The Odyssey

 Book IX



"Thence we sailed on with aching hearts, and came to the land of the Cyclops, a rude and lawless folk, who, trusting to the immortal gods, plant with their hands no plant, nor ever plough, but all things spring unsown and without ploughing,, wheat, barley, and grape-vines with wine in their heavy clusters, for rain from Zeus makes the grape grow. Among this people no assemblies meet; they have no stable laws. They live on the tops of lofty hills in hollow caves; each gives the law to his own wife and children, and for each other they have little care.

   "Now a rough island stretches along outside the harbor, not close to the Cyclops' coast nor yet far out, covered with trees. On it innumerable wild goats breed; no tread of man disturbs them; none comes here to follow hounds, to toil through woods and climb the crests of hills. The island is not held for flocks or tillage, but all unsown, untilled, it evermore is bare of men and feeds the bleating goats. Among the Cyclops are no red-cheeked ships, nor are there shipwrights who might build the well-benched ships to do them service, sailing to foreign cities; as usually men cross the sea in ships to one another. With ships they might have worked the well-placed island; for it is not at all a worthless spot, but would bear all things duly. For here are meadows on the banks of the gray sea, moist, with soft soil; here vines could never die; here is smooth ploughing-land; a very heavy crop, and always well in season, might be reaped, for the under soil is rich. Here is a quiet harbor, never needing moorings,, throwing out anchor-stones or fastening cables,, but merely to run in and wait awhile till sailor hearts are ready and the winds are blowing. Just at the harbor's head a spring of sparkling water flows from beneath a cave; around it poplars grow. Here we sailed in, some god our guide, through murky night; there was no light to see, for round the ships was a dense fog. No moon looked out from heaven; it was shut in with clouds. So no one saw the island, and the long waves rolling upon the shore we did not see until we beached our well-benched ships. After the ships were beached, we lowered all our sails and forth we went ourselves upon the shore; where falling fast asleep we awaited sacred dawn.

   "But when the early rosy-fingered dawn appeared, in wonder at the island we made a circuit round it, and nymphs, daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus, started the mountain goats, to give my men a meal. Forthwith we took our bending bows and our long hunting spears from out the ships, and parted in three bands began to shoot; and soon God granted ample game. Twelve ships were in my train; to each there fell nine goats, while ten they set apart for me alone. Then all throughout the day till setting sun we sat and feasted on abundant meat and pleasant wine. For the ruddy wine of our ships was not yet spent; some still was left, because our crews took a large store in jars the day we seized the sacred citadel of the Ciconians. And now we looked across to the land of the neighboring Cyclops, and marked the smoke, the sounds of men, the bleat of sheep and goats; but when the sun went down and darkness came, we laid us down to sleep upon the beach. Then as the early rosy-fingered dawn appeared, holding a council, I said to all my men:

   "'The rest of you, my trusty crew, stay for the present here; but I myself, with my own ship and my own crew, go to discover who these men may be, , if they are fierce and savage, with no regard for right, or kind to strangers and reverent toward the gods.'

   "When I had spoken thus, I went on board my ship, and called my crew to come on board and loose the cables. Quickly they came, took places at the pins, and sitting in order smote the foaming water with their oars. But as we reached the neighboring shore, there at the outer point, close to the sea, we saw a cave, high, overhung with laurel. Here many flocks of sheep and goats were nightly housed. Around was built a yard with a high wall of deep-embedded stone, tall pines, and crested oaks. Here a man-monster slept, who shepherded his flock alone and far apart; with others he did not mingle, but quite aloof followed his lawless ways. Thus had he grown to be a marvelous monster; not like a man who lives by bread, but rather like a woody peak of the high hills, seen single, clear of others.

