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The Odyssey: Book 6 Analysis



Author: poem of Homer Type: poem Views: 1

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  So here Ulysses slept, overcome by sleep and toil; but Minerva

went off to the country and city of the Phaecians- a people who used

to live in the fair town of Hypereia, near the lawless Cyclopes. Now

the Cyclopes were stronger than they and plundered them, so their king

Nausithous moved them thence and settled them in Scheria, far from all

other people. He surrounded the city with a wall, built houses and

temples, and divided the lands among his people; but he was dead and

gone to the house of Hades, and King Alcinous, whose counsels were

inspired of heaven, was now reigning. To his house, then, did

Minerva hie in furtherance of the return of Ulysses.

  She went straight to the beautifully decorated bedroom in which

there slept a girl who was as lovely as a goddess, Nausicaa,

daughter to King Alcinous. Two maid servants were sleeping near her,

both very pretty, one on either side of the doorway, which was

closed with well-made folding doors. Minerva took the form of the

famous sea captain Dymas's daughter, who was a bosom friend of

Nausicaa and just her own age; then, coming up to the girl's bedside

like a breath of wind, she hovered over her head and said:

  "Nausicaa, what can your mother have been about, to have such a lazy

daughter? Here are your clothes all lying in disorder, yet you are

going to be married almost immediately, and should not only be well

dressed yourself, but should find good clothes for those who attend

you. This is the way to get yourself a good name, and to make your

father and mother proud of you. Suppose, then, that we make tomorrow a

washing day, and start at daybreak. I will come and help you so that

you may have everything ready as soon as possible, for all the best

young men among your own people are courting you, and you are not

going to remain a maid much longer. Ask your father, therefore, to

have a waggon and mules ready for us at daybreak, to take the rugs,

robes, and girdles; and you can ride, too, which will be much

pleasanter for you than walking, for the washing-cisterns are some way

from the town."

  When she had said this Minerva went away to Olympus, which they

say is the everlasting home of the gods. Here no wind beats roughly,

and neither rain nor snow can fall; but it abides in everlasting

sunshine and in a great peacefulness of light, wherein the blessed

gods are illumined for ever and ever. This was the place to which

the goddess went when she had given instructions to the girl.

  By and by morning came and woke Nausicaa, who began wondering

about her dream; she therefore went to the other end of the house to

tell her father and mother all about it, and found them in their own

room. Her mother was sitting by the fireside spinning her purple

yarn with her maids around her, and she happened to catch her father

just as he was going out to attend a meeting of the town council,

which the Phaeacian aldermen had convened. She stopped him and said:

  "Papa dear, could you manage to let me have a good big waggon? I

want to take all our dirty clothes to the river and wash them. You are

the chief man here, so it is only right that you should have a clean

shirt when you attend meetings of the council. Moreover, you have five

sons at home, two of them married, while the other three are

good-looking bachelors; you know they always like to have clean

linen when they go to a dance, and I have been thinking about all

this."

  She did not say a word about her own wedding, for she did not like

to, but her father knew and said, "You shall have the mules, my

love, and whatever else you have a mind for. Be off with you, and

the men shall get you a good strong waggon with a body to it that will

hold all your clothes."

  On this he gave his orders to the servants, who got the waggon

out, harnessed the mules, and put them to, while the girl brought

the clothes down from the linen room and placed them on the waggon.

Her mother prepared her a basket of provisions with all sorts of

good things, and a goat skin full of wine; the girl now got into the

waggon, and her mother gave her also a golden cruse of oil, that she

and her women might anoint themselves. Then she took the whip and

reins and lashed the mules on, whereon they set off, and their hoofs

clattered on the road. They pulled without flagging, and carried not

only Nausicaa and her wash of clothes, but the maids also who were

with her.

  When they reached the water side they went to the

washing-cisterns, through which there ran at all times enough pure

water to wash any quantity of linen, no matter how dirty. Here they

unharnessed the mules and turned them out to feed on the sweet juicy

herbage that grew by the water side. They took the clothes out of

the waggon, put them in the water, and vied with one another in

treading them in the pits to get the dirt out. After they had washed

them and got them quite clean, they laid them out by the sea side,

where the waves had raised a high beach of shingle, and set about

washing themselves and anointing themselves with olive oil. Then

they got their dinner by the side of the stream, and waited for the

sun to finish drying the clothes. When they had done dinner they threw

off the veils that covered their heads and began to play at ball,

while Nausicaa sang for them. As the huntress Diana goes forth upon

the mountains of Taygetus or Erymanthus to hunt wild boars or deer,

and the wood-nymphs, daughters of Aegis-bearing Jove, take their sport

along with her (then is Leto proud at seeing her daughter stand a full

head taller than the others, and eclipse the loveliest amid a whole

bevy of beauties), even so did the girl outshine her handmaids.

