Tiresias’ prophecy: Book XI: 99-136 


when he had drunk the dark blood, then the blameless seer spoke to me and said: [100] “‘Thou askest of thy honey-sweet return, glorious Odysseus, but this shall a god make grievous unto thee; for I think not that thou shalt elude the Earth-shaker, seeing that he has laid up wrath in his heart against thee, angered that thou didst blind his dear son. Yet even so ye may reach home, though in evil plight, [105] if thou wilt curb thine own spirit and that of thy comrades, as soon as thou shalt bring thy well-built ship to the island Thrinacia, escaping from the violet sea, and ye find grazing there the kine and goodly flocks of Helios, who over sees and overhears all things. [110] If thou leavest these unharmed and heedest thy homeward way, verily ye may yet reach Ithaca, though in evil plight. But if thou harmest them, then I foresee ruin for thy ship and thy comrades, and even if thou shalt thyself escape, late shalt thou come home and in evil case, after losing all thy comrades, [115] in a ship that is another's, and thou shalt find woes in thy house—proud men that devour thy livelihood, wooing thy godlike wife, and offering wooers' gifts. Yet verily on their violent deeds shalt thou take vengeance when thou comest. But when thou hast slain the wooers in thy halls, [120] whether by guile or openly with the sharp sword, then do thou go forth, taking a shapely oar, until thou comest to men that know naught of the sea and eat not of food mingled with salt, aye, and they know naught of ships with purple cheeks, [125] or of shapely oars that are as wings unto ships. And I will tell thee a sign right manifest, which will not escape thee. When another wayfarer, on meeting thee, shall say that thou hast a winnowing-fan on thy stout shoulder, then do thou fix in the earth thy shapely oar [130] and make goodly offerings to lord Poseidon—a ram, and a bull, and a boar that mates with sows—and depart for thy home and offer sacred hecatombs to the immortal gods who hold broad heaven, to each one in due order. And death shall come to thee thyself far from the sea, [135] a death so gentle, that shall lay thee low when thou art overcome with sleek old age, and thy people shall dwell in prosperity around thee. In this have I told thee sooth.’



Circe’s warning: Book XII: 126-144


And thou wilt come to the isle Thrinacia. There in great numbers feed the kine of Helios and his goodly flocks, seven herds of kine and as many fair flocks of sheep, [130] and fifty in each. These bear no young, nor do they ever die, and goddesses are their shepherds, fair-tressed nymphs, Phaethusa and Lampetie, whom beautiful Neaera bore to Helios Hyperion. These their honored mother, when she had borne and reared them, [135] sent to the isle Thrinacia to dwell afar, and keep the flocks of their father and his sleek kine. If thou leavest these unharmed and heedest thy homeward way, verily ye may yet reach Ithaca, though in evil plight. But if thou harmest them, then I foretell ruin [140] for thy ship and for thy comrades, and even if thou shalt thyself escape, late shalt thou come home and in evil case, after losing all thy comrades.’ “So she spoke, and presently came golden-throned Dawn.



Oxen of the Sun: Book XII: 260-76


“Now when we had escaped the rocks, and dread Charybdis and Scylla, presently then we came to the goodly island of the god, where were the fair kine, broad of brow, and the many goodly flocks of Helios Hyperion. Then while I was still out at sea in my black ship, [265] I heard the lowing of the cattle that were being stalled and the bleating of the sheep, and upon my mind fell the words of the blind seer, Theban Teiresias, and of Aeaean Circe, who very straitly charged me to shun the island of Helios, who gives joy to mortals. [270] Then verily I spoke among my comrades, grieved at heart: “‘Hear my words, comrades, for all your evil plight, that I may tell you the oracles of Teiresias and of Aeaean Circe, who very straitly charged me to shun the island of Helios, who gives joy to mortals; [275] for there, she said, was our most terrible bane. Nay, row the black ship out past the island.’

“So I spoke, but their spirit was broken within them, and straightway Eurylochus answered me with hateful words: “‘Hardy art thou, Odysseus; thou hast strength beyond that of other men and thy limbs never [280] grow weary. Verily thou art wholly wrought of iron, seeing that thou sufferest not thy comrades, worn out with toil and drowsiness, to set foot on shore, where on this sea-girt isle we might once more make ready a savoury supper; but thou biddest us even as we are to wander on through the swift night, [285] driven away from the island over the misty deep. It is from the night that fierce winds are born, wreckers of ships. How could one escape utter destruction, if haply there should suddenly come a blast of the South Wind or the blustering West Wind, which oftenest [290] wreck ships in despite of the sovereign gods? Nay, verily for this time let us yield to black night and make ready our supper, remaining by the swift ship, and in the morning we will go aboard, and put out into the broad sea.’ “So spoke Eurylochus, and the rest of my comrades gave assent. [295] Then verily I knew that some god was assuredly devising ill, and I spoke and addressed him with winged words: “‘Eurylochus, verily ye constrain me, who stand alone. But come now, do ye all swear to me a mighty oath, to the end that, if we haply find a herd of kine or a great flock of sheep, [300] no man may slay either cow or sheep in the blind folly of his mind; but be content to eat the food which immortal Circe gave.’ “So I spoke; and they straightway swore that they would not, even as I bade them. But when they had sworn and made an end of the oath, [305] we moored our well-built ship in the hollow harbor near a spring of sweet water, and my comrades went forth from the ship and skilfully made ready their supper. But when they had put from them the desire of food and drink, then they fell to weeping, as they remembered their dear comrades [310] whom Scylla had snatched from out the hollow ship and devoured; and sweet sleep came upon them as they wept. But when it was the third watch of the night, and the stars had turned their course, Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, roused against us a fierce wind with a wondrous tempest, and hid with clouds [315] the land and sea alike, and night rushed down from heaven. And as soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, we dragged our ship, and made her fast in a hollow cave, where were the fair dancing-floors and seats of the nymphs. Then I called my men together and spoke among them: [320] “‘Friends, in our swift ship is meat and drink; let us therefore keep our hands from those kine lest we come to harm, for these are the cows and goodly sheep of a dread god, even of Helios, who oversees all things and overhears all things.’ “So I spoke, and their proud hearts consented. [325] Then for a full month the South Wind blew unceasingly, nor did any other wind arise except the East and the South.

