Book VI

Ulysses Discovered by Nausicaä

Nausicaä, daughter of Alcinoüs, king of the Phaeacians, directed by Pallas to go to the river and wash her marriage robes⁠—Sports of her maidens after the washing is performed⁠—Ulysses awakened by the noise, relieved and clothed by Nausicaä, and bidden to follow her into the city, and there make his suit to the queen, the wife of Alcinoüs.

Thus overcome with toil and weariness,
The noble sufferer Ulysses slept,
While Pallas hastened to the realm and town
Peopled by the Phaeacians, who of yore
Abode in spacious Hypereia, near
The insolent race of Cyclops, and endured
Wrong from their mightier hands. A godlike chief,
Nausithoüs, led them, to a new abode,
And planted them in Scheria, far away
From plotting neighbors. With a wall he fenced
Their city, built them dwellings there, and reared
Fanes to the gods, and changed the plain to fields.
But he had bowed to death, and had gone down
To Hades, and Alcinoüs, whom the gods
Endowed with wisdom, governed in his stead.
Now to his palace, planning the return
Of the magnanimous Ulysses, came
The blue-eyed goddess Pallas, entering
The gorgeous chamber where a damsel slept⁠—
Nausicaä, daughter of the large-souled king
Alcinoüs, beautiful in form and face
As one of the immortals. Near her lay,
And by the portal, one on either side,
Fair as the Graces, two attendant maids.
The shining doors were shut. But Pallas came
As comes a breath of air, and stood beside
The damsel’s head and spake. In look she seemed
The daughter of the famous mariner
Dymas, a maiden whom Nausicaä loved,
The playmate of her girlhood. In her shape
The blue-eyed goddess stood, and thus she said:⁠—

“Nausicaä, has thy mother then brought forth
A careless housewife? Thy magnificent robes
Lie still neglected, though thy marriage day
Is near, when thou art to array thyself
In seemly garments, and bestow the like
On those who lead thee to the bridal rite;
For thus the praise of men is won, and thus
Thy father and thy gracious mother both
Will be rejoiced. Now with the early dawn
Let us all hasten to the washing-place.
I too would go with thee, and help thee there,
That thou mayst sooner end the task, for thou
Not long wilt be unwedded. Thou art wooed
Already by the noblest of the race
Of the Phaeacians, for thy birth, like theirs,
Is of the noblest. Make thy suit at morn
To thy illustrious father, that he bid
His mules and car be harnessed to convey
Thy girdles, robes, and mantles marvellous
In beauty. That were seemlier than to walk,
Since distant from the town the lavers lie.”

Thus having said, the blue-eyed Pallas went
Back to Olympus, where the gods have made,
So saith tradition, their eternal seat.
The tempest shakes it not, nor is it drenched
By showers, and there the snow doth never fall.
The calm clear ether is without a cloud;
And in the golden light, that lies on all,
Days after day the blessed gods rejoice.
Thither the blue-eyed goddess, having given
Her message to the sleeping maid, withdrew.

Soon the bright morning came. Nausicaä rose,
Clad royally, as marvelling at her dream
She hastened through the palace to declare
Her purpose to her father and the queen.
She found them both within. Her mother sat
Beside the hearth with her attendant maids,
And turned the distaff loaded with a fleece
Dyed in sea-purple. On the threshold stood
Her father, going forth to meet the chiefs
Of the Phaeacians in a council where
Their noblest asked his presence. Then the maid,
Approaching her beloved father, spake:⁠—

“I pray, dear father, give command to make
A chariot ready for me, with high sides
And sturdy wheels, to bear to the river-brink,
There to be cleansed, the costly robes that now
Lie soiled. Thee likewise it doth well beseem
At councils to appear in vestments fresh
And stainless. Thou hast also in these halls
Five sons, two wedded, three in boyhood’s bloom,
And ever in the dance they need attire
New from the wash. All this must I provide.”

She ended, for she shrank from saying aught
Of her own hopeful marriage. He perceived
Her thought and said: “Mules I deny thee not,
My daughter, nor aught else. Go then; my grooms
Shall make a carriage ready with high sides
And sturdy wheels, and a broad rack above.”

