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Philosophia
October 25th, 2007, 08:23 AM
AEOLUS, THE LAESTRYGONES, CIRCE.

"Thence we went on to the Aeolian island where lives Aeolus son
of Hippotas, dear to the immortal gods. It is an island that
floats (as it were) upon the sea, {83} iron bound with a wall
that girds it. Now, Aeolus has six daughters and six lusty sons,
so he made the sons marry the daughters, and they all live with
their dear father and mother, feasting and enjoying every
conceivable kind of luxury. All day long the atmosphere of the
house is loaded with the savour of roasting meats till it groans
again, yard and all; but by night they sleep on their well made
bedsteads, each with his own wife between the blankets. These
were the people among whom we had now come.

"Aeolus entertained me for a whole month asking me questions all
the time about Troy, the Argive fleet, and the return of the
Achaeans. I told him exactly how everything had happened, and
when I said I must go, and asked him to further me on my way, he
made no sort of difficulty, but set about doing so at once.
Moreover, he flayed me a prime ox-hide to hold the ways of the
roaring winds, which he shut up in the hide as in a sack--for
Jove had made him captain over the winds, and he could stir or
still each one of them according to his own pleasure. He put the
sack in the ship and bound the mouth so tightly with a silver
thread that not even a breath of a side-wind could blow from any
quarter. The West wind which was fair for us did he alone let
blow as it chose; but it all came to nothing, for we were lost
through our own folly.

"Nine days and nine nights did we sail, and on the tenth day our
native land showed on the horizon. We got so close in that we
could see the stubble fires burning, and I, being then dead
beat, fell into a light sleep, for I had never let the rudder
out of my own hands, that we might get home the faster. On this
the men fell to talking among themselves, and said I was
bringing back gold and silver in the sack that Aeolus had given
me. 'Bless my heart,' would one turn to his neighbour, saying,
'how this man gets honoured and makes friends to whatever city
or country he may go. See what fine prizes he is taking home
from Troy, while we, who have travelled just as far as he has,
come back with hands as empty as we set out with--and now Aeolus
has given him ever so much more. Quick--let us see what it all
is, and how much gold and silver there is in the sack he gave
him.'

"Thus they talked and evil counsels prevailed. They loosed the
sack, whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm
that carried us weeping out to sea and away from our own
country. Then I awoke, and knew not whether to throw myself into
the sea or to live on and make the best of it; but I bore it,
covered myself up, and lay down in the ship, while the men
lamented bitterly as the fierce winds bore our fleet back to the
Aeolian island.

"When we reached it we went ashore to take in water, and dined
hard by the ships. Immediately after dinner I took a herald and
one of my men and went straight to the house of Aeolus, where I
found him feasting with his wife and family; so we sat down as
suppliants on the threshold. They were astounded when they saw
us and said, 'Ulysses, what brings you here? What god has been
ill-treating you? We took great pains to further you on your
way home to Ithaca, or wherever it was that you wanted to go
to.'

"Thus did they speak, but I answered sorrowfully, 'My men have
undone me; they, and cruel sleep, have ruined me. My friends,
mend me this mischief, for you can if you will.'

"I spoke as movingly as I could, but they said nothing, till
their father answered, 'Vilest of mankind, get you gone at once
out of the island; him whom heaven hates will I in no wise help.
Be off, for you come here as one abhorred of heaven.' And with
these words he sent me sorrowing from his door.

"Thence we sailed sadly on till the men were worn out with long
and fruitless rowing, for there was no longer any wind to help
them. Six days, night and day did we toil, and on the seventh
day we reached the rocky stronghold of Lamus--Telepylus, the
city of the Laestrygonians, where the shepherd who is driving in
his sheep and goats [to be milked] salutes him who is driving
out his flock [to feed] and this last answers the salute. In
that country a man who could do without sleep might earn double
wages, one as a herdsman of cattle, and another as a shepherd,
for they work much the same by night as they do by day. {84}

"When we reached the harbour we found it land-locked under steep
cliffs, with a narrow entrance between two headlands. My
captains took all their ships inside, and made them fast close
to one another, for there was never so much as a breath of wind
inside, but it was always dead calm. I kept my own ship outside,
and moored it to a rock at the very end of the point; then I
climbed a high rock to reconnoitre, but could see no sign
neither of man nor cattle, only some smoke rising from the
ground. So I sent two of my company with an attendant to find
out what sort of people the inhabitants were.

