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The Odyssey - Poem by Homer


BOOK I

Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide
after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit,
and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was
acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save
his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he
could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer
folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god
prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all
these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may
know them.
So now all who escaped death in battle or by shipwreck had got
safely home except Ulysses, and he, though he was longing to return to
his wife and country, was detained by the goddess Calypso, who had got
him into a large cave and wanted to marry him. But as years went by,
there came a time when the gods settled that he should go back to
Ithaca; even then, however, when he was among his own people, his
troubles were not yet over; nevertheless all the gods had now begun to
pity him except Neptune, who still persecuted him without ceasing
and would not let him get home.
Now Neptune had gone off to the Ethiopians, who are at the world's
end, and lie in two halves, the one looking West and the other East.
He had gone there to accept a hecatomb of sheep and oxen, and was
enjoying himself at his festival; but the other gods met in the
house of Olympian Jove, and the sire of gods and men spoke first. At
that moment he was thinking of Aegisthus, who had been killed by
Agamemnon's son Orestes; so he said to the other gods:
"See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all
nothing but their own folly. Look at Aegisthus; he must needs make
love to Agamemnon's wife unrighteously and then kill Agamemnon, though
he knew it would be the death of him; for I sent Mercury to warn him
not to do either of these things, inasmuch as Orestes would be sure to
take his revenge when he grew up and wanted to return home. Mercury
told him this in all good will but he would not listen, and now he has
paid for everything in full."
Then Minerva said, "Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, it
served Aegisthus right, and so it would any one else who does as he
did; but Aegisthus is neither here nor there; it is for Ulysses that
my heart bleeds, when I think of his sufferings in that lonely
sea-girt island, far away, poor man, from all his friends. It is an
island covered with forest, in the very middle of the sea, and a
goddess lives there, daughter of the magician Atlas, who looks after
the bottom of the ocean, and carries the great columns that keep
heaven and earth asunder. This daughter of Atlas has got hold of
poor unhappy Ulysses, and keeps trying by every kind of blandishment
to make him forget his home, so that he is tired of life, and thinks
of nothing but how he may once more see the smoke of his own chimneys.
You, sir, take no heed of this, and yet when Ulysses was before Troy
did he not propitiate you with many a burnt sacrifice? Why then should
you keep on being so angry with him?"
And Jove said, "My child, what are you talking about? How can I
forget Ulysses than whom there is no more capable man on earth, nor
more liberal in his offerings to the immortal gods that live in
heaven? Bear in mind, however, that Neptune is still furious with
Ulysses for having blinded an eye of Polyphemus king of the
Cyclopes. Polyphemus is son to Neptune by the nymph Thoosa, daughter
to the sea-king Phorcys; therefore though he will not kill Ulysses
outright, he torments him by preventing him from getting home.
Still, let us lay our heads together and see how we can help him to
return; Neptune will then be pacified, for if we are all of a mind
he can hardly stand out against us."
And Minerva said, "Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, if, then,
the gods now mean that Ulysses should get home, we should first send
Mercury to the Ogygian island to tell Calypso that we have made up our
minds and that he is to return. In the meantime I will go to Ithaca,
to put heart into Ulysses' son Telemachus; I will embolden him to call
the Achaeans in assembly, and speak out to the suitors of his mother
Penelope, who persist in eating up any number of his sheep and oxen; I
will also conduct him to Sparta and to Pylos, to see if he can hear
anything about the return of his dear father- for this will make
people speak well of him."
So saying she bound on her glittering golden sandals,
imperishable, with which she can fly like the wind over land or sea;
she grasped the redoubtable bronze-shod spear, so stout and sturdy and
strong, wherewith she quells the ranks of heroes who have displeased
her, and down she darted from the topmost summits of Olympus,
whereon forthwith she was in Ithaca, at the gateway of Ulysses' house,
disguised as a visitor, Mentes, chief of the Taphians, and she held
a bronze spear in her hand. There she found the lordly suitors
seated on hides of the oxen which they had killed and eaten, and
playing draughts in front of the house. Men-servants and pages were
bustling about to wait upon them, some mixing wine with water in the
mixing-bowls, some cleaning down the tables with wet sponges and
laying them out again, and some cutting up great quantities of meat.
Telemachus saw her long before any one else did. He was sitting
moodily among the suitors thinking about his brave father, and how
he would send them flying out of the house, if he were to come to
his own again and be honoured as in days gone by. Thus brooding as
he sat among them, he caught sight of Minerva and went straight to the
gate, for he was vexed that a stranger should be kept waiting for
admittance. He took her right hand in his own, and bade her give him
her spear. "Welcome," said he, "to our house, and when you have
partaken of food you shall tell us what you have come for."
He led the way as he spoke, and Minerva followed him. When they were
within he took her spear and set it in the spear- stand against a
strong bearing-post along with the many other spears of his unhappy
father, and he conducted her to a richly decorated seat under which he
threw a cloth of damask. There was a footstool also for her feet,
and he set another seat near her for himself, away from the suitors,
that she might not be annoyed while eating by their noise and
insolence, and that he might ask her more freely about his father.
A maid servant then brought them water in a beautiful golden ewer
and poured it into a silver basin for them to wash their hands, and
she drew a clean table beside them. An upper servant brought them
bread, and offered them many good things of what there was in the
house, the carver fetched them plates of all manner of meats and set
cups of gold by their side, and a man-servant brought them wine and
poured it out for them.
Then the suitors came in and took their places on the benches and
seats. Forthwith men servants poured water over their hands, maids
went round with the bread-baskets, pages filled the mixing-bowls
with wine and water, and they laid their hands upon the good things
that were before them. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink
they wanted music and dancing, which are the crowning embellishments
of a banquet, so a servant brought a lyre to Phemius, whom they
compelled perforce to sing to them. As soon as he touched his lyre and
began to sing Telemachus spoke low to Minerva, with his head close
to hers that no man might hear.
"I hope, sir," said he, "that you will not be offended with what I
am going to say. Singing comes cheap to those who do not pay for it,
and all this is done at the cost of one whose bones lie rotting in
some wilderness or grinding to powder in the surf. If these men were
to see my father come back to Ithaca they would pray for longer legs
rather than a longer purse, for money would not serve them; but he,
alas, has fallen on an ill fate, and even when people do sometimes say
that he is coming, we no longer heed them; we shall never see him
again. And now, sir, tell me and tell me true, who you are and where
you come from. Tell me of your town and parents, what manner of ship
you came in, how your crew brought you to Ithaca, and of what nation
they declared themselves to be- for you cannot have come by land. Tell
me also truly, for I want to know, are you a stranger to this house,
or have you been here in my father's time? In the old days we had many
visitors for my father went about much himself."
And Minerva answered, "I will tell you truly and particularly all
about it. I am Mentes, son of Anchialus, and I am King of the
Taphians. I have come here with my ship and crew, on a voyage to men
of a foreign tongue being bound for Temesa with a cargo of iron, and I
shall bring back copper. As for my ship, it lies over yonder off the
open country away from the town, in the harbour Rheithron under the
wooded mountain Neritum. Our fathers were friends before us, as old
Laertes will tell you, if you will go and ask him. They say,
however, that he never comes to town now, and lives by himself in
the country, faring hardly, with an old woman to look after him and
get his dinner for him, when he comes in tired from pottering about
his vineyard. They told me your father was at home again, and that was
why I came, but it seems the gods are still keeping him back, for he
is not dead yet not on the mainland. It is more likely he is on some
sea-girt island in mid ocean, or a prisoner among savages who are
detaining him against his will I am no prophet, and know very little
about omens, but I speak as it is borne in upon me from heaven, and
assure you that he will not be away much longer; for he is a man of
such resource that even though he were in chains of iron he would find
some means of getting home again. But tell me, and tell me true, can
Ulysses really have such a fine looking fellow for a son? You are
indeed wonderfully like him about the head and eyes, for we were close
friends before he set sail for Troy where the flower of all the
Argives went also. Since that time we have never either of us seen the
other."
"My mother," answered Telemachus, tells me I am son to Ulysses,
but it is a wise child that knows his own father. Would that I were
son to one who had grown old upon his own estates, for, since you
ask me, there is no more ill-starred man under heaven than he who they
tell me is my father."
And Minerva said, "There is no fear of your race dying out yet,
while Penelope has such a fine son as you are. But tell me, and tell
me true, what is the meaning of all this feasting, and who are these
people? What is it all about? Have you some banquet, or is there a
wedding in the family- for no one seems to be bringing any
provisions of his own? And the guests- how atrociously they are
behaving; what riot they make over the whole house; it is enough to
disgust any respectable person who comes near them."
"Sir," said Telemachus, "as regards your question, so long as my
father was here it was well with us and with the house, but the gods
in their displeasure have willed it otherwise, and have hidden him
away more closely than mortal man was ever yet hidden. I could have
borne it better even though he were dead, if he had fallen with his
men before Troy, or had died with friends around him when the days
of his fighting were done; for then the Achaeans would have built a
mound over his ashes, and I should myself have been heir to his
renown; but now the storm-winds have spirited him away we know not
wither; he is gone without leaving so much as a trace behind him,
and I inherit nothing but dismay. Nor does the matter end simply
with grief for the loss of my father; heaven has laid sorrows upon
me of yet another kind; for the chiefs from all our islands,
Dulichium, Same, and the woodland island of Zacynthus, as also all the
principal men of Ithaca itself, are eating up my house under the
pretext of paying their court to my mother, who will neither point
blank say that she will not marry, nor yet bring matters to an end; so
they are making havoc of my estate, and before long will do so also
with myself."
"Is that so?" exclaimed Minerva, "then you do indeed want Ulysses
home again. Give him his helmet, shield, and a couple lances, and if
he is the man he was when I first knew him in our house, drinking
and making merry, he would soon lay his hands about these rascally
suitors, were he to stand once more upon his own threshold. He was
then coming from Ephyra, where he had been to beg poison for his
arrows from Ilus, son of Mermerus. Ilus feared the ever-living gods
and would not give him any, but my father let him have some, for he
was very fond of him. If Ulysses is the man he then was these
suitors will have a short shrift and a sorry wedding.
"But there! It rests with heaven to determine whether he is to
return, and take his revenge in his own house or no; I would, however,
urge you to set about trying to get rid of these suitors at once. Take
my advice, call the Achaean heroes in assembly to-morrow -lay your
case before them, and call heaven to bear you witness. Bid the suitors
take themselves off, each to his own place, and if your mother's
mind is set on marrying again, let her go back to her father, who will
find her a husband and provide her with all the marriage gifts that so
dear a daughter may expect. As for yourself, let me prevail upon you
to take the best ship you can get, with a crew of twenty men, and go
in quest of your father who has so long been missing. Some one may
tell you something, or (and people often hear things in this way) some
heaven-sent message may direct you. First go to Pylos and ask
Nestor; thence go on to Sparta and visit Menelaus, for he got home
last of all the Achaeans; if you hear that your father is alive and on
his way home, you can put up with the waste these suitors will make
for yet another twelve months. If on the other hand you hear of his
death, come home at once, celebrate his funeral rites with all due
pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make your mother marry
again. Then, having done all this, think it well over in your mind
how, by fair means or foul, you may kill these suitors in your own
house. You are too old to plead infancy any longer; have you not heard
how people are singing Orestes' praises for having killed his father's
murderer Aegisthus? You are a fine, smart looking fellow; show your
mettle, then, and make yourself a name in story. Now, however, I
must go back to my ship and to my crew, who will be impatient if I
keep them waiting longer; think the matter over for yourself, and
remember what I have said to you."
"Sir," answered Telemachus, "it has been very kind of you to talk to
me in this way, as though I were your own son, and I will do all you
tell me; I know you want to be getting on with your voyage, but stay a
little longer till you have taken a bath and refreshed yourself. I
will then give you a present, and you shall go on your way
rejoicing; I will give you one of great beauty and value- a keepsake
such as only dear friends give to one another."
Minerva answered, "Do not try to keep me, for I would be on my way
at once. As for any present you may be disposed to make me, keep it
till I come again, and I will take it home with me. You shall give
me a very good one, and I will give you one of no less value in
return."
With these words she flew away like a bird into the air, but she had
given Telemachus courage, and had made him think more than ever
about his father. He felt the change, wondered at it, and knew that
the stranger had been a god, so he went straight to where the
suitors were sitting.
Phemius was still singing, and his hearers sat rapt in silence as he
told the sad tale of the return from Troy, and the ills Minerva had
laid upon the Achaeans. Penelope, daughter of Icarius, heard his
song from her room upstairs, and came down by the great staircase, not
alone, but attended by two of her handmaids. When she reached the
suitors she stood by one of the bearing posts that supported the
roof of the cloisters with a staid maiden on either side of her. She
held a veil, moreover, before her face, and was weeping bitterly.
"Phemius," she cried, "you know many another feat of gods and
heroes, such as poets love to celebrate. Sing the suitors some one
of these, and let them drink their wine in silence, but cease this sad
tale, for it breaks my sorrowful heart, and reminds me of my lost
husband whom I mourn ever without ceasing, and whose name was great
over all Hellas and middle Argos."
"Mother," answered Telemachus, "let the bard sing what he has a mind
to; bards do not make the ills they sing of; it is Jove, not they, who
makes them, and who sends weal or woe upon mankind according to his
own good pleasure. This fellow means no harm by singing the
ill-fated return of the Danaans, for people always applaud the
latest songs most warmly. Make up your mind to it and bear it; Ulysses
is not the only man who never came back from Troy, but many another
went down as well as he. Go, then, within the house and busy
yourself with your daily duties, your loom, your distaff, and the
ordering of your servants; for speech is man's matter, and mine
above all others- for it is I who am master here."
She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son's saying in
her heart. Then, going upstairs with her handmaids into her room,
she mourned her dear husband till Minerva shed sweet sleep over her
eyes. But the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered cloisters,
and prayed each one that he might be her bed fellow.
Then Telemachus spoke, "Shameless," he cried, "and insolent suitors,
let us feast at our pleasure now, and let there be no brawling, for it
is a rare thing to hear a man with such a divine voice as Phemius has;
but in the morning meet me in full assembly that I may give you formal
notice to depart, and feast at one another's houses, turn and turn
about, at your own cost. If on the other hand you choose to persist in
spunging upon one man, heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with
you in full, and when you fall in my father's house there shall be
no man to avenge you."
The suitors bit their lips as they heard him, and marvelled at the
boldness of his speech. Then, Antinous, son of Eupeithes, said, "The
gods seem to have given you lessons in bluster and tall talking; may
Jove never grant you to be chief in Ithaca as your father was before
you."
Telemachus answered, "Antinous, do not chide with me, but, god
willing, I will be chief too if I can. Is this the worst fate you
can think of for me? It is no bad thing to be a chief, for it brings
both riches and honour. Still, now that Ulysses is dead there are many
great men in Ithaca both old and young, and some other may take the
lead among them; nevertheless I will be chief in my own house, and
will rule those whom Ulysses has won for me."
Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered, "It rests with heaven
to decide who shall be chief among us, but you shall be master in your
own house and over your own possessions; no one while there is a man
in Ithaca shall do you violence nor rob you. And now, my good
fellow, I want to know about this stranger. What country does he
come from? Of what family is he, and where is his estate? Has he
brought you news about the return of your father, or was he on
business of his own? He seemed a well-to-do man, but he hurried off so
suddenly that he was gone in a moment before we could get to know
him."
"My father is dead and gone," answered Telemachus, "and even if some
rumour reaches me I put no more faith in it now. My mother does indeed
sometimes send for a soothsayer and question him, but I give his
prophecyings no heed. As for the stranger, he was Mentes, son of
Anchialus, chief of the Taphians, an old friend of my father's." But
in his heart he knew that it had been the goddess.
The suitors then returned to their singing and dancing until the
evening; but when night fell upon their pleasuring they went home to
bed each in his own abode. Telemachus's room was high up in a tower
that looked on to the outer court; hither, then, he hied, brooding and
full of thought. A good old woman, Euryclea, daughter of Ops, the
son of Pisenor, went before him with a couple of blazing torches.
Laertes had bought her with his own money when she was quite young; he
gave the worth of twenty oxen for her, and shewed as much respect to
her in his household as he did to his own wedded wife, but he did
not take her to his bed for he feared his wife's resentment. She it
was who now lighted Telemachus to his room, and she loved him better
than any of the other women in the house did, for she had nursed him
when he was a baby. He opened the door of his bed room and sat down
upon the bed; as he took off his shirt he gave it to the good old
woman, who folded it tidily up, and hung it for him over a peg by
his bed side, after which she went out, pulled the door to by a silver
catch, and drew the bolt home by means of the strap. But Telemachus as
he lay covered with a woollen fleece kept thinking all night through
of his intended voyage of the counsel that Minerva had given him.
BOOK II

Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Telemachus rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his
comely feet, girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call
the people in assembly, so they called them and the people gathered
thereon; then, when they were got together, he went to the place of
assembly spear in hand- not alone, for his two hounds went with him.
Minerva endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all
marvelled at him as he went by, and when he took his place' in his
father's seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.
Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite experience,
the first to speak His son Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius,
land of noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him when
they were all shut up in the cave, and had cooked his last dinner
for him, He had three sons left, of whom two still worked on their
father's land, while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors;
nevertheless their father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and
was still weeping for him when he began his speech.
"Men of Ithaca," he said, "hear my words. From the day Ulysses
left us there has been no meeting of our councillors until now; who
then can it be, whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to
convene us? Has he got wind of some host approaching, and does he wish
to warn us, or would he speak upon some other matter of public moment?
I am sure he is an excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him
his heart's desire."
Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once, for he
was bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the middle of the
assembly and the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then,
turning to Aegyptius, "Sir," said he, "it is I, as you will shortly
learn, who have convened you, for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I
have not got wind of any host approaching about which I would warn
you, nor is there any matter of public moment on which I would
speak. My grieveance is purely personal, and turns on two great
misfortunes which have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the
loss of my excellent father, who was chief among all you here present,
and was like a father to every one of you; the second is much more
serious, and ere long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The sons of
all the chief men among you are pestering my mother to marry them
against her will. They are afraid to go to her father Icarius,
asking him to choose the one he likes best, and to provide marriage
gifts for his daughter, but day by day they keep hanging about my
father's house, sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their
banquets, and never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of
wine they drink. No estate can stand such recklessness; we have now no
Ulysses to ward off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own
against them. I shall never all my days be as good a man as he was,
still I would indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I
cannot stand such treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced
and ruined. Have respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to
public opinion. Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods should
be displeased and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, who is
the beginning and the end of councils, [do not] hold back, my friends,
and leave me singlehanded- unless it be that my brave father Ulysses
did some wrong to the Achaeans which you would now avenge on me, by
aiding and abetting these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out
of house and home at all, I had rather you did the eating
yourselves, for I could then take action against you to some
purpose, and serve you with notices from house to house till I got
paid in full, whereas now I have no remedy."
With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst into
tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat still and no
one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only Antinous, who
spoke thus:
"Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to
throw the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother's fault not ours,
for she is a very artful woman. This three years past, and close on
four, she has been driving us out of our minds, by encouraging each
one of us, and sending him messages without meaning one word of what
she says. And then there was that other trick she played us. She set
up a great tambour frame in her room, and began to work on an enormous
piece of fine needlework. 'Sweet hearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed
dead, still do not press me to marry again immediately, wait- for I
would not have skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
completed a pall for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against
the time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women
of the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.'
"This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see her
working on her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick
the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for
three years and we never found her out, but as time wore on and she
was now in her fourth year, one of her maids who knew what she was
doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so
she had to finish it whether she would or no. The suitors,
therefore, make you this answer, that both you and the Achaeans may
understand-'Send your mother away, and bid her marry the man of her
own and of her father's choice'; for I do not know what will happen if
she goes on plaguing us much longer with the airs she gives herself on
the score of the accomplishments Minerva has taught her, and because
she is so clever. We never yet heard of such a woman; we know all
about Tyro, Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, but they
were nothing to your mother, any one of them. It was not fair of her
to treat us in that way, and as long as she continues in the mind with
which heaven has now endowed her, so long shall we go on eating up
your estate; and I do not see why she should change, for she gets
all the honour and glory, and it is you who pay for it, not she.
Understand, then, that we will not go back to our lands, neither
here nor elsewhere, till she has made her choice and married some
one or other of us."
Telemachus answered, "Antinous, how can I drive the mother who
bore me from my father's house? My father is abroad and we do not know
whether he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to pay
Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I insist on sending his
daughter back to him. Not only will he deal rigorously with me, but
heaven will also punish me; for my mother when she leaves the house
will calf on the Erinyes to avenge her; besides, it would not be a
creditable thing to do, and I will have nothing to say to it. If you
choose to take offence at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere at
one another's houses at your own cost turn and turn about. If, on
the other hand, you elect to persist in spunging upon one man,
heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full, and when you
fall in my father's house there shall be no man to avenge you."
As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain, and
they flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in their own
lordly flight. When they were right over the middle of the assembly
they wheeled and circled about, beating the air with their wings and
glaring death into the eyes of them that were below; then, fighting
fiercely and tearing at one another, they flew off towards the right
over the town. The people wondered as they saw them, and asked each
other what an this might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best
prophet and reader of omens among them, spoke to them plainly and in
all honesty, saying:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, and I speak more particularly to the
suitors, for I see mischief brewing for them. Ulysses is not going
to be away much longer; indeed he is close at hand to deal out death
and destruction, not on them alone, but on many another of us who live
in Ithaca. Let us then be wise in time, and put a stop to this
wickedness before he comes. Let the suitors do so of their own accord;
it will be better for them, for I am not prophesying without due
knowledge; everything has happened to Ulysses as I foretold when the
Argives set out for Troy, and he with them. I said that after going
through much hardship and losing all his men he should come home again
in the twentieth year and that no one would know him; and now all this
is coming true."
Eurymachus son of Polybus then said, "Go home, old man, and prophesy
to your own children, or it may be worse for them. I can read these
omens myself much better than you can; birds are always flying about
in the sunshine somewhere or other, but they seldom mean anything.
Ulysses has died in a far country, and it is a pity you are not dead
along with him, instead of prating here about omens and adding fuel to
the anger of Telemachus which is fierce enough as it is. I suppose you
think he will give you something for your family, but I tell you-
and it shall surely be- when an old man like you, who should know
better, talks a young one over till he becomes troublesome, in the
first place his young friend will only fare so much the worse- he will
take nothing by it, for the suitors will prevent this- and in the
next, we will lay a heavier fine, sir, upon yourself than you will
at all like paying, for it will bear hardly upon you. As for
Telemachus, I warn him in the presence of you all to send his mother
back to her father, who will find her a husband and provide her with
all the marriage gifts so dear a daughter may expect. Till we shall go
on harassing him with our suit; for we fear no man, and care neither
for him, with all his fine speeches, nor for any fortune-telling of
yours. You may preach as much as you please, but we shall only hate
you the more. We shall go back and continue to eat up Telemachus's
estate without paying him, till such time as his mother leaves off
tormenting us by keeping us day after day on the tiptoe of
expectation, each vying with the other in his suit for a prize of such
rare perfection. Besides we cannot go after the other women whom we
should marry in due course, but for the way in which she treats us."
Then Telemachus said, "Eurymachus, and you other suitors, I shall
say no more, and entreat you no further, for the gods and the people
of Ithaca now know my story. Give me, then, a ship and a crew of
twenty men to take me hither and thither, and I will go to Sparta
and to Pylos in quest of my father who has so long been missing.
Some one may tell me something, or (and people often hear things in
this way) some heaven-sent message may direct me. If I can hear of him
as alive and on his way home I will put up with the waste you
suitors will make for yet another twelve months. If on the other
hand I hear of his death, I will return at once, celebrate his funeral
rites with all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make my
mother marry again."
With these words he sat down, and Mentor who had been a friend of
Ulysses, and had been left in charge of everything with full authority
over the servants, rose to speak. He, then, plainly and in all honesty
addressed them thus:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, I hope that you may never have a kind and
well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern you equitably; I
hope that all your chiefs henceforward may be cruel and unjust, for
there is not one of you but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled you as
though he were your father. I am not half so angry with the suitors,
for if they choose to do violence in the naughtiness of their
hearts, and wager their heads that Ulysses will not return, they can
take the high hand and eat up his estate, but as for you others I am
shocked at the way in which you all sit still without even trying to
stop such scandalous goings on-which you could do if you chose, for
you are many and they are few."
Leiocritus, son of Evenor, answered him saying, "Mentor, what
folly is all this, that you should set the people to stay us? It is
a hard thing for one man to fight with many about his victuals. Even
though Ulysses himself were to set upon us while we are feasting in
his house, and do his best to oust us, his wife, who wants him back so
very badly, would have small cause for rejoicing, and his blood
would be upon his own head if he fought against such great odds. There
is no sense in what you have been saying. Now, therefore, do you
people go about your business, and let his father's old friends,
Mentor and Halitherses, speed this boy on his journey, if he goes at
all- which I do not think he will, for he is more likely to stay where
he is till some one comes and tells him something."
On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own
abode, while the suitors returned to the house of Ulysses.
Then Telemachus went all alone by the sea side, washed his hands
in the grey waves, and prayed to Minerva.
"Hear me," he cried, "you god who visited me yesterday, and bade
me sail the seas in search of my father who has so long been
missing. I would obey you, but the Achaeans, and more particularly the
wicked suitors, are hindering me that I cannot do so."
As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness
and with the voice of Mentor. "Telemachus," said she, "if you are made
of the same stuff as your father you will be neither fool nor coward
henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word nor left his work
half done. If, then, you take after him, your voyage will not be
fruitless, but unless you have the blood of Ulysses and of Penelope in
your veins I see no likelihood of your succeeding. Sons are seldom
as good men as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better;
still, as you are not going to be either fool or coward
henceforward, and are not entirely without some share of your father's
wise discernment, I look with hope upon your undertaking. But mind you
never make common cause with any of those foolish suitors, for they
have neither sense nor virtue, and give no thought to death and to the
doom that will shortly fall on one and all of them, so that they shall
perish on the same day. As for your voyage, it shall not be long
delayed; your father was such an old friend of mine that I will find
you a ship, and will come with you myself. Now, however, return
home, and go about among the suitors; begin getting provisions ready
for your voyage; see everything well stowed, the wine in jars, and the
barley meal, which is the staff of life, in leathern bags, while I
go round the town and beat up volunteers at once. There are many ships
in Ithaca both old and new; I will run my eye over them for you and
will choose the best; we will get her ready and will put out to sea
without delay."
Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time
in doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily and found the
suitors flaying goats and singeing pigs in the outer court. Antinous
came up to him at once and laughed as he took his hand in his own,
saying, "Telemachus, my fine fire-eater, bear no more ill blood
neither in word nor deed, but eat and drink with us as you used to do.
The Achaeans will find you in everything- a ship and a picked crew
to boot- so that you can set sail for Pylos at once and get news of
your noble father."
"Antinous," answered Telemachus, "I cannot eat in peace, nor take
pleasure of any kind with such men as you are. Was it not enough
that you should waste so much good property of mine while I was yet
a boy? Now that I am older and know more about it, I am also stronger,
and whether here among this people, or by going to Pylos, I will do
you all the harm I can. I shall go, and my going will not be in vain
though, thanks to you suitors, I have neither ship nor crew of my own,
and must be passenger not captain."
As he spoke he snatched his hand from that of Antinous. Meanwhile
the others went on getting dinner ready about the buildings, jeering
at him tauntingly as they did so.
"Telemachus," said one youngster, "means to be the death of us; I
suppose he thinks he can bring friends to help him from Pylos, or
again from Sparta, where he seems bent on going. Or will he go to
Ephyra as well, for poison to put in our wine and kill us?"
Another said, "Perhaps if Telemachus goes on board ship, he will
be like his father and perish far from his friends. In this case we
should have plenty to do, for we could then divide up his property
amongst us: as for the house we can let his mother and the man who
marries her have that."
This was how they talked. But Telemachus went down into the lofty
and spacious store-room where his father's treasure of gold and bronze
lay heaped up upon the floor, and where the linen and spare clothes
were kept in open chests. Here, too, there was a store of fragrant
olive oil, while casks of old, well-ripened wine, unblended and fit
for a god to drink, were ranged against the wall in case Ulysses
should come home again after all. The room was closed with well-made
doors opening in the middle; moreover the faithful old house-keeper
Euryclea, daughter of Ops the son of Pisenor, was in charge of
everything both night and day. Telemachus called her to the store-room
and said:
"Nurse, draw me off some of the best wine you have, after what you
are keeping for my father's own drinking, in case, poor man, he should
escape death, and find his way home again after all. Let me have
twelve jars, and see that they all have lids; also fill me some
well-sewn leathern bags with barley meal- about twenty measures in
all. Get these things put together at once, and say nothing about
it. I will take everything away this evening as soon as my mother
has gone upstairs for the night. I am going to Sparta and to Pylos
to see if I can hear anything about the return of my dear father.
When Euryclea heard this she began to cry, and spoke fondly to
him, saying, "My dear child, what ever can have put such notion as
that into your head? Where in the world do you want to go to- you, who
are the one hope of the house? Your poor father is dead and gone in
some foreign country nobody knows where, and as soon as your back is
turned these wicked ones here will be scheming to get you put out of
the way, and will share all your possessions among themselves; stay
where you are among your own people, and do not go wandering and
worrying your life out on the barren ocean."
"Fear not, nurse," answered Telemachus, "my scheme is not without
heaven's sanction; but swear that you will say nothing about all
this to my mother, till I have been away some ten or twelve days,
unless she hears of my having gone, and asks you; for I do not want
her to spoil her beauty by crying."
The old woman swore most solemnly that she would not, and when she
had completed her oath, she began drawing off the wine into jars,
and getting the barley meal into the bags, while Telemachus went
back to the suitors.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. She took his shape,
and went round the town to each one of the crew, telling them to
meet at the ship by sundown. She went also to Noemon son of
Phronius, and asked him to let her have a ship- which he was very
ready to do. When the sun had set and darkness was over all the
land, she got the ship into the water, put all the tackle on board her
that ships generally carry, and stationed her at the end of the
harbour. Presently the crew came up, and the goddess spoke
encouragingly to each of them.
Furthermore she went to the house of Ulysses, and threw the
suitors into a deep slumber. She caused their drink to fuddle them,
and made them drop their cups from their hands, so that instead of
sitting over their wine, they went back into the town to sleep, with
their eyes heavy and full of drowsiness. Then she took the form and
voice of Mentor, and called Telemachus to come outside.
