This is a chapter of The Wanderings of Odysseus, by C. Witt & F. Younghusband.
Odysseus now remembered how often the wise goddess Athena had come to his aid by putting into his mind some subtle device, and he offered up a prayer, imploring her to help him in this time of need. Presently the answer was given, and he exclaimed aloud with joy that an idea had come to him. He at once set to work to carry it out and, finding in the cave an olive tree as tall and strong as a ship’s mast, which the Cyclops had brought in sometime before to use as a club, he cut a piece off it from the thin end, about the height of a man. His men helped him to peel off the bark and sharpen one end to a point; he then put it into the fire and, when it was red-hot, he took it out and put it away, ready for use. With this pole he intended to put out the eye of his cruel host, and, as he would require the help of four of his men, he told them to draw lots to see which of them should have the honor of taking part in the deed; happily, the lots fell to the very men that Odysseus would himself have chosen for the purpose.
At night the Cyclops returned with his flocks and, contrary to his usual custom, he drove the rams and he-goats into the cave, as well as the ewes and she-goats. Otherwise, everything happened as on the previous evening: the sheep and goats were milked, the fire was kindled, and two more of the Greeks were devoured.
Then Odysseus stepped forward, holding toward the giant a huge wooden bowl which he had filled with wine from his skin. “Here, Cyclops,” said he, “drink this wine after thy meal of human flesh. I brought it with me as a present for thee, hoping that thou wouldst have pity on us and help us to return to our home. But thou hast bitterly disappointed our hopes. Foolish man that thou art, will anyone again bring thee such a gift, when it is known how thou hast treated us?”
The giant seized the bowl, and his monstrous face beamed with pleasure as he drank it off and smacked his lips after the draught. “Friend,” he said, “give me more and tell me thy name, and I will give thee something in return that will rejoice thy heart. Among us Cyclops the vine indeed grows, but not such as makes wine like this. This tastes verily like the nectar and ambrosia which sustain the gods. More, give me more.”
Odysseus filled the bowl a second time, and again at the giant’s desire a third time. The strong wine had now done its work, and the giant’s senses were dulled and confused.
“Dost thou ask my name, Cyclops?” said Odysseus. “My name is Noman. That is how I am called by my father and mother and friends.”
“Good,” answered Polyphemus. “This then shall be my present to Noman in return for the wine — that I will devour him last of all, when all his companions have perished.” And almost as he spoke, his head fell back, and he was fast asleep.
Now was the time for Odysseus to bestir himself, and he quickly brought out the pole that he had prepared and held it in the fire till it was red-hot; then he beckoned to his four companions to come and help him, and, taking careful aim with the point, he thrust it right into the center of the giant’s eye. The others then seized it by the lower end, and all five worked it round and round with all their might till the eye was quite burned out.
Polyphemus roared out with the agonizing pain until the rocks re-echoed as if it were thundering, and nimbly the Greeks sprang out of his way, as he drew the pole from his eye and dashed it into fragments against the wall of the cave. The giant then cried for help to the Cyclops who lived on the neighboring hills. “Help, help, ye Cyclops; come to my help,” he shouted through the still night.
When the Cyclops heard his cry, they hastened to the cave and called out to him to know what was the matter. “Is someone trying to rob thee of thy flocks? Or to murder thee by craft or by might?”
“Woe is me!” shouted back Polyphemus from within the cave. “Noman is murdering me by craft; there is no might in the case.”
Then one of them answered, “If no one is using craft or might against thee, it must be that Zeus has afflicted thee with some sickness. Pray to thy father Poseidon, perchance he may be able to help thee.” And with these words they went away — while Odysseus laughed in his sleeve to think how cunningly he had deceived the giant.
For some time longer, Polyphemus continued to cry and groan, but after a while he felt along the wall with his hands till he came to the great stone that blocked up the entrance of the cave; this he threw aside, and seated himself in the opening, with both hands stretched out to prevent anyone from passing without his knowledge. He thought in his simplicity that the Greeks would have the imprudence to hurry to the door in the hope of making their escape, and pleased himself with the prospect of tearing them limb from limb when they should fall into his hands, but Odysseus had already foreseen this danger and had devised a plan for avoiding it.
That night, the strong he-goats had been fortunately housed inside the cave, and for each of his companions Odysseus tied three of these together with rushes: the man was fastened underneath the body of the middle goat, and the two others were placed one on each side as a further protection, so that, when they passed out, the giant should not discover what had been done. Odysseus himself mounted a stately ram, the finest in the whole herd, who had long thick fleeces of wool that stood out far beyond his body; he swung himself underneath the body of this creature and, thrusting his hands and feet far down into the wool, he pressed his knees against the sides of the ram, and thus managed to hold on.
