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05-27-2007, 01:19 AM
Book VI

Nausicaa, going to a river near that place to wash the
clothes of her father, mother, and brethren, while the
clothes were drying played with her maids at ball; and
Odysseus coming forth is fed and clothed, and led on his
way to the house of her father, King Alcinous.

So there he lay asleep, the steadfast goodly Odysseus,
fordone with toil and drowsiness. Meanwhile Athene went to
the land and the city of the Phaeacians, who of old, upon a
time, dwelt in spacious Hypereia; near the Cyclopes they
dwelt, men exceeding proud, who harried them continually,
being mightier than they. Thence the godlike Nausithous
made them depart, and he carried them away, and planted
them in Scheria, far off from men that live by bread. And
he drew a wall around the town, and builded houses and made
temples for the gods and meted out the fields. Howbeit ere
this had he been stricken by fate, and had gone down to the
house of Hades, and now Alcinous was reigning, with wisdom
granted by the gods. To his house went the goddess,
grey-eyed Athene, devising a return for the great-hearted
Odysseus. She betook her to the rich-wrought bower, wherein
was sleeping a maiden like to the gods in form and
comeliness, Nausicaa, the daughter of Alcinous, high of
heart. Beside her on either hand of the pillars of the door
were two handmaids, dowered with beauty from the Graces,
and the shining doors were shut.

But the goddess, fleet as the breath of the wind, swept
towards the couch of the maiden, and stood above her head,
and spake to her in the semblance of the daughter of a
famous seafarer, Dymas, a girl of like age with Nausicaa,
who had found grace in her sight. In her shape the
grey-eyed Athene spake to the princess, saying:

'Nausicaa, how hath thy mother so heedless a maiden to her
daughter? Lo, thou hast shining raiment that lies by thee
uncared for, and thy marriage day is near at hand, when
thou thyself must needs go beautifully clad, and have
garments to give to them who shall lead thee to the house
of the bridegroom! And, behold, these are the things whence
a good report goes abroad among men, wherein a father and
lady mother take delight. But come, let us arise and go
a-washing with the breaking of the day, and I will follow
with thee to be thy mate in the toil, that without delay
thou mayst get thee ready, since truly thou art not long to
be a maiden. Lo, already they are wooing thee, the noblest
youths of all the Phaeacians, among that people whence thou
thyself dost draw thy lineage. So come, beseech thy noble
father betimes in the morning to furnish thee with mules
and a wain to carry the men's raiment, and the robes, and
the shining coverlets. Yea and for thyself it is seemlier
far to go thus than on foot, for the places where we must
wash are a great way off the town.'

So spake the grey-eyed Athene, and departed to Olympus,
where, as they say, is the seat of the gods that standeth
fast for ever. Not by winds is it shaken, nor ever wet with
rain, nor doth the snow come nigh thereto, but most clear
air is spread about it cloudless, and the white light
floats over it. Therein the blessed gods are glad for all
their days, and thither Athene went when she had shown
forth all to the maiden.

Anon came the throned Dawn, and awakened Nausicaa of the
fair robes, who straightway marvelled on the dream, and
went through the halls to tell her parents, her father dear
and her mother. And she found them within, her mother
sitting by the hearth with the women her handmaids,
spinning yarn of sea-purple stain, but her father she met
as he was going forth to the renowned kings in their
council, whither the noble Phaeacians called him. Standing
close by her dear father she spake, saying: 'Father, dear,
couldst thou not lend me a high waggon with strong wheels,
that I may take the goodly raiment to the river to wash, so
much as I have lying soiled? Yea and it is seemly that thou
thyself, when thou art with the princes in council,
shouldest have fresh raiment to wear. Also, there are five
dear sons of thine in the halls, two married, but three are
lusty bachelors, and these are always eager for new-washen
garments wherein to go to the dances; for all these things
have I taken thought.'

This she said, because she was ashamed to speak of glad
marriage to her father; but he saw all and answered,

'Neither the mules nor aught else do I grudge thee, my
child. Go thy ways, and the thralls shall get thee ready a
high waggon with good wheels, and fitted with an upper

Therewith he called to his men, and they gave ear, and
without the palace they made ready the smooth-running
mule-wain, and led the mules beneath the yoke, and
harnessed them under the car, while the maiden brought
forth from her bower the shining raiment. This she stored
in the polished car, and her mother filled a basket with
all manner of food to the heart's desire, dainties too she
set therein, and she poured wine into a goat-skin bottle,
while Nausicaa climbed into the wain. And her mother gave
her soft olive oil also in a golden cruse, that she and her
maidens might anoint themselves after the bath. Then
Nausicaa took the whip and the shining reins, and touched
the mules to start them; then there was a clatter of hoofs,
and on they strained without flagging, with their load of
the raiment and the maiden. Not alone did she go, for her
attendants followed with her.