"Telemachus," said she, "the men are on board and at their oars,
waiting for you to give your orders, so make haste and let us be off."
On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps.
When they got to the ship they found the crew waiting by the water
side, and Telemachus said, "Now my men, help me to get the stores on
board; they are all put together in the cloister, and my mother does
not know anything about it, nor any of the maid servants except one."
With these words he led the way and the others followed after.
When they had brought the things as he told them, Telemachus went on
board, Minerva going before him and taking her seat in the stern of
the vessel, while Telemachus sat beside her. Then the men loosed the
hawsers and took their places on the benches. Minerva sent them a fair
wind from the West, that whistled over the deep blue waves whereon
Telemachus told them to catch hold of the ropes and hoist sail, and
they did as he told them. They set the mast in its socket in the cross
plank, raised it, and made it fast with the forestays; then they
hoisted their white sails aloft with ropes of twisted ox hide. As
the sail bellied out with the wind, the ship flew through the deep
blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward.
Then they made all fast throughout the ship, filled the mixing-bowls
to the brim, and made drink offerings to the immortal gods that are
from everlasting, but more particularly to the grey-eyed daughter of
Jove.
Thus, then, the ship sped on her way through the watches of the
night from dark till dawn.
BOOK III

But as the sun was rising from the fair sea into the firmament of
heaven to shed Blight on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos the
city of Neleus. Now the people of Pylos were gathered on the sea shore
to offer sacrifice of black bulls to Neptune lord of the Earthquake.
There were nine guilds with five hundred men in each, and there were
nine bulls to each guild. As they were eating the inward meats and
burning the thigh bones [on the embers] in the name of Neptune,
Telemachus and his crew arrived, furled their sails, brought their
ship to anchor, and went ashore.
Minerva led the way and Telemachus followed her. Presently she said,
"Telemachus, you must not be in the least shy or nervous; you have
taken this voyage to try and find out where your father is buried
and how he came by his end; so go straight up to Nestor that we may
see what he has got to tell us. Beg of him to speak the truth, and
he will tell no lies, for he is an excellent person."
"But how, Mentor," replied Telemachus, "dare I go up to Nestor,
and how am I to address him? I have never yet been used to holding
long conversations with people, and am ashamed to begin questioning
one who is so much older than myself."
"Some things, Telemachus," answered Minerva, "will be suggested to
you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further; for I am
assured that the gods have been with you from the time of your birth
until now."
She then went quickly on, and Telemachus followed in her steps
till they reached the place where the guilds of the Pylian people were
assembled. There they found Nestor sitting with his sons, while his
company round him were busy getting dinner ready, and putting pieces
of meat on to the spits while other pieces were cooking. When they saw
the strangers they crowded round them, took them by the hand and
bade them take their places. Nestor's son Pisistratus at once
offered his hand to each of them, and seated them on some soft
sheepskins that were lying on the sands near his father and his
brother Thrasymedes. Then he gave them their portions of the inward
meats and poured wine for them into a golden cup, handing it to
Minerva first, and saluting her at the same time.
"Offer a prayer, sir," said he, "to King Neptune, for it is his
feast that you are joining; when you have duly prayed and made your
drink-offering, pass the cup to your friend that he may do so also.
I doubt not that he too lifts his hands in prayer, for man cannot live
without God in the world. Still he is younger than you are, and is
much of an age with myself, so I he handed I will give you the
precedence."
As he spoke he handed her the cup. Minerva thought it very right and
proper of him to have given it to herself first; she accordingly began
praying heartily to Neptune. "O thou," she cried, "that encirclest the
earth, vouchsafe to grant the prayers of thy servants that call upon
thee. More especially we pray thee send down thy grace on Nestor and
on his sons; thereafter also make the rest of the Pylian people some
handsome return for the goodly hecatomb they are offering you. Lastly,
grant Telemachus and myself a happy issue, in respect of the matter
that has brought us in our to Pylos."
When she had thus made an end of praying, she handed the cup to
Telemachus and he prayed likewise. By and by, when the outer meats
were roasted and had been taken off the spits, the carvers gave
every man his portion and they all made an excellent dinner. As soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene,
began to speak.
"Now," said he, "that our guests have done their dinner, it will
be best to ask them who they are. Who, then, sir strangers, are you,
and from what port have you sailed? Are you traders? or do you sail
the seas as rovers with your hand against every man, and every man's
hand against you?"
Telemachus answered boldly, for Minerva had given him courage to ask
about his father and get himself a good name.
"Nestor," said he, "son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean name, you
ask whence we come, and I will tell you. We come from Ithaca under
Neritum, and the matter about which I would speak is of private not
public import. I seek news of my unhappy father Ulysses, who is said
to have sacked the town of Troy in company with yourself. We know what
fate befell each one of the other heroes who fought at Troy, but as
regards Ulysses heaven has hidden from us the knowledge even that he
is dead at all, for no one can certify us in what place he perished,
nor say whether he fell in battle on the mainland, or was lost at
sea amid the waves of Amphitrite. Therefore I am suppliant at your
knees, if haply you may be pleased to tell me of his melancholy end,
whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other
traveller, for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things
out of any pity for me, but tell me in all plainness exactly what
you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service, either
by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed among the Trojans,
bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all."
"My friend," answered Nestor, "you recall a time of much sorrow to
my mind, for the brave Achaeans suffered much both at sea, while
privateering under Achilles, and when fighting before the great city
of king Priam. Our best men all of them fell there- Ajax, Achilles,
Patroclus peer of gods in counsel, and my own dear son Antilochus, a
man singularly fleet of foot and in fight valiant. But we suffered
much more than this; what mortal tongue indeed could tell the whole
story? Though you were to stay here and question me for five years, or
even six, I could not tell you all that the Achaeans suffered, and you
would turn homeward weary of my tale before it ended. Nine long
years did we try every kind of stratagem, but the hand of heaven was
against us; during all this time there was no one who could compare
with your father in subtlety- if indeed you are his son- I can
hardly believe my eyes- and you talk just like him too- no one would
say that people of such different ages could speak so much alike. He
and I never had any kind of difference from first to last neither in
camp nor council, but in singleness of heart and purpose we advised
the Argives how all might be ordered for the best.
"When however, we had sacked the city of Priam, and were setting
sail in our ships as heaven had dispersed us, then Jove saw fit to vex
the Argives on their homeward voyage; for they had Not all been either
wise or understanding, and hence many came to a bad end through the
displeasure of Jove's daughter Minerva, who brought about a quarrel
between the two sons of Atreus.
"The sons of Atreus called a meeting which was not as it should
be, for it was sunset and the Achaeans were heavy with wine. When they
explained why they had called- the people together, it seemed that
Menelaus was for sailing homeward at once, and this displeased
Agamemnon, who thought that we should wait till we had offered
hecatombs to appease the anger of Minerva. Fool that he was, he
might have known that he would not prevail with her, for when the gods
have made up their minds they do not change them lightly. So the two
stood bandying hard words, whereon the Achaeans sprang to their feet
with a cry that rent the air, and were of two minds as to what they
should do.
"That night we rested and nursed our anger, for Jove was hatching
mischief against us. But in the morning some of us drew our ships into
the water and put our goods with our women on board, while the rest,
about half in number, stayed behind with Agamemnon. We- the other
half- embarked and sailed; and the ships went well, for heaven had
smoothed the sea. When we reached Tenedos we offered sacrifices to the
gods, for we were longing to get home; cruel Jove, however, did not
yet mean that we should do so, and raised a second quarrel in the
course of which some among us turned their ships back again, and
sailed away under Ulysses to make their peace with Agamemnon; but I,
and all the ships that were with me pressed forward, for I saw that
mischief was brewing. The son of Tydeus went on also with me, and
his crews with him. Later on Menelaus joined us at Lesbos, and found
us making up our minds about our course- for we did not know whether
to go outside Chios by the island of Psyra, keeping this to our
left, or inside Chios, over against the stormy headland of Mimas. So
we asked heaven for a sign, and were shown one to the effect that we
should be soonest out of danger if we headed our ships across the open
sea to Euboea. This we therefore did, and a fair wind sprang up
which gave us a quick passage during the night to Geraestus, where
we offered many sacrifices to Neptune for having helped us so far on
our way. Four days later Diomed and his men stationed their ships in
Argos, but I held on for Pylos, and the wind never fell light from the
day when heaven first made it fair for me.
"Therefore, my dear young friend, I returned without hearing
anything about the others. I know neither who got home safely nor
who were lost but, as in duty bound, I will give you without reserve
the reports that have reached me since I have been here in my own
house. They say the Myrmidons returned home safely under Achilles' son
Neoptolemus; so also did the valiant son of Poias, Philoctetes.
Idomeneus, again, lost no men at sea, and all his followers who
escaped death in the field got safe home with him to Crete. No
matter how far out of the world you live, you will have heard of
Agamemnon and the bad end he came to at the hands of Aegisthus- and
a fearful reckoning did Aegisthus presently pay. See what a good thing
it is for a man to leave a son behind him to do as Orestes did, who
killed false Aegisthus the murderer of his noble father. You too,
then- for you are a tall, smart-looking fellow- show your mettle and
make yourself a name in story."
"Nestor son of Neleus," answered Telemachus, "honour to the
Achaean name, the Achaeans applaud Orestes and his name will live
through all time for he has avenged his father nobly. Would that
heaven might grant me to do like vengeance on the insolence of the
wicked suitors, who are ill treating me and plotting my ruin; but
the gods have no such happiness in store for me and for my father,
so we must bear it as best we may."
"My friend," said Nestor, "now that you remind me, I remember to
have heard that your mother has many suitors, who are ill disposed
towards you and are making havoc of your estate. Do you submit to this
tamely, or are public feeling and the voice of heaven against you? Who
knows but what Ulysses may come back after all, and pay these
scoundrels in full, either single-handed or with a force of Achaeans
behind him? If Minerva were to take as great a liking to you as she
did to Ulysses when we were fighting before Troy (for I never yet
saw the gods so openly fond of any one as Minerva then was of your
father), if she would take as good care of you as she did of him,
these wooers would soon some of them him, forget their wooing."
Telemachus answered, "I can expect nothing of the kind; it would
be far too much to hope for. I dare not let myself think of it. Even
though the gods themselves willed it no such good fortune could befall
me."
On this Minerva said, "Telemachus, what are you talking about?
Heaven has a long arm if it is minded to save a man; and if it were
me, I should not care how much I suffered before getting home,
provided I could be safe when I was once there. I would rather this,
than get home quickly, and then be killed in my own house as Agamemnon
was by the treachery of Aegisthus and his wife. Still, death is
certain, and when a man's hour is come, not even the gods can save
him, no matter how fond they are of him."
"Mentor," answered Telemachus, "do not let us talk about it any
more. There is no chance of my father's ever coming back; the gods
have long since counselled his destruction. There is something else,
however, about which I should like to ask Nestor, for he knows much
more than any one else does. They say he has reigned for three
generations so that it is like talking to an immortal. Tell me,
therefore, Nestor, and tell me true; how did Agamemnon come to die
in that way? What was Menelaus doing? And how came false Aegisthus
to kill so far better a man than himself? Was Menelaus away from
Achaean Argos, voyaging elsewhither among mankind, that Aegisthus took
heart and killed Agamemnon?"
"I will tell you truly," answered Nestor, "and indeed you have
yourself divined how it all happened. If Menelaus when he got back
from Troy had found Aegisthus still alive in his house, there would
have been no barrow heaped up for him, not even when he was dead,
but he would have been thrown outside the city to dogs and vultures,
and not a woman would have mourned him, for he had done a deed of
great wickedness; but we were over there, fighting hard at Troy, and
Aegisthus who was taking his ease quietly in the heart of Argos,
cajoled Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra with incessant flattery.
"At first she would have nothing to do with his wicked scheme, for
she was of a good natural disposition; moreover there was a bard
with her, to whom Agamemnon had given strict orders on setting out for
Troy, that he was to keep guard over his wife; but when heaven had
counselled her destruction, Aegisthus thus this bard off to a desert
island and left him there for crows and seagulls to batten upon- after
which she went willingly enough to the house of Aegisthus. Then he
offered many burnt sacrifices to the gods, and decorated many
temples with tapestries and gilding, for he had succeeded far beyond
his expectations.
"Meanwhile Menelaus and I were on our way home from Troy, on good
terms with one another. When we got to Sunium, which is the point of
Athens, Apollo with his painless shafts killed Phrontis the
steersman of Menelaus' ship (and never man knew better how to handle a
vessel in rough weather) so that he died then and there with the
helm in his hand, and Menelaus, though very anxious to press
forward, had to wait in order to bury his comrade and give him his due
funeral rites. Presently, when he too could put to sea again, and
had sailed on as far as the Malean heads, Jove counselled evil against
him and made it it blow hard till the waves ran mountains high. Here
he divided his fleet and took the one half towards Crete where the
Cydonians dwell round about the waters of the river Iardanus. There is
a high headland hereabouts stretching out into the sea from a place
called Gortyn, and all along this part of the coast as far as Phaestus
the sea runs high when there is a south wind blowing, but arter
Phaestus the coast is more protected, for a small headland can make
a great shelter. Here this part of the fleet was driven on to the
rocks and wrecked; but the crews just managed to save themselves. As
for the other five ships, they were taken by winds and seas to
Egypt, where Menelaus gathered much gold and substance among people of
an alien speech. Meanwhile Aegisthus here at home plotted his evil
deed. For seven years after he had killed Agamemnon he ruled in
Mycene, and the people were obedient under him, but in the eighth year
Orestes came back from Athens to be his bane, and killed the
murderer of his father. Then he celebrated the funeral rites of his
mother and of false Aegisthus by a banquet to the people of Argos, and
on that very day Menelaus came home, with as much treasure as his
ships could carry.
"Take my advice then, and do not go travelling about for long so far
from home, nor leave your property with such dangerous people in
your house; they will eat up everything you have among them, and you
will have been on a fool's errand. Still, I should advise you by all
means to go and visit Menelaus, who has lately come off a voyage among
such distant peoples as no man could ever hope to get back from,
when the winds had once carried him so far out of his reckoning;
even birds cannot fly the distance in a twelvemonth, so vast and
terrible are the seas that they must cross. Go to him, therefore, by
sea, and take your own men with you; or if you would rather travel
by land you can have a chariot, you can have horses, and here are my
sons who can escort you to Lacedaemon where Menelaus lives. Beg of him
to speak the truth, and he will tell you no lies, for he is an
excellent person."
As he spoke the sun set and it came on dark, whereon Minerva said,
"Sir, all that you have said is well; now, however, order the
tongues of the victims to be cut, and mix wine that we may make
drink-offerings to Neptune, and the other immortals, and then go to
bed, for it is bed time. People should go away early and not keep late
hours at a religious festival."
Thus spoke the daughter of Jove, and they obeyed her saying. Men
servants poured water over the hands of the guests, while pages filled
the mixing-bowls with wine and water, and handed it round after giving
every man his drink-offering; then they threw the tongues of the
victims into the fire, and stood up to make their drink-offerings.
When they had made their offerings and had drunk each as much as he
was minded, Minerva and Telemachus were forgoing on board their
ship, but Nestor caught them up at once and stayed them.
"Heaven and the immortal gods," he exclaimed, "forbid that you
should leave my house to go on board of a ship. Do you think I am so
poor and short of clothes, or that I have so few cloaks and as to be
unable to find comfortable beds both for myself and for my guests? Let
me tell you I have store both of rugs and cloaks, and shall not permit
the son of my old friend Ulysses to camp down on the deck of a ship-
not while I live- nor yet will my sons after me, but they will keep
open house as have done."
Then Minerva answered, "Sir, you have spoken well, and it will be
much better that Telemachus should do as you have said; he, therefore,
shall return with you and sleep at your house, but I must go back to
give orders to my crew, and keep them in good heart. I am the only
older person among them; the rest are all young men of Telemachus' own
age, who have taken this voyage out of friendship; so I must return to
the ship and sleep there. Moreover to-morrow I must go to the
Cauconians where I have a large sum of money long owing to me. As
for Telemachus, now that he is your guest, send him to Lacedaemon in a
chariot, and let one of your sons go with him. Be pleased also to
provide him with your best and fleetest horses."
When she had thus spoken, she flew away in the form of an eagle, and
all marvelled as they beheld it. Nestor was astonished, and took
Telemachus by the hand. "My friend," said he, "I see that you are
going to be a great hero some day, since the gods wait upon you thus
while you are still so young. This can have been none other of those
who dwell in heaven than Jove's redoubtable daughter, the
Trito-born, who showed such favour towards your brave father among the
Argives." "Holy queen," he continued, "vouchsafe to send down thy
grace upon myself, my good wife, and my children. In return, I will
offer you in sacrifice a broad-browed heifer of a year old,
unbroken, and never yet brought by man under the yoke. I will gild her
horns, and will offer her up to you in sacrifice."
Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer. He then led the
way to his own house, followed by his sons and sons-in-law. When
they had got there and had taken their places on the benches and
seats, he mixed them a bowl of sweet wine that was eleven years old
when the housekeeper took the lid off the jar that held it. As he
mixed the wine, he prayed much and made drink-offerings to Minerva,
daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove. Then, when they had made their
drink-offerings and had drunk each as much as he was minded, the
others went home to bed each in his own abode; but Nestor put
Telemachus to sleep in the room that was over the gateway along with
Pisistratus, who was the only unmarried son now left him. As for
himself, he slept in an inner room of the house, with the queen his
wife by his side.
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Nestor left his couch and took his seat on the benches of white and
polished marble that stood in front of his house. Here aforetime sat
Neleus, peer of gods in counsel, but he was now dead, and had gone
to the house of Hades; so Nestor sat in his seat, sceptre in hand,
as guardian of the public weal. His sons as they left their rooms
gathered round him, Echephron, Stratius, Perseus, Aretus, and
Thrasymedes; the sixth son was Pisistratus, and when Telemachus joined
them they made him sit with them. Nestor then addressed them.
"My sons," said he, "make haste to do as I shall bid you. I wish
first and foremost to propitiate the great goddess Minerva, who
manifested herself visibly to me during yesterday's festivities. Go,
then, one or other of you to the plain, tell the stockman to look me
out a heifer, and come on here with it at once. Another must go to
Telemachus's ship, and invite all the crew, leaving two men only in
charge of the vessel. Some one else will run and fetch Laerceus the
goldsmith to gild the horns of the heifer. The rest, stay all of you
where you are; tell the maids in the house to prepare an excellent
dinner, and to fetch seats, and logs of wood for a burnt offering.
Tell them also- to bring me some clear spring water."
On this they hurried off on their several errands. The heifer was
brought in from the plain, and Telemachus's crew came from the ship;
the goldsmith brought the anvil, hammer, and tongs, with which he
worked his gold, and Minerva herself came to the sacrifice. Nestor
gave out the gold, and the smith gilded the horns of the heifer that
the goddess might have pleasure in their beauty. Then Stratius and
Echephron brought her in by the horns; Aretus fetched water from the
house in a ewer that had a flower pattern on it, and in his other hand
he held a basket of barley meal; sturdy Thrasymedes stood by with a
sharp axe, ready to strike the heifer, while Perseus held a bucket.
Then Nestor began with washing his hands and sprinkling the barley
meal, and he offered many a prayer to Minerva as he threw a lock
from the heifer's head upon the fire.
When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley meal
Thrasymedes dealt his blow, and brought the heifer down with a
stroke that cut through the tendons at the base of her neck, whereon
the daughters and daughters-in-law of Nestor, and his venerable wife
Eurydice (she was eldest daughter to Clymenus) screamed with
delight. Then they lifted the heifer's head from off the ground, and
Pisistratus cut her throat. When she had done bleeding and was quite
dead, they cut her up. They cut out the thigh bones all in due course,
wrapped them round in two layers of fat, and set some pieces of raw
meat on the top of them; then Nestor laid them upon the wood fire
and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with
five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thighs were burned and
they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest of the meat up
small, put the pieces on the spits and toasted them over the fire.
Meanwhile lovely Polycaste, Nestor's youngest daughter, washed
Telemachus. When she had washed him and anointed him with oil, she
brought him a fair mantle and shirt, and he looked like a god as he
came from the bath and took his seat by the side of Nestor. When the
outer meats were done they drew them off the spits and sat down to
dinner where they were waited upon by some worthy henchmen, who kept
pouring them out their wine in cups of gold. As soon as they had had
had enough to eat and drink Nestor said, "Sons, put Telemachus's
horses to the chariot that he may start at once."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said, and yoked the
fleet horses to the chariot. The housekeeper packed them up a
provision of bread, wine, and sweetmeats fit for the sons of
princes. Then Telemachus got into the chariot, while Pisistratus
gathered up the reins and took his seat beside him. He lashed the
horses on and they flew forward nothing loth into the open country,
leaving the high citadel of Pylos behind them. All that day did they
travel, swaying the yoke upon their necks till the sun went down and
darkness was over all the land. Then they reached Pherae where Diocles
lived, who was son to Ortilochus and grandson to Alpheus. Here they
passed the night and Diocles entertained them hospitably. When the
child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn; appeared, they again yoked their
horses and drove out through the gateway under the echoing
gatehouse. Pisistratus lashed the horses on and they flew forward
nothing loth; presently they came to the corn lands Of the open
country, and in the course of time completed their journey, so well
did their steeds take them.
Now when the sun had set and darkness was over the land,
BOOK IV

They reached the low lying city of Lacedaemon them where they
drove straight to the of abode Menelaus [and found him in his own
house, feasting with his many clansmen in honour of the wedding of his
son, and also of his daughter, whom he was marrying to the son of that
valiant warrior Achilles. He had given his consent and promised her to
him while he was still at Troy, and now the gods were bringing the
marriage about; so he was sending her with chariots and horses to
the city of the Myrmidons over whom Achilles' son was reigning. For
his only son he had found a bride from Sparta, daughter of Alector.
This son, Megapenthes, was born to him of a bondwoman, for heaven
vouchsafed Helen no more children after she had borne Hermione, who
was fair as golden Venus herself.
So the neighbours and kinsmen of Menelaus were feasting and making
merry in his house. There was a bard also to sing to them and play his
lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of them
when the man struck up with his tune.]
Telemachus and the son of Nestor stayed their horses at the gate,
whereon Eteoneus servant to Menelaus came out, and as soon as he saw
them ran hurrying back into the house to tell his Master. He went
close up to him and said, "Menelaus, there are some strangers come
here, two men, who look like sons of Jove. What are we to do? Shall we
take their horses out, or tell them to find friends elsewhere as
they best can?"
Menelaus was very angry and said, "Eteoneus, son of Boethous, you
never used to be a fool, but now you talk like a simpleton. Take their
horses out, of course, and show the strangers in that they may have
supper; you and I have stayed often enough at other people's houses
before we got back here, where heaven grant that we may rest in
peace henceforward."
So Eteoneus bustled back and bade other servants come with him. They
took their sweating hands from under the yoke, made them fast to the
mangers, and gave them a feed of oats and barley mixed. Then they
leaned the chariot against the end wall of the courtyard, and led
the way into the house. Telemachus and Pisistratus were astonished
when they saw it, for its splendour was as that of the sun and moon;
then, when they had admired everything to their heart's content,
they went into the bath room and washed themselves.
When the servants had washed them and anointed them with oil, they
brought them woollen cloaks and shirts, and the two took their seats
by the side of Menelaus. A maidservant brought them water in a
beautiful golden ewer, and poured it into a silver basin for them to
wash their hands; and she drew a clean table beside them. An upper
servant brought them bread, and offered them many good things of
what there was in the house, while the carver fetched them plates of
all manner of meats and set cups of gold by their side.
Menelaus then greeted them saying, "Fall to, and welcome; when you
have done supper I shall ask who you are, for the lineage of such
men as you cannot have been lost. You must be descended from a line of
sceptre-bearing kings, for poor people do not have such sons as you
are."
On this he handed them a piece of fat roast loin, which had been set
near him as being a prime part, and they laid their hands on the
good things that were before them; as soon as they had had enough to
eat and drink, Telemachus said to the son of Nestor, with his head
so close that no one might hear, "Look, Pisistratus, man after my
own heart, see the gleam of bronze and gold- of amber, ivory, and
silver. Everything is so splendid that it is like seeing the palace of
Olympian Jove. I am lost in admiration."
Menelaus overheard him and said, "No one, my sons, can hold his
own with Jove, for his house and everything about him is immortal; but
among mortal men- well, there may be another who has as much wealth as
I have, or there may not; but at all events I have travelled much
and have undergone much hardship, for it was nearly eight years before
I could get home with my fleet. I went to Cyprus, Phoenicia and the
Egyptians; I went also to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the
Erembians, and to Libya where the lambs have horns as soon as they are
born, and the sheep lamb down three times a year. Every one in that
country, whether master or man, has plenty of cheese, meat, and good
milk, for the ewes yield all the year round. But while I was
travelling and getting great riches among these people, my brother was
secretly and shockingly murdered through the perfidy of his wicked
wife, so that I have no pleasure in being lord of all this wealth.
Whoever your parents may be they must have told you about all this,
and of my heavy loss in the ruin of a stately mansion fully and
magnificently furnished. Would that I had only a third of what I now
have so that I had stayed at home, and all those were living who
perished on the plain of Troy, far from Argos. I of grieve, as I sit
here in my house, for one and all of them. At times I cry aloud for
sorrow, but presently I leave off again, for crying is cold comfort
and one soon tires of it. Yet grieve for these as I may, I do so for
one man more than for them all. I cannot even think of him without
loathing both food and sleep, so miserable does he make me, for no one
of all the Achaeans worked so hard or risked so much as he did. He
took nothing by it, and has left a legacy of sorrow to myself, for
he has been gone a long time, and we know not whether he is alive or
dead. His old father, his long-suffering wife Penelope, and his son
Telemachus, whom he left behind him an infant in arms, are plunged
in grief on his account."
Thus spoke Menelaus, and the heart of Telemachus yearned as he
bethought him of his father. Tears fell from his eyes as he heard
him thus mentioned, so that he held his cloak before his face with
both hands. When Menelaus saw this he doubted whether to let him
choose his own time for speaking, or to ask him at once and find
what it was all about.
While he was thus in two minds Helen came down from her high vaulted
and perfumed room, looking as lovely as Diana herself. Adraste brought
her a seat, Alcippe a soft woollen rug while Phylo fetched her the
silver work-box which Alcandra wife of Polybus had given her.
Polybus lived in Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in the
whole world; he gave Menelaus two baths, both of pure silver, two
tripods, and ten talents of gold; besides all this, his wife gave
Helen some beautiful presents, to wit, a golden distaff, and a
silver work-box that ran on wheels, with a gold band round the top
of it. Phylo now placed this by her side, full of fine spun yarn,
and a distaff charged with violet coloured wool was laid upon the
top of it. Then Helen took her seat, put her feet upon the
footstool, and began to question her husband.
"Do we know, Menelaus," said she, "the names of these strangers
who have come to visit us? Shall I guess right or wrong?-but I
cannot help saying what I think. Never yet have I seen either man or
woman so like somebody else (indeed when I look at him I hardly know
what to think) as this young man is like Telemachus, whom Ulysses left
as a baby behind him, when you Achaeans went to Troy with battle in
your hearts, on account of my most shameless self."
"My dear wife," replied Menelaus, "I see the likeness just as you
do. His hands and feet are just like Ulysses'; so is his hair, with
the shape of his head and the expression of his eyes. Moreover, when I
was talking about Ulysses, and saying how much he had suffered on my
account, tears fell from his eyes, and he hid his face in his mantle."
Then Pisistratus said, "Menelaus, son of Atreus, you are right in
thinking that this young man is Telemachus, but he is very modest, and
is ashamed to come here and begin opening up discourse with one
whose conversation is so divinely interesting as your own. My
father, Nestor, sent me to escort him hither, for he wanted to know
whether you could give him any counsel or suggestion. A son has always
trouble at home when his father has gone away leaving him without
supporters; and this is how Telemachus is now placed, for his father
is absent, and there is no one among his own people to stand by him."
"Bless my heart," replied Menelaus, "then I am receiving a visit
from the son of a very dear friend, who suffered much hardship for
my sake. I had always hoped to entertain him with most marked
distinction when heaven had granted us a safe return from beyond the
seas. I should have founded a city for him in Argos, and built him a
house. I should have made him leave Ithaca with his goods, his son,
and all his people, and should have sacked for them some one of the
neighbouring cities that are subject to me. We should thus have seen
one another continually, and nothing but death could have
interrupted so close and happy an intercourse. I suppose, however,
that heaven grudged us such great good fortune, for it has prevented
the poor fellow from ever getting home at all."
Thus did he speak, and his words set them all a weeping. Helen wept,
Telemachus wept, and so did Menelaus, nor could Pisistratus keep his
eyes from filling, when he remembered his dear brother Antilochus whom
the son of bright Dawn had killed. Thereon he said to Menelaus,
"Sir, my father Nestor, when we used to talk about you at home, told
me you were a person of rare and excellent understanding. If, then, it
be possible, do as I would urge you. I am not fond of crying while I
am getting my supper. Morning will come in due course, and in the
forenoon I care not how much I cry for those that are dead and gone.
This is all we can do for the poor things. We can only shave our heads
for them and wring the tears from our cheeks. I had a brother who died
at Troy; he was by no means the worst man there; you are sure to
have known him- his name was Antilochus; I never set eyes upon him
myself, but they say that he was singularly fleet of foot and in fight
valiant."
"Your discretion, my friend," answered Menelaus, "is beyond your
years. It is plain you take after your father. One can soon see when a
man is son to one whom heaven has blessed both as regards wife and
offspring- and it has blessed Nestor from first to last all his
days, giving him a green old age in his own house, with sons about him
who are both we disposed and valiant. We will put an end therefore
to all this weeping, and attend to our supper again. Let water be
poured over our hands. Telemachus and I can talk with one another
fully in the morning."
On this Asphalion, one of the servants, poured water over their
hands and they laid their hands on the good things that were before
them.
Then Jove's daughter Helen bethought her of another matter. She
drugged the wine with an herb that banishes all care, sorrow, and
ill humour. Whoever drinks wine thus drugged cannot shed a single tear
all the rest of the day, not even though his father and mother both of
them drop down dead, or he sees a brother or a son hewn in pieces
before his very eyes. This drug, of such sovereign power and virtue,
had been given to Helen by Polydamna wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt,
where there grow all sorts of herbs, some good to put into the
mixing-bowl and others poisonous. Moreover, every one in the whole
country is a skilled physician, for they are of the race of Paeeon.
