Book V

Departure of Ulysses from Calypso

Mercury despatched by Jupiter to Calypso with a message commanding her to send away Ulysses⁠—A raft constructed by Ulysses⁠—His departure on the raft⁠—A storm raised by Neptune, and the raft destroyed⁠—Escape of Ulysses from the tempest, and his landing on the isle of Scheria, inhabited by the Phaeacians.

Aurora, rising from her couch beside
The famed Tithonus, brought the light of day
To men and to immortals. Then the gods
Came to their seats in council. With them came
High-thundering Jupiter, amongst them all
The mightiest. Pallas, mindful of the past,
Spake of Ulysses and his many woes,
Grieved that he still was with the island nymph:⁠—
“O father Jove, and all ye blessed ones
Who live forever! let not sceptred king
Henceforth be gracious, mild, and merciful
And righteous; rather be he deaf to prayer
And prone to deeds of wrong, since no one now
Remembers the divine Ulysses more
Among the people over whom he ruled
Benignly, like a father. Still he lies,
Weighed down by many sorrows, in the isle
And dwelling of Calypso, who so long
Constrains his stay. To his dear native land
Depart he cannot; ship arrayed with oars
And seamen has he none, to bear him o’er
The breast of the broad ocean. Nay, even now,
Against his well-beloved son a plot
is laid, to slay him as he journeys home
From Pylos the divine, and from the walls
Of famous Sparta, whither he had gone
To gather tidings of his father’s fate.”

Then answered her the Ruler of the storms:⁠—
“My child, what words are these that pass thy lips?
Was not thy long-determined counsel this⁠—
That in good time Ulysses should return,
To be avenged? Guide, then, Telemachus
Wisely⁠—for so thou canst⁠—that, all unharmed,
He reach his native land, and, in their barques,
Homeward the suitor-train retrace their way.”

He spake, and turned to Hermes, his dear son:⁠—
“Hermes⁠—for thou in this my messenger
Art, as in all things⁠—to the bright-haired nymph
Make known my steadfast purpose⁠—the return
Of suffering Ulysses. Neither gods
Nor men shall guide his voyage. On a raft,
Made firm with bands, he shall depart and reach,
After long hardships, on the twentieth day,
The fertile shore of Scheria, on whose isle
Dwell the Phaeacians, kinsmen of the gods.
They like a god shall honor him, and thence
Send him to his loved country in a ship,
With ample gifts of brass and gold, and store
Of raiment⁠—wealth like which he ne’er had brought
From conquered Ilion, had he reached his home
Safely, with all his portion of the spoil.
So is it preordained that he behold
His friends again, and stand once more within
His high-roofed palace, on his native soil.”

He spake; the herald Argicide obeyed,
And hastily beneath his feet he bound
The fair, ambrosial golden sandals, worn
To bear him over ocean like the wind,
And o’er the boundless land. His wand he took,
Wherewith he softly seals the eyes of men,
And opens them at will from sleep. With this
In hand, the mighty Argus-queller flew,
And, lighting on Pieria, from the sky
Plunged downward to the deep, and skimmed its face
Like hovering seamew, that on the broad gulfs
Of the unfruitful ocean seeks her prey,
And often dips her pinions in the brine;
So Hermes flew along the waste of waves.

But when he reached that island, far away,
Forth from the dark-blue ocean-swell he stepped
Upon the sea-beach, walking till he came
To the vast cave in which the bright-haired nymph
Made her abode. He found the nymph within;
A fire blazed brightly on the hearth, and far
Was wafted o’er the isle the fragrant smoke
Of cloven cedar, burning in the flame.
And cypress-wood. Meanwhile, in her recess,
She sweetly sang, as busily she threw
The golden shuttle through the web she wove.
And all about the grotto alders grew,
And poplars, and sweet-smelling cypresses.
In a green forest, high among whose boughs
Birds of broad wing, wood-owls, and falcons built
Their nests, and crows, with voices sounding far,
All haunting for their food the ocean-side.
A vine, with downy leaves and clustering grapes,
Crept over all the cavern rock. Four springs
Poured forth their glittering waters in a row,
And here and there went wandering side by side.
Around were meadows of soft green, o’ergrown
With violets and parsley. ’Twas a spot
Where even an immortal might awhile
Linger, and gaze with wonder and delight.
The herald Argus-queller stood, and saw,
And marvelled; but as soon as he had viewed
The wonders of the place, he turned his steps,
Entering the broad-roofed cave. Calypso there,
The glorious goddess, saw him as he came,
And knew him; for the ever-living gods
Are to each other known, though one may dwell
Far from the rest. Ulysses, large of heart,
Was not within. Apart, upon the shore,
He sat and sorrowed, where he oft in tears
And sighs and vain repinings passed the hours,
Gazing with wet eyes on the barren deep.
Now, placing Hermes on a shining seat
Of state, Calypso, glorious goddess, said:

