Arrival of Ulysses at Ithaca

Departure of Ulysses from the court of Alcinoüs⁠—Arrival of the ship at Ithaca⁠—Ulysses carried on shore by the Phaeacians while asleep, and left⁠—His treasures landed also⁠—The ship, while returning, transformed by Neptune into a rock⁠—Dialogue between Pallas and Ulysses concerning the destruction of the suitors⁠—Concealment of the treasures in a cave⁠—Transformation of Ulysses into an old man.

He spake, and all within those shadowy halls
Were silent; all were held in mute delight.
Alcinoüs then took up the word and said:⁠—

“Since thou hast come, Ulysses, as a guest,
To this high pile and to these brazen rooms,
So long a sufferer, thou must not depart
Upon thy homeward way a wanderer still.
And this let me enjoin on each of you
Who in this palace drink at our repasts
The choice red wine, and listen to the bard:
Already in a polished chest are laid
Changes of raiment, works of art in gold,
And other gifts, which the Phaeacian chiefs
Have destined for our guest; now let us each
Bestow an ample tripod and a vase,
And we in an assembly of the realm
Will see the cost repaid, since otherwise
Great would the burden be that each must bear.”
So spake Alcinoüs; they approved, and sought
Their homes to sleep, but when the child of Dawn,
The rosy-fingered Morn, appeared, they came,
All bringing to the ship their gifts of brass
In honor of the guest. The mighty prince
Alcinoüs, going through the ship, bestowed
The whole beneath the benches, that no one
Of those who leaned to pull the oar might thence
Meet harm or hindrance. Then they all went back
To the king’s palace, and prepared a feast.

The mighty prince Alcinoüs offered up
For them an ox to cloud-compelling Jove,
The son of Saturn, ruler over all.
They burned the thighs, and held high festival,
And all was mirth. Divine Demodocus
The bard, whom all men reverenced, sang to them.
Meantime Ulysses often turned to look
At the bright Sun, and longed to see him set,
So eager was the hero to set sail
Upon his homeward way. As when a swain
Awaits his evening meal, for whom all day
Two dark-brown steers have dragged the solid plough
Through fallow grounds, and welcome is the hour
Of sunset, calling him to his repast,
And wearily he walks with failing knees,
So welcome to Ulysses did the light
Of day go down. Then did he hold discourse
With the Phaeacians, lovers of the sea,
And chiefly with Alcinoüs, speaking thus:⁠—

“O monarch most illustrious of thy race,
Alcinoüs, now when ye have duly poured
Wine to the gods, be pleased to send me hence
In peace, and fare ye well! All that my heart
Could wish have ye provided bounteously⁠—
An escort and rich gifts; and may the gods
Bestow their blessing with them! May I meet
My blameless wife again, and find my friends
Prosperous! And ye whom I shall leave behind,
Long may ye make the wives of your young years
And children happy! May the gods vouchsafe
To crown with every virtue you and them,
And may no evil light upon your isle!”

He spake; the assembly all approved his words,
And bade send forth the stranger on his way,
Who spake so nobly. Then the mighty prince
Alcinoüs turned, and to the herald said:⁠—

“Now mix the wine, Pontonoüs, in a jar,
And bear a part to all beneath our roof,
That we with prayers to Father Jupiter
May send the stranger to his native land.”

He spake; Pontonoüs mingled for the guests
The generous wine, and went with it to each,
Who poured it on the ground, from where they sat,
To all the dwellers of the ample heaven;
And then the great Ulysses, rising up,
Placed the round goblet in Aretè’s hands,
And thus bespake the queen with winged words:⁠—

“Farewell, O queen, through the long years, till age
And death, which are the lot of all, shall come.
Now I depart, but mayst thou, here among
Thy people, and the children of thy love,
And King Alcinoüs, lead a happy life!”

So spake the highborn chieftain, and withdrew,
And crossed the threshold. King Alcinoüs sent
A herald with him to direct his way
To the fleet ship and border of the deep.
Aretè also sent her servant-maids⁠—
One bearing a fresh cloak and tunic, one
A coffer nobly wrought, and yet a third
Bread and red wine; and when they reached the ship
Beside the sea, the diligent crew received
Their burdens, and bestowed within the hold
The food and drink, but spread upon the deck
And at the stern a mat and linen sheet,
That there Ulysses undisturbed might sleep.
He went on board and silently lay down,
While all the rowers in due order took
Their seats upon the benches. Loosing first
The hawser from the perforated rock,
They bent them to their task, and flung the brine
Up from the oar, while on the chieftain’s lids
Lighted a sweet and deep and quiet sleep,
Most like to death. As, smitten by the lash,
Four harnessed stallions spring on high and dart
Across the plain together; so the prow
Rose leaping forward, while behind it rolled
A huge dark billow of the roaring sea.
Safely and steadily the galley ran,
Nor could a falcon, swiftest of the birds,
Have kept beside it, with such speed it flew,
Bearing a hero who was like the gods
In wisdom, and whose sufferings in the wars
And voyages among the furious waves
Were great and many, though he slumbered now
In peace, forgetful of misfortunes past.

