He replied: “Ever-honoured, great Calypso, let it not displease thee, that I a mortal man desire to see and converse again with a wife that is mortal: human objects are best fitted to human infirmities. I well know how far in wisdom, in feature, in stature, proportion, beauty, in all the gifts of the mind, thou exceedest my Penelope: she a mortal, and subject to decay; thou immortal, ever growing, yet never old: yet in her sight all my desires terminate, all my wishes; in the sight of her, and of my country earth. If any god, envious of my return, shall lay his dreadful hand upon me as I pass the seas, I submit: for the same powers have given me a mind not to sink under oppression. In wars and waves my sufferings have not been small.”
She heard his pleaded reasons, and of force she must assent; so to her nymphs she gave in charge from her sacred woods to cut down timber, to make Ulysses a ship. They obeyed, though in a work unsuitable to their soft fingers, yet to obedience no sacrifice is hard: and Ulysses busily bestirred himself, labouring far more hard than they, as was fitting, till twenty tall trees, driest and fittest for timber, were felled. Then like a skilful shipwright, he fell to joining the planks, using the plane, the axe, and the auger, with such expedition, that in four days’ time a ship was made, complete with all her decks, hatches, side-boards, yards. Calypso added linen for the sails, and tackling; and when she was finished, she was a goodly vessel for a man to sail in alone, or in company, over the wide seas. By the fifth morning she was launched; and Ulysses, furnished with store of provisions, rich garments, and gold and silver, given him by Calypso, took a last leave of her, and of her nymphs, and of the isle Ogygia which had so befriended him.
The tempest.—The sea-bird’s gift.—The escape by swimming.—The sleep in the woods.
At the stern of his solitary ship Ulysses sat, and steered right artfully. No sleep could seize his eye-lids. He beheld the Pleiads, the Bear which is by some called the Wain, that moves round about Orion, and keeps still above the ocean, and the slow-setting sign Bootes, which some name the Waggoner. Seventeen days he held his course, and on the eighteenth the coast of Phaeacia was in sight. The figure of the land, as seen from the sea, was pretty and circular, and looked something like a shield.
Neptune returning from visiting his favourite AEthiopians, from the mountains of the Solymi, descried Ulysses ploughing the waves, his domain. The sight of the man he so much hated for Polyphemus’s sake, his son, whose eye Ulysses had put out, set the god’s heart on fire; and snatching into his hand his horrid sea-sceptre, the trident of his power, he smote the air and the sea, and conjured up all his black storms, calling down night from the cope of heaven, and taking the earth into the sea, as it seemed, with clouds, through the darkness and indistinctness which prevailed, the billows rolling up before the fury of all the winds, that contended together in their mighty sport.