The Odyssey of Homer (Cowper)/Book VII

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BOOK VII

ARGUMENT

Nausicaa returns from the river, whom Ulysses follows. He halts, by her direction, at a small distance from the palace, which at a convenient time he enters. He is well received by Alcinoüs and his Queen; and having related to them the manner of his being cast on the shore of Scheria, and received from Alcinoüs the promise of safe conduct home, retires to rest.

Such pray’r Ulysses, toil-worn Chief renown’d,
To Pallas made, meantime the virgin, drawn
By her stout mules, Phæacia’s city reach’d,
And, at her father’s house arrived, the car
Stay’d in the vestibule; her brothers five,
All godlike youths, assembling quick around,
Released the mules, and bore the raiment in.
Meantime, to her own chamber she return’d,
Where, soon as she arrived, an antient dame
Eurymedusa, by peculiar charge
Attendant on that service, kindled fire.
Sea-rovers her had from Epirus brought
Long since, and to Alcinoüs she had fall’n
By public gift, for that he ruled, supreme,
Phæacia, and as oft as he harangued
The multitude, was rev’renced as a God.
She waited on the fair Nausicaa, she
Her fuel kindled, and her food prepared.
And now Ulysses from his seat arose
To seek the city, around whom, his guard
Benevolent, Minerva, cast a cloud,
Lest, haply, some Phæacian should presume
T’ insult the Chief, and question whence he came.
But ere he enter’d yet the pleasant town,
Minerva azure-eyed met him, in form
A blooming maid, bearing her pitcher forth.
She stood before him, and the noble Chief
Ulysses, of the Goddess thus enquired.
  Daughter! wilt thou direct me to the house
Of brave Alcinoüs, whom this land obeys?
For I have here arrived, after long toil,
And from a country far remote, a guest
To all who in Phæacia dwell, unknown.
  To whom the Goddess of the azure-eyes.
The mansion of thy search, stranger revered!
Myself will shew thee; for not distant dwells
Alcinoüs from my father’s own abode:
But hush! be silent—I will lead the way;
Mark no man; question no man; for the sight
Of strangers is unusual here, and cold
The welcome by this people shown to such.
They, trusting in swift ships, by the free grant
Of Neptune traverse his wide waters, borne
As if on wings, or with the speed of thought.
  So spake the Goddess, and with nimble pace
Led on, whose footsteps he, as quick, pursued.
But still the seaman-throng through whom he pass’d
Perceiv’d him not; Minerva, Goddess dread,
That sight forbidding them, whose eyes she dimm’d
With darkness shed miraculous around
Her fav’rite Chief. Ulysses, wond’ring, mark’d
Their port, their ships, their forum, the resort
Of Heroes, and their battlements sublime
Fenced with sharp stakes around, a glorious show!
But when the King’s august abode he reach’d,
Minerva azure-eyed, then, thus began.
  My father! thou behold’st the house to which
Thou bad’st me lead thee. Thou shalt find our Chiefs
And high-born Princes banqueting within.
But enter fearing nought, for boldest men
Speed ever best, come whencesoe’er they may.
First thou shalt find the Queen, known by her name
Areta; lineal in descent from those
Who gave Alcinoüs birth, her royal spouse.
Neptune begat Nausithoüs, at the first,
On Peribæa, loveliest of her sex,
Latest-born daughter of Eurymedon,
Heroic King of the proud giant race,
Who, losing all his impious people, shared
The same dread fate himself. Her Neptune lov’d,
To whom she bore a son, the mighty prince
Nausithoüs, in his day King of the land.
Nausithoüs himself two sons begat,
Rhexenor and Alcinoüs. Phoebus slew
Rhexenor at his home, a bridegroom yet,
Who, father of no son, one daughter left,
Areta, wedded to Alcinoüs now,
And whom the Sov’reign in such honour holds,
As woman none enjoys of all on earth
Existing, subjects of an husband’s pow’r.
