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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 155

The wind becoming fair they sailed from the island. They had not gone far when the weather changed, and a storm of thunder and lightning ensued. A stroke of lightning shattered their mast, which in its fall killed the pilot. At last the vessel itself came to pieces. The keel and mast floating side by side, Ulysses formed of them a raft, to which he clung, and, the wind changing, the waves bore him to Calypso's island. All the rest of the crew perished.

The following allusion to the stories we have just been relating is from Milton's Comus, line 252:

  "I have often heard
  My mother Circe and the Sirens three,
  Amidst the flowery-kirtled Naiades,
  Culling their potent herbs and baneful drugs,
  Who as they sung would take the prisoned soul
  And lap it in Elysium. Scylla wept,
  And chid her barking waves into attention.
  And fell Charybdis murmured soft applause."

Scylla and Charybdis have become proverbial, to denote opposite dangers which beset one's course.

CALYPSO

Calypso was a sea-nymph. One of that numerous class of female divinities of lower rank than the gods, yet sharing many of their attributes. Calypso received Ulysses hospitably, entertained him magnificently, became enamored of him, and wished to retain him forever, conferring on him immortality. But he persisted in his resolution to return to his country and his wife and son. Calypso at last received a command from Jove to dismiss him. Mercury brought the message to her, and found her in her grotto, which is thus described by Homer:

  "A garden vine, luxuriant on all sides,
  Mantled the spacious cavern, cluster-hung
  Profuse; four fountains of serenest lymph,
  Their sinuous course pursuing side by side,
  Strayed all around, and every where appeared
  Meadows of softest verdure purpled o'er
  With violets; it was a scene to fill
  A god from heaven with wonder and delight."

Calypso with much reluctance proceeded to obey the commands of Jupiter. She supplied Ulysses with the means of constructing a raft, provisioned it well for him, and gave him a favoring gale. He sped on his course prosperously for many days, till at length, when in sight of land, a storm arose that broke his mast, and threatened to rend the raft asunder. In this crisis he was seen by a compassionate sea-nymph, who in the form of a cormorant alighted on the raft, and presented him a girdle, directing him to bind it beneath his breast, and if he should be compelled to trust himself to the waves, it would buoy him up and enable him by swimming to reach the land.

Fenelon, in his romance of Telemachus, has given us the adventures of the son of Ulysses in search of his father. Among other places at which he arrived, following on his father's footsteps, was Calypso's isle, and, as in the former case, the goddess tried every art to keep him with her, and offered to share her immortality with him. But Minerva, who, in the shape of Mentor, accompanied him and governed all his movements, made him repel her allurements, and when no other means of escape could be found, the two friends leaped from a cliff into the sea, and swam to a vessel which lay becalmed off shore. Byron alludes to this leap of Telemachus and Mentor in the following stanza:


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