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Pages of Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)



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Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)   


"Goddess," answered Ulysses, "all that you have said is true, but
I am in some doubt as to how I shall be able to kill these wicked
suitors single handed, seeing what a number of them there always
are. And there is this further difficulty, which is still more
considerable. Supposing that with Jove's and your assistance I succeed
in killing them, I must ask you to consider where I am to escape to
from their avengers when it is all over."
"For shame," replied Minerva, "why, any one else would trust a worse
ally than myself, even though that ally were only a mortal and less
wise than I am. Am I not a goddess, and have I not protected you
throughout in all your troubles? I tell you plainly that even though
there were fifty bands of men surrounding us and eager to kill us, you
should take all their sheep and cattle, and drive them away with
you. But go to sleep; it is a very bad thing to lie awake all night,
and you shall be out of your troubles before long."
As she spoke she shed sleep over his eyes, and then went back to
Olympus.
While Ulysses was thus yielding himself to a very deep slumber
that eased the burden of his sorrows, his admirable wife awoke, and
sitting up in her bed began to cry. When she had relieved herself by
weeping she prayed to Diana saying, "Great Goddess Diana, daughter
of Jove, drive an arrow into my heart and slay me; or let some
whirlwind snatch me up and bear me through paths of darkness till it
drop me into the mouths of overflowing Oceanus, as it did the
daughters of Pandareus. The daughters of Pandareus lost their father
and mother, for the gods killed them, so they were left orphans. But
Venus took care of them, and fed them on cheese, honey, and sweet
wine. Juno taught them to excel all women in beauty of form and
understanding; Diana gave them an imposing presence, and Minerva
endowed them with every kind of accomplishment; but one day when Venus
had gone up to Olympus to see Jove about getting them married (for
well does he know both what shall happen and what not happen to
every one) the storm winds came and spirited them away to become
handmaids to the dread Erinyes. Even so I wish that the gods who
live in heaven would hide me from mortal sight, or that fair Diana
might strike me, for I would fain go even beneath the sad earth if I
might do so still looking towards Ulysses only, and without having
to yield myself to a worse man than he was. Besides, no matter how
much people may grieve by day, they can put up with it so long as they
can sleep at night, for when the eyes are closed in slumber people
forget good and ill alike; whereas my misery haunts me even in my
dreams. This very night methought there was one lying by my side who
was like Ulysses as he was when he went away with his host, and I
rejoiced, for I believed that it was no dream, but the very truth
itself."
On this the day broke, but Ulysses heard the sound of her weeping,
and it puzzled him, for it seemed as though she already knew him and
was by his side. Then he gathered up the cloak and the fleeces on
which he had lain, and set them on a seat in the cloister, but he took
the bullock's hide out into the open. He lifted up his hands to
heaven, and prayed, saying "Father Jove, since you have seen fit to
bring me over land and sea to my own home after all the afflictions
you have laid upon me, give me a sign out of the mouth of some one
or other of those who are now waking within the house, and let me have
another sign of some kind from outside."
Thus did he pray. Jove heard his prayer and forthwith thundered high
up among the from the splendour of Olympus, and Ulysses was glad
when he heard it. At the same time within the house, a miller-woman
from hard by in the mill room lifted up her voice and gave him another
sign. There were twelve miller-women whose business it was to grind
wheat and barley which are the staff of life. The others had ground
their task and had gone to take their rest, but this one had not yet
finished, for she was not so strong as they were, and when she heard
the thunder she stopped grinding and gave the sign to her master.

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