“Thou of the golden wand, revered and loved,
What, Hermes, brings thee hither? Passing few
Have been thy visits. Make thy pleasure known.
My heart enjoins me to obey, if aught
That thou commandest be within my power;
But first accept the offerings due a guest.”

The goddess, speaking thus, before him placed
A table, where the heaped ambrosia lay,
And mingled the red nectar. Ate and drank
The herald Argus-queller, and, refreshed,
Answered the nymph, and made his message known:⁠—

“Art thou a goddess, and dost ask of me,
A god, why came I hither? Yet, since thou
Requirest, I will truly tell the cause.
I came unwillingly, at Jove’s command;
For who of choice would traverse the wide waste
Of the salt ocean, with no city near
Where men adore the gods with solemn rites
And chosen hecatombs. No god has power
To elude or to resist the purposes
Of aegis-bearing Jove. With thee abides,
He bids me say, the most unhappy man
Of all who round the city of Priam waged
The battle through nine years, and, in the tenth,
Laying it waste, departed for their homes.
But in their voyage they provoked the wrath
Of Pallas, who called up the furious winds
And angry waves against them. By his side
Sank all his gallant comrades in the deep.
Him did the winds and waves drive hither. Him
Jove bids thee send away with speed; for here
He must not perish, far from all he loves.
So is it preordained that he behold
His friends again, and stand once more within
His high-roofed palace, on his native soil.”

He spake; Calypso, glorious goddess, heard,
And shuddered, and with winged words replied:⁠—

“Ye are unjust, ye gods, and, envious far
Beyond all other beings, cannot bear
That ever goddess openly should make
A mortal man her consort. Thus it was
When once Aurora, rosy-fingered, took
Orion for her husband; ye were stung,
Amid your blissful lives, with envious hate,
Till chaste Diana, of the golden throne,
Smote him with silent arrows from her bow,
And slew him in Ortygia. Thus, again,
When bright-haired Ceres, swayed by her own heart,
In fields which bore three yearly harvests, met
Iäsion as a lover, this was known
Erelong to Jupiter, who flung from high
A flaming thunderbolt, and laid him dead.
And now ye envy me, that with me dwells
A mortal man. I saved him as he clung
Alone upon his floating keel; for Jove
Had cloven with a bolt of fire from heaven
His galley in the midst of the black sea,
And all his gallant comrades perished there.
Him kindly I received; I cherished him,
And promised him a life that ne’er should know
Decay or death. But since no god has power
To elude or to withstand the purposes
Of aegis-bearing Jove, let him depart⁠—
If so the sovereign moves him and commands⁠—
Over the barren deep. I send him not;
For neither ship arrayed with oars have I,
Nor seamen, o’er the boundless waste of waves
To bear him hence. My counsel I will give,
And nothing will I hide that he should know,
To place him safely on his native shore.”

The herald Argus-queller answered her:⁠—
“Dismiss him thus, and bear in mind the wrath
Of Jove, lest it be kindled against thee.”

