Book X

Aeolus, the Lestrigonians, and Circè

Arrival of Ulysses at the land of Aeolus, who gives him the winds in a bag⁠—Folly of the seamen, who untie the bag while Ulysses is asleep⁠—A tempest⁠—Disastrous encounter with the gigantic laestrigons⁠—Arrival at the island of Circè⁠—Transformation of the Greeks to swine, and recovery of their former shape⁠—Preparations for a journey to the region of the dead.

“We reached the Aeolian isle, where Aeolus,
Dear to the gods, a son of Hippotas,
Made his abode. It was a floating isle;
A wall of brass enclosed it, and smooth rocks
Edged it around. Twelve children in his halls
Were born, six daughters and six blooming sons;
He gave his daughters to his sons for wives.
And they with their dear father and his queen
Banquet from day to day, with endless change
Of meats before them. In his halls all day
The sound of pipes is in the perfumed air;
At night the youths beside their modest wives
Sleep on fair couches spread with tapestry.
So coming to his town and fair abode,
I found a friendly welcome. One full month
The monarch kept me with him, and inquired
Of all that might concern the fate of Troy,
The Argive fleet, and the return to Greece,
And just as it befell I told him all.
And when I spake to him of going thence,
And prayed him to dismiss me, he complied,
And helped to make us ready for the sea.
The bladder of a bullock nine years old
He gave, in which he had compressed and bound
The stormy winds of air; for Saturn’s son
Had given him empire o’er the winds, with power
To calm them or to rouse them at his will.
This in our roomy galley he made fast
With a bright chain of silver, that no breath
Of ruder air might blow. He only left
The west wind free to waft our ships and us
Upon our way. But that was not to be;
We perished by a folly of our own.

“Nine days we held our way, both day and night;
And now appeared in sight our native fields
On the tenth night, where on the shore we saw
Men kindling fires. Meantime a pleasant sleep
Had overcome my weary limbs, for long
Had I been guiding with incessant toil
The rudder, nor would trust it to the hand
Of any other, such was my desire
To reach our country by the shortest way.
Then talked my crew among themselves, and said
That I had brought with me from Aeolus,
The large-souled son of Hippotas, rich gifts
Of gold and silver. Standing side by side
And looking at each other, thus they said:⁠—

“ ‘How wonderfully is our chief revered
And loved by all men, wander where he will
Into what realm soever! From the coast
Of Troy he sailed with many precious things,
His share of spoil, while we, who with him went
And with him came, are empty-handed yet;
And now hath Aeolus, to show how much
He prizes him, bestowed the treasures here.
Come, let us see them; let us know how much
Of gold and silver is concealed in this.’

“Thus speaking to each other, they obeyed
The evil counsel. They untied the sack,
And straight the winds rushed forth and seized the ship,
And swept the crews, lamenting bitterly,
Far from their country out upon the deep;
And then I woke, and in my noble mind
Bethought me whether I should drop at once
Into the deep and perish, or remain
And silently endure and keep my place
Among the living. I remained, endured,
And covered with my mantle lay within
My galley, while the furious whirlwind bore
Back to the Aeolian isle our groaning crews.

“We landed on the coast, and to our barques
Brought water. Then my men prepared a meal
Beside the fleet; and having tasted food
And wine, I took a herald and a friend,
And, hastening to the sumptuous palace-halls
Of Aeolus, I found him with his wife
And children banqueting. We sat us down
Upon the threshold at the palace-doors,
And they were all astonished, and inquired:⁠—

“ ‘Why art thou here? What god thine enemy
Pursues thee, O Ulysses! whom we sent
So well prepared to reach thy native land,
Thy home, or any place that pleased thee most?’

“They spake, and sorrowfully I replied:⁠—
‘The fault is all with my unthinking crew
And my own luckless slumber. Yet, my friends,
Repair the mischief, for ye have the power.’

“Thus with submissive words I spake, but they
Sat mute, the father only answered me:⁠—

“ ‘Hence with thee! Leave our island instantly,
Vilest of living men! It may not be
That I receive or aid as he departs
One who is hated by the blessed gods⁠—
And thou art hated by the gods. Away!’

