SOME of you have heard, no doubt, of the wise King Ulysses, and
how he went to the siege of Troy, and how, after that famous
city was taken and burned, he spent ten long years in trying to
get back again to his own little kingdom of Ithaca. At one time
in the course of this weary voyage, he arrived at an island
that looked very green and pleasant, but the name of which was
unknown to him. For, only a little while before he came
thither, he had met with a terrible hurricane, or rather a
great many hurricanes at once, which drove his fleet of vessels
into a strange part of the sea, where neither himself nor any
of his mariners had ever sailed. This misfortune was entirely
owing to the foolish curiosity of his shipmates, who, while
Ulysses lay asleep, had untied some very bulky leathern bags,
in which they supposed a valuable treasure to be concealed. But
in each of these stout bags, King Æolus, the ruler of the
winds, had tied up a tempest, and had given it to Ulysses to
keep, in order that he might be sure of a favorable passage
homeward to Ithaca; and when the strings were loosened, forth
rushed the whistling blasts, like air out of a blown bladder,
whitening the sea with foam, and scattering the vessels nobody
could tell whither.
Immediately after escaping from this peril, a still greater one
had befallen him. Scudding before the hurricane, he reached a
place, which, as he afterwards found, was called Læstrygonia,
where some monstrous giants had eaten up many of his
companions, and had
 sunk every one of his vessels, except that
in which he himself sailed, by flinging great masses of rock at
them, from the cliffs along the shore. After going through such
troubles as these, you cannot wonder that King Ulysses was glad
to moor his tempest-beaten bark in a quiet cove of the green
island, which I began with telling you about. But he had
encountered so many dangers from giants, and one-eyed Cyclopes,
and monsters of the sea and land, that he could not help
dreading some mischief, even in this pleasant and seemingly
solitary spot. For two days, therefore, the poor weather-worn
voyagers kept quiet, and either stayed on board of their vessel,
or merely crept along under the cliffs that bordered the shore;
and to keep themselves alive, they dug shell-fish out of the
sand, and sought for any little rill of fresh water that might
be running towards the sea.
Before the two days were spent, they grew very weary of this
kind of life; for the followers of King Ulysses, as you will
find it important to remember, were terrible gormandizers, and
pretty sure to grumble if they missed their regulars meals, and
their irregular ones besides. Their stock of provisions was
quite exhausted, and even the shell-fish began to get scarce, so
that they had now to choose between starving to death or
venturing into the interior of the island, where perhaps some
huge three-headed dragon, or other horrible monster, had his
den. Such misshapen creatures were very numerous in those days;
and nobody ever expected to make a voyage, or take a journey,
without running more or less risk of being devoured by them.
But King Ulysses was a bold man as well as a prudent one; and
on the third morning he determined to discover what sort of a
place the island was, and whether it were possible to obtain a
supply of food for the hungry mouths of his companions. So,
taking a spear in his hand, he clambered to the summit of a
cliff, and gazed round about him. At a distance, towards the
centre of the island, he beheld the stately towers of what
seemed to be a palace, built of snow-white marble, and rising
in the midst of a grove of lofty trees. The thick branches of
these trees stretched across the front of the edifice, and more
than half concealed it, although, from the portion which he
saw, Ulysses judged it to be spacious and exceedingly
beautiful, and probably the residence of some great nobleman or
prince. A blue smoke went curling up from the chimney, and was
 almost the pleasantest part of the spectacle to Ulysses. For,
from the abundance of this smoke, it was reasonable to conclude
that there was a good fire in the kitchen, and that, at
dinner-time, a plentiful banquet would be served up to the
inhabitants of the palace, and to whatever guests might happen
to drop in.
With so agreeable a prospect before him, Ulysses fancied that
he could not do better than go straight to the palace gate, and
tell the master of it that there was a crew of poor shipwrecked
mariners, not far off, who had eaten nothing for a day or two
save a few clams and oysters, and would therefore be thankful
for a little food. And the prince or nobleman must be a very
stingy curmudgeon, to be sure, if, at least, when his own
dinner was over, he would not bid them welcome to the broken
victuals from the table.
Pleasing himself with this idea, King Ulysses had made a few
steps in the direction of the palace, when there was a great
twittering and chirping from the branch of a neighboring tree.
A moment afterwards, a bird came flying towards him, and
hovered in the air, so as almost to brush his face with its
wings. It was a very pretty little bird, with purple wings and
body, and yellow legs, and a circle of golden feathers round
its neck, and on its head a golden tuft, which looked like a
king's crown in miniature. Ulysses tried to catch the bird. But
it fluttered nimbly out of his reach, still chirping in a
piteous tone, as if it could have told a lamentable story, had
it only been gifted with human language. And when he attempted
to drive it away, the bird flew no farther than the bough of
the next tree, and again came fluttering about his head, with
its doleful chirp, as soon as he showed a purpose of going
"Have you anything to tell me, little bird?" asked Ulysses.
And he was ready to listen attentively to whatever the bird
might communicate; for at the siege of Troy, and elsewhere, he
had known such odd things to happen, that he would not have
considered it much out of the common run had this little
feathered creature talked as plainly as himself.
"Peep!" said the bird, "peep, peep, pe—weep!" And nothing else
would it say, but only, "Peep, peep, pe—weep!" in a melancholy
cadence, over and over and over again. As often as Ulysses
moved forward, however, the bird showed the greatest alarm, and
did its best to drive him back, with the anxious flutter of its
 Its unaccountable behavior made him conclude, at
last, that the bird knew of some danger that awaited him, and
which must needs be very terrible, beyond all question, since
it moved even a little fowl to feel compassion for a human
being. So he resolved, for the present, to return to the
vessel, and tell his companions what he had seen.
ULYSSES AND THE BIRD
This appeared to satisfy the bird. As soon as Ulysses turned
back, it ran up the trunk of a tree, and began to pick insects
out of the bark with its long, sharp bill; for it was a kind of
woodpecker, you must know, and had to get its living in the
same manner as other birds of that species. But every little
while, as it pecked at the bark of the tree, the purple bird
bethought itself of some secret sorrow, and repeated its
plaintive note of "Peep, peep, pe—weep!"
