HOMER, ODYSSEY 12
THE ODYSSEY CONTENTS
Athena & Telemachus
Penelope & the Suitors
Departure of Telemachus
Nestor's Tale: The Returns
Menelaus' Tale: The Returns
Odysseus & Calypso
Raft of Odysseus
Odysseus & Naucicaa
Odysseus & Arete
Games & Feast of the Phaeacians
Odysseus' Tale: Lotus-Eaters & Cyclops
Odysseus' Tale: Aeolus, Laestrygones & Circe
Odysseus' Tale: The Underworld
Odysseus' Tale: Sirens, Scylla & Helius
Return to Ithaca
Odysseus & Eumaeus
Return of Telemachus
Odyseus & Eumaeus
Odysseus & Telemachus
Odysseus the Beggar
Odysseus the Beggar
Odysseus & Penelope
Contest of the Suitors
Contest of the Suitors
Slaying of the Suitors
Odysseus & Penelope
Ghosts of the Dead
Odysseus & Laertes
THE ODYSSEY BOOK 12, TRANSLATED BY A. T. MURRAY
 “Now after our ship had left the stream of the river Oceanus and had come to the wave of the broad sea, and the Aeaean isle, where is the dwelling of early Dawn and her dancing-lawns, and the risings of the sun, there on our coming we beached our ship on the sands, and ourselves went forth upon the shore of the sea, and there we fell asleep, and waited for the bright Dawn.
 “As soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, then I sent forth my comrades to the house of Circe to fetch the body of the dead Elpenor. Straightway then we cut billets of wood and gave him burial where the headland runs furthest out to sea, sorrowing and shedding big tears. But when the dead man was burned, and the armour of the dead, we heaped up a mound and dragged on to it a pillar, and on the top of the mound we planted his shapely oar.
 “We then were busied with these several tasks, howbeit Circe was not unaware of our coming forth from the house of Hades, but speedily she arrayed herself and came, and her handmaids brought with her bread and meat in abundance and flaming red wine. And the beautiful goddess stood in our midst, and spoke among us, saying: `Rash men, who have gone down alive to the house of Hades to meet death twice, while other men die but once. Nay, come, eat food and drink wine here this whole day through; but at the coming of Dawn ye shall set sail, and I will point out the way and declare to you each thing, in order that ye may not suffer pain and woes through wretched ill-contriving either by sea or on land.’
 “So she spoke, and our proud hearts consented. So then all day long till set of sun we sat feasting on abundant flesh and sweet wine. But when the sun set and darkness came on, they lay down to rest beside the stern cables of the ship; but Circe took me by the hand, and leading me apart from my dear comrades, made me to sit, and herself lay down close at hand and asked me all the tale. And I told her all in due order.
 "Then queenly Circe spoke to me and said: `All these things have thus found an end; but do thou hearken as I shall tell thee, and a god shall himself bring it to thy mind. To the Sirens first shalt thou come, who beguile all men whosoever comes to them. Whoso in ignorance draws near to them and hears the Sirens' voice, he nevermore returns, that his wife and little children may stand at his side rejoicing, but the Sirens beguile him with their clear-toned song, as they sit in a meadow, and about them is a great heap of bones of mouldering men, and round the bones the skin is shrivelling. But do thou row past them, and anoint the ears of thy comrades with sweet wax, which thou hast kneaded, lest any of the rest may hear. But if thou thyself hast a will to listen, let them bind thee in the swift ship hand and foot upright in the step of the mast, and let the ropes be made fast at the ends to the mast itself, that with delight thou mayest listen to the voice of the two Sirens. And if thou shalt implore and bid thy comrades to loose thee, then let them bind thee with yet more bonds.
 "`But when thy comrades shall have rowed past these, thereafter I shall not fully say on which side thy course is to lie, but do thou thyself ponder it in mind, and I will tell thee of both ways. For on the one hand are beetling crags, and against them roars the great wave of dark-eyed Amphitrite; the Planctae do the blessed gods call these. Thereby not even winged things may pass, no, not the timorous doves that bear ambrosia to father Zeus, but the smooth rock ever snatches away one even of these, and the father sends in another to make up the tale. And thereby has no ship of men ever yet escaped that has come thither, but the planks of ships and bodies of men are whirled confusedly by the waves of the sea and the blasts of baneful fire. One seafaring ship alone has passed thereby, that Argo famed of all, on her voyage from Aeetes, and even her the wave would speedily have dashed there against the great crags, had not Here sent her through, for that Jason was dear to her.
