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Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Alcinous and Ulysses both rose, and Alcinous led the way to the
Phaecian place of assembly, which was near the ships. When they got
there they sat down side by side on a seat of polished stone, while
Minerva took the form of one of Alcinous’ servants, and went round the
town in order to help Ulysses to get home. She went up to the
citizens, man by man, and said, “Aldermen and town councillors of
the Phaeacians, come to the assembly all of you and listen to the
stranger who has just come off a long voyage to the house of King
Alcinous; he looks like an immortal god.”
  With these words she made them all want to come, and they flocked to
the assembly till seats and standing room were alike crowded. Every
one was struck with the appearance of Ulysses, for Minerva had
beautified him about the head and shoulders, making him look taller
and stouter than he really was, that he might impress the Phaecians
favourably as being a very remarkable man, and might come off well
in the many trials of skill to which they would challenge him. Then,
when they were got together, Alcinous spoke:
  “Hear me,” said he, “aldermen and town councillors of the
Phaeacians, that I may speak even as I am minded. This stranger,
whoever he may be, has found his way to my house from somewhere or
other either East or West. He wants an escort and wishes to have the
matter settled. Let us then get one ready for him, as we have done for
others before him; indeed, no one who ever yet came to my house has
been able to complain of me for not speeding on his way soon enough.
Let us draw a ship into the sea—one that has never yet made a voyage-
and man her with two and fifty of our smartest young sailors. Then
when you have made fast your oars each by his own seat, leave the ship
and come to my house to prepare a feast. I will find you in
everything. I am giving will these instructions to the young men who
will form the crew, for as regards you aldermen and town
councillors, you will join me in entertaining our guest in the
cloisters. I can take no excuses, and we will have Demodocus to sing
to us; for there is no bard like him whatever he may choose to sing
about.”
  Alcinous then led the way, and the others followed after, while a
servant went to fetch Demodocus. The fifty-two picked oarsmen went
to the sea shore as they had been told, and when they got there they
drew the ship into the water, got her mast and sails inside her, bound
the oars to the thole-pins with twisted thongs of leather, all in
due course, and spread the white sails aloft. They moored the vessel a
little way out from land, and then came on shore and went to the house
of King Alcinous. The outhouses, yards, and all the precincts were
filled with crowds of men in great multitudes both old and young;
and Alcinous killed them a dozen sheep, eight full grown pigs, and two
oxen. These they skinned and dressed so as to provide a magnificent
banquet.
  A servant presently led in the famous bard Demodocus, whom the
muse had dearly loved, but to whom she had given both good and evil,
for though she had endowed him with a divine gift of song, she had
robbed him of his eyesight. Pontonous set a seat for him among the
guests, leaning it up against a bearing-post. He hung the lyre for him
on a peg over his head, and showed him where he was to feel for it
with his hands. He also set a fair table with a basket of victuals
by his side, and a cup of wine from which he might drink whenever he
was so disposed.
  The company then laid their hands upon the good things that were
before them, but as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink,
the muse inspired Demodocus to sing the feats of heroes, and more
especially a matter that was then in the mouths of all men, to wit,
the quarrel between Ulysses and Achilles, and the fierce words that
they heaped on one another as they gat together at a banquet. But
Agamemnon was glad when he heard his chieftains quarrelling with one
another, for Apollo had foretold him this at Pytho when he crossed the
stone floor to consult the oracle. Here was the beginning of the
evil that by the will of Jove fell both Danaans and Trojans.
  Thus sang the bard, but Ulysses drew his purple mantle over his head
and covered his face, for he was ashamed to let the Phaeacians see
that he was weeping. When the bard left off singing he wiped the tears
from his eyes, uncovered his face, and, taking his cup, made a
drink-offering to the gods; but when the Phaeacians pressed
Demodocus to sing further, for they delighted in his lays, then
Ulysses again drew his mantle over his head and wept bitterly. No
one noticed his distress except Alcinous, who was sitting near him,
and heard the heavy sighs that he was heaving. So he at once said,
“Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, we have had enough
now, both of the feast, and of the minstrelsy that is its due
accompaniment; let us proceed therefore to the athletic sports, so
that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as boxers, wrestlers, jumpers,
and runners.”
