CHAPTER X. THE CYCLOPS
(THE TALE OF ULYSSES)
Then Ulysses answered the King, saying: “What shall I tell thee first, and what last, for many sorrows have the gods laid upon me? First, I will tell my name, that ye may know it, and that there may be friendship between us, even when I shall be far away. I am ULYSSES, SON OF LAERTES. In Ithaca I dwell. Many islands lie about it, but Ithaca is furthest to the west, and the others face the sun-rising. Very rugged is this island of Ithaca, but it is the mother of brave men; verily, there is nothing dearer to a man than his own country. Calypso, the fair goddess, would have had me abide with her, to be her husband; but she did not prevail, because there is nothing that a man loves more than his country and his parents. But now I will tell thee of all the troubles that the gods laid upon me as I journeyed from Troy.
“The wind that bare me from Troy brought me to Ismarus [Footnote: Is'-ma-rus.], which is a city of the Cicones.[Footnote: Ci'-co- nes.] This I sacked, slaying the people that dwelt therein. But the people of the city fetched their kinsmen that dwelt in the mountains, and they overcame us, and drave us to our ships. Six from each ship perished, but the remainder of us escaped from death.
“Then we sailed, stricken with grief for our dear comrades, yet rejoicing that we had escaped from destruction. When we had sailed a little space, Zeus sent the north wind against us with a mighty storm, covering with clouds both land and sea, and the ships were driven before it. So we lowered the sails, and rowed the ships to the land with all our might. For two days we endured much distress and sorrow, but on the third, when the morning light appeared, we hoisted the sails and rested. Then I should have come to my own country, but the north wind and the sea drave me from my course. For nine days did the wind carry us before it.
“And on the tenth day we came to the land where the lotus grows—a wondrous fruit, for whoever eats of it cares not to see country or wife or children again. Now the Lotus-eaters, for so the people of the land are called, were a kindly folk, and gave of the fruit to some of the sailors, not meaning them any harm, but thinking it to be the best that they had to give. These, when they had eaten, said that they would not sail any more over the sea; and, when I heard this, I bade their comrades bind them and carry them, sadly complaining, to the ships.
“Then, the wind having abated, we took to our oars, and rowed for many days till we came to the country where the Cyclopes [Footnote: Cy-clo'-pes.] dwell. Now a mile or so from the shore there was an island, very fair and fertile, but no man dwells there or tills the soil, and in the island a harbour where a ship may be safe from all winds, and at the head of the harbour a stream falling from a rock, and whispering alders all about it. Into this the ships passed safely, and were hauled up on the beach, and the crews slept by them, waiting for the morning.
“When the dawn appeared, we wandered through the island; and the Nymphs of the land started the wild goats, that my company might have food to eat. Thereupon we took our bows and our spears from the ships, and shot at the goats; and the gods gave us plenty of prey. Twelve ships I had in my company, and each ship had nine goats for its share, and my own portion was ten.
“Then all the day we sat and feasted, drinking sweet wine which we had taken from the city of the Cicones, and eating the flesh of the goats; and as we sat we looked across to the land of the Cyclops, seeing the smoke and hearing the voices of the men and of the sheep and of the goats. And when the sun set and darkness came over the land, we lay down upon the seashore and slept.
“The next day I gathered my men together, and said, 'Abide ye here, dear friends; I with my own ship and my own company will go and find whether the folk that dwell in yonder island are just or unjust.'
“So I climbed into my ship, and bade my company follow me: so we came to the land of the Cyclops. Close to the shore was a cave, with laurels round about the mouth. This was the dwelling of the Cyclops. Alone he dwelt, a creature without law. Nor was he like to mortal men, but rather to some wooded peak of the hills that stands out apart from all the rest.
“Then I bade the rest of my comrades abide by the ship, and keep it, but I took twelve men, the bravest that there were in the crew, and went forth. I had with me a goat-skin full of the wine, dark red, and sweet, which the priest of Apollo [Footnote: A-pol'- lo.] at Ismarus had given me. So precious was it that none in his house knew of it saving himself and his wife. When they drank of it they mixed twenty measures of water with one of wine, and the smell that went up from it was wondrous sweet. No man could easily refrain from drinking it. With this wine I filled a great skin and bore it with me; also I bare corn in a pouch, for my heart within me told me that I should need it.
“So we entered the cave, and judged that it was the dwelling of some rich and skilful shepherd. For within there were pens for the young of the sheep and of the goats, divided all according to their age, and there were baskets full of cheeses, and full milkpails ranged along the wall. But the Cyclops himself was away in the pastures. Then my companions besought me that I would depart, taking with me, if I would, a store of cheeses and some of the lambs and of the kids. But I would not, for I wished to see what manner of host this strange shepherd might be, and, if it might be, to take a gift from his hand, such as is the due of strangers. Verily, his coming was not to be a joy to my company.
