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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Alexander Pope (1688–1744).  Complete Poetical Works.  1903.
 
Translations from Homer
The Odyssey (partial)
Book X. Adventures with Æolus, the Læstrygons, and Circe
 
        
The Argument
  Ulysses arrives at the island of Æolus, who gives him prosperous winds, and incloses the adverse ones in a bag, which his companions untying, they are driven back again, and rejected. Then they sail to the Læstrygons, where they lose eleven ships, and, with one only remaining, proceed to the island of Circe. Eurylochus is sent first with some companions, all which, except Eurylochus, are transformed into swine. Ulysses then undertakes the adventure, and by the help of Mercury, who gives him the herb Moly, overcomes the enchantress, and procures the restoration of his men. After a year’s stay with her, he prepares, at her instigation for his voyage to the infernal shades.

  ‘AT length we reach’d Æolia’s sea-girt shore,
Where great Hippotades the sceptre bore,
A floating isle! High rais’d by toil divine,
Strong walls of brass the rocky coast confine.
Six blooming youths, in private grandeur bred,        5
And six fair daughters, graced the royal bed:
These sons their sisters wed, and all remain
Their parents’ pride, and pleasure of their reign.
All day they feast, all day the bowls flow round,
And joy and music thro’ the isle resound:        10
At night each pair on splendid carpets lay,
And crown’d with love the pleasures of the day.
  ‘This happy port affords our wand’ring fleet
A month’s reception, and a safe retreat.
Full oft the Monarch urged me to relate        15
The fall of Ilion, and the Grecian Fate;
Full oft I told; at length for parting mov’d;
The King with mighty gifts my suit approv’d.
The adverse winds in leathern bags he braced,
Compress’d their force, and lock’d each struggling blast:        20
For him the mighty Sire of Gods assign’d
The tempest’s lord, the Tyrant of the Wind:
His word alone the list’ning storms obey,
To smooth the deep, or swell the foamy sea.
These in my hollow ship the Monarch hung,        25
Securely fetter’d by a silver thong:
But Zephyrus exempt, with friendly gales
He charged to fill and guide the swelling sails:
Rare gift! but O, what gift to fools avails?
  ‘Nine prosp’rous days we plied the lab’ring oar;        30
The tenth presents our welcome native shore:
The hills display the beacon’s friendly light,
And rising mountains gain upon our sight.
Then first my eyes, by watchful toils oppress’d,
Complied to take the balmy gifts of rest:        35
Then first my hands did from the rudder part
(So much the love of home possess’d my heart):
When lo! on board a fond debate arose,
What rare device those vessels might inclose?
What sum, what prize from Æolus I brought?        40
Whilst to his neighbour each express’d his thought:
  ‘“Say, whence, ye Gods, contending nations strive
Who most shall please, who most our hero give?
Long have his coffers groan’d with Trojan spoils;
Whilst we, the wretched partners of his toils,        45
Reproach’d by want, our fruitless labours mourn,
And only rich in barren fame return.
Now Æolus, ye see, augments his store:
But come, my friends, these mystic gifts explore.”
They said: and (oh curs’d Fate!) the thongs unbound;        50
The gushing tempest sweeps the ocean round;
Snatch’d in the whirl, the hurried navy flew,
The ocean widen’d, and the shores withdrew.
Rous’d from my fatal sleep, I long debate
If still to live, or desp’rate plunge to fate;        55
Thus doubting, prostrate on the deck I lay,
Till all the coward thoughts of death gave way.
  ‘Meanwhile our vessels plough the liquid plain,
And soon the known Æolian coast regain;
Our groans the rocks remurmur’d to the main.        60
We leap’d on shore, and with a scanty feast
Our thirst and hunger hastily repress’d;
That done, two chosen heralds straight attend
Our second progress to my royal friend:
And him amidst his jovial sons we found;        65
The banquet steaming, and the goblets crown’d:
There humbly stopp’d with conscious shame and awe,
Nor nearer than the gate presumed to draw.
