Homer’s “The Odyssey”: “Rare gift! but O, what gift to fools avails!”

On the island of Aeolia, Ulysses receives a gift from Aeolus, the gatherer of winds:
Aeolus gathers all the winds, except Zephyr, into a bag, and commands the wind Zephyr to provide smooth sailing for Ulysses and his men back to Ithaca.
Aboard the ships, as they near Ithaca, and while a weary Ulysses sleeps, his men are curious, jealous and greedy: they untie the bag!

From Alexander Pope’s translation [1726] *:
Ulysses narrates the tale:

“Rare gift! but O, what gift to fools avails!
Nine prosperous days we plied the labouring oar;
The tenth presents our welcome native shore:
The hills display the beacon’s friendly light,
And rising mountains gain upon our sight.
Then first my eyes, by watchful toils oppress’d,
Complied to take the balmy gifts of rest:
Then first my hands did from the rudder part
(So much the love of home possess’d my heart):
When lo! on board a fond debate arose
What rare device those vessels might inclose?
What sum, what prize from AEolus I brought?
Whilst to his neighbour each express’d his thought:
‘Say, whence ye gods, contending nations strive
Who most shall please, who most our hero give?
Long have his coffers groan’d with Trojan spoils:
Whilst we, the wretched partners of his toils,
Reproach’d by want, our fruitless labours mourn,
And only rich in barren fame return.
Now AEolus, ye see, augments his store:
But come, my friends, these mystic gifts explore,’
They said: and (oh cursed fate!) the thongs unbound!
The gushing tempest sweeps the ocean round;
Snatch’d in the whirl, the hurried navy flew,
The ocean widen’d and the shores withdrew.

And the story continues:
The voyagers return to Aeolus but he refuses to help them again:

“We sighing went our way,
And with desponding hearts put off to sea.
The sailors spent with toils their folly mourn,
But mourn in vain; no prospect of return….”

*from Book X, in “The Odyssey of Homer” by Homer, translated by Alexander Pope, 1726.
Project Gutenberg, EBook #3160
For a modern translation, see:
“Homer. The Odyssey of Homer” by Allen Mandelbaum Copyright © 1990.
Random House Publishing Group.
Reissued by Bantam Classics, and also available as an ebook edition.
Allen Mandelbaum received the National Book Award for his translation of
“Aeneid of Virgil”.