Homer (fl. 850 B.C.). The Odyssey.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
Book VIIIThe next day’s entertainment of Odysseus, where he sees them contend in wrestling and other exercises, and upon provocation took up a greater stone than that which they were throwing, and overthrew them all. Alcinous and the lords give him presents. And how the king asked his name, his country, and his adventures.
‘Hither now get ye to the assembly, ye captains and counsellors of the Phaeacians, that ye may learn concerning the stranger, who hath lately come to the palace of wise Alcinous, in his wanderings over the deep, and his form is like the deathless gods.’
Therewith she aroused the spirit and desire of each one, and speedily the meeting-places and seats were filled with men that came to the gathering: yea, and many an one marvelled at the sight of the wise son of Laertes, for wondrous was the grace Athene poured upon his head and shoulders, and she made him greater and more mighty to behold, that he might win love and worship and honour among all the Phaeacians, and that he might accomplish many feats, wherein the Phaeacians made trial of Odysseus. Now when they were gathered and come together, Alcinous made harangue and spake among them:
‘Harken, ye captains and counsellors of the Phaeacians, and I will say that which my spirit within me bids me utter. This stranger, I know not who he is, hath come to my house in his wandering, whether from the men of the dawning or the westward, and he presses for a convoy, and prays that it be assured to him. So let us, as in time past, speed on the convoy. For never, nay never, doth any man who cometh to my house, abide here long in sorrow for want of help upon his way. Nay, come let us draw down a black ship to the fair salt sea, for her first voyage, and let them choose fifty and two noble youths throughout the township, who have been proved heretofore the best. And when ye have made fast the oars upon the benches, step all a shore, and thereafter come to our house, and quickly fall to feasting; and I will make good provision for all. To the noble youths I give this commandment; but ye others, sceptred kings, come to my fair dwelling, that we may entertain the stranger in the halls, and let no man make excuse. Moreover, bid hither the divine minstrel, Demodocus, for the god hath given minstrelsy to him as to none other, to make men glad in what way soever his spirit stirs him to sing.’
He spake and led the way, and the sceptred kings accompanied him, while the henchmen went for the divine minstrel. And chosen youths, fifty and two, departed at his command, to the shore of the unharvested sea. But after they had gone down to the ship and to the sea, first of all they drew the ship down to the deep water, and placed the mast and sails in the black ship, and fixed the oars in leathern loops, all orderly, and spread forth the white sails. And they moored her high out in the shore water, and thereafter went on their way to the great palace of the wise Alcinous. Now the galleries and the courts and the rooms were thronged with men that came to the gathering, for there were many, young and old. Then Alcinous sacrificed twelve sheep among them, and eight boars with flashing tusks, and two oxen with trailing feet. These they flayed and made ready, and dressed a goodly feast.
Then the henchman drew near, leading with him the beloved minstrel, whom the muse loved dearly, and she gave him both good and evil; of his sight she reft him, but granted him sweet song. Then Pontonous, the henchman, set for him a high chair inlaid with silver, in the midst of the guests, leaning it against the tall pillar, and he hung the loud lyre on a pin, close above his head, and showed him how to lay his hands on it. And close by him he placed a basket, and a fair table, and a goblet of wine by his side, to drink when his spirit bade him. So they stretched forth their hands upon the good cheer spread before them. But after they had put from them the desire of meat and drink, the Muse stirred the minstrel to sing the songs of famous men, even that lay whereof the fame had then reached the wide heaven, namely, the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles, son of Peleus; how once on a time they contended in fierce words at a rich festival of the gods, but Agamemnon, king of men, was inly glad when the noblest of the Achaeans fell at variance. For so Phoebus Apollo in his soothsaying had told him that it must be, in goodly Pytho, what time he crossed the threshold of stone, to seek to the oracle. For in those days the first wave of woe was rolling on Trojans and Danaans through the counsel of great Zeus.
