Eurylochus Transformed

[According to Homer, Ulysses, coming to the Island of Circe, divided his band: one half remained at the ship; the other, led by Eurylochus, entered the palace of Circe, where all, save their leader, partaking of the feast, were transformed to swine. In the following modification of the legend, Eurylochus himself is supposed to have undergone the transformation, and to have spoken these words before and in the course of it.]

DIVINE or human, by whatever name
Mortals or gods have named thee, I salute, —
With reverence I salute thee, I alone.
They that be with me stay without the porch, —
Half of their number ; but the other half
Are sitting with Ulysses at the oars.
For, following still that much-enduring man,
By many oarless waters we have come,
Dim coasts, and islands with far-shadowing peaks,
And moving floods from the dark wilderness,
And one Infernal gulf in thundering seas ;
And we have met with monsters, men like beasts,
Centaurs that, issuing from the caverned hills,
Eyed us umnovingly, Lotophagi,
And Cyclops who devoured us day by day :
And some have met us on the brink with blows.
And some with smiles, and after that betrayed.
Not knowing how Zeus is the stranger’s friend ;
And some have paid us honors like the gods,
Wine, and the sacrifice, and song of bards,
And gifts at parting. For this cause I stand
Alone to learn what welcome waits us here.

(Circe having answered and offered him the cup, he proceeds.)

Thy words were gracious, had thy looks not made
All words superfluous. But keep thy cup !
It were not fitting that my lips should wear
The wine-stain, goddess, while Ulysses’ ears
Thirst for these tidings. Give me leave! . . .
No more;
I yield: and, first of all, I spill to thee
The bright libation, — never one so bright
Since that old morn when, in the sacred bowl
At Aulis, peering, I beheld a face
New-bearded and with wide, forth-looking eyes,
While near at hand the smitten oxen moaned,
Greece waited, breathless, for the oracle,
Far off the seamen called, and on my cheek
I felt the breezes, favoring for Troy.

(He drinks.)

Bacchus! What vine hath bled into thy cup?
I see the things that have been and shall be, —
The gods, the earth-born race, the brood of Hell.
Ah me ! the pain ! the quest without an end !
For, doubtless, one in after-time will say :
Eurylochus came once to Circe’s house,
Seeking the day of his return from Troy ;
Then all the rest watched through the stormy night,
But these reclined at the ambrosial feast.
He told her all the travail they had borne ;
She gave him of the cup that loosens care.
So one will speak, weaving a winter’s tale.
Thou wilt be gladdening others with thy smiles
But I shall lie in earth in alien land.
Sweet are the lips of music, ever sweet, —
Sweetest to ears weary of wind and wave.
Soft hands ! white arms ! Why should we rise at all ?
The gods rise not; prone at perpetual feasts,
On sloping elbows they survey the world.
Why do we work, knowing no work remains
Nothing abides; our very sorrows fade,
Lest life should be made noble by despair.
No new fire-stealer will high Zeus endure,
Beak-tortured, on the lone Caucasian crag,
To mock him with the never-changing eye.
O failing heart! how all dimensions, all,
Have shriveled to the measure of thy hope!
This life, which erst seemed larger than all worlds,
Now looks less huge than the marsh-gendered fly’s.
Whose Lethean past and limitless to come
Are rounded in one little, sunny hour.
The gods are blessëd, knowing they endure;
The beasts are blest, not knowing but they last;
But man is cursëd, knowing that he dies, —
Unhappy beast, striving to be a god !
Oh for the life dreamed under drowsy boughs
By old Silenus and his careless crew !
With happy satyrs clamoring his approach
To happier fauns, who, hearing, off will flee
To prop the tipsy god, what time he nods
Upon his dripping, purple-stainëd car,
Half holding, in one lazy-dropping hand,
The leash of long-stemmed flowers wherewith he guides,
At slumber-footed pace, the flexile, sleek,
Indolent leopards, happiest of all !
Nearer the kind earth better, nearest best!
To snuff the savory steam of upturned soil;
To sally with the low-browed drove at dawn,
Gurgling or jubilantly trumpeting,
To where the sweet night-fallen acorns hide
Under the lush, cool grasses, drenched with dew!
I know the down-faced posture; now I feel
The low, four-footed firmness. Let me go !
The glaring lights are lost in grateful gloom !
And now I scent the rain-washed herbage; now
The welcome shine of slumberous pools appears —
Ah! . . .
Wendell P. Stafford.