On his way to the shore, Ulysses had the good luck to kill a
large stag by thrusting his spear into its back. Taking it on
his shoulders (for he was a remarkably strong man), he lugged
it along with him, and flung it down before his hungry
companions. I have already hinted to you what gormandizers some
of the comrades of King Ulysses were. From what is related of
them, I reckon that their favorite diet was pork, and that they
had lived upon it until a good part of their physical substance
was swine's flesh, and their tempers and dispositions were very
much akin to the hog. A dish of venison, however, was no
unacceptable meal to them, especially after feeding so long on
oysters and clams. So, beholding the dead stag, they felt of
its ribs, in a knowing way, and lost no time in kindling a fire,
of drift-wood, to cook it. The rest of the day was spent in
feasting; and if these enormous eaters got up from table at
sunset, it was only because they could not scrape another
morsel off the poor animal's bones.
The next morning their appetites were as sharp as ever. They
looked at Ulysses, as if they expected him to clamber up the
cliff again, and come back with another fat deer upon his
shoulders. Instead of setting out, however, he summoned the
whole crew together, and told them it was in vain to hope that
he could kill a stag every day for their dinner, and therefore
it was advisable to think of some other mode of satisfying
"Now," said he, "when I was on the cliff yesterday, I
discovered that this island is inhabited. At a considerable
distance from the
 shore stood a marble palace, which appeared
to be very spacious, and had a great deal of smoke curling out
of one of its chimneys."
"Aha!" muttered some of his companions, smacking their lips.
"That smoke must have come from the kitchen fire. There was a
good dinner on the spit; and no doubt there will be as good a
"But," continued the wise Ulysses, "you must remember, my good
friends, our misadventure in the cavern of one-eyed Polyphemus,
the Cyclops! Instead of his ordinary milk diet, did he not eat
up two of our comrades for his supper, and a couple more for
breakfast, and two at his supper again? Methinks I see him yet,
the hideous monster, scanning us with that great red eye, in
the middle of his forehead, to single out the fattest. And
then, again, only a few days ago, did we not fall into the
hands of the king of the Læstrygons, and those other horrible
giants, his subjects, who devoured a great many more of us than
are now left? To tell you the truth, if we go to yonder palace,
there can be no question that we shall make our appearance at
the dinner-table; but whether seated as guests, or served up as
food, is a point to be seriously considered."
"Either way," murmured some of the hungriest of the crew, "it
will be better than starvation; particularly if one could be
sure of being well fattened beforehand, and daintily cooked
"That is a matter of taste," said King Ulysses, "and, for my
own part, neither the most careful fattening nor the daintiest
of cookery would reconcile me to being dished at last. My
proposal is, therefore, that we divide ourselves into two equal
parties, and ascertain, by drawing lots, which of the two shall
go to the palace, and beg for food and assistance. If these can
be obtained, all is well. If not, and if the inhabitants prove
as inhospitable as Polyphemus, or the Læstrygons, then there
will but half of us perish, and the remainder may set sail and
As nobody objected to this scheme, Ulysses proceeded to count
the whole band, and found that there were forty-six men
including himself. He then numbered off twenty-two of them, and
put Eurylochus (who was one of his chief officers, and second
only to himself in sagacity) at their head. Ulysses took
command of the remaining twenty-two men, in person. Then,
taking off his helmet, he put two shells into it, on one of
which was written, "Go," and on the
 other "Stay." Another
person now held the helmet, while Ulysses and Eurylochus drew
out each a shell; and the word "Go" was found written on that
which Eurylochus had drawn. In this manner, it was decided that
Ulysses and his twenty-two men were to remain at the seaside
until the other party should have found out what sort of
treatment they might expect at the mysterious palace.
was no help for it, Eurylochus immediately set forth at the
head of his twenty-two followers, who went off in a very
melancholy state of mind, leaving their friends in hardly
better spirits than themselves.
No sooner had they clambered up the cliff, than they discerned
the tall marble towers of the palace, ascending, as white as
snow, out of the lovely green shadow of the trees which
surrounded it. A gush of smoke came from a chimney in the rear
of the edifice. This vapor rose high in the air, and, meeting
with a breeze, was wafted seaward, and made to pass over the
heads of the hungry mariners. When people's appetites are keen,
they have a very quick scent for anything savory in the wind.
"That smoke comes from the kitchen!" cried one of them, turning
up his nose as high as he could, and snuffing eagerly. "And, as
sure as I'm a half-starved vagabond, I smell roast meat in it."
"Pig, roast pig!" said another. "Ah, the dainty little porker!
My mouth waters for him."
"Let us make haste," cried the others, "or we shall be too late
for the good cheer! "
But scarcely had they made half a dozen steps from the edge of
the cliff, when a bird came fluttering to meet them. It was the
same pretty little bird, with the purple wings and body, the
yellow legs, the golden collar round its neck, and the
crown-like tuft upon its head, whose behavior had so much
surprised Ulysses. It hovered about Eurylochus, and almost
brushed his face with its wings.
"Peep, peep, pe—weep!" chirped the bird.
So plaintively intelligent was the sound, that it seemed as if
the little creature were going to break its heart with some
mighty secret that it had to tell, and only this one poor note
to tell it with.
"My pretty bird," said Eurylochus,—for he was a wary person,
and let no token of harm escape his notice,—"my pretty bird,
who sent you hither? And what is the message which you bring?"
 "Peep, peep, pe—weep!" replied the bird, very sorrowfully.
Then it flew towards the edge of the cliff, and looked round
at them, as if exceedingly anxious that they should return
whence they came. Eurylochus and a few of the others were
inclined to turn back. They could not help suspecting that the
purple bird must be aware of something mischievous that would
befall them at the palace, and the knowledge of which affected
its airy spirit with a human sympathy and sorrow. But the rest
of the voyagers, snuffing up the smoke from the palace kitchen,
ridiculed the idea of returning to the vessel. One of them
(more brutal than his fellows, and the most notorious
gormandizer in the crew) said such a cruel and wicked thing,
that I wonder the mere thought did not turn him into a wild
beast, in shape, as he already was in his nature.