  When it was time for them to start home, and they were folding the

clothes and putting them into the waggon, Minerva began to consider

how Ulysses should wake up and see the handsome girl who was to

conduct him to the city of the Phaeacians. The girl, therefore,

threw a ball at one of the maids, which missed her and fell into

deep water. On this they all shouted, and the noise they made woke

Ulysses, who sat up in his bed of leaves and began to wonder what it

might all be.

  "Alas," said he to himself, "what kind of people have I come

amongst? Are they cruel, savage, and uncivilized, or hospitable and

humane? I seem to hear the voices of young women, and they sound

like those of the nymphs that haunt mountain tops, or springs of

rivers and meadows of green grass. At any rate I am among a race of

men and women. Let me try if I cannot manage to get a look at them."

  As he said this he crept from under his bush, and broke off a

bough covered with thick leaves to hide his nakedness. He looked

like some lion of the wilderness that stalks about exulting in his

strength and defying both wind and rain; his eyes glare as he prowls

in quest of oxen, sheep, or deer, for he is famished, and will dare

break even into a well-fenced homestead, trying to get at the sheep-

even such did Ulysses seem to the young women, as he drew near to them

all naked as he was, for he was in great want. On seeing one so

unkempt and so begrimed with salt water, the others scampered off

along the spits that jutted out into the sea, but the daughter of

Alcinous stood firm, for Minerva put courage into her heart and took

away all fear from her. She stood right in front of Ulysses, and he

doubted whether he should go up to her, throw himself at her feet, and

embrace her knees as a suppliant, or stay where he was and entreat her

to give him some clothes and show him the way to the town. In the

end he deemed it best to entreat her from a distance in case the

girl should take offence at his coming near enough to clasp her knees,

so he addressed her in honeyed and persuasive language.

  "O queen," he said, "I implore your aid- but tell me, are you a

goddess or are you a mortal woman? If you are a goddess and dwell in

heaven, I can only conjecture that you are Jove's daughter Diana,

for your face and figure resemble none but hers; if on the other

hand you are a mortal and live on earth, thrice happy are your

father and mother- thrice happy, too, are your brothers and sisters;

how proud and delighted they must feel when they see so fair a scion

as yourself going out to a dance; most happy, however, of all will

he be whose wedding gifts have been the richest, and who takes you

to his own home. I never yet saw any one so beautiful, neither man nor

woman, and am lost in admiration as I behold you. I can only compare

you to a young palm tree which I saw when I was at Delos growing

near the altar of Apollo- for I was there, too, with much people after

me, when I was on that journey which has been the source of all my

troubles. Never yet did such a young plant shoot out of the ground

as that was, and I admired and wondered at it exactly as I now

admire and wonder at yourself. I dare not clasp your knees, but I am

in great distress; yesterday made the twentieth day that I had been

tossing about upon the sea. The winds and waves have taken me all

the way from the Ogygian island, and now fate has flung me upon this

coast that I may endure still further suffering; for I do not think

that I have yet come to the end of it, but rather that heaven has

still much evil in store for me.

  "And now, O queen, have pity upon me, for you are the first person I

have met, and I know no one else in this country. Show me the way to

your town, and let me have anything that you may have brought hither

to wrap your clothes in. May heaven grant you in all things your

heart's desire- husband, house, and a happy, peaceful home; for

there is nothing better in this world than that man and wife should be

of one mind in a house. It discomfits their enemies, makes the

hearts of their friends glad, and they themselves know more about it

than any one."

  To this Nausicaa answered, "Stranger, you appear to be a sensible,

well-disposed person. There is no accounting for luck; Jove gives

prosperity to rich and poor just as he chooses, so you must take

what he has seen fit to send you, and make the best of it. Now,

however, that you have come to this our country, you shall not want

for clothes nor for anything else that a foreigner in distress may

reasonably look for. I will show you the way to the town, and will

tell you the name of our people; we are called Phaeacians, and I am

daughter to Alcinous, in whom the whole power of the state is vested."

  Then she called her maids and said, "Stay where you are, you

girls. Can you not see a man without running away from him? Do you

take him for a robber or a murderer? Neither he nor any one else can

come here to do us Phaeacians any harm, for we are dear to the gods,

and live apart on a land's end that juts into the sounding sea, and

have nothing to do with any other people. This is only some poor man

who has lost his way, and we must be kind to him, for strangers and

foreigners in distress are under Jove's protection, and will take what

they can get and be thankful; so, girls, give the poor fellow

something to eat and drink, and wash him in the stream at some place

that is sheltered from the wind."

  On this the maids left off running away and began calling one

another back. They made Ulysses sit down in the shelter as Nausicaa

had told them, and brought him a shirt and cloak. They also brought

him the little golden cruse of oil, and told him to go wash in the

stream. But Ulysses said, "Young women, please to stand a little on

one side that I may wash the brine from my shoulders and anoint myself

with oil, for it is long enough since my skin has had a drop of oil

upon it. I cannot wash as long as you all keep standing there. I am

ashamed to strip before a number of good-looking young women."