Now when they were come to the beautiful stream of the
river, where truly were the unfailing cisterns, and bright
water welled up free from beneath, and flowed past, enough
to wash the foulest garments clean, there the girls
unharnessed the mules from under the chariot, and turning
them loose they drove them along the banks of the eddying
river to graze on the honey-sweet clover. Then they took
the garments from the wain, in their hands, and bore them
to the black water, and briskly trod them down in the
trenches, in busy rivalry. Now when they had washed and
cleansed all the stains, they spread all out in order along
the shore of the deep, even where the sea, in beating on
the coast, washed the pebbles clean. Then having bathed and
anointed them well with olive oil, they took their mid-day
meal on the river's banks, waiting till the clothes should
dry in the brightness of the sun. Anon, when they were
satisfied with food, the maidens and the princess, they
fell to playing at ball, casting away their tires, and
among them Nausicaa of the white arms began the song. And
even as Artemis, the archer, moveth down the mountain,
either along the ridges of lofty Taygetus or Erymanthus,
taking her pastime in the chase of boars and swift deer,
and with her the wild wood-nymphs disport them, the
daughters of Zeus, lord of the aegis, and Leto is glad at
heart, while high over all she rears her head and brows,
and easily may she be known,--but all are fair; even so the
girl unwed outshone her maiden company.

But when now she was about going homewards, after yoking
the mules and folding up the goodly raiment, then grey-eyed
Athene turned to other thoughts, that so Odysseus might
awake, and see the lovely maiden, who should be his guide
to the city of the Phaeacian men. So then the princess
threw the ball at one of her company; she missed the girl,
and cast the ball into the deep eddying current, whereat
they all raised a piercing cry. Then the goodly Odysseus
awoke and sat up, pondering in his heart and spirit:

'Woe is me! to what men's land am I come now? say, are they
froward, and wild, and unjust, or are they hospitable, and
of God-fearing mind? How shrill a cry of maidens rings
round me, of the nymphs that hold the steep hill-tops, and
the river-springs, and the grassy water meadows! It must
be, methinks, that I am near men of human speech. Go to, I
myself will make trial and see.'

Therewith the goodly Odysseus crept out from under the
coppice, having broken with his strong hand a leafy bough
from the thick wood, to hold athwart his body, that it
might hide his nakedness withal. And forth he sallied like
a lion mountain-bred, trusting in his strength, who fares
out blown and rained upon, with flaming eyes; amid the kine
he goes or amid the sheep or in the track of the wild deer;
yea, his belly bids him go even to the good homestead to
make assay upon the flocks. Even so Odysseus was fain to
draw nigh to the fair-tressed maidens, all naked as he was,
such need had come upon him. But he was terrible in their
eyes, being marred with the salt sea foam, and they fled
cowering here and there about the jutting spits of shore.
And the daughter of Alcinous alone stood firm, for Athene
gave her courage of heart, and took all trembling from her
limbs. So she halted and stood over against him, and
Odysseus considered whether he should clasp the knees of
the lovely maiden, and so make his prayer, or should stand
as he was, apart, and beseech her with smooth words, if
haply she might show him the town, and give him raiment.
And as he thought within himself, it seemed better to stand
apart, and beseech her with smooth words, lest the maiden
should be angered with him if he touched her knees: so
straightway he spake a sweet and cunning word:

