This is a chapter of The Wanderings of Odysseus, by C. Witt & F. Younghusband.
After sailing for some days, they arrived, late one evening, at an island, where they landed and lay down to sleep on the shore. In the morning they found that the island to which they had come was a very small one, close to another that was larger. Having ascended a hill from which they could overlook the country, they saw no trace of human habitation on the smaller island, but rich grass and corn land all around them, and great numbers of wild goats. Spears and bows were accordingly fetched from their ships, and, having divided themselves into three hunting parties, they brought back such a rich booty that nine of the goats they had killed were placed in each of the twelve ships, and ten were reserved for Odysseus. They were thus in no danger of starving for the present, and they feasted merrily on the goat’s flesh and the red wine which they had taken from the Ciconians.
On the following day, Odysseus said that he would sail with the men who belonged to his own ship to the larger island, to see what sort of people they were who lived there — whether wicked and barbarous or friendly and such as feared the gods. He had seen smoke rising in many places and had heard the bleatings of sheep and goats, so that he knew the island must be inhabited.
They set out therefore, but, if Odysseus had known whose guest he was going to be, he would certainly have remained away. It was the island of the Cyclops, a race of savage one-eyed giants, who did not even keep up friendly intercourse among themselves, but lived apart, each with his wife and children, and his cattle, which he led out each day to pasture. Foolish indeed it would be for any stranger to expect a welcome in such a country as this.
Odysseus landed in a creek of the island and chose out the twelve bravest of his men to go forward with him; and as a present to his host, whoever he should be, he carried on his shoulder a skin of his best wine. It had been given to him in the country of the Ciconians by a priest of Apollo, whom he had spared with his wife and child when the city was sacked, and was so strong that, even if it were mixed with twenty times its own quantity of water, the odor of the wine could be perceived from afar.
They pressed on into the country till they came to a cavern with an entrance of enormous height; laurel bushes grew all around, and outside the cavern were enclosures for housing cattle at night. Inside, the appearance of the cave was hospitable and pleasant enough. Countless cheeses lay spread out on trays of network, and a number of pails and bowls stood side by side in rows, full of rich new milk; there were moreover a great many partitions in which lambs and kids were penned, who were calling and bleating to one another.
The men did not, however, feel secure in the place, and they begged Odysseus to let them take some of the cheeses and lambs and return at once to the ship. But Odysseus was unwilling to forego the stranger’s present which he expected to receive from the owner of the cave if he asked for hospitality; so they decided to remain where they were and meanwhile regaled themselves upon the milk and cheeses.
Little did the Greeks think who was the host they were awaiting so peacefully. The cave they had entered was the abode of the Cyclops Polyphemus, the most savage and cruel of them all. He was now away at the pasture with his flocks, but towards evening he began to return home, driving them in front of him. The Greeks heard him calling to them, and at the sound of his terrible voice they sprang up and crept into* the darkest corner of the cave; they would gladly have left, but it was too late for that now.
After the rams and he-goats had been stalled in the pens outside, and the she-goats and ewes had been driven into the cave, the giant himself entered, revealing to the Greeks, as he stood in the doorway, his monstrous form, which appeared all the more terrible on account of the wild fierce locks of his shaggy beard and the one huge eye in the middle of his forehead. He brought in on his back a great bundle of firewood with which to cook his evening meal and threw it on the ground with a crash. Then, without the smallest effort, he took up an immense piece of rock, so large that it would have taken more than twenty wagons to carry it, and set it up before the entrance of the cave, that no one should come in and disturb his night’s rest. After this he sat down and milked the cows and the goats, setting aside one half of the milk for drinking and the other half for making into cheeses.
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When he had finished his work, he kindled a fire, and presently by the light of the flames discovered his unexpected visitors. “Oh ho !” said he, as a grim smile of pleasure overspread his face. “So there are guests in my house today! Who then are ye? And whence do ye come? For merchandise? Or are ye robbers whose trade it is to gain by plundering others?”
At the sound of his dreadful voice, the Greeks trembled, but Odysseus answered, “We come from Troy and desire to return to our home, but have lost our way in the storm. We belong to the army of King Agamemnon, whose fame is in the mouths of all men, because he has destroyed so great a city and so many peoples. Give us therefore a stranger’s present, or at the least some small token of goodwill, as is the custom between host and guest. Remember the gods, and bethink thee how Zeus punishes those who refuse to welcome strangers.”
At hearing these words, the giant laughed until the rocks resounded with his mirth, and he said, “Either thou hast but little wit, stranger, or else thou comest indeed from far, who demandest of me that I should honor the gods. We Cyclops trouble ourselves but little about Zeus and the rest, for we are far better than they. Think not then that fear of Zeus will induce me to spare thee and thy companions if I do it not of my own free will. But tell me, where hast thou left thy ship?”
The foolish giant thought that Odysseus would be so simple as not to guess that his reason for wanting to know this was that he might get the whole crew into his power, but Odysseus was too crafty for him, and he answered, “Our ship has been dashed to pieces by Poseidon, and only we whom thou seest have escaped with our lives.”
The giant said no more, but, springing up suddenly, he seized one of the strangers with each hand and dashed their heads against the rocky floor; then he sat down and began to tear them limb from limb, after which, like a hungry lion, he devoured them, skin and flesh and bones, refreshing himself at the same time with huge draughts of milk, and grinning in the most horrible manner. The Greeks were forced to look on helplessly at this ghastly sight, but, holding up their hands to Zeus, they silently called upon him to witness and to punish the impious deed.
When the giant had finished his meal, he stretched himself out among the animals, and the sound of his heavy slumber soon echoed through the cave. To the eyes of the Greeks, however, came no sleep. Odysseus spent the whole night in trying to think of some way of escape, but in vain: he could indeed thrust his sword into the heart of the monster as he lay asleep, but that would be of no use, for how could anyone less powerful than the giant roll away the huge stone from the mouth of the cavern?
When the morning came, the giant attended to his cattle as he had done the evening before, and again he seized two Greeks and devoured them for his breakfast. After that, he lifted away the stone and drove out the sheep and goats. He then replaced the stone from without and went away with the cattle. The Greeks could hear his voice calling to them for a long time before it finally died away in the distance.