Odysseus meets Naussicaa
While he rested the goddess, Pallas Athene, went to the City of the Phæacians, which was where Odysseus had arrived.
She came to the Palace of the King, and went to the room where the King’s daughter, Nausicaa slept. She entered into Nausicaa’s dream, appearing to her in it as one of her friends. And in the dream she spoke to the Princess,’Nausicaa,’ she said, your clothes are old, and the time is near when you will need to have more beautiful clothes. Your marriage day will be soon. You will have to have many garments ready by that time—garments to bring with you to your husband’s house, and garments to give to those who will attend you at your wedding. There is much to be done, Nausicaa. Be ready at dawn, and take your maidens with you, and take the garments of your household to the river to be washed. I will help you. Beg your father to give you a wagon with mules to carry all the garments that we need to wash.’
So in her dream Pallas Athene spoke to the Princess in the likeness of her girlfriend. Having put the task of washing into her mind, the goddess left the Palace of the King and the country of the Phæacians.
, When Nausicaa rose she thought about her dream, and she went through the Palace and found her father. He was going to the assembly of the Phæacians. She came to him, but she was shy about speaking about what had been in her dream—her marriage day—since her parents had not spoken to her about such a thing. Saying that she was going to the river to wash the garments of the household, she asked for a wagon and for mules. ‘I have so many clothes I need to wash,’ she said. ‘Yes and you too, my father, should have fresh clothes when you go to the assembly of the Phæacians. In our house are two unmarried youths, my brothers, who are always eager for new washed clothes to wear to dances.’
Her father smiled at her and said, ‘ You may have the mules and wagon, Nausicaa, and the servants shall get them ready for you now.’
He called to the servants and told them to get the mules and the wagon ready. Then Nausicaa gathered her maids together and they brought the dirty clothes of the household to the wagon. So that Nausicaa and her maids might eat while they were away from home, her mother put in a basket filled with food and drink. Also she gave them a jar of olive oil so that they could rub themselves with oil when bathing in the river.
Young Nausicaa herself drove the wagon. She mounted it and took the whip in her hands and started the mules, and they went through fields and by farms and came to the river bank.
The girls took the clothes to the stream, and putting them in the shallow parts trod on them with their bare feet. The wagon was unharnessed and the mules were left to graze along the river side. When they had washed the garments they took them to the sea shore and left them on the clean pebbles to dry in the sun. Then Nausicaa and her companions went into the river and bathed and played in the water.
When they had bathed they sat down and ate the meal that had been put on the wagon for them. The garments were not yet dried and Nausicaa called on her companions to play. They took a ball and threw it from one to the other, each singing a song that went with the game. As they played in the meadow they made a lovely group, and the Princess Nausicaa was the tallest and fairest and noblest of them all.
Before they left the river side to load the wagon they played a last game. The Princess threw the ball, and the girl whose turn it was to catch missed it. The ball went into the river and was carried down the stream. They all cried out. It was this cry that woke up Odysseus who, covered with leaves, was then sleeping in the shelter of the two olive trees.
He crept out from under the trees, covering his nakedness with leafy branches that he broke off the trees. When he saw the girls in the meadow he wanted to go to them to beg for their help but when they looked at him they were terribly frightened and they ran this way and that way and hid themselves. Only Nausicaa stood still, for Pallas Athene had taken fear from her mind.
Odysseus stood a little way from her and spoke to her in a soft voice. ‘I beg you to help me in my bitter need. I would kneel to you and hug your knees but I fear your anger. Have pity upon me. Yesterday was the twentieth day that I was at sea, driven here and there by the waves and the winds.’
Nausicaa stood still, and Odysseus looking at her was filled with respect for her because she seemed, so noble. ‘I do not know as I look at you,’ he said, ‘whether you are a goddess or a mortal maiden. If you are a mortal maiden, your family must be very happy and proud of you. Surely they must be proud and glad to see you dance, for you are the very flower of maidens. The happiest will be the man who will lead you to his home as his bride. Never have my eyes seen one who had such beauty and such nobleness. I think you are like the young palm tree I once saw growing by the altar of Apollo in Delos—a tree that many marvelled to look at. Oh lady, after suffering, you are the first person I have come to. I know that you will be gracious to me. Show me the way to the town. Give me some old clothes to wear. And may the gods grant you your wish and heart’s desire—a noble husband who will cherish you.’
She spoke to him as a Princess should, seeing that in spite of the difficulty he was in, he was a man of worth. ‘Stranger,’ she said, ‘since you have come to our land, you will have clothes and anything else you need. I will also show you the way to the town.’
He asked what land he was in. ‘This, stranger,’ she said, ‘is the land of the Phæacians, and Alcinous is King. And I am the King’s daughter, Nausicaa.’
Then she called to her companions. ‘Do not hide yourselves,’ she said. ‘This is not an enemy, but a helpless and lost man. We must befriend him, for it is said that the stranger and the beggar are from God.’
The girls came back and they took Odysseus to a sheltered place and they made him sit down and gave him some clothes. One brought the jar of olive oil so that he could clean himself when he bathed in the river. He went into the river and bathed and rubbed himself with the oil. Then he put on the clothes that had been brought to him. He looked so well that when he came towards them again the Princess said to the maids,’ Now look at the man who a while ago seemed so terrifying! He is very handsome and noble. Now, my maidens, bring the stranger meat and drink.’
They served him with meat and drink and he ate and drank eagerly, for it was a long time since he had tasted food. While he ate, Nausicaa and her companions went down to the seashore and gathered the clothes that were now dried, singing songs while they worked. They harnessed the mules and folded the clothes and left them on the wagon.
When they were ready to go Nausicaa went to Odysseus and said to him, ‘Stranger, if you want to go into the city come with us now, so that we can show you the way. But first listen to what I say. While we are going through the fields and by the farms walk behind, keeping near the wagon. But when we enter the ways of the City, you must leave us. People might speak unkindly about me if they saw me with a stranger such as yourself. They might say, “Who does Nausicaa bring to her father’s house? Someone she would like to make her husband, most likely.” So that we do not meet with such rudeness I would prefer you to come alone to my father’s house. Listen now and I will tell you how you can do this.’
‘There is a grove kept for the goddess Pallas Athene near the city. In that grove is a spring, and when we come near go and rest by it. Then later, enter the City and ask the way to the palace of the King. When you have come to it, pass quickly through the court and through the great chamber and come to where my mother sits weaving yarn by the light of the fire. My father will be sitting near, drinking his wine in the evening. Pass by his seat and come to my mother, and clasp your hands about her knees and ask for her help. If she likes you, you will be helped to return to your own land.’
Then she touched the mules with the whip and the wagon went on. Odysseus walked behind with the maids. As the sun set they came to the grove of Pallas Athene that was outside the City. Odysseus went into it and sat by the spring. While he was in her grove he prayed to the goddess, ‘Hear me, Pallas Athene, and grant that I may come before the King of this land as one well worthy of his pity and his help.’