"This troublesome and impertinent little fowl," said he, "would
make a delicate tidbit to begin dinner with. Just one plump
morsel, melting away between the teeth. If he comes within my
reach, I'll catch him, and give him to the palace cook to be
roasted on a skewer."
The words were hardly out of his mouth, before the purple bird
flew away, crying, "Peep, peep, pe—weep," more dolorously than
"That bird," remarked Eurylochus, "knows more than we do about
what awaits us at the palace."
"Come on, then," cried his comrades, "and we'll soon know as
much as he dœs."
The party, accordingly, went onward through the green and
pleasant wood. Every little while they caught new glimpses of
the marble palace, which looked more and more beautiful the
nearer they approached it. They soon entered a broad pathway,
which seemed to be very neatly kept, and which went winding
along with streaks of sunshine falling across it, and specks of
light quivering among the deepest shadows that fell from the
lofty trees. It was bordered, too, with a great many
sweet-smelling flowers, such as the mariners had never seen
before. So rich and beautiful they were, that, if the shrubs
grew wild here, and were native in the soil, then this island
was surely the flower-garden of the whole earth; or, if
transplanted from some other clime, it must have been from the
Happy Islands that lay towards the golden sunset.
 "There has been a great deal of pains foolishly wasted on these
flowers," observed one of the company; and I tell you what he
said, that you may keep in mind what gormandizers they were.
"For my part, if I were the owner of the palace, I would bid my
gardener cultivate nothing but savory potherbs to make a
stuffing for roast meat, or to flavor a stew with."
"Well said!" cried the others. "But I'll warrant you there's a
kitchen-garden in the rear of the palace."
At one place they came to a crystal spring, and paused to drink
at it for want of liquor which they liked better. Looking into
its bosom, they beheld their own faces dimly reflected, but so
extravagantly distorted by the gush and motion of the water,
that each one of them appeared to be laughing at himself and
all his companions. So ridiculous were these images of
themselves, indeed, that they did really laugh aloud, and could
hardly be grave again as soon as they wished. And after they
had drank, they grew still merrier than before.
"It has a twang of the wine-cask in it," said one, smacking his
"Make haste!" cried his fellows; "we'll find the wine-cask
itself at the palace; and that will be better than a hundred
Then they quickened their pace, and capered for joy at the
thought of the savory banquet at which they hoped to be guests;
but Eurylochus told them that he felt as if he were walking in
"If I am really awake," continued he, "then, in my opinion, we
are on the point of meeting with some stranger adventure than
any that befell us in the cave of Polyphemus, or among the
gigantic man-eating Læstrygons, or in the windy palace of King
Æolus, which stands on a brazen-walled island. This kind of
dreamy feeling always comes over me before any wonderful
occurrence. If you take my advice, you will turn back."
"No, no," answered his comrades, snuffing the air, in which the
scent from the palace kitchen was now very perceptible. "We
would not turn back, though we were certain that the king of
the Læstrygons, as big as a mountain, would sit at the head of
the table, and huge Polyphemus, the one-eyed Cyclops, at its
At length they came within full sight of the palace, which
 to be very large and lofty, with a great number of airy
pinnacles upon its roof. Though it was now midday, and the sun
shone brightly over the marble front, yet its snowy whiteness,
and its fantastic style of architecture, made it look unreal,
like the frostwork on a window-pane, or like the shapes of
castles which one sees among the clouds by moonlight. But, just
then, a puff of wind brought down the smoke of the kitchen
chimney among them, and caused each man to smell the odor of
the dish that he liked best; and, after scenting it, they
thought everything else moonshine, and nothing real save this
palace, and save the banquet that was evidently ready to be
served up in it.
So they hastened their steps toward the portal, but had not
got half-way across the wide lawn, when a pack of lions,
tigers, and wolves came bounding to meet them. The terrified
mariners started back, expecting no better fate than to be torn
to pieces and devoured. To their surprise and joy, however,
these wild beasts merely capered around them, wagging their
tails, offering their heads to be stroked and patted, and
behaving just like so many well-bred house dogs when they wish
to express their delight at meeting their master, or their
master's friends. The biggest lion licked the feet of
Eurylochus; and every other lion, and every wolf and tiger,
singled out one of his two-and-twenty followers, whom the beast
fondled as if he loved him better than a beef-bone.
But, for all that, Eurylochus imagined that he saw something
fierce and savage in their eyes; nor would he have been
surprised, at any moment, to feel the big lion's terrible
claws, or to see each of the tigers make a deadly spring,
or each wolf leap at the throat of the man whom he had fondled.
Their mildness seemed unreal, and a mere freak; but their
savage nature was as true as their teeth and claws.
Nevertheless, the men went safely across the lawn with the wild
beasts frisking about them, and doing no manner of harm;
although, as they mounted the steps of the palace, you might
possibly have heard a low growl, particularly from the wolves;
as if they thought it a pity, after all, to let the strangers
pass without so much as tasting what they were made of.
Eurylochus and his followers now passed under a lofty portal,
and looked through the open doorway into the interior of the
 The first thing that they saw was a spacious hall, and
a fountain in the middle of it, gushing up towards the ceiling
out of a marble basin, and falling back into it with a
continual plash. The water of this fountain, as it spouted
upward, was constantly taking new shapes, not very distinctly,
but plainly enough for a nimble fancy to recognize what they
were. Now it was the shape of a man in a long robe, the fleecy
whiteness of which was made out of the fountain's spray; now it
was a lion, or a tiger, or a wolf, or an ass, or, as often as
anything else, a hog, wallowing in the marble basin as if it
were his sty. It was either magic or some very curious
machinery that caused the gushing waterspout to assume all
these forms. But, before the strangers had time to look closely
at this wonderful sight, their attention was drawn off by a
very sweet and agreeable sound. A woman's voice was singing
melodiously in another room of the palace, and with her voice
was mingled the noise of a loom, at which she was probably
seated, weaving a rich texture of cloth, and intertwining the
high and low sweetness of her voice into a rich tissue of
By and by, the song came to an end; and then, all at once,
there were several feminine voices, talking airily and
cheerfully, with now and then a merry burst of laughter, such
as you may always hear when three or four young women sit at
"What a sweet song that was!" exclaimed one of the voyagers.
"Too sweet, indeed," answered Eurylochus, shaking his head.