Thus having said, the mighty Argicide
Departed; and the nymph, who now had heard
The doom of Jove, sought the greathearted man,
Ulysses. Him she found beside the deep,
Seated alone, with eyes from which the tears
Were never dried; for now no more the nymph
Delighted him; he wasted his sweet life
In yearning for his home. Night after night
He slept constrained within the hollow cave,
The unwilling by the fond; and day by day
He sat upon the rocks that edged the shore,
And in continual weeping and in sighs
And vain repinings wore the hours away,
Gazing through tears upon the barren deep.
The glorious goddess stood by him and spake:⁠—

“Unhappy! sit no longer sorrowing here,
Nor waste life thus. Lo! I most willingly
Dismiss thee hence. Rise, hew down trees, and bind
Their trunks with brazen clamps into a raft,
And fasten planks above, a lofty floor,
That it may bear thee o’er the dark-blue deep.
Bread will I put on board, water, and wine⁠—
Red wine, that cheers the heart⁠—and wrap thee well
In garments, and send after thee the wind,
That safely thou attain thy native shore,
If so the gods permit thee, who abide
In the broad heaven above, and better know
By far than I, and far more wisely judge.”

Ulysses, the great sufferer, as she spake
Shuddered, and thus with winged words replied:⁠—

“Some other purpose than to send me home
Is in thy heart, O goddess, bidding me
To cross this frightful sea upon a raft⁠—
This perilous sea, where never even ships
Pass with their rapid keels, though Jove bestow
The wind that glads the seaman. Nay, I climb
No raft, against thy wish, unless thou swear
The great oath of the gods that thou in this
Dost meditate no other harm to me.”

He spake; Calypso, glorious goddess, smiled,
And smoothed his forehead with her hand, and said:⁠—

“Perverse, and slow to see where guile is not!
How could thy heart permit thee thus to speak?
Now bear me witness, Earth, and ye broad Heavens
Above us, and ye waters of the Styx
That flow beneath us, mightiest oath of all,
And most revered by all the blessed gods,
That I design no other harm to thee,
But that I plan for thee, and counsel thee
What I would do were I in need like thine.
I bear a juster mind; my bosom holds
A pitying heart, and not a heart of steel.”

Thus having said, the glorious goddess moved
Away with hasty steps, and where she trod
He followed, till they reached the vaulted cave⁠—
The goddess and the hero. There he took
The seat whence Hermes had just risen. The nymph
Brought forth whatever mortals eat and drink
To set before him. She right opposite
To that of great Ulysses took her seat.
Ambrosia there her maidens laid, and there
Poured nectar. Both put forth their hands, and took
The ready viands, till at length the calls
Of hunger and of thirst were satisfied;
Calypso, glorious goddess, then began:⁠—

“Son of Laertes, man of many wiles,
Highborn Ulysses! thus wilt thou depart
Home to thy native country? Then farewell;
But, couldst thou know the sufferings Fate ordains
For thee ere yet thou landest on its shore,
Thou wouldst remain to keep this home with me
And be immortal, strong as is thy wish
To see thy wife⁠—a wish that day by day
Possesses thee. I cannot deem myself
In face or form less beautiful than she;
For never with immortals can the race
Of mortal dames in form or face compare.”

Ulysses, the sagacious, answered her:⁠—

“Bear with me, gracious goddess; well I know
All thou couldst say. The sage Penelope
In feature and in stature comes not nigh
To thee, for she is mortal⁠—deathless thou,
And ever young; yet day by day I long
To be at home once more, and pine to see
The hour of my return. Even though some god
Smite me on the black ocean, I shall bear
The stroke, for in my bosom dwells a mind
Patient of suffering; much have I endured,
And much survived, in tempests on the deep,
And in the battle; let this happen too.”

He spake; the sun went down; the night came on;
And now the twain withdrew to a recess
Deep in the vaulted cave, where, side by side,
They took their rest. But when the child of Dawn,
Aurora, rosy-fingered, looked abroad,
Ulysses put his vest and mantle on;
The nymph too, in a robe of silver-white,
Ample, and delicate, and beautiful,
Arrayed herself, and round about her loins
Wound a fair golden girdle, drew a veil
Over her head, and planned to send away
Magnanimous Ulysses. She bestowed
A heavy axe, of steel and double-edged,
Well fitted to the hand, the handle wrought
Of olive-wood, firm set and beautiful.
A polished adze she gave him next, and led
The way to a far corner of the isle,
Where lofty trees, alders and poplars, stood,
And firs that reached the clouds, sapless and dry
Long since, and fitter thus to ride the waves.
Then, having shown where grew the tallest trees,
Calypso, glorious goddess, sought her home.

