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

Book VII


WHEN Nausicaa reached home her brothers attended to the waggon and mules, and her waiting-woman Eurymedusa lit the fire and brought her supper for her into her own room.

14 Presently Ulysses considered it safe to come on, and entered the town enveloped in a thick mist which Minerva shed round him for his protection from any rudeness that the Phæacians might offer him. She also met him outside the town disguised as a little girl carrying a pitcher.

21 Ulysses saw her in spite of the mist, and asked her to show him the way to the house of Alcinous; this, she said, she could easily do, and when they reached the house she told Ulysses all about the king's family history, and advised him how he should behave himself.

50 "Be bold," she said; "boldness always tells, no matter where a man comes from. First find the mistress of the house. She is of the same family as her husband, and her descent is in this wise. Eurymedon was king of the giants, but he and his people were overthrown, and he lost his own

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life. His youngest daughter was Peribœa, a woman of surpassing beauty, who gave birth by Neptune to Nausithous, king of the Phæacians. He had two sons, Rhexenor and 62 Alcinous; Rhexenor died young, leaving an only daughter, Arēte, whom her uncle Alcinous married, and whom he honours as no other woman in the whole world is honoured by her husband. All her family and all her neighbours adore her as a friend and peacemaker, for she is a thoroughly good woman. If you can gain her good offices all will go well with you."

Minerva then left him and went to Marathon and Athens, 78 where she visited the house of Erechtheus, but Ulysses went on to the house of Alcinous, and he pondered much as he paused awhile before he reached the threshold of bronze, for the splendour of the palace was like that of the sun and moon. The walls on either side were of bronze from end to end, and the cornice was of blue enamel. The doors were of gold and hung on pillars of silver that rose from a floor of bronze, while the lintel was of silver and the hook of the door was of gold.

On either side there were gold and silver mastiffs which 91 Vulcan with his consummate skill had fashioned expressly to keep watch over the palace of King Alcinous, so they were immortal and could never grow old. Seats were ranged here and there all along the wall, from one end to the other, with coverings of fine woven work, which the women of the house had made. Here the chief persons of the Phæacians used to sit and eat and drink, for there was abundance at all seasons; and there were golden figures of young men with lighted torches in their hands, raised on pedestals to give light to them that sat at meat.

There are fifty women servants in the house, some of whom 103 are always grinding rich yellow grain at the mill, while others work at the loom and sit and spin, and their shuttles go backwards and forwards like the fluttering of aspen leaves, while the linen is so closely woven that it will turn oil. As the Phæacians are the best sailors in the world, so their women excel all others in weaving, for Minerva has taught them all manner of useful arts, and they are very intelligent.

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Outside the gate of the outer court there is a large garden * of about four acres, with a wall all round it. It is full of beautiful trees—pears, pomegranates, and the most delicious apples. There are luscious figs also, and olives in full growth. The fruits never rot nor fail all the year round, neither winter nor summer, for the air is so soft that a new crop ripens before the old has dropped. Pear grows on pear, apple on apple, and fig on fig, and so also with the grapes, for there is an excellent vineyard; on the level ground of a part of this, the grapes are being made into raisins; on another part they are being gathered; some are being trodden in the wine-tubs; others, further on, have shed their blossom and are beginning to show fruit; others, again, are just changing colour. In the furthest part of the ground there are beautifully arranged beds of flowers that are in bloom all the year round. Two streams go through it, the one turned in ducts throughout the whole garden, while the other is carried under the ground of the outer court to the house itself, and the townspeople drew water from it. Such, then, were the splendours with which heaven had endowed the house of King Alcinous.

133 So here Ulysses stood for a while and looked about him, but when he had looked long enough he crossed the threshold and went within the precincts of the house. He passed through the crowd of guests who were nightly visitors at the table of King Alcinous, and who were then making 137 their usual drink offering to Mercury before going for the night. He was still shrouded in the mist of invisibility with which Minerva had invested him, and going up to Arēte he embraced her knees, whereon he suddenly became visible. Everyone was greatly surprised at seeing a man there, but Ulysses paid no attention to this, and at once implored the queen's assistance; he then sat down among the ashes on the hearth.

154 Alcinous did not know what to do or say, nor yet did any one else till one of the guests Echeneüs told him it was not

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creditable to him that a suppliant should be left thus grovelling among the ashes. Alcinous ought to give him a seat and set food before him. This was accordingly done, and after Ulysses had finished eating Alcinous made a speech, in which he proposed that they should have a great banquet next day in their guest's honour, and then provide him an escort to take him to his own home. This was agreed to, and after a while the other guests went home to bed.

When they were gone Ulysses was left alone with Alcinous 230 and Arēte sitting over the fire, while the servants were taking the things away after supper. Then Arēte said, "Stranger, before we go any further there is a question I should like to put to you. Who are you? and who gave you those clothes?" for she recognised the shirt and cloak Ulysses was wearing as her own work, and that of her maids.

Ulysses did not give his name, but told her how he had 240 come from Calypso's island, and been wrecked on the Phæacian coast. "Next day," he said, I fell in with your daughter, who treated me with much greater kindness than one could have expected from so young a person—for young people are apt to be thoughtless. It was she who gave me the clothes."

Alcinous then said he wished the stranger would stay with 308 them for good and all and marry Nausicaa. They would not, however, press this, and if he insisted on going they would send him, no matter where. "Even though it be further than Eubœa, which they say is further off than any other place, we will send you, and you shall be taken so easily that you may sleep the whole way if you like." 318

To this Ulysses only replied by praying that the king 329 might be as good as his word. A bed was then made for him in the gate-house and they all retired for the night.


36:* Penelope and Calypso also had gardens: so had Laertes (xxiv. 247). I remember no allusion to them in the "Iliad."

Next: Book VIII. The Phæacian Games