 “`Now on the other path are two cliffs, one of which reaches with its sharp peak to the broad heaven, and a dark cloud surrounds it. This never melts away, nor does clear sky ever surround that peak in summer or in harvest time. No mortal man could scale it or set foot upon the top, not though he had twenty hands and feet; for the rock is smooth, as if it were polished. And in the midst of the cliff is a dim cave, turned to the West, toward Erebus, even where you shall steer your hollow ship, glorious Odysseus. Not even a man of might could shoot an arrow from the hollow ship so as to reach into that vaulted cave. Therein dwells Scylla, yelping terribly. Her voice is indeed but as the voice of a new-born whelp, but she herself is an evil monster, nor would anyone be glad at sight of her, no, not though it were a god that met her. Verily she has twelve feet, all misshapen, and six necks, exceeding long, and on each one an awful head, and therein three rows of teeth, thick and close, and full of black death. Up to her middle she is hidden in the hollow cave, but she holds her head out beyond the dread chasm, and fishes there, eagerly searching around the rock for dolphins and sea-dogs and whatever greater beast she may haply catch, such creatures as deep-moaning Amphitrite rears in multitudes past counting. By her no sailors yet may boast that they have fled unscathed in their ship, for with each head she carries off a man, snatching him from the dark-prowed ship.
 “`But the other cliff, thou wilt note, Odysseus, is lower—they are close to each other; thou couldst even shoot an arrow across—and on it is a great fig tree with rich foliage, but beneath this divine Charybdis sucks down the black water. Thrice a day she belches it forth, and thrice she sucks it down terribly. Mayest thou not be there when she sucks it down, for no one could save thee from ruin, no, not the Earth-shaker. Nay, draw very close to Scylla's cliff, and drive thy ship past quickly; for it is better far to mourn six comrades in thy ship than all together.’
 “So she spoke, but I made answer and said: `Come, I pray thee, goddess, tell me this thing truly, if in any wise I might escape from fell Charybids, and ward off that other, when she works harm to my comrades.’
 “So I spoke, and the beautiful goddess answered and said: `Rash man, lo, now again thy heart is set on the deeds of war and on toil. Wilt thou not yield even to the immortal gods? She is not mortal, but an immortal bane, dread, and dire, and fierce, and not to be fought with; there is no defence; to flee from her is bravest. For if thou tarriest to arm thyself by the cliff, I fear lest she may again dart forth and attack thee with as many heads and seize as many men as before. Nay, row past with all thy might, and call upon Crataiis, the mother of Scylla, who bore her for a bane to mortals. Then will she keep her from darting forth again.
 “`And thou wilt come to the isle Thrinacia. There in great numbers feed the kine of Helios and his goodly flocks, seven herds of kine and as many fair flocks of sheep, and fifty in each. These bear no young, nor do they ever die, and goddesses are their shepherds, fair-tressed nymphs, Phaethusa and Lampetie, whom beautiful Neaera bore to Helios Hyperion. These their honored mother, when she had borne and reared them, sent to the isle Thrinacia to dwell afar, and keep the flocks of their father and his sleek kine. If thou leavest these unharmed and heedest thy homeward way, verily ye may yet reach Ithaca, though in evil plight. But if thou harmest them, then I foretell ruin for thy ship and for thy comrades, and even if thou shalt thyself escape, late shalt thou come home and in evil case, after losing all thy comrades.’
 “So she spoke, and presently came golden-throned Dawn. Then the beautiful goddess departed up the island, but I went to the ship and roused my comrades themselves to embark and to loose the stern cables. So they went on board straightway and sat down upon the benches, and sitting well in order smote the grey sea with their oars. And for our aid in the wake of our dark-prowed ship a fair wind that filled the sail, a goodly comrade, was sent by fair-tressed Circe, dread goddess of human speech. So when we had straightway made fast all the tackling throughout the ship we sat down, but the wind and the helmsman guided the ship.
 “Then verily I spoke among my comrades, grieved at heart: `Friends, since it is not right that one or two alone should know the oracles that Circe, the beautiful goddess, told me, therefore will I tell them, in order that knowing them we may either die or, shunning death and fate, escape. First she bade us avoid the voice of the wondrous Sirens, and their flowery meadow. Me alone she bade to listen to their voice; but do ye bind me with grievous bonds, that I may abide fast where I am, upright in the step of the mast, and let the ropes be made fast at the ends to the mast itself; and if I implore and bid you to loose me, then do ye tie me fast with yet more bonds.’
