Odysseus (page 704)

Chapter 17, The Return from Troy

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Homer, Odyssey 10.19-36

He gave me a wallet, made of the hide of an ox nine years old, which he flayed, [20] and therein he bound the paths of the blustering winds; for the son of Cronos had made him keeper of the winds, both to still and to rouse whatever one he will. And in my hollow ship he bound it fast with a bright cord of silver, that not a breath might escape, were it never so slight. [25] But for my furtherance he sent forth the breath of the West Wind to blow, that it might bear on their way both ships and men. Yet this he was not to bring to pass, for we were lost through our own folly. “For nine days we sailed, night and day alike, and now on the tenth our native land came in sight, [30] and lo, we were so near that we saw men tending the beacon fires. Then upon me came sweet sleep in my weariness, for I had ever kept in hand the sheet of the ship, and had yielded it to none other of my comrades, that we might the sooner come to our native land. But my comrades meanwhile began to speak one to another, [35] and said that I was bringing home for myself gold and silver as gifts from Aeolus, the great-hearted son of Hippotas.  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.47-75

They loosed the wallet, and all the winds leapt forth, and swiftly the storm-wind seized them and bore them weeping out to sea away from their native land; but as for me, [50] I awoke, and pondered in my goodly heart whether I should fling myself from the ship and perish in the sea, or endure in silence and still remain among the living. However, I endured and abode, and covering my head lay down in the ship. But the ships were borne by an evil blast of wind [55] back to the Aeolian isle; and my comrades groaned. “There we went ashore and drew water, and straightway my comrades took their meal by the swift ships. But when we had tasted of food and drink, I took with me a herald and one companion [60] and went to the glorious palace of Aeolus, and I found him feasting beside his wife and his children. So we entered the house and sat down by the doorposts on the threshold, and they were amazed at heart, and questioned us: “‘How hast thou come hither, Odysseus? What cruel god assailed thee? [65] Surely we sent thee forth with kindly care, that thou mightest reach thy native land and thy home, and whatever place thou wouldest.’ “So said they, but I with a sorrowing heart spoke among them and said: ‘Bane did my evil comrades work me, and therewith sleep accursed; but bring ye healing, my friends, for with you is the power.’ [70] “So I spoke and addressed them with gentle words, but they were silent. Then their father answered and said: “‘Begone from our island with speed, thou vilest of all that live. In no wise may I help or send upon his way that man who is hated of the blessed gods. [75] Begone, for thou comest hither as one hated of the immortals.’  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.80-124

So for six days we sailed, night and day alike, and on the seventh we came to the lofty citadel of Lamus, even to Telepylus of the Laestrygonians, where herdsman calls to herdsman as he drives in his flock, and the other answers as he drives his forth. There a man who never slept could have earned a double wage, [85] one by herding cattle, and one by pasturing white sheep; for the out goings of the night and of the day are close together. When we had come thither into the goodly harbor, about which on both sides a sheer cliff runs continuously, and projecting headlands opposite to one another [90] stretch out at the mouth, and the entrance is narrow, then all the rest steered their curved ships in, and the ships were moored within the hollow harbor close together; for therein no wave ever swelled, great or small, but all about was a bright calm. [95] But I alone moored my black ship outside, there on the border of the land, making the cables fast to the rock. Then I climbed to a rugged height, a point of outlook, and there took my stand; from thence no works of oxen or of men appeared; smoke alone we saw springing up from the land. [100] So then I sent forth some of my comrades to go and learn who the men were, who here ate bread upon the earth—two men I chose, and sent with them a third as a herald.  Continue Reading Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.125-132

Now while they were slaying those within the deep harbor, I meanwhile drew my sharp sword from beside my thigh, and cut therewith the cables of my dark-prowed ship; and quickly calling to my comrades bade them fall to their oars, that we might escape from out our evil plight. [130] And they all tossed the sea with their oar-blades in fear of death, and joyfully seaward, away from the beetling cliffs, my ship sped on; but all those other ships were lost together there.  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.133-39

Thence we sailed on, grieved at heart, glad to have escaped death, though we had lost our dear comrades; [135] and we came to the isle of Aeaea, where dwelt fair-tressed Circe, a dread goddess of human speech, own sister to Aeetes of baneful mind; and both are sprung from Helius, who gives light to mortals, and from Perse, their mother, whom Oceanus begot.  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.203-45

