About their necks they carry empty vessels and pitchers for water;
they are in want of food. Luckless strangers! who can they be? They
know not what manner of man our master Polyphemus is, to have set
foot here in his cheerless abode and come to the jaws of the cannibal
Cyclops in an evil hour. But hold ye your peace, that we may inquire
whence they come to the peak of Sicilian Aetna. (ODYSSEUS and his
companions enter. They carry baskets for provisions and water jars.)
ODYSSEUS Pray tell us, sirs, of some river-spring whence we might
draw a draught to slake our thirst, or of someone willing to sell
victuals to mariners in need.
Why, what is this? We seem to have chanced upon a city of the Bromian
god; here by the caves I see a group of Satyrs. To the eldest first
I bid "All hail!
SILENUS All hail, sir! tell me who thou art, and name thy country.
ODYSSEUS Odysseus of Ithaca, king of the Cephallenians' land.
SILENUS I know him for a prating knave, one of Sisyphus' shrewd offspring.
ODYSSEUS I am the man; abuse me not.
SILENUS Whence hast thou sailed hither to Sicily?
ODYSSEUS From Ilium and the toils of Troy.
SILENUS How was that? didst thou not know the passage to thy native
ODYSSEUS Tempestuous winds drove me hither against my will.
SILENUS God wot! thou art in the same plight as I am.
ODYSSEUS Why, wert thou too drifted hither against thy will?
SILENUS I was, as I pursued the pirates who carried Bromius off.
ODYSSEUS What land is this and who are its inhabitants?
SILENUS This is mount Aetna, the highest point in Sicily.
ODYSSEUS But where are the city-walls and ramparts?
SILENUS There are none; the headlands, sir, are void of men.
ODYSSEUS Who then possess the land? the race of wild creatures?
SILENUS The Cyclopes, who have caves, not roofed houses.
ODYSSEUS Obedient unto whom? or is the power in the people's hands?
SILENUS They are rovers; no man obeys another in anything.
ODYSSEUS Do they sow Demeter's grain, or on what do they live?
SILENUS On milk and cheese and flesh of sheep.
ODYSSEUS Have they the drink of Bromius, the juice of the vine?
SILENUS No indeed! and thus it is a joyless land they dwell in.
ODYSSEUS Are they hospitable and reverent towards strangers?
SILENUS Strangers, they say, supply the daintiest meat.
ODYSSEUS What, do they delight in killing men and eating them?
SILENUS No one has ever arrived here without being butchered.
ODYSSEUS Where is the Cyclops himself? inside his dwelling?
SILENUS He is gone hunting wild beasts with hounds on Aetna.
ODYSSEUS Dost know then what to do, that we may be gone from the
SILENUS Not I, Odysseus; but I would do anything for thee.
ODYSSEUS Sell us food, of which we are in need.
SILENUS There is nothing but flesh, as I said.
ODYSSEUS Well, even that is a pleasant preventive of hunger.
SILENUS And there is cheese curdled with fig-juice, and the milk
ODYSSEUS Bring them out; a man should see his purchases.
SILENUS But tell me, how much gold wilt thou give me in exchange?
ODYSSEUS No gold bring I, but Dionysus' drink.
SILENUS (joyfully) Most welcome words! I have long been wanting
ODYSSEUS Yes, it was Maron, the god's son, who gave me a draught.
SILENUS What! Maron whom once I dandled in these arms?
ODYSSEUS The son of the Bacchic god, that thou mayst learn more certainly.
SILENUS Is it inside the ship, or hast thou it with thee?
ODYSSEUS This, as thou seest, is the skin that holds it, old sir.
SILENUS Why, that would not give me so much as a mouthful.
ODYSSEUS This, and twice as much again as will run from the skin.
SILENUS Fair the rill thou speakest of, delicious to me.