ABOUT the time that the maiden Nausicaa had come to her fathers house, Odysseus rose up from where he sat by the spring in the grove of Pallas Athene and went into the City. There he met one who showed him the way to the palace of King Alcinous. The doors of that palace were
Odysseus stood before the threshold of bronze and many thoughts were in his mind. But at last with a prayer to Zeus he crossed the threshold and went through the great hall. Now on that evening the Captains and the Councillors of the Phaeacians sat drinking wine with the King. Odysseus passed by them, and stayed not at the Kings chair, but went where Arete, the Queen, sat. And he knelt before her and clasped her knees with his hands and spoke to her in supplication:
Arete, Queen! After many toils and perils I am come to thee and to thy husband, and to these, thy guests! May the gods give all who are here a happy life and may each see his children in safe possession of his halls. I have come to thee to beg that thou wouldst put me on my way to my own land, for long have I suffered sore affliction far from my friends.
Then, having spoken, Odysseus went and sat down in the ashes of the hearth with his head bowed. No one spoke for long. Then an aged Councillor who was there spoke to the King.
O Alcinous, he said, it is not right that a stranger should sit in the ashes by thy hearth. Bid the stranger rise now and let a chair be given him and supper set before him.
Then Alcinous took Odysseus by the hand, and raised him from where he sat, and bade his son Laodamas give place to him. He sat on a chair inlaid with silver and the housedame brought him bread and wine and dainties. He ate, and King Alcinous spoke to the company and said:
To-morrow I shall call you together and we will entertain this stranger with a feast in our halls, and we shall take counsel to see in what way we can convoy him to his own land.
The Captains and Councillors assented to this, and then each one arose and went to his own house. Odysseus was left alone in the hall with the King and the Queen. Now Arete, looking closely at Odysseus, recognized the mantle he wore, for she herself had wrought it with her handmaids. And when all the company had gone she spoke to Odysseus and said:
Stranger, who art thou? Didst thou not speak of coming to us from across the deep? And if thou didst come that way, who gave thee the raiment that thou hast on?
SAID Odysseus, Lady, for seven and ten days I sailed across the deep, and on the eighteenth day I sighted the hills of thy land. But my woes were not yet ended. The storm winds shattered my raft, and when I strove to land the waves over-whelmed me and dashed me against great rocks in a desolate place. At length I came to a river, and I swam through its mouth and I found a shelter from the wind. There I lay amongst the leaves all the night long and from dawn to mid-day. Then came thy daughter down to the river. I was aware of her playing with her friends, and to her I made my supplication. She gave me bread and wine, and she bestowed these garments upon me, and she showed an understanding that was far beyond her years.
Then said Alcinous the King, Our daughter did not do well when she did not bring thee straight to our house.
Odysseus said, My Lord, do not blame the maiden. She bade me follow with her company, and she was only careful that no one should have cause to make ill-judged remarks upon the stranger whom she found.
Then Alcinous, the King, praised Odysseus and said that he should like such a man to abide in his house and that he would give him land and wealth, in the country of the Phæacians. But if it is not thy will to abide with us, he said, I shall give thee a ship and a company of men to take thee to thy own land, even if that land be as far as Euba, which, our men say, is the farthest of all lands. As he said this Odysseus uttered a prayer in his heart, O Father Zeus, grant that Alcinous the King may fulfil all that he has promised--and for that may his fame never be quenched--and that I may come to my own land.
Arete now bade the maids prepare a bed for Odysseus. This they did, casting warm coverlets and purple blankets upon it. And when Odysseus came to the bed and lay in it, after the tossing of the waves, rest in it seemed wonderfully good.
At dawn of day he went with the King to the assembly of the Phæacians. When the Princes and Captains and Councillors were gathered together, Alcinous spoke to them saying:
Princes and Captains and Councillors of the Phæacians! This stranger has come to my house in his wanderings, and he desires us to give him a ship and a company of men, so that he may cross the sea and come to his own land. Let us, as in times past we have done for others, help him in his journey. Nay, let us even now draw down a black ship to the sea, and put two and fifty of our noblest youths upon it, and let us make it ready for the voyage. But before he departs from amongst us, come all of you to a feast that I shall give to this stranger in my house. And moreover, let us take with us the minstrel of our land, blind Demodocus, that his songs may make us glad at the feast.