But soon his sons their well-known guest descried,
And, starting from their couches, loudly cried,        70
“Ulysses here! what dæmon couldst thou meet
To thwart thy passage, and repel thy fleet?
Wast thou not furnish’d by our choicest care
For Greece, for home, and all thy soul held dear?”
Thus they; in silence long my fate I mourn’d,        75
At length these words with accent low return’d:
“Me, lock’d in sleep, my faithless crew bereft
Of all the blessings of your godlike gift!
But grant, oh grant our loss we may retrieve;
A favour you, and you alone can give.”        80
  ‘Thus I with art to move their pity tried,
And touch’d the youths; but their stern Sire replied:
“Vile wretch, begone! this instant I command
Thy fleet accurs’d to leave our hallow’d land.
His baneful suit pollutes these bless’d abodes,        85
Whose Fate proclaims him hateful to the Gods.”
  ‘Thus fierce he said: we sighing went our way,
And with desponding hearts put off to sea.
The sailors spent with toils their folly mourn,
But mourn in vain; no prospect of return.        90
Six days and nights a doubtful course we steer;
The next proud Lamos’ stately towers appear,
And Læstrygonia’s gates arise distinct in air.
The shepherd, quitting here at night the plain,
Calls, to succeed his cares, the watchful swain;        95
But he that scorns the chains of sleep to wear,
And adds the herdsman’s to the shepherd’s care,
So near the pastures, and so short the way,
His double toils may claim a double pay,
And join the labours of the night and day.        100
  ‘Within a long recess a bay there lies,
Edg’d round with cliffs high pointing to the skies;
The jutting shores that swell on either side
Contract its mouth, and break the rushing tide.
Our eager sailors seize the fair retreat,        105
And bound within the port their crowded fleet;
For here retired the sinking billows sleep,
And smiling calmness silver’d o’er the deep.
I only in the bay refused to moor,
And fix’d, without, my halsers to the shore.        110
  ‘From thence we climb’d a point, whose airy brow
Commands the prospect of the plains below:
No tracks of beasts, or signs of men, we found,
But smoky volumes rolling from the ground.
Two with our herald thither we command,        115
With speed to learn what men possess’d the land.
They went, and kept the wheel’s smooth beaten road
Which to the city drew the mountain wood;
When lo! they met, beside a crystal spring,
The daughter of Antiphates the king;        120
She to Artacia’s silver streams came down
(Artacia’s streams alone supply the town);
The damsel they approach, and ask’d what race
The people were? who Monarch of the place?
With joy the maid th’ unwary strangers heard,        125
And show’d them where the royal dome appear’d.
They went; but, as they ent’ring saw the Queen
Of size enormous, and terrific mien
(Not yielding to some bulky mountain’s height),
A sudden horror struck their aching sight.        130
Swift at her call her husband scour’d away
To wreak his hunger on the destin’d prey;
One for his food the raging glutton slew,
But two rush’d out, and to the navy flew.
  ‘Balk’d of his prey, the yelling monster flies,        135
And fills the city with his hideous cries:
A ghastly band of giants hear the roar,
And, pouring down the mountains, crowd the shore.
Fragments they rend from off the craggy brow,
And dash the ruins on the ships below:        140
The crackling vessels burst; hoarse groans arise,
And mingled horrors echo to the skies:
The men, like fish, they stuck upon the flood,
And cramm’d their filthy throats with human food.
Whilst thus their fury rages at the bay,        145
My sword our cables cut, I call’d to weigh;
And charged my men, as they from Fate would fly,
Each nerve to strain, each bending oar to ply.
The sailors catch the word, their oars they seize,
And sweep with equal strokes the smoky seas.        150
Clear of the rocks th’ impatient vessel flies;
Whilst in the port each wretch encumber’d dies.
With earnest haste my frighted sailors press,
While kindling transports glow’d at our success;
But the sad fate that did our friends destroy,        155
Cool’d every breast, and damp’d the rising joy.
  ‘Now dropp’d our anchors in the Ææan bay,
Where Circe dwelt, the Daughter of the Day!
