Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Episode of Nausicaa
By Homer (fl. 850 B.C.)
From the Odyssey

I.—Book vi., 1–84. Translation of George Herbert Palmer

THUS long-tried royal Odysseus slumbered here, heavy with sleep and toil; but Athene went to the land and town of the Phæacians. This people once in ancient times lived in the open highlands, near that rude folk the Cyclops, who often plundered them, being in strength more powerful than they. Moving them thence, godlike Nausithous, their leader, established them at Scheria, far from toiling men. He ran a wall around the town, built houses there, made temples for the gods, and laid out farms; but Nausithous had met his doom and gone to the house of Hades, and Alcinous now was reigning, trained in wisdom by the gods. To this man’s dwelling came the goddess, clear-eyed Athene, planning a safe return for brave Odysseus. She hastened to a chamber, richly wrought, in which a maid was sleeping, of form and beauty like the immortals, Nausicaa, daughter of generous Alcinous. Near by, two damsels, dowered with beauty by the Graces, slept by the threshold, one on either hand. The shining doors were shut; but Athene, like a breath of air, moved to the maid’s couch, stood by her head, and thus addressed her,—taking the likeness of the daughter of Dymas, the famous seaman, a maiden just Nausicaa’s age, dear to her heart. Taking her guise, thus spoke clear-eyed Athene:—  1
  “Nausicaa, how did your mother bear a child so heedless? Your gay clothes lie uncared for, though the wedding-time is near, when you must wear fine clothes yourself and furnish them to those that may attend you. From things like these a good repute arises, and father and honored mother are made glad. Then let us go a-washing at the dawn of day, and I will go to help, that you may soon be ready; for really not much longer will you be a maid. Already you have for suitors the chief ones of the land throughout Phæacia, where you too were born. Come, then, beg your good father early in the morning to harness the mules and cart, so as to carry the men’s clothes, gowns, and bright-hued rugs. Yes, and for you yourself it is more decent so than setting forth on foot: the pools are far from the town.”  2
  Saying this, clear-eyed Athene passed away, off to Olympus, where they say the dwelling of the gods stands fast forever. Never with winds is it disturbed, nor by the rain made wet, nor does the snow come near; but everywhere the upper air spreads cloudless, and a bright radiance plays over all: and there the blessed gods are happy all their days. Thither now came the clear-eyed one, when she had spoken with the maid.  3
  Soon bright-throned morning came, and waked fair-robed Nausicaa. She marveled at the dream, and hastened through the house to tell it to her parents, her dear father and her mother. She found them still indoors: her mother sat by the hearth among the waiting-women, spinning sea-purple yarn; she met her father at the door, just going forth to join the famous princes at the council, to which the high Phæacians summoned him. So, standing close beside him, she said to her dear father:—  4
  “Papa dear, could you not have the wagon harnessed for me,—the high one, with good wheels,—to take my nice clothes to the river to be washed, which now are lying dirty? Surely for you yourself it is but proper, when you are with the first men holding councils, that you should wear clean clothing. Five good sons too are here at home,—two married, and three merry young men still,—and they are always wanting to go to the dance wearing fresh clothes. And this is all a trouble on my mind.”  5
  Such were her words, for she was shy of naming the glad marriage to her father; but he understood it all, and answered thus:—  6
  “I do not grudge the mules, my child, nor anything beside. Go! Quickly shall the servant harness the wagon for you,—the high one, with good wheels, fitted with rack above.”  7
  Saying this he called to the servants, who gave heed. Out in the court they made the easy mule cart ready; they brought the mules, and yoked them to the wagon. The maid took from her room her pretty clothing, and stowed it in the polished wagon; her mother put in a chest, food the maid liked, of every kind, put dainties in, and poured some wine into a goatskin bottle,—the maid, meanwhile, had got into the wagon,—and gave her in a golden flask some liquid oil, that she might bathe and anoint herself, she and the waiting-women. Nausicaa took the whip and the bright reins, and cracked the whip to start. There was a clatter of the mules, and steadily they pulled, drawing the clothing and the maid,—yet not alone; beside her went the waiting-women too.  8
II.—Book vi., 85–197. Translation of Samuel Butcher and Andrew Lang