Like veneration she from all receives
Unfeign’d, from her own children, from himself
Alcinoüs, and from all Phæacia’s race,
Who, gazing on her as she were divine,
Shout when she moves in progress through the town.
For she no wisdom wants, but sits, herself,
Arbitress of such contests as arise
Between her fav’rites, and decides aright.
Her count’nance once and her kind aid secured,
Thou may’st thenceforth expect thy friends to see,
Thy dwelling, and thy native soil again.
  So Pallas spake, Goddess cærulean-eyed,
And o’er the untillable and barren Deep
Departing, Scheria left, land of delight,
Whence reaching Marathon, and Athens next,
She pass’d into Erectheus’ fair abode.
Ulysses, then, toward the palace moved
Of King Alcinoüs, but immers’d in thought
Stood, first, and paused, ere with his foot he press’d
The brazen threshold; for a light he saw
As of the sun or moon illuming clear
The palace of Phæacia’s mighty King.
Walls plated bright with brass, on either side
Stretch’d from the portal to th’ interior house,
With azure cornice crown’d; the doors were gold
Which shut the palace fast; silver the posts
Rear’d on a brazen threshold, and above,
The lintels, silver, architraved with gold.
Mastiffs, in gold and silver, lined the approach
On either side, by art celestial framed
Of Vulcan, guardians of Alcinoüs’ gate
For ever, unobnoxious to decay.
Sheer from the threshold to the inner house
Fixt thrones the walls, through all their length, adorn’d,
With mantles overspread of subtlest warp
Transparent, work of many a female hand.
On these the princes of Phæacia sat,
Holding perpetual feasts, while golden youths
On all the sumptuous altars stood, their hands
With burning torches charged, which, night by night,
Shed radiance over all the festive throng.
Full fifty female menials serv’d the King
In household offices; the rapid mills
These turning, pulverize the mellow’d grain,
Those, seated orderly, the purple fleece
Wind off, or ply the loom, restless as leaves
Of lofty poplars fluttering in the breeze;
Bright as with oil the new-wrought texture shone.25
Far as Phæacian mariners all else
Surpass, the swift ship urging through the floods,
So far in tissue-work the women pass
All others, by Minerva’s self endow’d
With richest fancy and superior skill.
Without the court, and to the gates adjoin’d
A spacious garden lay, fenced all around
Secure, four acres measuring complete.
There grew luxuriant many a lofty tree,
Pomegranate, pear, the apple blushing bright,
The honied fig, and unctuous olive smooth.
Those fruits, nor winter’s cold nor summer’s heat
Fear ever, fail not, wither not, but hang
Perennial, whose unceasing zephyr breathes
Gently on all, enlarging these, and those
Maturing genial; in an endless course
Pears after pears to full dimensions swell,
Figs follow figs, grapes clust’ring grow again
Where clusters grew, and (ev’ry apple stript)
The boughs soon tempt the gath’rer as before.
There too, well-rooted, and of fruit profuse,
His vineyard grows; part, wide-extended, basks,
In the sun’s beams; the arid level glows;
In part they gather, and in part they tread
The wine-press, while, before the eye, the grapes
Here put their blossom forth, there, gather fast
Their blackness. On the garden’s verge extreme
Flow’rs of all hues smile all the year, arranged
With neatest art judicious, and amid
The lovely scene two fountains welling forth,
One visits, into ev’ry part diffus’d,
The garden-ground, the other soft beneath
The threshold steals into the palace-court,
Whence ev’ry citizen his vase supplies.
  Such were the ample blessings on the house
Of King Alcinoüs by the Gods bestow’d.
  Ulysses wond’ring stood, and when, at length,
Silent he had the whole fair scene admired,
With rapid step enter’d the royal gate.
The Chiefs he found and Senators within
Libation pouring to the vigilant spy
Mercurius, whom with wine they worshipp’d last
Of all the Gods, and at the hour of rest.
