Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 163

After they had duly rested, they were still detained by unfavorable winds, until all their provisions were exhausted, and the few birds and fishes they managed to secure no longer sufficed to still the pangs of hunger.

Led by Eurylochus, some of the men, during one of Ulysses’ temporary absences, caught and slew some of the sun god’s [354] cattle. To the general amazement and terror, the meat lowed while roasting on the spit, and the empty skins moved and crawled as if alive. All these sounds and sights could not, however, deter the sailors, who were bound to have a good feast, which they kept up for seven days, ere Ulysses could make them leave the Trinacrian shores.

In the mean while, Lampetia had hastened to Apollo to apprise him of the crime committed by Ulysses’ men. In anger he appeared before the assembled gods and demanded amends, threatening to withdraw the light of his countenance if he were not properly indemnified. Jupiter, to appease his hot anger, immediately promised that all the offenders should perish.

“‘Still shine, O Sun! among the deathless gods
And mortal men, upon the nourishing earth.
Soon will I cleave, with a white thunderbolt,
Their galley in the midst of the black sea!’”
Homer (Bryant’s tr.).

This promise he immediately fulfilled by drowning all except Ulysses, who alone had not partaken of the sacred flesh, and who, after clinging to the rudder for nine long days, a plaything for the wind and waves, was washed ashore on the Island of Ogygia, where the fair sea nymph Calypso had taken up her abode.

Ulysses and Calypso.

There he was kindly and most hospitably entertained during eight long years; but he could not depart, as he had no vessel or crew to bear him away. At last Minerva, who had always befriended him, prevailed upon Jupiter to allow him to return to Ithaca. Mercury was sent to Ogygia to bid Calypso furnish all things necessary for his comfort, and aid in the construction of a huge raft, whereon our hero found himself afloat after many years of reluctant lingering on the land.

All seemed well now; but Neptune suddenly became aware that his old enemy, the torturer of Polyphemus, was about to escape from his clutches. With one blow of his trident he stirred [355] up one of those sudden tempests whose fury nothing can withstand, shattered Ulysses’ raft, and buffeted him about on the waves, until the goddess Leucothea (p. 174), seeing his distress, helped him to reach the Phæacian shore.

Nausicaa and Ulysses.

Too weary to think of aught but rest, Ulysses dragged himself into a neighboring wood, where he fell asleep on a bed of dry leaves. While he was thus resting, Minerva visited Nausicaa, daughter of Alcinous, King of the Phæacians, in a dream, and bade her go down to the shore and wash her linen robes in readiness for her wedding day, which the goddess assured her was near at hand. Nausicaa obeyed, and drove with her maidens down to the shore, where, after their labors were duly finished, they all indulged in a game of ball, with the usual accompaniment of shrill cries and much laughter. Their cries awoke Ulysses, who came on the scene just in time to save their ball from the waves, and claimed Nausicaa’s protection for a shipwrecked mariner.