When Helen had put this drug in the bowl, and had told the servants to
serve the wine round, she said:
"Menelaus, son of Atreus, and you my good friends, sons of
honourable men (which is as Jove wills, for he is the giver both of
good and evil, and can do what he chooses), feast here as you will,
and listen while I tell you a tale in season. I cannot indeed name
every single one of the exploits of Ulysses, but I can say what he did
when he was before Troy, and you Achaeans were in all sorts of
difficulties. He covered himself with wounds and bruises, dressed
himself all in rags, and entered the enemy's city looking like a
menial or a beggar. and quite different from what he did when he was
among his own people. In this disguise he entered the city of Troy,
and no one said anything to him. I alone recognized him and began to
question him, but he was too cunning for me. When, however, I had
washed and anointed him and had given him clothes, and after I had
sworn a solemn oath not to betray him to the Trojans till he had got
safely back to his own camp and to the ships, he told me all that
the Achaeans meant to do. He killed many Trojans and got much
information before he reached the Argive camp, for all which things
the Trojan women made lamentation, but for my own part I was glad, for
my heart was beginning to oam after my home, and I was unhappy about
wrong that Venus had done me in taking me over there, away from my
country, my girl, and my lawful wedded husband, who is indeed by no
means deficient either in person or understanding."
Then Menelaus said, "All that you have been saying, my dear wife, is
true. I have travelled much, and have had much to do with heroes,
but I have never seen such another man as Ulysses. What endurance too,
and what courage he displayed within the wooden horse, wherein all the
bravest of the Argives were lying in wait to bring death and
destruction upon the Trojans. At that moment you came up to us; some
god who wished well to the Trojans must have set you on to it and
you had Deiphobus with you. Three times did you go all round our
hiding place and pat it; you called our chiefs each by his own name,
and mimicked all our wives -Diomed, Ulysses, and I from our seats
inside heard what a noise you made. Diomed and I could not make up our
minds whether to spring out then and there, or to answer you from
inside, but Ulysses held us all in check, so we sat quite still, all
except Anticlus, who was beginning to answer you, when Ulysses clapped
his two brawny hands over his mouth, and kept them there. It was
this that saved us all, for he muzzled Anticlus till Minerva took
you away again."
"How sad," exclaimed Telemachus, "that all this was of no avail to
save him, nor yet his own iron courage. But now, sir, be pleased to
send us all to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy the blessed boon of
sleep."
On this Helen told the maid servants to set beds in the room that
was in the gatehouse, and to make them with good red rugs, and
spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for the guests
to wear. So the maids went out, carrying a torch, and made the beds,
to which a man-servant presently conducted the strangers. Thus,
then, did Telemachus and Pisistratus sleep there in the forecourt,
while the son of Atreus lay in an inner room with lovely Helen by
his side.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Menelaus
rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely
feet, girded his sword about his shoulders, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. Then, taking a seat near Telemachus he
said:
"And what, Telemachus, has led you to take this long sea voyage to
Lacedaemon? Are you on public or private business? Tell me all about
it."
"I have come, sir replied Telemachus, "to see if you can tell me
anything about my father. I am being eaten out of house and home; my
fair estate is being wasted, and my house is full of miscreants who
keep killing great numbers of my sheep and oxen, on the pretence of
paying their addresses to my mother. Therefore, I am suppliant at your
knees if haply you may tell me about my father's melancholy end,
whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other
traveller; for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things
out of any pity for myself, but tell me in all plainness exactly
what you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service
either by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed by the
Trojans, bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all."
Menelaus on hearing this was very much shocked. "So," he
exclaimed, "these cowards would usurp a brave man's bed? A hind
might as well lay her new born young in the lair of a lion, and then
go off to feed in the forest or in some grassy dell: the lion when
he comes back to his lair will make short work with the pair of
them- and so will Ulysses with these suitors. By father Jove, Minerva,
and Apollo, if Ulysses is still the man that he was when he wrestled
with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and threw him so heavily that all the
Achaeans cheered him- if he is still such and were to come near
these suitors, they would have a short shrift and a sorry wedding.
As regards your questions, however, I will not prevaricate nor deceive
you, but will tell you without concealment all that the old man of the
sea told me.
"I was trying to come on here, but the gods detained me in Egypt,
for my hecatombs had not given them full satisfaction, and the gods
are very strict about having their dues. Now off Egypt, about as far
as a ship can sail in a day with a good stiff breeze behind her, there
is an island called Pharos- it has a good harbour from which vessels
can get out into open sea when they have taken in water- and the
gods becalmed me twenty days without so much as a breath of fair
wind to help me forward. We should have run clean out of provisions
and my men would have starved, if a goddess had not taken pity upon me
and saved me in the person of Idothea, daughter to Proteus, the old
man of the sea, for she had taken a great fancy to me.
"She came to me one day when I was by myself, as I often was, for
the men used to go with their barbed hooks, all over the island in the
hope of catching a fish or two to save them from the pangs of
hunger. 'Stranger,' said she, 'it seems to me that you like starving
in this way- at any rate it does not greatly trouble you, for you
stick here day after day, without even trying to get away though
your men are dying by inches.'
"'Let me tell you,' said I, 'whichever of the goddesses you may
happen to be, that I am not staying here of my own accord, but must
have offended the gods that live in heaven. Tell me, therefore, for
the gods know everything. which of the immortals it is that is
hindering me in this way, and tell me also how I may sail the sea so
as to reach my home.'
"'Stranger,' replied she, 'I will make it all quite clear to you.
There is an old immortal who lives under the sea hereabouts and
whose name is Proteus. He is an Egyptian, and people say he is my
father; he is Neptune's head man and knows every inch of ground all
over the bottom of the sea. If you can snare him and hold him tight,
he will tell you about your voyage, what courses you are to take,
and how you are to sail the sea so as to reach your home. He will also
tell you, if you so will, all that has been going on at your house
both good and bad, while you have been away on your long and dangerous
journey.'
"'Can you show me,' said I, 'some stratagem by means of which I
may catch this old god without his suspecting it and finding me out?
For a god is not easily caught- not by a mortal man.'
"'Stranger,' said she, 'I will make it all quite clear to you. About
the time when the sun shall have reached mid heaven, the old man of
the sea comes up from under the waves, heralded by the West wind
that furs the water over his head. As soon as he has come up he lies
down, and goes to sleep in a great sea cave, where the seals-
Halosydne's chickens as they call them- come up also from the grey
sea, and go to sleep in shoals all round him; and a very strong and
fish-like smell do they bring with them. Early to-morrow morning I
will take you to this place and will lay you in ambush. Pick out,
therefore, the three best men you have in your fleet, and I will
tell you all the tricks that the old man will play you.
"'First he will look over all his seals, and count them; then,
when he has seen them and tallied them on his five fingers, he will go
to sleep among them, as a shepherd among his sheep. The moment you see
that he is asleep seize him; put forth all your strength and hold
him fast, for he will do his very utmost to get away from you. He will
turn himself into every kind of creature that goes upon the earth, and
will become also both fire and water; but you must hold him fast and
grip him tighter and tighter, till he begins to talk to you and
comes back to what he was when you saw him go to sleep; then you may
slacken your hold and let him go; and you can ask him which of the
gods it is that is angry with you, and what you must do to reach
your home over the seas.'
"Having so said she dived under the waves, whereon I turned back
to the place where my ships were ranged upon the shore; and my heart
was clouded with care as I went along. When I reached my ship we got
supper ready, for night was falling, and camped down upon the beach.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I took the
three men on whose prowess of all kinds I could most rely, and went
along by the sea-side, praying heartily to heaven. Meanwhile the
goddess fetched me up four seal skins from the bottom of the sea,
all of them just skinned, for she meant playing a trick upon her
father. Then she dug four pits for us to lie in, and sat down to
wait till we should come up. When we were close to her, she made us
lie down in the pits one after the other, and threw a seal skin over
each of us. Our ambuscade would have been intolerable, for the
stench of the fishy seals was most distressing- who would go to bed
with a sea monster if he could help it?-but here, too, the goddess
helped us, and thought of something that gave us great relief, for she
put some ambrosia under each man's nostrils, which was so fragrant
that it killed the smell of the seals.
"We waited the whole morning and made the best of it, watching the
seals come up in hundreds to bask upon the sea shore, till at noon the
old man of the sea came up too, and when he had found his fat seals he
went over them and counted them. We were among the first he counted,
and he never suspected any guile, but laid himself down to sleep as
soon as he had done counting. Then we rushed upon him with a shout and
seized him; on which he began at once with his old tricks, and changed
himself first into a lion with a great mane; then all of a sudden he
became a dragon, a leopard, a wild boar; the next moment he was
running water, and then again directly he was a tree, but we stuck
to him and never lost hold, till at last the cunning old creature
became distressed, and said, Which of the gods was it, Son of
Atreus, that hatched this plot with you for snaring me and seizing
me against my will? What do you want?'
"'You know that yourself, old man,' I answered, 'you will gain
nothing by trying to put me off. It is because I have been kept so
long in this island, and see no sign of my being able to get away. I
am losing all heart; tell me, then, for you gods know everything,
which of the immortals it is that is hindering me, and tell me also
how I may sail the sea so as to reach my home?'
"Then,' he said, 'if you would finish your voyage and get home
quickly, you must offer sacrifices to Jove and to the rest of the gods
before embarking; for it is decreed that you shall not get back to
your friends, and to your own house, till you have returned to the
heaven fed stream of Egypt, and offered holy hecatombs to the immortal
gods that reign in heaven. When you have done this they will let you
finish your voyage.'
"I was broken hearted when I heard that I must go back all that long
and terrible voyage to Egypt; nevertheless, I answered, 'I will do
all, old man, that you have laid upon me; but now tell me, and tell me
true, whether all the Achaeans whom Nestor and I left behind us when
we set sail from Troy have got home safely, or whether any one of them
came to a bad end either on board his own ship or among his friends
when the days of his fighting were done.'
"'Son of Atreus,' he answered, 'why ask me? You had better not
know what I can tell you, for your eyes will surely fill when you have
heard my story. Many of those about whom you ask are dead and gone,
but many still remain, and only two of the chief men among the
Achaeans perished during their return home. As for what happened on
the field of battle- you were there yourself. A third Achaean leader
is still at sea, alive, but hindered from returning. Ajax was wrecked,
for Neptune drove him on to the great rocks of Gyrae; nevertheless, he
let him get safe out of the water, and in spite of all Minerva's
hatred he would have escaped death, if he had not ruined himself by
boasting. He said the gods could not drown him even though they had
tried to do so, and when Neptune heard this large talk, he seized
his trident in his two brawny hands, and split the rock of Gyrae in
two pieces. The base remained where it was, but the part on which Ajax
was sitting fell headlong into the sea and carried Ajax with it; so he
drank salt water and was drowned.
"'Your brother and his ships escaped, for Juno protected him, but
when he was just about to reach the high promontory of Malea, he was
caught by a heavy gale which carried him out to sea again sorely
against his will, and drove him to the foreland where Thyestes used to
dwell, but where Aegisthus was then living. By and by, however, it
seemed as though he was to return safely after all, for the gods
backed the wind into its old quarter and they reached home; whereon
Agamemnon kissed his native soil, and shed tears of joy at finding
himself in his own country.
"'Now there was a watchman whom Aegisthus kept always on the
watch, and to whom he had promised two talents of gold. This man had
been looking out for a whole year to make sure that Agamemnon did
not give him the slip and prepare war; when, therefore, this man saw
Agamemnon go by, he went and told Aegisthus who at once began to lay a
plot for him. He picked twenty of his bravest warriors and placed them
in ambuscade on one side the cloister, while on the opposite side he
prepared a banquet. Then he sent his chariots and horsemen to
Agamemnon, and invited him to the feast, but he meant foul play. He
got him there, all unsuspicious of the doom that was awaiting him, and
killed him when the banquet was over as though he were butchering an
ox in the shambles; not one of Agamemnon's followers was left alive,
nor yet one of Aegisthus', but they were all killed there in the
cloisters.'
"Thus spoke Proteus, and I was broken hearted as I heard him. I
sat down upon the sands and wept; I felt as though I could no longer
bear to live nor look upon the light of the sun. Presently, when I had
had my fill of weeping and writhing upon the ground, the old man of
the sea said, 'Son of Atreus, do not waste any more time in crying
so bitterly; it can do no manner of good; find your way home as fast
as ever you can, for Aegisthus be still alive, and even though Orestes
has beforehand with you in kilting him, you may yet come in for his
funeral.'
"On this I took comfort in spite of all my sorrow, and said, 'I
know, then, about these two; tell me, therefore, about the third man
of whom you spoke; is he still alive, but at sea, and unable to get
home? or is he dead? Tell me, no matter how much it may grieve me.'
"'The third man,' he answered, 'is Ulysses who dwells in Ithaca. I
can see him in an island sorrowing bitterly in the house of the
nymph Calypso, who is keeping him prisoner, and he cannot reach his
home for he has no ships nor sailors to take him over the sea. As
for your own end, Menelaus, you shall not die in Argos, but the gods
will take you to the Elysian plain, which is at the ends of the world.
There fair-haired Rhadamanthus reigns, and men lead an easier life
than any where else in the world, for in Elysium there falls not rain,
nor hail, nor snow, but Oceanus breathes ever with a West wind that
sings softly from the sea, and gives fresh life to all men. This
will happen to you because you have married Helen, and are Jove's
son-in-law.'
"As he spoke he dived under the waves, whereon I turned back to
the ships with my companions, and my heart was clouded with care as
I went along. When we reached the ships we got supper ready, for night
was falling, and camped down upon the beach. When the child of
morning, rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we drew our ships into the
water, and put our masts and sails within them; then we went on
board ourselves, took our seats on the benches, and smote the grey sea
with our oars. I again stationed my ships in the heaven-fed stream
of Egypt, and offered hecatombs that were full and sufficient. When
I had thus appeased heaven's anger, I raised a barrow to the memory of
Agamemnon that his name might live for ever, after which I had a quick
passage home, for the gods sent me a fair wind.
"And now for yourself- stay here some ten or twelve days longer, and
I will then speed you on your way. I will make you a noble present
of a chariot and three horses. I will also give you a beautiful
chalice that so long as you live you may think of me whenever you make
a drink-offering to the immortal gods."
"Son of Atreus," replied Telemachus, "do not press me to stay
longer; I should be contented to remain with you for another twelve
months; I find your conversation so delightful that I should never
once wish myself at home with my parents; but my crew whom I have left
at Pylos are already impatient, and you are detaining me from them. As
for any present you may be disposed to make me, I had rather that it
should he a piece of plate. I will take no horses back with me to
Ithaca, but will leave them to adorn your own stables, for you have
much flat ground in your kingdom where lotus thrives, as also
meadowsweet and wheat and barley, and oats with their white and
spreading ears; whereas in Ithaca we have neither open fields nor
racecourses, and the country is more fit for goats than horses, and
I like it the better for that. None of our islands have much level
ground, suitable for horses, and Ithaca least of all."
Menelaus smiled and took Telemachus's hand within his own. "What you
say," said he, "shows that you come of good family. I both can, and
will, make this exchange for you, by giving you the finest and most
precious piece of plate in all my house. It is a mixing-bowl by
Vulcan's own hand, of pure silver, except the rim, which is inlaid
with gold. Phaedimus, king of the Sidonians, gave it me in the
course of a visit which I paid him when I returned thither on my
homeward journey. I will make you a present of it."
Thus did they converse [and guests kept coming to the king's
house. They brought sheep and wine, while their wives had put up bread
for them to take with them; so they were busy cooking their dinners in
the courts].
Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs or aiming with spears at a
mark on the levelled ground in front of Ulysses' house, and were
behaving with all their old insolence. Antinous and Eurymachus, who
were their ringleaders and much the foremost among them all, were
sitting together when Noemon son of Phronius came up and said to
Antinous,
"Have we any idea, Antinous, on what day Telemachus returns from
Pylos? He has a ship of mine, and I want it, to cross over to Elis:
I have twelve brood mares there with yearling mule foals by their side
not yet broken in, and I want to bring one of them over here and break
him."
They were astounded when they heard this, for they had made sure
that Telemachus had not gone to the city of Neleus. They thought he
was only away somewhere on the farms, and was with the sheep, or
with the swineherd; so Antinous said, "When did he go? Tell me
truly, and what young men did he take with him? Were they freemen or
his own bondsmen- for he might manage that too? Tell me also, did
you let him have the ship of your own free will because he asked
you, or did he take it without yourleave?"
"I lent it him," answered Noemon, "what else could I do when a man
of his position said he was in a difficulty, and asked me to oblige
him? I could not possibly refuse. As for those who went with him
they were the best young men we have, and I saw Mentor go on board
as captain- or some god who was exactly like him. I cannot
understand it, for I saw Mentor here myself yesterday morning, and yet
he was then setting out for Pylos."
Noemon then went back to his father's house, but Antinous and
Eurymachus were very angry. They told the others to leave off playing,
and to come and sit down along with themselves. When they came,
Antinous son of Eupeithes spoke in anger. His heart was black with
rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he said:
"Good heavens, this voyage of Telemachus is a very serious matter;
we had made sure that it would come to nothing, but the young fellow
has got away in spite of us, and with a picked crew too. He will be
giving us trouble presently; may Jove take him before he is full
grown. Find me a ship, therefore, with a crew of twenty men, and I
will lie in wait for him in the straits between Ithaca and Samos; he
will then rue the day that he set out to try and get news of his
father."
Thus did he speak, and the others applauded his saying; they then
all of them went inside the buildings.
It was not long ere Penelope came to know what the suitors were
plotting; for a man servant, Medon, overheard them from outside the
outer court as they were laying their schemes within, and went to tell
his mistress. As he crossed the threshold of her room Penelope said:
"Medon, what have the suitors sent you here for? Is it to tell the
maids to leave their master's business and cook dinner for them? I
wish they may neither woo nor dine henceforward, neither here nor
anywhere else, but let this be the very last time, for the waste you
all make of my son's estate. Did not your fathers tell you when you
were children how good Ulysses had been to them- never doing
anything high-handed, nor speaking harshly to anybody? Kings may say
things sometimes, and they may take a fancy to one man and dislike
another, but Ulysses never did an unjust thing by anybody- which shows
what bad hearts you have, and that there is no such thing as gratitude
left in this world."
Then Medon said, "I wish, Madam, that this were all; but they are
plotting something much more dreadful now- may heaven frustrate
their design. They are going to try and murder Telemachus as he is
coming home from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to get news
of his father."
Then Penelope's heart sank within her, and for a long time she was
speechless; her eyes filled with tears, and she could find no
utterance. At last, however, she said, "Why did my son leave me?
What business had he to go sailing off in ships that make long voyages
over the ocean like sea-horses? Does he want to die without leaving
any one behind him to keep up his name?"
"I do not know," answered Medon, "whether some god set him on to it,
or whether he went on his own impulse to see if he could find out if
his father was dead, or alive and on his way home."
Then he went downstairs again, leaving Penelope in an agony of
grief. There were plenty of seats in the house, but she. had no
heart for sitting on any one of them; she could only fling herself
on the floor of her own room and cry; whereon all the maids in the
house, both old and young, gathered round her and began to cry too,
till at last in a transport of sorrow she exclaimed,
"My dears, heaven has been pleased to try me with more affliction
than any other woman of my age and country. First I lost my brave
and lion-hearted husband, who had every good quality under heaven, and
whose name was great over all Hellas and middle Argos, and now my
darling son is at the mercy of the winds and waves, without my
having heard one word about his leaving home. You hussies, there was
not one of you would so much as think of giving me a call out of my
bed, though you all of you very well knew when he was starting. If I
had known he meant taking this voyage, he would have had to give it
up, no matter how much he was bent upon it, or leave me a corpse
behind him- one or other. Now, however, go some of you and call old
Dolius, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and who is my
gardener. Bid him go at once and tell everything to Laertes, who may
be able to hit on some plan for enlisting public sympathy on our side,
as against those who are trying to exterminate his own race and that
of Ulysses."
Then the dear old nurse Euryclea said, "You may kill me, Madam, or
let me live on in your house, whichever you please, but I will tell
you the real truth. I knew all about it, and gave him everything he
wanted in the way of bread and wine, but he made me take my solemn
oath that I would not tell you anything for some ten or twelve days,
unless you asked or happened to hear of his having gone, for he did
not want you to spoil your beauty by crying. And now, Madam, wash your
face, change your dress, and go upstairs with your maids to offer
prayers to Minerva, daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, for she can save
him even though he be in the jaws of death. Do not trouble Laertes: he
has trouble enough already. Besides, I cannot think that the gods hate
die race of the race of the son of Arceisius so much, but there will
be a son left to come up after him, and inherit both the house and the
fair fields that lie far all round it."
With these words she made her mistress leave off crying, and dried
the tears from her eyes. Penelope washed her face, changed her
dress, and went upstairs with her maids. She then put some bruised
barley into a basket and began praying to Minerva.
"Hear me," she cried, "Daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove,
unweariable. If ever Ulysses while he was here burned you fat thigh
bones of sheep or heifer, bear it in mind now as in my favour, and
save my darling son from the villainy of the suitors."
She cried aloud as she spoke, and the goddess heard her prayer;
meanwhile the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered
cloister, and one of them said:
"The queen is preparing for her marriage with one or other of us.
Little does she dream that her son has now been doomed to die."
This was what they said, but they did not know what was going to
happen. Then Antinous said, "Comrades, let there be no loud talking,
lest some of it get carried inside. Let us be up and do that in
silence, about which we are all of a mind."
He then chose twenty men, and they went down to their. ship and to
the sea side; they drew the vessel into the water and got her mast and
sails inside her; they bound the oars to the thole-pins with twisted
thongs of leather, all in due course, and spread the white sails
aloft, while their fine servants brought them their armour. Then
they made the ship fast a little way out, came on shore again, got
their suppers, and waited till night should fall.
But Penelope lay in her own room upstairs unable to eat or drink,
and wondering whether her brave son would escape, or be overpowered by
the wicked suitors. Like a lioness caught in the toils with huntsmen
hemming her in on every side she thought and thought till she sank
into a slumber, and lay on her bed bereft of thought and motion.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter, and made a vision in
the likeness of Penelope's sister Iphthime daughter of Icarius who had
married Eumelus and lived in Pherae. She told the vision to go to
the house of Ulysses, and to make Penelope leave off crying, so it
came into her room by the hole through which the thong went for
pulling the door to, and hovered over her head, saying,
"You are asleep, Penelope: the gods who live at ease will not suffer
you to weep and be so sad. Your son has done them no wrong, so he will
yet come back to you."
Penelope, who was sleeping sweetly at the gates of dreamland,
answered, "Sister, why have you come here? You do not come very often,
but I suppose that is because you live such a long way off. Am I,
then, to leave off crying and refrain from all the sad thoughts that
torture me? I, who have lost my brave and lion-hearted husband, who
had every good quality under heaven, and whose name was great over all
Hellas and middle Argos; and now my darling son has gone off on
board of a ship- a foolish fellow who has never been used to
roughing it, nor to going about among gatherings of men. I am even
more anxious about him than about my husband; I am all in a tremble
when I think of him, lest something should happen to him, either
from the people among whom he has gone, or by sea, for he has many
enemies who are plotting against him, and are bent on killing him
before he can return home."
Then the vision said, "Take heart, and be not so much dismayed.
There is one gone with him whom many a man would be glad enough to
have stand by his side, I mean Minerva; it is she who has compassion
upon you, and who has sent me to bear you this message."
"Then," said Penelope, "if you are a god or have been sent here by
divine commission, tell me also about that other unhappy one- is he
still alive, or is he already dead and in the house of Hades?"
And the vision said, "I shall not tell you for certain whether he is
alive or dead, and there is no use in idle conversation."
Then it vanished through the thong-hole of the door and was
dissipated into thin air; but Penelope rose from her sleep refreshed
and comforted, so vivid had been her dream.
Meantime the suitors went on board and sailed their ways over the
sea, intent on murdering Telemachus. Now there is a rocky islet called
Asteris, of no great size, in mid channel between Ithaca and Samos,
and there is a harbour on either side of it where a ship can lie. Here
then the Achaeans placed themselves in ambush.
BOOK V

And now, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus- harbinger of
light alike to mortals and immortals- the gods met in council and with
them, Jove the lord of thunder, who is their king. Thereon Minerva
began to tell them of the many sufferings of Ulysses, for she pitied
him away there in the house of the nymph Calypso.
"Father Jove," said she, "and all you other gods that live in
everlasting bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a kind
and well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern equitably. I
hope they will be all henceforth cruel and unjust, for there is not
one of his subjects but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled them as
though he were their father. There he is, lying in great pain in an
island where dwells the nymph Calypso, who will not let him go; and he
cannot get back to his own country, for he can find neither ships
nor sailors to take him over the sea. Furthermore, wicked people are
now trying to murder his only son Telemachus, who is coming home
from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to see if he can get news
of his father."
"What, my dear, are you talking about?" replied her father, "did you
not send him there yourself, because you thought it would help Ulysses
to get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you are perfectly able to
protect Telemachus, and to see him safely home again, while the
suitors have to come hurry-skurrying back without having killed him."
When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Mercury, "Mercury, you
are our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have decreed
that poor Ulysses is to return home. He is to be convoyed neither by
gods nor men, but after a perilous voyage of twenty days upon a raft
he is to reach fertile Scheria, the land of the Phaeacians, who are
near of kin to the gods, and will honour him as though he were one
of ourselves. They will send him in a ship to his own country, and
will give him more bronze and gold and raiment than he would have
brought back from Troy, if he had had had all his prize money and
had got home without disaster. This is how we have settled that he
shall return to his country and his friends."
Thus he spoke, and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus, did
as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden sandals
with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea. He took the
wand with which he seals men's eyes in sleep or wakes them just as
he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand over Pieria; then he
swooped down through the firmament till he reached the level of the
sea, whose waves he skimmed like a cormorant that flies fishing
every hole and corner of the ocean, and drenching its thick plumage in
the spray. He flew and flew over many a weary wave, but when at last
he got to the island which was his journey's end, he left the sea
and went on by land till he came to the cave where the nymph Calypso
lived.
He found her at home. There was a large fire burning on the
hearth, and one could smell from far the fragrant reek of burning
cedar and sandal wood. As for herself, she was busy at her loom,
shooting her golden shuttle through the warp and singing
beautifully. Round her cave there was a thick wood of alder, poplar,
and sweet smelling cypress trees, wherein all kinds of great birds had
built their nests- owls, hawks, and chattering sea-crows that occupy
their business in the waters. A vine loaded with grapes was trained
and grew luxuriantly about the mouth of the cave; there were also four
running rills of water in channels cut pretty close together, and
turned hither and thither so as to irrigate the beds of violets and
luscious herbage over which they flowed. Even a god could not help
being charmed with such a lovely spot, so Mercury stood still and
looked at it; but when he had admired it sufficiently he went inside
the cave.
Calypso knew him at once- for the gods all know each other, no
matter how far they live from one another- but Ulysses was not within;
he was on the sea-shore as usual, looking out upon the barren ocean
with tears in his eyes, groaning and breaking his heart for sorrow.
Calypso gave Mercury a seat and said: "Why have you come to see me,
Mercury- honoured, and ever welcome- for you do not visit me often?
Say what you want; I will do it for be you at once if I can, and if it
can be done at all; but come inside, and let me set refreshment before
you.
As she spoke she drew a table loaded with ambrosia beside him and
mixed him some red nectar, so Mercury ate and drank till he had had
enough, and then said:
"We are speaking god and goddess to one another, one another, and
you ask me why I have come here, and I will tell you truly as you
would have me do. Jove sent me; it was no doing of mine; who could
possibly want to come all this way over the sea where there are no
cities full of people to offer me sacrifices or choice hecatombs?
Nevertheless I had to come, for none of us other gods can cross
Jove, nor transgress his orders. He says that you have here the most
ill-starred of alf those who fought nine years before the city of King
Priam and sailed home in the tenth year after having sacked it. On
their way home they sinned against Minerva, who raised both wind and
waves against them, so that all his brave companions perished, and
he alone was carried hither by wind and tide. Jove says that you are
to let this by man go at once, for it is decreed that he shall not
perish here, far from his own people, but shall return to his house
and country and see his friends again."
Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, "You gods," she
exclaimed, to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous and
hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with
him in open matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to
Orion, you precious gods were all of you furious till Diana went and
killed him in Ortygia. So again when Ceres fell in love with Iasion,
and yielded to him in a thrice ploughed fallow field, Jove came to
hear of it before so long and killed Iasion with his thunder-bolts.
And now you are angry with me too because I have a man here. I found
the poor creature sitting all alone astride of a keel, for Jove had
struck his ship with lightning and sunk it in mid ocean, so that all
his crew were drowned, while he himself was driven by wind and waves
on to my island. I got fond of him and cherished him, and had set my
heart on making him immortal, so that he should never grow old all his
days; still I cannot cross Jove, nor bring his counsels to nothing;
therefore, if he insists upon it, let the man go beyond the seas
again; but I cannot send him anywhere myself for I have neither
ships nor men who can take him. Nevertheless I will readily give him
such advice, in all good faith, as will be likely to bring him
safely to his own country."
"Then send him away," said Mercury, "or Jove will be angry with
you and punish you"'
On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for Ulysses,
for she had heard Jove's message. She found him sitting upon the beach
with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer
home-sickness; for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was
forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he,
that would have it so. As for the day time, he spent it on the rocks
and on the sea-shore, weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and
always looking out upon the sea. Calypso then went close up to him
said:
"My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting
your life out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own free
will; so go, cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a large raft
with an upper deck that it may carry you safely over the sea. I will
put bread, wine, and water on board to save you from starving. I
will also give you clothes, and will send you a fair wind to take
you home, if the gods in heaven so will it- for they know more about
these things, and can settle them better than I can."
Ulysses shuddered as he heard her. "Now goddess," he answered,
"there is something behind all this; you cannot be really meaning to
help me home when you bid me do such a dreadful thing as put to sea on
a raft. Not even a well-found ship with a fair wind could venture on
such a distant voyage: nothing that you can say or do shall mage me go
on board a raft unless you first solemnly swear that you mean me no
mischief."
Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: "You know a
great deal," said she, "but you are quite wrong here. May heaven above
and earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx-
and this is the most solemn oath which a blessed god can take- that
I mean you no sort of harm, and am only advising you to do exactly
what I should do myself in your place. I am dealing with you quite
straightforwardly; my heart is not made of iron, and I am very sorry
for you."