  NOW when they were come to the beautiful stream of the river, where truly were the unfailing cisterns, and bright water welled up free from beneath, and flowed past, enough to wash the foulest garments clean, there the girls unharnessed the mules from under the chariot, and turning them loose they drove them along the banks of the eddying river to graze on the sweet clover. Then they took the garments from the wain, in their hands, and bore them to the black water, and briskly trod them down in the trenches, in busy rivalry. Now when they had washed and cleansed all the stains, they spread all out in order along the shore of the deep, even where the sea, in beating on the coast, washed the pebbles clean. Then having bathed and anointed them well with olive oil, they took their midday meal on the river’s banks, waiting till the clothes should dry in the brightness of the sun. Anon, when they were satisfied with food, the maidens and the princess, they fell to playing at ball, casting away their tires, and among them Nausicaa of the white arms began the song. And even as Artemis the archer moveth down the mountain, either along the ridges of lofty Taygetus or Erymanthus, taking her pastime in the chase of boars and swift deer, and with her the wild wood-nymphs disport them, the daughters of Zeus, lord of the ægis, and Leto is glad at heart, while high over all she rears her head and brows, and easily may she be known,—but all are fair; even so the girl unwed outshone her maiden company.
  But when now she was about going homewards, after yoking the mules and folding up the goodly raiment, then gray-eyed Athene turned to other thoughts, that so Odysseus might awake, and see the lovely maiden who should be his guide to the city of the Phæacian men. So then the princess threw the ball at one of her company; she missed the girl, and cast the ball into the deep eddying current, whereat they all raised a piercing cry. Then the goodly Odysseus awoke and sat up, pondering in his heart and spirit:—  10
  “Woe is me! to what men’s land am I come now? say, are they froward and wild, and unjust, or are they hospitable and of God-fearing mind? How shrill a cry of maidens rings round me, of the nymphs that hold the steep hill-tops, and the river springs, and the grassy water meadows. It must be, methinks, that I am near men of human speech. Go to; I myself will make trial and see.”  11
  Therewith the goodly Odysseus crept out from under the coppice, having broken with his strong hand a leafy bough from the thick wood, to hold athwart his body, that it might hide his nakedness withal. And forth he sallied like a lion of the hills, trusting in his strength, who fares out under wind and rain, and his eyes are all on fire. And he goes amid the kine or the sheep or in the track of the wild deer; yea, his belly bids him to make assay upon the flocks, even within a close-penned fold. Even so Odysseus was fain to draw nigh to the fair-dressed maidens, all naked as he was, such need had come upon him. But he was terrible in their eyes, all marred as he was with the salt foam, and they fled cowering here and there about the jutting spits of shore. And the daughter of Alcinous alone stood firm, for Athene gave her courage of heart, and took all trembling from her limbs. So she halted and stood over against him, and Odysseus considered whether he should clasp the knees of the lovely maiden, and so make his prayer, or should stand as he was, apart, and beseech her with smooth words, if haply she might show him the town and give him raiment. And as he thought within himself, it seemed better to stand apart, and beseech her with smooth words, lest the maiden should be angered with him if he touched her knees; so straightway he spoke a sweet and cunning word: “I supplicate thee, O queen, whether thou art some goddess or a mortal! If indeed thou art a goddess of them that keep the wide heaven, to Artemis, then, the daughter of great Zeus, I mainly liken thee, for beauty and stature and shapeliness. But if thou art one of the daughters of men who dwell on earth, thrice blessed are thy father and thy lady mother, and thrice blessed thy brethren. Surely their hearts ever glow with gladness for thy sake, each time they see thee entering the dance, so fair a flower of maidens. But he is of heart the most blessed beyond all other who shall prevail with gifts of wooing, and lead thee to his home. Never have mine eyes beheld such an one among mortals, neither man nor woman; great awe comes upon me as I look on thee. Yet in Delos once I saw as goodly a thing: a young sapling of a palm-tree springing by the altar of Apollo. For thither too I went, and much people with me, on that path where my sore troubles were to be. Yea, and when I looked thereupon, long time, I marveled in spirit,—for never grew there yet so goodly a shoot from ground,—even in such wise as I wonder at thee, lady, and am astonied and do greatly fear to touch thy knees, though grievous sorrow is upon me. Yesterday, on the twentieth day, I escaped from the wine-dark deep, but all that time continually the wave bore me, and the vehement winds drave, from the isle Ogygia. And now some god has cast me on this shore, and here too, methinks, some evil may betide me: for I trow not that evil will cease; the gods ere that time will yet bring many a thing to pass. But, queen, have pity on me, for after many trials and sore, to thee first of all I come; and of the other folk, who hold this city and land, I know no man. Nay, show me the town, give me an old garment to cast about me, if thou hadst, when thou camest here, any wrap for the linen. And may the gods grant thee all thy heart’s desire: a husband and a home, and a mind at one with his may they give—a good gift; for there is nothing mightier and nobler than when man and wife are of one heart and mind in a house, a grief to their foes, and to their friends great joy, but their own hearts know it best.”  12
  Then Nausicaa of the white arms answered him, and said: “Stranger, forasmuch as thou seemest no evil man nor foolish—and it is Olympian Zeus himself that giveth weal to men, to the good and to the evil to each one as he will, and this thy lot doubtless is of him, and so thou must in anywise endure it;—and now, since thou hast come to our city and our land, thou shalt not lack raiment, nor aught else that is the due of a hapless suppliant when he has met them who can befriend him. And I will show thee the town, and name the name of the people. The Phæacians hold this city and land, and I am the daughter of Alcinous, great of heart, on whom all the might and force of the Phæacians depend.”  13
III.—Book vi., 198–254. Translation of William Cullen Bryant