  Then they stood on one side and went to tell the girl, while Ulysses

washed himself in the stream and scrubbed the brine from his back

and from his broad shoulders. When he had thoroughly washed himself,

and had got the brine out of his hair, he anointed himself with oil,

and put on the clothes which the girl had given him; Minerva then made

him look taller and stronger than before, she also made the hair

grow thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like

hyacinth blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders as a

skilful workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan and

Minerva enriches a piece of silver plate by gilding it- and his work

is full of beauty. Then he went and sat down a little way off upon the

beach, looking quite young and handsome, and the girl gazed on him

with admiration; then she said to her maids:

  "Hush, my dears, for I want to say something. I believe the gods who

live in heaven have sent this man to the Phaeacians. When I first

saw him I thought him plain, but now his appearance is like that of

the gods who dwell in heaven. I should like my future husband to be

just such another as he is, if he would only stay here and not want to

go away. However, give him something to eat and drink."

  They did as they were told, and set food before Ulysses, who ate and

drank ravenously, for it was long since he had had food of any kind.

Meanwhile, Nausicaa bethought her of another matter. She got the linen

folded and placed in the waggon, she then yoked the mules, and, as she

took her seat, she called Ulysses:

  "Stranger," said she, "rise and let us be going back to the town;

I will introduce you at the house of my excellent father, where I

can tell you that you will meet all the best people among the

Phaecians. But be sure and do as I bid you, for you seem to be a

sensible person. As long as we are going past the fields- and farm

lands, follow briskly behind the waggon along with the maids and I

will lead the way myself. Presently, however, we shall come to the

town, where you will find a high wall running all round it, and a good

harbour on either side with a narrow entrance into the city, and the

ships will be drawn up by the road side, for every one has a place

where his own ship can lie. You will see the market place with a

temple of Neptune in the middle of it, and paved with large stones

bedded in the earth. Here people deal in ship's gear of all kinds,

such as cables and sails, and here, too, are the places where oars are

made, for the Phaeacians are not a nation of archers; they know

nothing about bows and arrows, but are a sea-faring folk, and pride

themselves on their masts, oars, and ships, with which they travel far

over the sea.

  "I am afraid of the gossip and scandal that may be set on foot

against me later on; for the people here are very ill-natured, and

some low fellow, if he met us, might say, 'Who is this fine-looking

stranger that is going about with Nausicaa? Where did she End him? I

suppose she is going to marry him. Perhaps he is a vagabond sailor

whom she has taken from some foreign vessel, for we have no

neighbours; or some god has at last come down from heaven in answer to

her prayers, and she is going to live with him all the rest of her

life. It would be a good thing if she would take herself of I for sh

and find a husband somewhere else, for she will not look at one of the

many excellent young Phaeacians who are in with her.' This is the kind

of disparaging remark that would be made about me, and I could not

complain, for I should myself be scandalized at seeing any other

girl do the like, and go about with men in spite of everybody, while

her father and mother were still alive, and without having been

married in the face of all the world.

  "If, therefore, you want my father to give you an escort and to help

you home, do as I bid you; you will see a beautiful grove of poplars

by the road side dedicated to Minerva; it has a well in it and a

meadow all round it. Here my father has a field of rich garden ground,

about as far from the town as a man' voice will carry. Sit down

there and wait for a while till the rest of us can get into the town

and reach my father's house. Then, when you think we must have done

this, come into the town and ask the way to the house of my father

Alcinous. You will have no difficulty in finding it; any child will

point it out to you, for no one else in the whole town has anything

like such a fine house as he has. When you have got past the gates and

through the outer court, go right across the inner court till you come

to my mother. You will find her sitting by the fire and spinning her

purple wool by firelight. It is a fine sight to see her as she leans

back against one of the bearing-posts with her maids all ranged behind

her. Close to her seat stands that of my father, on which he sits

and topes like an immortal god. Never mind him, but go up to my

mother, and lay your hands upon her knees if you would get home

quickly. If you can gain her over, you may hope to see your own

country again, no matter how distant it may be."

  So saying she lashed the mules with her whip and they left the

river. The mules drew well and their hoofs went up and down upon the

road. She was careful not to go too fast for Ulysses and the maids who

were following on foot along with the waggon, so she plied her whip

with judgement. As the sun was going down they came to the sacred

grove of Minerva, and there Ulysses sat down and prayed to the

mighty daughter of Jove.

  "Hear me," he cried, "daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable,

hear me now, for you gave no heed to my prayers when Neptune was

wrecking me. Now, therefore, have pity upon me and grant that I may

find friends and be hospitably received by the Phaecians."

  Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer, but she would not

show herself to him openly, for she was afraid of her uncle Neptune,

who was still furious in his endeavors to prevent Ulysses from getting

home.





Translated by Samuel Butler






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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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In Line 141, notice that Odysseus comes up from olive growth. The olive is a symbol for Athena, and therefore, Athena is with Odysseus in a lot of different places. For example, when Odysseus was with Calypso, there was olive vines outside her cave (if I remember correctly) and in numerous other places. Watch out for that.

| Posted on 2009-01-11 | by a guest




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