“So speaking, from the ruddy orient shone
The morn, conspicuous on her golden throne.
The goddess with a radiant tunic dress’d
My limbs, and o’er me cast a silken vest.
Long flowing robes, of purest white, array
The nymph, that added lustre to the day:
A tiar wreath’d her head with many a fold;
Her waist was circled with a zone of gold.
Forth issuing then, from place to place I flew;
Rouse man by man, and animate my crew.
’Rise, rise, my mates! ’tis Circe gives command:
Our journey calls us; haste, and quit the land.’
All rise and follow, yet depart not all,
For Fate decreed one wretched man to fall.
“A youth there was, Elpenor was he named,
Not much for sense, nor much for courage famed:
The youngest of our band, a vulgar soul,
Born but to banquet, and to drain the bowl.
He, hot and careless, on a turret’s height
With sleep repair’d the long debauch of night:
The sudden tumult stirred him where he lay,
And down he hasten’d, but forgot the way;
Full headlong from the roof the sleeper fell,
And snapp’d the spinal joint, and waked in hell.
“The rest crowd round me with an eager look;
I met them with a sigh, and thus bespoke:
’Already, friends! ye think your toils are o’er,
Your hopes already touch your native shore:
Alas! far otherwise the nymph declares,
Far other journey first demands our cares;
To tread the uncomfortable paths beneath,
The dreary realms of darkness and of death;
To seek Tiresias’ awful shade below,
And thence our fortunes and our fates to know.’
“My sad companions heard in deep despair;
Frantic they tore their manly growth of hair;
To earth they fell: the tears began to rain;
But tears in mortal miseries are vain,
Sadly they fared along the sea-beat shore;
Still heaved their hearts, and still their eyes ran o’er.
The ready victims at our bark we found,
The sable ewe and ram together bound.
For swift as thought the goddess had been there,
And thence had glided, viewless as the air:
The paths of gods what mortal can survey?
Who eyes their motion? who shall trace their way?”
The descent into hell.
Ulysses continues his narration. How he arrived at the land of the Cimmerians, and what ceremonies he performed to invoke the dead. The manner of his descent, and the apparition of the shades: his conversation with Elpenor, and with Tiresias, who informs him in a prophetic manner of his fortunes to come. He meets his mother Anticles, from whom he learns the state of his family. He sees the shades of the ancient heroines, afterwards of the heroes, and converses in particular with Agamemnon and Achilles. Ajax keeps at a sullen distance, and disdains to answer him. He then beholds Tityus, Tantalus, Sisyphus, Hercules; till he is deterred from further curiosity by the apparition of horrid spectres, and the cries of the wicked in torments.