He spake, and gave command. The grooms obeyed,
And, making ready in the outer court
The strong-wheeled chariot, led the harnessed mules
Under the yoke and made them fast; and then
Appeared the maiden, bringing from her bower
The shining garments. In the polished car
She piled them, while with many pleasant meats
And flavoring morsels for the day’s repast
Her mother filled a hamper, and poured wine
Into a goatskin. As her daughter climbed
The car, she gave into her hands a cruse
Of gold with smooth anointing oil for her
And her attendant maids. Nausicaä took
The scourge and showy reins, and struck the mules
To urge them onward. Onward with loud noise
They went, and with a speed that slackened not,
And bore the robes and her⁠—yet not alone,
For with her went the maidens of her train.
Now when they reached the river’s pleasant brink,
Where lavers had been hollowed out to last
Perpetually, and freely through them flowed
Pure water that might cleanse the foulest stains,
They loosed the mules, and drove them from the wain
To browse the sweet grass by the eddying stream;
And took the garments out, and flung them down
In the dark water, and with hasty feet
Trampled them there in frolic rivalry.
And when the task was done, and all the stains
Were cleansed away, they spread the garments out
Along the beach and where the stream had washed
The gravel cleanest. Then they bathed, and gave
Their limbs the delicate oil, and took their meal
Upon the river’s border⁠—while the robes
Beneath the sun’s warm rays were growing dry.
And now, when they were all refreshed by food,
Mistress and maidens laid their veils aside
And played at ball. Nausicaä the white-armed
Began a song. As when the archer-queen
Diana, going forth among the hills⁠—
The sides of high Taÿgetus or slopes
Of Erymanthus⁠—chases joyously
Boars and fleet stags, and round her in a throng
Frolic the rural nymphs, Latona’s heart
Is glad, for over all the rest are seen
Her daughter’s head and brow, and she at once
Is known among them, though they all are fair,
Such was this spotless virgin midst her maids.

Now when they were about to move for home
With harnessed mules and with the shining robes
Carefully folded, then the blue-eyed maid,
Pallas, bethought herself of this⁠—to rouse
Ulysses and to bring him to behold
The bright-eyed maiden, that she might direct
The stranger’s way to the Phaeacian town.
The royal damsel at a handmaid cast
The ball; it missed, and fell into the stream
Where a deep eddy whirled. All shrieked aloud.
The great Ulysses started from his sleep
And sat upright, discoursing to himself:⁠—

“Ah me! upon what region am I thrown?
What men are here⁠—wild, savage, and unjust,
Or hospitable, and who hold the gods
In reverence? There are voices in the air,
Womanly voices, as of nymphs that haunt
The mountain summits, and the river-founts,
And the moist grassy meadows. Or perchance
Am I near men who have the power of speech?
Nay, let me then go forth at once and learn.”

Thus having said, the great Ulysses left
The thicket. From the close-grown wood he rent,
With his strong hand, a branch well set with leaves
And wound it as a covering round his waist.
Then like a mountain lion he went forth,
That walks abroad, confiding in his strength,
In rain and wind; his eyes shoot fire; he falls
On oxen, or on sheep, or forest-deer,
For hunger prompts him even to attack
The flock within its closely guarded fold.
Such seemed Ulysses when about to meet
Those fair-haired maidens, naked as he was,
But forced by strong necessity. To them
His look was frightful, for his limbs were foul
With sea-foam yet. To right and left they fled
Along the jutting riverbanks. Alone
The daughter of Alcinoüs kept her place,
For Pallas gave her courage and forbade
Her limbs to tremble. So she waited there.
Ulysses pondered whether to approach
The bright-eyed damsel and embrace her knees
And supplicate, or, keeping yet aloof,
Pray her with soothing words to show the way
Townward and give him garments. Musing thus,
It seemed the best to keep at distance still,
And use soft words, lest, should he clasp her knees,
The maid might be displeased. With gentle words
Skilfully ordered thus Ulysses spake:⁠—