 “Thus I rehearsed all these things and told them to my comrades. Meanwhile the well-built ship speedily came to the isle of the two Sirens, for a fair and gentle wind bore her on. Then presently the wind ceased and there was a windless calm, and a god lulled the waves to sleep. But my comrades rose up and furled the sail and stowed it in the hollow ship, and thereafter sat at the oars and made the water white with their polished oars of fir. But I with my sharp sword cut into small bits a great round cake of wax, and kneaded it with my strong hands, and soon the wax grew warm, forced by the strong pressure and the rays of the lord Helios Hyperion. Then I anointed with this the ears of all my comrades in turn; and they bound me in the ship hand and foot, upright in the step of the mast, and made the ropes fast at the ends to the mast itself; and themselves sitting down smote the grey sea with their oars. But when we were as far distant as a man can make himself heard when he shouts, driving swiftly on our way, the Sirens failed not to note the swift ship as it drew near, and they raised their clear-toned song: `Come hither, as thou farest, renowned Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans; stay thy ship that thou mayest listen to the voice of us two. For never yet has any man rowed past this isle in his black ship until he has heard the sweet voice from our lips. Nay, he has joy of it, and goes his way a wiser man. For we know all the toils that in wide Troy the Argives and Trojans endured through the will of the gods, and we know all things that come to pass upon the fruitful earth.’
 “So they spoke, sending forth their beautiful voice, and my heart was fain to listen, and I bade my comrades loose me, nodding to them with my brows; but they fell to their oars and rowed on. And presently Perimedes and Eurylochus arose and bound me with yet more bonds and drew them tighter. But when they had rowed past the Sirens, and we could no more hear their voice or their song, then straightway my trusty comrades took away the wax with which I had anointed their ears and loosed me from my bonds.
 “But when we had left the island, I presently saw smoke and a great billow, and heard a booming. Then from the hands of my men in their terror the oars flew, and splashed one and all in the swirl, and the ship stood still where it was, when they no longer plied with their hands the tapering oars. But I went through the ship and cheered my men with gentle words, coming up to each man in turn: `Friends, hitherto we have been in no wise ignorant of sorrow; surely this evil that besets us now is no greater than when the Cyclops penned us in his hollow cave by brutal strength; yet even thence we made our escape through my valor and counsel and wit; these dangers, too, methinks we shall some day remember. But now come, as I bid, let us all obey. Do you keep your seats on the benches and smite with your oars the deep surf of the sea, in the hope that Zeus may grant us to escape and avoid this death. And to thee, steersman, I give this command, and do thou lay it to heart, since thou wieldest the steering oar of the hollow ship. From this smoke and surf keep the ship well away and hug the cliff, lest, ere thou know it, the ship swerve off to the other side and thou cast us into destruction.’
 “So I spoke, and they quickly hearkened to my words. But of Scylla I went not on to speak, a cureless bane, lest haply my comrades, seized with fear, should cease from rowing and huddle together in the hold. Then verily I forgot the hard command of Circe, whereas she bade me in no wise to arm myself; but when I had put on my glorious armour and grasped in my hand two long spears, I went to the fore-deck of the ship, whence I deemed that Scylla of the rock would first be seen, who was to bring ruin upon my comrades. But nowhere could I descry her, and my eyes grew weary as I gazed everywhere toward the misty rock.
 “We then sailed on up the narrow strait with wailing. For on one side lay Scylla and on the other divine Charybdis terribly sucked down the salt water of the sea. Verily whenever she belched it forth, like a cauldron on a great fire she would seethe and bubble in utter turmoil, and high over head the spray would fall on the tops of both the cliffs. But as often as she sucked down the salt water of the sea, within she could all be seen in utter turmoil, and round about the rock roared terribly, while beneath the earth appeared black with sand; and pale fear seized my men. So we looked toward her and feared destruction; but meanwhile Scylla seized from out the hollow ship six of my comrades who were the best in strength and in might. Turning my eyes to the swift ship and to the company of my men, even then I noted above me their feet and hands as they were raised aloft. To me they cried aloud, calling upon me by name for that last time in anguish of heart. And as a fisher on a jutting rock, when he casts in his baits as a snare to the little fishes, with his long pole lets down into the sea the horn of an ox of the steading, and then as he catches a fish flings it writhing ashore, even so were they drawn writhing up towards the cliffs. Then at her doors she devoured them shrieking and stretching out their hands toward me in their awful death-struggle. Most piteous did mine eyes behold that thing of all that I bore while I explored the paths of the sea.
