Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Alexander Pope  »  The Odyssey (partial). Book XIII. The Arrival of Ulysses in Ithaca

Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Complete Poetical Works. 1903.

Translations from Homer

The Odyssey (partial). Book XIII. The Arrival of Ulysses in Ithaca

  • The Argument
  • Ulysses takes his leave of Alcinoüs and Aretè, and embarks in the evening. Next morning the ship arrives at Ithaca; where the sailors, as Ulysses is yet sleeping, lay him on the shore with all his treasures. On their return, Neptune changes their ship into a rock. In the mean time, Ulysses awaking, knows not his native Ithaca, by reason of a mist which Pallas had cast round him. He breaks into loud lamentations; till the Goddess appearing to him in the form of a shepherd, discovers the country to him, and points out the particular places. He then tells a feigned story of his adventures, upon which she manifests herself, and they consult together on the measures to be taken to destroy the suitors. To conceal his return, and disguise his person the more effectually, she changes him into the figure of an old beggar.

  • HE ceas’d; but left so pleasing on their ear

    His voice, that list’ning still they seem’d to hear.

    A pause of silence hush’d the shady rooms:

    The grateful conf’rence then the King resumes:

    ‘Whatever toils the great Ulysses pass’d,

    Beneath this happy roof they end at last;

    No longer now from shore to shore to roam,

    Smooth seas and gentle winds invite him home.

    But hear me, Princes! whom these walls enclose,

    For whom my chanter sings, and goblet flows

    With wine unmix’d (an honour due to age,

    To cheer the grave, and warm the poet’s rage),

    Tho’ labour’d gold, and many a dazzling vest

    Lie heap’d already for our godlike guest:

    Without new treasures let him not remove,

    Large, and expressive of the public love:

    Each Peer a tripod, each a vase bestow,

    A gen’ral tribute, which the state shall owe.’

    This sentence pleas’d: then all their steps address’d

    To sep’rate mansions, and retired to rest.

    Now did the Rosy-finger’d Morn arise,

    And shed her sacred light along the skies.

    Down to the haven and the ships in haste

    They bore the treasures, and in safety placed.

    The King himself the vases ranged with care;

    Then bade his foll’wers to the feast repair.

    A victim ox beneath the sacred hand

    Of great Alcinoüs falls, and stains the sand.

    To Jove th’ Eternal (Power above all Powers!

    Who wings the winds, and darkens Heav’n with showers),

    The flames ascend: till ev’ning they prolong

    The rites, more sacred made by heav’nly song:

    For in the midst with public honours graced,

    Thy lyre, divine Demodocus! was placed.

    All, but Ulysses, heard with fix’d delight:

    He sate, and eyed the sun, and wish’d the night:

    Slow seem’d the sun to move, the hours to roll,

    His native home deep-imaged in his soul.

    As the tired ploughman spent with stubborn toil,

    Whose oxen long have torn the furrow’d soil,

    Sees with delight the sun’s declining ray,

    When home with feeble knees he bends his way

    To late repast (the day’s hard labour done),

    So to Ulysses welcome set the sun;

    Then instant to Alcinoüs and the rest

    (The Scherian states) he turn’d, and thus address’d.

    ‘O thou, the first in merit and command!

    And you the Peers and Princes of the land!

    May ev’ry joy be yours! nor this the least,

    When due libation shall have crown’d the feast,

    Safe to my home to send your happy guest.

    Complete are now the bounties you have giv’n,

    Be all those bounties but confirm’d by Heav’n!

    So may I find, when all my wand’rings cease,

    My consort blameless, and my friends in peace.

    On you be ev’ry bliss; and ev’ry day,

    In home-felt joys, delighted roll away:

    Yourselves, your wives, your long-descending race,

    May ev’ry God enrich with ev’ry grace!

    Sure fix’d on virtue may your nation stand,

    And public evil never touch the land!’

    His words well weigh’d, the gen’ral voice approv’d

    Benign, and instant his dismission mov’d.

    The Monarch to Pontonoüs gave the sign,

    To fill the goblet high with rosy wine:

    ‘Great Jove the Father first’ (he cried) ‘implore;

    Then send the stranger to his native shore.’

