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Ulysses. In one respect, either their hideousness or their years—Silenus, at least, was advanced in life— may have befriended them, for Polyphemus does not eat them raw or broiled on the embers, but keeps them in his cave for the service of his dairy and his kine. At last Polyphemus enters; and now we can imagine some excitement on the part of the junior Athenians, sedate smiles on that of their elders, and even a scream or two from the place where the women were packed together. No known art or device, we may be sure, was neglected by the managers in making up the giant for his part. If Ulysses were of the usual stature of Greek performers, Polyphemus must have worn far higher soles and loftier head-gear than the Ithacan king. The monster must have been at least by "the altitude of a chopine" taller than his guest. A yawning mask doubtless aggravated the terror of his visage ; his voice must have been like that of an irate bull; and his single eye as big as an ordinary-sized plate, and red as a live coal. The Satyrs may have reminded their beholders of the well-known features of Socrates; nor could the philosopher have been justly angry at a resemblance that he himself had pointed out. Polyphemus is too stupid to be either "witty in himself or a cause of wit in others ;" accordingly, such comic business as there is in the piece devolves on Silenus and his companions, who relieve gigantic dulness by quips and cranks, much as the celebrated Jack relieves the stolidity of Blunderbore by some friendly conversation before he rips him up. The Cyclops had been absent on Mta&, hunting with . A. c. vol. xii. N
his dogs. Like King Lear on his return from the chase, he calls out lustily for his dinner, after a previous inquiry about his lambs, ewes, and cheese-baskets. He discerns that something unusual has taken place during his absence, and threatens to beat Silenus until he rains tears, unless he anwers promptly. Next his eye lights on the strangers, and also on something still more irritating to him as a grazier :—
"What is this crowd I see beside the stalls?
The shrewd but perfidious Silenus has inflicted these stripes on himself in order to make his story of being robbed credible to his master—a device of a similar kind to that which Bardolph says caused him to blush.
"Sil. Ah me!
I have been beaten till I burn with fever.
To steal your goods.
I am a god, sprung from the race of heaven?
And ate the cheese in spite of all I said,
And carried out the lambs."
And inasmuch as this capital felony was, he alleged,
* Shelley's translation of the "Cyclops" has been followed in each extract from the piece.
accompanied by threats of personal violence to Polyphemus himself, he not unreasonably flies into a terrible passion, and hastens to enforce Cyclopian law on the spoilers of his goods :—
"Cycl. In truth? nay, haste, and place in order quickly
The cooking-knives, and heap upon the hearth,
And kindle it, a great fagot of wood;
As soon as they are slaughtered they shall fill
My belly, broiling warm from the live coals,
Or boiled and seethed within the bubbling caldron.
I am quite sick of the wild mountain-game,
Of stags and lions I have gorged enough,
And I grow hungry for the flesh of men,"
In vain Ulysses assures Polyphemus that he has never laid hands on Silenus; that he purchased the lambs for wine, honestly as he thought, and that the lying old Satyr's nose will vouch for the exchange and barter. All was done
"By mutual compact, without force; There is no word of truth in all he says, For slily he was selling all your store."
But as well might a poacher accused of snaring hares or trapping foxes have pleaded innocence before that worshipful justice Squire Western, as Ulysses expect his plain tale to put down the evidence, confirmed by the very hard swearing, of Silenus. The Chorus, indeed, following its proper function of mediator between "contending opposites," assures the Cyclops that the stranger tells the simple truth, and that they saw Silenus giving the lambs to him. "You lie!" exclaims the giant; "this old fellow is juster than Ehadamanthus: I believe his story." Now, for a few minutes, curiosity prevails over hunger for the flesh of men, and Polyphemus inquires about the race, adventures, life, and conversation of the intruders on his cavern. Ulysses, carefully concealing his real name, gives the required information. He is one of the chiefs who have taken Troy: he is on his return home to Ithaca: not choice, but tempests, have brought him to this land. "Moreover," he adds, " if you kill and eat me or my comrades, you will be very ungrateful. We are all pious worshippers of your 'great father' Neptune. We have built him many temples in Greece. Much have we endured by war and land and sea, and it will be very hard on us, after escaping so many perils, to be now roasted or boiled for a supper to Neptune's son."
The reply of Polyphemus is just what might have been looked for from such a sensual barbarian. It is unfilial, and even blasphemous. "A fig," he cries, "for your temples and their gods. The wise man knows of nothing worth worshipping except wealth."
"All other things are a pretence and boast.
"Jupiter may send snow or rain or wind as he list. I have a weather-proof cave, plenty of fuel and milk; my larder is ever provided with a haunch of lion or a fat calf; and so that • I have a good crop of grass in yonder meadows, I and my cattle care alike for your Jupiter." And then he winds up with a declaration of his purpose to have a good dinner:—
"I well know
Clearly, after hearing these hospitable intentions, Ulysses will need all the cunning for which he was famed. "This," he thinks, "is by far the worst scrape I ever was in. Very near was I to death when I entered Troy town as a spy, and when I cajoled Queen Hecuba to let me out of it. I just missed being transfixed by Philoctetes in Lemnos by one of his poisoned arrows, when Machaon, that skilful surgeon, was many leagues away from me, and when, even if he had been at hand, he could not perhaps have counteracted the old centaur's venom. 'About my brain,' I must not faint, but contrive to foil this brute's designs. If I cannot, better had it been for me to have died by the hand of the mad Ajax, for then I should have been decently buried by the Greeks, and Penelope have known what became of me; whereas, if I am to go down this monster's 'insatiate maw,' she may go