This song it was that the famous minstrel sang; but Odysseus caught his great purple cloak with his stalwart hands, and drew it down over his head, and hid his comely face, for he was ashamed to shed tears beneath his brows in presence of the Phaeacians. Yea, and oft as the divine minstrel paused in his song, Odysseus would wipe away the tears, and draw the cloak from off his head, and take the two-handled goblet and pour forth before the gods. But whensoever he began again, and the chiefs of the Phaeacians stirred him to sing, in delight at the lay, again would Odysseus cover up his head and make moan. Now none of all the company marked him weeping, but Alcinous alone noted it and was ware thereof as he sat by him and heard him groaning heavily. And presently he spake among the Phaeacians, masters of the oar:
‘Hearken, ye captains and counsellors of the Phaeacians, now have our souls been satisfied with the good feast, and with the lyre, which is the mate of the rich banquet. Let us go forth anon, and make trial of divers games, that the stranger may tell his friends, when home he returneth, how greatly we excel all men in boxing, and wrestling, and leaping, and speed of foot.’
He spake, and led the way, and they went with him. And the henchman hung the loud lyre on the pin, and took the hand of Demodocus, and let him forth from the hall, and guided him by the same way, whereby those others, the chiefs of the Phaeacians, had gone to gaze upon the games. So they went on their way to the place of assembly, and with them a great company innumerable; and many a noble youth stood up to play. There rose Acroneus, and Ocyalus, and Elatreus, and Nauteus, and Prymneus, and Anchialus, and Eretmeus, and Ponteus, and Proreus, Thoon, and Anabesineus, and Amphialus, son of Polyneus, son of Tekton, and likewise Euryalus, the peer of murderous Ares, the son of Naubolus, who in face and form was goodliest of all the Phaeacians next to noble Laodamas. And there stood up the three sons of noble Alcinous, Laodamas, and Halius, and god-like Clytoneus. And behold, these all first tried the issue in the foot race. From the very start they strained at utmost speed: and all together they flew forward swiftly, raising the dust along the plain. And noble Clytoneus was far the swiftest of them all in running, and by the length of the furrow that mules cleave in a fallow field, so far did he shoot to the front, and came to the crowd by the lists, while those others were left behind. Then they made trial of strong wrestling, and here in turn Euryalus excelled all the best. And in leaping Amphialus was far the foremost, and Elatreus in weight-throwing, and in boxing Laodamas, the good son of Alcinous. Now when they had all taken their pleasure in the games, Laodamas, son of Alcinous, spake among them:
‘Come, my friends, let us ask the stranger whether he is skilled or practised in any sport. Ill fashioned, at least, he is not in his thighs and sinewy legs and hands withal, and his stalwart neck and mighty strength: yea and he lacks not youth, but is crushed by many troubles. For I tell thee there is nought else worse than the sea to confound a man, how hardy soever he may be.’
And Euryalus in turn made answer, and said: ‘Laodamas, verily thou hast spoken this word in season. Go now thyself and challenge him, and declare thy saying.’
Now when the good son of Alcinous heard this, he went and stood in the midst, and spake unto Odysseus: ‘Come, do thou too, father and stranger, try thy skill in the sports, if haply thou art practised in any; and thou art like to have knowledge of games, for there is no greater glory for a man while yet he lives, than that which he achieves by hand and foot. Come, then, make essay, and cast away care from thy soul: thy journey shall not now be long delayed; lo, thy ship is even now drawn down to the sea, and the men of thy company are ready.’
And Odysseus of many counsels answered him, saying: ‘Laodamas, wherefore do ye mock me, requiring this thing of me? Sorrow is far nearer my heart than sports, for much have I endured and laboured sorely in time past, and now I sit in this your gathering, craving my return, and making my prayer to the king and all the people.’
And Euryalus answered, and rebuked him to his face: ‘No truly, stranger, nor do I think thee at all like one that is skilled in games, whereof there are many among men, rather art thou such an one as comes and goes in a benched ship, a master of sailors that are merchantmen, one with a memory for his freight, or that hath the charge of a cargo homeward bound, and of greedily gotten gains; thou seemest not a man of thy hands.’