“He spake, and sent us from the palace-door
Lamenting. Sorrowfully went we on.
And now with rowing hard and long⁠—the fruit
Of our own folly⁠—all our crews lost heart,
And every hope of safe return was gone.

“Six days and nights we sailed; the seventh we came
To lofty Laestrigoni with wide gates,
The city of Lamos, where, on going forth,
The shepherd calls to shepherd entering in.
There might a man who never yields to sleep
Earn double wages, first in pasturing herds,
And then in tending sheep; for there the fields
Grazed in the daytime are by others grazed
At night. We reached its noble haven, girt
By towering rocks that rise on every side,
And the bold shores run out to form its mouth⁠—
A narrow entrance. There the other crews
Stationed their barques, and moored them close beside
Each other, in that hill-encircled port.
No billow, even the smallest, rises there;
The water glimmers with perpetual calm.
I only kept my dark-hulled ship without,
And bound its cable to a jutting rock.

“I climbed a rugged headland, and looked forth.
No marks of tilth appeared, the work of men
Or oxen, only smokes that from below
Rose in the air. And then I sent forth scouts
To learn what race of men who live by bread
Inhabited the land. Two chosen men
I sent, a herald made the third; and these
Went inland by a level path, on which
The wains brought fuel from the woody heights
Into the city. On their way they met,
Before the town, a damsel with an ewer⁠—
The stately daughter of Antiphates,
The Laestrigonian, who was coming down
To where Artacia’s smoothly flowing fount
Gave water for the city. They drew near
And spake, and asked her who was sovereign there,
And who his people. Straight she pointed out
A lofty pile in which her father dwelt.
They entered that proud palace, and beheld,
Tall as a mountain peak, the monarch’s wife,
And shuddered at the sight. With eager haste
She called her husband, King Antiphates,
From council. With a murderous intent
He came, and, seizing one of my poor friends,
Devoured him, while the other two betook
Themselves to sudden flight and reached the ships.
And then he raised a fearful yell that rang
Through all the city. The strong Laestrigons
Rushed forth by thousands from all sides, more like
To giants than to common men. They hurled
Stones of enormous weight from cliffs above,
And cries of those who perished and the crash
Of shattered galleys rose. They speared our friends
Like fishes for their horrid feasts, and thus
Bore them away. While those within the port
Were slaughtered, drawing my good sword I cut
The hawsers fastened to my ship’s blue prow,
And cheered my men, and bade them fling themselves
Upon the oars, that so we might escape
Our threatened fate. They heard, and plied their oars
Like men who rowed for life. The galley shot
Forth from these beetling rocks into the sea
Full gladly; all the others perished there.

“Onward we sailed, with sorrow in our hearts
For our lost friends, though glad to be reprieved
From death. And now we landed at an isle⁠—
Aeaea, where the fair-haired Circè dwelt,
A goddess high in rank and skilled in song,
Own sister of the wise Aeaetes. Both
Were children of the source of light, the Sun,
And Persè, Ocean’s daughter, brought them forth.
We found a haven here, where ships might lie;
And guided by some deity we brought
Our galley silently against the shore,
And disembarked, and gave two days and nights
To rest, unmanned with hardship and with grief.

“When bright-haired Morning brought the third day round,
I took my spear and my good sword, and left
The ship, and climbed a height, in hope to spy
Some trace of human toil, or hear some voice.
On a steep precipice I stood, and saw
From the broad earth below a rising smoke,
Where midst the thickets and the forest-ground
Stood Circè’s palace. Seeing that dark smoke,
The thought arose within my mind that there
I should inquire. I pondered till at last
This seemed the wisest⁠—to return at once
To my good ship upon the ocean-side,
And give my crew their meal, and send them forth
To view the region. Coming to the spot
Where lay my well-oared barque, some pitying god
Beneath whose eye I wandered forth alone
Sent a huge stag into my very path,
High-horned, which from his pasture in the wood
Descended to the riverside to drink,
For grievously he felt the hot sun’s power.
Him as he ran I smote; the weapon pierced,
Just at the spine, the middle of his back.
The brazen blade passed through, and with a moon
He fell amid the dust, and yielded up
His life. I went to him, and set my foot
Against him, and plucked forth the brazen spear,
And left it leaning there. And then I broke
Lithe osiers from the shrubs, and twined of these
A rope, which, doubled, was an ell in length.
With that I tied the enormous creature’s feet,
And slung him on my neck, and brought him thus
To my black ship. I used the spear to prop
My steps, since he no longer could be borne
Upon the shoulder, aided by the hand,
Such was the animal’s bulk. I flung him down
Before the ship, encouraging my men
With cheerful words, and thus I said to each:⁠—