Trees then he felled, and soon the task was done.
Twenty in all he brought to earth, and squared
Their trunks with the sharp steel, and carefully
He smoothed their sides, and wrought them by a line.
Calypso, gracious goddess, having brought
Wimbles, he bored the beams, and, fitting them
Together, made them fast with nails and clamps.
As when some builder, skilful in his art,
Frames for a ship of burden the broad keel,
Such ample breadth Ulysses gave the raft.
Upon the massy beams he reared a deck,
And floored it with long planks from end to end.
On this a mast he raised, and to the mast
Fitted a yard; he shaped a rudder next,
To guide the raft along her course, and round
With woven work of willow-boughs he fenced
Her sides against the dashings of the sea.
Calypso, gracious goddess, brought him store
Of canvas, which he fitly shaped to sails,
And, rigging her with cords and ropes and stays,
Heaved her with levers into the great deep.

’Twas the fourth day. His labors now were done,
And on the fifth the goddess from her isle
Dismissed him, newly from the bath, arrayed
In garments given by her, that shed perfumes.
A skin of dark red wine she put on board,
A larger one of water, and for food
A basket, stored with viands such as please
The appetite. A friendly wind and soft
She sent before. The great Ulysses spread
His canvas joyfully to catch the breeze,
And sat and guided with nice care the helm,
Gazing with fixed eye on the Pleiades,
Boötes setting late, and the Great Bear,
By others called the Wain, which, wheeling round,
Looks ever toward Orion, and alone
Dips not into the waters of the deep.
For so Calypso, glorious goddess, bade
That on his ocean journey he should keep
That constellation ever on his left.
Now seventeen days were in the voyage past,
And on the eighteenth shadowy heights appeared,
The nearest point of the Phaeacian land,
Lying on the dark ocean like a shield.

But mighty Neptune, coming from among
The Ethiopians, saw him. Far away
He saw, from mountain-heights of Solyma,
The voyager, and burned with fiercer wrath,
And shook his head, and said within himself:⁠—

“Strange! now I see the gods have new designs
For this Ulysses, formed while I was yet
In Ethiopia. He draws near the land
Of the Phaeacians, where it is decreed
He shall o’erpass the boundary of his woes;
But first, I think, he will have much to bear.”

He spake, and round about him called the clouds
And roused the ocean⁠—wielding in his hand
The trident⁠—summoned all the hurricanes
Of all the winds, and covered earth and sky
At once with mists, while from above the night
Fell suddenly. The east wind and the south
Pushed forth at once, with the strong-blowing west,
And the clear north rolled up his mighty waves.
Ulysses trembled in his knees and heart,
And thus to his great soul, lamenting, said:⁠—

“What will become of me? unhappy man!
I fear that all the goddess said was true,
Foretelling what disasters should o’ertake
My voyage ere I reach my native land.
Now are her words fulfilled. How Jupiter
Wraps the great heaven in clouds and stirs the deep
To tumult! Wilder grow the hurricanes
Of all the winds, and now my fate is sure.
Thrice happy, four times happy, they who fell
On Troy’s wide field, warring for Atreus’ sons:
O, had I met my fate and perished there,
That very day on which the Trojan host,
Around the dead Achilles, hurled at me
Their brazen javelins, I had then received
Due burial, and great glory with the Greeks;
Now must I die a miserable death.”

As thus he spake, upon him, from on high,
A huge and frightful billow broke; it whirled
The raft around, and far from it he fell.
His hands let go the rudder; a fierce rush
Of all the winds together snapped in twain
The mast; far off the yard and canvas flew
Into the deep; the billow held him long
Beneath the waters, and he strove in vain
Quickly to rise to air from that huge swell
Of ocean, for the garments weighed him down
Which fair Calypso gave him. But at length
Emerging, he rejected from his throat
The bitter brine that down his forehead streamed.
Even then, though hopeless with dismay, his thought
Was on the raft; and, struggling through the waves,
He seized it, sprang on board, and, seated there,
Escaped the threatened death. Still to and fro
The rolling billows drave it. As the wind
In autumn sweeps the thistles o’er the field,
Clinging together, so the blasts of heaven
Hither and thither drove it o’er the sea.
And now the south wind flung it to the north
To buffet; now the east wind to the west.