Then Odysseus of many counsels looked fiercely on him and said: ‘Stranger, thou hast not spoken well; thou art like a man presumptuous. So true it is that the gods do not give every gracious gift to all, neither shapeliness, nor wisdom, nor skilled speech. For one man is feebler than another in presence, yet the god crowns his words with beauty, and men behold him and rejoice, and his speech runs surely on his way with a sweet modesty, and he shines forth among the gathering of his people, and as he passes through the town men gaze on him as a god. Another again is like the deathless gods for beauty, but his words have no crown of grace about them; even as thou art in comeliness pre-eminent, nor could a god himself fashion thee for the better, but in wit thou art a weakling. Yet, thou hast stirred my spirit in my breast by speaking thus amiss. I am not all unversed in sports, as thy words go, but methinks I was among the foremost while as yet I trusted in my youth and my hands, but now am I holden in misery and pains: for I have endured much in passing through the wars of men and the grievous waves of the sea. Yet even so, for all my affliction, I will essay the games, for thy word hath bitten to the quick, and thou hast roused me with thy saying.’
He spake, and clad even as he was in his mantle leaped to his feet, and caught up a weight larger than the rest, a huge weight heavier far than those wherewith the Phaeacians contended in casting. With one whirl he sent it from his stout hand, and the stone flew hurtling: and the Phaeacians, of the long oars, those mariners renowned, crouched to earth beneath the rushing of the stone. Beyond all the marks it flew, so lightly it sped from his hand, and Athene in the fashion of a man marked the place, and spake and hailed him:
‘Yea, even a blind man, stranger, might discern that token if he groped for it, for it is in no wise lost among the throng of the others, but is far the first; for this bout then take heart: not one of the Phaeacians shall attain thereunto or overpass it.’
So spake she; and the steadfast goodly Odysseus rejoiced and was glad, for that he saw a true friend in the lists. Then with a lighter heart he spake amid the Phaeacians:
‘Now reach ye this throw, young men, if ye may; and soon methinks, will I cast another after it, as far or yet further. And whomsoever of the rest his heart and spirit stir thereto, hither let him come and try the issue with me, in boxing or in wrestling or even in the foot race, I care not which, for ye have greatly angered me: let any of all the Phaeacians come save Laodamas alone, for he is mine host: who would strive with one that entreated him kindly? Witless and worthless is the man, whoso challengeth his host that receiveth him in strange land, he doth but maim his own estate. But for the rest, I refuse none and hold none lightly, but I fain would know and prove them face to face. For I am no weakling in all sports, even in the feats of men. I know well how to handle the polished bow, and ever the first would I be to shoot and smite my man in the press of foes, even though many of my company stood by, and were aiming at the enemy. Alone Philoctetes in the Trojan land surpassed me with the bow in our Achaean archery. But I avow myself far more excellent than all besides, of the mortals that are now upon the earth and live by bread. Yet with the men of old time I would not match me, neither with Heracles nor with Eurytus of Oechalia, who contended even with the deathless gods for the prize of archery. Wherefore the great Eurytus perished all too soon, nor did old age come on him in his halls, for Apollo slew him in his wrath, seeing that he challenged him to shoot a match. And with the spear I can throw further than any other man can shoot as arrow. Only I doubt that in the foot race some of the Phaeacians may outstrip me, for I have been shamefully broken in many waters, seeing that there was no continual sustenance on board; wherefore my knees are loosened.’
So spake he and all kept silence; and Alcinous alone answered him, saying:
‘Stranger, forasmuch as these thy words are not ill-taken in our gathering, but thou wouldest fain show forth the valour which keeps thee company, being angry that yonder man stood by thee in the lists, and taunted thee, in such sort as no mortal would speak lightly of thine excellence, who had knowledge of sound words; nay now, mark my speech; so shalt thou have somewhat to tell another hero, when with thy wife and children thou suppest in thy halls, and recallest our prowess, what deeds Zeus bestoweth even upon us from our fathers’ days even until now. For we are no perfect boxers, nor wrestlers, but speedy runners, and the best of seamen; and dear to us ever is the banquet, and the harp, and the dance, and changes of raiment, and the warm bath, and love, and sleep. Lo, now arise, ye dancers of the Phaeacians, the best in the land, and make sport, that so the stranger may tell his friends, when he returneth home, how far we surpass all men besides in seamanship, and speed of foot, and in the dance and song. And let one go quickly, and fetch for Demodocus the loud lyre which is lying somewhere in our halls.’