“ ‘My friends, we will not, wretched as we are,
Go down to Pluto’s realm before our time.
While food and wine are yet within the hold
Of our good galley, let us not forget
Our daily meals, and famine-stricken pine.’

“I spake; they all obeyed, and at my word
Came forth, and standing by the barren deep
Admired the stag, for he was huge of bulk;
And when their eyes were tired with wondering,
My people washed their hands, and soon had made
A noble banquet ready. All that day
Till set of sun we sat and feasted there
Upon the abundant meat and delicate wine;
And when the sun went down, and darkness came,
We slept upon the shore. But when the Morn,
The rosy-fingered child of Dawn, looked forth,
I called a council of my men and spake:⁠—

“ ‘Give ear, my friends, amid your sufferings,
To words that I shall say. We cannot here
Know which way lies the west, nor where the east,
Nor where the sun, that shines for all mankind,
Descends below the earth, nor where again
He rises from it. Yet will we consult,
If room there be for counsel⁠—which I doubt,
For when I climbed that height I overlooked
An isle surrounded by the boundless deep⁠—
An isle low lying. In the midst I saw
Smoke rising from a thicket of the wood.’

“I spake; their courage died within their hearts
As they remembered what Antiphates,
The Laestrigon, had done, and what foul deeds
The cannibal Cyclops, and they wept aloud.
Tears flowed abundantly, but tears were now
Of no avail to our unhappy band.

“Numbering my well-armed men, I made of them
Two equal parties, giving each its chief.
Myself commanded one; Eurylochus,
The hero, took the other in his charge.

“Then in a brazen helm we shook the lots;
The lot of brave Eurylochus leaped forth,
And he with two-and-twenty of our men
Went forward with quick steps, and yet in tears,
While we as sorrowful were left behind.

“They found the fair abode where Circè dwelt,
A palace of hewn stone within the vale,
Yet nobly seated. There were mountain wolves
And lions round it, which herself had tamed
With powerful drugs; yet these assaulted not
The visitors, but, wagging their long tails,
Stood on their hinder feet, and fawned on them,
Like mastiffs on their master when he comes
From banqueting and brings them food. So fawned
The strong-clawed wolves and lions on my men.
With fear my men beheld those beasts of prey,
Yet went, and, standing in the portico
Of the bright-haired divinity, they heard
Her sweet voice singing, as within she threw
The shuttle through the wide immortal web,
Such as is woven by the goddesses⁠—
Delicate, bright of hue, and beautiful.

“Polites then, a chief the most beloved
And most discreet of all my comrades, spake:⁠—

“ ‘Someone is here, my friends, who sweetly sings,
Weaving an ample web, and all the floor
Rings to her voice. Whoever she may be,
Woman or goddess, let us call to her.’

“He spake; aloud they called, and forth she came
And threw at once the shining doors apart,
And bade my comrades enter. Without thought
They followed her. Eurylochus alone
Remained without, for he suspected guile.
She led them in and seated them on thrones.
Then mingling for them Pramnian wine with cheese,
Meal, and fresh honey, and infusing drugs
Into the mixture⁠—drugs which made them lose
The memory of their home⁠—she handed them
The beverage and they drank. Then instantly
She touched them with a wand, and shut them up
In sties, transformed to swine in head and voice,
Bristles and shape, though still the human mind
Remained to them. Thus sorrowing they were driven
Into their cells, where Circè flung to them
Acorns of oak and ilex, and the fruit
Of cornel, such as nourish wallowing swine.

