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Brighten the air with their wings; their crying
Wakens a moment the weary herds.
Butterflies fit from the fairy garden,
Living blossoms of flying flowers;
Nor moons wax keen in this land of ours.
Great fruits, fragrant, green and golden,
Gleam in the green, and droop and fall;
Swing and cling to the garden wall.
Deep in the woods as twilight darkens,
Glades are red with the scented fire;
Song and sigh of the heart's desire.
Ulysses stood gazing in admiration, unobserved himself, for the cloud which Minerva spread around him still shielded him. At length having sufficiently observed the scene, he advanced with rapid step into the hall where the chiefs and senators were assembled, pouring libation to Mercury, whose worship followed the evening meal. Just then Minerva dissolved the cloud and disclosed him to the assembled chiefs. Advancing to the place where the queen sat, he knelt at her feet and implored her favor and assistance to enable him to return to his native country. Then withdrawing, he seated himself in the manner of suppliants, at the hearth side.
For a time none spoke. At last an aged statesman, addressing the king, said, “ It is not fit that a stranger who asks our hospitality should be kept waiting in suppliant guise, none welcoming him. Let him, therefore, be led to a seat among us and supplied with food and wine.” At these words the king, rising, gave his hand to Ulysses and led him to a seat, displacing thence his own son to make room for the stranger. Food and wine were set before him and he ate and refreshed himself.
The king then dismissed his guests, notifying them that the
next day he would call them to council to consider what had best be done for the stranger.
When the guests had departed, and Ulysses was left alone with the king and queen, the queen asked him who he was and whence he came, and (recognizing the clothes which he wore as those which her maidens and herself had made) from whom he received those garments. He told them of his residence in Calypso's isle and his departure thence; of the wreck of his raft, his escape by swimming, and of the relief afforded by the princess. The parents heard approvingly, and the king promised to furnish a ship in which his guest might return to his own land.
The next day the assembled chiefs confirmed the promise of the king. A bark was prepared and a crew of stout rowers selected, and all betook themselves to the palace, where a bounteous repast was provided. After the feast the king proposed that the young men should show their guest their proficiency in manly sports, and all went forth to the arena for games of running, wrestling, and other exercises. After all had done their best, Ulysses being challenged to show what he could do, at first declined, but being taunted by one of the youths, seized a quoit of weight far heavier than any the Phæacians had thrown, and sent it farther than the utmost throw of theirs. All were astonished, and viewed their guest with greatly increased respect.
After the games they returned to the hall, and the herald led in Demodocus, the blind bard,
“Dear to the Muse,
He took for his theme the Wooden Horse, by means of which the Greeks found entrance into Troy. Apollo inspired him, and he sang so feelingly the terrors and the exploits of that eventful time that all were delighted, but Ulysses was moved to tears. Observing which, Alcinoüs, when the song was done, demanded of him why at the mention of Troy his sorrows awaked. Had he lost there a father, or brother, or any dear friend? Ulysses replied by announcing himself by his true name, and, at their request, recounted the adventures which had befallen him since his departure from Troy. This narrative raised the sympathy and admiration of the Phæacians for their guest to the highest pitch. The king proposed that all the chiefs should present him with a gift, himself setting the example. They obeyed, and vied with one another in loading the illustrious stranger with costly gifts.
The next day Ulysses set sail in the Phæacian vessel, and in a short time arrived safe at Ithaca, his own island. When the vessel touched the strand he was asleep. The mariners, without waking him, carried him on shore, and landed with him the chest containing his presents, and then sailed away.
Neptune was so displeased at the conduct of the Phæacians in thus rescuing Ulysses from his hands, that, on the return of the vessel to port, he transformed it into a rock, right opposite the mouth of the harbor.
§ 173. Fate of the Suitors. — Ulysses had now been away from Ithaca for twenty years, and when he awoke he did not recognize his native land. Minerva appeared to him in the form of a young shepherd, informed him where he was, and told him the state of things at his palace. More than a hundred nobles of Ithaca, and of the neighboring islands, had been for years suing for the hand of Penelope, his wife, imagining him dead, and lording it over his palace and people as if they were owners of both.
Penelope was one of those mythic heroines whose beauties were not those of person only, but of character and conduct as well. She was the niece of Tyndlareus, — being the daughter of his brother Icarius, a Spartan prince. Ulysses, seeking her in marriage, had won her over all competitors. But, when the moment came for the bride to leave her father's house, Icarius, unable to bear the thoughts of parting with his daughter, tried to persuade her to remain with him, and not accompany her husband to Ithaca. Ulysses gave Penelope her choice, to stay or go with him. Penelope made no reply, but dropped her veil over her face. Icarius urged her no further, but when she was gone erected a statue to Modesty on the spot where they parted.
Ulysses and Penelope had not enjoyed their union more than a year when it was interrupted by the events which called Ulysses to the Trojan war. During his long absence, and when it was doubtful whether he still lived, and highly improbable that he would ever return, Penelope was importuned by numerous suitors, from whom there seemed no refuge but in choosing one of them for her husband. She, however, employed every art to gain time, still hoping for Ulysses' return. One of her arts of delay was by engaging in the preparation of a robe for the funeral canopy of Laertes, her
husband's father. She pledged herself to make her choice among the suitors when the web was finished: During the day she worked at it, but in the night she undid the work of the day.
That Ulysses on returning might be able to take vengeance upon the suitors, it was important that he should not be recognized. Minerva accordingly metamorphosed him into an unsightly beggar, and as such he was kindly received by Eumæus, the swine-herd, a faithful servant of his house.
Telemachus, his son, had, for some time, been absent in quest of his father, visiting the courts of the other kings, who had re
turned from the "Trojan expedition. While on the search, he received counsel from Minerva to return home. He arrived, at this juncture, and sought Eumæus to learn something of the state of affairs at the palace before presenting himself among the suitors. Finding a stranger with Eumæus, he treated him courteously, though in the garb of a beggar, and promised him assistance. Eumæus was sent to the palace to inform Penelope privately of her son's arrival, for caution was necessary with regard to the suitors, who, as Telemachus had learned, were plotting to intercept and kill him. When the swine-herd was gone, Minerva presented herself to Ulysses, and directed him to make himself known to his son. At the same time she touched him, removed at once from him the appearance of age and penury, and gave him the aspect of vigorous manhood that belonged to him. Telemachus viewed him with astonishment, and at first thought he must be more than mortal. But Ulysses announced himself as his father, and accounted for the change of appearance, by explaining that it was Minerva's doing.
Then threw Telemachus
The father and son took counsel together how they should get the better of the suitors and punish them for their outrages. It was arranged that Telemachus should proceed to the palace and mingle with the suitors as formerly; that Ulysses should also go as a beggar, a character which in the rude old times had different privileges from what we concede to it now. As traveller and story-teller, the beggar was admitted in the halls of chieftains, and often treated like a guest ; though sometimes, also, no doubt, with contumely. Ulysses charged his son not to betray, by any display of unusual interest in him, that he knew him to be other than
1 Odyssey 16: 212. Cowper's translation.