   "Now to my other trusty men I gave command to stay there by the ship and guard the ship; but I my. self chose the twelve best among my men and sallied forth. I had a goat-skin bottle of the dark sweet wine given me by Maron, son of Euanthes, priest of Apollo, who watches over Ismarus. He gave me this because we guarded him and his son and wife, through holy fear; for he dwelt within the shady grove of Phoebus Apollo. He brought me splendid gifts: of fine-wrought gold he gave me seven talents, gave me a mixing-bowl of solid silver, and afterwards filled me twelve jars with wine, sweet and unmixed, a drink for gods. None knew that wine among the slaves and hand-maids of his house, none but himself, his own dear wife, and one sole house-dame. Whenever they drank the honeyed ruddy wine, he filled a cup and poured it into twenty parts of water, and still from the bowl came a sweet odor of a surprising strength; then to refrain had been no easy matter. I filled a large skin full of this and took it with me, and also took provision in a sack; for my stout heart suspected I soon should meet a man arrayed in mighty power, a savage, ignorant of rights and laws.

   "Quickly we reached the cave, but did not find him there; for he was tending his fat flock afield. Entering the cave, we looked around. Here crates were standing, loaded down with cheese, and here pens thronged with lambs and kids. In separate pens each sort was folded: by themselves the older, by themselves the later born, and by themselves the younglings. Swimming with whey were all the vessels, the well-wrought pails and bowls in which he milked. Here at the very first my men entreated me to take some cheeses and depart; then quickly to drive the kids and lambs to our swift ship out of the pens, and sail away over the briny water. But I refused,, far better had I yielded,, hoping that I might see him and he might offer gifts. But he was to prove, when seen, no pleasure to my men.

   "Kindling a fire here, we made burnt offering and we ourselves took of the cheese and ate; and so we sat and waited in the cave until he came from pasture. He brought a ponderous burden of dry wood to use at supper time, and tossing it down inside the cave raised a great din. We hurried off in terror to a corner of the cave. But into the wide-mouthed cave he drove his sturdy flock, all that he milked; the males, both rams and goats, he left outside in the high yard. And now he set in place the huge door-stone, lifting it high in air, a ponderous thing; no two and twenty carts, stanch and four-wheeled, could start it from the ground; such was the rugged rock he set against the door. Then sitting down, he milked the ewes and bleating goats, all in due order, and underneath put each one's young. Straightway he curdled half of the white milk, and gathering it in wicker baskets, set it by; half he left standing in the pails, ready for him to take and drink, and for his supper also. So after he had busily performed his tasks, he kindled a fire, noticed us, and asked:

   "'Ha, strangers, who are you? Where do you come from, sailing the watery ways ? Are you upon some business? Or do you rove at random, as the pirates roam the seas, risking their lives and bringing ill to strangers?'

   "As he thus spoke, our very souls were crushed within us, dismayed by the heavy voice and by the monster's self; nevertheless I answered thus and said:

   "'We are from Troy, Achaeans, driven by shifting winds out of our course across the great gulf of the sea; homeward we fared, but through strange ways and wanderings are come hither; so Zeus was pleased to purpose. Subjects of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, we boast ourselves to be, whose fame is now the widest under heaven; so great a town he sacked, so many men he slew. But chancing here, we come before your knees to ask that you will offer hospitality, and in other ways as well will give the gift which is the stranger's due. O mighty one, respect the gods. We are your suppliants, and Zeus is the avenger of the suppliant and the stranger; he is the stranger's friend and waits on worthy strangers.'

   "So I spoke, and from a ruthless heart he straightway answered: 'You are simple, stranger, or come from far away, to bid me dread the gods or shrink before them. The Cyclops pay no heed to aegis-bearing Zeus, nor to the blessed gods; because we are much stronger than themselves. To shun the wrath of Zeus, I would not spare you or your comrades, did my heart not bid. But tell me where you left your stanch ship at your coming. At the far shore, or near? Let me but know.'

   "He thought to tempt me, but he could not cheat a knowing man like me; and I again replied with words of guile: 'The Earth-shaker, Poseidon, wrecked my ship and cast her on the rocks at the land's end, drifting her on a headland; the wind blew from the sea; and I with these men here escaped impending ruin.'