“Back came Eurylochus to our good ship
With news of our poor comrades and their fate,
He strove to speak, but could not; he was stunned
By that calamity; his eyes were filled
With tears, and his whole soul was given to grief.
We marvelled greatly; long we questioned him,
And thus he spake of our lost friends at last:⁠—

“ ‘Through yonder thickets, as thou gav’st command,
Illustrious chief! we went, until we reached
A stately palace of hewn stones, within
A vale, yet nobly seated. Someone there,
Goddess or woman, weaving busily
An ample web, sang sweetly as she wrought.
My comrades called aloud, and forth she came,
And threw at once the shining doors apart,
And bade us enter. Without thought the rest
Followed, while I alone, suspecting guile,
Remained without. My comrades, from that hour,
Were seen no more; not one of them again
Came forth, though long I sat and watched for them.’

“He spake; I slung my silver-studded sword
Upon my shoulders⁠—a huge blade of brass⁠—
And my bow with it, and commanded him
To lead the way. He seized and clasped my knees
With both his hands in attitude of prayer,
And sorrowfully said these winged words:⁠—

“ ‘Take me not thither; force me not to go,
O foster-child of Jove! but leave me here;
For thou wilt not return, I know, nor yet
Deliver one of our lost friends. Our part
Is to betake ourselves to instant flight
With these who yet remain, and so escape.’

“He spake, and I replied: ‘Eurylochus,
Remain thou here, beside our roomy ship,
Eating and drinking. I shall surely go.
A strong necessity is laid on me.’

“I spake, and from the ship and shore went up
Into the isle; and when I found myself
Within that awful valley, and not far
From the great palace in which Circè dwelt,
The sorceress, there met me on my way
A youth; he seemed in manhood’s early prime,
When youth has most of grace. He took my hand
And held it, and, accosting me, began:⁠—

“ ‘Rash mortal! whither art thou wandering thus
Alone among the hills, where every place
Is strange to thee? Thy comrades are shut up
In Circè’s palace in close cells like swine.
Com’st thou to set them free? Nay, thou like them
Wilt rather find thyself constrained to stay.
Let me bestow the means to make thee safe
Against that mischief. Take this potent herb,
And bear it with thee to the palace-halls
Of Circè, and it shall avert from thee
The threatened evil. I will now reveal
The treacherous arts of Circè. She will bring
A mingled draught to thee, and drug the bowl,
But will not harm thee thus; the virtuous plant
I gave thee will prevent it. Hear yet more:
When she shall smite thee with her wand, draw forth
Thy good sword from thy thigh and rush at her
As if to take her life, and she will crouch
In fear, and will solicit thine embrace.
Refuse her not, that so she may release
Thy comrades, and may send thee also back
To thine own land; but first exact of her
The solemn oath which binds the blessed gods,
That she will meditate no other harm
To thee, nor strip thee of thy manly strength.’

“The Argus-queller spake, and plucked from earth
The potent plant and handed it to me,
And taught me all its powers. The root is black,
The blossom white as milk. Among the gods
Its name is Moly; hard it is for men
To dig it up; the gods find nothing hard.

“Back through the woody island Hermes went
Toward high Olympus, while I took my way
To Circè’s halls, yet with a beating heart.
There, as I stood beneath the portico
Of that bright-haired divinity, I called
Aloud; the goddess heard my voice and came,
And threw at once the shining doors apart,
And prayed me to come in. I followed her,
Yet grieving still. She led me in and gave
A seat upon a silver-studded throne,
Beautiful, nobly wrought, and placed beneath
A footstool, and prepared a mingled draught
Within a golden chalice, and infused
A drug with mischievous intent. She gave
The cup; I drank it off; the charm wrought not,
And then she smote me with her wand and said:⁠—
‘Go to the sty, and with thy fellows sprawl.’