Ino Leucothea saw him clinging there⁠—
The delicate-footed child of Cadmus, once
A mortal, speaking with a mortal voice,
Though now within the ocean gulfs she shares
The honors of the gods. With pity she
Beheld Ulysses struggling thus distressed,
And, rising from the abyss below, in form
A cormorant, the sea-nymph took her perch
On the well-banded raft, and thus she said:⁠—

“Ah, luckless man! how hast thou angered thus
Earthshaking Neptune, that he visits thee
With these disasters? Yet he cannot take,
Although he seek it earnestly, thy life.
Now do my bidding, for thou seemest wise.
Laying aside thy garments, let the raft
Drift with the winds, while thou, by strength of arm,
Makest thy way in swimming to the land
Of the Phaeacians, where thy safety lies.
Receive this veil, and bind its heavenly woof
Beneath thy breast, and have no further fear
Of hardship or of danger. But, as soon
As thou shalt touch the island, take it off,
And turn away thy face, and fling it far
From where thou standest into the black deep.”

The goddess gave the veil as thus she spoke,
And to the tossing deep went down, in form
A cormorant; the black wave covered her.
But still Ulysses, mighty sufferer,
Pondered, and thus to his great soul he said:⁠—

“Ah me! perhaps some god is planning here
Some other fraud against me, bidding me
Forsake my raft. I will not yet obey,
For still far off I see the land in which
’Tis said my refuge lies. This will I do,
For this seems wisest. While the fastenings last
That hold these timbers, I will keep my place
And bide the tempest here; but when the waves
Shall dash my raft in pieces, I will swim,
For nothing better will remain to do.”

As he revolved this purpose in his mind,
Earthshaking Neptune sent a mighty wave,
Horrid and huge and high, and where he sat
It smote him. As a violent wind uplifts
The dry chaff heaped upon a threshing-floor,
And sends it scattered through the air abroad,
So did that wave fling loose the ponderous beams.
To one of these, Ulysses, clinging fast,
Bestrode it, like a horseman on his steed;
And now he took the garments off, bestowed
By fair Calypso, binding round his breast
The veil, and forward plunged into the deep,
With palms outspread, prepared to swim. Meanwhile
Neptune beheld him⁠—Neptune, mighty king⁠—
And shook his head, and said within himself:⁠—

“Go thus, and laden with mischances roam
The waters till thou come among the race
Cherished by Jupiter, but well I deem
Thou wilt not find thy share of suffering light.”

Thus having said he urged his coursers on,
With their fair-flowing manes, until he came
To Aegae, where his glorious palace stands.

But Pallas, child of Jove, had other thoughts.
She stayed the course of every wind beside,
And bade them rest, and lulled them into sleep,
But summoned the swift north to break the waves,
That so Ulysses, the highborn, escaped
From death and from the fates, might be the guest
Of the Phaeacians⁠—men who love the sea.
Two days and nights among the mighty waves
He floated, oft his heart foreboding death.
But when the bright-haired Eos had fulfilled
The third day’s course, and all the winds were laid,
And calm was on the watery waste, he saw
That land was near, as, lifted on the crest
Of a huge swell, he looked with sharpened sight;
And as a father’s life preserved makes glad
His children’s hearts, when long time he has lain
Sick, wrung with pain, and wasting by the power
Of some malignant genius, till at length
The gracious gods bestow a welcome cure,
So welcome to Ulysses was the sight
Of woods and fields. By swimming on he thought
To climb and tread the shore; but when he drew
So near that one who shouted could be heard
From land, the sound of ocean on the rocks
Came to his ear⁠—for there huge breakers roared
And spouted fearfully, and all around
Was covered with the sea-foam. Haven here
Was none for ships, nor sheltering creek, but shores
Beetling from high, and crags and walls of rock.
Ulysses trembled both in knees and heart,
And thus to his great soul, lamenting, said:⁠—

“Now woe is me! as soon as Jove has shown
What I had little hoped to see, the land,
And I through all these waves have ploughed my way,
I find no issue from the hoary deep.
For sharp rocks border it, and all around
Roar the wild surges; slippery cliffs arise
Close to deep gulfs, and footing there is none
Where I might plant my steps and thus escape.
All effort now were fruitless to resist
The mighty billow hurrying me away
To dash me on the pointed rocks. If yet
I strive, by swimming further, to descry
Some sloping shore or harbor of the isle,
I fear the tempest, lest it hurl me back,
Heavily groaning, to the fishy deep;
Or huge sea-monster, from the multitude
Which sovereign Amphitritè feeds, be sent
Against me by some god⁠—for well I know
The power who shakes the shores is wroth with me.”