So spake Alcinous the godlike, and the henchman rose to bear the hollow lyre from the king’s palace. Then stood up nine chosen men in all, the judges of the people, who were wont to order all things in the lists aright. So they levelled the place for the dance, and made a fair ring and a wide. And the henchman drew near bearing the loud lyre to Demodocus, who gat him into the midst, and round him stood boys in their first bloom, skilled in the dance, and they smote the good floor with their feet. And Odysseus gazed at the twinklings of the feet, and marvelled in spirit.
Now as the minstrel touched the lyre, he lifted up his voice in sweet song, and he sang of the love of Ares and Aphrodite, of the fair crown, how at the first they lay together in the house of Hephaestus privily; and Ares gave her many gifts, and dishonoured the marriage bed of the lord Hephaestus. And anon there came to him one to report the thing, even Helios, that had seen them at their pastime. Now when Hephaestus heard the bitter tidings, he went his way to the forge, devising evil in the deep of his heart, and set the great anvil on the stithy, and wrought fetters that none might snap or loosen, that the lovers might there unmoveably remain. Now when he had forged the crafty net in his anger against Ares, he went on his way to the chamber where his marriage bed was set out, and strewed his snares all about the posts of the bed, and many too were hung aloft from the main beam, subtle as spiders’ webs, so that none might see them, even of the blessed gods: so cunningly were they forged. Now after he had done winding the snare about the bed, he made as though he would go to Lemnos, that stablished castle, and this was far the dearest of all lands in his sight. But Ares of the golden rein kept no blind watch, what time he saw Hephaestus, the famed craftsman, depart afar. So he went on his way to the house of renowned Hephaestus, eager for the love of crowned Cytherea. Now she was but newly come from her sire, the mighty Cronion, and as it chanced had sat her down; and Ares entered the house, and clasped her hand, and spake, and hailed her:
‘Come, my beloved, let us to bed, and take our pleasure of love, for Hephaestus is no longer among his own people; methinks he is already gone to Lemnos, to the Sintians, men of savage speech.’
So spake he, and a glad thing it seemed to her to lie with him. So they twain went to the couch, and laid them to sleep, and around them clung the cunning bonds of skilled Hephaestus, so that they could not move nor raise a limb. Then at the last they knew it, when there was no way to flee. Now the famous god of the strong arms drew near to them, having turned him back ere he reached the land of Lemnos. For Helios had kept watch, and told him all. So heavy at heart he went his way to his house, and stood at the entering in of the gate, and wild rage gat hold of him, and he cried terribly, and shouted to all the gods:
‘Father Zeus, and ye other blessed gods, that live for ever, come hither, that ye may see a mirthful thing and a cruel, for that Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, ever dishonours me by reason of my lameness, and sets her heart on Ares the destroyer, because he is fair and straight of limb, but as for me, feeble was I born. Howbeit, there is none to blame but my father and mother,—would they had never begotten me! But now shall ye see where these have gone up into my bed, and sleep together in love; and I am troubled at the sight. Yet, methinks, they will not care to lie thus even for a little while longer, despite their great love. Soon will they have no desire to sleep together, but the snare and the bond shall hold them, till her sire give back to the gifts of wooing, one and all, those that I bestowed upon him for the hand of his shameless girl; for that his daughter is fair, but without discretion.’
So spake he; and lo, the gods gathered together to the house of the brazen floor. Poseidon came, the girdler of the earth, and Hermes came, the bringer of luck, and prince Apollo came, the archer. But the lady goddesses abode each within her house for shame. So the gods, the givers of good things, stood in the porch: and laughter unquenchable arose among the blessed gods, as they beheld the sleight of cunning Hephaestus. And thus would one speak, looking to his neighbour:
‘Ill deed, ill speed! The slow catcheth the swift. Lo, how Hephaestus, slow as he is, hath overtaken Ares, albeit he is the swiftest of the gods that hold Olympus, by his craft hath he taken him despite his lameness; wherefore surely Ares oweth the fine of the adulterer.’ Thus they spake one to the other. But the lord Apollo, son of Zeus, spake to Hermes:
‘Hermes, son of Zeus, messenger and giver of good things, wouldst thou be fain, aye, pressed by strong bonds though it might be, to lie on the couch by golden Aphrodite?’