“She spake; but drawing forth the trusty sword
Upon my thigh, I rushed at her as if
To take her life. She shrieked and, stooping low,
Ran underneath my arm and clasped my knees,
And uttered piteously these winged words:⁠—
“ ‘Who art thou? of what race and of what land,
And who thy parents? I am wonder-struck
To see that thou couldst drink that magic juice
And yield not to its power. No living man,
Whoever he might be, that tasted once
Those drugs, or passed them o’er his lips, has yet
Withstood them. In thy breast a spirit dwells
Not to be thus subdued. Art thou not then
Ulysses, master of wise stratagems,
Whose coming hither, on his way from Troy,
In his black galley, oft has been foretold
By Hermes of the golden wand? But sheathe
Thy sword and share my couch, that, joined in love,
Each may hereafter trust the other’s faith.’

“She spake, and I replied: ‘How canst thou ask,
O Circè, that I gently deal with thee,
Since thou, in thine own palace, hast transformed
My friends to swine, and plottest even now
To keep me with thee, luring me to pass
Into thy chamber and to share thy couch,
That thou mayst strip me of my manly strength
I come not to thy couch till thou engage,
O goddess, by a solemn oath, that thou
Wilt never seek to do me further harm.’

“I spake; she straightway took the oath required,
And, after it was uttered and confirmed,
Up to her sumptuous couch I went. Meanwhile
Four diligent maidens ministered within
The palace⁠—servants of the household they,
Who had their birth from fountains and from groves,
And sacred rivers flowing to the sea.
One spread the thrones with gorgeous coverings;
Above was purple arras, and beneath
Were linen webs; another, setting forth
The silver tables just before the thrones,
Placed on them canisters of gold; a third
Mingled the rich wines in a silver bowl,
And placed the golden cups; and, last, the fourth
Brought water from the fountain, and beneath
A massive tripod kindled a great fire
And warmed the water. When it boiled within
The shining brass, she led me to the bath,
And washed me from the tripod. On my head
And shoulders pleasantly she shed the streams
That from my members took away the sense
Of weariness, unmanning body and mind.
And when she thus had bathed me and with oil
Anointed me, she put a princely cloak
And tunic on me, led me in, and showed
My seat⁠—a stately silver-studded throne,
High-wrought⁠—and placed a footstool for my feet.
Then came a handmaid with a golden ewer,
And from it poured pure water for my hands
Into a silver laver. Next she placed
A polished table near to me, on which
The matron of the palace laid the feast,
With many delicacies from her store,
And bade me eat. The banquet pleased me not.
My thoughts were elsewhere; dark imaginings
Were in my mind. When Circè marked my mood.
As in a gloomy revery I sat,
And put not forth my hands to touch the feast,
She came to me and spake these winged words:⁠—

“ ‘Why sittest thou like one who has no power
Of speech, Ulysses, wrapt in thoughts that gnaw
Thy heart, and tasting neither food nor wine?
Still dost thou dream of fraud? It is not well
That thou shouldst fear it longer, since I pledged
Myself against it with a mighty oath.’

“She spake, and I replied: ‘What man whose heart
Is faithful could endure to taste of food
Or wine till he should see his captive friends
Once more at large? If with a kind intent
Thou bidst me eat and drink, let me behold
With mine own eyes my dear companions free.’

“I spake; and Circè took her wand and went
Forth from her halls, and, opening the gate
That closed the sty, drove forth what seemed a herd
Of swine in their ninth year. They ranged themselves
Before her, and she went from each to each
And shed on them another drug. Forthwith
Fell from their limbs the bristles which had grown
All over them, when mighty Circè gave
At first the baleful potion. Now again
My friends were men, and younger than before,
And of a nobler mien and statelier growth.
They knew me all; and each one pressed my hand
In his, and there were tears and sobs of joy
That sounded through the palace. Circè too
Was moved, the mighty goddess; she drew near
And stood by me, and spake these winged words:⁠—

“ ‘Son of Laertes, nobly born and wise,
Ulysses! go to thy good ship beside
The sea and draw it up the beach, and hide
The goods and weapons in the caverns there,
And come thou back and bring with thee thy friends.’

