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Pages of Odyssey (Rapsodies 7 to 12)

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Odyssey (Rapsodies 7 to 12)   

the best man. I am a good hand at every kind of athletic sport known
among mankind. I am an excellent archer. In battle I am always the
first to bring a man down with my arrow, no matter how many more are
taking aim at him alongside of me. Philoctetes was the only man who
could shoot better than I could when we Achaeans were before Troy
and in practice. I far excel every one else in the whole world, of
those who still eat bread upon the face of the earth, but I should not
like to shoot against the mighty dead, such as Hercules, or Eurytus
the Cechalian-men who could shoot against the gods themselves. This in
fact was how Eurytus came prematurely by his end, for Apollo was angry
with him and killed him because he challenged him as an archer. I
can throw a dart farther than any one else can shoot an arrow. Running
is the only point in respect of which I am afraid some of the
Phaecians might beat me, for I have been brought down very low at sea;
my provisions ran short, and therefore I am still weak."
They all held their peace except King Alcinous, who began, "Sir,
we have had much pleasure in hearing all that you have told us, from
which I understand that you are willing to show your prowess, as
having been displeased with some insolent remarks that have been
made to you by one of our athletes, and which could never have been
uttered by any one who knows how to talk with propriety. I hope you
will apprehend my meaning, and will explain to any be one of your
chief men who may be dining with yourself and your family when you get
home, that we have an hereditary aptitude for accomplishments of all
kinds. We are not particularly remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as
wrestlers, but we are singularly fleet of foot and are excellent
sailors. We are extremely fond of good dinners, music, and dancing; we
also like frequent changes of linen, warm baths, and good beds, so
now, please, some of you who are the best dancers set about dancing,
that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as sailors, runners, dancers,
minstrels. Demodocus has left his lyre at my house, so run some one or
other of you and fetch it for him."
On this a servant hurried off to bring the lyre from the king's
house, and the nine men who had been chosen as stewards stood forward.
It was their business to manage everything connected with the
sports, so they made the ground smooth and marked a wide space for the
dancers. Presently the servant came back with Demodocus's lyre, and he
took his place in the midst of them, whereon the best young dancers in
the town began to foot and trip it so nimbly that Ulysses was
delighted with the merry twinkling of their feet.
Meanwhile the bard began to sing the loves of Mars and Venus, and
how they first began their intrigue in the house of Vulcan. Mars
made Venus many presents, and defiled King Vulcan's marriage bed, so
the sun, who saw what they were about, told Vulcan. Vulcan was very
angry when he heard such dreadful news, so he went to his smithy
brooding mischief, got his great anvil into its place, and began to
forge some chains which none could either unloose or break, so that
they might stay there in that place. When he had finished his snare he
went into his bedroom and festooned the bed-posts all over with chains
like cobwebs; he also let many hang down from the great beam of the
ceiling. Not even a god could see them, so fine and subtle were
they. As soon as he had spread the chains all over the bed, he made as
though he were setting out for the fair state of Lemnos, which of
all places in the world was the one he was most fond of. But Mars kept
no blind look out, and as soon as he saw him start, hurried off to his
house, burning with love for Venus.
Now Venus was just come in from a visit to her father Jove, and
was about sitting down when Mars came inside the house, an said as
he took her hand in his own, "Let us go to the couch of Vulcan: he
is not at home, but is gone off to Lemnos among the Sintians, whose
speech is barbarous."
She was nothing loth, so they went to the couch to take their
rest, whereon they were caught in the toils which cunning Vulcan had

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