 “Now when we had escaped the rocks, and dread Charybdis and Scylla, presently then we came to the goodly island of the god, where were the fair kine, broad of brow, and the many goodly flocks of Helios Hyperion. Then while I was still out at sea in my black ship, I heard the lowing of the cattle that were being stalled and the bleating of the sheep, and upon my mind fell the words of the blind seer, Theban Teiresias, and of Aeaean Circe, who very straitly charged me to shun the island of Helios, who gives joy to mortals. Then verily I spoke among my comrades, grieved at heart: `Hear my words, comrades, for all your evil plight, that I may tell you the oracles of Teiresias and of Aeaean Circe, who very straitly charged me to shun the island of Helios, who gives joy to mortals; for there, she said, was our most terrible bane. Nay, row the black ship out past the island.’
 “So I spoke, but their spirit was broken within them, and straightway Eurylochus answered me with hateful words: `Hardy art thou, Odysseus; thou hast strength beyond that of other men and thy limbs never grow weary. Verily thou art wholly wrought of iron, seeing that thou sufferest not thy comrades, worn out with toil and drowsiness, to set foot on shore, where on this sea-girt isle we might once more make ready a savoury supper; but thou biddest us even as we are to wander on through the swift night, driven away from the island over the misty deep. It is from the night that fierce winds are born, wreckers of ships. How could one escape utter destruction, if haply there should suddenly come a blast of the South Wind or the blustering West Wind, which oftenest wreck ships in despite of the sovereign gods? Nay, verily for this time let us yield to black night and make ready our supper, remaining by the swift ship, and in the morning we will go aboard, and put out into the broad sea.’
 “So spoke Eurylochus, and the rest of my comrades gave assent. Then verily I knew that some god was assuredly devising ill, and I spoke and addressed him with winged words: `Eurylochus, verily ye constrain me, who stand alone. But come now, do ye all swear to me a mighty oath, to the end that, if we haply find a herd of kine or a great flock of sheep, no man may slay either cow or sheep in the blind folly of his mind; but be content to eat the food which immortal Circe gave.’
 “So I spoke; and they straightway swore that they would not, even as I bade them. But when they had sworn and made an end of the oath, we moored our well-built ship in the hollow harbor near a spring of sweet water, and my comrades went forth from the ship and skilfully made ready their supper. But when they had put from them the desire of food and drink, then they fell to weeping, as they remembered their dear comrades whom Scylla had snatched from out the hollow ship and devoured; and sweet sleep came upon them as they wept. But when it was the third watch of the night, and the stars had turned their course, Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, roused against us a fierce wind with a wondrous tempest, and hid with clouds the land and sea alike, and night rushed down from heaven. And as soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, we dragged our ship, and made her fast in a hollow cave, where were the fair dancing-floors and seats of the nymphs. Then I called my men together and spoke among them: `Friends, in our swift ship is meat and drink; let us therefore keep our hands from those kine lest we come to harm, for these are the cows and goodly sheep of a dread god, even of Helios, who oversees all things and overhears all things.’
 “So I spoke, and their proud hearts consented. Then for a full month the South Wind blew unceasingly, nor did any other wind arise except the East and the South.
 “Now so long as my men had grain and red wine they kept their hands from the kine, for they were eager to save their lives. But when all the stores had been consumed from out the ship, and now they must needs roam about in search of game, fishes, and fowl, and whatever might come to their hands—fishing with bent hooks, for hunger pinched their bellies—then I went apart up the island that I might pray to the gods in the hope that one of them might show me a way to go. And when, as I went through the island, I had got away from my comrades, I washed my hands in a place where there was shelter from the wind, and prayed to all the gods that hold Olympus; but they shed sweet sleep upon my eyelids.
 And meanwhile Eurylochus began to give evil counsel to my comrades: `Hear my words, comrades, for all your evil plight. All forms of death are hateful to wretched mortals, but to die of hunger, and so meet one's doom, is the most pitiful. Nay, come, let us drive off the best of the kine of Helios and offer sacrifice to the immortals who hold broad heaven. And if we ever reach Ithaca, our native land, we will straightway build a rich temple to Helios Hyperion and put therein many goodly offerings. And if haply he be wroth at all because of his straight-horned kine, and be minded to destroy our ship, and the other gods consent, rather would I lose my life once for all with a gulp at the wave, than pine slowly away in a desert isle.’
 “So spoke Eurylochus, and the rest of my comrades gave assent. Straightway they drove off the best of the kine of Helios from near at hand, for not far from the dark-prowed ship were grazing the fair, sleek kine, broad of brow. Around these, then, they stood and made prayer to the gods, plucking the tender leaves from off a high-crested oak; for they had no white barley on board the well-benched ship. Now when they had prayed and had cut the throats of the kine and flayed them, they cut out the thigh-pieces and covered them with a double layer of fat and laid raw flesh upon them. They had no wine to pour over the blazing sacrifice, but they made libations with water, and roasted all the entrails over the fire.
