and happiness, and may they

leave their possessions to their children, and all the honours

conferred upon them by the state) to help me home to my own country as

soon as possible; for I have been long in trouble and away from my

friends."Then he sat down on the hearth among the ashes and they all held

their peace, till presently the old hero Echeneus, who was an

excellent speaker and an elder among the Phaeacians, plainly and in

all honesty addressed them thus:"Alcinous," said he, "it is not creditable to you that a stranger

should be seen sitting among the ashes of your hearth; every one is

waiting to hear what you are about to say; tell him, then, to rise and

take a seat on a stool inlaid with silver, and bid your servants mix

some wine and water that we may make a drink-offering to Jove the lord

of thunder, who takes all well-disposed suppliants under his

protection; and let the housekeeper give him some supper, of

whatever there may be in the house."When Alcinous heard this he took Ulysses by the hand, raised him

from the hearth, and bade him take the seat of Laodamas, who had

been sitting beside him, and was his favourite son. A maid servant

then brought him water in a beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a

silver basin for him to wash his hands, and she drew a clean table

beside him; an upper servant brought him bread and offered him many

good things of what there was in the house, and Ulysses ate and drank.

Then Alcinous said to one of the servants, "Pontonous, mix a cup of

wine and hand it round that we may make drink-offerings to Jove the

lord of thunder, who is the protector of all well-disposed

suppliants."Pontonous then mixed wine and water, and handed it round after

giving every man his drink-offering. When they had made their

offerings, and had drunk each as much as he was minded, Alcinous said:"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, hear my words. You

have had your supper, so now go home to bed. To-morrow morning I shall

invite a still larger number of aldermen, and will give a

sacrificial banquet in honour of our guest; we can then discuss the

question of his escort, and consider how we may at once send him

back rejoicing to his own country without trouble or inconvenience

to himself, no matter how distant it may be. We must see that he comes

to no harm while on his homeward journey, but when he is once at

home he will have to take the luck he was born with for better or

worse like other people. It is possible, however, that the stranger is

one of the immortals who has come down from heaven to visit us; but in

this case the gods are departing from their usual practice, for

hitherto they have made themselves perfectly clear to us when we

have been offering them hecatombs. They come and sit at our feasts

just like one of our selves, and if any solitary wayfarer happens to

stumble upon some one or other of them, they affect no concealment,

for we are as near of kin to the gods as the Cyclopes and the savage

giants are."Then Ulysses said: "Pray, Alcinous, do not take any such notion into

your head. I have nothing of the immortal about me, neither in body

nor mind, and most resemble those among you who are the most

afflicted. Indeed, were I to tell you all that heaven has seen fit

to lay upon me, you would say that I was still worse off than they

are. Nevertheless, let me sup in spite of sorrow, for an empty stomach

is a very importunate thing, and thrusts itself on a man's notice no

matter how dire is his distress. I am in great trouble, yet it insists

that I shall eat and drink, bids me lay aside all memory of my sorrows

and dwell only on the due replenishing of itself. As for yourselves,

do as you propose, and at break of day set about helping me to get

home. I shall be content to die if I may first once more behold my

property, my bondsmen, and all the greatness of my house."Thus did he speak. Every one approved his saying, and agreed that he

should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken reasonably. Then when

they had made their drink-offerings, and had drunk each as much as

he was minded they went home to bed every man in his own abode,

leaving Ulysses in the cloister with Arete and Alcinous while the

servants were taking the things away after supper. Arete was the first

to speak, for she recognized the shirt, cloak, and good clothes that

Ulysses was wearing, as the work of herself and of her maids; so she

said, "Stranger, before we go any further, there is a question I

should like to ask you. Who, and whence are you, and who gave you

those clothes? Did you not say you had come here from beyond the sea?"And Ulysses answered, "It would be a long story Madam, were I to

relate in full the tale of my misfortunes, for the hand of heaven

has been laid heavy upon me; but as regards your question, there is an

island far away in the sea which is called 'the Ogygian.' Here

dwells the cunning and powerful goddess Calypso, daughter of Atlas.