Ulysses, toil-worn Hero, through the house
Pass’d undelaying, by Minerva thick
With darkness circumfus’d, till he arrived
Where King Alcinoüs and Areta sat.
Around Areta’s knees his arms he cast,
And, in that moment, broken clear away
The cloud all went, shed on him from above.
Dumb sat the guests, seeing the unknown Chief,
And wond’ring gazed. He thus his suit preferr’d.
  Areta, daughter of the Godlike Prince
Rhexenor! suppliant at thy knees I fall,
Thy royal spouse imploring, and thyself,
(After ten thousand toils) and these your guests,
To whom heav’n grant felicity, and to leave
Their treasures to their babes, with all the rights
And honours, by the people’s suffrage, theirs!
But oh vouchsafe me, who have wanted long
And ardent wish’d my home, without delay
Safe conduct to my native shores again!
  Such suit he made, and in the ashes sat
At the hearth-side; they mute long time remain’d,
Till, at the last, the antient Hero spake
Echeneus, eldest of Phæacia’s sons,
With eloquence beyond the rest endow’d,
Rich in traditionary lore, and wise
In all, who thus, benevolent, began.
  Not honourable to thyself, O King!
Is such a sight, a stranger on the ground
At the hearth-side seated, and in the dust.
Meantime, thy guests, expecting thy command,
Move not; thou therefore raising by his hand
The stranger, lead him to a throne, and bid
The heralds mingle wine, that we may pour
To thunder-bearing Jove, the suppliant’s friend.
Then let the cat’ress for thy guest produce
Supply, a supper from the last regale.
  Soon as those words Alcinoüs heard, the King,
Upraising by his hand the prudent Chief
Ulysses from the hearth, he made him sit,
On a bright throne, displacing for his sake
Laodamas his son, the virtuous youth
Who sat beside him, and whom most he lov’d.
And now, a maiden charg’d with golden ew’r
And with an argent laver, pouring, first,
Pure water on his hands, supply’d him, next,
With a resplendent table, which the chaste
Directress of the stores furnish’d with bread
And dainties, remnants of the last regale.
Then ate the Hero toil-inured, and drank,
And to his herald thus Alcinoüs spake.
  Pontonoüs! mingling wine, bear it around
To ev’ry guest in turn, that we may pour
To thunder-bearer Jove, the stranger’s friend,
And guardian of the suppliant’s sacred rights.
  He said; Pontonoüs, as he bade, the wine
Mingled delicious, and the cups dispensed
With distribution regular to all.
When each had made libation, and had drunk
Sufficient, then, Alcinoüs thus began.
  Phæacian Chiefs and Senators, I speak
The dictates of my mind, therefore attend!
Ye all have feasted—To your homes and sleep.
We will assemble at the dawn of day
More senior Chiefs, that we may entertain
The stranger here, and to the Gods perform
Due sacrifice; the convoy that he asks
Shall next engage our thoughts, that free from pain
And from vexation, by our friendly aid
He may revisit, joyful and with speed,
His native shore, however far remote.
No inconvenience let him feel or harm,
Ere his arrival; but, arrived, thenceforth
He must endure whatever lot the Fates
Spun for him in the moment of his birth.
But should he prove some Deity from heav’n
Descended, then the Immortals have in view
Designs not yet apparent; for the Gods
Have ever from of old reveal’d themselves
At our solemnities, have on our seats
Sat with us evident, and shared the feast;
And even if a single traveller
Of the Phæacians meet them, all reserve
They lay aside; for with the Gods we boast
As near affinity as do themselves
The Cyclops, or the Giant race profane.26
  To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied.
Alcinoüs! think not so. Resemblance none
In figure or in lineaments I bear
To the immortal tenants of the skies,
But to the sons of earth; if ye have known
A man afflicted with a weight of woe
Peculiar, let me be with him compared;
Woes even passing his could I relate,
And all inflicted on me by the Gods.
