« السابقةمتابعة »
THE STORY OF THE ODYSSEY.
AFTER the fall of Troy, Agamemnon returned to Argos, where he was treacherously slain by Ægisthus, the corrupter of his wife ; Menelaus reached Sparta in safety, laden with spoil and reunited to the beautiful Helen; Nestor resumed the rule of Pylos, but Ulysses remained absent from Ithaca, where his wife Penelope still grieved for him, though steadfast in her belief that he would return. One hundred and fourteen suitors, princes from Dulichium, Samos, Zacynthus, and Ithaca, determined to wed Penelope that they might obtain the rich possessions of Ulysses, spent their time in revelling in his halls and wasting his wealth, thinking in this way to force Penelope to wed some one of them.
Penelope, as rich in resources as was her crafty husband, announced to them that she would wed when she had woven a funeral garment for Laertes, the father of Ulysses. During the day she wove industriously, but at night she unravelled what she had done that day, so that to the expectant suitors the task seemed interminable. After four years her artifice was revealed to the suitors by one of her maids, and she was forced to find other excuses to postpone her marriage. In the mean time, her son Telemachus, now grown to manhood, disregarded by the suitors on account of his youth, and treated as a child by his mother, was forced to sit helpless in his halls, hearing the insults of the suitors and seeing his rich possessions wasted.
Having induced Jove to end the sufferings of Ulysses, Pallas caused Hermes to be dispatched to Calypso's isle to release the hero, while she herself descended to Ithaca in the guise of Mentes. There she was received courteously by the youth, who sat unhappy among the revellers. At a table apart from the others, Telemachus told the inquiring stranger who they were who thus wasted his patrimony.
“Something must needs be done speedily,” said Mentes, and I shall tell thee how to thrust them from thy palace
gates. Take a ship and go to Pylos to inquire of the aged and wise Nestor what he knows of thy father's fate. Thence go to Menelaus, in Sparta ; he was the last of all the mailed Greeks to return home. If thou hear encouraging tidings, wait patiently for a year. At the end of that time, if thy father come not, celebrate his funeral rites, let thy mother wed again, and take immediate steps for the destruction of the suitor band. Thou art no longer a child; the time has come for thee to assert thyself and be a man.”
Telemachus, long weary of inactivity, was pleased with this advice, and at once announced to the incredulous suitors his intention of going to learn the fate of his father. A boat was procured and provided with a crew by the aid of Pallas, and provisioned from the secret store-room guarded by the old and faithful servant Eurycleia. From among the treasures of Ulysses - garments, heaps of gold and brass, and old and delicate wines — Telemachus took sweet wine and meal to be conveyed to the ship at night, and instructing Eurycleia not to tell his mother of his absence until twelve days had passed, he departed as soon as sleep had overcome the suitors. Pallas, in the guise of Mentor, accompanied him.
His courage failed him, however, as they approached the shore of Pylos, where Nestor and his people were engaged in making a great sacrifice to Neptune. “How shall I approach the chief?” he asked. “ Ill am I trained in courtly speech."
But, encouraged by Pallas, he greeted the aged Nestor, and after he and his companion had assisted in the sacrifice and partaken of the banquet that followed, he revealed his name and asked for tidings of his father, boldly and confidently, as befitted the son of Ulysses. The old king could tell him nothing, however. After Troy had fallen, a dissension had rent the camp, and part of the Greeks had remained with Agamemnon, part had sailed with Menelaus. Sailing with Menelaus, Nestor had parted with Diomed at Argos, and had sailed on to Pylos. Since his return he had heard of the death of Agamemnon, and of the more recent return of Menelaus, but had heard no tidings of Ulysses, who had remained with Agamemnon.
To Menelaus he advised Telemachus to go, warning him, however, not to remain long away from Ithaca, leaving his home in the possession of rude and lawless men.
In a car provided by Nestor and driven by his son, Pisistratus, Telemachus reached Sparta after a day and a night's rapid travel, and found Menelaus celebrating the nuptial feast of his daughter Hermione, betrothed at Troy to the son of Achilles, and his son Megapenthes, wedded to the daughter of Alector. The two young men were warmly welcomed, and were invited to partake of the banquet without being asked their names. After the feast they wondered at the splendor of the halls of gold, amber, and ivory, the polished baths, and the fleecy garments in which they had been arrayed; but Menelaus assured them that all his wealth was small compensation to him for the loss of the warriors who had fallen before Troy, and above all, of the great Ulysses, whose fate he knew not. Though Telemachus's tears fell at his father's name, Menelaus did not guess to whom he spoke, until Helen, entering from her perfumed chamber, saw the likeness between the stranger and the babe whom Ulysses had left when he went to Troy, and greeted their guest as Telemachus.