Her mother Persè, of old Ocean’s strain,
Thus from the Sun descended, and the Main        160
(From the same lineage stern Æætes came,
The far-famed brother of th’ enchantress dame):
Goddess, and Queen, to whom the powers belong
Of dreadful magic, and commanding song.
Some God directing, to this peaceful bay        165
Silent we came, and melancholy lay,
Spent and o’erwatch’d. Two days and nights roll’d on,
And now the third succeeding morning shone.
I climb’d a cliff, with spear and sword in hand,
Whose ridge o’erlook’d a shady length of land;        170
To learn if aught of mortal works appear,
Or cheerful voice of mortal strike the ear?
From the high point I mark’d, in distant view,
A stream of curling smoke ascending blue,
And spiry tops, the tufted trees above,        175
Of Circe’s palace bosom’d in the grove.
  ‘Thither to haste, the region to explore,
Was first my thought: but, speeding back to shore,
I deem’d it best to visit first my crew,
And send out spies the dubious coast to view.        180
As down the hill I solitary go,
Some Power divine, who pities human woe,
Sent a tall stag, descending from the wood,
To cool his fervour in the crystal flood;
Luxuriant on the wave-worn bank he lay,        185
Stretch’d forth and panting in the sunny ray.
I launch’d my spear, and with a sudden wound
Transpierc’d his back, and fix’d him to the ground.
He falls, and mourns his fate with human cries:
Thro’ the wide wound the vital spirit flies.        190
I drew, and casting on the river’s side
The bloody spear, his gather’d feet I tied
With twining osiers which the bank supplied.
An ell in length the pliant wisp I weav’d,
And the huge body on my shoulders heav’d:        195
Then, leaning on my spear with both my hands,
Upbore my load, and press’d the sinking sands
With weighty steps, till at the ship I threw
The welcome burden, and bespoke my crew:
  ‘“Cheer up, my friends! it is not yet our fate        200
To glide with ghosts thro’ Pluto’s gloomy gate.
Food in the desert land, behold! is giv’n;
Live, and enjoy the providence of Heav’n.”
  ‘The joyful crew survey his mighty size,
And on the future banquet feast their eyes,        205
As huge in length extended lay the beast;
Then wash their hands, and hasten to the feast.
There, till the setting sun roll’d down the light,
They sate indulging in the genial rite.
When ev’ning rose, and darkness cover’d o’er        210
The face of things, we slept along the shore.
But when the rosy morning warm’d the east,
My men I summon’d, and these words address’d:
  ‘“Foll’wers and Friends! attend what I propose,
Ye sad companions of Ulysses’ woes!        215
We know not here what land before us lies,
Or to what quarter now we turn our eyes,
Or where the sun shall set, or where shall rise.
Here let us think (if thinking be not vain)
If any counsel, any hope remain.        220
Alas! from yonder promontory’s brow
I view’d the coast, a region flat and low;
An isle encircled with the boundless flood;
A length of thickets, and entangled wood.
Some smoke I saw amidst the forest rise,        225
And all around it only seas and skies!”
  ‘With broken hearts my sad companions stood,
Mindful of Cyclops and his human food,
And horrid Læstrygons, the men of blood.
Presaging tears apace began to rain:        230
But tears in mortal miseries are vain.
In equal parts I straight divide my band,
And name a chief each party to command;
I led the one, and of the other side
Appointed brave Eurylochus the guide.        235
Then in the brazen helm the lots we throw,
And Fortune casts Eurylochus to go:
He march’d with twice eleven in his train;
Pensive they march, and pensive we remain.
  ‘The palace in a woody vale they found,        240
High rais’d of stone; a shaded space around;
Where mountain wolves and brindled lions roam
(By magic tamed), familiar to the dome.
With gentle blandishment our men they meet,
And wag their tails, and fawning lick their feet.        245
As from some feast a man returning late,
His faithful dogs all meet him at the gate,
Rejoicing round, some morsel to receive
(Such as the good man ever used to give),
Domestic thus the grisly beasts drew near;        250
They gaze with wonder not unmix’d with fear.