So the King spoke, and the Princes, Captains and Councillors of the Phæacians went with him to the palace. And at the same time two and fifty youths went down to the shore of the sea, and drew down a ship and placed the masts and sails upon it, and left the oars in their leathern loops. Having done all this they went to the palace where the feast was being given and where many men had gathered.
The henchman led in the minstrel, blind Demodocus. To him the gods had given a good and an evil fortune--the gift of song with the lack of sight. The henchman led him through the company, and placed him on a seat inlaid with silver, and hung his lyre on the pillar above his seat. When the guests and the minstrel had feasted, blind Demodocus took down the lyre and sang of things that were already famous--of the deeds of Achilles and Odysseus.
Now when he heard the words that the minstrel uttered, Odysseus caught up his purple cloak and drew it over his head. Tears were falling down his cheeks and he was ashamed of their being seen. No one marked his weeping except the King, and the King wondered why his guest should be so moved by what the minstrel related.
When they had feasted and the minstrel had sung to them, Alcinous said, Let us go forth now and engage in games and sports so that our stranger guest may tell his friends when he is amongst them what our young men can do.
All went out from the palace to the place where the games were played. There was a foot-race, and there was a boxing-match, and there was wrestling and weight-throwing. All the youths present went into the games. And when the sports were ending Laodamas, the son of King Alcinous, said to his friends:
Come, my friends, and let us ask the stranger whether he is skilled or practised in any sport. And saying this he went to Odysseus and said, Friend and stranger, come now and try thy skill in the games. Cast care away from thee, for thy journey shall not be long delayed. Even now the ship is drawn down to the sea, and we have with us the company of youths that is ready to help thee to thine own land.
Said Odysseus, Sorrow is nearer to my heart than sport, for much have I endured in times that are not far past.
Then a youth who was with Laodamas, Euryalus, who had won in the wrestling bout, said insolently, Laodamas is surely mistaken in thinking that thou shouldst be proficient in sports. As I look at thee I think that thou art one who makes voyages for gain--a trader whose only thought is for his cargo and his gains.
Then said Odysseus with anger. Thou hast not spoken well, young man. Thou hast beauty surely, but thou has not grace of manner nor speech. And thou hast stirred the spirit in my breast by speaking to me in such words.
And Odysseus, turning to the youths, said, Let who will, pass that throw. And if any of you would try with me in boxing or wrestling or even in the foot-race, let him stand forward--anyone except Laodamas, for he is of the house that has befriended me. A rude man he would surely be who should strive with his host.
All kept silence. Then Alcinous the King said, So that thou shalt have something to tell thy friends when thou art in thine own land, we shall show thee the games in which we are most skilful. For we Phæacians are not perfect boxers or wrestlers, but we excel all in running and in dancing and in pulling with the oar. Lo, now, ye dancers! Come forward and show your nimbleness, so that the stranger may tell his friends, when he is amongst them, how far we surpass all men in dancing as well as in seamanship and speed of foot.
A PLACE was levelled for the dance, and the blind minstrel, Demodocus, took the lyre in his hands and made music, while youths skilled in the dance struck the ground with their feet. Odysseus as he watched them marvelled at their grace and their spirit. When the dance was ended he said to the King, My Lord Alcinous, thou didst boast thy dancers to be the best in the world, and thy word is not to be denied. I wonder as I look upon them.
At the end of the day Alcinous spoke to his people and said, This stranger, in all that he does and says, shows himself to be a wise and a mighty man. Let each of us now give him the strangers gift. Here there are twelve princes of the Phæacians and I am the thirteenth. Let each of us give him a worthy gift, and then let us go back t my house and sit down to supper. As for Euryalus, let him make amends to the stranger for his rudeness of speech as he offers him his gift.
