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How, tossed by waves, he reached Ogygia's isle,
On the tenth day delivered from the deep,
And found the nymph Calypso, who long while
Nursed him in hollow caves, his love to reap,
Who for his dear wife could but mourn and weep;
And how she promised with her lips that he
There should remain within her island-keep
Blest with an ageless immortality,
But in his breast the soul would not persuaded be.
And how sore labored at the last he won
The land of the divine Phæacian race,
Who like a god him honored, and sent on
Rich with all gifts of much exceeding grace,
Brass, gold, and raiment, to his native place,
On shipboard. This was the last word he spoke,
Ere the sweet slumber, rushing down apace,
Loosened his limbs, and the tired senses took,
And from his mind each care and sad remembrance shook.
Now if one has not, in the preceding passage, what fully entitles Homer to be considered the deep master, that he always has been held to be, in the lore of the human heart, we should not know where, within the wide bounds of his verse, to seek the justification of this great poet's universal and traditional fame for such wisdom. If any thing that we have heretofore said or suggested, might seem to imply too faint appreciation, on our part, of the Greek poet's merit, witness, we now subscribe our loyal recantation, in the presence of the exquisite, the noble poetry above given-wherewith take we reluctant leave of the Odyssey and of Homer. Or will our readers yet have the scene between Ulysses and his father? As they please. It is not long, it is fine, if perhaps less fine than the scene between the husband and the wife; and here it is; but first let it be noted as we pass, that the ancient taste was less exacting than is the modern, of regular culmination in power and effect growing quite on to the very end of oration or poem. And it is perhaps truer art not to close your work with a note struck at the extreme high pitch of your compass. At all events, Homer in the Odyssey holds us a little after the supreme crisis of interest is passed, hę
evidently being under no apprehension of committing a capital offense in anti-climax against the pampered literary appetite of readers. But here, as we said, is the scene between son Ulysses and sire Laertes:
Thus he his aged father, all alone,
Found in the well-placed garden, with sad mien
Weeding around a plant, and stooping down,
Patched rags unseemly on his form were seen;
And greaves upon his legs, now wasted lean,
Lest the thorns tear him
; on each hand a glove
Working he wore, against the brambles keen.
And on his locks a goat-skin helm above,
Feeding the long deep sorrow of a father's love.
Whom, when divine Odysseus heeded there,
Worn with old age, with many griefs oppressed,
Standing unseen behind a well-grown pear,
He shed tears, and debated which were best,
Whether to fall upon his father's breast
And the whole story of his fate make clear,
How from affliction, toil, and wide unrest,
Safe he returned home in the twentieth year,
Or first with words inquire, till all the truth appear.
And in his mind it seemed more gainful so,
First with soul-piercing words to prove him there.
The old man in his orchard, stooping low,
Round the plant weeded ; and his son came near
And spake: “Old man, thou art not slack to rear
Thy fruit-trees, nor a fool in husbandry.
Lives not a plant, fig, olive, vine, or pear,
But thou with art hast trained it tenderly,
Nor in thy garden-beds a drooping flower I see.
“But now another thing will I declare,
Nor thou, I pray, feel anger in thy breast.
Thyself art husbanded with no good care,
But marred with mean old age, and foully drest.
'Tis not for sloth thy master leaves thee prest
With leanness and contempt; nor, as I ween,
Aught slavish, and unworthy of the best,
Or in thy form or stature, may be seen,
But like a king thou seernest in thy face and mein.
“Like one thou seemest who should bathe and eat
And lie down softly—'tis an old man's due.
But now this tidings would I fain entreat,
Who owns thy service, and this garden who?
And tell me also this, and tell me true;
Is the land Ithaca, as one now said
That met me? who methinks scant manners knew,
Nor stayed to hear me, nor my question read,
Nor of my guest-friend told me, if alive or dead.
“For I will tell thee what I have to say ;
Therefore observe, and to my tale give ear.
At home, in my dear country, on a day
A guest I entertained ; and none more dear
Of strangers ever to my house came near.
That man from Ithaca did claim his race,
Sprung from a line whose rumor all men hear,
And to Laertes his own birth did trace,
Even the glorious son of lord Arkeisias.
“Whom with fond heart I cherished as I could,
And for a token of my courtesy
Gave talents seven of gold, well-wrought and good,
A bowl of silver, flowered, and fair to see,
Twelve single cloaks, twelve robes of tapestry,
Twelve costly tunics, and twelve mantles fair;
And women, beautiful exceedingly,
Whom he himself chose, in his train to bear,
I gave him, four in all, who skilled in house-craft were."