When she had thus spoken she led the way rapidly before him, and
Ulysses followed in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man, went on
and on till they came to Calypso's cave, where Ulysses took the seat
that Mercury had just left. Calypso set meat and drink before him of
the food that mortals eat; but her maids brought ambrosia and nectar
for herself, and they laid their hands on the good things that were
before them. When they had satisfied themselves with meat and drink,
Calypso spoke, saying:
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your
own land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only know
how much suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own
country, you would stay where you are, keep house along with me, and
let me make you immortal, no matter how anxious you may be to see this
wife of yours, of whom you are thinking all the time day after day;
yet I flatter myself that at am no whit less tall or well-looking than
she is, for it is not to be expected that a mortal woman should
compare in beauty with an immortal."
"Goddess," replied Ulysses, "do not be angry with me about this. I
am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall or so
beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an
immortal. Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing
else. If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I will bear it and
make the best of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and
sea already, so let this go with the rest."
Presently the sun set and it became dark, whereon the pair retired
into the inner part of the cave and went to bed.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Ulysses put
on his shirt and cloak, while the goddess wore a dress of a light
gossamer fabric, very fine and graceful, with a beautiful golden
girdle about her waist and a veil to cover her head. She at once set
herself to think how she could speed Ulysses on his way. So she gave
him a great bronze axe that suited his hands; it was sharpened on both
sides, and had a beautiful olive-wood handle fitted firmly on to it.
She also gave him a sharp adze, and then led the way to the far end of
the island where the largest trees grew- alder, poplar and pine,
that reached the sky- very dry and well seasoned, so as to sail
light for him in the water. Then, when she had shown him where the
best trees grew, Calypso went home, leaving him to cut them, which
he soon finished doing. He cut down twenty trees in all and adzed them
smooth, squaring them by rule in good workmanlike fashion. Meanwhile
Calypso came back with some augers, so he bored holes with them and
fitted the timbers together with bolts and rivets. He made the raft as
broad as a skilled shipwright makes the beam of a large vessel, and he
filed a deck on top of the ribs, and ran a gunwale all round it. He
also made a mast with a yard arm, and a rudder to steer with. He
fenced the raft all round with wicker hurdles as a protection
against the waves, and then he threw on a quantity of wood. By and
by Calypso brought him some linen to make the sails, and he made these
too, excellently, making them fast with braces and sheets. Last of
all, with the help of levers, he drew the raft down into the water.
In four days he had completed the whole work, and on the fifth
Calypso sent him from the island after washing him and giving him some
clean clothes. She gave him a goat skin full of black wine, and
another larger one of water; she also gave him a wallet full of
provisions, and found him in much good meat. Moreover, she made the
wind fair and warm for him, and gladly did Ulysses spread his sail
before it, while he sat and guided the raft skilfully by means of
the rudder. He never closed his eyes, but kept them fixed on the
Pleiads, on late-setting Bootes, and on the Bear- which men also
call the wain, and which turns round and round where it is, facing
Orion, and alone never dipping into the stream of Oceanus- for Calypso
had told him to keep this to his left. Days seven and ten did he
sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth the dim outlines of the
mountains on the nearest part of the Phaeacian coast appeared,
rising like a shield on the horizon.
But King Neptune, who was returning from the Ethiopians, caught
sight of Ulysses a long way off, from the mountains of the Solymi.
He could see him sailing upon the sea, and it made him very angry,
so he wagged his head and muttered to himself, saying, heavens, so the
gods have been changing their minds about Ulysses while I was away
in Ethiopia, and now he is close to the land of the Phaeacians,
where it is decreed that he shall escape from the calamities that have
befallen him. Still, he shall have plenty of hardship yet before he
has done with it."
Thereon he gathered his clouds together, grasped his trident,
stirred it round in the sea, and roused the rage of every wind that
blows till earth, sea, and sky were hidden in cloud, and night
sprang forth out of the heavens. Winds from East, South, North, and
West fell upon him all at the same time, and a tremendous sea got
up, so that Ulysses' heart began to fail him. "Alas," he said to
himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of me? I am afraid
Calypso was right when she said I should have trouble by sea before
I got back home. It is all coming true. How black is Jove making
heaven with his clouds, and what a sea the winds are raising from
every quarter at once. I am now safe to perish. Blest and thrice blest
were those Danaans who fell before Troy in the cause of the sons of
Atreus. Would that had been killed on the day when the Trojans were
pressing me so sorely about the dead body of Achilles, for then I
should have had due burial and the Achaeans would have honoured my
name; but now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end."
As he spoke a sea broke over him with such terrific fury that the
raft reeled again, and he was carried overboard a long way off. He let
go the helm, and the force of the hurricane was so great that it broke
the mast half way up, and both sail and yard went over into the sea.
For a long time Ulysses was under water, and it was all he could do to
rise to the surface again, for the clothes Calypso had given him
weighed him down; but at last he got his head above water and spat out
the bitter brine that was running down his face in streams. In spite
of all this, however, he did not lose sight of his raft, but swam as
fast as he could towards it, got hold of it, and climbed on board
again so as to escape drowning. The sea took the raft and tossed it
about as Autumn winds whirl thistledown round and round upon a road.
It was as though the South, North, East, and West winds were all
playing battledore and shuttlecock with it at once.
When he was in this plight, Ino daughter of Cadmus, also called
Leucothea, saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had
been since raised to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in what
great distress Ulysses now was, she had compassion upon him, and,
rising like a sea-gull from the waves, took her seat upon the raft.
"My poor good man," said she, "why is Neptune so furiously angry
with you? He is giving you a great deal of trouble, but for all his
bluster he will not kill you. You seem to be a sensible person, do
then as I bid you; strip, leave your raft to drive before the wind,
and swim to the Phaecian coast where better luck awaits you. And here,
take my veil and put it round your chest; it is enchanted, and you can
come to no harm so long as you wear it. As soon as you touch land take
it off, throw it back as far as you can into the sea, and then go away
again." With these words she took off her veil and gave it him. Then
she dived down again like a sea-gull and vanished beneath the dark
blue waters.
But Ulysses did not know what to think. "Alas," he said to himself
in his dismay, "this is only some one or other of the gods who is
luring me to ruin by advising me to will quit my raft. At any rate I
will not do so at present, for the land where she said I should be
quit of all troubles seemed to be still a good way off. I know what
I will do- I am sure it will be best- no matter what happens I will
stick to the raft as long as her timbers hold together, but when the
sea breaks her up I will swim for it; I do not see how I can do any
better than this."
While he was thus in two minds, Neptune sent a terrible great wave
that seemed to rear itself above his head till it broke right over the
raft, which then went to pieces as though it were a heap of dry
chaff tossed about by a whirlwind. Ulysses got astride of one plank
and rode upon it as if he were on horseback; he then took off the
clothes Calypso had given him, bound Ino's veil under his arms, and
plunged into the sea- meaning to swim on shore. King Neptune watched
him as he did so, and wagged his head, muttering to himself and
saying, "'There now, swim up and down as you best can till you fall in
with well-to-do people. I do not think you will be able to say that
I have let you off too lightly." On this he lashed his horses and
drove to Aegae where his palace is.
But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of all
the winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she roused
a good stiff breeze from the North that should lay the waters till
Ulysses reached the land of the Phaeacians where he would be safe.
Thereon he floated about for two nights and two days in the water,
with a heavy swell on the sea and death staring him in the face; but
when the third day broke, the wind fell and there was a dead calm
without so much as a breath of air stirring. As he rose on the swell
he looked eagerly ahead, and could see land quite near. Then, as
children rejoice when their dear father begins to get better after
having for a long time borne sore affliction sent him by some angry
spirit, but the gods deliver him from evil, so was Ulysses thankful
when he again saw land and trees, and swam on with all his strength
that he might once more set foot upon dry ground. When, however, he
got within earshot, he began to hear the surf thundering up against
the rocks, for the swell still broke against them with a terrific
roar. Everything was enveloped in spray; there were no harbours
where a ship might ride, nor shelter of any kind, but only
headlands, low-lying rocks, and mountain tops.
Ulysses' heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly to
himself, "Alas, Jove has let me see land after swimming so far that
I had given up all hope, but I can find no landing place, for the
coast is rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are smooth and rise sheer
from the sea, with deep water close under them so that I cannot
climb out for want of foothold. I am afraid some great wave will
lift me off my legs and dash me against the rocks as I leave the
water- which would give me a sorry landing. If, on the other hand, I
swim further in search of some shelving beach or harbour, a
hurricane may carry me out to sea again sorely against my will, or
heaven may send some great monster of the deep to attack me; for
Amphitrite breeds many such, and I know that Neptune is very angry
with me."
While he was thus in two minds a wave caught him and took him with
such force against the rocks that he would have been smashed and
torn to pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to do. He caught hold
of the rock with both hands and clung to it groaning with pain till
the wave retired, so he was saved that time; but presently the wave
came on again and carried him back with it far into the sea-tearing
his hands as the suckers of a polypus are torn when some one plucks it
from its bed, and the stones come up along with it even so did the
rocks tear the skin from his strong hands, and then the wave drew
him deep down under the water.
Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of his
own destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits about him.
He swam seaward again, beyond reach of the surf that was beating
against the land, and at the same time he kept looking towards the
shore to see if he could find some haven, or a spit that should take
the waves aslant. By and by, as he swam on, he came to the mouth of
a river, and here he thought would be the best place, for there were
no rocks, and it afforded shelter from the wind. He felt that there
was a current, so he prayed inwardly and said:
"Hear me, O King, whoever you may be, and save me from the anger
of the sea-god Neptune, for I approach you prayerfully. Any one who
has lost his way has at all times a claim even upon the gods,
wherefore in my distress I draw near to your stream, and cling to
the knees of your riverhood. Have mercy upon me, O king, for I declare
myself your suppliant."
Then the god stayed his stream and stilled the waves, making all
calm before him, and bringing him safely into the mouth of the
river. Here at last Ulysses' knees and strong hands failed him, for
the sea had completely broken him. His body was all swollen, and his
mouth and nostrils ran down like a river with sea-water, so that he
could neither breathe nor speak, and lay swooning from sheer
exhaustion; presently, when he had got his breath and came to
himself again, he took off the scarf that Ino had given him and
threw it back into the salt stream of the river, whereon Ino
received it into her hands from the wave that bore it towards her.
Then he left the river, laid himself down among the rushes, and kissed
the bounteous earth.
"Alas," he cried to himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of
me, and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the river bed
through the long watches of the night, I am so exhausted that the
bitter cold and damp may make an end of me- for towards sunrise
there will be a keen wind blowing from off the river. If, on the other
hand, I climb the hill side, find shelter in the woods, and sleep in
some thicket, I may escape the cold and have a good night's rest,
but some savage beast may take advantage of me and devour me."
In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found
one upon some high ground not far from the water. There he crept
beneath two shoots of olive that grew from a single stock- the one
an ungrafted sucker, while the other had been grafted. No wind,
however squally, could break through the cover they afforded, nor
could the sun's rays pierce them, nor the rain get through them, so
closely did they grow into one another. Ulysses crept under these
and began to make himself a bed to lie on, for there was a great
litter of dead leaves lying about- enough to make a covering for two
or three men even in hard winter weather. He was glad enough to see
this, so he laid himself down and heaped the leaves all round him.
Then, as one who lives alone in the country, far from any neighbor,
hides a brand as fire-seed in the ashes to save himself from having to
get a light elsewhere, even so did Ulysses cover himself up with
leaves; and Minerva shed a sweet sleep upon his eyes, closed his
eyelids, and made him lose all memories of his sorrows.
BOOK VI

So here Ulysses slept, overcome by sleep and toil; but Minerva
went off to the country and city of the Phaecians- a people who used
to live in the fair town of Hypereia, near the lawless Cyclopes. Now
the Cyclopes were stronger than they and plundered them, so their king
Nausithous moved them thence and settled them in Scheria, far from all
other people. He surrounded the city with a wall, built houses and
temples, and divided the lands among his people; but he was dead and
gone to the house of Hades, and King Alcinous, whose counsels were
inspired of heaven, was now reigning. To his house, then, did
Minerva hie in furtherance of the return of Ulysses.
She went straight to the beautifully decorated bedroom in which
there slept a girl who was as lovely as a goddess, Nausicaa,
daughter to King Alcinous. Two maid servants were sleeping near her,
both very pretty, one on either side of the doorway, which was
closed with well-made folding doors. Minerva took the form of the
famous sea captain Dymas's daughter, who was a bosom friend of
Nausicaa and just her own age; then, coming up to the girl's bedside
like a breath of wind, she hovered over her head and said:
"Nausicaa, what can your mother have been about, to have such a lazy
daughter? Here are your clothes all lying in disorder, yet you are
going to be married almost immediately, and should not only be well
dressed yourself, but should find good clothes for those who attend
you. This is the way to get yourself a good name, and to make your
father and mother proud of you. Suppose, then, that we make tomorrow a
washing day, and start at daybreak. I will come and help you so that
you may have everything ready as soon as possible, for all the best
young men among your own people are courting you, and you are not
going to remain a maid much longer. Ask your father, therefore, to
have a waggon and mules ready for us at daybreak, to take the rugs,
robes, and girdles; and you can ride, too, which will be much
pleasanter for you than walking, for the washing-cisterns are some way
from the town."
When she had said this Minerva went away to Olympus, which they
say is the everlasting home of the gods. Here no wind beats roughly,
and neither rain nor snow can fall; but it abides in everlasting
sunshine and in a great peacefulness of light, wherein the blessed
gods are illumined for ever and ever. This was the place to which
the goddess went when she had given instructions to the girl.
By and by morning came and woke Nausicaa, who began wondering
about her dream; she therefore went to the other end of the house to
tell her father and mother all about it, and found them in their own
room. Her mother was sitting by the fireside spinning her purple
yarn with her maids around her, and she happened to catch her father
just as he was going out to attend a meeting of the town council,
which the Phaeacian aldermen had convened. She stopped him and said:
"Papa dear, could you manage to let me have a good big waggon? I
want to take all our dirty clothes to the river and wash them. You are
the chief man here, so it is only right that you should have a clean
shirt when you attend meetings of the council. Moreover, you have five
sons at home, two of them married, while the other three are
good-looking bachelors; you know they always like to have clean
linen when they go to a dance, and I have been thinking about all
this."
She did not say a word about her own wedding, for she did not like
to, but her father knew and said, "You shall have the mules, my
love, and whatever else you have a mind for. Be off with you, and
the men shall get you a good strong waggon with a body to it that will
hold all your clothes."
On this he gave his orders to the servants, who got the waggon
out, harnessed the mules, and put them to, while the girl brought
the clothes down from the linen room and placed them on the waggon.
Her mother prepared her a basket of provisions with all sorts of
good things, and a goat skin full of wine; the girl now got into the
waggon, and her mother gave her also a golden cruse of oil, that she
and her women might anoint themselves. Then she took the whip and
reins and lashed the mules on, whereon they set off, and their hoofs
clattered on the road. They pulled without flagging, and carried not
only Nausicaa and her wash of clothes, but the maids also who were
with her.
When they reached the water side they went to the
washing-cisterns, through which there ran at all times enough pure
water to wash any quantity of linen, no matter how dirty. Here they
unharnessed the mules and turned them out to feed on the sweet juicy
herbage that grew by the water side. They took the clothes out of
the waggon, put them in the water, and vied with one another in
treading them in the pits to get the dirt out. After they had washed
them and got them quite clean, they laid them out by the sea side,
where the waves had raised a high beach of shingle, and set about
washing themselves and anointing themselves with olive oil. Then
they got their dinner by the side of the stream, and waited for the
sun to finish drying the clothes. When they had done dinner they threw
off the veils that covered their heads and began to play at ball,
while Nausicaa sang for them. As the huntress Diana goes forth upon
the mountains of Taygetus or Erymanthus to hunt wild boars or deer,
and the wood-nymphs, daughters of Aegis-bearing Jove, take their sport
along with her (then is Leto proud at seeing her daughter stand a full
head taller than the others, and eclipse the loveliest amid a whole
bevy of beauties), even so did the girl outshine her handmaids.
When it was time for them to start home, and they were folding the
clothes and putting them into the waggon, Minerva began to consider
how Ulysses should wake up and see the handsome girl who was to
conduct him to the city of the Phaeacians. The girl, therefore,
threw a ball at one of the maids, which missed her and fell into
deep water. On this they all shouted, and the noise they made woke
Ulysses, who sat up in his bed of leaves and began to wonder what it
might all be.
"Alas," said he to himself, "what kind of people have I come
amongst? Are they cruel, savage, and uncivilized, or hospitable and
humane? I seem to hear the voices of young women, and they sound
like those of the nymphs that haunt mountain tops, or springs of
rivers and meadows of green grass. At any rate I am among a race of
men and women. Let me try if I cannot manage to get a look at them."
As he said this he crept from under his bush, and broke off a
bough covered with thick leaves to hide his nakedness. He looked
like some lion of the wilderness that stalks about exulting in his
strength and defying both wind and rain; his eyes glare as he prowls
in quest of oxen, sheep, or deer, for he is famished, and will dare
break even into a well-fenced homestead, trying to get at the sheep-
even such did Ulysses seem to the young women, as he drew near to them
all naked as he was, for he was in great want. On seeing one so
unkempt and so begrimed with salt water, the others scampered off
along the spits that jutted out into the sea, but the daughter of
Alcinous stood firm, for Minerva put courage into her heart and took
away all fear from her. She stood right in front of Ulysses, and he
doubted whether he should go up to her, throw himself at her feet, and
embrace her knees as a suppliant, or stay where he was and entreat her
to give him some clothes and show him the way to the town. In the
end he deemed it best to entreat her from a distance in case the
girl should take offence at his coming near enough to clasp her knees,
so he addressed her in honeyed and persuasive language.
"O queen," he said, "I implore your aid- but tell me, are you a
goddess or are you a mortal woman? If you are a goddess and dwell in
heaven, I can only conjecture that you are Jove's daughter Diana,
for your face and figure resemble none but hers; if on the other
hand you are a mortal and live on earth, thrice happy are your
father and mother- thrice happy, too, are your brothers and sisters;
how proud and delighted they must feel when they see so fair a scion
as yourself going out to a dance; most happy, however, of all will
he be whose wedding gifts have been the richest, and who takes you
to his own home. I never yet saw any one so beautiful, neither man nor
woman, and am lost in admiration as I behold you. I can only compare
you to a young palm tree which I saw when I was at Delos growing
near the altar of Apollo- for I was there, too, with much people after
me, when I was on that journey which has been the source of all my
troubles. Never yet did such a young plant shoot out of the ground
as that was, and I admired and wondered at it exactly as I now
admire and wonder at yourself. I dare not clasp your knees, but I am
in great distress; yesterday made the twentieth day that I had been
tossing about upon the sea. The winds and waves have taken me all
the way from the Ogygian island, and now fate has flung me upon this
coast that I may endure still further suffering; for I do not think
that I have yet come to the end of it, but rather that heaven has
still much evil in store for me.
"And now, O queen, have pity upon me, for you are the first person I
have met, and I know no one else in this country. Show me the way to
your town, and let me have anything that you may have brought hither
to wrap your clothes in. May heaven grant you in all things your
heart's desire- husband, house, and a happy, peaceful home; for
there is nothing better in this world than that man and wife should be
of one mind in a house. It discomfits their enemies, makes the
hearts of their friends glad, and they themselves know more about it
than any one."
To this Nausicaa answered, "Stranger, you appear to be a sensible,
well-disposed person. There is no accounting for luck; Jove gives
prosperity to rich and poor just as he chooses, so you must take
what he has seen fit to send you, and make the best of it. Now,
however, that you have come to this our country, you shall not want
for clothes nor for anything else that a foreigner in distress may
reasonably look for. I will show you the way to the town, and will
tell you the name of our people; we are called Phaeacians, and I am
daughter to Alcinous, in whom the whole power of the state is vested."
Then she called her maids and said, "Stay where you are, you
girls. Can you not see a man without running away from him? Do you
take him for a robber or a murderer? Neither he nor any one else can
come here to do us Phaeacians any harm, for we are dear to the gods,
and live apart on a land's end that juts into the sounding sea, and
have nothing to do with any other people. This is only some poor man
who has lost his way, and we must be kind to him, for strangers and
foreigners in distress are under Jove's protection, and will take what
they can get and be thankful; so, girls, give the poor fellow
something to eat and drink, and wash him in the stream at some place
that is sheltered from the wind."
On this the maids left off running away and began calling one
another back. They made Ulysses sit down in the shelter as Nausicaa
had told them, and brought him a shirt and cloak. They also brought
him the little golden cruse of oil, and told him to go wash in the
stream. But Ulysses said, "Young women, please to stand a little on
one side that I may wash the brine from my shoulders and anoint myself
with oil, for it is long enough since my skin has had a drop of oil
upon it. I cannot wash as long as you all keep standing there. I am
ashamed to strip before a number of good-looking young women."
Then they stood on one side and went to tell the girl, while Ulysses
washed himself in the stream and scrubbed the brine from his back
and from his broad shoulders. When he had thoroughly washed himself,
and had got the brine out of his hair, he anointed himself with oil,
and put on the clothes which the girl had given him; Minerva then made
him look taller and stronger than before, she also made the hair
grow thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like
hyacinth blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders as a
skilful workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan and
Minerva enriches a piece of silver plate by gilding it- and his work
is full of beauty. Then he went and sat down a little way off upon the
beach, looking quite young and handsome, and the girl gazed on him
with admiration; then she said to her maids:
"Hush, my dears, for I want to say something. I believe the gods who
live in heaven have sent this man to the Phaeacians. When I first
saw him I thought him plain, but now his appearance is like that of
the gods who dwell in heaven. I should like my future husband to be
just such another as he is, if he would only stay here and not want to
go away. However, give him something to eat and drink."
They did as they were told, and set food before Ulysses, who ate and
drank ravenously, for it was long since he had had food of any kind.
Meanwhile, Nausicaa bethought her of another matter. She got the linen
folded and placed in the waggon, she then yoked the mules, and, as she
took her seat, she called Ulysses:
"Stranger," said she, "rise and let us be going back to the town;
I will introduce you at the house of my excellent father, where I
can tell you that you will meet all the best people among the
Phaecians. But be sure and do as I bid you, for you seem to be a
sensible person. As long as we are going past the fields- and farm
lands, follow briskly behind the waggon along with the maids and I
will lead the way myself. Presently, however, we shall come to the
town, where you will find a high wall running all round it, and a good
harbour on either side with a narrow entrance into the city, and the
ships will be drawn up by the road side, for every one has a place
where his own ship can lie. You will see the market place with a
temple of Neptune in the middle of it, and paved with large stones
bedded in the earth. Here people deal in ship's gear of all kinds,
such as cables and sails, and here, too, are the places where oars are
made, for the Phaeacians are not a nation of archers; they know
nothing about bows and arrows, but are a sea-faring folk, and pride
themselves on their masts, oars, and ships, with which they travel far
over the sea.
"I am afraid of the gossip and scandal that may be set on foot
against me later on; for the people here are very ill-natured, and
some low fellow, if he met us, might say, 'Who is this fine-looking
stranger that is going about with Nausicaa? Where did she End him? I
suppose she is going to marry him. Perhaps he is a vagabond sailor
whom she has taken from some foreign vessel, for we have no
neighbours; or some god has at last come down from heaven in answer to
her prayers, and she is going to live with him all the rest of her
life. It would be a good thing if she would take herself of I for sh
and find a husband somewhere else, for she will not look at one of the
many excellent young Phaeacians who are in with her.' This is the kind
of disparaging remark that would be made about me, and I could not
complain, for I should myself be scandalized at seeing any other
girl do the like, and go about with men in spite of everybody, while
her father and mother were still alive, and without having been
married in the face of all the world.
"If, therefore, you want my father to give you an escort and to help
you home, do as I bid you; you will see a beautiful grove of poplars
by the road side dedicated to Minerva; it has a well in it and a
meadow all round it. Here my father has a field of rich garden ground,
about as far from the town as a man' voice will carry. Sit down
there and wait for a while till the rest of us can get into the town
and reach my father's house. Then, when you think we must have done
this, come into the town and ask the way to the house of my father
Alcinous. You will have no difficulty in finding it; any child will
point it out to you, for no one else in the whole town has anything
like such a fine house as he has. When you have got past the gates and
through the outer court, go right across the inner court till you come
to my mother. You will find her sitting by the fire and spinning her
purple wool by firelight. It is a fine sight to see her as she leans
back against one of the bearing-posts with her maids all ranged behind
her. Close to her seat stands that of my father, on which he sits
and topes like an immortal god. Never mind him, but go up to my
mother, and lay your hands upon her knees if you would get home
quickly. If you can gain her over, you may hope to see your own
country again, no matter how distant it may be."
So saying she lashed the mules with her whip and they left the
river. The mules drew well and their hoofs went up and down upon the
road. She was careful not to go too fast for Ulysses and the maids who
were following on foot along with the waggon, so she plied her whip
with judgement. As the sun was going down they came to the sacred
grove of Minerva, and there Ulysses sat down and prayed to the
mighty daughter of Jove.
"Hear me," he cried, "daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable,
hear me now, for you gave no heed to my prayers when Neptune was
wrecking me. Now, therefore, have pity upon me and grant that I may
find friends and be hospitably received by the Phaecians."
Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer, but she would not
show herself to him openly, for she was afraid of her uncle Neptune,
who was still furious in his endeavors to prevent Ulysses from getting
home.
BOOK VII

Thus, then, did Ulysses wait and pray; but the girl drove on to
the town. When she reached her father's house she drew up at the
gateway, and her brothers- comely as the gods- gathered round her,
took the mules out of the waggon, and carried the clothes into the
house, while she went to her own room, where an old servant,
Eurymedusa of Apeira, lit the fire for her. This old woman had been
brought by sea from Apeira, and had been chosen as a prize for
Alcinous because he was king over the Phaecians, and the people obeyed
him as though he were a god. She had been nurse to Nausicaa, and had
now lit the fire for her, and brought her supper for her into her
own room.
Presently Ulysses got up to go towards the town; and Minerva shed
a thick mist all round him to hide him in case any of the proud
Phaecians who met him should be rude to him, or ask him who he was.
Then, as he was just entering the town, she came towards him in the
likeness of a little girl carrying a pitcher. She stood right in front
of him, and Ulysses said:
"My dear, will you be so kind as to show me the house of king
Alcinous? I am an unfortunate foreigner in distress, and do not know
one in your town and country."
Then Minerva said, "Yes, father stranger, I will show you the
house you want, for Alcinous lives quite close to my own father. I
will go before you and show the way, but say not a word as you go, and
do not look at any man, nor ask him questions; for the people here
cannot abide strangers, and do not like men who come from some other
place. They are a sea-faring folk, and sail the seas by the grace of
Neptune in ships that glide along like thought, or as a bird in the
air."
On this she led the way, and Ulysses followed in her steps; but
not one of the Phaecians could see him as he passed through the city
in the midst of them; for the great goddess Minerva in her good will
towards him had hidden him in a thick cloud of darkness. He admired
their harbours, ships, places of assembly, and the lofty walls of
the city, which, with the palisade on top of them, were very striking,
and when they reached the king's house Minerva said:
"This is the house, father stranger, which you would have me show
you. You will find a number of great people sitting at table, but do
not be afraid; go straight in, for the bolder a man is the more likely
he is to carry his point, even though he is a stranger. First find the
queen. Her name is Arete, and she comes of the same family as her
husband Alcinous. They both descend originally from Neptune, who was
father to Nausithous by Periboea, a woman of great beauty. Periboea
was the youngest daughter of Eurymedon, who at one time reigned over
the giants, but he ruined his ill-fated people and lost his own life
to boot.
"Neptune, however, lay with his daughter, and she had a son by
him, the great Nausithous, who reigned over the Phaecians.
Nausithous had two sons Rhexenor and Alcinous; Apollo killed the first
of them while he was still a bridegroom and without male issue; but he
left a daughter Arete, whom Alcinous married, and honours as no
other woman is honoured of all those that keep house along with
their husbands.
"Thus she both was, and still is, respected beyond measure by her
children, by Alcinous himself, and by the whole people, who look
upon her as a goddess, and greet her whenever she goes about the city,
for she is a thoroughly good woman both in head and heart, and when
any women are friends of hers, she will help their husbands also to
settle their disputes. If you can gain her good will, you may have
every hope of seeing your friends again, and getting safely back to
your home and country."
Then Minerva left Scheria and went away over the sea. She went to
Marathon and to the spacious streets of Athens, where she entered
the abode of Erechtheus; but Ulysses went on to the house of Alcinous,
and he pondered much as he paused a while before reaching the
threshold of bronze, for the splendour of the palace was like that
of the sun or moon. The walls on either side were of bronze from end
to end, and the cornice was of blue enamel. The doors were gold, and
hung on pillars of silver that rose from a floor of bronze, while
the lintel was silver and the hook of the door was of gold.
On either side there stood gold and silver mastiffs which Vulcan,
with his consummate skill, had fashioned expressly to keep watch
over the palace of king Alcinous; so they were immortal and could
never grow old. Seats were ranged all along the wall, here and there
from one end to the other, with coverings of fine woven work which the
women of the house had made. Here the chief persons of the Phaecians
used to sit and eat and drink, for there was abundance at all seasons;
and there were golden figures of young men with lighted torches in
their hands, raised on pedestals, to give light by night to those
who were at table. There are fifty maid servants in the house, some of
whom are always grinding rich yellow grain at the mill, while others
work at the loom, or sit and spin, and their shuttles go, backwards
and forwards like the fluttering of aspen leaves, while the linen is
so closely woven that it will turn oil. As the Phaecians are the
best sailors in the world, so their women excel all others in weaving,
for Minerva has taught them all manner of useful arts, and they are
very intelligent.
Outside the gate of the outer court there is a large garden of about
four acres with a wall all round it. It is full of beautiful trees-
pears, pomegranates, and the most delicious apples. There are luscious
figs also, and olives in full growth. The fruits never rot nor fail
all the year round, neither winter nor summer, for the air is so
soft that a new crop ripens before the old has dropped. Pear grows
on pear, apple on apple, and fig on fig, and so also with the
grapes, for there is an excellent vineyard: on the level ground of a
part of this, the grapes are being made into raisins; in another
part they are being gathered; some are being trodden in the wine tubs,
others further on have shed their blossom and are beginning to show
fruit, others again are just changing colour. In the furthest part
of the ground there are beautifully arranged beds of flowers that
are in bloom all the year round. Two streams go through it, the one
turned in ducts throughout the whole garden, while the other is
carried under the ground of the outer court to the house itself, and
the town's people draw water from it. Such, then, were the
splendours with which the gods had endowed the house of king Alcinous.