"Yet it was not so sweet as the song of the Sirens, those
birdlike damsels who wanted to tempt us on the rocks, so that
our vessel might be wrecked, and our bones left whitening along
"But just listen to the pleasant voices of those maidens, and
that buzz of the loom, as the shuttle passes to and fro," said
another comrade. "What a domestic, household, homelike sound
it is! Ah, before that weary siege of Troy, I used to hear the
buzzing loom and the women's voices under my own roof. Shall I
never hear them again? nor taste those nice little savory
dishes which my dearest wife knew how to serve up?"
"Tush! we shall fare better here," said another. "But how
innocently those women are babbling together, without guessing
that we overhear them! And mark that richest voice of all, so
pleasant and familiar, but which yet seems to have the
authority of a mistress
 among them. Let us show ourselves at
once. What harm can the lady of the palace and her maidens do
to mariners and warriors like us?"
"Remember," said Eurylochus, "that it was a young maiden who
beguiled three of our friends into the palace of the king of
the Læstrygons, who ate up one of them in the twinkling of an
No warning or persuasion, however, had any effect on his
companions. They went up to a pair of folding-doors at the
farther end of the hall, and throwing them wide open, passed
into the next room. Eurylochus, meanwhile, had stepped behind a
pillar. In the short moment while the folding-doors opened and
closed again, he caught a glimpse of a very beautiful woman
rising from the loom, and coming to meet the poor
weather-beaten wanderers, with a hospitable smile, and her hand
stretched out in welcome. There were four other young women,
who joined their hands and danced merrily forward, making
gestures of obeisance to the strangers. They were only less
beautiful than the lady who seemed to be their mistress. Yet
Eurylochus fancied that one of them had sea-green hair, and
that the close-fitting bodice of a second looked like the bark
of a tree, and that both the others had something odd in their
aspect, although he could not quite determine what it was, in
the little while that he had to examine them.
The folding doors swung quickly back, and left him standing
behind the pillar, in the solitude of the outer hall. There
Eurylochus waited until he was quite weary, and listened
eagerly to every sound, but without hearing anything that could
help him to guess what had become of his friends. Footsteps, it
is true, seemed to be passing and repassing, in other parts of
the palace. Then there was a clatter of silver dishes, or
golden ones, which made him imagine a rich feast in a splendid
banqueting-hall. But by and by he heard a tremendous grunting
and squealing, and then a sudden scampering, like that of
small, hard hoofs over a marble floor, while the voices of the
mistress and her four handmaidens were screaming all together,
in tones of anger and derision. Eurylochus could not conceive
what had happened, unless a drove of swine had broken into the
palace, attracted by the smell of the feast. Chancing to cast
his eyes at the fountain, he saw that it did not shift its
shape, as formerly, nor looked either like a long-robed man, or
a lion, a tiger,
 a wolf, or an ass. It looked like nothing but
a hog, which lay wallowing in the marble basin, and filled it
from brim to brim.
But we must leave the prudent Eurylochus waiting in the outer
hall, and follow his friends into the inner secrecy of the
palace. As soon as the beautiful woman saw them, she arose from
the loom, as I have told you, and came forward, smiling, and
stretching out her hand. She took the hand of the foremost
among them, and bade him and the whole party welcome.
"You have been long expected, my good friends," said she. "I
and my maidens are well acquainted with you, although you do
not appear to recognize us. Look at this piece of tapestry, and
judge if your faces must not have been familiar to us."
So the voyagers examined the web of cloth which the beautiful
woman had been weaving in her loom; and, to their vast
astonishment, they saw their own figures perfectly represented
in different colored threads. It was a lifelike picture of
their recent adventures, showing them in the cave of
Polyphemus, and how they had put out his one great moony eye;
while in another part of the tapestry they were untying the
leathern bags, puffed out with contrary winds; and farther on,
they beheld themselves scampering away from the gigantic king
of the Læstrygons, who had caught one of them by the leg.
Lastly, there they were, sitting on the desolate shore of this
very island, hungry and downcast, and looking ruefully at the
bare bones of the stag which they devoured yesterday. This was
as far as the work had yet proceeded; but when the beautiful
woman should again sit down at her loom, she would probably
make a picture of what had since happened to the strangers, and
of what was now going to happen.
"You see," she said, "that I know all about your troubles; and
you cannot doubt that I desire to make you happy for as long a
time as you may remain with me. For this purpose, my honored
guests, I have ordered a banquet to be prepared. Fish, fowl,
and flesh, roasted, and in luscious stews, and seasoned, I
trust, to all your tastes, are ready to be served up. If your
appetites tell you it is dinner-time, then come with me to the
At this kind invitation, the hungry mariners were quite
overjoyed; and one of them, taking upon himself to be
spokesman, assured their hospitable hostess that any hour of
the day was dinner-time
 with them, whenever they could get
flesh to put in the pot, and fire to boil it with. So the
beautiful woman led the way; and the four maidens (one of them
had sea-green hair, another a bodice of oak bark, a third
sprinkled a shower of water-drops from her fingers' ends, and
the fourth had some other oddity, which I have forgotten), all
these followed behind, and hurried the guests along, until they
entered a magnificent saloon. It was built in a perfect oval,
and lighted from a crystal dome above. Around the walls were
ranged two-and-twenty thrones, overhung by canopies of crimson
and gold, and provided with the softest of cushions, which were
tasselled and fringed with gold cord. Each of the strangers was
invited to sit down; and there they were, two-and-twenty storm-beaten
mariners, in worn and tattered garb, sitting on two-and-twenty
cushioned and canopied thrones, so rich and gorgeous
that the proudest monarch had nothing more splendid in his
Then you might have seen the guests nodding, winking with one
eye, and leaning from one throne to another, to communicate
their satisfaction in hoarse whispers.
"Our good hostess has made kings of us all," said one. "Ha! do
you smell the feast? I'll engage it will be fit to set before
"I hope," said another, "it will be, mainly, good substantial
joints, sirloins, spareribs, and hinder quarters, without too
many kickshaws. If I thought the good lady would not take it
amiss, I should call for a fat slice of fried bacon to begin
Ah, the gluttons and gormandizers! You see how it was with
them. In the loftiest seats of dignity, on royal thrones, they
could think of nothing but their greedy appetite, which was the
portion of their nature that they shared with wolves and swine;
so that they resembled those vilest of animals far more than
they did kings,—if, indeed, kings were what they ought to be.