Then I told off in two bands all my well-greaved comrades, and appointed a leader for each band. [205] Of the one I took command, and of the other godlike Eurylochus. Quickly then we shook lots in a brazen helmet, and out leapt the lot of great-hearted Eurylochus. So he set out, and with him went two-and-twenty comrades, all weeping; and they left us behind, lamenting. [210] Within the forest glades they found the house of Circe, built of polished stone in a place of wide outlook,1 and round about it were mountain wolves and lions, whom Circe herself had bewitched; for she gave them evil drugs. Yet these beasts did not rush upon my men, [215] but pranced about them fawningly, wagging their long tails. And as when hounds fawn around their master as he comes from a feast, for he ever brings them bits to soothe their temper, so about them fawned the stout-clawed wolves and lions; but they were seized with fear, as they saw the dread monsters.  Continue Reading  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.270-308

So he spoke, but I answered him, and said: ‘Eurylochus, do thou stay here in this place, eating and drinking by the hollow, black ship; but I will go, for strong necessity is laid upon me.’ “So saying, I went up from the ship and the sea. [275] But when, as I went through the sacred glades, I was about to come to the great house of the sorceress, Circe, then Hermes, of the golden wand, met me as I went toward the house, in the likeness of a young man with the first down upon his lip, in whom the charm of youth is fairest. [280] He clasped my hand, and spoke, and addressed me: “‘Whither now again, hapless man, dost thou go alone through the hills, knowing naught of the country? Lo, thy comrades yonder in the house of Circe are penned like swine in close-barred sties. And art thou come to release them? Nay, I tell thee, thou shalt not [285] thyself return, but shalt remain there with the others. But come, I will free thee from harm, and save thee. Here, take this potent herb, and go to the house of Circe, and it shall ward off from thy head the evil day. And I will tell thee all the baneful wiles of Circe. [290] She will mix thee a potion, and cast drugs into the food; but even so she shall not be able to bewitch thee, for the potent herb that I shall give thee will not suffer it. And I will tell thee all. When Circe shall smite thee with her long wand, then do thou draw thy sharp sword from beside thy thigh, [295] and rush upon Circe, as though thou wouldst slay her. And she will be seized with fear, and will bid thee lie with her. Then do not thou thereafter refuse the couch of the goddess, that she may set free thy comrades, and give entertainment to thee. But bid her swear a great oath by the blessed gods, [300] that she will not plot against thee any fresh mischief to thy hurt, lest when she has thee stripped she may render thee a weakling and unmanned.’ So saying, Argeiphontes gave me the herb, drawing it from the ground, and showed me its nature. At the root it was black, but its flower was like milk. [305] Moly the gods call it, and it is hard for mortal men to dig; but with the gods all things are possible. Hermes then departed to high Olympus through the wooded isle, and I went my way to the house of Circe.  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.310-45

So I stood at the gates of the fair-tressed goddess. There I stood and called, and the goddess heard my voice. Straightway then she came forth, and opened the bright doors, and bade me in; and I went with her, my heart sore troubled. She brought me in and made me sit on a silver-studded chair, [315] a beautiful chair, richly wrought, and beneath was a foot-stool for the feet. And she prepared me a potion in a golden cup, that I might drink, and put therein a drug, with evil purpose in her heart. But when she had given it me, and I had drunk it off, yet was not bewitched, she smote me with her wand, and spoke, and addressed me: [320] ‘Begone now to the sty, and lie with the rest of thy comrades.’ “So she spoke, but I, drawing my sharp sword from beside my thigh, rushed upon Circe, as though I would slay her. But she, with a loud cry, ran beneath, and clasped my knees, and with wailing she spoke to me winged words: [325] “‘Who art thou among men, and from whence? Where is thy city, and where thy parents? Amazement holds me that thou hast drunk this charm and wast in no wise bewitched. For no man else soever hath withstood this charm, when once he has drunk it, and it has passed the barrier of his teeth. Nay, but the mind in thy breast is one not to be beguiled. [330] Surely thou art Odysseus, the man of ready device, who Argeiphontes of the golden wand ever said to me would come hither on his way home from Troy with his swift, black ship. Nay, come, put up thy sword in its sheath, and let us two then go up into my bed, that couched together [335] in love we may put trust in each other.’ “So she spoke, but I answered her, and said:‘Circe, how canst thou bid me be gentle to thee, who hast turned my comrades into swine in thy halls, and now keepest me here, and with guileful purpose biddest me [340] go to thy chamber, and go up into thy bed, that when thou hast me stripped thou mayest render me a weakling and unmanned? Nay, verily, it is not I that shall be fain to go up into thy bed, unless thou, goddess, wilt consent to swear a mighty oath that thou wilt not plot against me any fresh mischief to my hurt.’ So I spoke, and she straightway swore the oath to do me no harm, as I bade her. Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.382-96

