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

Book IX


Then Ulysses rose. "King Alcinous," said he, "you ask my name and I will tell you. I am Ulysses, and dwell in Ithaca, an island which contains a high mountain called Neritum. In its neighbourhood there are other islands near to one another, Dulichium, Same, and Zacynthus. It lies on the horizon all highest up in the sea towards the West, while 25 the other islands lie away from it to the East. This is the island which I would reach, for however fine a house a man

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may have in a land where his parents are not, there will still be nothing sweeter to him than his home and his own father and mother.

39 "I will now tell you of my adventures. On leaving Troy we first made a descent on the land of the Cicons, and sacked their city but were eventually beaten off, though we took our booty with us.

62 "Thence we sailed South with a strong North wind behind us, till we reached the island of Cythera, where we were driven off our course by a continuance of North wind which prevented my doubling Cape Malea.

82 "Nine days was I driven by foul winds, and on the tenth we reached the land of the Lotus eaters, where the people were good to my men but gave them to eat of the lotus, which made them lose all desire to return home, so that I had a great work to get those who had tasted it on board again.

105 "Thence we were carried further, till we came to the land of the savage Cyclopes. Off their coast, but not very far, there is a wooded island abounding with wild goats. It is untrodden by the foot of man; even the huntsmen, who as a 120 general rule will suffer any hardship in forest or on mountain top, never go there; it is neither tilled nor fed down, but remains year after year uninhabited save by goats only. For the Cyclopes have no ships, and cannot therefore go from place to place as those who have ships can do. If they had ships they would have colonised the island, for it is not at all a bad one and would bring forth all things in their season. There is meadow land, well watered and of good quality, that stretches down to the water's edge. Grapes would do wonderfully well there; it contains good arable land, which would yield heavy crops, for the soil is rich; moreover it has a convenient port—into which some god must have taken us, for the night was so dark that we could see nothing. There was a thick darkness all round the ships, neither was there any moon, for the sky was covered with clouds. No one could see the island, nor yet waves breaking upon the shore till we found ourselves in the harbour. Here, then, we moored our ships and camped down upon the beach,

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"When morning came we hunted the wild goats, of which 152 we killed over a hundred, * and all day long to the going down of the sun we feasted on them and the store of wine we had taken from the Cicons. We kept looking also on the land of the Cyclopes over against us, which was so near that we could see the smoke of their stubble fires, and almost fancy we heard the bleating of their sheep and goats.

"We camped a second night upon the beach, and at day 169 break, having called a council, I said I would take my own ship and reconnoitre the country, but would leave the other ships at the island. Thereon I started, but when we got near the main land we saw a great cave in the cliff, not far from the sea, and there were large sheep yards in front of it. On landing I chose twelve men and went inland, taking with me a goat skin full of a very wondrous wine that Maron, priest of Apollo, had given me when I spared his life and that of his family at the time that we were sacking the city of the Cicons. The rest of my crew were to wait my return by the sea side.

"We soon reached the cave, and finding that the owner 216 was not at home we examined all that it contained; we saw vessels brimful of whey, and racks loaded with cheeses: the yards also were full of lambs and kids. My men implored me to let them steal some cheeses, drive off some of the lambs and kids, and sail away, but I would not, for I hoped the owner might give me something.

"We lit a fire in the cave, sacrificed some of the cheeses to 231 the gods, and ate others ourselves, waiting till the owner should return. When he came we found him to be a huge monster, more like a peak standing out against the sky on

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some high mountain than a human being. He brought in with 233 him a great bundle of firewood, which he flung down upon the floor with such a noise that we were scared and hid ourselves. He drove all his female goats and ewes into the cave, but left the males outside; and then he closed the door with a huge stone which not even two and twenty waggons could carry. 245 He milked his goats and ewes all orderly, and gave each one her own young [for these had been left in the yard all day]; then he drank some of the milk, and put part by for his supper. Presently he lit his fire and caught sight of us, whereon he asked us who we were.

256 "I told him we were on our way home from Troy, and begged him in heaven's name to do us no hurt; but as soon as I had answered his question he gripped up two of my men, dashed them on the ground, and ate them raw, blood, bones, and bowels, like a savage lion of the wilderness. Then he lay down on the ground of the cave and went to sleep: on which I should have crept up to him and plunged my sword into his heart while he was sleeping had I not known that if I did we should never be able to shift the stone. So we waited till dawn should come.