    The luscious wine th’ obedient herald brought;

    Around the mansion flow’d the purple draught;

    Each from his seat to each immortal pours,

    Whom glory circles in th’ Olympian bowers.

    Ulysses sole with air majestic stands,

    The bowl presenting to Aretè’s hands;

    Then thus: ‘O Queen, farewell! be still possess’d

    Of dear remembrance, blessing still and bless’d!

    Till age and death shall gently call thee hence

    (Sure fate of ev’ry mortal excellence).

    Farewell! and joys successive ever spring

    To thee, to thine, the people and the King!’

    Thus he: then parting prints the sandy shore

    To the fair port: a herald march’d before,

    Sent by Alcinoüs; of Aretè’s train

    Three chosen maids attend him to the main:

    This does a tunic and white vest convey,

    A various casket that, of rich inlay,

    And bread and wine the third. The cheerful mates

    Safe in the hollow poop dispose the cates:

    Upon the deck soft painted robes they spread,

    With linen cover’d, for the hero’s bed.

    He climb’d the lofty stern; then gently press’d

    The swelling couch, and lay composed to rest.

    Now placed in order, the Phæacian train

    Their cables loose, and launch into the main:

    At once they bend, and strike their equal oars,

    And leave the sinking hills and less’ning shores.

    While on the deck the Chief in silence lies,

    And pleasing slumbers steal upon his eyes.

    As fiery coursers in the rapid race

    Urged by fierce drivers thro’ the dusty space,

    Toss their high heads, and scour along the plain;

    So mounts the bounding vessel o’er the main.

    Back to the stern the parted billows flow,

    And the black ocean foams and roars below.

    Thus with spread sails the winged galley flies;

    Less swift an eagle cuts the liquid skies;

    Divine Ulysses was her sacred load,

    A man in wisdom equal to a God!

    Much danger, long and mighty toils he bore,

    In storms by sea, and combats on the shore:

    All which soft sleep now banish’d from his breast,

    Wrapp’d in a pleasing, deep, and deathlike rest.

    But when the morning-star with early ray

    Flamed in the front of Heav’n, and promis’d day,

    Like distant clouds the mariner descries

    Fair Ithaca’s emerging hills arise.

    Far from the town a spacious port appears,

    Sacred to Phorcy’s power, whose name it bears:

    Two craggy rocks, projecting to the main,

    The roaring wind’s tempestuous rage restrain;

    Within, the waves in softer murmurs glide,

    And ships secure without their halsers ride.

    High at the head a branching olive grows,

    And crowns the pointed cliffs with shady boughs.

    Beneath, a gloomy grotto’s cool recess

    Delights the Nereids of the neighb’ring seas,

    Where bowls and urns were form’d of living stone,

    And massy beams in native marble shone:

    On which the labours of the Nymphs were roll’d,

    Their webs divine of purple mix’d with gold.

    Within the cave the clust’ring bees attend

    Their waxen works, or from the roof depend.

    Perpetual waters o’er the pavement glide;

    Two marble doors unfold on either side;

    Sacred the south, by which the Gods descend;

    But mortals enter at the northern end.

    Thither they bent, and haul’d their ship to land

    (The crooked keel divides the yellow sand);

    Ulysses sleeping on his couch they bore,

    And gently placed him on the rocky shore.

    His treasures next, Alcinoüs’ gifts, they laid

    In the wild olive’s unfrequented shade,

    Secure from theft; then launch’d the bark again,

    Resumed their oars, and measured back the main.

    Nor yet forgot old Ocean’s dread Supreme

    The vengeance vow’d for eyeless Polypheme.

    Before the throne of mighty Jove he stood;

    And sought the secret counsels of the God.

    ‘Shall then no more, O Sire of Gods! be mine

    The rights and honours of a power divine?

    Scorn’d ev’n by man, and (oh severe disgrace!)

    By soft Phæacians, my degen’rate race!

    Against yon destin’d head in vain I swore,

    And menaced vengeance, ere he reach’d his shore;

    To reach his natal shore was thy decree;

    Mild I obey’d, for who shall war with thee?