While he revolved these doubts within his mind,
A huge wave hurled him toward the rugged coast.
Then had his limbs been flayed, and all his bones
Broken at once, had not the blue-eyed maid,
Minerva, prompted him. Borne toward the rock,
He clutched it instantly with both his hands,
And panting clung till that huge wave rolled by,
And so escaped its fury. Back it came,
And smote him once again, and flung him far
Seaward. As to the claws of Polypus,
Plucked from its bed, the pebbles thickly cling,
So flakes of skin, from off his powerful hands,
Were left upon the rock. The mighty surge
O’erwhelmed him; he had perished ere his time⁠—
Hapless Ulysses!⁠—but the blue-eyed maid,
Pallas, informed his mind with forecast. Straight
Emerging from the wave that shoreward rolled,
He swam along the coast and eyed it well,
In hope of sloping beach or sheltered creek.
But when, in swimming, he had reached the mouth
Of a soft-flowing river, here appeared
The spot he wished for, smooth, without a rock,
And here was shelter from the wind. He felt
The current’s flow, and thus devoutly prayed:⁠—

“Hear me, O sovereign power, whoe’er thou art!
To thee, the long-desired, I come. I seek
Escape from Neptune’s threatenings on the sea.
The deathless gods respect the prayer of him
Who looks to them for help, a fugitive,
As I am now, when to thy stream I come,
And to thy knees, from many a hardship past.
O thou that here art ruler, I declare
Myself thy suppliant; be thou merciful.”

He spoke: the river stayed his current, checked
The billows, smoothed them to a calm, and gave
The swimmer a safe landing at his mouth.
Then dropped his knees and sinewy arms at once,
Unstrung, for faint with struggling was his heart.
His body was all swol’n; the brine gushed forth
From mouth and nostrils; all unnerved he lay,
Breathless and speechless; utter weariness
O’ermastered him. But when he breathed again,
And his flown senses had returned, he loosed
The veil that Ino gave him from his breast,
And to the salt flood cast it. A great wave
Bore it far down the stream; the goddess there
In her own hands received it. He, meanwhile,
Withdrawing from the brink, lay down among
The reeds, and kissed the harvest-bearing earth,
And thus to his great soul, lamenting, said:⁠—

“Ah me! what must I suffer more? what yet
Will happen to me? If by the river’s side
I pass the unfriendly watches of the night,
The cruel cold and dews that steep the bank
May, in this weakness, end me utterly,
For chilly blows this river-air at dawn;
But should I climb this hill, to sleep within
The shadowy wood, among thick shrubs, if cold
And weariness allow me, then I fear,
That, while the pleasant slumbers o’er me steal,
I may become the prey of savage beasts.”

Yet, as he longer pondered, this seemed best.
He rose, and sought the wood, and found it near
The water, on a height, o’erlooking far
The region round. Between two shrubs that sprang
Both from one spot he entered⁠—olive-trees,
One wild, one fruitful. The damp-blowing wind
Ne’er pierced their covert; never blazing sun
Darted his beams within, nor pelting shower
Beat through, so closely intertwined they grew.
Here entering, Ulysses heaped a bed
Of leaves with his own hands; he made it broad
And high, for thick the leaves had fallen around.
Two men and three, in that abundant store,
Might bide the winter storm, though keen the cold.
Ulysses, the great sufferer, on his couch
Looked and rejoiced, and placed himself within,
And heaped the leaves high o’er him and around,
As one who, dwelling in the distant fields,
Without a neighbor near him, hides a brand
In the dark ashes, keeping carefully
The seeds of fire alive, lest he, perforce,
To light his hearth must bring them from afar;
So did Ulysses in that pile of leaves
Bury himself, while Pallas o’er his eyes
Poured sleep, and closed his lids, that he might take,
After his painful toils, the fitting rest.