  With these words he led the way, and the others followed after. A
servant hung Demodocus’s lyre on its peg for him, led him out of the
cloister, and set him on the same way as that along which all the
chief men of the Phaeacians were going to see the sports; a crowd of
several thousands of people followed them, and there were many
excellent competitors for all the prizes. Acroneos, Ocyalus, Elatreus,
Nauteus, Prymneus, Anchialus, Eretmeus, Ponteus, Proreus, Thoon,
Anabesineus, and Amphialus son of Polyneus son of Tecton. There was
also Euryalus son of Naubolus, who was like Mars himself, and was
the best looking man among the Phaecians except Laodamas. Three sons
of Alcinous, Laodamas, Halios, and Clytoneus, competed also.
  The foot races came first. The course was set out for them from
the starting post, and they raised a dust upon the plain as they all
flew forward at the same moment. Clytoneus came in first by a long
way; he left every one else behind him by the length of the furrow
that a couple of mules can plough in a fallow field. They then
turned to the painful art of wrestling, and here Euryalus proved to be
the best man. Amphialus excelled all the others in jumping, while at
throwing the disc there was no one who could approach Elatreus.
Alcinous’s son Laodamas was the best boxer, and he it was who
presently said, when they had all been diverted with the games, “Let
us ask the stranger whether he excels in any of these sports; he seems
very powerfully built; his thighs, claves, hands, and neck are of
prodigious strength, nor is he at all old, but he has suffered much
lately, and there is nothing like the sea for making havoc with a man,
no matter how strong he is.”
  “You are quite right, Laodamas,” replied Euryalus, “go up to your
guest and speak to him about it yourself.”
  When Laodamas heard this he made his way into the middle of the
crowd and said to Ulysses, “I hope, Sir, that you will enter
yourself for some one or other of our competitions if you are
skilled in any of them—and you must have gone in for many a one
before now. There is nothing that does any one so much credit all
his life long as the showing himself a proper man with his hands and
feet. Have a try therefore at something, and banish all sorrow from
your mind. Your return home will not be long delayed, for the ship
is already drawn into the water, and the crew is found.”
  Ulysses answered, “Laodamas, why do you taunt me in this way? my
mind is set rather on cares than contests; I have been through
infinite trouble, and am come among you now as a suppliant, praying
your king and people to further me on my return home.”
  Then Euryalus reviled him outright and said, “I gather, then, that
you are unskilled in any of the many sports that men generally delight
in. I suppose you are one of those grasping traders that go about in
ships as captains or merchants, and who think of nothing but of
their outward freights and homeward cargoes. There does not seem to be
much of the athlete about you.”
  “For shame, Sir,” answered Ulysses, fiercely, “you are an insolent
fellow—so true is it that the gods do not grace all men alike in
speech, person, and understanding. One man may be of weak presence,
but heaven has adorned this with such a good conversation that he
charms every one who sees him; his honeyed moderation carries his
hearers with him so that he is leader in all assemblies of his
fellows, and wherever he goes he is looked up to. Another may be as
handsome as a god, but his good looks are not crowned with discretion.
This is your case. No god could make a finer looking fellow than you
are, but you are a fool. Your ill-judged remarks have made me
exceedingly angry, and you are quite mistaken, for I excel in a
great many athletic exercises; indeed, so long as I had youth and
strength, I was among the first athletes of the age. Now, however, I
am worn out by labour and sorrow, for I have gone through much both on
the field of battle and by the waves of the weary sea; still, in spite
of all this I will compete, for your taunts have stung me to the
quick.”
  So he hurried up without even taking his cloak off, and seized a
disc, larger, more massive and much heavier than those used by the
Phaeacians when disc-throwing among themselves. Then, swinging it
back, he threw it from his brawny hand, and it made a humming sound in
the air as he did so. The Phaeacians quailed beneath the rushing of
its flight as it sped gracefully from his hand, and flew beyond any
mark that had been made yet. Minerva, in the form of a man, came and
marked the place where it had fallen. “A blind man, Sir,” said she,
“could easily tell your mark by groping for it—it is so far ahead
of any other. You may make your mind easy about this contest, for no
Phaeacian can come near to such a throw as yours.”