Now on the threshold of the dome they stood,
And heard a voice resounding thro’ the wood:
Placed at her loom within, the Goddess sung;
The vaulted roofs and solid pavement rung.        255
O’er the fair web the rising figures shine,
Immortal labour! worthy hands divine.
Polites to the rest the question mov’d
(A gallant leader, and a man I lov’d):
  ‘“What voice celestial, chanting to the loom        260
(Or Nymph, or Goddess), echoes from the room?
Say, shall we seek access?” With that they call;
And wide unfold the portals of the hall.
  ‘The Goddess, rising, asks her guests to stay,
Who blindly follow where she leads the way.        265
Eurylochus alone of all the band,
Suspecting fraud, more prudently remain’d.
On thrones around with downy cov’rings graced,
With semblance fair, th’ unhappy men she placed.
Milk newly press’d, the sacred flour of wheat,        270
And honey fresh, and Pramnian wines the treat:
But venom’d was the bread, and mix’d the bowl,
With drugs of force to darken all the soul:
Soon in the luscious feast themselves they lost,
And drank oblivion of their native coast.        275
Instant her circling wand the Goddess waves,
To hogs transforms them, and the sty receives.
No more was seen the human form divine;
Head, face, and members, bristle into swine:
Still curs’d with sense, their minds remain alone,        280
And their own voice affrights them when they groan.
Meanwhile the Goddess in disdain bestows
The mast and acorn, brutal food! and strows
The fruits and cornel, as their feast, around;
Now prone and grov’ling on unsav’ry ground.        285
  ‘Eurylochus, with pensive steps and slow,
Aghast returns; the messenger of woe,
And bitter fate. To speak he made essay;
In vain essay’d, nor would his tongue obey.
His swelling heart denied the words their way:        290
But speaking tears the want of words supply,
And the full soul burst copious from his eye.
Affrighted, anxious for our fellows’ fates,
We press to hear what sadly he relates:
  ‘“We went, Ulysses (such was thy command),        295
Thro’ the lone thicket and the desert land.
A palace in a woody vale we found,
Brown with dark forests, and with shades around.
A voice celestial echoed thro’ the dome,
Or Nymph or Goddess, chanting to the loom.        300
Access we sought, nor was access denied:
Radiant she came; the portals open’d wide:
The Goddess mild invites the guests to stay:
They blindly follow where she leads the way.
I only wait behind of all the train:        305
I waited long, and eyed the doors in vain:
The rest are vanish’d, none repass’d the gate;
And not a man appears to tell their fate.”
  ‘I heard, and instant o’er my shoulder flung
The belt in which my weighty faulchion hung        310
(A beamy blade): then seiz’d the bended bow,
And bade him guide the way, resolv’d to go.
He, prostrate falling, with both hands embraced
My knees, and weeping thus his suit address’d:
  ‘“O King, belov’d of Jove, thy servant spare,        315
And ah, thyself the rash attempt forbear!
Never, alas! thou never shalt return,
Or see the wretched, for whose loss we mourn.
With what remains from certain ruin fly,
And save the few not fated yet to die.”        320
  ‘I answer’d stern: “Inglorious then remain,
Here feast and loiter, and desert thy train.
Alone, unfriended, will I tempt my way;
The laws of Fate compel, and I obey.”
  ‘This said, and scornful turning from the shore        325
My haughty step, I stalk’d the valley o’er.
Till now, approaching nigh the magic bower,
Where dwelt th’ enchantress skill’d in herbs of power,
A form divine forth issued from the wood
(Immortal Hermes with the golden rod),        330
In human semblance. On his bloomy face
Youth smiled celestial, with each opening grace.
He seiz’d my hand, and gracious thus began:
  ‘“Ah whither roam’st thou, much-enduring man?
O blind to Fate! what led thy steps to rove        335
The horrid mazes of this magic grove?
Each friend you seek in yon enclosure lies,
All lost their form, and habitants of sties.
Think’st thou by wit to model their escape?