    Behold him landed, careless and asleep,

    From all th’ eluded dangers of the deep;

    Lo where he lies, amidst a shining store

    Of brass, rich garments, and refulgent ore;

    And bears triumphant to his native isle

    A prize more worth than Ilion’s noble spoil.’

    To whom the Father of th’ immortal Powers,

    Who swells the clouds, and gladdens earth with showers:

    ‘Can mighty Neptune thus of man complain?

    Neptune, tremendous o’er the boundless main!

    Revered and awful ev’n in Heav’n’s abodes,

    Ancient and great! a God above the Gods!

    If that low race offend thy power divine,

    (Weak, daring creatures!) is not vengeance thine?

    Go then, the guilty at thy will chastise.’

    He said. The Shaker of the Earth replies:

    ‘This then I doom: to fix the gallant ship

    A mark of vengeance on the sable deep;

    To warn the thoughtless self-confiding train,

    No more unlicens’d thus to brave the main.

    Full in their port a shady hill shall rise,

    If such thy will.’—‘We will it,’ Jove replies.

    ‘Ev’n when with transport, black’ning all the strand,

    The swarming people hail their ship to land,

    Fix her for ever, a memorial stone:

    Still let her seem to sail, and seem alone.

    The trembling crowds shall see the sudden shade

    Of whelming mountains overhang their head!’

    With that the God whose earthquakes rock the ground

    Fierce to Phæacia cross’d the vast profound.

    Swift as a swallow sweeps the liquid way,

    The winged pinnace shot along the sea.

    The God arrests her with a sudden stroke,

    And roots her down an everlasting rock.

    Aghast the Scherians stand in deep surprise;

    All press to speak, all question with their eyes.

    ‘What hands unseen the rapid bark restrain?

    And yet it swims, or seems to swim, the main!’

    Thus they, unconscious of the deed divine:

    Till great Alcinoüs, rising, own’d the sign.

    ‘Behold the long-predestin’d day!’ (he cries);

    ‘O certain faith of ancient prophecies!

    These ears have heard my royal sire disclose

    A dreadful story, big with future woes:

    How, mov’d with wrath, that careless we convey

    Promiscuous ev’ry guest to ev’ry bay,

    Stern Neptune raged; and how by his command

    Firm rooted in the surge a ship should stand

    (A monument of wrath); and mound on mound

    Should hide our walls, or whelm beneath the ground.

    ‘The Fates have follow’d as declared the seer:

    Be humbled, nations! and your Monarch hear.

    No more unlicens’d brave the deeps, no more

    With ev’ry stranger pass from shore to shore:

    On angry Neptune now for mercy call;

    To his high name let twelve black oxen fall.

    So may the God reverse his purpos’d will,

    Nor o’er our city hang the dreadful hill.’

    The Monarch spoke: they trembled and obey’d,

    Forth on the sands the victim oxen led:

    The gather’d tribes before the altars stand,

    And Chiefs and rulers, a majestic band.

    The King of Ocean all the tribes implore;

    The blazing altars redden all the shore.

    Meanwhile Ulysses in his country lay,

    Releas’d from sleep, and round him might survey

    The solitary shore and rolling sea.

    Yet had his mind thro’ tedious absence lost

    The dear resemblance of his native coast;

    Besides, Minerva, to secure her care

    Diffused around a veil of thicken’d air:

    For so the Gods ordain’d, to keep unseen

    His royal person from his friends and Queen:

    Till the proud suitors for their crimes afford

    An ample vengeance to their injured lord.

    Now all the land another prospect bore,

    Another port appear’d, another shore.

    And long-continued ways, and winding floods,

    And unknown mountains, crown’d with unknown woods.

    Pensive and slow, with sudden grief oppress’d,

    The King arose, and beat his careful breast,

    Cast a long look o’er all the coast and main,

    And sought, around, his native realm in vain:

    Then with erected eyes stood fix’d in woe,

    And, as he spoke, the tears began to flow:

    ‘Ye Gods’ (he cried), ‘upon what barren coast,

    In what new region, is Ulysses toss’d?

    Possess’d by wild barbarians, fierce in arms?

    Or men whose bosom tender pity warms?

    Where shall this treasure now in safety lie?

    And whither, whither its sad owner fly?

    Ah why did I Alcinoüs’ grace implore?

