View Full Version : Book VI

October 25th, 2007, 08:26 AM

So here Ulysses slept, overcome by sleep and toil; but Minerva
went off to the country and city of the Phaeacians--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 uncivilised, 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, {55}
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 and 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 {56} 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 Phaeacians. 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 find 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 off and find a husband somewhere else,
for she will not look at one of the many excellent young
Phaeacians who are in love 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 scandalised 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's 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 Phaeacians."

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.