Sooner shalt thou, a stranger to thy shape,        340
Fall prone their equal: first thy danger know,
Then take the antidote the Gods bestow.
The plant I give thro’ all the direful bower
Shall guard thee, and avert the evil hour.
Now hear her wicked arts. Before thy eyes        345
The bowl shall sparkle, and the banquet rise;
Take this, nor from the faithless feast abstain,
For temper’d drugs and poison shall be vain.
Soon as she strikes her wand, and gives the word,
Draw forth and brandish thy refulgent sword,        350
And menace death: those menaces shall move
Her alter’d mind to blandishment and love.
Nor shun the blessing proffer’d to thy arms.
Ascend her bed, and taste celestial charms:
So shall thy tedious toils a respite find,        355
And thy lost friends return to human-kind.
But swear her first by those dread oaths that tie
The powers below, the blessed in the sky;
Lest to thee naked secret fraud be meant,
Or magic bind thee cold and impotent.”        360
  ‘Thus while he spoke, the sov’reign plant he drew,
Where on th’ all-bearing earth unmark’d it grew,
And show’d its nature and its wondrous power:
Black was the root, but milky white the flower;
Moly the name, to mortals hard to find,        365
But all is easy to th’ ethereal kind.
This Hermes gave, then, gliding off the glade,
Shot to Olympus from the woodland shade.
While, full of thought, revolving fates to come,
I speed my passage to th’ enchanted dome.        370
Arrived, before the lofty gates I stay’d;
The lofty gates the Goddess wide display’d:
She leads before, and to the feast invites;
I follow sadly to the magic rites.
Radiant with starry studs, a silver seat        375
Receiv’d my limbs: a footstool eas’d my feet.
She mix’d the potion, fraudulent of soul;
The poison mantled in the golden bowl.
I took, and quaff’d it, confident in Heav’n:
Then waved the wand, and then the word was giv’n.        380
“Hence to thy fellows!” (dreadful she began)
“Go, be a beast!”—I heard, and yet was man.
  ‘Then sudden whirling, like a waving flame,
My beamy faulchion, I assault the dame.
Struck with unusual fear, she trembling cries,        385
She faints, she falls; she lifts her weeping eyes.
  ‘“What art thou? say! from whence, from whom you came?
O more than human! tell thy race, thy name.
Amazing strength, these poisons to sustain!
Not mortal thou, nor mortal is thy brain.        390
Or art thou he, the man to come (foretold
By Hermes, powerful with the wand of gold),
The man from Troy, who wander’d ocean round;
The man for wisdom’s various arts renown’d,
Ulysses? Oh! thy threat’ning fury cease,        395
Sheathe thy bright sword, and join our hands in peace!
Let mutual joys our mutual trust combine,
And love, and love-born confidence be thine.”
  ‘“And how, dread Circe!” (furious I rejoin)
“Can love, and love-born confidence, be mine,        400
Beneath thy charms when my companions groan,
Transform’d to beasts, with accents not their own?
O thou of fraudful heart, shall I be led
To share thy feast-rites, or ascend thy bed;
That, all unarm’d, thy vengeance may have vent,        405
And magic bind me cold and impotent?
Celestial as thou art, yet stand denied;
Or swear that oath by which the Gods are tied,
Swear, in thy soul no latent frauds remain,
Swear by the vow which never can be vain.”        410
  ‘The Goddess swore: then seiz’d my hand and led
To the sweet transports of the genial bed.
Ministrant to the Queen, with busy care
Four faithful handmaids the soft rites prepare;
Nymphs sprung from fountains, or from shady woods,        415
Or the fair offspring of the sacred floods.
One o’er the couches painted carpets threw,
Whose purple lustre glow’d against the view:
White linen lay beneath. Another placed
The silver stands, with golden flaskets graced:        420
With dulcet bev’rage this the beaker crown’d
Fair in the midst, with gilded cups around;
That in the tripod o’er the kindled pile
The water pours; the bubbling waters boil;
An ample vase receives the smoking wave;        425
And, in the bath prepared, my limbs I lave:
Reviving sweets repair the mind’s decay,
And take the painful sense of toil away.