"The men when they got on shore followed a level road by which
the people draw their firewood from the mountains into the town,
till presently they met a young woman who had come outside to
fetch water, and who was daughter to a Laestrygonian named
Antiphates. She was going to the fountain Artacia from which the
people bring in their water, and when my men had come close up
to her, they asked her who the king of that country might be,
and over what kind of people he ruled; so she directed them to
her father's house, but when they got there they found his wife
to be a giantess as huge as a mountain, and they were horrified
at the sight of her.

"She at once called her husband Antiphates from the place of
assembly, and forthwith he set about killing my men. He snatched
up one of them, and began to make his dinner off him then and
there, whereon the other two ran back to the ships as fast as
ever they could. But Antiphates raised a hue-and-cry after them,
and thousands of sturdy Laestrygonians sprang up from every
quarter--ogres, not men. They threw vast rocks at us from the
cliffs as though they had been mere stones, and I heard the
horrid sound of the ships crunching up against one another, and
the death cries of my men, as the Laestrygonians speared them
like fishes and took them home to eat them. While they were thus
killing my men within the harbour I drew my sword, cut the cable
of my own ship, and told my men to row with all their might if
they too would not fare like the rest; so they laid out for
their lives, and we were thankful enough when we got into open
water out of reach of the rocks they hurled at us. As for the
others there was not one of them left.

"Thence we sailed sadly on, glad to have escaped death, though
we had lost our comrades, and came to the Aeaean island, where
Circe lives--a great and cunning goddess who is own sister to
the magician Aeetes--for they are both children of the sun by
Perse, who is daughter to Oceanus. We brought our ship into a
safe harbour without a word, for some god guided us thither, and
having landed we lay there for two days and two nights, worn out
in body and mind. When the morning of the third day came I took
my spear and my sword, and went away from the ship to
reconnoitre, and see if I could discover signs of human
handiwork, or hear the sound of voices. Climbing to the top of a
high look-out I espied the smoke of Circe's house rising upwards
amid a dense forest of trees, and when I saw this I doubted
whether, having seen the smoke, I would not go on at once and
find out more, but in the end I deemed it best to go back to the
ship, give the men their dinners, and send some of them instead
of going myself.

"When I had nearly got back to the ship some god took pity upon
my solitude, and sent a fine antlered stag right into the middle
of my path. He was coming down his pasture in the forest to
drink of the river, for the heat of the sun drove him, and as he
passed I struck him in the middle of the back; the bronze point
of the spear went clean through him, and he lay groaning in the
dust until the life went out of him. Then I set my foot upon
him, drew my spear from the wound, and laid it down; I also
gathered rough grass and rushes and twisted them into a fathom
or so of good stout rope, with which I bound the four feet of
the noble creature together; having so done I hung him round my
neck and walked back to the ship leaning upon my spear, for the
stag was much too big for me to be able to carry him on my
shoulder, steadying him with one hand. As I threw him down in
front of the ship, I called the men and spoke cheeringly man by
man to each of them. 'Look here my friends,' said I, 'we are not
going to die so much before our time after all, and at any rate
we will not starve so long as we have got something to eat and
drink on board.' On this they uncovered their heads upon the sea
shore and admired the stag, for he was indeed a splendid fellow.
Then, when they had feasted their eyes upon him sufficiently,
they washed their hands and began to cook him for dinner.