All assented to the Kings words, and Euryalus went to Odysseus and said, Stranger, if I have spoken aught that offended thee, may the storm winds snatch it and bear it away. May the gods grant that thou shalt see thy wife and come to thine own country. Too long hast thou endured afflictions away from thy friends.
So saying, Euryalus gave Odysseus a sword of bronze with a silver hilt and a sheath of ivory. Odysseus took it and said, And to you, my friend, may the gods grant all happiness, and mayst thou never miss the sword that thou hast given me. Thy gracious speech hath made full amends.
Each of the twelve princes gave gifts to Odysseus, and the gifts were brought to the palace and left
In the palace the bath was prepared for Odysseus, and he entered it and was glad of the warm water, for not since he had left the Island of Calypso did he have a warm bath. He came from the bath and put on the beautiful raiment that had been given him and he walked through the hall, looking a king amongst men.
Now the maiden, Nausicaa, stood by a pillar as he passed, and she knew that she had never looked upon a man who was more splendid. She had thought that the stranger whom she had saved would have stayed in her fathers house, and that one day he would be her husband. But now she knew that by no means would he abide in the land of the Phæacians. As he passed by, she spoke to him and said, Farewell, O Stranger! And when thou art in thine own country, think sometimes of me, Nausicaa, who helped thee. Odysseus took her hand and said to her, Farewell, daughter of King Alcinous! May Zeus grant that I may return to my own land. There every day shall I pay homage to my memory of thee, to whom I owe my life.
He passed on and he came to where the Princes and Captains and Councillors of the Phæacians sat. His seat was beside the Kings. Then the henchman brought in the minstrel, blind Demodocus, and placed him on a seat by a pillar. And when supper was served Odysseus sent to Demodocus a portion of his own meat. He spoke too in praise of the minstrel saying, Right well dost thou sing of the Greeks and all they wrought and suffered--as well, methinks, as if thou hadst been present at the war of Troy. I would ask if thou canst sing of the Wooden Horse that brought destruction to the Trojans. If thou canst, I shall be a witness amongst all men how the gods have surely given thee the gift of song.
Demodocus took down the lyre and sang. His song told how one part of the Greeks sailed away in their ships and how others with Odysseus to lead them were now in the center of Priams City all hidden in the great Wooden Horse which the Trojans themselves had dragged across their broken wall. So the Wooden Horse stood, and the people gathered around talked of what should be done with so wonderful a thing--whether to break open its timbers, or drag it to a steep hill and hurl it down on the rocks, or leave it there as an offering to the gods. As an offering to the gods it was left at last. Then the minstrel sang how Odysseus and his comrades poured forth from the hollow of the horse and took the City.
As the minstrel sang, the heart of Odysseus melted within him and tears fell down his cheeks. None of the company saw him weeping except Alcinous the King. But the King cried out to the company saying, Let the minstrel cease, for there is one amongst us to whom his song is not pleasing. Ever since it began the stranger here has wept with tears flowing down his cheeks.
The minstrel ceased, and all the company looked in surprise at Odysseus, who sat with his head bowed and his mantle wrapped around his head. Why did he weep? each man asked. No one had asked of him his name, for each thought it was more noble to serve a stranger without knowing his name.
Said the King, speaking again, In a brothers place stands the stranger and the suppliant, and as a brother art thou to us, O unknown guest. But wilt thou not be brotherly to us? Tell us by what name they call thee in thine own land. Tell us, too, of thy land and thy city. And tell us, too, where thou wert borne on thy wanderings, and to what lands and peoples thou camest. And as a brother tell us why thou dost weep and mourn in spirit over the tale of the going forth of the Greeks to the war of Troy. Didst thou have a kinsman who fell before Priams City--a daughters husband, or a wifes father, or someone nearer by blood? Or didst thou have a loving friend who fell there--one with an understanding heart who wast to thee as a brother?
Such questions the King asked, and Odysseus taking the mantle from around his head turned round to the company.