A vest and tunic o’er me next she threw,
Fresh from the bath, and dropping balmy dew;        430
Then led and placed me on the sov’reign seat,
With carpets spread; a footstool at my feet.
The golden ewer a nymph obsequious brings,
Replenish’d from the cool translucent springs;
With copious water the bright vase supplies        435
A silver laver of capacious size.
I wash’d. The table in fair order spread,
They heap the glitt’ring canisters with bread;
Viands of various kinds allure the taste,
Of choicest sort and savour, rich repast!        440
Circe in vain invites the feast to share;
Absent I ponder, and absorb’d in care:
While scenes of woe rose anxious in my breast,
The Queen beheld me, and these words address’d:
  ‘“Why sits Ulysses silent and apart,        445
Some hoard of grief close harbour’d at his heart?
Untouch’d before thee stand the cates divine,
And unregarded laughs the rosy wine.
Can yet a doubt or any dread remain,
When sworn that oath which never can be vain?”        450
  ‘I answered: “Goddess! human is my breast,
By justice sway’d, by tender pity press’d:
Ill fits it me, whose friends are sunk to beasts,
To quaff thy bowls, or riot in thy feasts.
Me would’st thou please? for them thy cares employ,        455
And them to me restore, and me to joy.”
  ‘With that she parted: in her potent hand
She bore the virtue of the magic wand.
Then, hast’ning to the sties, set wide the door,
Urged forth, and drove the bristly herd before;        460
Unwieldy, out they rush’d with gen’ral cry,
Enormous beasts dishonest to the eye.
Now, touch’d by counter-charms, they change again,
And stand majestic, and recall’d to men.
Those hairs of late that bristled ev’ry part,        465
Fall off, miraculous effect of art!
Till all the form in full proportion rise,
More young, more large, more graceful to my eyes.
They saw, they knew me, and with eager pace
Clung to their master in a long embrace:        470
Sad, pleasing sight! with tears each eye ran o’er,
And sobs of joy re-echoed thro’ the bower;
Ev’n Circe wept, her adamantine heart
Felt pity enter, and sustain’d her part.
  ‘“Son of Laërtes!’ (then the Queen began)        475
  “Oh much-enduring, much-experienc’d man!
Haste to thy vessel on the sea-beat shore,
Unload thy treasures, and the galley moor;
Then bring thy friends, secure from future harms,
And in our grottoes stow thy spoils and arms.”        480
  ‘She said. Obedient to her high command
I quit the place, and hasten to the strand.
My sad companions on the beach I found,
Their wistful eyes in floods of sorrow drown’d.
As from fresh pastures and the dewy field        485
(When loaded cribs their ev’ning banquet yield),
The lowing herds return; around them throng
With leaps and bounds their late imprison’d young,
Rush to their mothers with unruly joy,
And echoing hills return the tender cry:        490
So round me press’d, exulting at my sight,
With cries and agonies of wild delight,
The weeping sailors; nor less fierce their joy
Than if return’d to Ithaca from Troy.
“Ah master! ever honour’d, ever dear!”        495
(These tender words on ev’ry side I hear)
“What other joy can equal thy return?
Not that lov’d country for whose sight we mourn,
The soil that nurs’d us, and that gave us breath:
But ah! relate our lost companions’ death.”        500
  ‘I answer’d cheerful: “Haste, your galley moor
And bring our treasures and our arms ashore:
Those in yon hollow caverns let us lay;
Then rise, and follow where I lead the way.
Your fellows live; believe your eyes, and come        505
To taste the joys of Circe’s sacred dome.”
  ‘With ready speed the joyful crew obey;
Alone Eurylochus persuades their stay.
  ‘“Whither” (he cried), “ah whither will ye run?
Seek ye to meet those evils ye should shun?        510
Will you the terrors of the dome explore,
In swine to grovel, or in lions roar,
Or wolf-like howl away the midnight hour
In dreadful watch around the magic bower?