Now when that brightest star, the harbinger
Of Morning, daughter of the Dawn, arose,
The barque had passed the sea, and reached the isle.

A port there is in Ithaca, the haunt
Of Phorcys, Ancient of the Sea. Steep shores
Stretch inward toward each other, and roll back
The mighty surges which the hoarse winds hurl
Against them from the ocean, while within
Ships ride without their hawsers when they once
Have passed the haven’s mouth. An olive-tree
With spreading branches at the farther end
Of that fair haven stands, and overbrows
A pleasant shady grotto of the nymphs
Called Naiads. Cups and jars of stone are ranged
Within, and bees lay up their honey there.
There from their spindles wrought of stone the nymphs
Weave their sea-purple robes, which all behold
With wonder; there are ever-flowing springs.
Two are the entrances: one toward the north
By which men enter; but a holier one
Looks toward the south, nor ever mortal foot
May enter there. By that way pass the gods.

They touched the land, for well they knew the spot.
The galley, urged so strongly by the arms
Of those who plied the oar, ran up the beach
Quite half her length. And then the crew came forth
From the good ship, and first they lifted out
Ulysses with the linen and rich folds
Of tapestry, and laid him on the sands
In a deep slumber. Then they also took
The presents from the hold, which, as he left
Their isle, the princes of Phaeacia gave
By counsel of wise Pallas. These they piled
Close to the olive-tree, without the way,
That none, in passing, ere Ulysses woke,
Might do their owner wrong. Then homeward sailed
The crew; but Neptune, who could not forge
The threats which he had uttered long before
Against the godlike chief Ulysses, thus
Sought to explore the will of Jupiter:⁠—

“O Father Jove! I shall no more be held
In honor with the gods, since mortal men,
The people of Phaeacia, though their race
Is of my lineage, do not honor me.
I meant Ulysses should not reach his home
Save with much suffering, though I never thoyght
To hinder his return, for thou hadst given
Thy promise and thy nod that it should be.
Yet these Phaeacians, in a gallant barque,
Have borne him o’er the deep, and while he slept,
Have laid him down in Ithaca, and given
Large gifts, abundant store of brass and gold,
And woven work, more than he could have brought
From captured Ilium, if he had returned
Safely, with all his portion of the spoil.”

Then cloud-compelling Jupiter replied:
“Earth-shaker, ruler of a mighty realm!
What hast thou said? The gods deny thee not
Due honor; perilous it were for them
To show contempt for one who stands in age
And might above them all. But if among
The sons of men be one who puts such trust
In his own strength as not to honor thee,
Do as seems good to thee, and as thou wilt.”

Promptly the god who shakes the shores replied;
“What thou dost bid me I would do at once,
But that I fear and would avoid thy wrath.
I would destroy that fair Phaeacian barque
In its return across the misty sea
From bearing home Ulysses, that no more
May the Phaeacians lend an escort thus
To wandering men, and I would also cause
A lofty mount to rise and hide their town.”

Then spake again the Cloud-compeller Jove:
“Thus were it best, my brother: when the crowd
Of citizens already see the ship
Approaching, then transform it to a rock
In semblance of a galley, that they all
May gaze in wonder; thus wilt thou have caused
A lofty mount to stand before their town.”

This when the shaker of the shores had heard,
He flew to Scheria, the Phaeacian isle,
And stood, until that galley, having crossed
The sea, came swiftly scudding. He drew near
And smote it with his open palm, and made
The ship a rock, fast rooted in the bed
Of the deep sea, and then he went his way.

Then winged words were spoken in that throng
Of the Phaeacians, wielders of long oars,
And far renowned in feats of seamanship.
And, looking on each other, thus they said:⁠—

“Ha! what has stayed our good ship on the sea?
This moment we beheld her hastening home.”