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In this fashion they waited impatiently for the morning. At last, the time came when the flocks were accustomed to leave the cave for their pasture, and the he-goats began to put themselves in motion. As they went by, the giant felt each one of them with both hands, for he thought that his enemies would very likely be on their backs, but little did he suspect the cunning manner in which one after another was carried past him.
Odysseus had kept back his ram to the last, but, when he made his appearance, the giant recognized him by the touch, for he was his favorite animal. He stroked him and talked to him in a caressing tone: “How now, my trusty ram,” said he, “how comes it that today thou art the last of all — thou who hast always been the first in the sweet meadow, the first at the brook, the first in the stall? Surely it must be that thou grievest because the villain Noman has blinded thy master after befooling him with wine. But he shall not escape me. If thou couldst speak and tell me in what corner he has hidden himself, what joy it would give me to seize him and dash him against the rocks!”
Again he tenderly stroked the ram’s white back and then let him go. And thus all the Greeks were rescued from the clutches of the monster.
When they had gone some little distance from the cave, Odysseus released his ram and freed his companions from their bonds; then they drove the herds by a circuitous route to the ship. Their companions were overjoyed at seeing them again, but they would have broken out into loud lamentations at hearing that six of their number had been devoured by the Cyclops, had not Odysseus motioned to them to be silent lest the sound of their mourning should reach the ears of Polyphemus, and reveal to him where they were. They hurried into the ship as many of the animals as they had room for, unfastened the ropes by which their vessel was attached to the shore, and rowed away at their utmost speed.
When they had gone far enough from the island, Odysseus bade them halt and shouted back to Polyphemus, who was still sitting in the entrance of the cave, eagerly feeling about with his hands. “Cyclops,” he cried, “thou hast not been permitted to destroy the friends of the weak man, one and all; and thy wickedness has returned upon thine own head, abandoned monster, who didst not hesitate to devour thine own guests! It is for crimes like these that Zeus and the rest have punished thee.”
The giant sat for a moment rigid with rage when these words came to his ear from far over the sea, but presently he got up, broke off a huge mass of rock, and hurled it in the direction from which the voice had come. And so prodigious was his strength that the rock flew over the ship and fell into the sea beyond it with a force sufficient to make great waves that drew back the ship towards the shore again.
But seeing the danger, Odysseus seized a long oar which he drove into the bottom of the sea and held there, so as to check the course of the ship; then he called to his companions to take their oars again and row away as fast as possible from the island of the Cyclops.
He was not yet satisfied, however, and, when they had gone a little farther, he put up his two hands to his mouth so as to form a trumpet, in order to mock the Cyclops again from a safer distance. In vain his companions represented to him that he had already placed them in the greatest danger, and implored him to be silent; he could not resist his desire for one last word, and he called out, “Cyclops, when thou art asked who it was that blinded thee, thou canst say that it was Odysseus, the son of Laertes, king of Ithaca.”
At these words, Polyphemus sobbed aloud and said, “Thus then is the ancient oracle fulfilled. Long ago it was foretold to me that I should lose my eye at the hand of Odysseus. I thought he would have been a man far greater and stronger than I, but now a mere pigmy, a miserable weakling has blinded me with the help of wine. Come back again, my friend, and I will give thee a stranger’s present and will pray to Poseidon to convey thee in safety to thy home; for Poseidon is my father, and he can also, if he will, give me back my eye again.”
But Odysseus shouted back, “I would I were as certain of thine utter destruction as I am that Poseidon will never be able to heal thy hurt.”
When Polyphemus perceived that his flimsy stratagem had failed, he raised his hands to heaven and said, “Hear me, Poseidon. If I am indeed thy son, grant that Odysseus may never again see his native land; or, if it has been decreed otherwise, grant at least that he may reach it in misery, after many years, in the ship of a stranger, and without his friends, and that trouble and danger may await him in his home.”
Again he arose and, breaking off in his rage a still larger piece of rock than before, he hurled it with his utmost strength towards the ship. As before, it went straight towards its aim, but this time it fell short of the ship, which was now farther off, and the waves which it made carried the vessel away towards the island of goats.
When the Greeks arrived at the smaller island, they found their friends in great anxiety on account of their long absence, but all the more were they rejoiced that at least Odysseus himself and the greater number of his men had returned in safety. Odysseus divided the flocks which they had brought away with them, but the great ram to whom he owed his safety he kept for his own share and offered him up to Zeus as a thank offering for having been protected through such great perils.