    SO spake the damsel, and commanded thus
Her fair-haired maids: “Stay! whither do ye flee,
My handmaids, when a man appears in sight?
Ye think, perhaps, he is some enemy.
Nay, there is no man living now, nor yet
Will live, to enter, bringing war, the land
Of the Phæacians. Very dear are they
To the great gods. We dwell apart, afar
Within the unmeasured deep, amid its waves
The most remote of men; no other race
Hath commerce with us. This man comes to us
A wanderer and unhappy, and to him
Our cares are due. The stranger and the poor
Are sent by Jove, and slight regards to them
Are grateful. Maidens, give the stranger food
And drink, and take him to the river-side
To bathe where there is shelter from the wind.”
  So spake the mistress; and they stayed their flight
And bade each other stand, and led the chief
Under a shelter as the royal maid,
Daughter of stout Alcinous, gave command,
And laid a cloak and tunic near the spot
To be his raiment, and a golden cruse
Of limpid oil. Then, as they bade him bathe
In the fresh stream, the noble chieftain said:—
  “Withdraw, ye maidens, hence, while I prepare
To cleanse my shoulders from the bitter brine,
And to anoint them; long have these my limbs
Been unfreshed by oil. I will not bathe
Before you. I should be ashamed to stand
Unclothed in presence of these bright-haired maids.”
  He spake; they hearkened and withdrew, and told
The damsel what he said. Ulysses then
Washed the salt spray of ocean from his back
And his broad shoulders in the flowing stream,
And wiped away the sea froth from his brows.
And when the bath was over, and his limbs
Had been anointed, and he had put on
The garments sent him by the spotless maid,
Jove’s daughter, Pallas, caused him to appear
Of statelier size and more majestic mien,
And bade the locks that crowned his head flow down,
Curling like blossoms of the hyacinth.
As when some skillful workman trained and taught
By Vulcan and Minerva in his art
Binds the bright silver with a verge of gold,
And graceful in his handiwork, such grace
Did Pallas shed upon the hero’s brow
And shoulders, as he passed along the beach,
And, glorious in his beauty and the pride
Of noble bearing, sat aloof. The maid
Admired, and to her bright-haired women spake:—
“Listen to me, my maidens, while I speak.
This man comes not among the godlike sons
Of the Phæacian stock against the will
Of all the gods of heaven. I thought him late
Of an unseemly aspect; now he bears
A likeness to the immortal ones whose home
Is the broad heaven. I would that I might call
A man like him my husband, dwelling here,
And here content to dwell. Now hasten, maids,
And set before the stranger food and wine.”
  She spake; they heard and cheerfully obeyed,
And set before Ulysses food and wine.
The patient chief Ulysses ate and drank
Full eagerly, for he had fasted long.
  White-armed Nausicaa then had other cares.
She placed the smoothly folded robes within
The sumptuous chariot, yoked the firm-hoofed mules,
And mounted to her place, and from the seat
Spake kindly, counseling Ulysses thus:—
IV.—Book vi., 255–331. Translation of Philip Stanhope Worsley