“She spake, and easily my generous mind
Was moved by what she said. Forthwith I went
To my good ship beside the sea, and found
My friends in tears, lamenting bitterly.
As in some grange the calves come leaping round
A herd of kine returning to the stall
From grassy fields where they have grazed their fill,
Nor can the stall contain the young which spring
Around their mothers with continual bleat;
So when my comrades saw me through their tears,
They sprang to meet me, and their joy was such
As if they were in their own native land
And their own city, on the rugged coast
Of Ithaca, where they were born and reared;
And as they wept they spake these winged words:⁠—

“ ‘O foster-child of Jove! we welcome thee
On thy return with a delight as great
As if we all had reached again the land
That gave us birth, our Ithaca. And now
Tell by what death our other friends have died.’

“They spake; I answered with consoling words:⁠—
‘First draw our galley up the beach, and hide
Our goods and all our weapons in the caves,
And then let all make haste to follow me,
And see our friends in Circè’s sacred halls,
Eating and drinking at the plenteous board.’

“I spake; and cheerfully my men obeyed,
Save that Eurylochus alone essayed
To hold them back, and spake these winged words:⁠—

“ ‘Ah, whither are we going, wretched ones?
Are ye so eager for an evil fate,
That ye must go where Circè dwells, who waits
To turn us into lions, swine, or wolves,
Forced to remain and guard her spacious house?
So was it with the Cyclops, when our friends
Went with this daring chief to his abode,
And perished there through his foolhardiness.’

“He spake; and then I thought to draw my sword
From my stout thigh, and with the trenchant blade
Strike off his head and let it fall to earth,
Though he were my near kinsman; yet the rest
Restrained me, each one speaking kindly words:⁠—

“ ‘Nay, foster-child of Jove! if thou consent,
This man shall stay behind and with the ship,
And he shall guard the ship, but lead us thou
To where the sacred halls of Circè stand.’

“They spake, and from the ship and shore went up
Into the land, nor was Eurylochus
Left with the ship; he followed, for he feared
My terrible threat. Meantime had Circè bathed
My comrades at the palace, and with oil
Anointed them, and robed them in fair cloaks
And tunics. There we found them banqueting.
When they and those who came with me beheld
Each other, and the memory of the past
Came back to them, they wept abundantly,
And all the palace echoed with their sobs.
And then the mighty goddess came and said:⁠—

“ ‘Son of Laertes, nobly born and wise,
Prolong thou not these sorrows. Well I know
What ye have suffered on the fishy deep,
And all the evil that malignant men
Have done to you on land. Now take the food
Before you, drink the wine, till ye receive
Into your hearts the courage that was yours
When long ago ye left your fatherland,
The rugged Ithaca. Ye are unnerved
And spiritless with thinking constantly
On your long wanderings, and your minds allow
No space for mirth, for ye have suffered much.’

“She spake; her words persuaded easily
Our generous minds, and there from day to day
We lingered a full year, and banqueted
Nobly on plenteous meats and delicate wines.
But when the year was ended, and the hours
Renewed their circle, my beloved friends
From Circè’s palace called me forth and said:⁠—

“ ‘Good chief, do not forget thy native land,
If fate indeed permit that ever thou
Return in safety to that lofty pile
Thy palace in the country of thy birth.’

“So spake they, and my generous mind was moved.
All that day long until the set of sun
We sat and feasted on the abundant meats
And delicate wines; and when the sun went down
They took their rest within the darkened halls,
While I to Circè’s sumptuous couch went up,
A suppliant at her knees. The goddess heard
My prayer, as thus in winged words I said:⁠—

“ ‘O Circè! make, I pray, the promise good
Which thou hast given, to send me to my home.
My heart is pining for it, and the hearts
Of all my friends, who weary out my life
Lamenting round me when thou art not nigh.’

“I spake; the mighty goddess thus replied:⁠—
‘Son of Laertes, nobly born and wise,
Ulysses! ye must not remain with me
Unwillingly; but ye have yet to make
Another voyage, and must visit first
The abode of Pluto, and of Proserpine
His dreaded queen, and there consult the soul
Of the blind seer Tiresias⁠—him of Thebes⁠—
Whose intellect was spared; for Proserpine
Gave back to him in death the power of mind,
That only he might know of things to come.
The rest are shades that flit from place to place.’