Then the messenger, the slayer of Argos, answered him: ‘I would that this might be, Apollo, my prince of archery! So might thrice as many bonds innumerable encompass me about, and all ye gods be looking on and all the goddesses, yet would I lie by golden Aphrodite.’
So spake, he, and laughter rose among the deathless gods. Howbeit, Poseidon laughed not, but was instant with Hephaestus, the renowed artificer, to loose the bonds of Ares: and he uttered his voice, and spake to him winged words:
‘Loose him, I pray thee, and I promise even as thou biddest me, that he shall himself pay all fair forfeit in the presence of the deathless gods.’
Then the famous god of the strong arms answered him: “Require not this of me, Poseidon, girdler of the earth. Evil are evil folk’s pledges to hold. How could I keep thee bound among the deathless gods, if Ares were to depart, avoiding the debt and the bond?”
Then Poseidon answered him, shaker of the earth: ‘Hephaestus, even if Ares avoid the debt and flee away, I myself will pay thee all.’
Then the famous god of the strong arms answered him: ‘It may not be that I should say thee nay, neither is it meet.’
Therewith the mighty Hephaestus loosed the bonds, and the twain, when they were freed from that strong bond, sprang up straightway, and departed, he to Thrace, but laughter-loving Aphrodite went to Paphos of Cyprus, where is her precinct and fragrant altar. There the Graces bathed and anointed her with oil imperishable, such as it laid upon the everlasting gods. And they clad her in lovely raiment, a wonder to see.
This was the song the famous minstrel sang; and Odysseus listened and was glad at heart, and likewise did the Phaeacians, of the long oars, those mariners renowned.
Then Alcinous bade Halius and Laodamas dance alone, for none ever contended with them. So when they had taken in their hands the goodly ball of purple hue, that cunning Polybus had wrought for them, the one would bend backwards, and throw it towards the shadowy clouds; and the other would leap upward from the earth, and catch it lightly in his turn, before his feet touched the ground. Now after they had made trial of throwing the ball straight up, the twain set to dance upon the bounteous earth, tossing the ball from hand to hand, and the other youths stood by the lists and beat time, and a great din uprose.
Then it was that goodly Odysseus spake unto Alcinous: ‘My lord Alcinous, most notable among all the people, thou didst boast thy dancers to be the best in the world, and lo, thy words are fulfilled; I wonder as I look on them.’
So spake he, and the mighty king Alcinous rejoiced and spake at once among the Phaeacians, masters of the oar:
‘Hearken, ye captains and counsellors of the Phaeacians, this stranger seems to me a wise man enough. Come then, let us give him a stranger’s gift, as is meet. Behold, there are twelve glorious princes who rule among this people and bear sway, and I myself am the thirteenth. Now each man among you bring a fresh robe and a doublet, and a talent of fine gold, and let us speedily carry all these gifts together, that the stranger may take them in his hands, and go to supper with a glad heart. As for Euryalus, let him yield amends to the man himself with soft speech and with a gift, for his was no gentle saying.’
So spake he, and they all assented thereto, and would have it so. And each one sent forth his henchman to fetch his gift, and Euryalus answered the king and spake, saying:
‘My lord Alcinous, most notable among all the people, I will make atonement to thy guest according to thy word. I will give him a hanger all of bronze, with a silver hilt thereto, and a sheath of fresh-sawn ivory covers it about, and it shall be to him a thing of price.’
Therewith he puts into his hands the hanger dight with silver, and uttering his voice spake to him winged words: ‘Hail, stranger and father; and if aught grievous hath been spoken, may the storm-winds soon snatch and bear it away. But may the gods grant thee to see thy wife and come to thine own country, for all too long has thou endured affliction away from thy friends.’
And Odysseus of many counsels answered him saying: ‘Thou too, my friend, all hail; and may the gods vouchsafe thee happiness, and mayst thou never miss this sword which thou hast given me, thou that with soft speech hast yielded me amends.’