So here Ulysses stood for a while and looked about him, but when
he had looked long enough he crossed the threshold and went within the
precincts of the house. There he found all the chief people among
the Phaecians making their drink-offerings to Mercury, which they
always did the last thing before going away for the night. He went
straight through the court, still hidden by the cloak of darkness in
which Minerva had enveloped him, till he reached Arete and King
Alcinous; then he laid his hands upon the knees of the queen, and at
that moment the miraculous darkness fell away from him and he became
visible. Every one was speechless with surprise at seeing a man there,
but Ulysses began at once with his petition.
"Queen Arete," he exclaimed, "daughter of great Rhexenor, in my
distress I humbly pray you, as also your husband and these your guests
(whom may heaven prosper with long life and happiness, and may they
leave their possessions to their children, and all the honours
conferred upon them by the state) to help me home to my own country as
soon as possible; for I have been long in trouble and away from my
friends."
Then he sat down on the hearth among the ashes and they all held
their peace, till presently the old hero Echeneus, who was an
excellent speaker and an elder among the Phaeacians, plainly and in
all honesty addressed them thus:
"Alcinous," said he, "it is not creditable to you that a stranger
should be seen sitting among the ashes of your hearth; every one is
waiting to hear what you are about to say; tell him, then, to rise and
take a seat on a stool inlaid with silver, and bid your servants mix
some wine and water that we may make a drink-offering to Jove the lord
of thunder, who takes all well-disposed suppliants under his
protection; and let the housekeeper give him some supper, of
whatever there may be in the house."
When Alcinous heard this he took Ulysses by the hand, raised him
from the hearth, and bade him take the seat of Laodamas, who had
been sitting beside him, and was his favourite son. A maid servant
then brought him water in a beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a
silver basin for him to wash his hands, and she drew a clean table
beside him; an upper servant brought him bread and offered him many
good things of what there was in the house, and Ulysses ate and drank.
Then Alcinous said to one of the servants, "Pontonous, mix a cup of
wine and hand it round that we may make drink-offerings to Jove the
lord of thunder, who is the protector of all well-disposed
suppliants."
Pontonous then mixed wine and water, and handed it round after
giving every man his drink-offering. When they had made their
offerings, and had drunk each as much as he was minded, Alcinous said:
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, hear my words. You
have had your supper, so now go home to bed. To-morrow morning I shall
invite a still larger number of aldermen, and will give a
sacrificial banquet in honour of our guest; we can then discuss the
question of his escort, and consider how we may at once send him
back rejoicing to his own country without trouble or inconvenience
to himself, no matter how distant it may be. We must see that he comes
to no harm while on his homeward journey, but when he is once at
home he will have to take the luck he was born with for better or
worse like other people. It is possible, however, that the stranger is
one of the immortals who has come down from heaven to visit us; but in
this case the gods are departing from their usual practice, for
hitherto they have made themselves perfectly clear to us when we
have been offering them hecatombs. They come and sit at our feasts
just like one of our selves, and if any solitary wayfarer happens to
stumble upon some one or other of them, they affect no concealment,
for we are as near of kin to the gods as the Cyclopes and the savage
giants are."
Then Ulysses said: "Pray, Alcinous, do not take any such notion into
your head. I have nothing of the immortal about me, neither in body
nor mind, and most resemble those among you who are the most
afflicted. Indeed, were I to tell you all that heaven has seen fit
to lay upon me, you would say that I was still worse off than they
are. Nevertheless, let me sup in spite of sorrow, for an empty stomach
is a very importunate thing, and thrusts itself on a man's notice no
matter how dire is his distress. I am in great trouble, yet it insists
that I shall eat and drink, bids me lay aside all memory of my sorrows
and dwell only on the due replenishing of itself. As for yourselves,
do as you propose, and at break of day set about helping me to get
home. I shall be content to die if I may first once more behold my
property, my bondsmen, and all the greatness of my house."
Thus did he speak. Every one approved his saying, and agreed that he
should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken reasonably. Then when
they had made their drink-offerings, and had drunk each as much as
he was minded they went home to bed every man in his own abode,
leaving Ulysses in the cloister with Arete and Alcinous while the
servants were taking the things away after supper. Arete was the first
to speak, for she recognized the shirt, cloak, and good clothes that
Ulysses was wearing, as the work of herself and of her maids; so she
said, "Stranger, before we go any further, there is a question I
should like to ask you. Who, and whence are you, and who gave you
those clothes? Did you not say you had come here from beyond the sea?"
And Ulysses answered, "It would be a long story Madam, were I to
relate in full the tale of my misfortunes, for the hand of heaven
has been laid heavy upon me; but as regards your question, there is an
island far away in the sea which is called 'the Ogygian.' Here
dwells the cunning and powerful goddess Calypso, daughter of Atlas.
She lives by herself far from all neighbours human or divine. Fortune,
however, me to her hearth all desolate and alone, for Jove struck my
ship with his thunderbolts, and broke it up in mid-ocean. My brave
comrades were drowned every man of them, but I stuck to the keel and
was carried hither and thither for the space of nine days, till at
last during the darkness of the tenth night the gods brought me to the
Ogygian island where the great goddess Calypso lives. She took me in
and treated me with the utmost kindness; indeed she wanted to make
me immortal that I might never grow old, but she could not persuade me
to let her do so.
"I stayed with Calypso seven years straight on end, and watered
the good clothes she gave me with my tears during the whole time;
but at last when the eighth year came round she bade me depart of
her own free will, either because Jove had told her she must, or
because she had changed her mind. She sent me from her island on a
raft, which she provisioned with abundance of bread and wine. Moreover
she gave me good stout clothing, and sent me a wind that blew both
warm and fair. Days seven and ten did I sail over the sea, and on
the eighteenth I caught sight of the first outlines of the mountains
upon your coast- and glad indeed was I to set eyes upon them.
Nevertheless there was still much trouble in store for me, for at this
point Neptune would let me go no further, and raised a great storm
against me; the sea was so terribly high that I could no longer keep
to my raft, which went to pieces under the fury of the gale, and I had
to swim for it, till wind and current brought me to your shores.
"There I tried to land, but could not, for it was a bad place and
the waves dashed me against the rocks, so I again took to the sea
and swam on till I came to a river that seemed the most likely landing
place, for there were no rocks and it was sheltered from the wind.
Here, then, I got out of the water and gathered my senses together
again. Night was coming on, so I left the river, and went into a
thicket, where I covered myself all over with leaves, and presently
heaven sent me off into a very deep sleep. Sick and sorry as I was I
slept among the leaves all night, and through the next day till
afternoon, when I woke as the sun was westering, and saw your
daughter's maid servants playing upon the beach, and your daughter
among them looking like a goddess. I besought her aid, and she
proved to be of an excellent disposition, much more so than could be
expected from so young a person- for young people are apt to be
thoughtless. She gave me plenty of bread and wine, and when she had
had me washed in the river she also gave me the clothes in which you
see me. Now, therefore, though it has pained me to do so, I have
told you the whole truth."
Then Alcinous said, "Stranger, it was very wrong of my daughter
not to bring you on at once to my house along with the maids, seeing
that she was the first person whose aid you asked."
"Pray do not scold her," replied Ulysses; "she is not to blame.
She did tell me to follow along with the maids, but I was ashamed
and afraid, for I thought you might perhaps be displeased if you saw
me. Every human being is sometimes a little suspicious and irritable."
"Stranger," replied Alcinous, "I am not the kind of man to get angry
about nothing; it is always better to be reasonable; but by Father
Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, now that I see what kind of person you are,
and how much you think as I do, I wish you would stay here, marry my
daughter, and become my son-in-law. If you will stay I will give you a
house and an estate, but no one (heaven forbid) shall keep you here
against your own wish, and that you may be sure of this I will
attend to-morrow to the matter of your escort. You can sleep during
the whole voyage if you like, and the men shall sail you over smooth
waters either to your own home, or wherever you please, even though it
be a long way further off than Euboea, which those of my people who
saw it when they took yellow-haired Rhadamanthus to see Tityus the son
of Gaia, tell me is the furthest of any place- and yet they did the
whole voyage in a single day without distressing themselves, and
came back again afterwards. You will thus see how much my ships
excel all others, and what magnificent oarsmen my sailors are."
Then was Ulysses glad and prayed aloud saying, "Father Jove, grant
that Alcinous may do all as he has said, for so he will win an
imperishable name among mankind, and at the same time I shall return
to my country."
Thus did they converse. Then Arete told her maids to set a bed in
the room that was in the gatehouse, and make it with good red rugs,
and to spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for
Ulysses to wear. The maids thereon went out with torches in their
hands, and when they had made the bed they came up to Ulysses and
said, "Rise, sir stranger, and come with us for your bed is ready,"
and glad indeed was he to go to his rest.
So Ulysses slept in a bed placed in a room over the echoing gateway;
but Alcinous lay in the inner part of the house, with the queen his
wife by his side.
BOOK VIII

Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Alcinous and Ulysses both rose, and Alcinous led the way to the
Phaecian place of assembly, which was near the ships. When they got
there they sat down side by side on a seat of polished stone, while
Minerva took the form of one of Alcinous' servants, and went round the
town in order to help Ulysses to get home. She went up to the
citizens, man by man, and said, "Aldermen and town councillors of
the Phaeacians, come to the assembly all of you and listen to the
stranger who has just come off a long voyage to the house of King
Alcinous; he looks like an immortal god."
With these words she made them all want to come, and they flocked to
the assembly till seats and standing room were alike crowded. Every
one was struck with the appearance of Ulysses, for Minerva had
beautified him about the head and shoulders, making him look taller
and stouter than he really was, that he might impress the Phaecians
favourably as being a very remarkable man, and might come off well
in the many trials of skill to which they would challenge him. Then,
when they were got together, Alcinous spoke:
"Hear me," said he, "aldermen and town councillors of the
Phaeacians, that I may speak even as I am minded. This stranger,
whoever he may be, has found his way to my house from somewhere or
other either East or West. He wants an escort and wishes to have the
matter settled. Let us then get one ready for him, as we have done for
others before him; indeed, no one who ever yet came to my house has
been able to complain of me for not speeding on his way soon enough.
Let us draw a ship into the sea- one that has never yet made a voyage-
and man her with two and fifty of our smartest young sailors. Then
when you have made fast your oars each by his own seat, leave the ship
and come to my house to prepare a feast. I will find you in
everything. I am giving will these instructions to the young men who
will form the crew, for as regards you aldermen and town
councillors, you will join me in entertaining our guest in the
cloisters. I can take no excuses, and we will have Demodocus to sing
to us; for there is no bard like him whatever he may choose to sing
about."
Alcinous then led the way, and the others followed after, while a
servant went to fetch Demodocus. The fifty-two picked oarsmen went
to the sea shore as they had been told, and when they got there they
drew the ship into the water, got her mast and sails inside her, bound
the oars to the thole-pins with twisted thongs of leather, all in
due course, and spread the white sails aloft. They moored the vessel a
little way out from land, and then came on shore and went to the house
of King Alcinous. The outhouses, yards, and all the precincts were
filled with crowds of men in great multitudes both old and young;
and Alcinous killed them a dozen sheep, eight full grown pigs, and two
oxen. These they skinned and dressed so as to provide a magnificent
banquet.
A servant presently led in the famous bard Demodocus, whom the
muse had dearly loved, but to whom she had given both good and evil,
for though she had endowed him with a divine gift of song, she had
robbed him of his eyesight. Pontonous set a seat for him among the
guests, leaning it up against a bearing-post. He hung the lyre for him
on a peg over his head, and showed him where he was to feel for it
with his hands. He also set a fair table with a basket of victuals
by his side, and a cup of wine from which he might drink whenever he
was so disposed.
The company then laid their hands upon the good things that were
before them, but as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink,
the muse inspired Demodocus to sing the feats of heroes, and more
especially a matter that was then in the mouths of all men, to wit,
the quarrel between Ulysses and Achilles, and the fierce words that
they heaped on one another as they gat together at a banquet. But
Agamemnon was glad when he heard his chieftains quarrelling with one
another, for Apollo had foretold him this at Pytho when he crossed the
stone floor to consult the oracle. Here was the beginning of the
evil that by the will of Jove fell both Danaans and Trojans.
Thus sang the bard, but Ulysses drew his purple mantle over his head
and covered his face, for he was ashamed to let the Phaeacians see
that he was weeping. When the bard left off singing he wiped the tears
from his eyes, uncovered his face, and, taking his cup, made a
drink-offering to the gods; but when the Phaeacians pressed
Demodocus to sing further, for they delighted in his lays, then
Ulysses again drew his mantle over his head and wept bitterly. No
one noticed his distress except Alcinous, who was sitting near him,
and heard the heavy sighs that he was heaving. So he at once said,
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, we have had enough
now, both of the feast, and of the minstrelsy that is its due
accompaniment; let us proceed therefore to the athletic sports, so
that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as boxers, wrestlers, jumpers,
and runners."
With these words he led the way, and the others followed after. A
servant hung Demodocus's lyre on its peg for him, led him out of the
cloister, and set him on the same way as that along which all the
chief men of the Phaeacians were going to see the sports; a crowd of
several thousands of people followed them, and there were many
excellent competitors for all the prizes. Acroneos, Ocyalus, Elatreus,
Nauteus, Prymneus, Anchialus, Eretmeus, Ponteus, Proreus, Thoon,
Anabesineus, and Amphialus son of Polyneus son of Tecton. There was
also Euryalus son of Naubolus, who was like Mars himself, and was
the best looking man among the Phaecians except Laodamas. Three sons
of Alcinous, Laodamas, Halios, and Clytoneus, competed also.
The foot races came first. The course was set out for them from
the starting post, and they raised a dust upon the plain as they all
flew forward at the same moment. Clytoneus came in first by a long
way; he left every one else behind him by the length of the furrow
that a couple of mules can plough in a fallow field. They then
turned to the painful art of wrestling, and here Euryalus proved to be
the best man. Amphialus excelled all the others in jumping, while at
throwing the disc there was no one who could approach Elatreus.
Alcinous's son Laodamas was the best boxer, and he it was who
presently said, when they had all been diverted with the games, "Let
us ask the stranger whether he excels in any of these sports; he seems
very powerfully built; his thighs, claves, hands, and neck are of
prodigious strength, nor is he at all old, but he has suffered much
lately, and there is nothing like the sea for making havoc with a man,
no matter how strong he is."
"You are quite right, Laodamas," replied Euryalus, "go up to your
guest and speak to him about it yourself."
When Laodamas heard this he made his way into the middle of the
crowd and said to Ulysses, "I hope, Sir, that you will enter
yourself for some one or other of our competitions if you are
skilled in any of them- and you must have gone in for many a one
before now. There is nothing that does any one so much credit all
his life long as the showing himself a proper man with his hands and
feet. Have a try therefore at something, and banish all sorrow from
your mind. Your return home will not be long delayed, for the ship
is already drawn into the water, and the crew is found."
Ulysses answered, "Laodamas, why do you taunt me in this way? my
mind is set rather on cares than contests; I have been through
infinite trouble, and am come among you now as a suppliant, praying
your king and people to further me on my return home."
Then Euryalus reviled him outright and said, "I gather, then, that
you are unskilled in any of the many sports that men generally delight
in. I suppose you are one of those grasping traders that go about in
ships as captains or merchants, and who think of nothing but of
their outward freights and homeward cargoes. There does not seem to be
much of the athlete about you."
"For shame, Sir," answered Ulysses, fiercely, "you are an insolent
fellow- so true is it that the gods do not grace all men alike in
speech, person, and understanding. One man may be of weak presence,
but heaven has adorned this with such a good conversation that he
charms every one who sees him; his honeyed moderation carries his
hearers with him so that he is leader in all assemblies of his
fellows, and wherever he goes he is looked up to. Another may be as
handsome as a god, but his good looks are not crowned with discretion.
This is your case. No god could make a finer looking fellow than you
are, but you are a fool. Your ill-judged remarks have made me
exceedingly angry, and you are quite mistaken, for I excel in a
great many athletic exercises; indeed, so long as I had youth and
strength, I was among the first athletes of the age. Now, however, I
am worn out by labour and sorrow, for I have gone through much both on
the field of battle and by the waves of the weary sea; still, in spite
of all this I will compete, for your taunts have stung me to the
quick."
So he hurried up without even taking his cloak off, and seized a
disc, larger, more massive and much heavier than those used by the
Phaeacians when disc-throwing among themselves. Then, swinging it
back, he threw it from his brawny hand, and it made a humming sound in
the air as he did so. The Phaeacians quailed beneath the rushing of
its flight as it sped gracefully from his hand, and flew beyond any
mark that had been made yet. Minerva, in the form of a man, came and
marked the place where it had fallen. "A blind man, Sir," said she,
"could easily tell your mark by groping for it- it is so far ahead
of any other. You may make your mind easy about this contest, for no
Phaeacian can come near to such a throw as yours."
Ulysses was glad when he found he had a friend among the lookers-on,
so he began to speak more pleasantly. "Young men," said he, "come up
to that throw if you can, and I will throw another disc as heavy or
even heavier. If anyone wants to have a bout with me let him come
on, for I am exceedingly angry; I will box, wrestle, or run, I do
not care what it is, with any man of you all except Laodamas, but
not with him because I am his guest, and one cannot compete with one's
own personal friend. At least I do not think it a prudent or a
sensible thing for a guest to challenge his host's family at any game,
especially when he is in a foreign country. He will cut the ground
from under his own feet if he does; but I make no exception as regards
any one else, for I want to have the matter out and know which is
the best man. I am a good hand at every kind of athletic sport known
among mankind. I am an excellent archer. In battle I am always the
first to bring a man down with my arrow, no matter how many more are
taking aim at him alongside of me. Philoctetes was the only man who
could shoot better than I could when we Achaeans were before Troy
and in practice. I far excel every one else in the whole world, of
those who still eat bread upon the face of the earth, but I should not
like to shoot against the mighty dead, such as Hercules, or Eurytus
the Cechalian-men who could shoot against the gods themselves. This in
fact was how Eurytus came prematurely by his end, for Apollo was angry
with him and killed him because he challenged him as an archer. I
can throw a dart farther than any one else can shoot an arrow. Running
is the only point in respect of which I am afraid some of the
Phaecians might beat me, for I have been brought down very low at sea;
my provisions ran short, and therefore I am still weak."
They all held their peace except King Alcinous, who began, "Sir,
we have had much pleasure in hearing all that you have told us, from
which I understand that you are willing to show your prowess, as
having been displeased with some insolent remarks that have been
made to you by one of our athletes, and which could never have been
uttered by any one who knows how to talk with propriety. I hope you
will apprehend my meaning, and will explain to any be one of your
chief men who may be dining with yourself and your family when you get
home, that we have an hereditary aptitude for accomplishments of all
kinds. We are not particularly remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as
wrestlers, but we are singularly fleet of foot and are excellent
sailors. We are extremely fond of good dinners, music, and dancing; we
also like frequent changes of linen, warm baths, and good beds, so
now, please, some of you who are the best dancers set about dancing,
that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as sailors, runners, dancers,
minstrels. Demodocus has left his lyre at my house, so run some one or
other of you and fetch it for him."
On this a servant hurried off to bring the lyre from the king's
house, and the nine men who had been chosen as stewards stood forward.
It was their business to manage everything connected with the
sports, so they made the ground smooth and marked a wide space for the
dancers. Presently the servant came back with Demodocus's lyre, and he
took his place in the midst of them, whereon the best young dancers in
the town began to foot and trip it so nimbly that Ulysses was
delighted with the merry twinkling of their feet.
Meanwhile the bard began to sing the loves of Mars and Venus, and
how they first began their intrigue in the house of Vulcan. Mars
made Venus many presents, and defiled King Vulcan's marriage bed, so
the sun, who saw what they were about, told Vulcan. Vulcan was very
angry when he heard such dreadful news, so he went to his smithy
brooding mischief, got his great anvil into its place, and began to
forge some chains which none could either unloose or break, so that
they might stay there in that place. When he had finished his snare he
went into his bedroom and festooned the bed-posts all over with chains
like cobwebs; he also let many hang down from the great beam of the
ceiling. Not even a god could see them, so fine and subtle were
they. As soon as he had spread the chains all over the bed, he made as
though he were setting out for the fair state of Lemnos, which of
all places in the world was the one he was most fond of. But Mars kept
no blind look out, and as soon as he saw him start, hurried off to his
house, burning with love for Venus.
Now Venus was just come in from a visit to her father Jove, and
was about sitting down when Mars came inside the house, an said as
he took her hand in his own, "Let us go to the couch of Vulcan: he
is not at home, but is gone off to Lemnos among the Sintians, whose
speech is barbarous."
She was nothing loth, so they went to the couch to take their
rest, whereon they were caught in the toils which cunning Vulcan had
spread for them, and could neither get up nor stir hand or foot, but
found too late that they were in a trap. Then Vulcan came up to
them, for he had turned back before reaching Lemnos, when his scout
the sun told him what was going on. He was in a furious passion, and
stood in the vestibule making a dreadful noise as he shouted to all
the gods.
"Father Jove," he cried, "and all you other blessed gods who live
for ever, come here and see the ridiculous and disgraceful sight
that I will show you. Jove's daughter Venus is always dishonouring
me because I am lame. She is in love with Mars, who is handsome and
clean built, whereas I am a cripple- but my parents are to blame for
that, not I; they ought never to have begotten me. Come and see the
pair together asleep on my bed. It makes me furious to look at them.
They are very fond of one another, but I do not think they will lie
there longer than they can help, nor do I think that they will sleep
much; there, however, they shall stay till her father has repaid me
the sum I gave him for his baggage of a daughter, who is fair but
not honest."
On this the gods gathered to the house of Vulcan. Earth-encircling
Neptune came, and Mercury the bringer of luck, and King Apollo, but
the goddesses stayed at home all of them for shame. Then the givers of
all good things stood in the doorway, and the blessed gods roared with
inextinguishable laughter, as they saw how cunning Vulcan had been,
whereon one would turn towards his neighbour saying:
"Ill deeds do not prosper, and the weak confound the strong. See how
limping Vulcan, lame as he is, has caught Mars who is the fleetest god
in heaven; and now Mars will be cast in heavy damages."
Thus did they converse, but King Apollo said to Mercury,
"Messenger Mercury, giver of good things, you would not care how
strong the chains were, would you, if you could sleep with Venus?"
"King Apollo," answered Mercury, "I only wish I might get the
chance, though there were three times as many chains- and you might
look on, all of you, gods and goddesses, but would sleep with her if I
could."
The immortal gods burst out laughing as they heard him, but
Neptune took it all seriously, and kept on imploring Vulcan to set
Mars free again. "Let him go," he cried, "and I will undertake, as you
require, that he shall pay you all the damages that are held
reasonable among the immortal gods."
"Do not," replied Vulcan, "ask me to do this; a bad man's bond is
bad security; what remedy could I enforce against you if Mars should
go away and leave his debts behind him along with his chains?"
"Vulcan," said Neptune, "if Mars goes away without paying his
damages, I will pay you myself." So Vulcan answered, "In this case I
cannot and must not refuse you."
Thereon he loosed the bonds that bound them, and as soon as they
were free they scampered off, Mars to Thrace and laughter-loving Venus
to Cyprus and to Paphos, where is her grove and her altar fragrant
with burnt offerings. Here the Graces hathed her, and anointed her
with oil of ambrosia such as the immortal gods make use of, and they
clothed her in raiment of the most enchanting beauty.
Thus sang the bard, and both Ulysses and the seafaring Phaeacians
were charmed as they heard him.
Then Alcinous told Laodamas and Halius to dance alone, for there was
no one to compete with them. So they took a red ball which Polybus had
made for them, and one of them bent himself backwards and threw it
up towards the clouds, while the other jumped from off the ground
and caught it with ease before it came down again. When they had
done throwing the ball straight up into the air they began to dance,
and at the same time kept on throwing it backwards and forwards to one
another, while all the young men in the ring applauded and made a
great stamping with their feet. Then Ulysses said:
"King Alcinous, you said your people were the nimblest dancers in
the world, and indeed they have proved themselves to be so. I was
astonished as I saw them."
The king was delighted at this, and exclaimed to the Phaecians
"Aldermen and town councillors, our guest seems to be a person of
singular judgement; let us give him such proof of our hospitality as
he may reasonably expect. There are twelve chief men among you, and
counting myself there are thirteen; contribute, each of you, a clean
cloak, a shirt, and a talent of fine gold; let us give him all this in
a lump down at once, so that when he gets his supper he may do so with
a light heart. As for Euryalus he will have to make a formal apology
and a present too, for he has been rude."
Thus did he speak. The others all of them applauded his saying,
and sent their servants to fetch the presents. Then Euryalus said,
"King Alcinous, I will give the stranger all the satisfaction you
require. He shall have sword, which is of bronze, all but the hilt,
which is of silver. I will also give him the scabbard of newly sawn
ivory into which it fits. It will be worth a great deal to him."
As he spoke he placed the sword in the hands of Ulysses and said,
"Good luck to you, father stranger; if anything has been said amiss
may the winds blow it away with them, and may heaven grant you a
safe return, for I understand you have been long away from home, and
have gone through much hardship."
To which Ulysses answered, "Good luck to you too my friend, and
may the gods grant you every happiness. I hope you will not miss the
sword you have given me along with your apology."
With these words he girded the sword about his shoulders and towards
sundown the presents began to make their appearance, as the servants
of the donors kept bringing them to the house of King Alcinous; here
his sons received them, and placed them under their mother's charge.
Then Alcinous led the way to the house and bade his guests take
their seats.
"Wife," said he, turning to Queen Arete, "Go, fetch the best chest
we have, and put a clean cloak and shirt in it. Also, set a copper
on the fire and heat some water; our guest will take a warm bath;
see also to the careful packing of the presents that the noble
Phaeacians have made him; he will thus better enjoy both his supper
and the singing that will follow. I shall myself give him this
golden goblet- which is of exquisite workmanship- that he may be
reminded of me for the rest of his life whenever he makes a
drink-offering to Jove, or to any of the gods."
Then Arete told her maids to set a large tripod upon the fire as
fast as they could, whereon they set a tripod full of bath water on to
a clear fire; they threw on sticks to make it blaze, and the water
became hot as the flame played about the belly of the tripod.
Meanwhile Arete brought a magnificent chest her own room, and inside
it she packed all the beautiful presents of gold and raiment which the
Phaeacians had brought. Lastly she added a cloak and a good shirt from
Alcinous, and said to Ulysses:
"See to the lid yourself, and have the whole bound round at once,
for fear any one should rob you by the way when you are asleep in your
ship."
When Ulysses heard this he put the lid on the chest and made it fast
with a bond that Circe had taught him. He had done so before an
upper servant told him to come to the bath and wash himself. He was
very glad of a warm bath, for he had had no one to wait upon him
ever since he left the house of Calypso, who as long as he remained
with her had taken as good care of him as though he had been a god.
When the servants had done washing and anointing him with oil, and had
given him a clean cloak and shirt, he left the bath room and joined
the guests who were sitting over their wine. Lovely Nausicaa stood
by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof if the cloister, and
admired him as she saw him pass. "Farewell stranger," said she, "do
not forget me when you are safe at home again, for it is to me first
that you owe a ransom for having saved your life."
And Ulysses said, "Nausicaa, daughter of great Alcinous, may Jove
the mighty husband of Juno, grant that I may reach my home; so shall I
bless you as my guardian angel all my days, for it was you who saved
me."
When he had said this, he seated himself beside Alcinous. Supper was
then served, and the wine was mixed for drinking. A servant led in the
favourite bard Demodocus, and set him in the midst of the company,
near one of the bearing-posts supporting the cloister, that he might
lean against it. Then Ulysses cut off a piece of roast pork with
plenty of fat (for there was abundance left on the joint) and said
to a servant, "Take this piece of pork over to Demodocus and tell
him to eat it; for all the pain his lays may cause me I will salute
him none the less; bards are honoured and respected throughout the
world, for the muse teaches them their songs and loves them."
The servant carried the pork in his fingers over to Demodocus, who
took it and was very much pleased. They then laid their hands on the
good things that were before them, and as soon as they had had to
eat and drink, Ulysses said to Demodocus, "Demodocus, there is no
one in the world whom I admire more than I do you. You must have
studied under the Muse, Jove's daughter, and under Apollo, so
accurately do you sing the return of the Achaeans with all their
sufferings and adventures. If you were not there yourself, you must
have heard it all from some one who was. Now, however, change your
song and tell us of the wooden horse which Epeus made with the
assistance of Minerva, and which Ulysses got by stratagem into the
fort of Troy after freighting it with the men who afterwards sacked
the city. If you will sing this tale aright I will tell all the
world how magnificently heaven has endowed you."
The bard inspired of heaven took up the story at the point where
some of the Argives set fire to their tents and sailed away while
others, hidden within the horse, were waiting with Ulysses in the
Trojan place of assembly. For the Trojans themselves had drawn the
horse into their fortress, and it stood there while they sat in
council round it, and were in three minds as to what they should do.
Some were for breaking it up then and there; others would have it
dragged to the top of the rock on which the fortress stood, and then
thrown down the precipice; while yet others were for letting it remain
as an offering and propitiation for the gods. And this was how they
settled it in the end, for the city was doomed when it took in that
horse, within which were all the bravest of the Argives waiting to
bring death and destruction on the Trojans. Anon he sang how the
sons of the Achaeans issued from the horse, and sacked the town,
breaking out from their ambuscade. He sang how they over ran the
city hither and thither and ravaged it, and how Ulysses went raging
like Mars along with Menelaus to the house of Deiphobus. It was
there that the fight raged most furiously, nevertheless by Minerva's
help he was victorious.