But the beautiful woman now clapped her hands; and immediately
there entered a train of two-and-twenty serving-men, bringing
dishes of the richest food, all hot from the kitchen fire, and
sending up such a steam that it hung like a cloud below the
crystal dome of the saloon. An equal number of attendants
brought great flagons of wine, of various kinds, some of which
sparkled as it was poured out, and went bubbling down the
throat; while, of other sorts, the
 purple liquor was so clear
that you could see the wrought figures at the bottom of the
goblet. While the servants supplied the two-and-twenty guests
with food and drink, the hostess and her four maidens went from
one throne to another, exhorting them to eat their fill, and to
quaff wine abundantly, and thus to recompense themselves, at
this one banquet, for the many days when they had gone without
a dinner. But whenever the mariners were not looking at them
(which was pretty often, as they looked chiefly into the basins
and platters), the beautiful woman and her damsels turned
aside, and laughed. Even the servants, as they knelt down to
present the dishes, might be seen to grin and sneer, while the
guests were helping themselves to the offered dainties.
And, once in a while, the strangers seemed to taste something
that they did not like.
"Here is an odd kind of a spice in this dish," said one. "I can't
say it quite suits my palate. Down it goes, however."
"Send a good draught of wine down your throat," said his
comrade on the next throne. "That is the stuff to make this
sort of cookery relish well. Though I must needs say, the wine
has a queer taste too. But the more I drink of it the better I
like the flavor."
Whatever little fault they might find with the dishes, they sat
at dinner a prodigiously long while; and it would really have
made you ashamed to see how they swilled down the liquor and
gobbled up the food. They sat on golden thrones, to be sure;
but they behaved like pigs in a sty; and, if they had had their
wits about them, they might have guessed that this was the
opinion of their beautiful hostess and her maidens. It brings a
blush into my face to reckon up, in my own mind, what mountains
of meat and pudding, and what gallons of wine, these two-and-twenty
guzzlers and gormandizers ate and drank. They forgot all
about their homes, and their wives and children, and all about
Ulysses, and everything else, except this banquet, at which
they wanted to keep feasting forever. But at length they began
to give over, from mere incapacity to hold any more.
"That last bit of fat is too much for me," said one.
"And I have not room for another morsel," said his next
neighbor, heaving a sigh. "What a pity! My appetite is as sharp
In short, they all left off eating, and leaned back on their
 with such a stupid and helpless aspect as made them
ridiculous to behold. When their hostess saw this, she laughed
aloud; so did her four damsels; so did the two-and-twenty
serving-men that bore the dishes, and their two-and-twenty
fellows that poured out the wine. And the louder they all
laughed, the more stupid and helpless did the two-and-twenty
gormandizers look. Then the beautiful woman took her stand in
the middle of the saloon, and stretching out a slender rod (it
had been all the while in her hand, although they never noticed
it till this moment), she turned it from one guest to another,
until each had felt it pointed at himself. Beautiful as her
face was, and though there was a smile on it, it looked just as
wicked and mischievous as the ugliest serpent that ever was
seen; and fat-witted as the voyagers had made themselves, they
began to suspect that they had fallen into the power of an
"Wretches," cried she, "you have abused a lady's hospitality;
and in this princely saloon your behavior has been suited to a
hog-pen. You are already swine in everything but the human
form, which you disgrace, and which I myself should be ashamed
to keep a moment longer, were you to share it with me. But it
will require only the slightest exercise of magic to make the
exterior conform to the hoggish disposition. Assume your proper
shapes, gormandizers, and begone to the sty!"
Uttering these last words, she waved her wand; and stamping her
foot imperiously, each of the guests was struck aghast at
beholding, instead of his comrades in human shape, one-and-twenty
hogs sitting on the same number of golden thrones. Each
man (as he still supposed himself to be) essayed to give a cry
of surprise, but found that he could merely grunt, and that, in
a word, he was just such another beast as his companions. It
looked so intolerably absurd to see hogs on cushioned thrones,
that they made haste to wallow down upon all fours, like other
swine. They tried to groan and beg for mercy, but forthwith
emitted the most awful grunting and squealing that ever came
out of swinish throats. They would have wrung their hands in
despair, but, attempting to do so, grew all the more desperate
for seeing themselves squatted on their hams, and pawing the
air with their fore trotters. Dear me! what pendulous ears they
had! what little red eyes, half buried in fat! and what long
snouts, instead of Grecian noses!
 But brutes as they certainly were, they yet had enough of human
nature in them to be shocked at their own hideousness; and,
still intending to groan, they uttered a viler grunt and squeal
than before. So harsh and ear-piercing it was, that you would
have fancied a butcher was sticking his knife into each of
their throats, or, at the very least, that somebody was pulling
every hog by his funny little twist of a tail.
"Begone to your sty!" cried the enchantress, giving them some
smart strokes with her wand; and then she turned to the
serving-men, "Drive out these swine, and throw down some acorns for
them to eat."
CIRCE AND THE SWINE
The door of the saloon being flung open, the drove of hogs ran
in all directions save the right one, in accordance with their
hoggish perversity, but were finally driven into the back yard
of the palace. It was a sight to bring tears into one's eyes
(and I hope none of you will be cruel enough to laugh at it),
to see the poor creatures go snuffing along, picking up here a
cabbage leaf and there a turnip-top, and rooting their noses in
the earth for whatever they could find. In their sty, moreover,
they behaved more piggishly than the pigs that had been born
so; for they bit and snorted at one another, put their feet in
the trough, and gobbled up their victuals in a ridiculous
hurry; and, when there was nothing more to be had, they made a
great pile of themselves among some unclean straw, and fell
fast asleep. If they had any human reason left, it was just
enough to keep them wondering when they should be slaughtered,
and what quality of bacon they should make.
