| On the Shores of the Great Sea|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book I of the Story of the World series. Focuses on the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ. Brief histories of the Ancient Israelites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans are given, concluding with the conquest of the entire Mediterranean by Rome. Important myths and legends that preceded recorded history are also related. Ages 9-18 |
THE ADVENTURES OF ULYSSES
"Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order, smite
The sounding furrows."
WHEN the great city of Troy was taken, all the chiefs who had fought against it, set sail for their homes, though
few of them returned in safety.
 One, who wandered farthest and suffered most, was Ulysses. He had brought twelve ships to Troy, and in each
ship were fifty men; but that was ten years ago, and half his men slept their last sleep on the plains of Troy.
This is some of his story as the Greek poet Homer tells it:
gatherer of the clouds, aroused the North Wind against our ships with a terrible tempest, and covered land and
sea alike with clouds, and down sped night from heaven. Thus the ships were driven headlong, and their sails
were torn to shreds by the might of the wind. So we lowered the sails into the hold, in fear of death, but
rowed the ships landward, apace. There for two nights and two days, we lay continually, consuming our hearts
with weariness and sorrow. But when the fair-tressed dawn had, at last, brought the full light of the third
day, we set up the masts and hoisted the white sails and sat us down, while the wind and the helmsman guided
"And now I should have come to mine own country all unhurt, but the waves and the stream of the sea and the
North Wind swept me from my course as I was doubling Cape Malea and drave me wandering past Cythera. Thence for
nine whole days, was I borne by ruinous winds, over the teeming deep; but on the tenth day, we set foot on the
land of the lotus-eaters, who eat
 a flowery food. So we stepped ashore and drew water, and when we had tasted meat and drink, I chose out two of
my fellows to go and make search, what manner of men they were, who here live upon the earth, by bread. Then
straightway they went and mixed with the men of the lotus-eaters, and the lotus-eaters gave them of the lotus
"Now whosoever of them did eat the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus had no more wish to bring tidings nor to come
back, but there he chose to abide with the lotus-eating men, ever feeding on the lotus and forgetful of his
homeward way. Therefore I led them back to the ships, weeping and sore, against their will, and dragged them
beneath the benches and bound them in the hollow barks. So they embarked and sat upon the benches, and sitting
orderly, they smote the grey sea with their oars.
"Thence we sailed onward, stricken at heart. And we came to the land of the Cyclopes (Sicily). These lawless
folk dwell in hollow caves on the crests of the hills. Now, there is a waste isle stretching without the
harbour of the land of the Cyclopes, wherein are wild goats unnumbered, for no path of man scares them, nor do
hunters resort thither. Moreover, the soil lies evermore unsown and untilled, desolate of men, and feeds the
bleating goats. Yet it is in nowise a sorry land, but would bear all things in their season; for therein,
 are soft water meadows by the shores of the grey salt sea, and there the vines know no decay, and the land is
level to plough. Also there is a fair haven, where is no need of moorings, but men may run the ship on the
beach, and tarry until such time, as the sailors are minded to be gone and favourable breezes blow."
Leaving Sicily, Ulysses came to the Isle of the Winds, which floated about in the ocean, and still he wandered
on and on in the unknown seas. Here is his account of how his ship was struck by lightning: "But now, when we
left that isle, nor any other land appeared but sea and sky, even then a dark cloud stayed above the hollow
ship, and beneath it, the deep darkened. And the ship ran on her way for no long while, for, of a sudden, came
the shrilling West, with the rushing of a great tempest, and the blast of wind snapped the two forestays of the
mast, and the mast fell backward, and all the gear
dropped into the bottom of the ship. And behold the mast
struck the head of the pilot and brake all the bones of his skull together, and, like a diver he dropped down
from the deck, and his brave spirit left his bones. In that same hour Zeus thundered and cast his bolt upon the
ship, and she reeled all over, being stricken by the bolt of Zeus, and was filled with sulphur, and lo, my
company fell out of the vessel.
"Like seagulls, they were borne round the black
 ship upon the billows and never returned. I kept pacing through my ship till the surge loosened the sides from
the keel, and the waves swept her along, stript of her tackle, and brake her mast clean off at the keel. Then I
lashed together both keel and mast, and sitting thereon, I was borne by the ruinous winds."
All night he drifted, rowing with his hands, until he was cast on to an island where he had to remain for the
next eight years. Homer, the blind old poet, gives a touching account of his home-coming at last. Ulysses
returned as a beggar, broken down, weary, and footsore. None knew him again, neither his old father, nor his
son Telemachus, nor his wife Penelope, only his poor old dog Argus knew him, and he just licked his tired feet
and died of joy.
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