"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
stayed there eating and drinking our fill, but when the sun went
down and it came on dark, we camped upon the sea shore. When the
child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I called a
council and said, 'My friends, we are in very great
difficulties; listen therefore to me. We have no idea where the
sun either sets or rises, {85} so that we do not even know East
from West. I see no way out of it; nevertheless, we must try and
find one. We are certainly on an island, for I went as high as I
could this morning, and saw the sea reaching all round it to the
horizon; it lies low, but towards the middle I saw smoke rising
from out of a thick forest of trees.'

"Their hearts sank as they heard me, for they remembered how
they had been treated by the Laestrygonian Antiphates, and by
the savage ogre Polyphemus. They wept bitterly in their dismay,
but there was nothing to be got by crying, so I divided them
into two companies and set a captain over each; I gave one
company to Eurylochus, while I took command of the other myself.
Then we cast lots in a helmet, and the lot fell upon Eurylochus;
so he set out with his twenty-two men, and they wept, as also
did we who were left behind.

"When they reached Circe's house they found it built of cut
stones, on a site that could be seen from far, in the middle of
the forest. There were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling
all round it--poor bewitched creatures whom she had tamed by her
enchantments and drugged into subjection. They did not attack my
men, but wagged their great tails, fawned upon them, and rubbed
their noses lovingly against them. {86} As hounds crowd round
their master when they see him coming from dinner--for they know
he will bring them something--even so did these wolves and lions
with their great claws fawn upon my men, but the men were
terribly frightened at seeing such strange creatures. Presently
they reached the gates of the goddess's house, and as they stood
there they could hear Circe within, singing most beautifully as
she worked at her loom, making a web so fine, so soft, and of
such dazzling colours as no one but a goddess could weave. On
this Polites, whom I valued and trusted more than any other of
my men, said, 'There is some one inside working at a loom and
singing most beautifully; the whole place resounds with it, let
us call her and see whether she is woman or goddess.'

"They called her and she came down, unfastened the door, and
bade them enter. They, thinking no evil, followed her, all
except Eurylochus, who suspected mischief and staid outside.
When she had got them into her house, she set them upon benches
and seats and mixed them a mess with cheese, honey, meal, and
Pramnian wine, but she drugged it with wicked poisons to make
them forget their homes, and when they had drunk she turned them
into pigs by a stroke of her wand, and shut them up in her
pig-styes. They were like pigs--head, hair, and all, and they
grunted just as pigs do; but their senses were the same as
before, and they remembered everything.

"Thus then were they shut up squealing, and Circe threw them
some acorns and beech masts such as pigs eat, but Eurylochus
hurried back to tell me about the sad fate of our comrades. He
was so overcome with dismay that though he tried to speak he
could find no words to do so; his eyes filled with tears and he
could only sob and sigh, till at last we forced his story out of
him, and he told us what had happened to the others.

"'We went,' said he, 'as you told us, through the forest, and in
the middle of it there was a fine house built with cut stones in
a place that could be seen from far. There we found a woman, or
else she was a goddess, working at her loom and singing sweetly;
so the men shouted to her and called her, whereon she at once
came down, opened the door, and invited us in. The others did
not suspect any mischief so they followed her into the house,
but I staid where I was, for I thought there might be some
treachery. From that moment I saw them no more, for not one of
them ever came out, though I sat a long time watching for them.'

"Then I took my sword of bronze and slung it over my shoulders;
I also took my bow, and told Eurylochus to come back with me and
shew me the way. But he laid hold of me with both his hands and
spoke piteously, saying, 'Sir, do not force me to go with you,
but let me stay here, for I know you will not bring one of them
back with you, nor even return alive yourself; let us rather see
if we cannot escape at any rate with the few that are left us,
for we may still save our lives.'

"'Stay where you are, then,' answered I, 'eating and drinking at
the ship, but I must go, for I am most urgently bound to do so.'