“It was evening when the Cyclops came home, a mighty giant, very tall of stature, and when we saw him we fled into the cave in great fear. On his shoulder he bore a vast bundle of pine logs for his fire, and threw them down outside the cave great crash, and drove the flocks within, and closed the entrance with a huge rock, which twenty wagons and more could not bear. Then he milked the ewes and all the she-goats, and half of the milk he curdled for cheese, and half he set ready for himself, when he should sup. Next he kindled a fire with the pine logs, and the flame lighted up all the cave, showing to him both me and my comrades.
“'Who are ye?' cried Polyphemus [Footnote: Pol-y-phe'-mus.], for that was the giant's name. 'Are ye traders or pirates?'
“I shuddered at the dreadful voice and shape, but bare me bravely, and answered: 'We are no pirates, mighty sir, but Greeks sailing back from Troy, and subjects of the great King Agamemnon, whose fame is spread from one end of heaven to the other. And we are come to beg hospitality of thee in the name of Zeus, who rewards or punishes hosts and guests according as they be faithful the one to the other, or no.'
“'Nay,' said the giant; 'it is but idle talk to tell me of Zeus and the other gods. We Cyclopes take no account of gods, holding ourselves to be much better and stronger than they. But come, tell me where have you left your ship?'
“But I saw his thought when he asked about the ship, for he was minded to break it, and take from us all hope of flight. Therefore I answered him craftily:—
“Ship have we none, for that which was ours King Poseidon brake, driving it on a jutting rock on this coast, and we whom thou seest are all that are escaped from the waves.”
“Polyphemus answered nothing, but without more ado caught up two of the men, as a man might catch up the pups of a dog, and dashed them on the ground, and tare them limb from limb, and devoured them, with huge draughts of milk between, leaving not a morsel, not even the very bones. But we that were left, when we saw the dreadful deed, could only weep and pray to Zeus for help. And when the giant had filled his maw with human flesh and with the milk of the flocks, he lay down among his sheep and slept.
“Then I questioned much in my heart whether I should slay the monster as he slept, for I doubted not that my good sword would pierce to the giant's heart, mighty as he was. But my second thought kept me back, for I remembered that if I should slay him, I and my comrades would yet perish miserably. For who could move away the great rock that lay against the door of the cave? So we waited till the morning, with grief in our hearts. And the monster woke, and milked his flocks, and afterwards, seizing two men, devoured them for his meal. Then he went to the pastures, but put the great rock on the mouth of the cave, just as a man puts down the lid upon his quiver.
“All that day I was thinking what I might best do to save myself and my companions, and the end of my thinking was this. There was a mighty pole in the cave, green wood of an olive tree, big as a ship's mast, which Polyphemus purposed to use, when the smoke should have dried it, as a walking-staff. Of this I cut off a fathom's length, and my comrades sharpened it and hardened it in the fire, and then hid it away. At evening the giant came back, and drove his sheep into the cave, nor left the rams outside, as he had been wont to do before, but shut them in. And having duly done his shepherd's work, he took, as before, two of my comrades, and devoured them. And when he had finished his supper, I came forward, holding the wine-skin in my hand, and said:—
“'Drink, Cyclops, now that thou hast feasted. Drink, and see what precious things we had in our ship. But no one hereafter will come to thee with such, if thou dealest with strangers as cruelly as thou hast dealt with us.'
“Then the Cyclops drank, and was mightily pleased, and said: 'Give me again to drink, and tell me thy name, stranger, and I will give thee a gift such as a host should give. In good truth this is a rare liquor. We, too, have vines, but they bear not wine like this, which, indeed, must be such as the gods drink in heaven.'
“Then I gave him the cup again, and he drank. Thrice I gave it to him, and thrice he drank, not knowing what it was, and how it would work within his brain.
“Then I spake to him: 'Thou didst ask my name, Cyclops. My name is No Man. And now that thou knowest my name, thou shouldest give me thy gift.'
“And he said: 'My gift shall be that I will eat thee last of all thy company.'
“And as he spake, he fell back in a drunken sleep. Then I bade my comrades be of good courage, for the time was come when they should be delivered. And they thrust the stake of olive wood into the fire till it was ready, green as it was, to burst into flame, and they thrust it into the monster's eye; for he had but one eye and that was in the midst of his forehead, with the eyebrow below it. And I, standing above, leaned with all my force upon the stake, and turned it about, as a man bores the timber of a ship with a drill. And the burning wood hissed in the eye, just as the red-hot iron hisses in the water when a man seeks to temper steel for a sword.
“Then the giant leapt up, and tore away the stake, and cried aloud, so that all the Cyclopes who dwelt on the mountain-side heard him and came about his cave, asking him: `What aileth thee, Polyphemus, that thou makest this uproar in the peaceful night, driving away sleep? Is any one robbing thee of thy sheep, or seeking to slay thee by craft or force?' And the giant answered, `No Man slays me by craft.'