Remember Cyclops, and his bloody deed;        515
The leader’s rashness made the soldiers bleed.”
  ‘I heard the incens’d, and first resolv’d to speed
My flying faulchion at the rebel’s head.
Dear as he was, by ties of kindred bound,
This hand had stretch’d him breathless on the ground;        520
But all at once my interposing train
For mercy pleaded, nor could plead in vain:
“Leave here the man who dares his Prince desert,
Leave to repentance and his own sad heart,
To guard the ship. Seek we the sacred shades        525
Of Circe’s palace, where Ulysses leads.”
  ‘This with one voice declared, the rising train
Left the black vessel by the murm’ring main.
Shame touch’d Eurylochus’s alter’d breast;
He fear’d my threats, and follow’d with the rest.        530
  ‘Meanwhile the Goddess, with indulgent cares
And social joys, the late transform’d repairs;
The bath, the feast, their fainting soul renews;
Rich in refulgent robes, and dropping balmy dews:
Bright’ning with joy their eager eyes behold        535
Each other’s face, and each his story told;
Then gushing tears the narrative confound,
And with their souls the vaulted roofs resound.
When hush’d their passions, thus the Goddess cries:
“Ulysses, taught by labours to be wise,        540
Let this short memory of grief suffice.
To me are known the various woes ye bore,
In storms by sea, in perils on the shore;
Forget whatever was in Fortune’s power,
And share the pleasures of this genial hour.        545
Such be your minds as ere ye left the coast,
Or learn’d to sorrow for a country lost.
Exiles and wand’rers now, where’er ye go,
Too faithful memory renews your woe:
The cause remov’d habitual griefs remain,        550
And the soul saddens by the use of pain”
  ‘Her kind entreaty mov’d the gen’ral breast;
Tired with long toil, we willing sunk to rest.
We plied the banquet, and the bowl we crown’d,
Till the full circle of the year came round.        555
But when the seasons, foll’wing in their train,
Brought back the months, the days, and hours again,
As from a lethargy at once they rise,
And urge their chief with animating cries:
  ‘“Is this, Ulysses, our inglorious lot?        560
And is the name of Ithaca forgot?
Shall never the dear land in prospect rise,
Or the lov’d palace glitter in our eyes?”
  ‘Melting I heard: yet till the sun’s decline
Prolong’d the feast, and quaff’d the rosy wine:        565
But when the shades came on at ev’ning hour,
And all lay slumb’ring in the dusky bower,
I came a suppliant to fair Circe’s bed,
The tender moment seiz’d, and thus I said:
“Be mindful, Goddess! of thy promise made;        570
Must sad Ulysses ever be delay’d?
Around their lord my sad companions mourn,
Each breast beats homeward, anxious to return:
If but a moment parted from thy eyes,
Their tears flow round me, and my heart complies.”        575
  ‘“Go then” (she cried), “ah go! yet think not I,
Not Circe, but the Fates, your wish deny.
Ah hope not yet to breathe thy native air!
Far other journey first demands thy care;
To tread th’ uncomfortable paths beneath,        580
And view the realms of darkness and of death.
There seek the Theban bard, deprived of sight;
Within, irradiate with prophetic light;
To whom Persephonè, entire and whole,
Gave to retain th’ unseparated soul:        585
The rest are forms, of empty ether made;
Impassive semblance, and a flitting shade.”
  ‘Struck at the word, my very heart was dead:
Pensive I sate: my tears bedew’d the bed:
To hate the light and life my soul begun,        590
And saw that all was grief beneath the sun.
Composed at length, the gushing tears suppress’d,
And my toss’d limbs now wearied into rest,
“How shall I tread” (I cried), “ah, Circe! say,
The dark descent, and who shall guide the way?        595
Can living eyes behold the realms below?
What bark to waft me, and what wind to blow?”
  ‘“Thy fated road” (the magic Power replied),
“Divine Ulysses! asks no mortal guide.
Rear but the mast, the spacious sail display,        600
The northern winds shall wing thee on thy way.