Then they sat in the splendid hall and talked of Troy, Menelaus broken by his many toils, Helen beautiful as when she was rapt away by Paris, weaving with her golden distaff wound with violet wool, and the two young men, who said little, but listened to the wondrous tale of the wanderings of Menelaus. And they spoke of Ulysses : of the times when he had proved his prudence as well as his craft; of his entering Troy as a beggar and revealing the Achaian plots to Helen; of how he had prevented their breaking out of the wooden horse too soon. Then the king told of his interview with the Ancient of the Deep, in which he had learned the fate of his comrades; of Agamemnon's death, and of the detention of Ulysses on Calypso's isle, where he languished, weeping bitterly, because he had no means of escape.
This information gained, Telemachus was anxious to re
turn home; but his host detained him until he and Helen had descended to their fragrant treasure-chamber and brought forth rich gifts, - a double cup of silver and gold wrought by Vulcan, a shining silver beaker, and an embroidered robe for his future bride.
Mercury, dispatched by Jove, descended to the distant isle of Calypso, and warned the bright-haired nymph, whom he found weaving in her charmed grotto, that she must let her mortal lover go or brave the wrath of the gods. The nymph, though loath to part with her lover, sought out the melancholy Ulysses, where he sat weeping beside the deep, and giving him tools, led him to the forest and showed him where to fell trees with which to construct a raft. His labor finished, she provided the hero with perfumed garments, a full store of provisions, and saw him set forth joyfully upon the unknown deep.
For seventeen days his journey was a prosperous one ; but on the eighteenth day, just as the land of the Phæacians came in sight, Neptune returned from Ethiopia, and angry at what the gods had contrived to do in his absence, determined to make the hero suffer as much as possible before he attained the promised end of his troubles.
Soon a great storm arose and washed Ulysses from the raft. Clinging to its edge, buffeted here and there by the angry waves, he would have suffered death had not a kind sea nymph urged him to lay aside bis heavy garments, leave the raft, and binding a veil that she gave him about his chest, swim to the land of the Phæacians. The coast was steep and rocky, but he found at last a little river, and swimming up it, landed, and fell asleep among some warm heaps of dried leaves.
The Phæacians were a people closely allied to the gods, to whom they were very dear. They had at one time been neighbors of the Cyclops, from whose rudeness they had suffered so much that they were compelled to seek a distant home. They were a civilized people, who had achieved great results as sailors, having remarkably swift and wellequipped ships.
To the Princess Nausicaa, beautiful as a goddess, Pallas appeared in a dream the night that Ulysses lay sleeping on the isle, warning her that since her wedding day was near at hand, when all would need fresh garments, it was fitting that she should ask her father's permission to take the garments of the household to the river side to wash them.
Nausicaa's father willingly granted his permission, and ordered the strong car in which to carry away the soiled garments. A hamper of food and a skin of wine were added by her mother, as the princess climbed into the chariot and drove towards the river, followed by her maids.
When the garments had been washed in the lavers hollowed out by the river side, and the lunch had been eaten, the maids joined in a game of ball. Joyous they laughed and frolicked, like Dian's nymphs, until they roused the sleeper under the olive-trees on the hillside.
All save Nausicaa fled affrighted as he came forth to speak to them, covered with sea foam, his nakedness hidden only by a leafy branch woven round his waist ; but she, strengthened by the goddess, heard his story, and provided him with clothing and materials for the bath. When he appeared, cleansed from the sea foam, and made more handsome by the art of Pallas, Nausicaa's pity was changed to admiration, and she wished that she might have a husband like him.
Food and wine were set before the hero, and while he refreshed himself the dried clothes were folded and placed in the cart. As the princess prepared to go she advised the stranger to follow the party until they reached a grove outside the city, and to remain there until she had time to reach her father's palace, lest some gossip should connect Nausicaa's name with that of a stranger. She told him how to find her father's palace, and instructed him to win the favor of her mother, that he might be received with honor and assisted on his homeward way.
Ulysses obeyed, and when he reached the city gates was met by Pallas, in the guise of a virgin with an urn. She answered his questions, directed him to the palace, and told