Scylla and Charybdis have become proverbial, to denote opposite dangers which beset one's course.
Calypso was a sea-nymph. One of that numerous class of female divinities of lower rank than the gods, yet sharing many of their attributes. Calypso received Ulysses hospitably, entertained him magnificently, became enamored of him, and wished to retain him forever, conferring on him immortality. But he persisted in his resolution to return to his country and his wife and son. Calypso at last received a command from Jove to dismiss him. Mercury brought the message to her, and found her in her grotto, which is thus described by Homer:
"A garden vine, luxuriant on all sides, Mantled the spacious cavern, cluster-hung Profuse; four fountains of serenest lymph, Their sinuous course pursuing side by side, Strayed all around, and every where appeared Meadows of softest verdure purpled o'er With violets; it was a scene to fill A god from heaven with wonder and delight."
Calypso with much reluctance proceeded to obey the commands of Jupiter. She supplied Ulysses with the means of constructing a raft, provisioned it well for him, and gave him a favoring gale. He sped on his course prosperously for many days, till at length, when in sight of land, a storm arose that broke his mast, and threatened to rend the raft asunder. In this crisis he was seen by a compassionate sea-nymph, who in the form of a cormorant alighted on the raft, and presented him a girdle, directing him to bind it beneath his breast, and if he should be compelled to trust himself to the waves, it would buoy him up and enable him by swimming to reach the land.
Fenelon, in his romance of Telemachus, has given us the adventures of the son of Ulysses in search of his father. Among other places at which he arrived, following on his father's footsteps, was Calypso's isle, and, as in the former case, the goddess tried every art to keep him with her, and offered to share her immortality with him. But Minerva, who, in the shape of Mentor, accompanied him and governed all his movements, made him repel her allurements, and when no other means of escape could be found, the two friends leaped from a cliff into the sea, and swam to a vessel which lay becalmed off shore. Byron alludes to this leap of Telemachus and Mentor in the following stanza:
"But not in silence pass Calypso's isles, The sister tenants of the middle deep; There for the weary still a haven smiles, Though the fair goddess long has ceased to weep, And o'er her cliffs a fruitless watch to keep For him who dared prefer a mortal bride. Here too his boy essayed the dreadful leap, Stern Mentor urged from high to yonder tide; While thus of both bereft the nymph-queen doubly sighed."
Chapter XXIII The Odyssey (continued)
THE PHAEACIANS. FATE OF THE SUITORS