He spake and hung about his shoulders the silver-studded sword. And the sun sank, and the noble gifts were brought him. Then the proud henchmen bare them to the palace of Alcinous, and the sons of noble Alcinous took the fair gifts, and set them by their reverend mother. And the mighty king Alcinous led the way, and they came in and sat them down on the high seats. And the mighty Alcinous spake unto Arete:
‘Bring me hither, my lady, a choice coffer, the best thou hast, and thyself place therein a fresh robe and a doublet, and heat for our guest a cauldron on the fire, and warm water, that after the bath the stranger may see all the gifts duly arrayed which the noble Phaeacians bare hither, and that he may have joy in the feast, and in hearing the song of the minstrelsy. Also I will give him a beautiful golden chalice of mine own, that he may be mindful of me all the days of his life when he poureth the drink-offering to Zeus and to the other gods.’
So spake he, and Arete bade her handmaids to set a great cauldron on the fire with what speed they might. And they set the cauldron for the filing of the bath on the blazing fire, and poured water therein, and took faggots and kindled them beneath. So the fire began to circle round the belly of the cauldron, and the water waxed hot. Meanwhile Arete brought forth for her guest the beautiful coffer from the treasure chamber, and bestowed fair gifts therein, raiment and gold, which the Phaeacians gave him. And with her own hands she placed therein a robe and goodly doublet, and uttering her voice spake to him winged words:
‘Do thou now look to the lid, and quickly tie the knot, lest any man spoil thy goods by the way, when presently thou fallest on sweet sleep travelling in thy black ship.’
Now when the steadfast goodly Odysseus heard his saying, forthwith he fixed on the lid, and quickly tied the curious knot which the lady Circe on a time had taught him. Then straightway the housewife bade him go to the bath and bathe him, and he saw the warm water and was glad, for he was not wont to be so cared for, from the day that he left the house of fair-tressed Calypso, but all that while he had comfort continually as a god.
Now after the maids had bathed him and anointed him with olive oil, and had cast a fair mantle and a doublet upon him, he stept forth from the bath, and went to be with the chiefs at their wine. And Nausicaa, dowered with beauty by the gods, stood by the pillar of the well-builded hall, and marvelled at Odysseus, beholding him before her eyes, and she uttered her voice and spake to him winged words:
‘Farewell, stranger, and even in thine own country bethink thee of me upon a time, for that to me first thou owest the ransom of life.’And Odysseus of many counsels answered her saying: ‘Nausicaa, daughter of great-hearted Alcinous, yea, may Zeus, the thunderer, the lord of Here, grant me to reach my home and see the day of my returning; so would I, even there, do thee worship as to a god, all my days for evermore, for thou, lady, hast given me my life.’
He spake and sat him in the high seat by king Alcinous. And now they were serving out the portions and mixing the wine. Then the henchmen drew nigh leading the sweet minstrel, Demodocus, that was had in honour of the people. So he set him in the midst of the feasters, and made him lean against a tall column. Then to the henchman spake Odysseus of many counsels, for he had cut off a portion of the chine of a white-toothed boar, whereon yet more was left, with rich fat on either side:
‘Lo, henchman, take this mess, and hand it to Demodocus, that he may eat, and I will bid him hail, despite my sorrow. For minstrels from all men on earth get their meed of honour and worship; inasmuch as the Muse teacheth them the paths of song, and loveth the tribe of minstrels.’
Thus he spake, and the henchman bare the mess, and set it upon the knees of the lord Demodocus, and he took it, and was glad at heart. Then they stretched forth their hands upon the good cheer set before them. Now after they had put from them the desire of meat and drink, then Odysseus of many counsels spake to Demodocus, saying:
‘Demodocus, I praise thee far above all mortal men, whether it be the Muse, the daughter of Zeus, that taught thee, or even Apollo, for right duly dost thou chant the faring of the Achaeans, even all that they wrought and suffered, and all their travail, as if, methinks, thou hadst been present, or heard the tale from another. Come now, change thy strain, and sing of the fashioning of the horse of wood, which Epeius made by the aid of Athene, even the guileful thing, that goodly Odysseus led up into the citadel, when he had laden it with the men who wasted Ilios. If thou wilt indeed rehearse me this aright, so will I be thy witness among all men, how the god of his grace hath given thee the gift of wondrous song.’
