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by [?]

No doubt one of the most charming creations in all poetry is Nausicaa, the white-armed daughter of King Alcinous. There is no scene, no picture, in the heroic times more pleasing than the meeting of Ulysses with this damsel on the wild seashore of Scheria, where the Wanderer had been tossed ashore by the tempest. The place of this classic meeting was probably on the west coast of Corfu, that incomparable island, to whose beauty the legend of the exquisite maidenhood of the daughter of the king of the Phaeacians has added an immortal bloom.

We have no difficulty in recalling it in all its distinctness: the bright morning on which Nausicaa came forth from the palace, where her mother sat and turned the distaff loaded with a fleece dyed in sea-purple, mounted the car piled with the robes to be cleansed in the stream, and, attended by her bright-haired, laughing handmaidens, drove to the banks of the river, where out of its sweet grasses it flowed over clean sand into the Adriatic. The team is loosed to browse the grass; the garments are flung into the dark water, then trampled with hasty feet in frolic rivalry, and spread upon the gravel to dry. Then the maidens bathe, give their limbs the delicate oil from the cruse of gold, sit by the stream and eat their meal, and, refreshed, mistress and maidens lay aside their veils and play at ball, and Nausicaa begins a song. Though all were fair, like Diana was this spotless virgin midst her maids. A missed ball and maidenly screams waken Ulysses from his sleep in the thicket. At the apparition of the unclad, shipwrecked sailor the maidens flee right and left. Nausicaa alone keeps her place, secure in her unconscious modesty. To the astonished Sport of Fortune the vision of this radiant girl, in shape and stature and in noble air, is more than mortal, yet scarcely more than woman:

“Like thee, I saw of late,
In Delos, a young palm-tree growing up
Beside Apollo’s altar.”

When the Wanderer has bathed, and been clad in robes from the pile on the sand, and refreshed with food and wine which the hospitable maidens put before him, the train sets out for the town, Ulysses following the chariot among the bright-haired women. But before that Nausicaa, in the candor of those early days, says to her attendants:

“I would that I might call
A man like him my husband, dwelling here
And here content to dwell.”

Is there any woman in history more to be desired than this sweet, pure-minded, honest-hearted girl, as she is depicted with a few swift touches by the great poet?–the dutiful daughter in her father’s house, the joyous companion of girls, the beautiful woman whose modest bearing commands the instant homage of man. Nothing is more enduring in literature than this girl and the scene on the–Corfu sands.

The sketch, though distinct, is slight, little more than outlines; no elaboration, no analysis; just an incident, as real as the blue sky of Scheria and the waves on the yellow sand. All the elements of the picture are simple, human, natural, standing in as unconfused relations as any events in common life. I am not recalling it because it is a conspicuous instance of the true realism that is touched with the ideality of genius, which is the immortal element in literature, but as an illustration of the other necessary quality in all productions of the human mind that remain age after age, and that is simplicity. This is the stamp of all enduring work; this is what appeals to the universal understanding from generation to generation. All the masterpieces that endure and become a part of our lives are characterized by it. The eye, like the mind, hates confusion and overcrowding. All the elements in beauty, grandeur, pathos, are simple–as simple as the lines in a Nile picture: the strong river, the yellow desert, the palms, the pyramids; hardly more than a horizontal line and a perpendicular line; only there is the sky, the atmosphere, the color-those need genius.