    Ah why forsake Phæacia’s happy shore?

    Some juster Prince perhaps had entertain’d,

    And safe restor’d me to my native land.

    Is this the promis’d, long-expected coast,

    And this the faith Phæacia’s rulers boast?

    O righteous Gods! of all the great, how few

    Are just to Heav’n, and to their promise true!

    But he, the Power to whose all-seeing eyes

    The deeds of men appear without disguise,

    ’T is his alone t’ avenge the wrongs I bear:

    For still th’ oppress’d are his peculiar care.

    To count these presents, and from thence to prove

    Their faith, is mine: the rest belongs to Jove.’

    Then on the sands he ranged his wealthy store,

    The gold, the vests, the tripods number’d o’er:

    All these he found; but still, in error lost,

    Disconsolate he wanders on the coast,

    Sighs for his country, and laments again

    To the deaf rocks, and hoarse resounding main.

    When lo! the guardian Goddess of the Wise,

    Celestial Pallas, stood before his eyes;

    In show a youthful swain, of form divine,

    Who seem’d descended from some princely line.

    A graceful robe her slender body dress’d;

    Around her shoulders flew the waving vest;

    Her decent hand a shining jav’lin bore,

    And painted sandals on her feet she wore.

    To whom the King: ‘Whoe’er of human race

    Thou art, that wander’st in this desert place,

    With joy to thee, as to some God, I bend,

    To thee my treasures and myself commend.

    O tell a wretch in exile doom’d to stray,

    What air I breathe, what country I survey?

    The fruitful continent’s extremest bound,

    Or some fair isle which Neptune’s arms surround?’

    ‘From what far clime’ (said she), ‘remote from Fame,

    Arrivest thou here, a stranger to our name?

    Thou seest an island, not to those unknown

    Whose hills are brighten’d by the rising sun,

    Nor those that placed beneath his utmost reign

    Behold him sinking in the western main.

    The rugged soil allows no level space

    For flying chariots, or the rapid race;

    Yet, not ungrateful to the peasant’s pain,

    Suffices fulness to the swelling grain:

    The loaded trees their various fruits produce,

    And clust’ring grapes afford a gen’rous juice;

    Woods crown our mountains, and in ev’ry grove

    The bounding goats and frisking heifers rove:

    Soft rains and kindly dews refresh the field,

    And rising springs eternal verdure yield:

    Ev’n to those shores in Ithaca renown’d,

    Where Troy’s majestic ruins strew the ground.’

    At this, the Chief with transport was possess’d;

    His painting heart exulted in his breast:

    Yet, well dissembling his untimely joys,

    And veiling truth in plausible disguise,

    Thus, with an air sincere, in fiction bold,

    His ready tale th’ inventive hero told:

    ‘Oft have I heard in Crete this island’s name;

    For ’t was from Crete, my native soil, I came,

    Self-banish’d thence. I sail’d before the wind,

    And left my children and my friends behind.

    From fierce Idomeneus’ revenge I flew,

    Whose son, the swift Orsilochus, I slew

    (With brutal force he seiz’d my Trojan prey,

    Due to the toils of many a bloody day).

    Unseen I ’scaped, and, favour’d by the night,

    In a Phœnician vessel took my flight,

    For Pyle or Elis bound: but tempests toss’d

    And raging billows drove us on your coast.

    In dead of night an unknown port we gain’d,

    Spent with fatigue, and slept secure on land.

    But ere the rosy morn renew’d the day,

    While in th’ embrace of pleasing sleep I lay,

    Sudden, invited by auspicious gales,

    They land my goods, and hoist their flying sails.

    Abandon’d here, my fortune I deplore,

    A hapless exile on a foreign shore.’

    Thus while he spoke, the Blue-eyed Maid began

    With pleasing smiles to view the godlike man:

    Then changed her form: an now, divinely bright,

    Jove’s heav’nly daughter stood confess’d to sight:

    Like a fair virgin in her beauty’s bloom,

    Skill’d in th’ illustrious labours of the loom.

    ‘O still the same Ulysses!’ (she rejoin’d)

    ‘In useful craft successfully refin’d!

    Artful in speech, in action, and in mind!