And to his son with tears the old man spake:
Friend, 'tis the land thou seekest; but abide
Fierce men therein, who dire confusion make.
And for the gifts which thou didst then provide,
Vain were they all, and like himself have died.
Were he in Ithaca alive this day,
Large in requital were the gifts supplied,
And much sweet kindness would he haste to pay.
Such was the custom still, whoever came this way.
“But come now, tell me this, and show me plain,
How many seasons have now passed and gone
Since thou thy hapless friend didst entertain,
Whose life so miserably the Fates have spun,
Thy friend, and, if I dream not, once my son ?
Who from his own hath perished far away,
Reft of his country, and no grave hath won;
But torn by fishes in the deep he lay,
Or to wild beasts and birds on land became a prey.
“Nor were his mother and his sire decreed
To shroud him for the burning, nor lament
Their own dear child, the offspring of our seed;
No, nor the wife so goodly eminent
In reason, riches, and a pure intent,
Penelope herself, the dirge did cry
Over her dear lord on the couch, nor bent
To press the cold lip and the lightless eye,
And the last rite fulfill, the meed of those that die.
“But tell me truly, for I fain would know,
Whence be thy parents, and thy country where,
And where the bark, that o'er the wide sea-flow
Thee with thy comrades to our island bare?
Or to some trader didst thou pay thy fare,
Who set thee on our shore, and went his way ?”
And answering spake the wise Odysseus there:
“Now the whole story thou dost bid me say, I will to thee set forth in order, as I may.
"From Alybas I come, there lies my home,
Child of Apheidas, Polypemon's son,
And I am named Eperitus. I roam
By the god's blast unwillingly sent on
From Sicily ; my bark hath moorings won
Beyond the city. Since he left our strand,
Even Odysseus, four full years are gone.
Good birds of omen flocked on his right hand,
When, with a glad farewell, he gladly left the land.
“And still within our heart expected we
To mix in friendship, and fair gifts bestow,
Vain promise, each on other.” Thus spake he;
And on his father the black cloud of woe
Came, and with both hands he began to throw
Foul dust adown his white locks, groaning deep.
And his son trembled, and fierce breath did blow,
And, as the pulsing nostrils quiver and leap,
Sprang to his sire, and spake, and kissed him, fain to weep.
“I only am that man, my father dear,
I only whom thou seekest: I at last
Come to mine own land in the twentieth year.
But cease thy groaning, and let tears be cast
Far from thine eyes, for the old grief hath passed.
No word of sorrow from thy lips let fall.
For I will speak (and there is need of haste :)
Now have I slain those suitors in the hall;
God made their own fierce deeds recoil upon them all."
Dug, where the deep glens of Parnassus are,
By the boar's tusk, when I had gone to see
Autolycus my grandsire, ere the war,
Thence to bring back what he had vowed to me,
When to our house he came, fair largess and rich fee.
“Here the trees also, which with kindly speech
Thou gav'st me, when a child I followed thee
All through the orchard, and made suit for each.
Thou, 'mid the long rows passing, tree by tree,
Their name and nature didst explain to me.
Ten apples, forty fig-trees, pears thirteen
Thou gavest, adding, when fit time should be,
Fifty fair rows of vines, with corn between,
Where, by the ripe hours laden, the full grapes are seen.
Then were the old man's heart and knees unstrung,
When he the tokens of his dear son knew;
And round his neck wit feeble arms he clung ;
Whom to his breast divine Odysseus drew
Fainting and pale. But wlien the wonted hue
Came to his lips, and he revived again,
He answering spake: “O Zeus, if it be true
That the proud suitors their full guerdon gain,
Surely in far Olympus ye, the gods, yet reign!"
There is a threatening sequel to this satisfactory meeting of father with son. But Athene intervenes to avert further bloodshed. She stays the hand of Ulysses raised in fell selfdefense against the avenging kindred of the suitors, and enjoins a solid peace between the two parties at feud. In this appearance the goddess assumes the familiar form of Mentor, ancient friend of Ulysses in which form it was, as every body well knows who has read Fénelon's charmingly invented and charmingly written Télémaque, that this celestial patroness of the house of Ulysses had previously accompanied young Telemachus on his round of wanderings in search of his father. Thus the Odyssey ends not only in justice vindicated, but in amity restored.