307 "When day broke the monster again lit his fire, milked his ewes all orderly, and gave each one her own young. Then he gripped up two more of my men, and as soon as he had eaten them he rolled the stone from the mouth of the cave, drove out his sheep, and put the stone back again. He had, however, left a large and long piece of olive wood in the cave, and when he had gone I and my men sharpened this at one end, and hid it in the sheep dung of which there was much in the cave. In the evening he returned, milked his ewes, and ate two more men; whereon I went up to him with the skin of wondrous wine that Maron had given me and gave him a bowl full of it. He asked for another, and then another, so I gave them to him, and he was so much delighted that he enquired my name and I said it was Noman.

371 "The wine now began to take effect, and in a short time he fell dead drunk upon the ground. Then my men and I put the sharp end of the piece of olive wood in the fire till it was

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well burning, and drove it into the wretch's eye, turning it round and round as though it were an auger. After a while he plucked it out, flung it from him, and began crying to his neighbours for help. When they came, they said, 'What ails you? Who is harming you?' and he answered, 'No man is harming me.' They then said that he must be ill, and had better pray to his father Neptune; so they went away, and I laughed at the success of my, stratagem.

"Then I hid my men by binding them under the sheep's 424 bellies. The Cyclops, whose name was Polyphemus, groped his way to the stone, rolled it away, and sat at the mouth of the cave feeling the sheep's backs as they went out; but the men were under their bellies so he did not find one of them. Nor yet did he discover me, for I was ensconced in the thick belly-fleece of a ram which by some chance he had brought in with the ewes. But he was near finding me, for the ram went last, and he kept it for a while and talked to it.

"When we were outside, I dropped from under the ram and unbound my companions. We drove the ewes down to my 462 ship, got them on board, and rowed out to sea. When we were a little way out I jeered at the Cyclops, whereon he tore up a great rock and hurled it after us; it fell in front of the ship and all but hit the rudder; the wash, moreover, that it 483 made nearly carried us back to the land, but I kept the ship off it with a pole.

"When we had got about twice as far off as we were before, 491 I was for speaking to the Cyclops again, and though my men tried to stay me, I shouted out to him 'Cyclops, if you would know who it is that has blinded you, learn that it is I, Ulysses, son of Laertes, who live in Ithaca.'

"'Alas,' he cried in answer, 'then the old prophecy about 506 me is coming true. I knew that I was to lose my sight by the hand of Ulysses, but I was looking for some man of great stature and noble mien, whereas he has proved to be a mere whippersnapper. Come here, then, Ulysses that I may offer you gifts of hospitality and pray my father Neptune, who shall heal my eye, to escort you safely home.'

"'I wish,' said I, 'that I could be as sure of killing you 521

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body and soul as I am that not even Neptune will be able to cure your eye.'

526 "Then he prayed to Neptune saying 'Hear me Neptune, if I am indeed your son, and vouchsafe me that Ulysses son of Laertes may never reach his home. Still, if he must do so, and get back to his friends, let him lose all his men, and though he get home after all, let it be late, on another man's ship, and let him find trouble in his house.'

537 "So saying he tore up a still larger rock and flung it this time a little behind the ship, but so close that it all but hit the rudder: the wash, however, that it made carried us forward to the island from which we had set out.

556 "There we feasted on the sheep that we had taken, and mourned the loss of our comrades whom Polyphemus had eaten.


43:* Dwellers on the East coast of Sicily believe the island here referred to to be Acitrezza, between Acireale and Catania. I have been all over it and do not believe that it contains more than two acres of land on which any goat could ever have fed. The idea that the writer of the "Odyssey" would make Ulysses and his large body of men spend half a day in killing over a hundred goats on such a site need not be discussed seriously, I shall therefore pass it over without notice when I come to discuss the voyage of Ulysses. That it should be so confidently believed to be the island off the land of the Cyclopes serves as a warning to myself, inasmuch as it shows how easily people can bring themselves to accept any site for any scene if they make up their minds to do so.

Next: Book X. Æolus, Læstrygonians, Circe