“O queen, I am thy suppliant, whether thou
Be mortal or a goddess. If perchance
Thou art of that immortal race who dwell
In the broad heaven, thou art, I deem, most like
To Dian, daughter of imperial Jove,
In shape, in stature, and in noble air.
If mortal and a dweller of the earth,
Thrice happy are thy father and his queen,
Thrice happy are thy brothers; and their hearts
Must overflow with gladness for thy sake,
Beholding such a scion of their house
Enter the choral dance. But happiest he
Beyond them all, who, bringing princely gifts,
Shall bear thee to his home a bride; for sure
I never looked on one of mortal race,
Woman or man, like thee, and as I gaze
I wonder. Like to thee I saw of late,
In Delos, a young palm-tree growing up
Beside Apollo’s altar; for I sailed
To Delos, with much people following me,
On a disastrous voyage. Long I gazed
Upon it wonder-struck, as I am now⁠—
For never from the earth so fair a tree
Had sprung. So marvel I, and am amazed
At thee, O lady, and in awe forbear
To clasp thy knees. Yet much have I endured.
It was but yestereve that I escaped
From the black sea, upon the twentieth day,
So long the billows and the rushing gales
Farther and farther from Ogygia’s isle
Had borne me. Now upon this shore some god
Casts me, perchance to meet new sufferings here;
For yet the end is not, and many things
The gods must first accomplish. But do thou,
queen, have pity on me, since to thee
I come the first of all. I do not know
A single dweller of the land beside.
Show me, I pray, thy city; and bestow
Some poor old robe to wrap me⁠—if, indeed,
In coming hither, thou hast brought with thee
Aught poor or coarse. And may the gods vouchsafe
To thee whatever blessing thou canst wish,
Husband and home and wedded harmony.
There is no better, no more blessed state,
Than when the wife and husband in accord
Order their household lovingly. Then those
Repine who hate them, those who wish them well
Rejoice, and they themselves the most of all.”
And then the white-armed maid Nausicaä said:⁠—
“Since then, O stranger, thou art not malign
Of purpose nor weak-minded⁠—yet, in truth,
Olympian Jupiter bestows the goods
Of fortune on the noble and the base
To each one at his pleasure; and thy griefs
Are doubtless sent by him, and it is fit
That thou submit in patience⁠—now that thou
Hast reached our lands, and art within our realm,
Thou shalt not lack for garments nor for aught
Due to a suppliant stranger in his need.
The city I will show thee, and will name
Its dwellers⁠—the Phaeacians⁠—they possess
The city; all the region lying round
Is theirs, and I am daughter of the prince
Alcinoüs, large of soul, to whom are given
The rule of the Phaeacians and their power.”

So spake the damsel, and commanded thus
Her fair-haired maids: “Stay! whither do ye flee,
My handmaids, when a man appears in sight?
Ye think, perhaps, he is some enemy.
Nay, there is no man living now, nor yet
Will live, to enter, bringing war, the land
Of the Phaeacians. Very dear are they
To the great gods. We dwell apart, afar
Within the unmeasured deep, amid its waves
The most remote of men; no other race
Hath commerce with us. This man comes to us
A wanderer and unhappy, and to him
Our cares are due. The stranger and the poor
Are sent by Jove, and slight regards to them
Are grateful. Maidens, give the stranger food
And drink, and take him to the riverside
To bathe where there is shelter from the wind.”

So spake the mistress; and they stayed their flight
And bade each other stand, and led the chief
Under a shelter as the royal maid,
Daughter of stout Alcinoüs, gave command,
And laid a cloak and tunic near the spot
To be his raiment, and a golden cruse
Of limpid oil. Then, as they bade him bathe
In the fresh stream, the noble chieftain said:⁠—

“Withdraw, ye maidens, hence, while I prepare
To cleanse my shoulders from the bitter brine,
And to anoint them; long have these my limbs
Been unrefreshed by oil. I will not bathe
Before you. I should be ashamed to stand
Unclothed in presence of these bright-haired maids.”

He spake; they hearkened and withdrew, and told
The damsel what he said. Ulysses then
Washed the salt spray of ocean from his back
And his broad shoulders in the flowing stream,
And wiped away the sea-froth from his brows.
And when the bath was over, and his limbs
Had been anointed, and he had put on
The garments sent him by the spotless maid,
Jove’s daughter, Pallas, caused him to appear
Of statelier size and more majestic mien,
And bade the locks that crowned his head flow down,
Curling like blossoms of the hyacinth.
As when some skilful workman trained and taught
By Vulcan and Minerva in his art
Binds the bright silver with a verge of gold,
And graceful is his handiwork, such grace
Did Pallas shed upon the hero’s brow
And shoulders, as he passed along the beach,
And, glorious in his beauty and the pride
Of noble bearing, sat aloof. The maid
Admired, and to her bright-haired women spake:⁠—

“Listen to me, my maidens, while I speak.
This man comes not among the godlike sons
Of the Phaeacian stock against the will
Of all the gods of heaven. I thought him late
Of an unseemly aspect; now he bears
A likeness to the immortal ones whose home
Is the broad heaven. I would that I might call
A man like him my husband, dwelling here,
And here content to dwell. Now hasten, maids,
And set before the stranger food and wine.”