Meantime, as I told you before, Eurylochus had waited, and
waited, and waited, in the entrance-hall of the palace, without
being able to comprehend what had befallen his friends. At
last, when the swinish uproar resounded through the palace, and
when he saw the image of a hog in the marble basin, he thought
it best to hasten back to the vessel, and inform the wise
Ulysses of these marvellous occurrences. So he ran as fast as he
could down the steps, and never stopped to draw breath till he
reached the shore.
"Why do you come alone?" asked King Ulysses, as soon as he saw
him. "Where are your two-and-twenty comrades?"
At these questions, Eurylochus burst into tears.
"Alas!" cried he, "I greatly fear that we shall never see one
of their faces again."
 Then he told Ulysses all that had happened, as far as he knew
it, and added that he suspected the beautiful woman to be a
vile enchantress, and the marble palace, magnificent as it
looked, to be only a dismal cavern in reality. As for his
companions, he could not imagine what had become of them,
unless they had been given to the swine to be devoured alive.
At this intelligence, all the voyagers were greatly affrighted.
But Ulysses lost no time in girding on his sword, and hanging
his bow and quiver over his shoulders, and taking a spear in
his right hand. When his followers saw their wise leader making
these preparations, they inquired whither he was going, and
earnestly besought him not to leave them.
"You are our king," cried they; "and what is more, you are the
wisest man in the whole world, and nothing but your wisdom and
courage can get us out of this danger. If you desert us, and go
to the enchanted palace, you will suffer the same fate as our
poor companions, and not a soul of us will ever see our dear
"As I am your king," answered Ulysses, "and wiser than any of
you, it is therefore the more my duty to see what has befallen
our comrades, and whether anything can yet be done to rescue
them. Wait for me here until tomorrow. If I do not then return,
you must hoist sail, and endeavor to find your way to our
native land. For my part, I am answerable for the fate of these
poor mariners, who have stood by my side in battle, and been so
often drenched to the skin, along with me, by the same
tempestuous surges. I will either bring them back with me, or
Had his followers dared, they would have detained him by force.
But King Ulysses frowned sternly on them, and shook his spear,
and bade them stop him at their peril. Seeing him so
determined, they let him go, and sat down on the sand, as
disconsolate a set of people as could be, waiting and praying
for his return.
It happened to Ulysses, just as before, that, when he had gone
a few steps from the edge of the cliff, the purple bird came
fluttering towards him, crying, "Peep, peep, pe—weep!" and
using all the art it could to persuade him to go no farther.
"What mean you, little bird?" cried Ulysses. "You are arrayed
like a king in purple and gold, and wear a golden crown upon
your head. Is it because I too am a king, that you desire so
earnestly to speak with me? If you can talk in human language,
say what you would have me do."
 "Peep!" answered the purple bird, very dolorously. "Peep, peep,
Certainly there lay some heavy anguish at the little bird's
heart; and it was a sorrowful predicament that he could not, at
least, have the consolation of telling what it was. But Ulysses
had no time to waste in trying to get at the mystery. He
therefore quickened his pace, and had gone a good way along the
pleasant wood-path, when there met him a young man of very
brisk and intelligent aspect, and clad in a rather singular
garb. He wore a short cloak and a sort of cap that seemed to be
furnished with a pair of wings; and from the lightness of his
step, you would have supposed that there might likewise be
wings on his feet. To enable him to walk still better (for he
was always on one journey or another) he carried a winged
staff, around which two serpents were wriggling and twisting.
In short, I have said enough to make you guess that it was
Quicksilver; and Ulysses (who knew him of old, and had learned
a great deal of his wisdom from him) recognized him in a
"Whither are you going in such a hurry, wise Ulysses?" asked
Quicksilver. "Do you not know that this island is enchanted?
The wicked enchantress (whose name is Circe, the sister of King
Æetes) dwells in the marble palace which you see yonder among
the trees. By her magic arts she changes every human being into
the brute, beast, or fowl whom he happens most to resemble."
"That little bird, which met me at the edge of the cliff,"
exclaimed Ulysses; "was he a human being once?"
"Yes," answered Quicksilver. "He was once a king, named Picus,
and a pretty good sort of a king, too, only rather too proud of
his purple robe, and his crown, and the golden chain about his
neck; so he was forced to take the shape of a gaudy-feathered
bird. The lions, and wolves, and tigers, who will come running
to meet you, in front of the palace, were formerly fierce and
cruel men, resembling in their disposition the wild beasts
whose forms they now rightfully wear."
"And my poor companions," said Ulysses. "Have they undergone a
similar change, through the arts of this wicked Circe?"
"You well know what gormandizers they were," replied
Quicksilver; and, rogue that he was, he could not help laughing
at the joke. "So you will not be surprised to hear that they
 taken the shapes of swine! If Circe had never done
anything worse, I really should not think her so much to
"But can I do nothing to help them?" inquired Ulysses.
"It will require all your wisdom," said Quicksilver, "and a
little of my own into the bargain, to keep your royal and
sagacious self from being transformed into a fox. But do as I
bid you; and the matter may end better than it has begun."
While he was speaking, Quicksilver seemed to be in search of
something; he went stooping along the ground, and soon laid his
hand on a little plant with a snow-white flower, which he
plucked and smelt of. Ulysses had been looking at that very
spot only just before; and it appeared to him that the plant
had burst into full flower the instant when Quicksilver touched
it with his fingers.
"Take this flower, King Ulysses," said he. "Guard it as you do
your eyesight; for I can assure you it is exceedingly rare and
precious, and you might seek the whole earth over without ever
finding another like it. Keep it in your hand, and smell of it
frequently after you enter the palace, and while you are
talking with the enchantress. Especially when she offers you
food, or a draught of wine out of her goblet, be careful to
fill your nostrils with the flower's fragrance. Follow these
directions, and you may defy her magic arts to change you into
Quicksilver then gave him some further advice how to behave,
and bidding him be bold and prudent, again assured him that,
powerful as Circe was, he would have a fair prospect of coming
safely out of her enchanted palace. After listening
attentively, Ulysses thanked his good friend, and resumed his
way. But he had taken only a few steps, when, recollecting some
other questions which he wished to ask, he turned round again,
and beheld nobody on the spot where Quicksilver had stood; for
that winged cap of his, and those winged shœs, with the help
of the winged staff, had carried him quickly out of sight.