 "Now when the thighs were wholly burned and they had tasted the inner parts, they cut up the rest and spitted it. Then it was that sweet sleep fled from my eyelids, and I went my way to the swift ship and the shore of the sea. But when, as I went, I drew near to the curved ship, then verily the hot savour of the fat was wafted about me, and I groaned and cried aloud to the immortal gods: `Father Zeus and ye other blessed gods that are for ever, verily it was for my ruin that ye lulled me in pitiless sleep, while my comrades remaining behind have contrived a monstrous deed.’
 “Swiftly then to Helios Hyperion came Lampetie of the long robes, bearing tidings that we had slain his kine; and straightway he spoke among the immortals, wroth at heart: `Father Zeus and ye other blessed gods that are for ever, take vengeance now on the comrades of Odysseus, son of Laertes, who have insolently slain my kine, in which I ever took delight, when I went toward the starry heaven and when I turned back again to earth from heaven. If they do not pay me fit atonement for the kine I will go down to Hades and shine among the dead.’
 “Then Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, answered him and said: `Helios, do thou verily shine on among the immortals and among mortal men upon the earth, the giver of grain. As for these men I will soon smite their swift ship with my bright thunder-bolt, and shatter it to pieces in the midst of the wine-dark sea.’
 “This I heard from fair-haired Calypso, and she said that she herself had heard it from the messenger Hermes. But when I had come down to the ship and to the sea I upbraided my men, coming up to each in turn, but we could find no remedy—the kine were already dead. For my men, then, the gods straightway shewed forth portents. The hides crawled, the flesh, both roast and raw, bellowed upon the spits, and there was a lowing as of kine.
 “For six days, then, my trusty comrades feasted on the best of the kine of Helios which they had driven off. But when Zeus, the son of Cronos, brought upon us the seventh day, then the wind ceased to blow tempestuously, and we straightway went on board, and put out into the broad sea when we had set up the mast and hoisted the white sail.
 “But when we had left that island and no other land appeared, but only sky and sea, then verily the son of Cronos set a black cloud above the hollow ship, and the sea grew dark beneath it. She ran on for no long time, for straightway came the shrieking West Wind, blowing with a furious tempest, and the blast of the wind snapped both the fore-stays of the mast, so that the mast fell backward and all its tackling was strewn in the bilge. On the stern of the ship the mast struck the head of the pilot and crushed all the bones of his skull together, and like a diver he fell from the deck and his proud spirit left his bones. Therewith Zeus thundered and hurled his bolt upon the ship, and she quivered from stem to stern, smitten by the bolt of Zeus, and was filled with sulphurous smoke, and my comrades fell from out the ship. Like sea-crows they were borne on the waves about the black ship, and the god took from them their returning. But I kept pacing up and down the ship till the surge tore the sides from the keel, and the wave bore her on dismantled and snapped the mast off at the keel; but over the mast had been flung the back-stay fashioned of ox-hide; with this I lashed the two together, both keel and mast, and sitting on these was borne by the direful winds.
 “Then verily the West Wind ceased to blow tempestuously, and swiftly the South Wind came, bringing sorrow to my heart, that I might traverse again the way to baneful Charybdis. All night long was I borne, and at the rising of the sun I came to the cliff of Scylla and to dread Charybdis. She verily sucked down the salt water of the sea, but I, springing up to the tall fig-tree, laid hold of it, and clung to it like a bat. Yet I could in no wise plant my feet firmly or climb upon the tree, for its roots spread far below and its branches hung out of reach above, long and great, and overshadowed Charybdis. There I clung steadfastly until she should vomit forth mast and keel again, and to my joy they came at length. At the hour when a man rises from the assembly for his supper, one that decides the many quarrels of young men that seek judgment, even at that hour those spars appeared from out Charybdis. And I let go hands and feet from above and plunged down into the waters out beyond the long spars, and sitting on these I rowed onward with my hands. But as for Scylla, the father of gods and men did not suffer her again to catch sight of me, else should I never have escaped utter destruction.
 “Thence for nine days was I borne, and on the tenth night the gods brought me to Ogygia, where the fair-tressed Calypso dwells, dread goddess of human speech, who gave me welcome and tendance. But why should I tell thee this tale? For it was but yesterday that I told it in thy hall to thyself and to thy noble wife. It is an irksome thing, meseems, to tell again a plain-told tale.”