“`Nay, but,' they said, `if no man does thee wrong, we cannot help thee. The sickness which great Zeus may send, who can avoid? Pray to our father, Poseidon, for help.'
“So they spake, and I laughed in my heart when I saw how I had deceived them by the name that I had given.
“But the Cyclops rolled away the great stone from the door of the cave, and sat in the midst, stretching out his hands, to feel whether perchance the men within the cave would seek to go out among the sheep.
“Long did I think how I and my comrades should best escape. At last I lighted upon a plan that seemed better than all the rest, and much I thanked Zeus because this once the giant had driven the rams with the other sheep into the cave. For, these being great and strong, I fastened my comrades under the bellies of the beasts, tying them with willow twigs, of which the giant made his bed. One ram I took, and fastened a man beneath it, and two others I set, one on either side. So I did with the six, for but six were left out of the twelve who had ventured with me from the ship. And there was one mighty ram, far larger than alt the others, and to this I clung, grasping the fleece tight with both my hands. So we all waited for the morning. And when the morning came, the rams rushed forth to the pasture; but the giant sat in the door and felt the back of each as it went by, nor thought to try what might be underneath. Last of all went the great ram. And the Cyclops knew him as he passed, and said:—
“'How is this, thou who art the leader of the flock? Thou art not wont thus to lag behind. Thou hast always been the first to run to the pastures and streams in the morning, and the first to come back to the fold when evening fell; and now thou art last of all. Perhaps thou art troubled about thy master's eye, which some wretch—No Man, they call him—has destroyed. He has not escaped, and I would that thou couldest speak, and tell me where he is lurking. Of a truth, I would dash out his brains upon the ground, and avenge me on this No Man.'
“So speaking, he let the ram pass out of the cave. But when we were now out of reach of the giant, I loosed my hold of the ram, and then unbound my comrades. And we hastened to our ship, not forgetting to drive the sheep before us, and often looking back till we came to the seashore. Right glad were those that had abode by the ship to see us. Nor did they lament for those that had died, though we were fain to do so, for I forbade, fearing lest the noise of their weeping should betray where we were to the giant. Then we all climbed into the ship, and sitting well in order on the benches smote the sea with our oars, laying to right lustily, that we might the sooner get away from the accursed land. And when we had rowed a hundred yards or so, so that a man's voice could yet be heard by one who stood upon the shore, I stood up in the ship and shouted:—
“'He was no coward, O Cyclops, whose comrades thou didst so foully slay in thy den. Justly art thou punished, monster, that devourest thy guests in thy dwelling. May the gods make thee suffer yet worse things than these!'
“Then the Cyclops in his wrath brake off the top of a great hill, a mighty rock, and hurled it where he had heard the voice. Right in front of the ship's bow it fell, and a great wave rose as it sank, and washed the ship back to the shore. But I seized a long pole with both hands, and pushed the ship from the land, and bade my comrades ply their oars, nodding with my head, for I would not speak, lest the Cyclops should know where we were. Then they rowed with all their might and main.
“And when we had gotten twice as far as before, I made as if I would speak again; but my comrades sought to hinder me, saying: 'Nay, my lord, anger not the giant any more. Surely we thought before that we were lost, when he threw the great rock, and washed our ship back to the shore. And if he hear thee now, he may still crush our ship and us.'
“But I would not be persuaded, but stood up and said: 'Hear, Cyclops! If any man ask who blinded thee, say that it was the warrior Ulysses, son of Laertes, dwelling in Ithaca.'
“And the Cyclops answered with a groan: 'Of a truth, the old prophecies are fulfilled; for long ago there came to this land a prophet who foretold to me that Ulysses would rob me of my sight. But I looked for a great and strong man, who should subdue me by force, and now a weakling has done the deed, having cheated me with wine.'
“Then the Cyclops lifted up his hands to Poseidon and prayed: 'Hear me, Poseidon, if I am indeed thy son and thou my father. May this Ulysses never reach his home! or, if the Fates have ordered that he should reach it, may he come alone, all his comrades lost, and come to find sore trouble in his house!'
“And as he ended, he hurled another mighty rock, which almost lighted on the rudder's end, yet missed it as by a hair's breadth. And the wave that it raised was so great that it bare us to the other shore.
“So we came to the island of the wild goats, where we found our comrades, who, indeed, had waited long for us in sore fear lest we had perished. Then I divided amongst my company all the sheep which we had taken from the Cyclops. And all, with one consent, gave me for my share the great ram which had carried me out of the cave, and I sacrificed it to Zeus. And all that day we feasted right merrily on the flesh of sheep and on sweet wine, and when the night was come, we lay down upon the shore and slept.