"With this I left the ship and went up inland. When I got
through the charmed grove, and was near the great house of the
enchantress Circe, I met Mercury with his golden wand, disguised
as a young man in the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the
down just coming upon his face. He came up to me and took my
hand within his own, saying, 'My poor unhappy man, whither are
you going over this mountain top, alone and without knowing the
way? Your men are shut up in Circe's pigstyes, like so many wild
boars in their lairs. You surely do not fancy that you can set
them free? I can tell you that you will never get back and will
have to stay there with the rest of them. But never mind, I will
protect you and get you out of your difficulty. Take this herb,
which is one of great virtue, and keep it about you when you go
to Circe's house, it will be a talisman to you against every
kind of mischief.

"'And I will tell you of all the wicked witchcraft that Circe
will try to practice upon you. She will mix a mess for you to
drink, and she will drug the meal with which she makes it, but
she will not be able to charm you, for the virtue of the herb
that I shall give you will prevent her spells from working. I
will tell you all about it. When Circe strikes you with her
wand, draw your sword and spring upon her as though you were
going to kill her. She will then be frightened, and will desire
you to go to bed with her; on this you must not point blank
refuse her, for you want her to set your companions free, and to
take good care also of yourself, but you must make her swear
solemnly by all the blessed gods that she will plot no further
mischief against you, or else when she has got you naked she
will unman you and make you fit for nothing.'

"As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground and shewed me
what it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as
white as milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot
uproot it, but the gods can do whatever they like.

"Then Mercury went back to high Olympus passing over the wooded
island; but I fared onward to the house of Circe, and my heart
was clouded with care as I walked along. When I got to the gates
I stood there and called the goddess, and as soon as she heard
me she came down, opened the door, and asked me to come in; so I
followed her--much troubled in my mind. She set me on a richly
decorated seat inlaid with silver, there was a footstool also
under my feet, and she mixed a mess in a golden goblet for me to
drink; but she drugged it, for she meant me mischief. When she
had given it me, and I had drunk it without its charming me, she
struck me with her wand. 'There now,' she cried, 'be off to the
pigstye, and make your lair with the rest of them.'

"But I rushed at her with my sword drawn as though I would kill
her, whereon she fell with a loud scream, clasped my knees, and
spoke piteously, saying, 'Who and whence are you? from what
place and people have you come? How can it be that my drugs have
no power to charm you? Never yet was any man able to stand so
much as a taste of the herb I gave you; you must be spell-proof;
surely you can be none other than the bold hero Ulysses, who
Mercury always said would come here some day with his ship while
on his way home from Troy; so be it then; sheathe your sword and
let us go to bed, that we may make friends and learn to trust
each other.'

"And I answered, 'Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly
with you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs?
And now that you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief
when you ask me to go to bed with you, and will unman me and
make me fit for nothing. I shall certainly not consent to go to
bed with you unless you will first take your solemn oath to plot
no further harm against me.'

"So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had
completed her oath then I went to bed with her.

"Meanwhile her four servants, who are her housemaids, set about
their work. They are the children of the groves and fountains,
and of the holy waters that run down into the sea. One of them
spread a fair purple cloth over a seat, and laid a carpet
underneath it. Another brought tables of silver up to the seats,
and set them with baskets of gold. A third mixed some sweet
wine with water in a silver bowl and put golden cups upon the
tables, while the fourth brought in water and set it to boil in
a large cauldron over a good fire which she had lighted. When
the water in the cauldron was boiling, {87} she poured cold into
it till it was just as I liked it, and then she set me in a bath
and began washing me from the cauldron about the head and
shoulders, to take the tire and stiffness out of my limbs. As
soon as she had done washing me and anointing me with oil, she
arrayed me in a good cloak and shirt and led me to a richly
decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also
under my feet. A maid servant then brought me water in a
beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a silver basin for me
to wash my hands, and she drew a clean table beside me; an upper
servant brought me bread and offered me many things of what
there was in the house, and then Circe bade me eat, but I would
not, and sat without heeding what was before me, still moody and
suspicious.