All this he told, but Ulysses was overcome as he heard him, and
his cheeks were wet with tears. He wept as a woman weeps when she
throws herself on the body of her husband who has fallen before his
own city and people, fighting bravely in defence of his home and
children. She screams aloud and flings her arms about him as he lies
gasping for breath and dying, but her enemies beat her from behind
about the back and shoulders, and carry her off into slavery, to a
life of labour and sorrow, and the beauty fades from her cheeks-
even so piteously did Ulysses weep, but none of those present
perceived his tears except Alcinous, who was sitting near him, and
could hear the sobs and sighs that he was heaving. The king,
therefore, at once rose and said:
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, let Demodocus
cease his song, for there are those present who do not seem to like
it. From the moment that we had done supper and Demodocus began to
sing, our guest has been all the time groaning and lamenting. He is
evidently in great trouble, so let the bard leave off, that we may all
enjoy ourselves, hosts and guest alike. This will be much more as it
should be, for all these festivities, with the escort and the presents
that we are making with so much good will, are wholly in his honour,
and any one with even a moderate amount of right feeling knows that he
ought to treat a guest and a suppliant as though he were his own
brother.
"Therefore, Sir, do you on your part affect no more concealment
nor reserve in the matter about which I shall ask you; it will be more
polite in you to give me a plain answer; tell me the name by which
your father and mother over yonder used to call you, and by which
you were known among your neighbours and fellow-citizens. There is
no one, neither rich nor poor, who is absolutely without any name
whatever, for people's fathers and mothers give them names as soon
as they are born. Tell me also your country, nation, and city, that
our ships may shape their purpose accordingly and take you there.
For the Phaeacians have no pilots; their vessels have no rudders as
those of other nations have, but the ships themselves understand
what it is that we are thinking about and want; they know all the
cities and countries in the whole world, and can traverse the sea just
as well even when it is covered with mist and cloud, so that there
is no danger of being wrecked or coming to any harm. Still I do
remember hearing my father say that Neptune was angry with us for
being too easy-going in the matter of giving people escorts. He said
that one of these days he should wreck a ship of ours as it was
returning from having escorted some one, and bury our city under a
high mountain. This is what my used to say, but whether the god will
carry out his threat or no is a matter which he will decide for
himself.
"And now, tell me and tell me true. Where have you been wandering,
and in what countries have you travelled? Tell us of the peoples
themselves, and of their cities- who were hostile, savage and
uncivilized, and who, on the other hand, hospitable and humane. Tell
us also why you are made unhappy on hearing about the return of the
Argive Danaans from Troy. The gods arranged all this, and sent them
their misfortunes in order that future generations might have
something to sing about. Did you lose some brave kinsman of your
wife's when you were before Troy? a son-in-law or father-in-law- which
are the nearest relations a man has outside his own flesh and blood?
or was it some brave and kindly-natured comrade- for a good friend
is as dear to a man as his own brother?"
BOOK IX

And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, it is a good thing to hear a
bard with such a divine voice as this man has. There is nothing better
or more delightful than when a whole people make merry together,
with the guests sitting orderly to listen, while the table is loaded
with bread and meats, and the cup-bearer draws wine and fills his
cup for every man. This is indeed as fair a sight as a man can see.
Now, however, since you are inclined to ask the story of my sorrows,
and rekindle my own sad memories in respect of them, I do not know how
to begin, nor yet how to continue and conclude my tale, for the hand
of heaven has been laid heavily upon me.
"Firstly, then, I will tell you my name that you too may know it,
and one day, if I outlive this time of sorrow, may become my there
guests though I live so far away from all of you. I am Ulysses son
of Laertes, reknowned among mankind for all manner of subtlety, so
that my fame ascends to heaven. I live in Ithaca, where there is a
high mountain called Neritum, covered with forests; and not far from
it there is a group of islands very near to one another- Dulichium,
Same, and the wooded island of Zacynthus. It lies squat on the
horizon, all highest up in the sea towards the sunset, while the
others lie away from it towards dawn. It is a rugged island, but it
breeds brave men, and my eyes know none that they better love to
look upon. The goddess Calypso kept me with her in her cave, and
wanted me to marry her, as did also the cunning Aeaean goddess
Circe; but they could neither of them persuade me, for there is
nothing dearer to a man than his own country and his parents, and
however splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it be far
from father or mother, he does not care about it. Now, however, I will
tell you of the many hazardous adventures which by Jove's will I met
with on my return from Troy.
"When I had set sail thence the wind took me first to Ismarus, which
is the city of the Cicons. There I sacked the town and put the
people to the sword. We took their wives and also much booty, which we
divided equitably amongst us, so that none might have reason to
complain. I then said that we had better make off at once, but my
men very foolishly would not obey me, so they stayed there drinking
much wine and killing great numbers of sheep and oxen on the sea
shore. Meanwhile the Cicons cried out for help to other Cicons who
lived inland. These were more in number, and stronger, and they were
more skilled in the art of war, for they could fight, either from
chariots or on foot as the occasion served; in the morning, therefore,
they came as thick as leaves and bloom in summer, and the hand of
heaven was against us, so that we were hard pressed. They set the
battle in array near the ships, and the hosts aimed their
bronze-shod spears at one another. So long as the day waxed and it was
still morning, we held our own against them, though they were more
in number than we; but as the sun went down, towards the time when men
loose their oxen, the Cicons got the better of us, and we lost half
a dozen men from every ship we had; so we got away with those that
were left.
"Thence we sailed onward with sorrow in our hearts, but glad to have
escaped death though we had lost our comrades, nor did we leave till
we had thrice invoked each one of the poor fellows who had perished by
the hands of the Cicons. Then Jove raised the North wind against us
till it blew a hurricane, so that land and sky were hidden in thick
clouds, and night sprang forth out of the heavens. We let the ships
run before the gale, but the force of the wind tore our sails to
tatters, so we took them down for fear of shipwreck, and rowed our
hardest towards the land. There we lay two days and two nights
suffering much alike from toil and distress of mind, but on the
morning of the third day we again raised our masts, set sail, and took
our places, letting the wind and steersmen direct our ship. I should
have got home at that time unharmed had not the North wind and the
currents been against me as I was doubling Cape Malea, and set me
off my course hard by the island of Cythera.
"I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the
sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eater,
who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to
take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore
near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company
to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they
had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among
the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the
lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring
about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened
to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the
Lotus-eater without thinking further of their return; nevertheless,
though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made
them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at
once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting
to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with
their oars.
"We sailed hence, always in much distress, till we came to the
land of the lawless and inhuman Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes neither
plant nor plough, but trust in providence, and live on such wheat,
barley, and grapes as grow wild without any kind of tillage, and their
wild grapes yield them wine as the sun and the rain may grow them.
They have no laws nor assemblies of the people, but live in caves on
the tops of high mountains; each is lord and master in his family, and
they take no account of their neighbours.
"Now off their harbour there lies a wooded and fertile island not
quite close to the land of the Cyclopes, but still not far. It is
overrun with wild goats, that breed there in great numbers and are
never disturbed by foot of man; for sportsmen- who as a rule will
suffer so much hardship in forest or among mountain precipices- do not
go there, nor yet again is it ever ploughed or fed down, but it lies a
wilderness untilled and unsown from year to year, and has no living
thing upon it but only goats. For the Cyclopes have no ships, nor
yet shipwrights who could make ships for them; they cannot therefore
go from city to city, or sail over the sea to one another's country as
people who have ships can do; if they had had these they would have
colonized the island, for it is a very good one, and would yield
everything in due season. There are meadows that in some places come
right down to the sea shore, well watered and full of luscious
grass; grapes would do there excellently; there is level land for
ploughing, and it would always yield heavily at harvest time, for
the soil is deep. There is a good harbour where no cables are
wanted, nor yet anchors, nor need a ship be moored, but all one has to
do is to beach one's vessel and stay there till the wind becomes
fair for putting out to sea again. At the head of the harbour there is
a spring of clear water coming out of a cave, and there are poplars
growing all round it.
"Here we entered, but so dark was the night that some god must
have brought us in, for there was nothing whatever to be seen. A thick
mist hung all round our ships; the moon was hidden behind a mass of
clouds so that no one could have seen the island if he had looked
for it, nor were there any breakers to tell us we were close in
shore before we found ourselves upon the land itself; when, however,
we had beached the ships, we took down the sails, went ashore and
camped upon the beach till daybreak.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, we admired
the island and wandered all over it, while the nymphs Jove's daughters
roused the wild goats that we might get some meat for our dinner. On
this we fetched our spears and bows and arrows from the ships, and
dividing ourselves into three bands began to shoot the goats. Heaven
sent us excellent sport; I had twelve ships with me, and each ship got
nine goats, while my own ship had ten; thus through the livelong day
to the going down of the sun we ate and drank our fill,- and we had
plenty of wine left, for each one of us had taken many jars full
when we sacked the city of the Cicons, and this had not yet run out.
While we were feasting we kept turning our eyes towards the land of
the Cyclopes, which was hard by, and saw the smoke of their stubble
fires. We could almost fancy we heard their voices and the bleating of
their sheep and goats, but when the sun went down and it came on dark,
we camped down upon the beach, and next morning I called a council.
"'Stay here, my brave fellows,' said I, 'all the rest of you,
while I go with my ship and exploit these people myself: I want to see
if they are uncivilized savages, or a hospitable and humane race.'
"I went on board, bidding my men to do so also and loose the
hawsers; so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their
oars. When we got to the land, which was not far, there, on the face
of a cliff near the sea, we saw a great cave overhung with laurels. It
was a station for a great many sheep and goats, and outside there
was a large yard, with a high wall round it made of stones built
into the ground and of trees both pine and oak. This was the abode
of a huge monster who was then away from home shepherding his
flocks. He would have nothing to do with other people, but led the
life of an outlaw. He was a horrid creature, not like a human being at
all, but resembling rather some crag that stands out boldly against
the sky on the top of a high mountain.
"I told my men to draw the ship ashore, and stay where they were,
all but the twelve best among them, who were to go along with
myself. I also took a goatskin of sweet black wine which had been
given me by Maron, Apollo son of Euanthes, who was priest of Apollo
the patron god of Ismarus, and lived within the wooded precincts of
the temple. When we were sacking the city we respected him, and spared
his life, as also his wife and child; so he made me some presents of
great value- seven talents of fine gold, and a bowl of silver, with
twelve jars of sweet wine, unblended, and of the most exquisite
flavour. Not a man nor maid in the house knew about it, but only
himself, his wife, and one housekeeper: when he drank it he mixed
twenty parts of water to one of wine, and yet the fragrance from the
mixing-bowl was so exquisite that it was impossible to refrain from
drinking. I filled a large skin with this wine, and took a wallet full
of provisions with me, for my mind misgave me that I might have to
deal with some savage who would be of great strength, and would
respect neither right nor law.
"We soon reached his cave, but he was out shepherding, so we went
inside and took stock of all that we could see. His cheese-racks
were loaded with cheeses, and he had more lambs and kids than his pens
could hold. They were kept in separate flocks; first there were the
hoggets, then the oldest of the younger lambs and lastly the very
young ones all kept apart from one another; as for his dairy, all
the vessels, bowls, and milk pails into which he milked, were swimming
with whey. When they saw all this, my men begged me to let them
first steal some cheeses, and make off with them to the ship; they
would then return, drive down the lambs and kids, put them on board
and sail away with them. It would have been indeed better if we had
done so but I would not listen to them, for I wanted to see the
owner himself, in the hope that he might give me a present. When,
however, we saw him my poor men found him ill to deal with.
"We lit a fire, offered some of the cheeses in sacrifice, ate others
of them, and then sat waiting till the Cyclops should come in with his
sheep. When he came, he brought in with him a huge load of dry
firewood to light the fire for his supper, and this he flung with such
a noise on to the floor of his cave that we hid ourselves for fear
at the far end of the cavern. Meanwhile he drove all the ewes
inside, as well as the she-goats that he was going to milk, leaving
the males, both rams and he-goats, outside in the yards. Then he
rolled a huge stone to the mouth of the cave- so huge that two and
twenty strong four-wheeled waggons would not be enough to draw it from
its place against the doorway. When he had so done he sat down and
milked his ewes and goats, all in due course, and then let each of
them have her own young. He curdled half the milk and set it aside
in wicker strainers, but the other half he poured into bowls that he
might drink it for his supper. When he had got through with all his
work, he lit the fire, and then caught sight of us, whereon he said:
"'Strangers, who are you? Where do sail from? Are you traders, or do
you sail the as rovers, with your hands against every man, and every
man's hand against you?'
"We were frightened out of our senses by his loud voice and
monstrous form, but I managed to say, 'We are Achaeans on our way home
from Troy, but by the will of Jove, and stress of weather, we have
been driven far out of our course. We are the people of Agamemnon, son
of Atreus, who has won infinite renown throughout the whole world,
by sacking so great a city and killing so many people. We therefore
humbly pray you to show us some hospitality, and otherwise make us
such presents as visitors may reasonably expect. May your excellency
fear the wrath of heaven, for we are your suppliants, and Jove takes
all respectable travellers under his protection, for he is the avenger
of all suppliants and foreigners in distress.'
"To this he gave me but a pitiless answer, 'Stranger,' said he, 'you
are a fool, or else you know nothing of this country. Talk to me,
indeed, about fearing the gods or shunning their anger? We Cyclopes do
not care about Jove or any of your blessed gods, for we are ever so
much stronger than they. I shall not spare either yourself or your
companions out of any regard for Jove, unless I am in the humour for
doing so. And now tell me where you made your ship fast when you
came on shore. Was it round the point, or is she lying straight off
the land?'
"He said this to draw me out, but I was too cunning to be caught
in that way, so I answered with a lie; 'Neptune,' said I, 'sent my
ship on to the rocks at the far end of your country, and wrecked it.
We were driven on to them from the open sea, but I and those who are
with me escaped the jaws of death.'
"The cruel wretch vouchsafed me not one word of answer, but with a
sudden clutch he gripped up two of my men at once and dashed them down
upon the ground as though they had been puppies. Their brains were
shed upon the ground, and the earth was wet with their blood. Then
he tore them limb from limb and supped upon them. He gobbled them up
like a lion in the wilderness, flesh, bones, marrow, and entrails,
without leaving anything uneaten. As for us, we wept and lifted up our
hands to heaven on seeing such a horrid sight, for we did not know
what else to do; but when the Cyclops had filled his huge paunch,
and had washed down his meal of human flesh with a drink of neat milk,
he stretched himself full length upon the ground among his sheep,
and went to sleep. I was at first inclined to seize my sword, draw it,
and drive it into his vitals, but I reflected that if I did we
should all certainly be lost, for we should never be able to shift the
stone which the monster had put in front of the door. So we stayed
sobbing and sighing where we were till morning came.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, he again
lit his fire, milked his goats and ewes, all quite rightly, and then
let each have her own young one; as soon as he had got through with
all his work, he clutched up two more of my men, and began eating them
for his morning's meal. Presently, with the utmost ease, he rolled the
stone away from the door and drove out his sheep, but he at once put
it back again- as easily as though he were merely clapping the lid
on to a quiver full of arrows. As soon as he had done so he shouted,
and cried 'Shoo, shoo,' after his sheep to drive them on to the
mountain; so I was left to scheme some way of taking my revenge and
covering myself with glory.
"In the end I deemed it would be the best plan to do as follows. The
Cyclops had a great club which was lying near one of the sheep pens;
it was of green olive wood, and he had cut it intending to use it
for a staff as soon as it should be dry. It was so huge that we
could only compare it to the mast of a twenty-oared merchant vessel of
large burden, and able to venture out into open sea. I went up to this
club and cut off about six feet of it; I then gave this piece to the
men and told them to fine it evenly off at one end, which they
proceeded to do, and lastly I brought it to a point myself, charring
the end in the fire to make it harder. When I had done this I hid it
under dung, which was lying about all over the cave, and told the
men to cast lots which of them should venture along with myself to
lift it and bore it into the monster's eye while he was asleep. The
lot fell upon the very four whom I should have chosen, and I myself
made five. In the evening the wretch came back from shepherding, and
drove his flocks into the cave- this time driving them all inside, and
not leaving any in the yards; I suppose some fancy must have taken
him, or a god must have prompted him to do so. As soon as he had put
the stone back to its place against the door, he sat down, milked
his ewes and his goats all quite rightly, and then let each have her
own young one; when he had got through with all this work, he
gripped up two more of my men, and made his supper off them. So I went
up to him with an ivy-wood bowl of black wine in my hands:
"'Look here, Cyclops,' said I, you have been eating a great deal
of man's flesh, so take this and drink some wine, that you may see
what kind of liquor we had on board my ship. I was bringing it to
you as a drink-offering, in the hope that you would take compassion
upon me and further me on my way home, whereas all you do is to go
on ramping and raving most intolerably. You ought to be ashamed
yourself; how can you expect people to come see you any more if you
treat them in this way?'
"He then took the cup and drank. He was so delighted with the
taste of the wine that he begged me for another bowl full. 'Be so
kind,' he said, 'as to give me some more, and tell me your name at
once. I want to make you a present that you will be glad to have. We
have wine even in this country, for our soil grows grapes and the
sun ripens them, but this drinks like nectar and ambrosia all in one.'
"I then gave him some more; three times did I fill the bowl for him,
and three times did he drain it without thought or heed; then, when
I saw that the wine had got into his head, I said to him as
plausibly as I could: 'Cyclops, you ask my name and I will tell it
you; give me, therefore, the present you promised me; my name is
Noman; this is what my father and mother and my friends have always
called me.'
"But the cruel wretch said, 'Then I will eat all Noman's comrades
before Noman himself, and will keep Noman for the last. This is the
present that I will make him.'
As he spoke he reeled, and fell sprawling face upwards on the
ground. His great neck hung heavily backwards and a deep sleep took
hold upon him. Presently he turned sick, and threw up both wine and
the gobbets of human flesh on which he had been gorging, for he was
very drunk. Then I thrust the beam of wood far into the embers to heat
it, and encouraged my men lest any of them should turn
faint-hearted. When the wood, green though it was, was about to blaze,
I drew it out of the fire glowing with heat, and my men gathered round
me, for heaven had filled their hearts with courage. We drove the
sharp end of the beam into the monster's eye, and bearing upon it with
all my weight I kept turning it round and round as though I were
boring a hole in a ship's plank with an auger, which two men with a
wheel and strap can keep on turning as long as they choose. Even
thus did we bore the red hot beam into his eye, till the boiling blood
bubbled all over it as we worked it round and round, so that the steam
from the burning eyeball scalded his eyelids and eyebrows, and the
roots of the eye sputtered in the fire. As a blacksmith plunges an axe
or hatchet into cold water to temper it- for it is this that gives
strength to the iron- and it makes a great hiss as he does so, even
thus did the Cyclops' eye hiss round the beam of olive wood, and his
hideous yells made the cave ring again. We ran away in a fright, but
he plucked the beam all besmirched with gore from his eye, and
hurled it from him in a frenzy of rage and pain, shouting as he did so
to the other Cyclopes who lived on the bleak headlands near him; so
they gathered from all quarters round his cave when they heard him
crying, and asked what was the matter with him.
"'What ails you, Polyphemus,' said they, 'that you make such a
noise, breaking the stillness of the night, and preventing us from
being able to sleep? Surely no man is carrying off your sheep?
Surely no man is trying to kill you either by fraud or by force?
"But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, 'Noman is
killing me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force!'
"'Then,' said they, 'if no man is attacking you, you must be ill;
when Jove makes people ill, there is no help for it, and you had
better pray to your father Neptune.'
"Then they went away, and I laughed inwardly at the success of my
clever stratagem, but the Cyclops, groaning and in an agony of pain,
felt about with his hands till he found the stone and took it from the
door; then he sat in the doorway and stretched his hands in front of
it to catch anyone going out with the sheep, for he thought I might be
foolish enough to attempt this.
"As for myself I kept on puzzling to think how I could best save
my own life and those of my companions; I schemed and schemed, as
one who knows that his life depends upon it, for the danger was very
great. In the end I deemed that this plan would be the best. The
male sheep were well grown, and carried a heavy black fleece, so I
bound them noiselessly in threes together, with some of the withies on
which the wicked monster used to sleep. There was to be a man under
the middle sheep, and the two on either side were to cover him, so
that there were three sheep to each man. As for myself there was a ram
finer than any of the others, so I caught hold of him by the back,
esconced myself in the thick wool under his belly, and flung on
patiently to his fleece, face upwards, keeping a firm hold on it all
the time.
"Thus, then, did we wait in great fear of mind till morning came,
but when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the
male sheep hurried out to feed, while the ewes remained bleating about
the pens waiting to be milked, for their udders were full to bursting;
but their master in spite of all his pain felt the backs of all the
sheep as they stood upright, without being sharp enough to find out
that the men were underneath their bellies. As the ram was going
out, last of all, heavy with its fleece and with the weight of my
crafty self; Polyphemus laid hold of it and said:
"'My good ram, what is it that makes you the last to leave my cave
this morning? You are not wont to let the ewes go before you, but lead
the mob with a run whether to flowery mead or bubbling fountain, and
are the first to come home again at night; but now you lag last of
all. Is it because you know your master has lost his eye, and are
sorry because that wicked Noman and his horrid crew have got him
down in his drink and blinded him? But I will have his life yet. If
you could understand and talk, you would tell me where the wretch is
hiding, and I would dash his brains upon the ground till they flew all
over the cave. I should thus have some satisfaction for the harm a
this no-good Noman has done me.'
"As spoke he drove the ram outside, but when we were a little way
out from the cave and yards, I first got from under the ram's belly,
and then freed my comrades; as for the sheep, which were very fat,
by constantly heading them in the right direction we managed to
drive them down to the ship. The crew rejoiced greatly at seeing those
of us who had escaped death, but wept for the others whom the
Cyclops had killed. However, I made signs to them by nodding and
frowning that they were to hush their crying, and told them to get all
the sheep on board at once and put out to sea; so they went aboard,
took their places, and smote the grey sea with their oars. Then,
when I had got as far out as my voice would reach, I began to jeer
at the Cyclops.
"'Cyclops,' said I, 'you should have taken better measure of your
man before eating up his comrades in your cave. You wretch, eat up
your visitors in your own house? You might have known that your sin
would find you out, and now Jove and the other gods have punished
you.'
"He got more and more furious as he heard me, so he tore the top
from off a high mountain, and flung it just in front of my ship so
that it was within a little of hitting the end of the rudder. The
sea quaked as the rock fell into it, and the wash of the wave it
raised carried us back towards the mainland, and forced us towards the
shore. But I snatched up a long pole and kept the ship off, making
signs to my men by nodding my head, that they must row for their
lives, whereon they laid out with a will. When we had got twice as far
as we were before, I was for jeering at the Cyclops again, but the men
begged and prayed of me to hold my tongue.
"'Do not,' they exclaimed, 'be mad enough to provoke this savage
creature further; he has thrown one rock at us already which drove
us back again to the mainland, and we made sure it had been the
death of us; if he had then heard any further sound of voices he would
have pounded our heads and our ship's timbers into a jelly with the
rugged rocks he would have heaved at us, for he can throw them a
long way.'
"But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my
rage, 'Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out
and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son
of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.'
"On this he groaned, and cried out, 'Alas, alas, then the old
prophecy about me is coming true. There was a prophet here, at one
time, a man both brave and of great stature, Telemus son of Eurymus,
who was an excellent seer, and did all the prophesying for the
Cyclopes till he grew old; he told me that all this would happen to me
some day, and said I should lose my sight by the hand of Ulysses. I
have been all along expecting some one of imposing presence and
superhuman strength, whereas he turns out to be a little insignificant
weakling, who has managed to blind my eye by taking advantage of me in
my drink; come here, then, Ulysses, that I may make you presents to
show my hospitality, and urge Neptune to help you forward on your
journey- for Neptune and I are father and son. He, if he so will,
shall heal me, which no one else neither god nor man can do.'
"Then I said, 'I wish I could be as sure of killing you outright and
sending you down to the house of Hades, as I am that it will take more
than Neptune to cure that eye of yours.'
"On this he lifted up his hands to the firmament of heaven and
prayed, saying, 'Hear me, great Neptune; if I am indeed your own
true-begotten son, grant that Ulysses may never reach his home
alive; or if he must get back to his friends at last, let him do so
late and in sore plight after losing all his men [let him reach his
home in another man's ship and find trouble in his house.']
"Thus did he pray, and Neptune heard his prayer. Then he picked up a
rock much larger than the first, swung it aloft and hurled it with
prodigious force. It fell just short of the ship, but was within a
little of hitting the end of the rudder. The sea quaked as the rock
fell into it, and the wash of the wave it raised drove us onwards on
our way towards the shore of the island.
"When at last we got to the island where we had left the rest of our
ships, we found our comrades lamenting us, and anxiously awaiting
our return. We ran our vessel upon the sands and got out of her on
to the sea shore; we also landed the Cyclops' sheep, and divided
them equitably amongst us so that none might have reason to
complain. As for the ram, my companions agreed that I should have it
as an extra share; so I sacrificed it on the sea shore, and burned its
thigh bones to Jove, who is the lord of all. But he heeded not my
sacrifice, and only thought how he might destroy my ships and my
comrades.
"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
feasted our fill on meat and drink, but when the sun went down and
it came on dark, we camped upon the beach. When the child of
morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I bade my men on board and
loose the hawsers. Then they took their places and smote the grey
sea with their oars; so we sailed on with sorrow in our hearts, but
glad to have escaped death though we had lost our comrades.
BOOK X

Thence we went on to the Aeoli island where lives Aeolus son of
Hippotas, dear to the immortal gods. It is an island that floats (as
it were) upon the sea, iron bound with a wall that girds it. Now,
Aeolus has six daughters and six lusty sons, so he made the sons marry
the daughters, and they all live with their dear father and mother,
feasting and enjoying every conceivable kind of luxury. All day long
the atmosphere of the house is loaded with the savour of roasting
meats till it groans again, yard and all; but by night they sleep on
their well-made bedsteads, each with his own wife between the
blankets. These were the people among whom we had now come.
"Aeolus entertained me for a whole month asking me questions all the
time about Troy, the Argive fleet, and the return of the Achaeans. I
told him exactly how everything had happened, and when I said I must
go, and asked him to further me on my way, he made no sort of
difficulty, but set about doing so at once. Moreover, he flayed me a
prime ox-hide to hold the ways of the roaring winds, which he shut
up in the hide as in a sack- for Jove had made him captain over the
winds, and he could stir or still each one of them according to his
own pleasure. He put the sack in the ship and bound the mouth so
tightly with a silver thread that not even a breath of a side-wind
could blow from any quarter. The West wind which was fair for us did
he alone let blow as it chose; but it all came to nothing, for we were
lost through our own folly.
"Nine days and nine nights did we sail, and on the tenth day our
native land showed on the horizon. We got so close in that we could
see the stubble fires burning, and I, being then dead beat, fell
into a light sleep, for I had never let the rudder out of my own
hands, that we might get home the faster. On this the men fell to
talking among themselves, and said I was bringing back gold and silver
in the sack that Aeolus had given me. 'Bless my heart,' would one turn
to his neighbour, saying, 'how this man gets honoured and makes
friends to whatever city or country he may go. See what fine prizes he
is taking home from Troy, while we, who have travelled just as far
as he has, come back with hands as empty as we set out with- and now
Aeolus has given him ever so much more. Quick- let us see what it
all is, and how much gold and silver there is in the sack he gave
him.'
"Thus they talked and evil counsels prevailed. They loosed the sack,
whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm that
carried us weeping out to sea and away from our own country. Then I
awoke, and knew not whether to throw myself into the sea or to live on
and make the best of it; but I bore it, covered myself up, and lay
down in the ship, while the men lamented bitterly as the fierce
winds bore our fleet back to the Aeolian island.
"When we reached it we went ashore to take in water, and dined
hard by the ships. Immediately after dinner I took a herald and one of
my men and went straight to the house of Aeolus, where I found him
feasting with his wife and family; so we sat down as suppliants on the
threshold. They were astounded when they saw us and said, 'Ulysses,
what brings you here? What god has been ill-treating you? We took
great pains to further you on your way home to Ithaca, or wherever
it was that you wanted to go to.'
"Thus did they speak, but I answered sorrowfully, 'My men have
undone me; they, and cruel sleep, have ruined me. My friends, mend
me this mischief, for you can if you will.'
"I spoke as movingly as I could, but they said nothing, till their
father answered, 'Vilest of mankind, get you gone at once out of the
island; him whom heaven hates will I in no wise help. Be off, for
you come here as one abhorred of heaven. "And with these words he sent
me sorrowing from his door.
"Thence we sailed sadly on till the men were worn out with long
and fruitless rowing, for there was no longer any wind to help them.
Six days, night and day did we toil, and on the seventh day we reached
the rocky stronghold of Lamus- Telepylus, the city of the
Laestrygonians, where the shepherd who is driving in his sheep and
goats [to be milked] salutes him who is driving out his flock [to
feed] and this last answers the salute. In that country a man who
could do without sleep might earn double wages, one as a herdsman of
cattle, and another as a shepherd, for they work much the same by
night as they do by day.
"When we reached the harbour we found it land-locked under steep
cliffs, with a narrow entrance between two headlands. My captains took
all their ships inside, and made them fast close to one another, for
there was never so much as a breath of wind inside, but it was
always dead calm. I kept my own ship outside, and moored it to a
rock at the very end of the point; then I climbed a high rock to
reconnoitre, but could see no sign neither of man nor cattle, only
some smoke rising from the ground. So I sent two of my company with an
attendant to find out what sort of people the inhabitants were.
"The men when they got on shore followed a level road by which the
people draw their firewood from the mountains into the town, till
presently they met a young woman who had come outside to fetch
water, and who was daughter to a Laestrygonian named Antiphates. She
was going to the fountain Artacia from which the people bring in their
water, and when my men had come close up to her, they asked her who
the king of that country might be, and over what kind of people he
ruled; so she directed them to her father's house, but when they got
there they found his wife to be a giantess as huge as a mountain,
and they were horrified at the sight of her.
"She at once called her husband Antiphates from the place of
assembly, and forthwith he set about killing my men. He snatched up
one of them, and began to make his dinner off him then and there,
whereon the other two ran back to the ships as fast as ever they
could. But Antiphates raised a hue and cry after them, and thousands
of sturdy Laestrygonians sprang up from every quarter- ogres, not men.
They threw vast rocks at us from the cliffs as though they had been
mere stones, and I heard the horrid sound of the ships crunching up
against one another, and the death cries of my men, as the
Laestrygonians speared them like fishes and took them home to eat
them. While they were thus killing my men within the harbour I drew my
sword, cut the cable of my own ship, and told my men to row with alf
their might if they too would not fare like the rest; so they laid out
for their lives, and we were thankful enough when we got into open
water out of reach of the rocks they hurled at us. As for the others
there was not one of them left.