When Ulysses reached the lawn, in front of the palace, the
lions and other savage animals came bounding to meet him, and
would have fawned upon him and licked his feet. But the wise
king struck at them with his long spear, and sternly bade them
begone out of his path; for he knew that they had once been
bloodthirsty men, and would now tear him limb from limb,
instead of fawning
 upon him, could they do the mischief that
was in their hearts. The wild beasts yelped and glared at him,
and stood at a distance, while he ascended the palace steps.
On entering the hall, Ulysses saw the magic fountain in the
centre of it. The up-gushing water had now again taken the
shape of a man in a long, white, fleecy robe, who appeared to
be making gestures of welcome. The king likewise heard the
noise of the shuttle in the loom, and the sweet melody of the
beautiful woman's song, and then the pleasant voices of herself
and the four maidens talking together, with peals of merry
laughter intermixed. But Ulysses did not waste any time in
listening to the laughter or the song. He leaned his spear
against one of the pillars of the hall, and then, after
loosening his sword in the scabbard, stepped boldly forward,
and threw the folding-doors wide open. The moment she beheld
his stately figure standing in the doorway, the beautiful woman
rose from the loom, and ran to meet him with a glad smile
throwing its sunshine over her face, and both her hands
"Welcome, brave stranger!" cried she. "We were expecting you."
And the nymph with the sea-green hair made a courtesy down to
the ground, and likewise bade him welcome; so did her sister
with the bodice of oaken bark, and she that sprinkled dew-drops
from her fingers' ends, and the fourth one with some oddity
which I cannot remember. And Circe, as the beautiful
enchantress was called (who had deluded so many persons that
she did not doubt of being able to delude Ulysses, not
imagining how wise he was), again addressed him:
"Your companions," said she, "have already been received into
my palace, and have enjoyed the hospitable treatment to which
the propriety of their behavior so well entitles them. If such
be your pleasure, you shall first take some refreshment, and
then join them in the elegant apartment which they now occupy.
See, I and my maidens have been weaving their figures into this
piece of tapestry."
She pointed to the web of beautifully woven cloth in the loom.
Circe and the four nymphs must have been very diligently at
work since the arrival of the mariners; for a great many yards
of tapestry had now been wrought, in addition to what I before
described. In this new part, Ulysses saw his two-and-twenty
 as sitting on cushions and canopied
thrones, greedily devouring dainties, and quaffing deep
draughts of wine. The work had not yet gone any further. Oh no,
indeed. The enchantress was far too cunning to let Ulysses see
the mischief which her magic arts had since brought upon the
"As for yourself, valiant sir," said Circe, "judging by the
dignity of your aspect, I take you to be nothing less than a
king. Deign to follow me, and you shall be treated as befits
So Ulysses followed her into the oval saloon, where his
two-and-twenty comrades had devoured the banquet, which ended so
disastrously for themselves. But, all this while, he had held
the snow-white flower in his hand, and had constantly smelt of
it while Circe was speaking; and as he crossed the threshold of
the saloon, he took good care to inhale several long and deep
snuffs of its fragrance. Instead of two-and-twenty thrones,
which had been before ranged around the wall, there was now
only a single throne, in the centre of the apartment. But this
was surely the most magnificent seat that ever a king or an
emperor reposed himself upon, all made of chased gold, studded
with precious stones, with a cushion that looked like a soft
heap of living roses, and overhung by a canopy of sunlight
which Circe knew how to weave into drapery. The enchantress
took Ulysses by the hand, and made him sit down upon this
dazzling throne. Then, clapping her hands, she summoned the
"Bring hither," said she, "the goblet that is set apart for
kings to drink out of. And fill it with the same delicious wine
which my royal brother, King Æetes, praised so highly, when he
last visited me with my fair daughter Medea. That good and
amiable child! Were she now here, it would delight her to see
me offering this wine to my honored guest."
But Ulysses, while the butler was gone for the wine, held the
snow-white flower to his nose.
"Is it a wholesome wine?" he asked.
At this the four maidens tittered; whereupon the enchantress
looked round at them, with an aspect of severity.
"It is the wholesomest juice that ever was squeezed out of the
grape," said she; "for, instead of disguising a man, as other
liquor is apt to do, it brings him to his true self, and shows
him as he ought to be."
 The chief butler liked nothing better than to see people turned
into swine, or making any kind of a beast of themselves; so he
made haste to bring the royal goblet, filled with a liquid as
bright as gold, and which kept sparkling upward, and throwing a
sunny spray over the brim. But, delightfully as the wine
looked, it was mingled with the most potent enchantments that
Circe knew how to concoct. For every drop of the pure
grape-juice there were two drops of the pure mischief; and the danger
of the thing was, that the mischief made it taste all the
better. The mere smell of the bubbles, which effervesced at the
brim, was enough to turn a man's beard into pig's bristles, or
make a lion's claws grow out of his fingers, or a fox's brush
"Drink, my noble guest," said Circe, smiling, as she presented
him with the goblet. "You will find in this draught a solace
for all your troubles."
King Ulysses took the goblet with his right hand, while with
his left he held the snow-white flower to his nostrils, and
drew in so long a breath that his lungs were quite filled with
its pure and simple fragrance. Then, drinking off all the wine,
he looked the enchantress calmly in the face.
"Wretch," cried Circe, giving him a smart stroke with her wand,
"how dare you keep your human shape a moment longer? Take the
form of the brute whom you most resemble. If a hog, go join
your fellow-swine in the sty; if a lion, a wolf, a tiger, go
howl with the wild beasts on the lawn; if a fox, go exercise
your craft in stealing poultry. Thou hast quaffed off my wine,
and canst be man no longer."
But, such was the virtue of the snow-white flower, instead of
wallowing down from his throne in swinish shape, or taking any
other brutal form, Ulysses looked even more manly and king-like
than before. He gave the magic goblet a toss, and sent it
clashing over the marble floor, to the farthest end of the
saloon. Then, drawing his sword, he seized the enchantress by
her beautiful ringlets, and made a gesture as if he meant to
strike off her head at one blow.
"Wicked Circe," cried he, in a terrible voice, "this sword
shall put an end to thy enchantments. Thou shalt die, vile
wretch, and do no more mischief in the world, by tempting human
beings into the vices which make beasts of them."