'I supplicate thee, O queen, whether thou art a goddess or
a mortal! If indeed thou art a goddess of them that keep
the wide heaven; to Artemis, then, the daughter of great
Zeus, I mainly liken thee, for beauty and stature and
shapeliness. But if thou art one of the daughters of men
who dwell on earth, thrice blessed are thy father and thy
lady mother, and thrice blessed thy brethren. Surely their
souls ever glow with gladness for thy sake, each time they
see thee entering the dance, so fair a flower of maidens.
But he is of heart the most blessed beyond all other who
shall prevail with gifts of wooing, and lead thee to his
home. Never have mine eyes beheld such an one among
mortals, neither man nor woman; great awe comes upon me as
I look on thee. Yet in Delos once I saw as goodly a thing:
a young sapling of a palm tree springing by the altar of
Apollo. For thither too I went, and much people with me, on
that path where my sore troubles were to be. Yea, and when
I looked thereupon, long time I marvelled in spirit,--for
never grew there yet so goodly a shoot from ground,--even
in such wise as I wonder at thee, lady, and am astonied and
do greatly fear to touch thy knees, though grievous sorrow
is upon me. Yesterday, on the twentieth day, I escaped from
the wine-dark deep, but all that time continually the wave
bare me, and the vehement winds drave, from the isle
Ogygia. And now some god has cast me on this shore, that
here too, methinks, some evil may betide me; for I trow not
that trouble will cease; the gods ere that time will yet
bring many a thing to pass. But, queen, have pity on me,
for after many trials and sore to thee first of all am I
come, and of the other folk, who hold this city and land, I
know no man. Nay show me the town, give me an old garment
to cast about me, if thou hadst, when thou camest here, any
wrap for the linen. And may the gods grant thee all thy
heart's desire: a husband and a home, and a mind at one
with his may they give--a good gift, for there is nothing
mightier and nobler than when man and wife are of one heart
and mind in a house, a grief to their foes, and to their
friends great joy, but their own hearts know it best.'

Then Nausicaa of the white arms answered him, and said:
'Stranger, forasmuch as thou seemest no evil man nor
foolish--and it is Olympian Zeus himself that giveth weal
to men, to the good and to the evil, to each one as he
will, and this thy lot doubtless is of him, and so thou
must in anywise endure it:--and now, since thou hast come
to our city and our land, thou shalt not lack raiment, nor
aught else that is the due of a hapless suppliant, when he
has met them who can befriend him. And I will show thee the
town, and name the name of the people. The Phaeacians hold
this city and land, and I am the daughter of Alcinous,
great of heart, on whom all the might and force of the
Phaeacians depend.'

Thus she spake, and called to her maidens of the fair
tresses: 'Halt, my maidens, whither flee ye at the sight of
a man? Ye surely do not take him for an enemy? That mortal
breathes not, and never will be born, who shall come with
war to the land of the Phaeacians, for they are very dear
to the gods. Far apart we live in the wash of the waves,
the outermost of men, and no other mortals are conversant
with us. Nay, but this man is some helpless one come hither
in his wanderings, whom now we must kindly entreat, for all
strangers and beggars are from Zeus, and a little gift is
dear. So, my maidens, give the stranger meat and drink, and
bathe him in the river, where withal is a shelter from the

So she spake, but they had halted and called each to the
other, and they brought Odysseus to the sheltered place,
and made him sit down, as Nausicaa bade them, the daughter
of Alcinous, high of heart. Beside him they laid a mantle,
and a doublet for raiment, and gave him soft olive oil in
the golden cruse, and bade him wash in the streams of the
river. Then goodly Odysseus spake among the maidens,
saying: 'I pray you stand thus apart, while I myself wash
the brine from my shoulders, and anoint me with olive oil,
for truly oil is long a stranger to my skin. But in your
sight I will not bathe, for I am ashamed to make me naked
in the company of fair-tressed maidens.'

Then they went apart and told all to their lady. But with
the river water the goodly Odysseus washed from his skin
the salt scurf that covered his back and broad shoulders,
and from his head he wiped the crusted brine of the barren
sea. But when he had washed his whole body, and anointed
him with olive oil, and had clad himself in the raiment
that the unwedded maiden gave him, then Athene, the
daughter of Zeus, made him greater and more mighty to
behold, and from his head caused deep curling locks to
flow, like the hyacinth flower. And as when some skilful
man overlays gold upon silver--one that Hephaestus and
Pallas Athene have taught all manner of craft, and full of
grace is his handiwork--even so did Athene shed grace about
his head and shoulders.

Then to the shore of the sea went Odysseus apart, and sat
down, glowing in beauty and grace, and the princess
marvelled at him, and spake among her fair-tressed maidens,

'Listen, my white-armed maidens, and I will say somewhat.
Not without the will of all the gods who hold Olympus hath
this man come among the godlike Phaeacians. Erewhile he
seemed to me uncomely, but now he is like the gods that
keep the wide heaven. Would that such an one might be
called my husband, dwelling here, and that it might please
him here to abide! But come, my maidens, give the stranger
meat and drink.'