’Twas thus they talked, unweeting of the cause.
But then Alcinoüs to the assembly said:⁠—

“Yes! now I call to mind the ancient words
Of prophecy⁠—my father’s⁠—who was wont
To say that Neptune sorely is displeased
That we should give to every man who comes
Safe escort to his home. In coming times⁠—
Such was my father’s prophecy⁠—the god
Would yet destroy a well-appointed barque
Of the Phaeacians on the misty deep
Returning from an escort, and would cause
A lofty mount to stand before our town.
So prophesied the aged man; his words
Are here fulfilled. Now do as I appoint,
And let us all obey. Henceforth refrain
From bearing to their homes the strangers thrown
Upon our coast; and let us sacrifice
To Neptune twelve choice bullocks of the herd,
That he may pity us, nor hide our town
With a huge mountain from the sight of men.”

He spake, and they were awed and straightway brought
The bullocks for the sacrifice. So prayed
To sovereign Neptune the Phaeacian chiefs
And princes, standing round the altar-fires.

Now woke the great Ulysses from his sleep
In his own land, and yet he knew it not.
Long had he been away, and Pallas now,
The goddess-child of Jove, had cast a mist
Around him, that he might not yet be known
To others, and that she might tell him first
What he should learn; nor even might his wife,
Nor friends, nor people, know of his return,
Ere he avenged upon the suitor crew
His wrongs, and therefore all things wore to him
Another look⁠—the footways stretching far,
The bights where ships were moored, the towering rocks,
And spreading trees. He rose and stood upright,
And gazed upon his native coast and wept,
And smote his thigh, and said in bitter grief:⁠—

“Ah me! what region am I in, among
What people? lawless, cruel, and unjust?
Or are they hospitable men, who fear
The gods? And where shall I bestow these goods,
And whither go myself? Would that they all
Were still with the Phaeacians, and that I
Had found some other great and mighty king
Kindly to welcome me, and send me back
To my own land. I know not where to place
These treasures, and I must not leave them here,
Lest others come and seize them as a spoil.
Nay, these Phaeacian chiefs and counsellors
Were not, in all things, either wise or just.
They gave their word to land me on the coast
Of pleasant Ithaca, and have not kept
Their promise. O, may Jove avenge this wrong!
He who protects the suppliant, who beholds
All men with equal eye, and punishes
The guilty. Now will I review my stores
And number them again, that I may see
If those who left me here have taken aught.”

Thus having said, he numbered all his gifts⁠—
Beautiful tripods, cauldrons, works of gold,
And gorgeous woven raiment; none of these
Were wanting. Then he pined to see again
His native isle, and slowly paced the beach
Of the loud sea, lamenting bitterly.
There Pallas came to meet him in the shape
Of a young shepherd, delicately formed,
As are the sons of kings. A mantle lay
Upon her shoulder in rich folds; her feet
Shone in their sandals: in her hand she bore
A javelin. As Ulysses saw, his heart
Was glad within him, and he hastened on,
And thus accosted her with winged words:⁠—

“Fair youth, who art the first whom I have met
Upon this shore, I bid thee hail, and hope
Thou meetest me with no unkind intent.
Protect what thou beholdest here and me;
I make my suit to thee as to a god,
And come to thy dear knees. And tell, I pray,
That I may know the truth, what land is this?
What people? who the dwellers? may it be
A pleasant isle, or is it but the shore
Of fruitful mainland shelving to the sea?”

And then the goddess, blue-eyed Pallas, said:
“Of simple mind art thou, unless perchance
Thou comest from afar, if thou dost ask
What country this may be. It is not quite
A nameless region; many know it well
Of those who dwell beneath the rising sun,
And those, behind, in Evening’s dusky realm.
Rugged it is, and suited ill to steeds,
Yet barren it is not, though level grounds
Are none within its borders. It is rich
In corn and wine, for seasonable rains
And dews refresh its soil. Large flocks of goats
And herds of beeves are pastured here; all kinds
Of trees are in its forests, and its springs
Are never dry. The fame of Ithaca,
Stranger, has travelled to the Trojan coast,
Though that, I hear, lies far away from Greece.”

She spake; Ulysses, the great sufferer,
Rejoiced to be in his own land, whose name
Pallas, the child of aegis-bearing Jove,
Had just now uttered. Then with winged words
He spake, but not the truth; his artful speech
Put that aside, forever in his breast
The power of shrewd invention was awake:⁠—