    “STRANGER, bestir thyself to seek the town,
    That to my father’s mansion I may lead
  Thee following, there to meet the flower and crown
    Of the Phæacian people. But take heed
    (Not senseless dost thou seem in word or deed),
  While ’mid the fields and works of men we go,
    After the mules, in the wain’s track, to speed,
  Girt with this virgin company, and lo!
I will myself drive first, and all the road will show.
  “When we the city reach—a castled crown
    Of wall encircles it from end to end,
  And a fair haven, on each side the town,
    Framed with fine entrance, doth our barks defend,
    Which, where the terrace by the shore doth wend,
  Line the long coast; to all and each large space,
    Docks, and deep shelter, doth that haven lend;
  There, paved with marble, our great market-place
Doth with its arms Poseidon’s beauteous fane embrace.
  “All instruments marine they fashion there,
    Cordage and canvas and the tapering oar;
  Since not for bow nor quiver do they care,
    But masts and well-poised ships and naval store,
    Wherewith the foam-white ocean they explore
  Rejoicing. There I fear for my good name,
    For in the land dwell babblers evermore,
  Proud, supercilious, who might work me shame
Hereafter with sharp tongues of cavil and quick blame.
  “Haply would ask some losel, meeting me,
    ‘Where did she find this stranger tall and brave
  Who is it? He then will her husband be—
    Perchance some far-off foreigner—whom the wave
    (For none dwell near us) on our island drave.
  Or have her long prayers made a god come down,
    Whom all her life she shall for husband have?
  Wisely she sought him, for she spurns our town,
Though wooed by many a chief of high worth and renown.’
  “So will they speak this slander to my shame;
    Yea, if another made the like display,
  Her I myself should be the first to blame,
    If in the public streets she should essay
    To mix with men before her marriage day,
  Against her father’s and her mother’s will.
    Now, stranger, well remember what I say,
  So mayst thou haply in good haste fulfill
Thy journey, with safe-conduct, by my father’s will:—
  “Hard by the roadside an illustrious grove,
    Athene’s, all of poplar, thou shalt find.
  Through it a streaming rivulet doth rove,
    And the rich meadow-lands around it wind.
    There the estate lies to my sire assigned,
  There his fat vineyards—from the town so far
    As a man’s shout may travel. There reclined
  Tarry such while, and thy approach debar,
Till we belike within my father’s mansion are.
  “Then to the town Phæacian, and inquire
    (Plain is the house, a child might be thy guide)
  Where dwells Alcinous my large-hearted sire.
    Not like the houses reared on every side
    Stands that wherein Alcinous doth abide,
  But easy to be known. But when the wall
    And court inclose thee, with an eager stride
  Move through the noble spaces of the hall,
And with firm eye seek out my mother first of all.
  “She in the firelight near the hearth doth twine,
    Sitting, the purpled yarn; her maids are seen
  Behind her; there my sire, enthroned, his wine
    Quaffs like a god; both on the pillar lean.
    Him passing urge thy supplication keen,
  My mother’s knees enclasping. If but she
    Think kindness in her heart, good hope, I ween,
  Remains, however far thy bourne may be,
That country, friends, and home thou yet shalt live to see.”
  She ended, and the mules with glittering lash
    Plied, who soon leave the river in their rear.
  Onward continuously their swift feet flash.
    She like an understanding charioteer
    Scourged them with judgment, and their course did steer
  So to precede Odysseus and the rest.
    And the sun fell and they the grove came near.
  There on the earth sat down with anxious breast
Odysseus, and in prayer the child of Zeus addressed:—
  “Virgin, whose eyelids slumber not nor sleep,
    Hear, child of Zeus! who in the time forepast
  Heardest me not, when in the ruinous deep
    Poseidon whirled me with his angry blast.
    Let me find pity in this land at last!”
  So prayed he, and Athene heard: but she
    Not yet revealed herself in form; so vast
  Loomed in her eyes her uncle’s fierce decree
Against divine Odysseus, ere his land he see.
  There the much-toiled divine Odysseus prayed.
    She onward passed to the Phæacian town,
  Drawn by the mules. But when the royal maid
    Came to her father’s halls of high renown,
    She by the porch drew rein. Thither came down
  Her brothers, circling her, a lucid ring;
    They of Phæacian youth the flower and crown,
  Like gods to look at. Soon unharnessing
The mules, into the house the raiment clean they bring.
V.—Book vii., 1–13. Translation of Philip Stanhope Worsley

    SHE to her chamber straight ascended. There
    Eurymedusa old, the chamber dame,
  Kindled the fire—who o’er the ocean mere
    Borne in swift ships from land Apeira came,
    Thenceforth assigned by right of regal claim
  To King Alcinous, like a god revered
    In his own land, the first in name and fame.
  She in the halls white-armed Nausicaa reared,
And now the fire lit well, and sweet repast prepared.

  [A final glimpse of Nausicaa is accorded to Odysseus, and to us, at nightfall of the following day.]
VI.—Book viii., 454–468. Translation of Philip Stanhope Worsley

    HIM then the maidens bathe and rub with oil,
    And in rich robe and tunic clothe with care.
  He from the bath, cleansed from the dust of toil,
    Passed to the drinkers; and Nausicaa there
    Stood, molded by the gods exceeding fair.
  She, on the roof-tree pillar leaning, heard
    Odysseus; turning she beheld him near.
  Deep in her breast admiring wonder stirred,
And in a low sweet voice she spake this wingèd word:—
  “Hail, stranger guest! when fatherland and wife
    Thou shalt revisit, then remember me,
  Since to me first thou owest the price of life.”
    And to the royal virgin answered he:—
    “Child of a generous sire, if willed it be
  By Thunderer Zeus, who all dominion hath,
    That I my home and dear return yet see,
  There at thy shrine will I devote my breath,
There worship thee, dear maid, my savior from dark death.”

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.