Page images
PDF
EPUB

their Teutonic home. It relates three Idylls of the King in the nineteenth, first great adventures of its hero, and tells us took on epic form in French poetry of the something of his life from boyhood until twelfth century. his death. It has the dignity and stateli- Later epics are imitations of the heroic ness required by the epic form, and the life poems that sprang from peoples just led by Hrothgar, Beowulf, and Hygelac, attaining national consciousness and a the principal persons of the story, has relatively high state of civilization. Spenmuch of the simplicity of greatness that ser's Faerie Queene is one of these, belongwe have already noted in the Homeric epic. ing to the end of the sixteenth century, and

Of the epic in other countries there is no adapting some of the character of the space to treat. Many sagas, or hero- Arthurian romances to an allegory of the stories, have come down to us from founding of England, the greatness of the Icelandic, Norse, and old German sources. reign of Elizabeth, and the character of Some of these have been retold in modern the ideal hero as conceived by the people verse by Arnold in “Balder Dead” and by of Shakespeare's time. A century later William Morris in the “Earthly Paradise.” John Milton wrote the epic of Paradise A mass of German legend attained epic Lost, biblical rather than historical in form in the Middle Ages in the Nibelung- theme, imitative of Vergil, but summing enlied, and some of these stories were used up the thought of his time in regard to by Wagner in his operas. In France, the Providence and man's destiny. No epic Song of Roland is the greatest of a large of the founding of the United States exists, number of epic tales that grew up around but Longfellow gathered many Indian the name of Charlemagne and his knights, legends into a noble poem expressive of while the Arthurian legend, made English Indian character and civilization, so that by the prose of Malory's Morte d'Arthur Hiawatha became, in our thought at least, in the fifteenth century and Tennyson's the Ulysses or Aeneas of his race.

ULYSSES AMONG THE PHÆACIANS (From the translation of Homer's Odyssey)

WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

35

5

9

45

BOOK VI Thus overcome with toil and weariness, The noble sufferer Ulysses* slept, While Pallas hastened to the realm and town Peopled by the Phæacians, 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 14 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

27 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: *For the pronunciation of proper names, see page 235.

"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. 41 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 Phæacians, 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 49 Thy girdles, robes, and mantles marvelous 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. 55 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, Day 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 marveling 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

21

60

66

31

3. Pallas, one of the Greek goddesses, wise in the industries of peace and skilled in the arts of war, called by the Romans Minerva. 6. Cyclops, a race of giants having but one eye, and that in the middle of the forehead, fabled to inhabit Sicily. 9. Scheria, a mythical island, identified by the ancients with Corcyra. 14. Hades, the invisible lower world, the abode of the dead.

52. laver, cistern for washing, also basin or bowl for water.

71

115

80

120

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 Aung 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 hillsThe sides of high Taygetus 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

125

91

Her father, going forth to meet the chiefs
Of the Phæacians 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 76
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 86 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 96 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,

130

[blocks in formation]

101

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, 140 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 Phæacian 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

105

145

109

129. Diana, goddess of the moon, the Greek Artemis, represented as a huntress. 130. Taygetus, the highest mountain range in southern Greece. 131. Erymanthus, a mountain range in southern Greece. 193. Latona, the Roman name of a Greek goddess, the mother of Diana and Apollo.

149

201

205

159

211

166

And sat upright, discoursing to himself: Beholding such a scion of their house

"Ah me! upon what region am I thrown? Enter the choral dance. But happiest he What men are herewild, savage, and unjust, Beyond them all, who, bringing princely gifts, Or hospitable and who hold the gods

Shall bear thee to his home a bride; for sure In reverence? There are voices in the air, I never looked on one of mortal race, Womanly voices, as of nymphs that haunt 154 Woman or man, like thee, and as I gaze The mountain summits, and the river-founts, I wonder. Like to thee I saw of late, And the moist, grassy meadows. Or perchance In Delos, a young palm-tree growing up Am I near men who have the power of speech? Beside Apollo's altar; for I sailed Nay, let me then go forth at once and learn." To Delos, with much people following me,

Thus having said, the great Ulysses left On a disastrous voyage. Long I gazed The thicket. From the close-grown wood herent Upon it wonder-struck, as I am nowWith his strong hand a branch well set with For never from the earth so fair a tree leaves,

Had sprung. So marvel I, and am amazed And wound it as a covering round his waist. At thee, O lady, and in awe forbear Then like a mountain lion he went forth, To clasp thy knees. Yet much have I endured. That walks abroad, confiding in his strength, It was but yestereve that I escaped In rain and wind; his eyes shoot fire; he falls From the black sea, upon the twentieth day, On oxen, or on sheep, or forest-deer,

So long the billows and the rushing gales 215 For hunger prompts him even to attack Farther and farther from Ogygia's isle The flock within its closely guarded fold. Had borne me. Now upon this shore some god Such seemed Ulysses when about to meet Casts me, perchance to meet new sufferings Those fair-haired maidens, naked as he was,

here: But forced by strong necessity. To them 171 For yet the end is not, and many things His look was frightful, for his limbs were foul The gods must first accomplish. But do thou, With sea-foam yet. To right and left they fled O queen, have pity on me, since to thee 221 Along the jutting river-banks. Alone

I come the first of all. I do not know The daughter of Alcinoüs kept her place, 175 A single dweller of the land beside. For Pallas gave her courage and forbade Show me, I pray, thy city; and bestow Her limbs to tremble. So she waited there. Some poor old robe to wrap me—if, indeed, Ulysses pondered whether to approach In coming hither, thou hast brought with thee The bright-eyed damsel and embrace her knees Aught poor or coarse. And may the gods And supplicate, or, keeping yet aloof,

vouchsafe Pray her with soothing words to show the way To thee whatever blessing thou canst wish, Townward and give him garments. Musing Husband and home and wedded harmony. thus,