“In the broad fields of Crete, that lie far off
Beyond the sea, I heard of Ithaca,
To which I now am come with these my goods.
I left as many for my sons and fled,
For I had slain Orsilochus, the fleet
Of foot, the dear son of Idomeneus,
Who overcame by swiftness in the race
The foremost runners in the realm of Crete.
He sought to rob me wholly of my share
Of Trojan spoil, for which I had endured
Hardships in war with heroes, and at sea
Among the angry waves. The cause was this:
I would not in the siege of Troy submit
To serve his father, but, apart from him,
I led a troop, companions of my own.
The youth returning from the fields I met,
And smote him with the spear⁠—for near the way
I lay in ambush with a single friend.
A night exceeding dark was in the sky;
No human eye beheld, nor did he know
Who took his life. When I had slain him thus
With the sharp spear I hastened to a ship
Of the Phoenicians, and besought their aid,
And gave them large reward, and bade them steer
To Pylos, bearing me, and leave me there,
Or where the Epeians hold the hallowed coast
Of Elis. But the force of adverse winds
Drove them unwilling thence; they meant no fraud.
We wandered hither, just at night we came;
And rowing hard, the seamen brought their ship
Within the port. No word was said of food,
Though great our need. All disembarked in haste
And lay upon the shore. Deep was the sleep
That stole upon my weary limbs. The men
Took from the hold my goods, and, bearing them
To where I slumbered on the sand, set sail
For populous Sidonia, leaving me
Here quite alone with sorrow in my heart.”

He spake; the blue-eyed goddess, Pallas, smiled,
And touched the chief caressingly. She seemed
A beautiful and stately woman now,
Such as are skilled in works of rare device,
And thus she said to him in winged words:⁠—

“Full shrewd were he, a master of deceit,
Who should surpass thee in the ways of craft,
Even though he were a god⁠—thou unabashed
And prompt with shifts, and measureless in wiles!
Thou canst not even in thine own land refrain
From artful figments and misleading words,
As thou hast practised from thy birth. But now
Speak we of other matters, for we both
Are skilled in stratagem. Thou art the first
Of living men in counsel and in speech,
And I am famed for foresight and for craft
Among the immortals. Dost thou not yet know
Pallas Athenè, child of Jove, whose aid
Is present to defend thee in all time
Of peril, and but lately gained for thee
The favor of the whole Phaeacian race?
And hither am I come to frame for thee
Wise counsels, and to hide away the stores
Given by the opulent Phaeacian chiefs
At thy departure. I shall also tell
What thou must yet endure beneath the roof
Of thine own palace, by the will of fate.
Yet bear it bravely, since thou must, nor speak
To any man or woman of thyself
And of thy wandering hither, but submit
To many things that grieve thee, silently,
And bear indignities from violent men.”

Ulysses, the sagacious, thus rejoined:
“O goddess, it is hard for mortal man
To know thee when he meets thee, though his sight
Be of the sharpest, for thou puttest on
At pleasure any form. Yet this I know,
That thou wert kind to me when we, the sons
Of Greece, were warring in the realm of Troy.
But when we had o’erihrown the lofty town
Of Priam, and embarked, and when some god
Had scattered the Achaians, after that,
Daughter of Jove, I never saw thee more,
Never perceived thee entering my barque
And guarding me from danger⁠—but I roamed
Ever from place to place, my heart weighed down
By sorrow, till the gods delivered me,
And till thy counsels in the opulent realm
Of the Phaeacians brought my courage back,
And thou thyself didst guide me to the town.
And now in thy great father’s name I pray⁠—
For yet I cannot think that I am come
To pleasant Ithaca, but have been thrown
Upon some other coast, and fear that thou
Art jesting with me, and hast spoken thus
But to deceive me⁠—tell me, is it true
That I am in my own beloved land?”

And then the goddess, blue-eyed Pallas, said:
“Such ever are thy thoughts, and therefore I
Must not forsake thee in thy need. I know
How prompt thy speech, how quick thy thought, how shrewd
Thy judgment. If another man had come
From such long wanderings, he had flown at once
Delighted to his children and his wife
In his own home. But thou desirest not
To ask or hear of them till thou hast put
Thy consort to the trial of her truth⁠—
Her who now sits within thy halls and waits
In vain for thee, and in perpetual grief
And weeping wears her nights and days away.
I never doubted⁠—well, in truth, I knew
That thou, with all thy comrades lost, wouldst reach
Thy country, but I dreaded to withstand
My father’s brother Neptune, who was wroth,
And fiercely wroth, for that thou hadst deprived
His well-beloved son of sight. But now
Attend, and I will show thee Ithaca
By certain tokens; mark them and believe.
The port of Phorcys, Ancient of the Deep,
Is here; and there the spreading olive-tree,
Just at the haven’s head; and, close beside,
The cool dark grotto, sacred to the nymphs
Called Naiads⁠—a wide-vaulted cave where once
Thou earnest oft with chosen hecatombs,
An offering to the nymphs⁠—and here thou seest
The mountain Neritus with all his woods.”

