The Odyssey eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 388 pages of information about The Odyssey.

“‘So far so good,’ said she, when I had ended my story, ’and now pay attention to what I am about to tell you—­heaven itself, indeed, will recall it to your recollection.  First you will come to the Sirens who enchant all who come near them.  If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song.  There is a great heap of dead men’s bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them.  Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men’s ears with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you can listen yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you stand upright on a cross piece half way up the mast, {99} and they must lash the rope’s ends to the mast itself, that you may have the pleasure of listening.  If you beg and pray the men to unloose you, then they must bind you faster.

“’When your crew have taken you past these Sirens, I cannot give you coherent directions {100} as to which of two courses you are to take; I will lay the two alternatives before you, and you must consider them for yourself.  On the one hand there are some overhanging rocks against which the deep blue waves of Amphitrite beat with terrific fury; the blessed gods call these rocks the Wanderers.  Here not even a bird may pass, no, not even the timid doves that bring ambrosia to Father Jove, but the sheer rock always carries off one of them, and Father Jove has to send another to make up their number; no ship that ever yet came to these rocks has got away again, but the waves and whirlwinds of fire are freighted with wreckage and with the bodies of dead men.  The only vessel that ever sailed and got through, was the famous Argo on her way from the house of Aetes, and she too would have gone against these great rocks, only that Juno piloted her past them for the love she bore to Jason.

“’Of these two rocks the one reaches heaven and its peak is lost in a dark cloud.  This never leaves it, so that the top is never clear not even in summer and early autumn.  No man though he had twenty hands and twenty feet could get a foothold on it and climb it, for it runs sheer up, as smooth as though it had been polished.  In the middle of it there is a large cavern, looking West and turned towards Erebus; you must take your ship this way, but the cave is so high up that not even the stoutest archer could send an arrow into it.  Inside it Scylla sits and yelps with a voice that you might take to be that of a young hound, but in truth she is a dreadful monster and no one—­not even a god—­could face her without being terror-struck.  She has twelve mis-shapen feet, and six necks of the most prodigious length; and at the end of each neck she has a frightful head with three rows of teeth in each, all set very close together, so that they would crunch any one to death in a moment, and she sits deep within her shady cell thrusting out her heads and peering all round the rock, fishing for dolphins or dogfish or any larger monster that she can catch, of the thousands with which Amphitrite teems.  No ship ever yet got past her without losing some men, for she shoots out all her heads at once, and carries off a man in each mouth.

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The Odyssey from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.