He passed on and he came to where the Princes and Captains and Councillors of the Phaeacians sat. His seat was beside the King’s. Then the henchman brought in the minstrel, blind Demodocus, and placed him on a seat by a pillar. And when supper was served Odysseus sent to Demodocus a portion of his own meat. He spoke too in praise of the minstrel saying, ’Right well dost thou sing of the Greeks and all they wrought and suffered—as well, methinks, as if thou hadst been present at the war of Troy. I would ask if thou canst sing of the Wooden Horse that brought destruction to the Trojans. If thou canst, I shall be a witness amongst all men how the gods have surely given thee the gift of song.’
Demodocus took down the lyre and sang. His song told how one part of the Greeks sailed away in their ships and how others with Odysseus to lead them were now in the center of Priam’s City all hidden in the great Wooden Horse which the Trojans themselves had dragged across their broken wall. So the Wooden Horse stood, and the people gathered around talked of what should be done with so wonderful a thing—whether to break open its timbers, or drag it to a steep hill and hurl it down on the rocks, or leave it there as an offering to the gods. As an offering to the gods it was left at last. Then the minstrel sang how Odysseus and his comrades poured forth from the hollow of the horse and took the City.
As the minstrel sang, the heart of Odysseus melted within him and tears fell down his cheeks. None of the company saw him weeping except Alcinous the King. But the King cried out to the company saying, ’Let the minstrel cease, for there is one amongst us to whom his song is not pleasing. Ever since it began the stranger here has wept with tears flowing down his cheeks.’
The minstrel ceased, and all the company looked in surprise at Odysseus, who sat with his head bowed and his mantle wrapped around his head. Why did he weep? each man asked. No one had asked of him his name, for each thought it was more noble to serve a stranger without knowing his name.
Said the King, speaking again, ’In a brother’s place stands the stranger and the suppliant, and as a brother art thou to us, O unknown guest. But wilt thou not be brotherly to us? Tell us by what name they call thee in thine own land. Tell us, too, of thy land and thy city. And tell us, too, where thou wert borne on thy wanderings, and to what lands and peoples thou earnest. And as a brother tell us why thou dost weep and mourn in spirit over the tale of the going forth of the Greeks to the war of Troy. Didst thou have a kinsman who fell before Priam’s City—a daughter’s husband, or a wife’s father, or someone nearer by blood? Or didst thou have a loving friend who fell there—one with an understanding heart who wast to thee as a brother?’
Such questions the King asked, and Odysseus taking the mantle from around his head turned round to the company.