So spake the goddess, and dispersed the mist,
And all the scene appeared. Ulysses saw
Well pleased, rejoicing in his own dear land,
And, stooping, kissed the bountiful earth, and raised
His hands, and thus addressed the nymphs in prayer:⁠—

“Nymphs, Naiads, born to Jove, I did not hope
To be with you again. With cheerful prayers
I now salute you. We shall bring you soon
Our offerings, as of yore, if graciously
Jove’s daughter, huntress-queen, shall grant me yet
To live, and bless my well-beloved son.”

And then the goddess, blue-eyed Pallas, said:
“Be of good cheer, and let no anxious thought
Disturb thy mind. Let us bestir ourselves
To hide away the treasures thou hast brought
Within this hallowed grot in some recess
Where they may lie in safety; afterward
Will we take counsel what should next be done.”

The goddess said these words, and took her way
Into the shadowy cavern, spying out
Its hiding-places; while Ulysses brought
The treasures thither in his arms⁠—the gold,
The enduring brass, the raiment nobly wrought⁠—
Which the Phaeacians gave him. These they laid
Together in due order; Pallas then,
The daughter of the Aegis-bearer Jove,
Closed up the opening with a massive rock.
Then, sitting by the sacred olive-tree,
They plotted to destroy the haughty crew
Of suitors, and the blue-eyed Pallas said:⁠—

“O nobly born, and versed in many wiles,
Son of Laertes! now the hour is come
To think how thou shalt lay avenging hands
Upon the shameless crew who, in thy house,
For three years past have made themselves its lords,
And wooed thy noble wife and brought her gifts,
While, pining still for thy return, she gave
Hopes to each suitor, and by messages
Made promises to all, though cherishing
A different purpose in her secret heart.”

Ulysses, the sagacious, answered her:
“Ah me, I should have perished utterly,
By such an evil fate as overtook
Atrides Agamemnon, in the halls
Of my own palace, but for thee, whose words,
O goddess, have revealed what I should know.
Now counsel me how I may be avenged.
Be ever by my side, and strengthen me
With courage, as thou didst when we o’erthrew
The towery crest of Ilium. Would thou wert
Still my ally, as then! I would engage,
O blue-eyed Pallas, with three hundred foes,
If thou, dread goddess, wouldst but counsel me.”

And then the blue-eyed Pallas spake again:
“I will be present with thee. When we once
Begin the work, thou shalt not leave my sight;
And many a haughty suitor with his blood
And brains shall stain thy spacious palace floor.
Now will I change thine aspect, so that none
Shall know thee. I will wither thy fair skin,
And it shall hang on crooked limbs; thy locks
Of auburn I will cause to fall away,
And round thee fling a cloak which all shall see
With loathing. I will make thy lustrous eyes
Dull to the sight, and thus shalt thou appear
A squalid wretch to all the suitor train,
And to thy wife, and to the son whom thou
Didst leave within thy palace. Then at first
Repair thou to the herdsman, him who keeps
Thy swine; for he is loyal, and he loves
Thy son and the discreet Penelope.
There wilt thou find him as he tends his swine,
That find their pasturage beside the rock
Of Corax, and by Arethusa’s fount.
On nourishing acorns they are fed, and drink
The dark clear water, whence the flesh of swine
Is fattened. There remain, and carefully
Inquire of all that thou wouldst know, while I,
Taking my way to Sparta, the abode
Of lovely women, call Telemachus,
Thy son, Ulysses, who hath visited
King Menelaus in his broad domain,
To learn if haply thou art living yet.”

Ulysses, the sagacious, answered her:
“Why didst not thou, to whom all things are known,
Tell him concerning me? Must he too roam
And suffer on the barren deep, and leave
To others his estates, to be their spoil?”

And then the blue-eyed goddess spake again:
“Let not that thought distress thee. It was I
Who sent him thither, that he might deserve
The praise of men. No evil meets him there;
But in the halls of Atreus’ son he sits,
Safe mid the abounding luxuries. ’Tis true
That even now the suitors lie in wait,
In their black ship, to slay him ere he reach
His native land; but that will hardly be
Before the earth shall cover many a one
Of the proud suitors who consume thy wealth.”

So Pallas spake, and touched him with her wand,
And caused the blooming skin to shrivel up
On his slow limbs, and the fair hair to fall,
And with an old man’s wrinkles covered all
His frame, and dimmed his lately glorious eyes.
Another garb she gave⁠—a squalid vest;
A ragged, dirty cloak, all stained with smoke;
And over all the huge hide of a stag,
From which the hair was worn. A staff, beside,
She gave, and shabby scrip with many a rent,
Tied with a twisted thong. This said and done,
They parted; and the goddess flew to seek
Telemachus in Sparta’s sacred town.