   "So I spoke, and from a ruthless heart he answered nothing, but starting up laid hands on my companions. He seized on two an(l dashed them to the ground as if they had been dogs. Their brains ran out upon the floor, and wet the earth. Tearing them limb from limb, he made his supper, and ate as does a mountain lion, leaving nothing, entrails, or flesh, or marrow bones. We in our tears held up our hands to Zeus, at sight of his reckless deeds; helplessness held our hearts. But when the Cyclops had filled his monstrous maw by eating human flesh and pouring down pure milk, he laid himself in the cave full length among his flock. And I then formed the plan within my daring heart of closing on him, drawing my sharp sword from my thigh, and stabbing him in the breast where the midriff holds the liver, feeling the place out with my hand. Yet second thoughts restrained me, for there we too had met with utter ruin; for we could never with our hands have pushed from the lofty door the enormous stone which he had set against it. Thus then with sighs we awaited sacred dawn.

   "But when the early rosy-fingered dawn appeared, he kindled a fire, milked his goodly flock, all in due order, and underneath put each one's young. Then after he had busily performed his tasks, seizing once more two men, he made his morning meal. And when the meal was ended, he drove from the cave his sturdy flock, and easily moved the huge door-stone; but afterwards he put it back as one might put the lid upon a quiver. Then to the hills, with many a call, he turned his sturdy flock, while I was left behind brooding on evil and thinking how I might obtain revenge, would but Athene grant my prayer. And to my mind this seemed the wisest way. There lay beside the pen a great club of the Cyclops, an olive stick still green, which he had cut to be his staff when dried. Inspecting it, we guessed its size, and thought it like the mast of a black ship of twenty oars, some broad-built merchantman which sails the great gulf of the sea; so huge it looked in length and thickness. I went and cut away a fathom's length of this, laid it before my men, and bade them shape it down; they made it smooth; I then stood by to point the tip and, laying hold, I charred it briskly in the blazing fire. The piece I now put carefully away, hiding it in the dung which lay about the cave in great abundance; and then I bade my comrades fix by lot who the bold men should be to help me raise the stake and grind it in his eye, when pleasant sleep should come. Those drew the lot whom I myself would rather have chosen; four were they, for a fifth I counted in myself. He came toward evening, shepherding the fleecy flock, and forthwith drove his sturdy flock into the widemouthed cave, all with much care; he did not leave a sheep in the high yard outside, either through some suspicion, or God bade him so to do. Again he set in place the huge door-stone, lifting it high in air, and, sitting down, he milked the ewes and bleating goats, all in due order, and underneath put each one's young. Then after he had busily performed his tasks, he seized once more two men and made his supper. And now it was that drawing near the Cyclops I thus spoke, holding within my hands an ivy bowl filled with dark wine:

   "'Here, Cyclops, drink some wine after your meal of human flesh, and see what sort of liquor our ship held. I brought it as an offering, thinking that you might pity me and send me home. But you are mad past bearing. Reckless! How should a stranger come to you again from any people, when you have done this wicked deed?'

   "So I spoke; he took the cup and drank it off, and mightily pleased he was with the taste of the sweet liquor, and thus he asked me for it yet again:

   "'Give me some more, kind sir, and straightway tell your name, that I may give a stranger's gift with which you shall be pleased. Ah yes, the Cyclops' fruitful fields bear wine in their heavy clusters, for rain from Zeus makes the grape grow; but this is a bit of ambrosia and nectar.'

   "So he spoke, and I again offered the sparkling wine. Three times I brought and gave; three times he drank it in his folly. Then as the wine began to dull the Cyclops' senses, in winning words I said to him:

   "'Cyclops, you asked my noble name, and I will tell it; but do you give the stranger's gift, just as you promised. My name is Nobody. Nobody I am called by mother, father, and by all my comrades.'

   "So I spoke, and from a ruthless heart he straightway answered: 'Nobody I eat up last, after his comrades; all the rest first; and that shall be the stranger's gift for you.'