But let me eat, comfortless as I am,
Uninterrupted; for no call is loud
As that of hunger in the ears of man;
Importunate, unreas’nable, it constrains
His notice, more than all his woes beside.
So, I much sorrow feel, yet not the less
Hear I the blatant appetite demand
Due sustenance, and with a voice that drowns
E’en all my suff’rings, till itself be fill’d.
But expedite ye at the dawn of day
My safe return into my native land,
After much mis’ry; and let life itself
Forsake me, may I but once more behold
All that is mine, in my own lofty abode.
  He spake, whom all applauded, and advised,
Unanimous, the guest’s conveyance home,
Who had so fitly spoken. When, at length,
All had libation made, and were sufficed,
Departing to his house, each sought repose.
But still Ulysses in the hall remain’d,
Where, godlike King, Alcinoüs at his side
Sat, and Areta; the attendants clear’d
Meantime the board, and thus the Queen white-arm’d,
(Marking the vest and mantle, which he wore
And which her maidens and herself had made)
In accents wing’d with eager haste began.
  Stranger! the first enquiry shall be mine;
Who art, and whence? From whom receiv’dst thou these?
Saidst not—I came a wand’rer o’er the Deep?
  To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied.
Oh Queen! the task were difficult to unfold
In all its length the story of my woes,
For I have num’rous from the Gods receiv’d;
But I will answer thee as best I may.
There is a certain isle, Ogygia, placed
Far distant in the Deep; there dwells, by man
Alike unvisited, and by the Gods,
Calypso, beauteous nymph, but deeply skill’d
In artifice, and terrible in pow’r,
Daughter of Atlas. Me alone my fate
Her miserable inmate made, when Jove
Had riv’n asunder with his candent bolt
My bark in the mid-sea. There perish’d all
The valiant partners of my toils, and I
My vessel’s keel embracing day and night
With folded arms, nine days was borne along.
But on the tenth dark night, as pleas’d the Gods,
They drove me to Ogygia, where resides
Calypso, beauteous nymph, dreadful in pow’r;
She rescued, cherish’d, fed me, and her wish
Was to confer on me immortal life,
Exempt for ever from the sap of age.
But me her offer’d boon sway’d not. Sev’n years
I there abode continual, with my tears
Bedewing ceaseless my ambrosial robes,
Calypso’s gift divine; but when, at length,
(Sev’n years elaps’d) the circling eighth arrived,
She then, herself, my quick departure thence
Advised, by Jove’s own mandate overaw’d,
Which even her had influenced to a change.
On a well-corded raft she sent me forth
With num’rous presents; bread she put and wine
On board, and cloath’d me in immortal robes;
She sent before me also a fair wind
Fresh-blowing, but not dang’rous. Sev’nteen days
I sail’d the flood continual, and descried,
On the eighteenth, your shadowy mountains tall
When my exulting heart sprang at the sight,
All wretched as I was, and still ordain’d
To strive with difficulties many and hard
From adverse Neptune; he the stormy winds
Exciting opposite, my wat’ry way
Impeded, and the waves heav’d to a bulk
Immeasurable, such as robb’d me soon
Deep-groaning, of the raft, my only hope;
For her the tempest scatter’d, and myself
This ocean measur’d swimming, till the winds
And mighty waters cast me on your shore.
Me there emerging, the huge waves had dash’d
Full on the land, where, incommodious most,
The shore presented only roughest rocks,
But, leaving it, I swam the Deep again,
Till now, at last, a river’s gentle stream
Receiv’d me, by no rocks deform’d, and where
No violent winds the shelter’d bank annoy’d.
I flung myself on shore, exhausted, weak,
Needing repose; ambrosial night came on,
When from the Jove-descended stream withdrawn,
I in a thicket lay’d me down on leaves
Which I had heap’d together, and the Gods
O’erwhelm’d my eye-lids with a flood of sleep.