She spake; they heard and cheerfully obeyed,
And set before Ulysses food and wine.
The patient chief Ulysses ate and drank
Full eagerly, for he had fasted long.

White-armed Nausicaä then had other cares.
She placed the smoothly folded robes within
The sumptuous chariot, yoked the firm-hoofed mules,
And mounted to her place, and from the seat
Spake kindly, counselling Ulysses thus:⁠—

“Now, stranger, rise and follow to the town,
And to my royal father’s palace I
Will be thy guide, where, doubt not, thou wilt meet
The noblest men of our Phaeacian race.
But do as I advise⁠—for not inapt
I deem thee. While we traverse yet the fields
Among the tilth, keep thou among my train
Of maidens, following fast behind the mules
And chariot. I will lead thee in the way.
But when our train goes upward toward the town,
Fenced with its towery wall, and on each side
Embraced by a fair haven, with a strait
Of narrow entrance, where our well-oared barques
Have each a mooring-place along the road,
And there round Neptune’s glorious fane extends
A marketplace, surrounded by huge stones,
Dragged from the quarry hither, where is kept
The rigging of the barques⁠—sailcloth and ropes⁠—
And oars are polished there⁠—for little reck
Phaeacians of the quiver and the bow,
And give most heed to masts and shrouds and ships
Well poised, in which it is their pride to cross
The foamy deep⁠—when there I would not bring
Rude taunts upon myself, for in the crowd
Are brutal men. One of the baser sort
Perchance might say, on meeting us: ‘What man,
Handsome and lusty-limbed, is he who thus
Follows Nausicaä? where was it her luck
To find him? will he be her husband yet?
Perhaps she brings some wanderer from his ship,
A stranger from strange lands, for we have here
No neighbors; or, perhaps, it is a god
Called down by fervent prayer from heaven to dwell
Henceforth with her. ’Tis well if she have found
A husband elsewhere, since at home she meets
Her many noble wooers with disdain;
They are Phaeacians.’ Thus the crowd would say,
And it would bring reproach upon my name.
I too would blame another who should do
The like, and, while her parents were alive,
Without their knowledge should consort with men
Before her marriage. Stranger, now observe
My words, and thou shalt speedily obtain
Safe-conduct from my father, and be sent
Upon thy voyage homeward. We shall reach
A beautiful grove of poplars by the way,
Sacred to Pallas; from it flows a brook,
And round it lies a meadow. In this spot
My father has his country-grounds, and here
His garden flourishes, as far from town
As one could hear a shout. There sit thou down
And wait till we are in the city’s streets
And at my father’s house. When it shall seem
That we are there, arise and onward fare
To the Phaeacian city, and inquire
Where dwells Alcinoüs the large-souled king,
My father; ’tis not hard to find; a child
Might lead thee thither. Of the houses reared
By the Phaeacians there is none like that
In which Alcinoüs the hero dwells.
When thou art once within the court and hall,
Go quickly through the palace till thou find
My mother where she sits beside the hearth,
Leaning against a column in its blaze,
And twisting threads, a marvel to behold,
Of bright sea-purple, while her maidens sit
Behind her. Near her is my father’s throne,
On which he sits at feasts, and drinks the wine
Like one of the immortals. Pass it by
And clasp my mother’s knees; so mayst thou see
Soon and with joy the day of thy return,
Although thy home be far. For if her mood
Be kindly toward thee, thou mayst hope to greet
Thy friends once more, and enter yet again
Thy own fair palace in thy native land.”

Thus having said, she raised the shining scourge
And struck the mules, that quickly left behind
The river. On they went with easy pace
And even steps. The damsel wielded well
The reins, and used the lash with gentle hand,
So that Ulysses and her train of maids
On foot could follow close. And now the sun
Was sinking when they came to that fair grove
Sacred to Pallas. There the noble chief
Ulysses sat him down, and instantly
Prayed to the daughter of imperial Jove:⁠—

“O thou unconquerable child of Jove
The Aegis-bearer! hearken to me now,
Since late thou wouldst not listen to my prayer,
What time the mighty shaker of the shores
Pursued and wrecked me! Grant me to receive
Pity and kindness from Phaeacia’s sons.”

So prayed he, supplicating. Pallas heard
The prayer, but came not to him openly.
Awe of her father’s brother held her back;
For he would still pursue with violent hate
Ulysses, till he reached his native land.