So she spoke, but I answered her, and said: ‘Circe, what man that is right-minded could bring himself to taste of food or drink, [385] ere yet he had won freedom for his comrades, and beheld them before his face? But if thou of a ready heart dost bid me eat and drink, set them free, that mine eyes may behold my trusty comrades.’  “So I spoke, and Circe went forth through the hall holding her wand in her hand, and opened the doors of the sty, [390] and drove them out in the form of swine of nine years old. So they stood there before her, and she went through the midst of them, and anointed each man with another charm. Then from their limbs the bristles fell away which the baneful drug that queenly Circe gave them had before made to grow, [395] and they became men again, younger than they were before, and far comelier and taller to look upon.  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.446-52

So saying, they went up from the ship and the sea. Nor was Eurylochus left beside the hollow ship, but he went with us, for he feared my dread reproof. “Meanwhile in her halls Circe [450] bathed the rest of my comrades with kindly care, and anointed them richly with oil, and cast about them fleecy cloaks and tunics; and we found them all feasting bountifully in the halls.  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.467-74

So there day after day for a full year we abode, feasting on abundant flesh and sweet wine. But when a year was gone and the seasons turned, [470] as the months waned and the long days were brought in their course, then my trusty comrades called me forth, and said: “‘Strange man, bethink thee now at last of thy native land, if it is fated for thee to be saved, and to reach thy high-roofed house and thy native land.’  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.480-93

but I went up to the beautiful bed of Circe, and besought her by her knees; and the goddess heard my voice, and I spoke, and addressed her with winged words: “‘Circe, fulfil for me the promise which thou gavest to send me home; for my spirit is now eager to be gone, [485] and the spirit of my comrades, who make my heart to pine, as they sit about me mourning, whensoever thou haply art not at hand.’ “So I spoke, and the beautiful goddess straightway made answer: ‘Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, abide ye now no longer in my house against your will; [490] but you must first complete another journey, and come to the house of Hades and dread Persephone, to seek soothsaying of the spirit of Theban Teiresias, the blind seer, whose mind abides steadfast.  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 10.551-61

But not even from thence could I lead my men unscathed. There was one, Elpenor, the youngest of all, not over valiant in war nor sound of understanding, who had laid him down apart from his comrades in the sacred house of Circe, [555] seeking the cool air, for he was heavy with wine. He heard the noise and the bustle of his comrades as they moved about, and suddenly sprang up, and forgot to go to the long ladder that he might come down again, but fell headlong from the roof, and his neck [560] was broken away from the spine, and his spirit went down to the house of Hades.  Greek Text

Homer, Odyssey 11

“But when we had come down to the ship and to the sea, first of all we drew the ship down to the bright sea, and set the mast and sail in the black ship, and took the sheep and put them aboard, [5] and ourselves embarked, sorrowing, and shedding big tears. And for our aid in the wake of our dark-prowed ship a fair wind that filled the sail, a goodly comrade, was sent by fair-tressed Circe, dread goddess of human speech. So when we had made fast all the tackling throughout the ship, [10] we sat down, and the wind and the helms man made straight her course. All the day long her sail was stretched as she sped over the sea; and the sun set and all the ways grew dark. “She came to deep-flowing Oceanus, that bounds the Earth,1 where is the land and city of the Cimmerians, [15] wrapped in mist and cloud. Never does the bright sun look down on them with his rays either when he mounts the starry heaven or when he turns again to earth from heaven, but baneful night is spread over wretched mortals. [20] Thither we came and beached our ship, and took out the sheep, and ourselves went beside the stream of Oceanus until we came to the place of which Circe had told us. “Here Perimedes and Eurylochus held the victims, while I drew my sharp sword from beside my thigh, [25] and dug a pit of a cubit’s length this way and that, and around it poured a libation to all the dead, first with milk and honey, thereafter with sweet wine, and in the third place with water, and I sprinkled thereon white barley meal. And I earnestly entreated the powerless heads of the dead, [30] vowing that when I came to Ithaca I would sacrifice in my halls a barren heifer, the best I had, and pile the altar with goodly gifts, and to Teiresias alone would sacrifice separately a ram, wholly black, the goodliest of my flocks. But when with vows and prayers [35] I had made supplication to the tribes of the dead, I took the sheep and cut their throats over the pit, and the dark blood ran forth. Then there gathered from out of Erebus the spirits of those that are dead, brides, and unwedded youths, and toil-worn old men, and tender maidens with hearts yet new to sorrow, [40] and many, too, that had been wounded with bronze-tipped spears, men slain in fight, wearing their blood-stained armour. These came thronging in crowds about the pit from every side, with a wondrous cry; and pale fear seized me. Then I called to my comrades and bade them flay and burn [45] the sheep that lay there slain with the pitiless bronze, and to make prayer to the gods, to mighty Hades and dread Persephone. And I myself drew my sharp sword from beside my thigh and sat there, and would not suffer the powerless heads of the dead [50] to draw near to the blood until I had enquired of TeiresiasContinue Reading  Greek Text

 

Edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, April 2023

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