   "He spoke, and sinking back fell flat; and there he lay, lolling his thick neck over, till sleep, that conquers all, took hold upon him. Out of his throat poured wine and scraps of human flesh; heavy with wine, he spewed it forth. And now it was I drove the stake under a heap of ashes, to bring it to a heat, and with my words emboldened all my men, that none might flinch through fear. Then when the olive stake, green though it was, was ready to take fire, and through and through was all aglow, I snatched it from the fire, while my men stood around and Heaven inspired us with great courage. Seizing the olive stake, sharp at the tip, they plunged it in his eye, and I, perched up above, whirled it around. As when a man bores shipbeams with a drill, and those below keep it in motion with a strap held by the ends, and steadily it runs; even so we seized the fire-pointed stake and whirled it in his eye. Blood bubbled round the heated thing. The vapor singed off all the lids around the eye, and even the brows, as the ball burned and its roots crackled in the flame. As when a smith dips a great axe or adze into cold water, hissing loud, to temper it, , for that is strength to steel,, so hissed his eye about the olive stake. A hideous roar he raised; the rock resounded; we hurried off in terror. He wrenched the stake from out his eye, all dabbled with the blood, and flung it from his hands in frenzy. Then he called loudly on the Cyclops who dwelt about him in the caves, along the windy heights. They heard his cry, and ran from every side, and standing by the cave they asked what ailed him:

   "'What has come on you, Polyphemus, that you scream so in the immortal night, and keep us thus from sleeping? Is a man driving off your Hocks in spite of you? Is a man murdering you by craft or force?'

   "Then in his turn from out the cave big Polyphemus answered: 'Friends, Nobody is murdering me by craft. Force there is none.'

   "But answering him in winged words they said: "If nobody harms you when you are left alone, illness which comes from mighty Zeus you cannot fly. But make your prayer to your father, lord Poseidon.'

   "This said, they went their way, and in my heart I laughed, my name, that clever notion, so deceived them. But now the Cyclops, groaning and in agonies of anguish, by groping with his hands took the stone off the door, yet sat himself inside the door with hands outstretched, to catch whoever ventured forth among the sheep; for he probably hoped in his heart that I should be so silly. But I was planning how it all might best be ordered that I might win escape from death both for my men and me. So many a plot and scheme I framed, as for my life; great danger was at hand. Then to my mind this seemed the wisest way: some rams there were of a good breed, thick in the fleece, handsome and large, which bore a dark blue wool. These I quietly bound together with the twisted willow withes on which the giant Cyclops slept, the brute,, taking three sheep together. One, in the middle, carried the man; the other two walked by the sides, keeping my comrades safe. Thus three sheep bore each man. Then for myself, there was a ram, by far the best of all the flock, whose back I grasped, and curled beneath his shaggy belly there I lay, and with my hands twisted in that enormous fleece I steadily held on, with patient heart. Thus then with sighs we awaited sacred dawn.

   "Soon as the early rosy-fingered dawn appeared, the rams hastened to pasture, but the ewes bleated unmilked about the pens, for their udders were wellnigh bursting. Their master, racked with grievous pains, felt over the backs of all the sheep as they stood up, but foolishly did not notice how under the breasts of the woolly sheep men had been fastened. Last of the flock, the ram walked to the door, cramped by his fleece and me the crafty plotter; and feeling him over, big Polyphemus said:

   "'What, my pet ram 'Why do you move across the cave hindmost of all the flock? Till now you never lagged behind, but with your long strides you were always first to crop the tender blooms of grass; you were the first to reach the running streams, and first to wish to turn to the stall at night: yet here you are the last. Ah, but you miss your master's eye, which a villain has put out,, he and his vile companions, blunting my wits with wine. Nobody it was, not, I assure him, safe from destruction yet. If only you could sympathize and get the power of speech to say where he is skulking from my rage, then should that brain of his be knocked about the cave and dashed upon the ground. So might my heart recover from the ills which miserable Nobody brought upon me.'

   "So saying, from his hand he let the ram go forth; and after we were come a little distance from the cave and from the yard, first from beneath the ram I freed myself and then set free my comrades. So at quick pace we drove away those long-legged sheep, heavy with fat, many times turning round, until we reached the ship. A welcome sight we seemed to our dear friends, as men escaped from death. Yet for the others they began to weep and wail; but this I did not suffer; by my frowns I checked their tears. In stead, I bade them straightway toss the many fleecy sheep into the ship, and sail away over the briny water. Quickly they came, took places at the pins, and sitting in order smote the foaming water with their oars. But when I was as far away as one can call, I shouted to the Cyclops in derision:

   "'Cyclops, no weakling's comrades you were destined to devour in the deep cave, with brutal might. But it was also destined your bad deeds should find you out, audacious wretch, who did not hesitate to eat the guests within your house! For this did Zeus chastise you, Zeus and the other gods.'