"When Circe saw me sitting there without eating, and in great
grief, she came to me and said, 'Ulysses, why do you sit like
that as though you were dumb, gnawing at your own heart, and
refusing both meat and drink? Is it that you are still
suspicious? You ought not to be, for I have already sworn
solemnly that I will not hurt you.'

"And I said, 'Circe, no man with any sense of what is right can
think of either eating or drinking in your house until you have
set his friends free and let him see them. If you want me to eat
and drink, you must free my men and bring them to me that I may
see them with my own eyes.'

"When I had said this she went straight through the court with
her wand in her hand and opened the pigstye doors. My men came
out like so many prime hogs and stood looking at her, but she
went about among them and anointed each with a second drug,
whereon the bristles that the bad drug had given them fell off,
and they became men again, younger than they were before, and
much taller and better looking. They knew me at once, seized me
each of them by the hand, and wept for joy till the whole house
was filled with the sound of their halloa-ballooing, and Circe
herself was so sorry for them that she came up to me and said,
'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, go back at once to the sea where
you have left your ship, and first draw it on to the land.
Then, hide all your ship's gear and property in some cave, and
come back here with your men.'

"I agreed to this, so I went back to the sea shore, and found
the men at the ship weeping and wailing most piteously. When
they saw me the silly blubbering fellows began frisking round me
as calves break out and gambol round their mothers, when they
see them coming home to be milked after they have been feeding
all day, and the homestead resounds with their lowing. They
seemed as glad to see me as though they had got back to their
own rugged Ithaca, where they had been born and bred. 'Sir,'
said the affectionate creatures, 'we are as glad to see you back
as though we had got safe home to Ithaca; but tell us all about
the fate of our comrades.'

"I spoke comfortingly to them and said, 'We must draw our ship
on to the land, and hide the ship's gear with all our property
in some cave; then come with me all of you as fast as you can to
Circe's house, where you will find your comrades eating and
drinking in the midst of great abundance.'

"On this the men would have come with me at once, but Eurylochus
tried to hold them back and said, 'Alas, poor wretches that we
are, what will become of us? Rush not on your ruin by going to
the house of Circe, who will turn us all into pigs or wolves or
lions, and we shall have to keep guard over her house. Remember
how the Cyclops treated us when our comrades went inside his
cave, and Ulysses with them. It was all through his sheer folly
that those men lost their lives.'

"When I heard him I was in two minds whether or no to draw the
keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh and cut his head off in
spite of his being a near relation of my own; but the men
interceded for him and said, 'Sir, if it may so be, let this
fellow stay here and mind the ship, but take the rest of us with
you to Circe's house.'

"On this we all went inland, and Eurylochus was not left behind
after all, but came on too, for he was frightened by the severe
reprimand that I had given him.

"Meanwhile Circe had been seeing that the men who had been left
behind were washed and anointed with olive oil; she had also
given them woollen cloaks and shirts, and when we came we found
them all comfortably at dinner in her house. As soon as the men
saw each other face to face and knew one another, they wept for
joy and cried aloud till the whole palace rang again. Thereon
Circe came up to me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes,
tell your men to leave off crying; I know how much you have all
of you suffered at sea, and how ill you have fared among cruel
savages on the mainland, but that is over now, so stay here, and
eat and drink till you are once more as strong and hearty as you
were when you left Ithaca; for at present you are weakened both
in body and mind; you keep all the time thinking of the
hardships you have suffered during your travels, so that you
have no more cheerfulness left in you.'

"Thus did she speak and we assented. We stayed with Circe for a
whole twelvemonth feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat
and wine. But when the year had passed in the waning of moons
and the long days had come round, my men called me apart and
said, 'Sir, it is time you began to think about going home, if
so be you are to be spared to see your house and native country
at all.'

"Thus did they speak and I assented. Thereon through the
livelong day to the going down of the sun we feasted our fill on
meat and wine, but when the sun went down and it came on dark
the men laid themselves down to sleep in the covered cloisters.
I, however, after I had got into bed with Circe, besought her by
her knees, and the goddess listened to what I had got to say.
'Circe,' said I, 'please to keep the promise you made me about
furthering me on my homeward voyage. I want to get back and so
do my men, they are always pestering me with their complaints as
soon as ever your back is turned.'

