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Pages of Odyssey (Rapsodies 7 to 12)



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Odyssey (Rapsodies 7 to 12)   


"Alcinous," said he, "it is not creditable to you that a stranger
should be seen sitting among the ashes of your hearth; every one is
waiting to hear what you are about to say; tell him, then, to rise and
take a seat on a stool inlaid with silver, and bid your servants mix
some wine and water that we may make a drink-offering to Jove the lord
of thunder, who takes all well-disposed suppliants under his
protection; and let the housekeeper give him some supper, of
whatever there may be in the house."
When Alcinous heard this he took Ulysses by the hand, raised him
from the hearth, and bade him take the seat of Laodamas, who had
been sitting beside him, and was his favourite son. A maid servant
then brought him water in a beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a
silver basin for him to wash his hands, and she drew a clean table
beside him; an upper servant brought him bread and offered him many
good things of what there was in the house, and Ulysses ate and drank.
Then Alcinous said to one of the servants, "Pontonous, mix a cup of
wine and hand it round that we may make drink-offerings to Jove the
lord of thunder, who is the protector of all well-disposed
suppliants."
Pontonous then mixed wine and water, and handed it round after
giving every man his drink-offering. When they had made their
offerings, and had drunk each as much as he was minded, Alcinous said:
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, hear my words. You
have had your supper, so now go home to bed. To-morrow morning I shall
invite a still larger number of aldermen, and will give a
sacrificial banquet in honour of our guest; we can then discuss the
question of his escort, and consider how we may at once send him
back rejoicing to his own country without trouble or inconvenience
to himself, no matter how distant it may be. We must see that he comes
to no harm while on his homeward journey, but when he is once at
home he will have to take the luck he was born with for better or
worse like other people. It is possible, however, that the stranger is
one of the immortals who has come down from heaven to visit us; but in
this case the gods are departing from their usual practice, for
hitherto they have made themselves perfectly clear to us when we
have been offering them hecatombs. They come and sit at our feasts
just like one of our selves, and if any solitary wayfarer happens to
stumble upon some one or other of them, they affect no concealment,
for we are as near of kin to the gods as the Cyclopes and the savage
giants are."
Then Ulysses said: "Pray, Alcinous, do not take any such notion into
your head. I have nothing of the immortal about me, neither in body
nor mind, and most resemble those among you who are the most
afflicted. Indeed, were I to tell you all that heaven has seen fit
to lay upon me, you would say that I was still worse off than they
are. Nevertheless, let me sup in spite of sorrow, for an empty stomach
is a very importunate thing, and thrusts itself on a man's notice no
matter how dire is his distress. I am in great trouble, yet it insists
that I shall eat and drink, bids me lay aside all memory of my sorrows
and dwell only on the due replenishing of itself. As for yourselves,
do as you propose, and at break of day set about helping me to get
home. I shall be content to die if I may first once more behold my
property, my bondsmen, and all the greatness of my house."
Thus did he speak. Every one approved his saying, and agreed that he
should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken reasonably. Then when
they had made their drink-offerings, and had drunk each as much as
he was minded they went home to bed every man in his own abode,
leaving Ulysses in the cloister with Arete and Alcinous while the
servants were taking the things away after supper. Arete was the first
to speak, for she recognized the shirt, cloak, and good clothes that
Ulysses was wearing, as the work of herself and of her maids; so she
said, "Stranger, before we go any further, there is a question I
should like to ask you. Who, and whence are you, and who gave you
those clothes? Did you not say you had come here from beyond the sea?"

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