Book 12

Ulysses, pursuing his narrative, relates his return from the shades to Circe’s island, the precautions given him by that Goddess, his escape from the Sirens, and from Scylla and Charybdis; his arrival in Sicily, where his companions, having slain and eaten the oxen of the Sun, are afterward shipwrecked and lost; and concludes the whole with an account of his arrival, alone, on the mast of his vessel, at the island of Calypso.

   And now, borne seaward from the river-stream
Of the Oceanus, we plow’d again
The spacious Deep, and reach’d th’ Ææan isle,
Where, daughter of the dawn, Aurora takes
Her choral sports, and whence the sun ascends.
We, there arriving, thrust our bark aground
On the smooth beach, then landed, and on shore
Reposed, expectant of the sacred dawn.
But soon as day-spring’s daughter rosy-palm’d
Look’d forth again, sending my friends before,
I bade them bring Elpenor’s body down
From the abode of Circe to the beach.
Then, on the utmost headland of the coast
We timber fell’d, and, sorrowing o’er the dead,
His fun’ral rites water’d with tears profuse.
The dead consumed, and with the dead his arms,
We heap’d his tomb, and the sepulchral post
Erecting, fix’d his shapely oar aloft.

   Thus, punctual, we perform’d; nor our return
From Ades knew not Circe, but attired
In haste, ere long arrived, with whom appear’d
Her female train with plenteous viands charged,
And bright wine rosy-red. Amidst us all
Standing, the beauteous Goddess thus began.

   Ah miserable! who have sought the shades
Alive! while others of the human race
Die only once, appointed twice to die!
Come—take ye food; drink wine; and on the shore
All day regale, for ye shall hence again
At day-spring o’er the Deep; but I will mark
Myself your future course, nor uninform’d
Leave you in aught, lest, through some dire mistake,
By sea or land new mis’ries ye incur.

   The Goddess spake, whose invitation kind
We glad accepted; thus we feasting sat
Till set of sun, and quaffing richest wine;
But when the sun went down and darkness fell,
My crew beside the hawsers slept, while me
The Goddess by the hand leading apart,
First bade me sit, then, seated opposite,
Enquired, minute, of all that I had seen,
And I, from first to last, recounted all.
Then, thus the awful Goddess in return.

   Thus far thy toils are finish’d. Now attend!
Mark well my words, of which the Gods will sure
Themselves remind thee in the needful hour.
First shalt thou reach the Sirens; they the hearts
Enchant of all who on their coast arrive.
The wretch, who unforewarn’d approaching, hears
The Sirens’ voice, his wife and little- ones
Ne’er fly to gratulate his glad return,
But him the Sirens sitting in the meads
Charm with mellifluous song, while all around
The bones accumulated lie of men
Now putrid, and the skins mould’ring away.
But, pass them thou, and, lest thy people hear
Those warblings, ere thou yet approach, fill all
Their ears with wax moulded between thy palms;
But as for thee—thou hear them if thou wilt.
Yet let thy people bind thee to the mast
Erect, encompassing thy feet and arms
With cordage well-secured to the mast-foot,
So shalt thou, raptur’d, hear the Sirens’ song.
But if thou supplicate to be released,
Or give such order, then, with added cords
Let thy companions bind thee still the more.
When thus thy people shall have safely pass’d
The Sirens by, think not from me to learn
What course thou next shalt steer; two will occur;
Delib’rate chuse; I shall describe them both.
Here vaulted rocks impend, dash’d by the waves
Immense of Amphitrite azure-eyed;
The blessed Gods those rocks, Erratic, call.
Birds cannot pass them safe; no, not the doves
Which his ambrosia bear to Father Jove,
But even of those doves the slipp’ry rock
Proves fatal still to one, for which the God
Supplies another, lest the number fail.
No ship, what ship soever there arrives,
Escapes them, but both mariners and planks
Whelm’d under billows of the Deep, or, caught
By fiery tempests, sudden disappear.
Those rocks the billow-cleaving bark alone
The Argo, further’d by the vows of all,
Pass’d safely, sailing from Ææta’s isle;
Nor she had pass’d, but surely dash’d had been
On those huge rocks, but that, propitious still
To Jason, Juno sped her safe along.
These rocks are two; one lifts his summit sharp
High as the spacious heav’ns, wrapt in dun clouds
Perpetual, which nor autumn sees dispers’d
Nor summer, for the sun shines never there;
No mortal man might climb it or descend,
Though twice ten hands and twice ten feet he own’d,
For it is levigated as by art.
Down scoop’d to Erebus, a cavern drear
Yawns in the centre of its western side;
Pass it, renown’d Ulysses! but aloof
So far, that a keen arrow smartly sent
Forth from thy bark should fail to reach the cave.
There Scylla dwells, and thence her howl is heard
Tremendous; shrill her voice is as the note
Of hound new-whelp’d, but hideous her aspect,
Such as no mortal man, nor ev’n

  By PanEris using Melati.

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