"And the goddess answered, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you
shall none of you stay here any longer if you do not want to,
but there is another journey which you have got to take before
you can sail homewards. You must go to the house of Hades and of
dread Proserpine to consult the ghost of the blind Theban
prophet Teiresias, whose reason is still unshaken. To him alone
has Proserpine left his understanding even in death, but the
other ghosts flit about aimlessly.'

"I was dismayed when I heard this. I sat up in bed and wept, and
would gladly have lived no longer to see the light of the sun,
but presently when I was tired of weeping and tossing myself
about, I said, 'And who shall guide me upon this voyage--for the
house of Hades is a port that no ship can reach.'

"'You will want no guide,' she answered; 'raise your mast, set
your white sails, sit quite still, and the North Wind will blow
you there of itself. When your ship has traversed the waters of
Oceanus, you will reach the fertile shore of Proserpine's
country with its groves of tall poplars and willows that shed
their fruit untimely; here beach your ship upon the shore of
Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark abode of Hades. You will
find it near the place where the rivers Pyriphlegethon and
Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx) flow into Acheron,
and you will see a rock near it, just where the two roaring
rivers run into one another.

"'When you have reached this spot, as I now tell you, dig a
trench a cubit or so in length, breadth, and depth, and pour
into it as a drink-offering to all the dead, first, honey mixed
with milk, then wine, and in the third place water--sprinkling
white barley meal over the whole. Moreover you must offer many
prayers to the poor feeble ghosts, and promise them that when
you get back to Ithaca you will sacrifice a barren heifer to
them, the best you have, and will load the pyre with good
things. More particularly you must promise that Teiresias shall
have a black sheep all to himself, the finest in all your
flocks.

"'When you shall have thus besought the ghosts with your
prayers, offer them a ram and a black ewe, bending their heads
towards Erebus; but yourself turn away from them as though you
would make towards the river. On this, many dead men's ghosts
will come to you, and you must tell your men to skin the two
sheep that you have just killed, and offer them as a burnt
sacrifice with prayers to Hades and to Proserpine. Then draw
your sword and sit there, so as to prevent any other poor ghost
from coming near the spilt blood before Teiresias shall have
answered your questions. The seer will presently come to you,
and will tell you about your voyage--what stages you are to
make, and how you are to sail the sea so as to reach your home.'

"It was day-break by the time she had done speaking, so she
dressed me in my shirt and cloak. As for herself she threw a
beautiful light gossamer fabric over her shoulders, fastening it
with a golden girdle round her waist, and she covered her head
with a mantle. Then I went about among the men everywhere all
over the house, and spoke kindly to each of them man by man:
'You must not lie sleeping here any longer,' said I to them, 'we
must be going, for Circe has told me all about it.' And on this
they did as I bade them.

"Even so, however, I did not get them away without misadventure.
We had with us a certain youth named Elpenor, not very
remarkable for sense or courage, who had got drunk and was lying
on the house-top away from the rest of the men, to sleep off his
liquor in the cool. When he heard the noise of the men bustling
about, he jumped up on a sudden and forgot all about coming down
by the main staircase, so he tumbled right off the roof and
broke his neck, and his soul went down to the house of Hades.

"When I had got the men together I said to them, 'You think you
are about to start home again, but Circe has explained to me
that instead of this, we have got to go to the house of Hades
and Proserpine to consult the ghost of the Theban prophet
Teiresias.'

"The men were broken-hearted as they heard me, and threw
themselves on the ground groaning and tearing their hair, but
they did not mend matters by crying. When we reached the sea
shore, weeping and lamenting our fate, Circe brought the ram and
the ewe, and we made them fast hard by the ship. She passed
through the midst of us without our knowing it, for who can see
the comings and goings of a god, if the god does not wish to be
seen?