Thus she spake, and they gave ready ear and hearkened, and
set beside Odysseus meat and drink, and the steadfast
goodly Odysseus did eat and drink eagerly, for it was long
since he had tasted food.

Now Nausicaa of the white arms had another thought. She
folded the raiment and stored it in the goodly wain, and
yoked the mules strong of hoof, and herself climbed into
the car. Then she called on Odysseus, and spake and hailed
him: 'Up now, stranger, and rouse thee to go to the city,
that I may convey thee to the house of my wise father,
where, I promise thee, thou shalt get knowledge of all the
noblest of the Phaeacians. But do thou even as I tell thee,
and thou seemest a discreet man enough. So long as we are
passing along the fields and farms of men, do thou fare
quickly with the maidens behind the mules and the chariot,
and I will lead the way. But when we set foot within the
city,--whereby goes a high wall with towers, and there is a
fair haven on either side of the town, and narrow is the
entrance, and curved ships are drawn up on either hand of
the mole, for all the folk have stations for their vessels,
each man one for himself. And there is the place of
assembly about the goodly temple of Poseidon, furnished
with heavy stones, deep bedded in the earth. There men look
to the gear of the black ships, hawsers and sails, and
there they fine down the oars. For the Phaeacians care not
for bow nor quiver, but for masts, and oars of ships, and
gallant barques, wherein rejoicing they cross the grey sea.
Their ungracious speech it is that I would avoid, lest some
man afterward rebuke me, and there are but too many
insolent folk among the people. And some one of the baser
sort might meet me and say: "Who is this that goes with
Nausicaa, this tall and goodly stranger? Where found she
him? Her husband he will be, her very own. Either she has
taken in some shipwrecked wanderer of strange men,--for no
men dwell near us; or some god has come in answer to her
instant prayer; from heaven has he descended, and will have
her to wife for evermore. Better so, if herself she has
ranged abroad and found a lord from a strange land, for
verily she holds in no regard the Phaeacians here in this
country, the many men and noble who are her wooers." So
will they speak, and this would turn to my reproach. Yea,
and I myself would think it blame of another maiden who did
such things in despite of her friends, her father and
mother being still alive, and was conversant with men
before the day of open wedlock. But, stranger, heed well
what I say, that as soon as may be thou mayest gain at my
father's hands an escort and a safe return. Thou shalt find
a fair grove of Athene, a poplar grove near the road, and a
spring wells forth therein, and a meadow lies all around.
There is my father's demesne, and his fruitful close,
within the sound of a man's shout from the city. Sit thee
down there and wait until such time as we may have come
into the city, and reached the house of my father. But when
thou deemest that we are got to the palace, then go up to
the city of the Phaeacians, and ask for the house of my
father Alcinous, high of heart. It is easily known, and a
young child could be thy guide, for nowise like it are
builded the houses of the Phaeacians, so goodly is the
palace of the hero Alcinous. But when thou art within the
shadow of the halls and the court, pass quickly through the
great chamber, till thou comest to my mother, who sits at
the hearth in the light of the fire, weaving yarn of
sea-purple stain, a wonder to behold. Her chair is leaned
against a pillar, and her maidens sit behind her. And there
my father's throne leans close to hers, wherein he sits and
drinks his wine, like an immortal. Pass thou by him, and
cast thy hands about my mother's knees, that thou mayest
see quickly and with joy the day of thy returning, even if
thou art from a very far country. If but her heart be
kindly disposed toward thee, then is there hope that thou
shalt see thy friends, and come to thy well-builded house,
and to thine own country.'

She spake, and smote the mules with the shining whip, and
quickly they left behind them the streams of the river. And
well they trotted and well they paced, and she took heed to
drive in such wise that the maidens and Odysseus might
follow on foot, and cunningly she plied the lash. Then the
sun set, and they came to the famous grove, the sacred
place of Athene; so there the goodly Odysseus sat him down.
Then straightway he prayed to the daughter of mighty Zeus:
'Listen to me, child of Zeus, lord of the aegis, unwearied
maiden; hear me even now, since before thou heardest not
when I was smitten on the sea, when the renowned
Earth-shaker smote me. Grant me to come to the Phaeacians
as one dear, and worthy of pity.'

So he spake in prayer, and Pallas Athene heard him; but she
did not yet appear to him face to face, for she had regard
unto her father's brother, who furiously raged against the
godlike Odysseus, till he should come to his own country.