 The tone and countenance of Ulysses were so awful, and his
sword gleamed so brightly, and seemed to have so intolerably
keen an edge, that Circe was almost killed by the mere fright,
without waiting for a blow. The chief butler scrambled out of
the saloon, picking up the golden goblet as he went; and the
enchantress and the four maidens fell on their knees, wringing
their hands, and screaming for mercy.
"Spare me!" cried Circe,—"spare me, royal and wise Ulysses. For
now I know that thou art he of whom Quicksilver forewarned me,
the most prudent of mortals, against whom no enchantments can
prevail. Thou only couldst have conquered Circe. Spare me,
wisest of men. I will show thee true hospitality, and even give
myself to be thy slave, and this magnificent palace to be
henceforth thy home."
The four nymphs, meanwhile, were making a most piteous ado; and
especially the ocean-nymph, with the sea-green hair, wept a
great deal of salt water, and the fountain-nymph, besides
scattering dew-drops from her fingers' ends, nearly melted away
into tears. But Ulysses would not be pacified until Circe had
taken a solemn oath to change back his companions, and as many
others as he should direct, from their present forms of beast
or bird into their former shapes of men.
"On these conditions," said he, "I consent to spare your life.
Otherwise you must die upon the spot."
With a drawn sword hanging over her, the enchantress would
readily have consented to do as much good as she had hitherto
done mischief, however little she might like such employment.
She therefore led Ulysses out of the back entrance of the
palace, and showed him the swine in their sty. There were about
fifty of these unclean beasts in the whole herd; and though the
greater part were hogs by birth and education, there was
wonderfully little difference to be seen betwixt them and their
new brethren who had so recently worn the human shape. To
speak critically, indeed, the latter rather carried the thing
to excess, and seemed to make it a point to wallow in the
miriest part of the sty, and otherwise to outdo the original
swine in their own natural vocation. When men once turn to
brutes, the trifle of man's wit that remains in them adds
tenfold to their brutality.
 The comrades of Ulysses, however, had not quite lost the
remembrance of having formerly stood erect. When he approached
the sty, two-and-twenty enormous swine separated themselves
from the herd, and scampered towards him, with such a chorus of
horrible squealing as made him clap both hands to his ears. And
yet they did not seem to know what they wanted, nor whether
they were merely hungry, or miserable from some other cause. It
was curious, in the midst of their distress, to observe them
thrusting their noses into the mire, in quest of something to
eat. The nymph with the bodice of oaken bark (she was the
hamadryad of an oak) threw a handful of acorns among them; and
the two-and-twenty hogs scrambled and fought for the prize, as
if they had tasted not so much as a noggin of sour milk for a
"These must certainly be my comrades," said Ulysses. "I
recognize their dispositions. They are hardly worth the trouble
of changing them into the human form again. Nevertheless, we
will have it done, lest their bad example should corrupt the
other hogs. Let them take their original shapes, therefore,
Dame Circe, if your skill is equal to the task. It will require
greater magic, I trow, than it did to make swine of them."
So Circe waved her wand again, and repeated a few magic words,
at the sound of which the two-and-twenty hogs pricked up their
pendulous ears. It was a wonder to behold how their snouts grew
shorter and shorter, and their mouths (which they seemed to be
sorry for, because they could not gobble so expeditiously)
smaller and smaller, and how one and another began to stand
upon his hind legs, and scratch his nose with his fore
trotters. At first the spectators hardly knew whether to call
them hogs or men, but by and by came to the conclusion that
they rather resembled the latter. Finally, there stood the
twenty-two comrades of Ulysses, looking pretty much the same as
when they left the vessel.
You must not imagine, however, that the swinish quality had
entirely gone out of them. When once it fastens itself into a
person's character, it is very difficult getting rid of it.
This was proved by the hamadryad, who, being exceedingly fond
of mischief, threw another handful of acorns before the twenty-two
newly-restored people; whereupon down they wallowed, in a
moment, and gobbled them up in a very shameful way. Then,
recollecting themselves, they scrambled to their feet, and
looked more than commonly foolish.
 "Thanks, noble Ulysses!" they cried. "From brute beasts you
have restored us to the condition of men again."
"Do not put yourselves to the trouble of thanking me," said the
wise king. "I fear I have done but little for you."
To say the truth, there was a suspicious kind of a grunt in
their voices, and for a long time afterwards, they spoke
gruffly, and were apt to set up a squeal.
"It must depend on your own future behavior," added Ulysses,
"whether you do not find your way back to the sty."
At this moment, the note of a bird sounded from the branch of a
"Peep, peep, pe—wee—ep!"
It was the purple bird, who, all this while, had been sitting
over their heads, watching what was going forward, and hoping
that Ulysses would remember how
 he had done his utmost to keep
him and his followers out of harm's way. Ulysses ordered Circe
instantly to make a king of this good little fowl, and leave
him exactly as she found him. Hardly were the words spoken, and
before the bird had time to utter another "Pe—weep," King
Picus leaped down from the bough of a tree, as majestic a
sovereign as any in the world, dressed in a long purple robe
and gorgeous yellow stockings, with a splendidly wrought collar
about his neck, and a golden crown upon his head. He and King
Ulysses exchanged with one another the courtesies which belong
to their elevated rank. But from that time forth, King Picus
was no longer proud of his crown and his trappings of royalty,
nor of the fact of his being a king; he felt himself merely the
upper servant of his people, and that it must be his lifelong
labor to make them better and happier.
As for the lions, tigers, and wolves (though Circe would have
restored them to their former shapes at his slightest word),
Ulysses thought it advisable that they should remain as they
now were, and thus give warning of their cruel dispositions,
instead of going about under the guise of men, and pretending
to human sympathies, while their hearts had the
blood-thirstiness of wild beasts. So he let them howl as much as they
liked, but never troubled his head about them. And, when
everything was settled according to his pleasure, he sent to
summon the remainder of his comrades, whom he had left at the
sea-shore. These being arrived, with the prudent Eurylochus at
their head, they all made themselves comfortable in Circe's
enchanted palace, until quite rested and refreshed from the
toils and hardships of their voyage.