There under wither’d leaves, forlorn, I slept
All the long night, the morning and the noon,
But balmy sleep, at the decline of day,
Broke from me; then, your daughter’s train I heard
Sporting, with whom she also sported, fair
And graceful as the Gods. To her I kneel’d.
She, following the dictates of a mind
Ingenuous, pass’d in her behaviour all
Which even ye could from an age like hers
Have hoped; for youth is ever indiscrete.
She gave me plenteous food, with richest wine
Refresh’d my spirit, taught me where to bathe,
And cloath’d me as thou seest; thus, though a prey
To many sorrows, I have told thee truth.
  To whom Alcinoüs answer thus return’d.
My daughter’s conduct, I perceive, hath been
In this erroneous, that she led thee not
Hither, at once, with her attendant train,
For thy first suit was to herself alone.
  Thus then Ulysses, wary Chief, replied.
Blame not, O Hero, for so slight a cause
Thy faultless child; she bade me follow them,
But I refused, by fear and awe restrain’d,
Lest thou should’st feel displeasure at that sight
Thyself; for we are all, in ev’ry clime,
Suspicious, and to worst constructions prone.
  So spake Ulysses, to whom thus the King.
I bear not, stranger! in my breast an heart
Causeless irascible; for at all times
A temp’rate equanimity is best.
And oh, I would to heav’n, that, being such
As now thou art, and of one mind with me,
Thou would’st accept my daughter, would’st become
My son-in-law, and dwell contented here!
House would I give thee, and possessions too,
Were such thy choice; else, if thou chuse it not,
No man in all Phæacia shall by force
Detain thee. Jupiter himself forbid!
For proof, I will appoint thee convoy hence
To-morrow; and while thou by sleep subdued
Shalt on thy bed repose, they with their oars
Shall brush the placid flood, till thou arrive
At home, or at what place soe’er thou would’st,
Though far more distant than Eubœa lies,
Remotest isle from us, by the report
Of ours, who saw it when they thither bore
Golden-hair’d Rhadamanthus o’er the Deep,
To visit earth-born Tityus. To that isle
They went; they reach’d it, and they brought him thence
Back to Phæacia, in one day, with ease.
Thou also shalt be taught what ships I boast
Unmatch’d in swiftness, and how far my crews
Excel, upturning with their oars the brine.
  He ceas’d; Ulysses toil-inur’d his words
Exulting heard, and, praying, thus replied.
  Eternal Father! may the King perform
His whole kind promise! grant him in all lands
A never-dying name, and grant to me
To visit safe my native shores again!
  Thus they conferr’d; and now Areta bade
Her fair attendants dress a fleecy couch
Under the portico, with purple rugs
Resplendent, and with arras spread beneath,
And over all with cloaks of shaggy pile.
Forth went the maidens, bearing each a torch,
And, as she bade, prepared in haste a couch
Of depth commodious, then, returning, gave
Ulysses welcome summons to repose.
  Stranger! thy couch is spread. Hence to thy rest.
So they—Thrice grateful to his soul the thought
Seem’d of repose. There slept Ulysses, then,
On his carv’d couch, beneath the portico,
But in the inner-house Alcinoüs found
His place of rest, and hers with royal state
Prepared, the Queen his consort, at his side.


  1. ^  Καιροσέων δ’ οθονεων ἀπολείβεται ὑγρον ἔλαιον.

    Pope has given no translation of this line in the text of his work, but has translated it in a note. It is variously interpreted by commentators; the sense which is here given of it is that recommended by Eustathius.

  2. ^  The Scholiast explains the passage thus—We resemble the Gods in righteousness as much as the Cyclops and Giants resembled each other in impiety. But in this sense of it there is something intricate and contrary to Homer’s manner. We have seen that they derived themselves from Neptune, which sufficiently justifies the above interpretation.