and some to their joy have 'scaped the sea, bearing to their homes
again names long reckoned dead. But I, poor wretch, go wandering o'er
grey Ocean's swell a weary space, long as that which saw me sick the
towers of Ilium; and for all my longing to reach my country I am not
counted worthy of this boon by heaven, but to Libya's desert cheerless
roadsteads have I sailed, to each and all of them; and whensoe'er
I draw me near my native land, the storm-wind drives me back again,
and never yet have favouring breezes filled my sails, to let me reach
my fatherland. And now a wretched, shipwrecked mariner, my friends
all lost, am I cast up upon this shore; and my ship is shattered in
a thousand pieces against the rocks; and its keel was wrested from
its cunning fastenings; thereon did I with difficulty escape, most
unexpectedly, and Helen also, for her had I rescued from Troy and
had with me. But the name of this country and its people I know not;
for I blushed to mingle with the crowd to question them, anxious for
very shame to hide my misfortunes which reduce me to these sorry rags.
For when a man of high degree meets with adversity, he feels the strangeness
of his fallen state more keenly than a sufferer of long standing.
Dire want is wasting me; for I have neither food, nor raiment to gird
myself withal; behold the facts before you to judge from-I am clad
in tatters cast up from the ship; while all the robes I once did wear,
glorious attire and ornaments, bath the sea swallowed; and in a cavern's
deep recesses have I hidden my wife, the cause of all my trouble,
and have come hither, after straitly charging the survivors of my
friends to watch her. Alone am I come, seeking for those there left
some help, if haply I may find it after careful search. So when I
saw this palace girt with towering walls and stately gates of some
prosperous lord, I drew nigh; for I have hope to obtain somewhat for
my sailors from this wealthy house, whereas from houses which have
no store, the inmates for all their goodwill could furnish naught.
Ho! there, who keeps the gate and will come forth to bear my tale
of woe into the house? (A PORTRESS comes out of the palace in answer
to his call.)
PORTRESS Who stands before the door? Begone from the housel stand
not at the court-yard gate, annoying my masters! otherwise shalt thou
die, for thou art a Hellene born. and with them have we no dealings.
MENELAUS Mother, herein sayest thou rightly on all points. 'Tis well;
I will obey; but moderate thy words.
PORTRESS Away! stranger, my orders are to admit no Hellene to this
MENELAUS Ha! do not seek to push me hence, or thrust me away by violence.
PORTRESS Thou dost not heed my words, and therefore hast thyself
MENELAUS Carry my message to thy master in the palace.
PORTRESS Some one would rue it, methinks, were I to take thy message.
MENELAUS I come as a shipwrecked man and a stranger, whom heaven
PORTRESS Well, get thee to some other house than this.
MENELAUS Nay, but I will pass into the house; so listen to me.
PORTRESS Let me tell thee thou art unwelcome, and soon wilt be forcibly
MENELAUS Ah me! where are now those famous troops of mine?
PORTRESS Elsewhere maybe thou wert a mighty man; thou art not here.
MENELAUS O fortune! I have not deserved such insult.
PORTRESS Why are thy eyes with tear-drops wet? Why so sad?
MENELAUS 'Tis the contrast with my fortunes erst so blest.
PORTRESS Hence! then, and give thy friends those tears.
MENELAUS What land is this? whose is the palace?
PORTRESS Proteus lives here. It is the land of Egypt.
MENELAUS Egypt? Woe is me! to think that hither I have sailed!
PORTRESS Pray, what fault hast thou to find with the race of Nile?
MENELAUS 'Twas no fault I found; my own disasters I lament.
PORTRESS There be plenty in evil case; thou art not the only one.
MENELAUS Is the king, of whom thou speakest, here within?