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The Authoress of the Odyssey, by Samuel Butler, [1922], at

Book VI


While Ulysses was thus slumbering, Minerva went to the land of the Phæacians, on which Ulysses had been cast.

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Now the Phæacians used to live in Hypereia near the law-less 4 Cyclopes, who were stronger than they were and plundered them; so their king Nausithous removed them to Scheria, * where they were secure. Nausithous was now dead, and his son Alcinous was reigning.

Alcinous had an only daughter, Nausicaa, who was in her 15 bedroom fast asleep. Minerva went to her bedside and appeared to her in a dream, having assumed the form of one Captain Dymas's daughter, who was a bosom friend of Nausicaa's. She reminded her of her approaching marriage (for which, however, the bridegroom had not yet been decided upon), and upbraided her for not making due preparation by the washing of her own and of the family linen. She proposed, therefore, that on the following morning Nausicaa should take all the unwashed clothes to the washing cisterns, and said that she would come and help her: the cisterns being some distance from the town, she advised Nausicaa to ask her father to let her have a waggon and mules.

Nausicaa, on waking, told her father and mother about her 50 dream, "Papa, dear,"  said she, "could you manage to let me have a good big waggon? I want to take all our dirty clothes to the river and wash them. You are the chief man here, so it is only proper that you should have a clean shirt when you 60 attend meetings of the Council. Moreover you have five sons, two of them married, while the other three are good looking young bachelors; you know they always like to have clean linen when they go out to a dance."

Her father promised her all she wanted. The waggon was 71 made ready, her mother put her up a basket of provisions, and Nausicaa drove her maids to the bank of the river, where were the cisterns, through which there flowed enough clear water to wash clothes however dirty they might be. They washed their clothes in the pits by treading upon them, laid them out to dry upon the sea-beach, had their dinner as the clothes were drying, and then began to play at ball while Nausicaa sang to them.

In the course of time, when they were thinking about 110

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starting home, Minerva woke Ulysses, who was in the wood just above them. He sat up, heard the voices and laughter of the women, and wondered where he was.

127 He resolved on going to see, but remembering that he had no clothes on, he held a bough of olive before him, and then, all grim, naked, and unkempt as he was, he came out and drew near to the women, who all of them ran away along the beach and the points that jutted into the sea. Nausicaa, however, stood firm, and Ulysses set himself to consider whether he should go boldly up to her and embrace her knees, or speak to her from a respectful distance.

145 On the whole he concluded that this would be the most prudent course; and having adopted it, he began by asking Nausicaa to inform him whether she was a goddess or no. If she was a goddess, it was obvious from her beauty that she could only be Diana. If on the other hand she was a mortal, how happy would he be whose proposals in the way of settlements had seemed most advantageous, and who should take her to his own home. Finally he asked her to be kind enough to give him any old wrapper which she might have brought with her to wrap the clothes in, and to show him the way to the town.

186 Nausicaa replied that he seemed really to be a very sensible person, but that people must put up with their luck whatever it might happen to be. She then explained that he had come to the land of the Phæacians, and promised to conduct him to their city.

198 Having so said, she told her maids not to be such cowards. "The man," she said, "is quite harmless; we live away from all neighbours on a land's end, with the sea roaring on either side of us, and no one can hurt us. See to this poor fellow, therefore, and give him something to eat."

211 When they heard this the maids came back and gave Ulysses a shirt and cloak; they also gave him a bottle of oil and told him to go and wash in the river, but he said, "I will not wash myself while you kelp standing there. I cannot bring myself to strip before a number of good-looking young women." So they went and told their mistress.

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When Ulysses had done washing, Minerva made him look 224 much grander and more imposing, and gave him a thick head of hair which flowed down in hyacinthine curls about his shoulders. Nausicaa was very much struck with the change in his appearance. "At first," she said, "I thought him quite plain, but now he is of godlike beauty. I wish I might have such a man as that for my husband, if he would only stay here. But never mind this; girls, give him something to eat and drink."

The maids then set meat and drink before Ulysses, who 247 was ravenously hungry. While he was eating, Nausicaa got the clothes folded up and put on to the cart; after which she gave him his instructions. "Follow after the cart," she said, "along with the maids, till you get near the houses. As for the town, you will find it lying between two good harbours, 263 and approached by a narrow neck of land, on either side of which you will see the ships drawn up—for every man has a place where he can let his boat lie. You will also see the walls, and the temple of Neptune standing in the middle of the paved market-place, with the ship-brokers' shops all round it.

"When you get near the town drop behind, for the people 273 here are very ill-natured, and they would talk about me. They would say, 'Who is this fine looking stranger that is going about with Nausicaa? Where did she find him? I suppose she is going to marry him. Is he a sailor whom she has picked up from some foreign vessel, or has a god come down from heaven in answer to her prayers and he is going to marry her? It would be a good thing if she would go and find a husband somewhere else, for she will have nothing to say to any of the many excellent Phæacians who are in love with her.' This is what people would say, and I could not blame them, for I should be scandalised myself if I saw any girl going about with a stranger, while her father and mother were yet alive, without being married to him in the face of all the world.

"Do then as I say. When you come to the grove of 289 Minerva a little outside the town, wait till you think I and the

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maids must have got home. Then come after us, ask which is Alcinous’s house, and when you reach it go straight through the outer and inner courts till you come to my mother. You will see her sitting with her back to a bearing-post, and spinning her purple yarn by the fire. My father will be sitting close by her; never mind about him, but go and embrace my mother's knees, for if she looks favourably on your suit you will probably get what you want."

316 Nausicaa then drove on, and as the sun was about setting they came to the grove of Minerva, where Ulysses sat down and waited. He prayed Minerva to assist him, and she heard his prayer, but she would not manifest herself to him, for she did not want to offend her uncle Neptune.


31:* Scheria means "Jutland"—a piece of land jutting out into the sea.

31:† Gr. πάππα φίλ line 57.

Next: Book VII. The Splendours of the House of King Alcinous