"Thence we sailed sadly on, glad to have escaped death, though we
had lost our comrades, and came to the Aeaean island, where Circe
lives a great and cunning goddess who is own sister to the magician
Aeetes- for they are both children of the sun by Perse, who is
daughter to Oceanus. We brought our ship into a safe harbour without a
word, for some god guided us thither, and having landed we there for
two days and two nights, worn out in body and mind. When the morning
of the third day came I took my spear and my sword, and went away from
the ship to reconnoitre, and see if I could discover signs of human
handiwork, or hear the sound of voices. Climbing to the top of a
high look-out I espied the smoke of Circe's house rising upwards
amid a dense forest of trees, and when I saw this I doubted whether,
having seen the smoke, I would not go on at once and find out more,
but in the end I deemed it best to go back to the ship, give the men
their dinners, and send some of them instead of going myself.
"When I had nearly got back to the ship some god took pity upon my
solitude, and sent a fine antlered stag right into the middle of my
path. He was coming down his pasture in the forest to drink of the
river, for the heat of the sun drove him, and as he passed I struck
him in the middle of the back; the bronze point of the spear went
clean through him, and he lay groaning in the dust until the life went
out of him. Then I set my foot upon him, drew my spear from the wound,
and laid it down; I also gathered rough grass and rushes and twisted
them into a fathom or so of good stout rope, with which I bound the
four feet of the noble creature together; having so done I hung him
round my neck and walked back to the ship leaning upon my spear, for
the stag was much too big for me to be able to carry him on my
shoulder, steadying him with one hand. As I threw him down in front of
the ship, I called the men and spoke cheeringly man by man to each
of them. 'Look here my friends,' said I, 'we are not going to die so
much before our time after all, and at any rate we will not starve
so long as we have got something to eat and drink on board.' On this
they uncovered their heads upon the sea shore and admired the stag,
for he was indeed a splendid fellow. Then, when they had feasted their
eyes upon him sufficiently, they washed their hands and began to
cook him for dinner.
"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
stayed there eating and drinking our fill, but when the sun went
down and it came on dark, we camped upon the sea shore. When the child
of morning, fingered Dawn, appeared, I called a council and said,
'My friends, we are in very great difficulties; listen therefore to
me. We have no idea where the sun either sets or rises, so that we
do not even know East from West. I see no way out of it; nevertheless,
we must try and find one. We are certainly on an island, for I went as
high as I could this morning, and saw the sea reaching all round it to
the horizon; it lies low, but towards the middle I saw smoke rising
from out of a thick forest of trees.'
"Their hearts sank as they heard me, for they remembered how they
had been treated by the Laestrygonian Antiphates, and by the savage
ogre Polyphemus. They wept bitterly in their dismay, but there was
nothing to be got by crying, so I divided them into two companies
and set a captain over each; I gave one company to Eurylochus, while I
took command of the other myself. Then we cast lots in a helmet, and
the lot fell upon Eurylochus; so he set out with his twenty-two men,
and they wept, as also did we who were left behind.
"When they reached Circe's house they found it built of cut
stones, on a site that could be seen from far, in the middle of the
forest. There were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling all round
it- poor bewitched creatures whom she had tamed by her enchantments
and drugged into subjection. They did not attack my men, but wagged
their great tails, fawned upon them, and rubbed their noses lovingly
against them. As hounds crowd round their master when they see him
coming from dinner- for they know he will bring them something- even
so did these wolves and lions with their great claws fawn upon my men,
but the men were terribly frightened at seeing such strange creatures.
Presently they reached the gates of the goddess's house, and as they
stood there they could hear Circe within, singing most beautifully
as she worked at her loom, making a web so fine, so soft, and of
such dazzling colours as no one but a goddess could weave. On this
Polites, whom I valued and trusted more than any other of my men,
said, 'There is some one inside working at a loom and singing most
beautifully; the whole place resounds with it, let us call her and see
whether she is woman or goddess.'
"They called her and she came down, unfastened the door, and bade
them enter. They, thinking no evil, followed her, all except
Eurylochus, who suspected mischief and stayed outside. When she had
got them into her house, she set them upon benches and seats and mixed
them a mess with cheese, honey, meal, and Pramnian but she drugged
it with wicked poisons to make them forget their homes, and when
they had drunk she turned them into pigs by a stroke of her wand,
and shut them up in her pigsties. They were like pigs-head, hair,
and all, and they grunted just as pigs do; but their senses were the
same as before, and they remembered everything.
"Thus then were they shut up squealing, and Circe threw them some
acorns and beech masts such as pigs eat, but Eurylochus hurried back
to tell me about the sad fate of our comrades. He was so overcome with
dismay that though he tried to speak he could find no words to do
so; his eyes filled with tears and he could only sob and sigh, till at
last we forced his story out of him, and he told us what had
happened to the others.
"'We went,' said he, as you told us, through the forest, and in
the middle of it there was a fine house built with cut stones in a
place that could be seen from far. There we found a woman, or else she
was a goddess, working at her loom and singing sweetly; so the men
shouted to her and called her, whereon she at once came down, opened
the door, and invited us in. The others did not suspect any mischief
so they followed her into the house, but I stayed where I was, for I
thought there might be some treachery. From that moment I saw them
no more, for not one of them ever came out, though I sat a long time
watching for them.'
"Then I took my sword of bronze and slung it over my shoulders; I
also took my bow, and told Eurylochus to come back with me and show me
the way. But he laid hold of me with both his hands and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Sir, do not force me to go with you, but let me
stay here, for I know you will not bring one of them back with you,
nor even return alive yourself; let us rather see if we cannot
escape at any rate with the few that are left us, for we may still
save our lives.'
"'Stay where you are, then, 'answered I, 'eating and drinking at the
ship, but I must go, for I am most urgently bound to do so.'
"With this I left the ship and went up inland. When I got through
the charmed grove, and was near the great house of the enchantress
Circe, I met Mercury with his golden wand, disguised as a young man in
the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the down just coming upon his
face. He came up to me and took my hand within his own, saying, 'My
poor unhappy man, whither are you going over this mountain top,
alone and without knowing the way? Your men are shut up in Circe's
pigsties, like so many wild boars in their lairs. You surely do not
fancy that you can set them free? I can tell you that you will never
get back and will have to stay there with the rest of them. But
never mind, I will protect you and get you out of your difficulty.
Take this herb, which is one of great virtue, and keep it about you
when you go to Circe's house, it will be a talisman to you against
every kind of mischief.
"'And I will tell you of all the wicked witchcraft that Circe will
try to practise upon you. She will mix a mess for you to drink, and
she will drug the meal with which she makes it, but she will not be
able to charm you, for the virtue of the herb that I shall give you
will prevent her spells from working. I will tell you all about it.
When Circe strikes you with her wand, draw your sword and spring
upon her as though you were goings to kill her. She will then be
frightened and will desire you to go to bed with her; on this you must
not point blank refuse her, for you want her to set your companions
free, and to take good care also of yourself, but you make her swear
solemnly by all the blessed that she will plot no further mischief
against you, or else when she has got you naked she will unman you and
make you fit for nothing.'
"As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground an showed me
what it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as white as
milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot uproot it, but
the gods can do whatever they like.
"Then Mercury went back to high Olympus passing over the wooded
island; but I fared onward to the house of Circe, and my heart was
clouded with care as I walked along. When I got to the gates I stood
there and called the goddess, and as soon as she heard me she came
down, opened the door, and asked me to come in; so I followed her-
much troubled in my mind. She set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid
with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed a
mess in a golden goblet for me to drink; but she drugged it, for she
meant me mischief. When she had given it me, and I had drunk it
without its charming me, she struck she, struck me with her wand.
'There now,' she cried, 'be off to the pigsty, and make your lair with
the rest of them.'
"But I rushed at her with my sword drawn as though I would kill her,
whereon she fell with a loud scream, clasped my knees, and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Who and whence are you? from what place and people
have you come? How can it be that my drugs have no power to charm you?
Never yet was any man able to stand so much as a taste of the herb I
gave you; you must be spell-proof; surely you can be none other than
the bold hero Ulysses, who Mercury always said would come here some
day with his ship while on his way home form Troy; so be it then;
sheathe your sword and let us go to bed, that we may make friends
and learn to trust each other.'
"And I answered, 'Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly with
you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs? And now that
you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief when you ask me to
go to bed with you, and will unman me and make me fit for nothing. I
shall certainly not consent to go to bed with you unless you will
first take your solemn oath to plot no further harm against me.'
"So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had
completed her oath then I went to bed with her.
"Meanwhile her four servants, who are her housemaids, set about
their work. They are the children of the groves and fountains, and
of the holy waters that run down into the sea. One of them spread a
fair purple cloth over a seat, and laid a carpet underneath it.
Another brought tables of silver up to the seats, and set them with
baskets of gold. A third mixed some sweet wine with water in a
silver bowl and put golden cups upon the tables, while the fourth
she brought in water and set it to boil in a large cauldron over a
good fire which she had lighted. When the water in the cauldron was
boiling, she poured cold into it till it was just as I liked it, and
then she set me in a bath and began washing me from the cauldron about
the head and shoulders, to take the tire and stiffness out of my
limbs. As soon as she had done washing me and anointing me with oil,
she arrayed me in a good cloak and shirt and led me to a richly
decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also under my
feet. A maid servant then brought me water in a beautiful golden
ewer and poured it into a silver basin for me to wash my hands, and
she drew a clean table beside me; an upper servant brought me bread
and offered me many things of what there was in the house, and then
Circe bade me eat, but I would not, and sat without heeding what was
before me, still moody and suspicious.
"When Circe saw me sitting there without eating, and in great grief,
she came to me and said, 'Ulysses, why do you sit like that as
though you were dumb, gnawing at your own heart, and refusing both
meat and drink? Is it that you are still suspicious? You ought not
to be, for I have already sworn solemnly that I will not hurt you.'
"And I said, 'Circe, no man with any sense of what is right can
think of either eating or drinking in your house until you have set
his friends free and let him see them. If you want me to eat and
drink, you must free my men and bring them to me that I may see them
with my own eyes.'
"When I had said this she went straight through the court with her
wand in her hand and opened the pigsty doors. My men came out like
so many prime hogs and stood looking at her, but she went about
among them and anointed each with a second drug, whereon the
bristles that the bad drug had given them fell off, and they became
men again, younger than they were before, and much taller and better
looking. They knew me at once, seized me each of them by the hand, and
wept for joy till the whole house was filled with the sound of their
hullabalooing, and Circe herself was so sorry for them that she came
up to me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, go back at once
to the sea where you have left your ship, and first draw it on to
the land. Then, hide all your ship's gear and property in some cave,
and come back here with your men.'
"I agreed to this, so I went back to the sea shore, and found the
men at the ship weeping and wailing most piteously. When they saw me
the silly blubbering fellows began frisking round me as calves break
out and gambol round their mothers, when they see them coming home
to be milked after they have been feeding all day, and the homestead
resounds with their lowing. They seemed as glad to see me as though
they had got back to their own rugged Ithaca, where they had been born
and bred. 'Sir,' said the affectionate creatures, 'we are as glad to
see you back as though we had got safe home to Ithaca; but tell us all
about the fate of our comrades.'
"I spoke comfortingly to them and said, 'We must draw our ship on to
the land, and hide the ship's gear with all our property in some cave;
then come with me all of you as fast as you can to Circe's house,
where you will find your comrades eating and drinking in the midst
of great abundance.'
"On this the men would have come with me at once, but Eurylochus
tried to hold them back and said, 'Alas, poor wretches that we are,
what will become of us? Rush not on your ruin by going to the house of
Circe, who will turn us all into pigs or wolves or lions, and we shall
have to keep guard over her house. Remember how the Cyclops treated us
when our comrades went inside his cave, and Ulysses with them. It
was all through his sheer folly that those men lost their lives.'
"When I heard him I was in two minds whether or no to draw the
keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh and cut his head off in
spite of his being a near relation of my own; but the men interceded
for him and said, 'Sir, if it may so be, let this fellow stay here and
mind the ship, but take the rest of us with you to Circe's house.'
"On this we all went inland, and Eurylochus was not left behind
after all, but came on too, for he was frightened by the severe
reprimand that I had given him.
"Meanwhile Circe had been seeing that the men who had been left
behind were washed and anointed with olive oil; she had also given
them woollen cloaks and shirts, and when we came we found them all
comfortably at dinner in her house. As soon as the men saw each
other face to face and knew one another, they wept for joy and cried
aloud till the whole palace rang again. Thereon Circe came up to me
and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, tell your men to leave off
crying; I know how much you have all of you suffered at sea, and how
ill you have fared among cruel savages on the mainland, but that is
over now, so stay here, and eat and drink till you are once more as
strong and hearty as you were when you left Ithaca; for at present you
are weakened both in body and mind; you keep all the time thinking
of the hardships- you have suffered during your travels, so that you
have no more cheerfulness left in you.'
"Thus did she speak and we assented. We stayed with Circe for a
whole twelvemonth feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat and
wine. But when the year had passed in the waning of moons and the long
days had come round, my men called me apart and said, 'Sir, it is time
you began to think about going home, if so be you are to be spared
to see your house and native country at all.'
"Thus did they speak and I assented. Thereon through the livelong
day to the going down of the sun we feasted our fill on meat and wine,
but when the sun went down and it came on dark the men laid themselves
down to sleep in the covered cloisters. I, however, after I had got
into bed with Circe, besought her by her knees, and the goddess
listened to what I had got to say. 'Circe,' said I, 'please to keep
the promise you made me about furthering me on my homeward voyage. I
want to get back and so do my men, they are always pestering me with
their complaints as soon as ever your back is turned.'
"And the goddess answered, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you shall
none of you stay here any longer if you do not want to, but there is
another journey which you have got to take before you can sail
homewards. You must go to the house of Hades and of dread Proserpine
to consult the ghost of the blind Theban prophet Teiresias whose
reason is still unshaken. To him alone has Proserpine left his
understanding even in death, but the other ghosts flit about
aimlessly.'
"I was dismayed when I heard this. I sat up in bed and wept, and
would gladly have lived no longer to see the light of the sun, but
presently when I was tired of weeping and tossing myself about, I
said, 'And who shall guide me upon this voyage- for the house of Hades
is a port that no ship can reach.'
"'You will want no guide,' she answered; 'raise you mast, set your
white sails, sit quite still, and the North Wind will blow you there
of itself. When your ship has traversed the waters of Oceanus, you
will reach the fertile shore of Proserpine's country with its groves
of tall poplars and willows that shed their fruit untimely; here beach
your ship upon the shore of Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark
abode of Hades. You will find it near the place where the rivers
Pyriphlegethon and Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx)
flow into Acheron, and you will see a rock near it, just where the two
roaring rivers run into one another.
"'When you have reached this spot, as I now tell you, dig a trench a
cubit or so in length, breadth, and depth, and pour into it as a
drink-offering to all the dead, first, honey mixed with milk, then
wine, and in the third place water-sprinkling white barley meal over
the whole. Moreover you must offer many prayers to the poor feeble
ghosts, and promise them that when you get back to Ithaca you will
sacrifice a barren heifer to them, the best you have, and will load
the pyre with good things. More particularly you must promise that
Teiresias shall have a black sheep all to himself, the finest in all
your flocks.
"'When you shall have thus besought the ghosts with your prayers,
offer them a ram and a black ewe, bending their heads towards
Erebus; but yourself turn away from them as though you would make
towards the river. On this, many dead men's ghosts will come to you,
and you must tell your men to skin the two sheep that you have just
killed, and offer them as a burnt sacrifice with prayers to Hades
and to Proserpine. Then draw your sword and sit there, so as to
prevent any other poor ghost from coming near the split blood before
Teiresias shall have answered your questions. The seer will
presently come to you, and will tell you about your voyage- what
stages you are to make, and how you are to sail the see so as to reach
your home.'
"It was day-break by the time she had done speaking, so she
dressed me in my shirt and cloak. As for herself she threw a beautiful
light gossamer fabric over her shoulders, fastening it with a golden
girdle round her waist, and she covered her head with a mantle. Then I
went about among the men everywhere all over the house, and spoke
kindly to each of them man by man: 'You must not lie sleeping here any
longer,' said I to them, 'we must be going, for Circe has told me
all about it.' And this they did as I bade them.
"Even so, however, I did not get them away without misadventure.
We had with us a certain youth named Elpenor, not very remarkable
for sense or courage, who had got drunk and was lying on the house-top
away from the rest of the men, to sleep off his liquor in the cool.
When he heard the noise of the men bustling about, he jumped up on a
sudden and forgot all about coming down by the main staircase, so he
tumbled right off the roof and broke his neck, and his soul went
down to the house of Hades.
"When I had got the men together I said to them, 'You think you
are about to start home again, but Circe has explained to me that
instead of this, we have got to go to the house of Hades and
Proserpine to consult the ghost of the Theban prophet Teiresias.'
"The men were broken-hearted as they heard me, and threw
themselves on the ground groaning and tearing their hair, but they did
not mend matters by crying. When we reached the sea shore, weeping and
lamenting our fate, Circe brought the ram and the ewe, and we made
them fast hard by the ship. She passed through the midst of us without
our knowing it, for who can see the comings and goings of a god, if
the god does not wish to be seen?
BOOK XI

Then, when we had got down to the sea shore we drew our ship into
the water and got her mast and sails into her; we also put the sheep
on board and took our places, weeping and in great distress of mind.
Circe, that great and cunning goddess, sent us a fair wind that blew
dead aft and stayed steadily with us keeping our sails all the time
well filled; so we did whatever wanted doing to the ship's gear and
let her go as the wind and helmsman headed her. All day long her sails
were full as she held her course over the sea, but when the sun went
down and darkness was over all the earth, we got into the deep
waters of the river Oceanus, where lie the land and city of the
Cimmerians who live enshrouded in mist and darkness which the rays
of the sun never pierce neither at his rising nor as he goes down
again out of the heavens, but the poor wretches live in one long
melancholy night. When we got there we beached the ship, took the
sheep out of her, and went along by the waters of Oceanus till we came
to the place of which Circe had told us.
"Here Perimedes and Eurylochus held the victims, while I drew my
sword and dug the trench a cubit each way. I made a drink-offering
to all the dead, first with honey and milk, then with wine, and
thirdly with water, and I sprinkled white barley meal over the
whole, praying earnestly to the poor feckless ghosts, and promising
them that when I got back to Ithaca I would sacrifice a barren
heifer for them, the best I had, and would load the pyre with good
things. I also particularly promised that Teiresias should have a
black sheep to himself, the best in all my flocks. When I had prayed
sufficiently to the dead, I cut the throats of the two sheep and let
the blood run into the trench, whereon the ghosts came trooping up
from Erebus- brides, young bachelors, old men worn out with toil,
maids who had been crossed in love, and brave men who had been
killed in battle, with their armour still smirched with blood; they
came from every quarter and flitted round the trench with a strange
kind of screaming sound that made me turn pale with fear. When I saw
them coming I told the men to be quick and flay the carcasses of the
two dead sheep and make burnt offerings of them, and at the same
time to repeat prayers to Hades and to Proserpine; but I sat where I
was with my sword drawn and would not let the poor feckless ghosts
come near the blood till Teiresias should have answered my questions.
"The first ghost 'that came was that of my comrade Elpenor, for he
had not yet been laid beneath the earth. We had left his body
unwaked and unburied in Circe's house, for we had had too much else to
do. I was very sorry for him, and cried when I saw him: 'Elpenor,'
said I, 'how did you come down here into this gloom and darkness?
You have here on foot quicker than I have with my ship.'
"'Sir,' he answered with a groan, 'it was all bad luck, and my own
unspeakable drunkenness. I was lying asleep on the top of Circe's
house, and never thought of coming down again by the great staircase
but fell right off the roof and broke my neck, so my soul down to
the house of Hades. And now I beseech you by all those whom you have
left behind you, though they are not here, by your wife, by the father
who brought you up when you were a child, and by Telemachus who is the
one hope of your house, do what I shall now ask you. I know that
when you leave this limbo you will again hold your ship for the Aeaean
island. Do not go thence leaving me unwaked and unburied behind you,
or I may bring heaven's anger upon you; but burn me with whatever
armour I have, build a barrow for me on the sea shore, that may tell
people in days to come what a poor unlucky fellow I was, and plant
over my grave the oar I used to row with when I was yet alive and with
my messmates.' And I said, 'My poor fellow, I will do all that you
have asked of me.'
"Thus, then, did we sit and hold sad talk with one another, I on the
one side of the trench with my sword held over the blood, and the
ghost of my comrade saying all this to me from the other side. Then
came the ghost of my dead mother Anticlea, daughter to Autolycus. I
had left her alive when I set out for Troy and was moved to tears when
I saw her, but even so, for all my sorrow I would not let her come
near the blood till I had asked my questions of Teiresias.
"Then came also the ghost of Theban Teiresias, with his golden
sceptre in his hand. He knew me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of
Laertes, why, poor man, have you left the light of day and come down
to visit the dead in this sad place? Stand back from the trench and
withdraw your sword that I may drink of the blood and answer your
questions truly.'
"So I drew back, and sheathed my sword, whereon when he had drank of
the blood he began with his prophecy.
"You want to know,' said he, 'about your return home, but heaven
will make this hard for you. I do not think that you will escape the
eye of Neptune, who still nurses his bitter grudge against you for
having blinded his son. Still, after much suffering you may get home
if you can restrain yourself and your companions when your ship
reaches the Thrinacian island, where you will find the sheep and
cattle belonging to the sun, who sees and gives ear to everything.
If you leave these flocks unharmed and think of nothing but of getting
home, you may yet after much hardship reach Ithaca; but if you harm
them, then I forewarn you of the destruction both of your ship and
of your men. Even though you may yourself escape, you will return in
bad plight after losing all your men, [in another man's ship, and
you will find trouble in your house, which will be overrun by
high-handed people, who are devouring your substance under the pretext
of paying court and making presents to your wife.
"'When you get home you will take your revenge on these suitors; and
after you have killed them by force or fraud in your own house, you
must take a well-made oar and carry it on and on, till you come to a
country where the people have never heard of the sea and do not even
mix salt with their food, nor do they know anything about ships, and
oars that are as the wings of a ship. I will give you this certain
token which cannot escape your notice. A wayfarer will meet you and
will say it must be a winnowing shovel that you have got upon your
shoulder; on this you must fix the oar in the ground and sacrifice a
ram, a bull, and a boar to Neptune. Then go home and offer hecatombs
to an the gods in heaven one after the other. As for yourself, death
shall come to you from the sea, and your life shall ebb away very
gently when you are full of years and peace of mind, and your people
shall bless you. All that I have said will come true].'
"'This,' I answered, 'must be as it may please heaven, but tell me
and tell me and tell me true, I see my poor mother's ghost close by
us; she is sitting by the blood without saying a word, and though I am
her own son she does not remember me and speak to me; tell me, Sir,
how I can make her know me.'
"'That,' said he, 'I can soon do Any ghost that you let taste of the
blood will talk with you like a reasonable being, but if you do not
let them have any blood they will go away again.'
"On this the ghost of Teiresias went back to the house of Hades, for
his prophecyings had now been spoken, but I sat still where I was
until my mother came up and tasted the blood. Then she knew me at once
and spoke fondly to me, saying, 'My son, how did you come down to this
abode of darkness while you are still alive? It is a hard thing for
the living to see these places, for between us and them there are
great and terrible waters, and there is Oceanus, which no man can
cross on foot, but he must have a good ship to take him. Are you all
this time trying to find your way home from Troy, and have you never
yet got back to Ithaca nor seen your wife in your own house?'
"'Mother,' said I, 'I was forced to come here to consult the ghost
of the Theban prophet Teiresias. I have never yet been near the
Achaean land nor set foot on my native country, and I have had nothing
but one long series of misfortunes from the very first day that I
set out with Agamemnon for Ilius, the land of noble steeds, to fight
the Trojans. But tell me, and tell me true, in what way did you die?
Did you have a long illness, or did heaven vouchsafe you a gentle easy
passage to eternity? Tell me also about my father, and the son whom
I left behind me; is my property still in their hands, or has some one
else got hold of it, who thinks that I shall not return to claim it?
Tell me again what my wife intends doing, and in what mind she is;
does she live with my son and guard my estate securely, or has she
made the best match she could and married again?'
"My mother answered, 'Your wife still remains in your house, but she
is in great distress of mind and spends her whole time in tears both
night and day. No one as yet has got possession of your fine property,
and Telemachus still holds your lands undisturbed. He has to entertain
largely, as of course he must, considering his position as a
magistrate, and how every one invites him; your father remains at
his old place in the country and never goes near the town. He has no
comfortable bed nor bedding; in the winter he sleeps on the floor in
front of the fire with the men and goes about all in rags, but in
summer, when the warm weather comes on again, he lies out in the
vineyard on a bed of vine leaves thrown anyhow upon the ground. He
grieves continually about your never having come home, and suffers
more and more as he grows older. As for my own end it was in this
wise: heaven did not take me swiftly and painlessly in my own house,
nor was I attacked by any illness such as those that generally wear
people out and kill them, but my longing to know what you were doing
and the force of my affection for you- this it was that was the
death of me.'
"Then I tried to find some way of embracing my mother's ghost.
Thrice I sprang towards her and tried to clasp her in my arms, but
each time she flitted from my embrace as it were a dream or phantom,
and being touched to the quick I said to her, 'Mother, why do you
not stay still when I would embrace you? If we could throw our arms
around one another we might find sad comfort in the sharing of our
sorrows even in the house of Hades; does Proserpine want to lay a
still further load of grief upon me by mocking me with a phantom
only?'
"'My son,' she answered, 'most ill-fated of all mankind, it is not
Proserpine that is beguiling you, but all people are like this when
they are dead. The sinews no longer hold the flesh and bones together;
these perish in the fierceness of consuming fire as soon as life has
left the body, and the soul flits away as though it were a dream. Now,
however, go back to the light of day as soon as you can, and note
all these things that you may tell them to your wife hereafter.'
"Thus did we converse, and anon Proserpine sent up the ghosts of the
wives and daughters of all the most famous men. They gathered in
crowds about the blood, and I considered how I might question them
severally. In the end I deemed that it would be best to draw the
keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh, and keep them from all
drinking the blood at once. So they came up one after the other, and
each one as I questioned her told me her race and lineage.
"The first I saw was Tyro. She was daughter of Salmoneus and wife of
Cretheus the son of Aeolus. She fell in love with the river Enipeus
who is much the most beautiful river in the whole world. Once when she
was taking a walk by his side as usual, Neptune, disguised as her
lover, lay with her at the mouth of the river, and a huge blue wave
arched itself like a mountain over them to hide both woman and god,
whereon he loosed her virgin girdle and laid her in a deep slumber.
When the god had accomplished the deed of love, he took her hand in
his own and said, 'Tyro, rejoice in all good will; the embraces of the
gods are not fruitless, and you will have fine twins about this time
twelve months. Take great care of them. I am Neptune, so now go
home, but hold your tongue and do not tell any one.'
"Then he dived under the sea, and she in due course bore Pelias
and Neleus, who both of them served Jove with all their might.
Pelias was a great breeder of sheep and lived in Iolcus, but the other
lived in Pylos. The rest of her children were by Cretheus, namely,
Aeson, Pheres, and Amythaon, who was a mighty warrior and charioteer.
"Next to her I saw Antiope, daughter to Asopus, who could boast of
having slept in the arms of even Jove himself, and who bore him two
sons Amphion and Zethus. These founded Thebes with its seven gates,
and built a wall all round it; for strong though they were they
could not hold Thebes till they had walled it.
"Then I saw Alcmena, the wife of Amphitryon, who also bore to Jove
indomitable Hercules; and Megara who was daughter to great King Creon,
and married the redoubtable son of Amphitryon.
"I also saw fair Epicaste mother of king OEdipodes whose awful lot
it was to marry her own son without suspecting it. He married her
after having killed his father, but the gods proclaimed the whole
story to the world; whereon he remained king of Thebes, in great grief
for the spite the gods had borne him; but Epicaste went to the house
of the mighty jailor Hades, having hanged herself for grief, and the
avenging spirits haunted him as for an outraged mother- to his ruing
bitterly thereafter.
"Then I saw Chloris, whom Neleus married for her beauty, having
given priceless presents for her. She was youngest daughter to Amphion
son of Iasus and king of Minyan Orchomenus, and was Queen in Pylos.
She bore Nestor, Chromius, and Periclymenus, and she also bore that
marvellously lovely woman Pero, who was wooed by all the country
round; but Neleus would only give her to him who should raid the
cattle of Iphicles from the grazing grounds of Phylace, and this was a
hard task. The only man who would undertake to raid them was a certain
excellent seer, but the will of heaven was against him, for the
rangers of the cattle caught him and put him in prison; nevertheless
when a full year had passed and the same season came round again,
Iphicles set him at liberty, after he had expounded all the oracles of
heaven. Thus, then, was the will of Jove accomplished.
"And I saw Leda the wife of Tyndarus, who bore him two famous
sons, Castor breaker of horses, and Pollux the mighty boxer. Both
these heroes are lying under the earth, though they are still alive,
for by a special dispensation of Jove, they die and come to life
again, each one of them every other day throughout all time, and
they have the rank of gods.
"After her I saw Iphimedeia wife of Aloeus who boasted the embrace
of Neptune. She bore two sons Otus and Ephialtes, but both were
short lived. They were the finest children that were ever born in this
world, and the best looking, Orion only excepted; for at nine years
old they were nine fathoms high, and measured nine cubits round the
chest. They threatened to make war with the gods in Olympus, and tried
to set Mount Ossa on the top of Mount Olympus, and Mount Pelion on the
top of Ossa, that they might scale heaven itself, and they would
have done it too if they had been grown up, but Apollo, son of Leto,
killed both of them, before they had got so much as a sign of hair
upon their cheeks or chin.
"Then I saw Phaedra, and Procris, and fair Ariadne daughter of the
magician Minos, whom Theseus was carrying off from Crete to Athens,
but he did not enjoy her, for before he could do so Diana killed her
in the island of Dia on account of what Bacchus had said against her.
"I also saw Maera and Clymene and hateful Eriphyle, who sold her own
husband for gold. But it would take me all night if I were to name
every single one of the wives and daughters of heroes whom I saw,
and it is time for me to go to bed, either on board ship with my crew,
or here. As for my escort, heaven and yourselves will see to it."
Here he ended, and the guests sat all of them enthralled and
speechless throughout the covered cloister. Then Arete said to them:
"What do you think of this man, O Phaecians? Is he not tall and good
looking, and is he not Clever? True, he is my own guest, but all of
you share in the distinction. Do not he a hurry to send him away,
nor niggardly in the presents you make to one who is in such great
need, for heaven has blessed all of you with great abundance."