“Now so long as my men had grain and red wine they kept their hands from the kine, for they were eager to save their lives.1 But when all the stores had been consumed from out the ship, [330] and now they must needs roam about in search of game, fishes, and fowl, and whatever might come to their hands—fishing with bent hooks, for hunger pinched their bellies—then I went apart up the island that I might pray to the gods in the hope that one of them might show me a way to go. [335] And when, as I went through the island, I had got away from my comrades, I washed my hands in a place where there was shelter from the wind, and prayed to all the gods that hold Olympus; but they shed sweet sleep upon my eyelids. And meanwhile Eurylochus began to give evil counsel to my comrades: [340] “‘Hear my words, comrades, for all your evil plight. All forms of death are hateful to wretched mortals, but to die of hunger, and so meet one's doom, is the most pitiful. Nay, come, let us drive off the best of the kine of Helios and offer sacrifice to the immortals who hold broad heaven. [345] And if we ever reach Ithaca, our native land, we will straightway build a rich temple to Helios Hyperion and put therein many goodly offerings. And if haply he be wroth at all because of his straight-horned kine, and be minded to destroy our ship, and the other gods consent, [350] rather would I lose my life once for all with a gulp at the wave, than pine slowly away in a desert isle.’ “So spoke Eurylochus, and the rest of my comrades gave assent. Straightway they drove off the best of the kine of Helios from near at hand, for not far from the dark-prowed ship [355] were grazing the fair, sleek kine, broad of brow. Around these, then, they stood and made prayer to the gods, plucking the tender leaves from off a high-crested oak;2 for they had no white barley on board the well-benched ship. Now when they had prayed and had cut the throats of the kine and flayed them, [360] they cut out the thigh-pieces and covered them with a double layer of fat and laid raw flesh upon them. They had no wine to pour over the blazing sacrifice, but they made libations with water, and roasted all the entrails over the fire.

Now when the thighs were wholly burned and they had tasted the inner parts, [365] they cut up the rest and spitted it. Then it was that sweet sleep fled from my eyelids, and I went my way to the swift ship and the shore of the sea. But when, as I went, I drew near to the curved ship, then verily the hot savour of the fat was wafted about me, [370] and I groaned and cried aloud to the immortal gods: “‘Father Zeus and ye other blessed gods that are for ever, verily it was for my ruin that ye lulled me in pitiless sleep, while my comrades remaining behind have contrived a monstrous deed.’ “Swiftly then to Helios Hyperion came [375] Lampetie of the long robes, bearing tidings that we had slain his kine; and straightway he spoke among the immortals, wroth at heart: “‘Father Zeus and ye other blessed gods that are for ever, take vengeance now on the comrades of Odysseus, son of Laertes, who have insolently slain my kine, in which I [380] ever took delight, when I went toward the starry heaven and when I turned back again to earth from heaven. If they do not pay me fit atonement for the kine I will go down to Hades and shine among the dead.’ “Then Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, answered him and said: [385] ‘Helios, do thou verily shine on among the immortals and among mortal men upon the earth, the giver of grain. As for these men I will soon smite their swift ship with my bright thunder-bolt, and shatter it to pieces in the midst of the wine-dark sea.’ “This I heard from fair-haired Calypso, [390] and she said that she herself had heard it from the messenger Hermes. “But when I had come down to the ship and to the sea I upbraided my men, coming up to each in turn, but we could find no remedy—the kine were already dead. For my men, then, the gods straightway shewed forth portents. [395] The hides crawled, the flesh, both roast and raw, bellowed upon the spits, and there was a lowing as of kine.

“For six days, then, my trusty comrades feasted on the best of the kine of Helios which they had driven off. But when Zeus, the son of Cronos, brought upon us the seventh day, [400] then the wind ceased to blow tempestuously, and we straightway went on board, and put out into the broad sea when we had set up the mast and hoisted the white sail. “But when we had left that island and no other land appeared, but only sky and sea, [405] then verily the son of Cronos set a black cloud above the hollow ship, and the sea grew dark beneath it. She ran on for no long time, for straightway came the shrieking West Wind, blowing with a furious tempest, and the blast of the wind snapped both the fore-stays of the mast, [410] so that the mast fell backward and all its tackling was strewn in the bilge. On the stern of the ship the mast struck the head of the pilot and crushed all the bones of his skull together, and like a diver he fell from the deck and his proud spirit left his bones. [415] Therewith Zeus thundered and hurled his bolt upon the ship, and she quivered from stem to stern, smitten by the bolt of Zeus, and was filled with sulphurous smoke, and my comrades fell from out the ship. Like sea-crows they were borne on the waves about the black ship, and the god took from them their returning. [420] But I kept pacing up and down the ship till the surge tore the sides from the keel, and the wave bore her on dismantled and snapped the mast off at the keel; but over the mast had been flung the back-stay fashioned of ox-hide; with this I lashed the two together, both keel and mast, [425] and sitting on these was borne by the direful winds.



Homer. The Odyssey. Translation by A.T. Murray. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard UP; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919. Book X: 210-474. Perseus.


The Fifth Decad

rsz toscana siena3 tango7174

Cantos LII - LXXI

confucius adams 2