She lives by herself far from all neighbours human or divine. Fortune,

however, me to her hearth all desolate and alone, for Jove struck my

ship with his thunderbolts, and broke it up in mid-ocean. My brave

comrades were drowned every man of them, but I stuck to the keel and

was carried hither and thither for the space of nine days, till at

last during the darkness of the tenth night the gods brought me to the

Ogygian island where the great goddess Calypso lives. She took me in

and treated me with the utmost kindness; indeed she wanted to make

me immortal that I might never grow old, but she could not persuade me

to let her do so."I stayed with Calypso seven years straight on end, and watered

the good clothes she gave me with my tears during the whole time;

but at last when the eighth year came round she bade me depart of

her own free will, either because Jove had told her she must, or

because she had changed her mind. She sent me from her island on a

raft, which she provisioned with abundance of bread and wine. Moreover

she gave me good stout clothing, and sent me a wind that blew both

warm and fair. Days seven and ten did I sail over the sea, and on

the eighteenth I caught sight of the first outlines of the mountains

upon your coast- and glad indeed was I to set eyes upon them.

Nevertheless there was still much trouble in store for me, for at this

point Neptune would let me go no further, and raised a great storm

against me; the sea was so terribly high that I could no longer keep

to my raft, which went to pieces under the fury of the gale, and I had

to swim for it, till wind and current brought me to your shores."There I tried to land, but could not, for it was a bad place and

the waves dashed me against the rocks, so I again took to the sea

and swam on till I came to a river that seemed the most likely landing

place, for there were no rocks and it was sheltered from the wind.

Here, then, I got out of the water and gathered my senses together

again. Night was coming on, so I left the river, and went into a

thicket, where I covered myself all over with leaves, and presently

heaven sent me off into a very deep sleep. Sick and sorry as I was I

slept among the leaves all night, and through the next day till

afternoon, when I woke as the sun was westering, and saw your

daughter's maid servants playing upon the beach, and your daughter

among them looking like a goddess. I besought her aid, and she

proved to be of an excellent disposition, much more so than could be

expected from so young a person- for young people are apt to be

thoughtless. She gave me plenty of bread and wine, and when she had

had me washed in the river she also gave me the clothes in which you

see me. Now, therefore, though it has pained me to do so, I have

told you the whole truth."Then Alcinous said, "Stranger, it was very wrong of my daughter

not to bring you on at once to my house along with the maids, seeing

that she was the first person whose aid you asked.""Pray do not scold her," replied Ulysses; "she is not to blame.

She did tell me to follow along with the maids, but I was ashamed

and afraid, for I thought you might perhaps be displeased if you saw

me. Every human being is sometimes a little suspicious and irritable.""Stranger," replied Alcinous, "I am not the kind of man to get angry

about nothing; it is always better to be reasonable; but by Father

Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, now that I see what kind of person you are,

and how much you think as I do, I wish you would stay here, marry my

daughter, and become my son-in-law. If you will stay I will give you a

house and an estate, but no one (heaven forbid) shall keep you here

against your own wish, and that you may be sure of this I will

attend to-morrow to the matter of your escort. You can sleep during

the whole voyage if you like, and the men shall sail you over smooth

waters either to your own home, or wherever you please, even though it

be a long way further off than Euboea, which those of my people who

saw it when they took yellow-haired Rhadamanthus to see Tityus the son

of Gaia, tell me is the furthest of any place- and yet they did the

whole voyage in a single day without distressing themselves, and

came back again afterwards. You will thus see how much my ships

excel all others, and what magnificent oarsmen my sailors are."Then was Ulysses glad and prayed aloud saying, "Father Jove, grant

that Alcinous may do all as he has said, for so he will win an

imperishable name among mankind, and at the same time I shall return

to my country."Thus did they converse. Then Arete told her maids to set a bed in

the room that was in the gatehouse, and make it with good red rugs,

and to spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for

Ulysses to wear. The maids thereon went out with torches in their

hands, and when they had made the bed they came up to Ulysses and

said, "Rise, sir stranger, and come with us for your bed is ready,"

and glad indeed was he to go to his rest.So Ulysses slept in a bed placed in a room over the echoing gateway;

but Alcinous lay in the inner part of the house, with the queen his

wife by his side.





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