   "So I spoke, and he was angered in his heart the more; and tearing off the top of a high hill, he flung it at us. It fell before the dark-bowed ship a little space, but failed to reach the rudder's tip. The sea surged underneath the stone as it came down, and swiftly toward the land the wash of water swept us, like a flood-tide from the deep, and forced us back to shore. I seized a setting-pole and shoved the vessel off; then inspiriting my men, I bade them fall to their oars that we might flee from danger,, with my head making signs,, and bending forward, on they rowed. When we had traversed twice the distance on the sea, again to the Cyclops would I call; but my men, gathering round, sought with soft words to stay me, each in his separate wise:

   "'O reckless man, why seek to vex this savage, who even now, hurling his missile in the deep, drove the ship back to shore ? We verily thought that we were lost. And had he heard a man make but a sound or speak, he would have crushed our heads and our ships' beams, by hurling jagged granite stone; for he can throw so far.'

   "So they spoke, but did not move my daring spirit; again I called aloud out of an angry heart: ' Cyclops, if ever mortal man asks you the story of the ugly blinding of your eye, say that Odysseus made you blind, the spoiler of cities, Laertes' son, whose home is Ithaca.'

   "So I spoke, and with a groan he answered: 'Ah, surely now the ancient oracles are come upon me! Here once a prophet lived, a prophet brave and tall, Telemus, son of Eurymus, who by his prophecies obtained renown and in prophetic works grew old among the Cyclops. He told me it should come to pass in aftertime that I should lose my sight by means of one Odysseus; but I was always watching for the coming of some tall and comely person, arrayed in mighty power; and now a little miserable feeble creature blinded me of my eye, overcoming me with wine. nevertheless, come here, Odysseus, and let me give the stranger's gift, and beg the famous Land-shaker to aid you on your way. His son am I; he calls him self my father. He, if he will, shall heal me; none else can, whether among the blessed gods or mortal men.'

   "So he spoke, and answering him said I: 'Ah, would I might as surely strip you of life and being and send you to the house of Hades, as it is sure the Earth-shaker will never heal your eye!?'

   "So I spoke, whereat he prayed to lord Poseidon, stretching his hands forth toward the starry sky: 'Hear me, thou girder of the land, dark-haired Poseidon 'If I am truly thine, and thou art called my father, vouchsafe no coming home to this Odysseus, spoiler of cities, Laertes' son, whose home is Ithaca. Yet if it be his lot to see his friends once more, and reach his stately house and native land, late let him come, in evil plight, with loss of all his crew, on the vessel of a stranger, and may he at his home find trouble.'

   "So spoke he in his prayer, and the dark-haired god gave ear. Then once more picking up a stone much larger than before, the Cyclops swung and sent it, putting forth stupendous power. It fell behind the dark-bowed ship a little space, but failed to reach the rudder's tip. The sea surged underneath the stone as it came clown, but the wave swept us forward and forced us to the shore.

   "Now when we reached the island where our other wellbenched ships waited together, while their crews sat round them sorrowing, watching continually for us, as we ran in we beached our ship among the sands, and forth we went ourselves upon the shore. Then taking the Cyclops' sheep out of the hollow ship, we parted all, that none might go lacking his proper share. The ram my mailed companions gave to me alone, a mark of special honor in the division of the flock; and on the shore I offered him to Zeus of the dark cloud, the son of Kronos, who is the lord of all, burning the thighs. He did not heed the sacrifice. Instead, he purposed that my well-benched ships should all be lost, and all my trusty comrades. But all throughout that day till setting sun we sat and feasted on abundant meat and pleasant wine; and when the sun went down and darkness came, we laid us down to sleep upon the beach. Then as the early rosy-fingered dawn appeared, inspiriting my men, I bade them come on board and loose the cables. Quickly they came, took places at the pins, and sitting in order smote the foaming water with their oars.

   "Thence we sailed on, with aching hearts, glad to be clear of death, though missing our dear comrades."