“Thus spake the goddess; and my heart was wrung
With sorrow, and I sat upon the couch
And wept, nor could I longer wish to live
And see the light of day. But when my grief,
With shedding tears and tossing where I sat,
Was somewhat spent, I spake to Circè thus:⁠—

“ ‘O Circè, who will guide me when I make
This voyage? for no galley built by man
Has ever yet arrived at Pluto’s realm.’

“I spake; the mighty goddess answered me:⁠—
‘Son of Laertes, nobly born and wise,
Take thou no thought of who shall guide thy barque,
But raise the mast and spread the glimmering sail,
And seat thyself, and let the north-wind waft
Thy galley on. As soon as thou shalt cross
Océanus, and come to the low shore
And groves of Proserpine, the lofty groups
Of poplars, and the willows that let fall
Their withered fruit, moor thou thy galley there
In the deep eddies of Océanus,
And pass to Pluto’s comfortless abode.
There into Acheron are poured the streams
Of Pyriphlegethon, and of that arm
Of Styx, Cocytus. At the place where meet
The ever-roaring waters stands a rock;
Draw near to that, and there I bid thee scoop
In earth a trench, a cubit long and wide.
And round about it pour to all the dead
Libations⁠—milk and honey first, and next
Rich wine, and lastly water, scattering
White meal upon them. Offer there thy prayer
Fervently to that troop of airy forms,
And make the vow that thou wilt sacrifice,
When thou at last shalt come to Ithaca,
A heifer without blemish, barren yet,
In thine own courts, and heap the altar-pyre
With things of price; and to the seer alone,
Tiresias, by himself, a ram whose fleece
Is wholly black, the best of all thy flocks.
And after thou hast duly offered prayer
To all the illustrious nations of the dead,
Then sacrifice a ram and a black ewe,
Their faces turned toward Erebus, but thine
The other way and toward the river streams.
Thither the souls of those who died will flock
In multitudes. Then call thy friends, and give
Command to flay in haste the sheep that lie
Slain by the cruel brass, and, burning there
The carcasses, pay worship to the gods⁠—
The powerful Pluto and dread Proserpine.
Draw then the sword upon thy thigh, and sit,
And suffer none of all those airy forms
To touch the blood until thou first bespeak
Tiresias. He will come, and speedily⁠—
The leader of the people⁠—and will tell
What voyage thou must make, what length of way
Thou yet must measure, and will show thee how
Thou mayst return across the fishy deep.’

“She spake; and while she spake the Morn looked forth
Upon her golden throne. The Nymph bestowed
On me a cloak and tunic, and arrayed
Herself in a white robe with ample folds⁠—
A delicate web and graceful. Round her loins
She clasped a shining zone of gold, and hung
A veil upon her forehead. Forth I went
Throughout the palace and aroused my friends,
And thus I said in cheerful tones to each:⁠—

“ ‘No longer give yourselves to idle rest
And pleasant slumber; we are to depart.
The gracious Circè counsels us to go.’

“I spake, and easily their generous minds
Inclined to me. Yet brought I not away
All my companions safely from the isle.
Elpenor was the youngest of our band,
Not brave in war was he, nor wise in thought.
He, overcome with wine, and for the sake
Of coolness, had lain down to sleep, apart
From all the rest, in Circè’s sacred house;
And as my friends bestirred themselves, the noise
And tumult roused him; he forgot to come
By the long staircase; headlong from the roof
He plunged; his neck was broken at the spine,
And his soul went to the abode of death.

“My friends came round me, and I said to them:⁠—
Haply your thought may be that you are bound
For the dear country of your birth; but know
That Circè sends us elsewhere, to consult
The Theban seer, Tiresias, in the abode
Of Pluto and the dreaded Proserpine.’

“I spake, and their hearts failed them as they heard;
They sat them down, and wept, and tore their hair,
But fruitless were their sorrow and their tears.

“Thus as we sadly moved to our good ship
Upon the seashore, weeping all the while,
Circè, meantime, had visited its deck,
And there had bound a ram and a black ewe
By means we saw not; for what eye discerns
The presence of a deity, who moves
From place to place, and wills not to be seen?”