  Ulysses was glad when he found he had a friend among the lookers-on,
so he began to speak more pleasantly. “Young men,” said he, “come up
to that throw if you can, and I will throw another disc as heavy or
even heavier. If anyone wants to have a bout with me let him come
on, for I am exceedingly angry; I will box, wrestle, or run, I do
not care what it is, with any man of you all except Laodamas, but
not with him because I am his guest, and one cannot compete with one’s
own personal friend. At least I do not think it a prudent or a
sensible thing for a guest to challenge his host’s family at any game,
especially when he is in a foreign country. He will cut the ground
from under his own feet if he does; but I make no exception as regards
any one else, for I want to have the matter out and know which is
the best man. I am a good hand at every kind of athletic sport known
among mankind. I am an excellent archer. In battle I am always the
first to bring a man down with my arrow, no matter how many more are
taking aim at him alongside of me. Philoctetes was the only man who
could shoot better than I could when we Achaeans were before Troy
and in practice. I far excel every one else in the whole world, of
those who still eat bread upon the face of the earth, but I should not
like to shoot against the mighty dead, such as Hercules, or Eurytus
the Cechalian-men who could shoot against the gods themselves. This in
fact was how Eurytus came prematurely by his end, for Apollo was angry
with him and killed him because he challenged him as an archer. I
can throw a dart farther than any one else can shoot an arrow. Running
is the only point in respect of which I am afraid some of the
Phaecians might beat me, for I have been brought down very low at sea;
my provisions ran short, and therefore I am still weak.”
  They all held their peace except King Alcinous, who began, “Sir,
we have had much pleasure in hearing all that you have told us, from
which I understand that you are willing to show your prowess, as
having been displeased with some insolent remarks that have been
made to you by one of our athletes, and which could never have been
uttered by any one who knows how to talk with propriety. I hope you
will apprehend my meaning, and will explain to any be one of your
chief men who may be dining with yourself and your family when you get
home, that we have an hereditary aptitude for accomplishments of all
kinds. We are not particularly remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as
wrestlers, but we are singularly fleet of foot and are excellent
sailors. We are extremely fond of good dinners, music, and dancing; we
also like frequent changes of linen, warm baths, and good beds, so
now, please, some of you who are the best dancers set about dancing,
that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as sailors, runners, dancers,
minstrels. Demodocus has left his lyre at my house, so run some one or
other of you and fetch it for him.”
  On this a servant hurried off to bring the lyre from the king’s
house, and the nine men who had been chosen as stewards stood forward.
It was their business to manage everything connected with the
sports, so they made the ground smooth and marked a wide space for the
dancers. Presently the servant came back with Demodocus’s lyre, and he
took his place in the midst of them, whereon the best young dancers in
the town began to foot and trip it so nimbly that Ulysses was
delighted with the merry twinkling of their feet.
  Meanwhile the bard began to sing the loves of Mars and Venus, and
how they first began their intrigue in the house of Vulcan. Mars
made Venus many presents, and defiled King Vulcan’s marriage bed, so
the sun, who saw what they were about, told Vulcan. Vulcan was very
angry when he heard such dreadful news, so he went to his smithy
brooding mischief, got his great anvil into its place, and began to
forge some chains which none could either unloose or break, so that
they might stay there in that place. When he had finished his snare he
went into his bedroom and festooned the bed-posts all over with chains
like cobwebs; he also let many hang down from the great beam of the
ceiling. Not even a god could see them, so fine and subtle were
they. As soon as he had spread the chains all over the bed, he made as
though he were setting out for the fair state of Lemnos, which of
all places in the world was the one he was most fond of. But Mars kept
no blind look out, and as soon as he saw him start, hurried off to his
house, burning with love for Venus.
  Now Venus was just come in from a visit to her father Jove, and
was about sitting down when Mars came inside the house, an said as
he took her hand in his own, “Let us go to the couch of Vulcan: he
is not at home, but is gone off to Lemnos among the Sintians, whose
speech is barbarous.”
  She was nothing loth, so they went to the couch to take their
rest, whereon they were caught in the toils which cunning Vulcan had
spread for them, and could neither get up nor stir hand or foot, but
found too late that they were in a trap. Then Vulcan came up to
them, for he had turned back before reaching Lemnos, when his scout
the sun told him what was going on. He was in a furious passion, and
stood in the vestibule making a dreadful noise as he shouted to all
the gods.
  “Father Jove,” he cried, “and all you other blessed gods who live
for ever, come here and see the ridiculous and disgraceful sight
that I will show you. Jove’s daughter Venus is always dishonouring
me because I am lame. She is in love with Mars, who is handsome and
clean built, whereas I am a *******—but my parents are to blame for
that, not I; they ought never to have begotten me. Come and see the
pair together asleep on my bed. It makes me furious to look at them.
They are very fond of one another, but I do not think they will lie
there longer than they can help, nor do I think that they will sleep
much; there, however, they shall stay till her father has repaid me
the sum I gave him for his baggage of a daughter, who is fair but
not honest.”
  On this the gods gathered to the **
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