    Sufficed it not, that, thy long labours pass’d,

    Secure thou seest thy native shores at last?

    But this to me? who, like thyself, excel

    In arts of counsel, and dissembling well;

    To me? whose wit exceeds the Powers divine,

    No less than mortals are surpass’d by thine.

    Know’st thou not me? who made thy life my care,

    Thro’ ten years’ wand’ring, and thro’ ten years’ war,

    Who taught thee arts, Alcinoüs to persuade,

    To raise his wonder, and engage his aid;

    And now appear, thy treasures to protect,

    Conceal thy person, thy designs direct,

    And tell what more thou must from Fate expect;

    Domestic woes far heavier to be borne!

    The pride of fools, and slaves’ insulting scorn!

    But thou be silent, nor reveal thy state;

    Yield to the force of unresisted Fate,

    And bear unmov’d the wrongs of base mankind,

    The last, and hardest, conquest of the mind.’

    ‘Goddess of Wisdom!’ (Ithacus replies)

    ‘He who discerns thee must be truly wise,

    So seldom view’d, and ever in disguise!

    When the bold Argives led their warring powers

    Against proud Ilion’s well-defended towers,

    Ulysses was thy care, celestial Maid!

    Graced with thy sight, and favour’d with thy aid.

    But when the Trojan piles in ashes lay,

    And bound for Greece we plough’d the wat’ry way,

    Our fleet dispers’d and driven from coast to coast,

    Thy sacred presence from that hour I lost;

    Till I beheld thy radiant form once more,

    And heard thy counsels on Phæacia’s shore.

    But, by th’ Almighty Author of thy race,

    Tell me, oh tell, is this my native place?

    For much I fear, long tracts of land and sea

    Divide this coast from distant Ithaca;

    The sweet delusion kindly you impose,

    To soothe my hopes, and mitigate my woes.’

    Thus he. The Blue-eyed Goddess thus replies:

    ‘How prone to doubt, how cautions are the wise!

    Who, vers’d in fortune, fear the flatt’ring show,

    And taste not half the bliss the Gods bestow.

    The more shall Pallas aid thy just desires,

    And guard the wisdom which herself inspires.

    Others, long absent from their native place,

    Straight seek their home, and fly with eager pace

    To their wives’ arms, and children’s dear embrace.

    Not thus Ulysses: he decrees to prove

    His subjects’ faith, and Queen’s suspected love;

    Who mourn’d her lord twice ten revolving years,

    And wastes the days in grief, the nights in tears.

    But Pallas knew (thy friends and navy lost)

    Once more ’t was given thee to behold thy coast:

    Yet how could I with adverse Fate engage,

    And mighty Neptune’s unrelenting rage?

    Now lift thy longing eyes, while I restore

    The pleasing prospect of thy native shore.

    Behold the port of Phorcys! fenc’d around

    With rocky mountains, and with olives crown’d.

    Behold the gloomy grot! whose cool recess

    Delights the Nereids of the neighb’ring seas:

    Whose now neglected altars, in thy reign,

    Blush’d with the blood of sheep and oxen slain.

    Behold! where Neritus the clouds divides,

    And shakes the waving forests on his sides.’

    So spake the Goddess, and the prospect clear’d;

    The mists dispers’d, and all the coast appear’d.

    The King with joy confess’d his place of birth,

    And on his knees salutes his Mother Earth:

    Then, with his suppliant hands upheld in air,

    Thus to the sea-green Sisters sends his prayer:

    ‘All hail! ye virgin Daughters of the Main!

    Ye streams, beyond my hopes beheld again!

    To you once more your own Ulysses bows;

    Attend his transports, and receive his vows!

    If Jove prolong my days, and Pallas crown

    The growing virtues of my youthful son,

    To you shall rites divine be ever paid,

    And grateful off’rings on your altars laid.’

    Thus then Minerva: ‘From that anxious breast

    Dismiss those cares, and leave to Heav’n the rest.

    Our task be now thy treasured stores to save,

    Deep in the close recesses of the cave:

    Then future means consult.’ She spoke, and trod

    The shady grot, that brighten’d with the God.