There is no better, no more blessed state, It seemed the best to keep at distance still, Than when the wife and husband in accord And use soft words, lest, should he clasp her Order their household lovingly. Then those knees,

Repine who hate them, those who wish them The maid might be displeased. With gentle well words

Rejoice, and they themselves the most of all." Skillfully ordered thus Ulysses spake:

And then the white-armed maid Nausicaä “O queen, I am thy suppliant, whether thou said: Be mortal or a goddess. If perchance

"Since then, O stranger, thou art not malign Thou art of that immortal race who dwell Of purpose nor weak-minded-yet, in truth, In the broad heaven, thou art, I deem, most Olympian Jupiter bestows the goods like

Of fortune on the noble and the base, To Dian, daughter of imperial Jove,

To each one at his pleasure; and thy griefs In shape, in stature, and in noble air. If mortal and a dweller of the earth,

204. Delos, a small island, the birthplace of Diana and Thrice happy are thy father and his queen, Apollo and the seat of a famous shrine in his honor. 205. Thrice happy are thy brothers; and their

Apollo, one of the great Greek gods, son of Jupiter and Latona,

representing the life-giving as well as the deadly powers of the hearts

sun. He was the leader of the Muses, and the god of music,

poetry, and healing. 216. Ogygla, a mythical island. Plutarch Must overflow with gladness for thy sake, says it lay due west, beneath the setting sun.

224

180

230

185

235

190

195

241

289

245

295

255

306

261

Are doubtless sent by him, and it is fit Had been anointed, and he had put on
That thou submit in patience—now that thou The garments sent him by the spotless maid,
Hast reached our lands, and art within our Jove's daughter, Pallas, caused him to appear
realm,

Of statelier size and more majestic mien, Thou shalt not lack for garments nor for aught And bade the locks that crowned his head flow Due to a suppliant stranger in his need.

down, The city I will show thee, and will name Curling like blossoms of the hyacinth. Its dwellers—the Phæacians—they possess As when some skillful workman, trained and The city; all the region lying round

taught Is theirs, and I am daughter of the prince By Vulcan and Minerva in his art, Alcinoüs, large of soul, to whom are given 250 Binds the bright silver with a verge of gold, The rule of the Phæacians and their power.” And graceful is his handiwork, such grace

So spake the damsel, and commanded thus Did Pallas shed upon the hero's brow Her fair-haired maids: "Stay! whither do ye And shoulders, as he passed along the beach, flee,

And, glorious in his beauty and the pride 301 My handmaids, when a man appears in sight? Of noble bearing, sat aloof. The maid Ye think, perhaps, he is some enemy.

Admired, and to her bright-haired women Nay, there is no man living now, nor yet

spake: Will live, to enter, bringing war, the land “Listen to me, my maidens, while I speak. Of the Phæacians. Very dear are they This man comes not among the godlike sons To the great gods. We dwell apart, afar Of the Phæacian stock against the will Within the unmeasured deep, amid its waves, Of all the gods of heaven. I thought him late The most remote of men; no other race Of an unseemly aspect; now he bears Hath commerce with us. This man comes to us A likeness to the immortal ones whose home A wanderer and unhappy, and to him

Is the broad heaven. I would that I might call Our cares are due. The stranger and the poor A man like him my husband, dwelling here, Are sent by Jove, and slight regards to them And here content to dwell. Now hasten, maids, Are grateful. Maidens, give the stranger food And set before the stranger food and wine.” And drink, and take him to the river-side 267 She spake; they heard and cheerfully obeyed, To bathe where there is shelter from the wind.” And set before Ulysses food and wine. So spake the mistress; and they stayed their The patient chief Ulysses ate and drank flight

Full eagerly, for he had fasted long. And bade each other stand, and led the chief White-armed Nausicaä then had other cares. Under a shelter as the royal maid,

She placed the smoothly folded robes within Daughter of stout Alcinoüs, gave command, The sumptuous chariot, yoked the firm-hoofed And laid a cloak and tunic near the spot

mules, To be his raiment, and a golden cruse

And mounted to her place, and from the seat Of limpid oil. Then, as they bade him bathe Spake kindly, counseling Ulysses thus: In the fresh stream, the noble chieftain said: “Now, stranger, rise and follow to the town, “Withdraw, ye maidens, hence, while I And to my royal father's palace I prepare

Will be thy guide, where, doubt not, thou wilt To cleanse my shoulders from the bitter brine, meet And to anoint them; long have these my limbs The noblest men of our Phæacian.race. Been unrefreshed by oil. I will not bathe 280 But do as I advise for not inapt Before you. I should be ashamed to stand I deem thee. While we traverse yet the fields Unclothed in presence of these bright-haired Among the tilth, keep thou among my train maids."

Of maidens, following fast behind the mules He spake; they hearkened and withdrew, And chariot. I will lead thee in the way. 331 and told

But when our train goes upward toward the The damsel what he said. Ulysses then

town, Washed the salt spray of ocean from his back Fenced with its towery wall, and on each side And his broad shoulders in the flowing stream, And wiped away the sea-froth from his brows. 296. Vulcan, in Roman mythology the god of fire and the

315

271

320

274

325

284

working of metals, identified with the Greek Hephest us. And when the bath was over, and his limbs

329. tilth, crops.

« PreviousContinue »