So spake he, and the minstrel, being stirred by the god, began and showed forth his minstrelsy. He took up the tale where it tells how the Argives of the one part set fire to their huts, and went aboard their decked ships and sailed away, while those others, the fellowship of renowned Odysseus, were now seated in the assembly-place of the Trojans, all hidden in the horse, for the Trojans themselves had dragged him to the citadel. So the horse stood there, while seated all around him the people spake many things confusedly and three ways their counsel looked; either to cleave the hollow timber with the pitiless spear, or to drag it to the brow of the hill, and hurl it from the rocks, or to leave it as a mighty offering to appease the gods. And on this wise it was to be at the last. For the doom was on them to perish when their city should have closed upon the great horse of wood, wherein sat all the bravest of the Argives, bearing to the Trojans death and destiny. And he sang how the sons of the Achaeans poured forth from the horse, and left the hollow lair, and sacked the burg. And he sang how and where each man wasted the town, and of Odysseus, how he went like Ares to the house of Deiphobus with godlike Menelaus. It was there, he said, that Odysseus adventured the most grievous battle, and in the end prevailed, by grace of great-hearted Athene.
This was the song that the famous minstrel sang. But the heart of Odysseus melted, and the tear wet his cheeks beneath the eye-lids. And as a woman throws herself wailing about her dead lord, who hath fallen before his city and the host, warding from his town and his children the pitiless day; and she beholds him dying and drawing difficult breath, and embracing his body wails aloud, while the foemen behind smite her with spears on back and shoulders and lead her up into bondage to bear labour and trouble, and with the most pitiful grief her cheeks are wasted; even so pitifully fell the tears beneath the brows of Odysseus. Now none of all the company marked him weeping; but Alcinous alone noted it, and was ware thereof, as he sat nigh him and heard him groaning heavily. And presently he spake among the Phaeacians, masters of the oar:
‘Hearken, ye captains and counsellors of the Phaeacians, and now let Demodocus hold his hand from the loud lyre, for this song of his is nowise pleasing alike to all. From the time that we began to sup, and that the divine minstrel was moved to sing, ever since hath yonder stranger never ceased from woeful lamentation: sore grief, methinks, hath encompassed his heart. Nay, but let the minstrel cease, that we may all alike make merry, hosts and guest, since it is far meeter so. For all these things are ready for the sake of the honourable stranger, even the convoy and the loving gifts which we give him out of our love. In a brother’s place stand the stranger and the suppliant, to him whose wits have even a little range, wherefore do thou too hide not now with crafty purpose aught whereof I ask thee; it were more meet for thee to tell it out. Say, what is the name whereby they called thee at home, even thy father and thy mother, and others thy townsmen and the dwellers round about? For there is none of all mankind nameless, neither the mean man nor yet the noble, from the first hour of his birth, but parents bestow a name on every man so soon as he is born. Tell me too of thy land, thy township, and thy city, that our ships may conceive of their course to bring thee thither. For the Phaeacians have no pilots nor any rudders after the manner of other ships, but their barques themselves understand the thoughts and intents of men; they know the cities and fat fields of every people, and most swiftly they traverse the gulf of the salt sea, shrouded in mist and cloud, and never do they go in fear of wreck or ruin. Howbeit I heard upon a time this word thus spoken by my father Nausithous, who was wont to say that Poseidon was jealous of us for that we give safe escort to all men. He said that the god would some day smite a well-wrought ship of the Phaeacians as she came home from a convoy over the misty deep, and would overshadow our city with a great mountain. Thus that ancient one would speak, and thus the god may bring it about, or leave it undone, according to the good pleasure of his will. But come now, declare me this and plainly tell it all; whither wast thou borne wandering, and to what shores of men thou camest; tell me of the people and of their fair-lying cities, of those whoso are hard and wild and unjust, and of those likewise who are hospitable and of a god-fearing mind. Declare, too, wherefore thou dost weep and mourn in spirit at the tale of the faring of the Argive Danaans and the lay of Ilios. All this the gods have fashioned, and have woven the skein of death for men, that there might be a song in the ears even of the folk of aftertime. Hadst thou even a kinsman by marriage that fell before Ilios, a true man, a daughter’s husband or wife’s father, such as are nearest us after those of our own stock and blood? Or else, may be, some loving friend, a good man and true; for a friend with an understanding heart is no whit worse than a brother.’