With these thoughts, Odysseus surfaced from under a mound
of leaves and dense foliage, broke off a leafy branch with his
powerful hands, and held it in front of him to hide his private parts.
He walked forth confident in his strength, like a mountain lion
in winter, blown by the wind and rain, its eyes ablaze with fire,
ready to pounce upon a herd of sheep or cattle or wild bear,
with the urgencies of his belly upon him, and raid the enclosed
sheepfold where the flock is housed and sleeps.
In that sorry state did Odysseus approach the young girls
with their fair tresses, naked as he was, out of necessity.
He was a terrifying sight to them, crusted with sea spray,
looking dreadful enough to cause the young girls run in terror,
scattering along the juts and spits of the beach.
Only the daughter of Alkinoos, Nausikaa, stood her ground,
for Athena had imparted strength in her mind and soul,
and kept her knees steady. She stood firm, face to face with him,
holding her position. Odysseus pondered what to do: beg her
by falling and grabbing the knees of the beautiful young girl,
or stand back and try to win her with words.
He chose the latter course, for if he went for her knees,
he might frighten or anger the young girl.
So he spoke these words in his clever and wily way.
“I kneel before you, oh queen, pondering if you are a mortal
or a goddess; if a goddess, then you must be one who inhabits
the wide heavens, Artemis I would think most likely to be,
the daughter of Zeus, for your figure and beauty surpass all others
I have seen; and if you are mortal, raised and living among the mortals
of the earth, then three times may your parents be blessed, your father
and queenly mother, and may your brothers be blessed too,
for their heart must be brimming with pride and joy
to see you in the chorus of dancers, beholding in you
their blossoming star and their fairest flower!
But blessed be, above all of them, the man who, after loading you
down with gifts, wins you and takes you to his home as his wife.
I have never seen with these, my own eyes, a mortal,
either a man or a woman, who has filled me with such wonder
and admiration as you have. And yet, once, at Delos,
near the altar of the god Apollo, I saw such a thing once,
the stalk of a young palm tree shooting upwards to the sky
in all its youth and splendor. I went there once with my army,
a journey full of sufferings for me, and to this day I recall
that tree shooting from the earth like a shaft towards the heavens,
and my heart rejoices now on seeing you, my queen.
Yesterday was the twentieth day I escaped the torments
of the wine-dark sea, when the storms and waves
carried me to this place, after I ran away from the island of Ogygia.
And now my fate has landed me here, and here too,
I have no doubt, some misfortunes are waiting for me.
But you, oh queen, have some pity on me.
You are the first person I see after my toils.
I have not seen any other human being in this land or city.
I beg you, show me the way to the town, and give me
a rag to cover myself from those clothes you have brought here yourself.
And for your kindness, in return, may the gods grant you
everything you wish in your mind and heart, a husband,
a home, and harmony of hearts, those excellent things
between a man and a wife, for this is above all the most desired
of all things, a man and a woman in harmony at home,
a fountain of joy to their friends and a pain to their enemies,
for they have reached unsurpassed happiness.”
From The Odyssey of Homer, Book VI (Z), lines 126-185
Translated by Constantine Santas and Antonio T. de Nicolas