Soon shalt thou reach old Ocean’s utmost ends,
Where to the main the shelving shore descends:
The barren trees of Proserpine’s black woods,
Poplars and willows trembling o’er the floods;        605
There fix thy vessel in the lonely bay,
And enter there the kingdoms void of day:
Where Phlegethon’s loud torrents, rushing down,
Hiss in the flaming gulf of Acheron;
And where, slow-rolling from the Stygian bed,        610
Cocytus’ lamentable waters spread:
Where the dark rock o’erhangs th’ infernal lake,
And mingling streams eternal murmurs make.
First draw thy faulchion, and on ev’ry side
Trench the black earth a cubit long and wide:        615
To all the shades around libations pour,
And o’er th’ ingredients strew the hallow’d flour:
New wine and milk, with honey temper’d bring,
And living water from the crystal spring.
Then the wan shades and feeble ghosts implore,        620
With promis’d off’rings on thy native shore:
A barren cow, the stateliest of the isle,
And, heap’d with various wealth, a blazing pile:
These to the rest; but to the seer must bleed
A sable ram, the pride of all thy breed.        625
These solemn vows, and holy off’rings, paid
To all the phantom nations of the dead,
Be next thy care the sable sheep to place
Full o’er the pit, and hellward turn their face;
But from th’ infernal rite thine eye withdraw,        630
And back to Ocean glance with rev’rent awe.
Sudden shall skim along the dusky glades
Thin airy shoals, and visionary shades.
Then give command the sacrifice to haste,
Let the flay’d victims in the flame be cast,        635
And sacred vows and mystic song applied
To grisly Pluto and his gloomy bride.
Wide o’er the pool thy faulchion waved around
Shall drive the spectres from forbidden ground:
The sacred draught shall all the dead forbear,        640
Till awful from the shades arise the seer.
Let him, oraculous, the end, the way,
The turns of all thy future fate display,
Thy pilgrimage to come, and remnant of thy day.”
  ‘So speaking, from the ruddy orient shone        645
The Morn, conspicuous on her golden throne.
The Goddess with a radiant tunic dress’d
My limbs, and o’er me cast a silken vest.
Long flowing robes, of purest white, array
The Nymph, that added lustre to the day:        650
A tiar wreath’d her head with many a fold;
Her waist was circled with a zone of gold.
Forth issuing then, from place to place I flew;
Rouse man by man, and animate my crew.
“Rise, rise, my mates! ’t is Circe gives command:        655
Our journey calls us: haste, and quit the land.”
All rise and follow, yet depart not all,
For Fate decreed one wretched man to fall.
  ‘A youth there was, Elpenor was he named,
Not much for sense, nor much for courage famed:        660
The youngest of our band, a vulgar soul,
Born but to banquet, and to drain the bowl.
He, hot and careless, on a turret’s height
With sleep repair’d the long debauch of night:
The sudden tumult stirr’d him where he lay,        665
And down he hasten’d, but forgot the way;
Full headlong from the roof the sleeper fell,
And snapp’d the spinal joint, and waked in Hell.
  ‘The rest crowd round me with an eager look;
I met them with a sigh, and thus bespoke:        670
“Already, friends! ye think your toils are o’er,
Your hopes already touch your native shore:
Alas! far otherwise the Nymph declares,
Far other journey first demands our cares:
To tread th’ uncomfortable paths beneath,        675
The dreary realms of darkness and of death;
To seek Tiresias’ awful shade below,
And thence our fortunes and our fates to know.”
  ‘My sad companions heard in deep despair;
Frantic they tore their manly growth of hair;        680
To earth they fell; the tears began to rain;
But tears in mortal miseries are vain.
Sadly they fared along the sea-beat shore:
Still heav’d their hearts, and still their eyes ran o’er.
The ready victims at our bark we found,        685
The sable ewe and ram, together bound.
For, swift as thought, the Goddess had been there,
And thence had glided viewless as the air:
The paths of Gods what mortal can survey?
Who eyes their motion? who shall trace their way?’        690
 
 
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