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

Book XII


"As soon as we were clear of the river Oceanus, we got out into the open and reached the Ææan island, where there is dawn and sunrise. There we landed, camped down upon the beach, and waited till morning came. At daybreak I sent my men to fetch the body of Elpenor, which we burned and buried. We built a barrow over him, and in it we fixed the oar with which he had been used to row.

"When Circe heard that we had returned, she came down 16 with her maids, bringing bread and wine. 'To-day,' she said, 'eat and drink, and to-morrow go on your way.'

"We agreed to this, and feasted the live-long day to the 28 going down of the sun, but at nightfall Circe took me aside, and told me of the voyage that was before us. 'You will first,' said she, 'come to the island of the two Sirens, who sit in a field of flowers, and warble all who draw near them to death with the sweetness of their song. Dead men's bones are lying strewn all round them; still, if you would hear them, you can stop your men's ears with wax and bid them bind you to a cross-plank on the mast.

"'As regards the next point that you will reach I can give 55 you no definite instructions as to which of two courses you must take. You must do the best you can. I can only put the alternatives before you. I refer to the cliffs which the gods call "the wanderers," and which close in on anything that would pass through them—even upon the doves that are bringing ambrosia to Father Jove. The sea moreover is strewn with wreckage from ships which the waves and hurricanes of fire have destroyed.

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73 "'Of the two rocks, * the one rises in a peak to heaven, and is overhung at all times with a dark cloud that never leaves it. It looks towards the West, and there is a cave in it, higher than an arrow can reach. In this sits Scylla yelping with a squeaky voice like that of a young hound, but she is an awful monster with six long necks and six heads with three rows of teeth in each; whenever a ship passes, she springs out and snatches up a man in each mouth.

102 "'The other rock is lower, but they are so close that you can shoot an arrow from the one to the other. [On it there is 103 a fig-tree in full leaf].  Underneath it is the terrible whirlpool of Charybdis, which sucks the water down and vomits it out again three times a day. If you are there when she is sucking, not even Neptune can save you; so hug the Scylla side, for you had better lose six men than your whole crew.

127 "'You will then arrive at the Thrinacian island, where you will see the cattle of the sun (and also his sheep) in charge of 132 the two nymphs Lampetie and Phaëthusa. If you leave these flocks unharmed, after much trouble you will yet reach Ithaca; but if you harm them, you will lose your men, and though you may get home after all, it will be late.'

142 "Here she ended, and at break of day we set out, with a fair wind which Circe sent us. I then told my men about the two Sirens, but had hardly done so before we were at the island itself, whereon it fell a dead calm. I kneaded wax and stopped the men's ears; they bound me to a cross-plank on the mast; I heard the Sirens sing, and when I struggled to free myself they bound me still tighter. So we passed the island by.

201 "Shortly after this I saw smoke and a great wave ahead, and heard a dull thumping sound. The sea was in an uproar, and my men were so frightened that they loosed hold of their

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oars, till I put heart into them, bade them row their hardest, and told the steersman to hug the Scylla side. But I said nothing about Scylla, though I kept straining my eyes all over her rock to see if I could espy her.

"So there we were, with Scylla on the one hand and dread 234 Charybdis on the other. We could see the sea seething as in a cauldron, and the black ooze at the bottom with a wall of whirling waters careering round it. While my men were pale with fear at this awful sight, Scylla shot out her long necks and swooped down on six of them. I could see their poor hands and feet struggling in the air as she bore them aloft, and hear them call out my name in one last despairing cry. This was the most horrid sight that I saw in all my voyages.

"Having passed the cliffs, * and Scylla and Charybdis, we 260 came to the Thrinacian island, and from my ship I could hear the cattle lowing, and the sheep bleating. Then, remembering the warning that Tiresias and Circe had given me, I bade my men give the island a wide berth. But Eurylochus was insolent, and sowed disaffection among them, so that I was forced to yield and let them land for the night, after making them swear most solemnly that they would do the cattle no harm. We camped, therefore, on the beach near a stream.

"But in the third watch of the night there came up a great 312 gale, and in the morning we drew our ship ashore and left her in a large cave wherein the sea nymphs meet and hold their dances. I then called my men together, and again warned them.

"It blew a gale from the South for a whole month, except 325 when the wind shifted to the East, and there was no other wind save only South and East. As long as the corn and wine which Circe had given us held out, my men kept their word, but after a time they began to feel the pangs of hunger, and I went apart to pray heaven to take compassion upon us. I washed my hands and prayed, and when I had done so, I fell asleep.

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339 "Meanwhile Eurylochus set my men on to disobey me, and they drove in some of the cattle and killed them. When I woke, and had got nearly back to the ship, I began to smell roast meat and knew full well what had happened.

374 "The nymph Lampetie went immediately and told the Sun what my men had done. He was furious, and threatened Jove that if he was not revenged he would never shine in heaven again but would go down and give his light among the dead. 'All day long,' said he, 'whether I was going up heaven or down, there was nothing I so dearly loved to look upon as those cattle.'

385 "Jove told him he would wreck our ship as soon as it was well away from land, and the Sun said no more. I know all this because Calypso told me, and she had it from Mercury.

397 "My men feasted six days—alarmed by the most awful prodigies; for the skins of the cattle kept walking about, and the joints of meat lowed while they were being roasted. On the seventh day the wind dropped and we got away from the island, but as soon as we were out of sight of land a sudden squall sprang up, during which Jove struck our ship with his thunderbolts and broke it up. All my men were drowned, and so too should I have been, had I not made myself a raft by lashing the mast (which I found floating about) and the ship's keel together.

426 ["The wind, which during the squall came from the West, now changed to the South, and blew all night, so that by morning I was back between Scylla and Charybdis again. My raft got carried down the whirlpool, but I clung on to the boughs of the fig tree, for a weary weary while, during which I felt as impatient as a magistrate who is detained in court by troublesome cases when he wants to get home to dinner. But in the course of time my raft worked its way out again, and when it was underneath me I dropped on to it and was carried out of the pool. Happily for me Jove did not let Scylla see me.] *

447 "Thence I was borne along for nine days in the sea, and was

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taken to the Ogygian island of Calypso. I told you about this yesterday and will not repeat it, for I hate saying the same thing twice over."


54:* The want of coherence here is obvious, but as it is repeated when Ulysses ought to come to the wandering cliffs (which he never does) it must be referred to a lacuna not in the text, but in the writer's sources of information—of which she seems fully aware.

54:† I suppose this line to have been added when lines 426-446 of this book were added.

55:* The wandering cliffs are certainly intended, for when Ulysses is recapitulating his adventures in Book xxiii. he expressly mentions having reached the, πλαγκτὰς πέτρας, just after the Sirens, and before Scylla and Charybdis (xxiii. 327). The writer is determined to have them in her story however little she may know about them.

56:* I incline to think that these lines are an after thought, added by the writer herself.

Next: Book XIII. Ulysses is Taken Back to Ithaca