2.V ODYSSEUS MEETS CIRCE

                                            V

We reached the Island where Æolus, the Lord of the Winds, who can give mariners a good or a bad wind, lives. With his six sons and his six daughters Æolus lives on a floating island that has all around it a wall of bronze. When we reached his island, the Lord of the Winds treated us kindly and kept us at his home for a month. When the time came for us to leave, Æolus did not try to hold us on the island. And when I was going down to the ships, he gave me a bag made from the hide of an ox, and in that bag were all the winds that blow. He tied the mouth of the bag with a silver thong, so that no wind that might drive us from our course could escape. Then he sent the West Wind to blow on our sails so that we could reach our own land as quickly as a ship could go.’

‘For nine days we sailed with the West Wind driving us, and on the tenth day we came in sight of Ithaka, our own land. We saw its coast and the beacon fires on the coast and the people tending the fires. Then I thought that the curse of the Cyclops was in vain and could not harm us. Thinking there was no danger I went to sleep.’

‘Then ,as I slept, the misfortune that I had guarded against fell on me. My men spoke together and said, “There is our native land, and we come back to it after ten years’ of struggles and suffering, with empty hands. It is different from Odysseus. He brings gold and silver from Priam’s treasure-chamber in Troy. And Æolus has also given him a treasure in an ox hide bag. Let us take something out of that bag while he sleeps.”‘

‘So they opened the bag, and all the winds that were in it burst out. Then the winds drove our ship towards the high seas and away from our land. What became of the other ships I do not know. I awoke found that we were being driven here and there by the winds. I did not know whether I should jump into the sea and so end all my troubles, or whether I should endure this terrible misfortune.’

‘The winds brought us back again to the floating Island. We landed and I went to the home of the Lord of the Winds. I sat by his door and he came out and spoke to me. “What is it now, Odysseus?” said he. “Why have you returned so soon? Didn’t I give you a fair wind to take you to your own country, and did I not tie up all the winds that might trouble you?”‘

‘”My evil companions,” I said, “have been my downfall. They have undone all the good that you did for me, King of the Winds. They opened the bag and let all the winds fly out. Now help me, Lord Æolus, once again.”‘

‘But Æolus said to me, “I cannot help a man such as yourself; a man surely cursed by the gods. Leave my Island, for I will do nothing for you.” Then I left his home and made my way down to the ship.’

We sailed away from the Island of Æolus with heavy hearts. Next we came to the Æean Island, where we met with Circe, the Enchantress. For two days and two nights we were on that island without seeing any sign of people. On the third day I saw smoke rising up from some hearth. I told my men, and it seemed good that some of our company should go to see if there people there who might help us. We drew lots to find out who should go, and it fell to the lot of Eurylochus to go with part of the company, while I remained with the other part.’

‘So Eurylochus went with twenty-two men. In the forest glades they came upon a house built of polished stones. Wild beasts such as wolves and lions roamed all round that house. But these beasts were not fierce. As Eurylochus and his men went towards the house the lions and wolves fawned on them.’

‘But the men were frightened and stood round the outer gate of the court. They heard a voice inside the house singing, and it seemed to them to be the voice of a woman, singing as she weaved on a loom. The men shouted, and she who had been singing opened the polished doors and came out of the house. She was very fair to see. As she opened the doors of the house she asked the men to come in and they went into her home.’

‘But Eurylochus stayed outside. He watched the woman and he saw her give food to the men. But he saw that she mixed a drug with what she gave them to eat and with the wine she gave them to drink. No sooner had they eaten the food and drunk the wine than she struck them with a wand, and the men turned into pigs. Then the woman drove them out of the house and put them in pig-pens and gave them acorns to eat.’

‘ When Eurylochus saw what happened, he ran back through the forest and told me. Then I took my good sword of bronze, and, telling Eurylochus to stay by the ships, I went through the forest and came to the house of the enchantress. I stood outside and called out. Then Circe the Enchantress flung wide the shining doors, and called to me to come in. I entered her home and she brought me a chair and put a footstool under my feet. Then she brought me the wine into which she had put a harmful drug.’

‘As she handed me the cup I drew my sword and sprang at her. She shrank back from me and cried out, “Who are you who are able to guess at my enchantments? Certainly, you are Odysseus, who Hermes told me about. Put away your sword and let us two be friends. I will treat you well in every way.”‘

‘But I said to her, “No, Circe, you must swear to me first that you will not treat me with cunning.”‘

‘She swore by the gods that she would not treat me with cunning, and I put away my sword. Then the maids of Circe prepared a bath, and I bathed and rubbed myself with olive oil, and Circe gave me a new clothes. The maids brought out silver tables, and on them set golden baskets with bread and meat in them, and others brought cups of sweet tasting wine. I sat at a silver table but I had no pleasure in the food in front of me.’

‘When Circe saw me sitting silent and troubled she said, “Why, Odysseus, do you sit so quietly? Do you think there is a drug in this food? I have sworn that I will treat you honestly, and I shall keep that promise.”‘

‘I said to her, “Circe, Enchantress, what man of good heart could take meat and drink while his companions are pigs in pig-pens? If you want me to eat and drink, first let me see my companions in their own forms.”‘

‘When Circe heard me say this, she went to the pig-pen and said a spell. As she did, the bristles dropped away and the men were returned. My companions became men again, and were even taller and handsomer than they had been before.’

‘After that we lived on Circe’s island in friendship with the enchantress. We feasted in her house for a year.’

‘But in all of us there was a longing to return to our own land. My men came to me and asked that I ask Circe to let us go on our way home. She allowed us to go and she told us of the many dangers we would meet on our voyage.’