    The closest caverns of the grot she sought;

    The gold, the brass, the robes, Ulysses brought;

    These in the secret gloom the Chief disposed;

    The entrance with a rock the Goddess closed.

    Now, seated in the olive’s sacred shade,

    Confer the Hero and the Martial Maid.

    The Goddess of the Azure Eyes began:

    ‘Son of Laërtes! much-experienc’d man!

    The suitor-train thy earliest care demand,

    Of that luxurious race to rid the land:

    Three years thy house their lawless rule has seen,

    And proud addresses to the matchless Queen.

    But she thy absence mourns from day to day,

    And inly bleeds, and silent wastes away:

    Elusive of the bridal hour, she gives

    Fond hopes to all, and all with hopes deceives.’

    To this Ulysses: ‘O celestial Maid!

    Prais’d be thy counsel, and thy timely aid:

    Else had I seen my native walls in vain,

    Like great Atrides, just restor’d and slain.

    Vouchsafe the means of vengeance to debate,

    And plan with all thy arts the scene of fate.

    Then, then be present, and my soul inspire,

    As when we wrapp’d Troy’s Heav’n-built walls in fire.

    Though leagued against me hundred heroes stand,

    Hundreds shall fall, if Pallas aid my hand.’

    She answer’d: ‘In the dreadful day of fight

    Know I am with thee, strong in all my might.

    If thou but equal to thyself be found,

    What gasping numbers then shall press the ground!

    What human victims stain the feastful floor!

    How wide the pavements float with guilty gore!

    It fits thee now to wear a dark disguise,

    And secret walk unknown to mortal eyes.

    For this, my hand shall wither ev’ry grace,

    And ev’ry elegance of form and face;

    O’er thy smooth skin a bark of wrinkles spread,

    Turn hoar the auburn honours of thy head;

    Disfigure every limb with coarse attire,

    And in thy eyes extinguish all the fire;

    Add all the wants and the decays of life;

    Estrange thee from thy own; thy son, thy wife:

    From the loathed object ev’ry eye shall turn,

    And the blind suitors their destruction scorn.

    ‘Go first the master of thy herds to find,

    True to his charge, a loyal swain and kind:

    For thee he sighs; and to the royal heir

    And chaste Penelope extends his care.

    At the Coracian rock he now resides,

    Where Arethusa’s sable water glides;

    The sable water and the copious mast

    Swell the fat herd; luxuriant, large repast!

    With him rest peaceful in the rural cell,

    And all you ask his faithful tongue shall tell.

    Me into other realms my cares convey,

    To Sparta, still with female beauty gay:

    For know, to Sparta thy lov’d offspring came,

    To learn thy fortunes from the voice of Fame.’

    At this the father, with a father’s care:

    ‘Must he too suffer? he, O Goddess! bear

    Of wand’rings and of woes a wretched share?

    Thro’ the wild ocean plough the dangerous way,

    And leave his fortunes and his house a prey?

    Why would’st not thou, O all-enlighten’d Mind!

    Inform him certain, and protect him, kind?’

    To whom Minerva: ‘Be thy soul at rest:

    And know, whatever Heav’n ordains is best.

    To fame I sent him, to acquire renown;

    To other regions is his virtue known:

    Secure he sits, near great Atrides placed:

    With friendships strengthen’d, and with honours graced.

    But lo! an ambush waits his passage o’er;

    Fierce foes insidious intercept the shore:

    In vain; far sooner all the murd’rous brood

    This injured land shall fatten with their blood.’

    She spake, then touch’d him with her powerful wand:

    The skin shrunk up, and wither’d at her hand:

    A swift old age o’er all his members spread;

    A sudden frost was sprinkled on his head;

    Nor longer in the heavy eye-ball shined

    The glance divine, forth-beaming from the mind.

    His robe, which spots indelible besmear,

    In rags dishonest flutters with the air:

    A stag’s torn hide is lapp’d around his reins;

    A rugged staff his trembling hand sustains;

    And at his side a wretched scrip was hung,

    Wide-patch’d, and knotted to a twisted thong.

    So look’d the chief, so mov’d; to mortal eyes

    Object uncouth! a man of miseries!

    While Pallas, cleaving the wide fields of air,

    To Sparta flies, Telemachus her care.