Book 20

Ulysses, doubting whether he shall destroy or not the women servants who commit lewdness with the suitors, resolves at length to spare them for the present. He asks an omen from Jupiter, and that he would grant him also to hear some propitious words from the lips of one in the family. His petitions are both answered. Preparation is made for the feast. Whilst the suitors sit at table, Pallas smites them with a horrid frenzy. Theoclymenus, observing the strange effects of it, prophesies their destruction, and they decide his prophecy.

   But in the vestibule the Hero lay
On a bull’s-hide undress’d, o’er which he spread
The fleece of many a sheep slain by the Greeks,
And, cover’d by the household’s governess
With a wide cloak, composed himself to rest.
Yet slept he not, but meditating lay
Woe to his enemies. Meantime, the train
Of women, wonted to the suitors’ arms,
Issuing all mirth and laughter, in his soul
A tempest raised of doubts, whether at once
To slay, or to permit them yet to give
Their lusty paramours one last embrace.
As growls the mastiff standing on the start
For battle, if a stranger’s foot approach
Her cubs new-whelp’d—so growl’d Ulysses’ heart,
While wonder fill’d him at their impious deeds.
But, smiting on his breast, thus he reproved
The mutinous inhabitant within.

   Heart! bear it. Worse than this thou didst endure
When, uncontroulable by force of man,
The Cyclops thy illustrious friends devour’d.
Thy patience then fail’d not, till prudence found
Deliv’rance for thee on the brink of fate.

   So disciplined the Hero his own heart,
Which, tractable, endured the rigorous curb,
And patient; yet he turn’d from side to side.
As when some hungry swain turns oft a maw
Unctuous and sav’ry on the burning coals,
Quick expediting his desired repast,
So he from side to side roll’d, pond’ring deep
How likeliest with success he might assail
Those shameless suitors; one to many opposed.
Then, sudden from the skies descending, came
Minerva in a female form her stand
Above his head she took, and thus she spake.

   Why sleep’st thou not, unhappiest of mankind?
Thou art at home; here dwells thy wife, and here
Thy son; a son, whom all might wish their own.

   Then her Ulysses answer’d, ever-wise.
O Goddess! true is all that thou hast said,
But, not without anxiety, I muse
How, single as I am, I shall assail
Those shameless suitors who frequent my courts
Daily; and always their whole multitude.
This weightier theme I meditate beside;
Should I, with Jove’s concurrence and with thine
Prevail to slay them, how shall I escape,
Myself, at last? oh Goddess, weigh it well.

   Him answer’d then Pallas cærulean-eyed.
Oh faithless man! a man will in his friend
Confide, though mortal, and in valour less
And wisdom than himself; but I who keep
Thee in all difficulties, am divine.
I tell thee plainly. Were we hemm’d around
By fifty troops of shouting warriors bent
To slay thee, thou should’st yet securely drive
The flocks away and cattle of them all.
But yield to sleep’s soft influence; for to lie
All night thus watchful, is, itself, distress.
Fear not. Deliv’rance waits, not far remote.

   So saying, she o’er Ulysses’ eyes diffused
Soft slumbers, and when sleep that sooths the mind
And nerves the limbs afresh had seized him once,
To the Olympian summit swift return’d.
But his chaste spouse awoke; she weeping sat
On her soft couch, and, noblest of her sex,
Satiate at length with tears, her pray’r address’d
First to Diana of the Pow’rs above.

   Diana, awful progeny of Jove!
I would that with a shaft this moment sped
Into my bosom, thou would’st here conclude
My mournful life! or, oh that, as it flies,
Snatching me through the pathless air, a storm
Would whelm me deep in Ocean’s restless tide!
So, when the Gods their parents had destroy’d,
Storms suddenly the beauteous daughters snatch’d
Of Pandarus away; them left forlorn
Venus with curds, with honey and with wine
Fed duly; Juno gave them to surpass
All women in the charms of face and mind,
With graceful stature eminent the chaste
Diana bless’d them, and in works of art
Illustrious, Pallas taught them to excel.
But when the foam-sprung Goddess to the skies
A suitress went on their behalf, to obtain
Blest nuptials for them from the Thund’rer Jove,
(For Jove the happiness, himself, appoints,
And the unhappiness of all below)
Meantime, the Harpies ravishing away
Those virgins, gave them to the Furies Three,
That they might serve them. O that me the Gods
Inhabiting Olympus so would hide
From human eyes for ever,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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