Then spoke the aged hero Echeneus who was one of the oldest men
among them, "My friends," said he, "what our august queen has just
said to us is both reasonable and to the purpose, therefore be
persuaded by it; but the decision whether in word or deed rests
ultimately with King Alcinous."
"The thing shall be done," exclaimed Alcinous, "as surely as I still
live and reign over the Phaeacians. Our guest is indeed very anxious
to get home, still we must persuade him to remain with us until
to-morrow, by which time I shall be able to get together the whole sum
that I mean to give him. As regards- his escort it will be a matter
for you all, and mine above all others as the chief person among you."
And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, if you were to bid me to
stay here for a whole twelve months, and then speed me on my way,
loaded with your noble gifts, I should obey you gladly and it would
redound greatly to my advantage, for I should return fuller-handed
to my own people, and should thus be more respected and beloved by all
who see me when I get back to Ithaca."
"Ulysses," replied Alcinous, "not one of us who sees you has any
idea that you are a charlatan or a swindler. I know there are many
people going about who tell such plausible stories that it is very
hard to see through them, but there is a style about your language
which assures me of your good disposition. Moreover you have told
the story of your own misfortunes, and those of the Argives, as though
you were a practised bard; but tell me, and tell me true, whether
you saw any of the mighty heroes who went to Troy at the same time
with yourself, and perished there. The evenings are still at their
longest, and it is not yet bed time- go on, therefore, with your
divine story, for I could stay here listening till to-morrow
morning, so long as you will continue to tell us of your adventures."
"Alcinous," answered Ulysses, "there is a time for making
speeches, and a time for going to bed; nevertheless, since you so
desire, I will not refrain from telling you the still sadder tale of
those of my comrades who did not fall fighting with the Trojans, but
perished on their return, through the treachery of a wicked woman.
"When Proserpine had dismissed the female ghosts in all
directions, the ghost of Agamemnon son of Atreus came sadly up tome,
surrounded by those who had perished with him in the house of
Aegisthus. As soon as he had tasted the blood he knew me, and
weeping bitterly stretched out his arms towards me to embrace me;
but he had no strength nor substance any more, and I too wept and
pitied him as I beheld him. 'How did you come by your death,' said
I, 'King Agamemnon? Did Neptune raise his winds and waves against
you when you were at sea, or did your enemies make an end of you on
the mainland when you were cattle-lifting or sheep-stealing, or
while they were fighting in defence of their wives and city?'
"'Ulysses,' he answered, 'noble son of Laertes, was not lost at
sea in any storm of Neptune's raising, nor did my foes despatch me
upon the mainland, but Aegisthus and my wicked wife were the death
of me between them. He asked me to his house, feasted me, and then
butchered me most miserably as though I were a fat beast in a
slaughter house, while all around me my comrades were slain like sheep
or pigs for the wedding breakfast, or picnic, or gorgeous banquet of
some great nobleman. You must have seen numbers of men killed either
in a general engagement, or in single combat, but you never saw
anything so truly pitiable as the way in which we fell in that
cloister, with the mixing-bowl and the loaded tables lying all
about, and the ground reeking with our-blood. I heard Priam's daughter
Cassandra scream as Clytemnestra killed her close beside me. I lay
dying upon the earth with the sword in my body, and raised my hands to
kill the slut of a murderess, but she slipped away from me; she
would not even close my lips nor my eyes when I was dying, for there
is nothing in this world so cruel and so shameless as a woman when she
has fallen into such guilt as hers was. Fancy murdering her own
husband! I thought I was going to be welcomed home by my children
and my servants, but her abominable crime has brought disgrace on
herself and all women who shall come after- even on the good ones.'
"And I said, 'In truth Jove has hated the house of Atreus from first
to last in the matter of their women's counsels. See how many of us
fell for Helen's sake, and now it seems that Clytemnestra hatched
mischief against too during your absence.'
"'Be sure, therefore,' continued Agamemnon, 'and not be too friendly
even with your own wife. Do not tell her all that you know perfectly
well yourself. Tell her a part only, and keep your own counsel about
the rest. Not that your wife, Ulysses, is likely to murder you, for
Penelope is a very admirable woman, and has an excellent nature. We
left her a young bride with an infant at her breast when we set out
for Troy. This child no doubt is now grown up happily to man's estate,
and he and his father will have a joyful meeting and embrace one
another as it is right they should do, whereas my wicked wife did
not even allow me the happiness of looking upon my son, but killed
me ere I could do so. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying to your
heart- do not tell people when you are bringing your ship to Ithaca,
but steal a march upon them, for after all this there is no trusting
women. But now tell me, and tell me true, can you give me any news
of my son Orestes? Is he in Orchomenus, or at Pylos, or is he at
Sparta with Menelaus- for I presume that he is still living.'
"And I said, 'Agamemnon, why do you ask me? I do not know whether
your son is alive or dead, and it is not right to talk when one does
not know.'
"As we two sat weeping and talking thus sadly with one another the
ghost of Achilles came up to us with Patroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax
who was the finest and goodliest man of all the Danaans after the
son of Peleus. The fleet descendant of Aeacus knew me and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, what deed of daring
will you undertake next, that you venture down to the house of Hades
among us silly dead, who are but the ghosts of them that can labour no
more?'
"And I said, 'Achilles, son of Peleus, foremost champion of the
Achaeans, I came to consult Teiresias, and see if he could advise me
about my return home to Ithaca, for I have never yet been able to
get near the Achaean land, nor to set foot in my own country, but have
been in trouble all the time. As for you, Achilles, no one was ever
yet so fortunate as you have been, nor ever will be, for you were
adored by all us Argives as long as you were alive, and now that you
are here you are a great prince among the dead. Do not, therefore,
take it so much to heart even if you are dead.'
"'Say not a word,' he answered, 'in death's favour; I would rather
be a paid servant in a poor man's house and be above ground than
king of kings among the dead. But give me news about son; is he gone
to the wars and will he be a great soldier, or is this not so? Tell me
also if you have heard anything about my father Peleus- does he
still rule among the Myrmidons, or do they show him no respect
throughout Hellas and Phthia now that he is old and his limbs fail
him? Could I but stand by his side, in the light of day, with the same
strength that I had when I killed the bravest of our foes upon the
plain of Troy- could I but be as I then was and go even for a short
time to my father's house, any one who tried to do him violence or
supersede him would soon me it.'
"'I have heard nothing,' I answered, 'of Peleus, but I can tell
you all about your son Neoptolemus, for I took him in my own ship from
Scyros with the Achaeans. In our councils of war before Troy he was
always first to speak, and his judgement was unerring. Nestor and I
were the only two who could surpass him; and when it came to
fighting on the plain of Troy, he would never remain with the body
of his men, but would dash on far in front, foremost of them all in
valour. Many a man did he kill in battle- I cannot name every single
one of those whom he slew while fighting on the side of the Argives,
but will only say how he killed that valiant hero Eurypylus son of
Telephus, who was the handsomest man I ever saw except Memnon; many
others also of the Ceteians fell around him by reason of a woman's
bribes. Moreover, when all the bravest of the Argives went inside
the horse that Epeus had made, and it was left to me to settle when we
should either open the door of our ambuscade, or close it, though
all the other leaders and chief men among the Danaans were drying
their eyes and quaking in every limb, I never once saw him turn pale
nor wipe a tear from his cheek; he was all the time urging me to break
out from the horse- grasping the handle of his sword and his
bronze-shod spear, and breathing fury against the foe. Yet when we had
sacked the city of Priam he got his handsome share of the prize
money and went on board (such is the fortune of war) without a wound
upon him, neither from a thrown spear nor in close combat, for the
rage of Mars is a matter of great chance.'
"When I had told him this, the ghost of Achilles strode off across a
meadow full of asphodel, exulting over what I had said concerning
the prowess of his son.
"The ghosts of other dead men stood near me and told me each his own
melancholy tale; but that of Ajax son of Telamon alone held aloof-
still angry with me for having won the cause in our dispute about
the armour of Achilles. Thetis had offered it as a prize, but the
Trojan prisoners and Minerva were the judges. Would that I had never
gained the day in such a contest, for it cost the life of Ajax, who
was foremost of all the Danaans after the son of Peleus, alike in
stature and prowess.
"When I saw him I tried to pacify him and said, 'Ajax, will you
not forget and forgive even in death, but must the judgement about
that hateful armour still rankle with you? It cost us Argives dear
enough to lose such a tower of strength as you were to us. We
mourned you as much as we mourned Achilles son of Peleus himself,
nor can the blame be laid on anything but on the spite which Jove bore
against the Danaans, for it was this that made him counsel your
destruction- come hither, therefore, bring your proud spirit into
subjection, and hear what I can tell you.'
"He would not answer, but turned away to Erebus and to the other
ghosts; nevertheless, I should have made him talk to me in spite of
his being so angry, or I should have gone talking to him, only that
there were still others among the dead whom I desired to see.
"Then I saw Minos son of Jove with his golden sceptre in his hand
sitting in judgement on the dead, and the ghosts were gathered sitting
and standing round him in the spacious house of Hades, to learn his
sentences upon them.
"After him I saw huge Orion in a meadow full of asphodel driving the
ghosts of the wild beasts that he had killed upon the mountains, and
he had a great bronze club in his hand, unbreakable for ever and ever.
"And I saw Tityus son of Gaia stretched upon the plain and
covering some nine acres of ground. Two vultures on either side of him
were digging their beaks into his liver, and he kept on trying to beat
them off with his hands, but could not; for he had violated Jove's
mistress Leto as she was going through Panopeus on her way to Pytho.
"I saw also the dreadful fate of Tantalus, who stood in a lake
that reached his chin; he was dying to quench his thirst, but could
never reach the water, for whenever the poor creature stooped to
drink, it dried up and vanished, so that there was nothing but dry
ground- parched by the spite of heaven. There were tall trees,
moreover, that shed their fruit over his head- pears, pomegranates,
apples, sweet figs and juicy olives, but whenever the poor creature
stretched out his hand to take some, the wind tossed the branches back
again to the clouds.
"And I saw Sisyphus at his endless task raising his prodigious stone
with both his hands. With hands and feet he' tried to roll it up to
the top of the hill, but always, just before he could roll it over
on to the other side, its weight would be too much for him, and the
pitiless stone would come thundering down again on to the plain.
Then he would begin trying to push it up hill again, and the sweat ran
off him and the steam rose after him.
"After him I saw mighty Hercules, but it was his phantom only, for
he is feasting ever with the immortal gods, and has lovely Hebe to
wife, who is daughter of Jove and Juno. The ghosts were screaming
round him like scared birds flying all whithers. He looked black as
night with his bare bow in his hands and his arrow on the string,
glaring around as though ever on the point of taking aim. About his
breast there was a wondrous golden belt adorned in the most marvellous
fashion with bears, wild boars, and lions with gleaming eyes; there
was also war, battle, and death. The man who made that belt, do what
he might, would never be able to make another like it. Hercules knew
me at once when he saw me, and spoke piteously, saying, my poor
Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, are you too leading the same sorry kind
of life that I did when I was above ground? I was son of Jove, but I
went through an infinity of suffering, for I became bondsman to one
who was far beneath me- a low fellow who set me all manner of labours.
He once sent me here to fetch the hell-hound- for he did not think
he could find anything harder for me than this, but I got the hound
out of Hades and brought him to him, for Mercury and Minerva helped
me.'
"On this Hercules went down again into the house of Hades, but I
stayed where I was in case some other of the mighty dead should come
to me. And I should have seen still other of them that are gone
before, whom I would fain have seen- Theseus and Pirithous glorious
children of the gods, but so many thousands of ghosts came round me
and uttered such appalling cries, that I was panic stricken lest
Proserpine should send up from the house of Hades the head of that
awful monster Gorgon. On this I hastened back to my ship and ordered
my men to go on board at once and loose the hawsers; so they
embarked and took their places, whereon the ship went down the
stream of the river Oceanus. We had to row at first, but presently a
fair wind sprang up.
BOOK XII

"After we were clear of the river Oceanus, and had got out into
the open sea, we went on till we reached the Aeaean island where there
is dawn and sunrise as in other places. We then drew our ship on to
the sands and got out of her on to the shore, where we went to sleep
and waited till day should break.
"Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I
sent some men to Circe's house to fetch the body of Elpenor. We cut
firewood from a wood where the headland jutted out into the sea, and
after we had wept over him and lamented him we performed his funeral
rites. When his body and armour had been burned to ashes, we raised
a cairn, set a stone over it, and at the top of the cairn we fixed the
oar that he had been used to row with.
"While we were doing all this, Circe, who knew that we had got
back from the house of Hades, dressed herself and came to us as fast
as she could; and her maid servants came with her bringing us bread,
meat, and wine. Then she stood in the midst of us and said, 'You
have done a bold thing in going down alive to the house of Hades,
and you will have died twice, to other people's once; now, then,
stay here for the rest of the day, feast your fill, and go on with
your voyage at daybreak tomorrow morning. In the meantime I will
tell Ulysses about your course, and will explain everything to him
so as to prevent your suffering from misadventure either by land or
sea.'
"We agreed to do as she had said, and feasted through the livelong
day to the going down of the sun, but when the sun had set and it came
on dark, the men laid themselves down to sleep by the stern cables
of the ship. Then Circe took me by the hand and bade me be seated away
from the others, while she reclined by my side and asked me all
about our adventures.
"'So far so good,' said she, when I had ended my story, 'and now pay
attention to what I am about to tell you- heaven itself, indeed,
will recall it to your recollection. First you will come to the Sirens
who enchant all who come near them. If any one unwarily draws in too
close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children
will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and
warble him to death with the sweetness of their song. There is a great
heap of dead men's bones lying all around, with the flesh still
rotting off them. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your
men's ears with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you
can listen yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you
stand upright on a cross-piece half way up the mast, and they must
lash the rope's ends to the mast itself, that you may have the
pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to unloose you,
then they must bind you faster.
"'When your crew have taken you past these Sirens, I cannot give you
coherent directions as to which of two courses you are to take; I will
lay the two alternatives before you, and you must consider them for
yourself. On the one hand there are some overhanging rocks against
which the deep blue waves of Amphitrite beat with terrific fury; the
blessed gods call these rocks the Wanderers. Here not even a bird
may pass, no, not even the timid doves that bring ambrosia to Father
Jove, but the sheer rock always carries off one of them, and Father
Jove has to send another to make up their number; no ship that ever
yet came to these rocks has got away again, but the waves and
whirlwinds of fire are freighted with wreckage and with the bodies
of dead men. The only vessel that ever sailed and got through, was the
famous Argo on her way from the house of Aetes, and she too would have
gone against these great rocks, only that Juno piloted her past them
for the love she bore to Jason.
"'Of these two rocks the one reaches heaven and its peak is lost
in a dark cloud. This never leaves it, so that the top is never
clear not even in summer and early autumn. No man though he had twenty
hands and twenty feet could get a foothold on it and climb it, for
it runs sheer up, as smooth as though it had been polished. In the
middle of it there is a large cavern, looking West and turned
towards Erebus; you must take your ship this way, but the cave is so
high up that not even the stoutest archer could send an arrow into it.
Inside it Scylla sits and yelps with a voice that you might take to be
that of a young hound, but in truth she is a dreadful monster and no
one- not even a god- could face her without being terror-struck. She
has twelve mis-shapen feet, and six necks of the most prodigious
length; and at the end of each neck she has a frightful head with
three rows of teeth in each, all set very close together, so that they
would crunch any one to death in a moment, and she sits deep within
her shady cell thrusting out her heads and peering all round the rock,
fishing for dolphins or dogfish or any larger monster that she can
catch, of the thousands with which Amphitrite teems. No ship ever
yet got past her without losing some men, for she shoots out all her
heads at once, and carries off a man in each mouth.
"'You will find the other rocks lie lower, but they are so close
together that there is not more than a bowshot between them. [A
large fig tree in full leaf grows upon it], and under it lies the
sucking whirlpool of Charybdis. Three times in the day does she
vomit forth her waters, and three times she sucks them down again; see
that you be not there when she is sucking, for if you are, Neptune
himself could not save you; you must hug the Scylla side and drive
ship by as fast as you can, for you had better lose six men than
your whole crew.'
"'Is there no way,' said I, 'of escaping Charybdis, and at the
same time keeping Scylla off when she is trying to harm my men?'
"'You dare-devil,' replied the goddess, you are always wanting to
fight somebody or something; you will not let yourself be beaten
even by the immortals. For Scylla is not mortal; moreover she is
savage, extreme, rude, cruel and invincible. There is no help for
it; your best chance will be to get by her as fast as ever you can,
for if you dawdle about her rock while you are putting on your armour,
she may catch you with a second cast of her six heads, and snap up
another half dozen of your men; so drive your ship past her at full
speed, and roar out lustily to Crataiis who is Scylla's dam, bad
luck to her; she will then stop her from making a second raid upon
you.
"'You will now come to the Thrinacian island, and here you will
see many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep belonging to the sun-god-
seven herds of cattle and seven flocks of sheep, with fifty head in
each flock. They do not breed, nor do they become fewer in number, and
they are tended by the goddesses Phaethusa and Lampetie, who are
children of the sun-god Hyperion by Neaera. Their mother when she
had borne them and had done suckling them sent them to the
Thrinacian island, which was a long way off, to live there and look
after their father's flocks and herds. If you leave these flocks
unharmed, and think of nothing but getting home, you may yet after
much hardship reach Ithaca; but if you harm them, then I forewarn
you of the destruction both of your ship and of your comrades; and
even though you may yourself escape, you will return late, in bad
plight, after losing all your men.'
"Here she ended, and dawn enthroned in gold began to show in heaven,
whereon she returned inland. I then went on board and told my men to
loose the ship from her moorings; so they at once got into her, took
their places, and began to smite the grey sea with their oars.
Presently the great and cunning goddess Circe befriended us with a
fair wind that blew dead aft, and stayed steadily with us, keeping our
sails well filled, so we did whatever wanted doing to the ship's gear,
and let her go as wind and helmsman headed her.
"Then, being much troubled in mind, I said to my men, 'My friends,
it is not right that one or two of us alone should know the prophecies
that Circe has made me, I will therefore tell you about them, so
that whether we live or die we may do so with our eyes open. First she
said we were to keep clear of the Sirens, who sit and sing most
beautifully in a field of flowers; but she said I might hear them
myself so long as no one else did. Therefore, take me and bind me to
the crosspiece half way up the mast; bind me as I stand upright,
with a bond so fast that I cannot possibly break away, and lash the
rope's ends to the mast itself. If I beg and pray you to set me
free, then bind me more tightly still.'
"I had hardly finished telling everything to the men before we
reached the island of the two Sirens, for the wind had been very
favourable. Then all of a sudden it fell dead calm; there was not a
breath of wind nor a ripple upon the water, so the men furled the
sails and stowed them; then taking to their oars they whitened the
water with the foam they raised in rowing. Meanwhile I look a large
wheel of wax and cut it up small with my sword. Then I kneaded the wax
in my strong hands till it became soft, which it soon did between
the kneading and the rays of the sun-god son of Hyperion. Then I
stopped the ears of all my men, and they bound me hands and feet to
the mast as I stood upright on the crosspiece; but they went on rowing
themselves. When we had got within earshot of the land, and the ship
was going at a good rate, the Sirens saw that we were getting in shore
and began with their singing.
"'Come here,' they sang, 'renowned Ulysses, honour to the Achaean
name, and listen to our two voices. No one ever sailed past us without
staying to hear the enchanting sweetness of our song- and he who
listens will go on his way not only charmed, but wiser, for we know
all the ills that the gods laid upon the Argives and Trojans before
Troy, and can tell you everything that is going to happen over the
whole world.'
"They sang these words most musically, and as I longed to hear
them further I made by frowning to my men that they should set me
free; but they quickened their stroke, and Eurylochus and Perimedes
bound me with still stronger bonds till we had got out of hearing of
the Sirens' voices. Then my men took the wax from their ears and
unbound me.
"Immediately after we had got past the island I saw a great wave
from which spray was rising, and I heard a loud roaring sound. The men
were so frightened that they loosed hold of their oars, for the
whole sea resounded with the rushing of the waters, but the ship
stayed where it was, for the men had left off rowing. I went round,
therefore, and exhorted them man by man not to lose heart.
"'My friends,' said I, 'this is not the first time that we have been
in danger, and we are in nothing like so bad a case as when the
Cyclops shut us up in his cave; nevertheless, my courage and wise
counsel saved us then, and we shall live to look back on all this as
well. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say, trust in Jove and row on
with might and main. As for you, coxswain, these are your orders;
attend to them, for the ship is in your hands; turn her head away from
these steaming rapids and hug the rock, or she will give you the
slip and be over yonder before you know where you are, and you will be
the death of us.'
"So they did as I told them; but I said nothing about the awful
monster Scylla, for I knew the men would not on rowing if I did, but
would huddle together in the hold. In one thing only did I disobey
Circe's strict instructions- I put on my armour. Then seizing two
strong spears I took my stand on the ship Is bows, for it was there
that I expected first to see the monster of the rock, who was to do my
men so much harm; but I could not make her out anywhere, though I
strained my eyes with looking the gloomy rock all over and over
"Then we entered the Straits in great fear of mind, for on the one
hand was Scylla, and on the other dread Charybdis kept sucking up
the salt water. As she vomited it up, it was like the water in a
cauldron when it is boiling over upon a great fire, and the spray
reached the top of the rocks on either side. When she began to suck
again, we could see the water all inside whirling round and round, and
it made a deafening sound as it broke against the rocks. We could
see the bottom of the whirlpool all black with sand and mud, and the
men were at their wit's ends for fear. While we were taken up with
this, and were expecting each moment to be our last, Scylla pounced
down suddenly upon us and snatched up my six best men. I was looking
at once after both ship and men, and in a moment I saw their hands and
feet ever so high above me, struggling in the air as Scylla was
carrying them off, and I heard them call out my name in one last
despairing cry. As a fisherman, seated, spear in hand, upon some
jutting rock throws bait into the water to deceive the poor little
fishes, and spears them with the ox's horn with which his spear is
shod, throwing them gasping on to the land as he catches them one by
one- even so did Scylla land these panting creatures on her rock and
munch them up at the mouth of her den, while they screamed and
stretched out their hands to me in their mortal agony. This was the
most sickening sight that I saw throughout all my voyages.
"When we had passed the [Wandering] rocks, with Scylla and
terrible Charybdis, we reached the noble island of the sun-god,
where were the goodly cattle and sheep belonging to the sun
Hyperion. While still at sea in my ship I could bear the cattle lowing
as they came home to the yards, and the sheep bleating. Then I
remembered what the blind Theban prophet Teiresias had told me, and
how carefully Aeaean Circe had warned me to shun the island of the
blessed sun-god. So being much troubled I said to the men, 'My men,
I know you are hard pressed, but listen while I tell you the
prophecy that Teiresias made me, and how carefully Aeaean Circe warned
me to shun the island of the blessed sun-god, for it was here, she
said, that our worst danger would lie. Head the ship, therefore,
away from the island.'
"The men were in despair at this, and Eurylochus at once gave me
an insolent answer. 'Ulysses,' said he, 'you are cruel; you are very
strong yourself and never get worn out; you seem to be made of iron,
and now, though your men are exhausted with toil and want of sleep,
you will not let them land and cook themselves a good supper upon this
island, but bid them put out to sea and go faring fruitlessly on
through the watches of the flying night. It is by night that the winds
blow hardest and do so much damage; how can we escape should one of
those sudden squalls spring up from South West or West, which so often
wreck a vessel when our lords the gods are unpropitious? Now,
therefore, let us obey the of night and prepare our supper here hard
by the ship; to-morrow morning we will go on board again and put out
to sea.'
"Thus spoke Eurylochus, and the men approved his words. I saw that
heaven meant us a mischief and said, 'You force me to yield, for you
are many against one, but at any rate each one of you must take his
solemn oath that if he meet with a herd of cattle or a large flock
of sheep, he will not be so mad as to kill a single head of either,
but will be satisfied with the food that Circe has given us.'
"They all swore as I bade them, and when they had completed their
oath we made the ship fast in a harbour that was near a stream of
fresh water, and the men went ashore and cooked their suppers. As soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink, they began talking about
their poor comrades whom Scylla had snatched up and eaten; this set
them weeping and they went on crying till they fell off into a sound
sleep.
"In the third watch of the night when the stars had shifted their
places, Jove raised a great gale of wind that flew a hurricane so that
land and sea were covered with thick clouds, and night sprang forth
out of the heavens. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn,
appeared, we brought the ship to land and drew her into a cave wherein
the sea-nymphs hold their courts and dances, and I called the men
together in council.
"'My friends,' said I, 'we have meat and drink in the ship, let us
mind, therefore, and not touch the cattle, or we shall suffer for
it; for these cattle and sheep belong to the mighty sun, who sees
and gives ear to everything. And again they promised that they would
obey.
"For a whole month the wind blew steadily from the South, and
there was no other wind, but only South and East. As long as corn
and wine held out the men did not touch the cattle when they were
hungry; when, however, they had eaten all there was in the ship,
they were forced to go further afield, with hook and line, catching
birds, and taking whatever they could lay their hands on; for they
were starving. One day, therefore, I went up inland that I might
pray heaven to show me some means of getting away. When I had gone far
enough to be clear of all my men, and had found a place that was
well sheltered from the wind, I washed my hands and prayed to all
the gods in Olympus till by and by they sent me off into a sweet
sleep.
"Meanwhile Eurylochus had been giving evil counsel to the men,
'Listen to me,' said he, 'my poor comrades. All deaths are bad
enough but there is none so bad as famine. Why should not we drive
in the best of these cows and offer them in sacrifice to the
immortal Rods? If we ever get back to Ithaca, we can build a fine
temple to the sun-god and enrich it with every kind of ornament; if,
however, he is determined to sink our ship out of revenge for these
homed cattle, and the other gods are of the same mind, I for one would
rather drink salt water once for all and have done with it, than be
starved to death by inches in such a desert island as this is.'
"Thus spoke Eurylochus, and the men approved his words. Now the
cattle, so fair and goodly, were feeding not far from the ship; the
men, therefore drove in the best of them, and they all stood round
them saying their prayers, and using young oak-shoots instead of
barley-meal, for there was no barley left. When they had done
praying they killed the cows and dressed their carcasses; they cut out
the thigh bones, wrapped them round in two layers of fat, and set some
pieces of raw meat on top of them. They had no wine with which to make
drink-offerings over the sacrifice while it was cooking, so they
kept pouring on a little water from time to time while the inward
meats were being grilled; then, when the thigh bones were burned and
they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up small and put
the pieces upon the spits.
"By this time my deep sleep had left me, and I turned back to the
ship and to the sea shore. As I drew near I began to smell hot roast
meat, so I groaned out a prayer to the immortal gods. 'Father Jove,' I
exclaimed, 'and all you other gods who live in everlasting bliss,
you have done me a cruel mischief by the sleep into which you have
sent me; see what fine work these men of mine have been making in my
absence.'
"Meanwhile Lampetie went straight off to the sun and told him we had
been killing his cows, whereon he flew into a great rage, and said
to the immortals, 'Father Jove, and all you other gods who live in
everlasting bliss, I must have vengeance on the crew of Ulysses' ship:
they have had the insolence to kill my cows, which were the one
thing I loved to look upon, whether I was going up heaven or down
again. If they do not square accounts with me about my cows, I will go
down to Hades and shine there among the dead.'
"'Sun,' said Jove, 'go on shining upon us gods and upon mankind over
the fruitful earth. I will shiver their ship into little pieces with a
bolt of white lightning as soon as they get out to sea.'
"I was told all this by Calypso, who said she had heard it from
the mouth of Mercury.
"As soon as I got down to my ship and to the sea shore I rebuked
each one of the men separately, but we could see no way out of it, for
the cows were dead already. And indeed the gods began at once to
show signs and wonders among us, for the hides of the cattle crawled
about, and the joints upon the spits began to low like cows, and the
meat, whether cooked or raw, kept on making a noise just as cows do.
"For six days my men kept driving in the best cows and feasting upon
them, but when Jove the son of Saturn had added a seventh day, the
fury of the gale abated; we therefore went on board, raised our masts,
spread sail, and put out to sea. As soon as we were well away from the
island, and could see nothing but sky and sea, the son of Saturn
raised a black cloud over our ship, and the sea grew dark beneath
it. We not get on much further, for in another moment we were caught
by a terrific squall from the West that snapped the forestays of the
mast so that it fell aft, while all the ship's gear tumbled about at
the bottom of the vessel. The mast fell upon the head of the
helmsman in the ship's stern, so that the bones of his head were
crushed to pieces, and he fell overboard as though he were diving,
with no more life left in him.
"Then Jove let fly with his thunderbolts, and the ship went round
and round, and was filled with fire and brimstone as the lightning
struck it. The men all fell into the sea; they were carried about in
the water round the ship, looking like so many sea-gulls, but the
god presently deprived them of all chance of getting home again.
"I stuck to the ship till the sea knocked her sides from her keel
(which drifted about by itself) and struck the mast out of her in
the direction of the keel; but there was a backstay of stout
ox-thong still hanging about it, and with this I lashed the mast and
keel together, and getting astride of them was carried wherever the
winds chose to take me.
"[The gale from the West had now spent its force, and the wind got
into the South again, which frightened me lest I should be taken
back to the terrible whirlpool of Charybdis. This indeed was what
actually happened, for I was borne along by the waves all night, and
by sunrise had reacfied the rock of Scylla, and the whirlpool. She was
then sucking down the salt sea water, but I was carried aloft toward
the fig tree, which I caught hold of and clung on to like a bat. I
could not plant my feet anywhere so as to stand securely, for the
roots were a long way off and the boughs that overshadowed the whole
pool were too high, too vast, and too far apart for me to reach
them; so I hung patiently on, waiting till the pool should discharge
my mast and raft again- and a very long while it seemed. A juryman
is not more glad to get home to supper, after having been long
detained in court by troublesome cases, than I was to see my raft
beginning to work its way out of the whirlpool again. At last I let go
with my hands and feet, and fell heavily into the sea, bard by my raft
on to which I then got, and began to row with my hands. As for Scylla,
the father of gods and men would not let her get further sight of
me- otherwise I should have certainly been lost.]
"Hence I was carried along for nine days till on the tenth night the
gods stranded me on the Ogygian island, where dwells the great and
powerful goddess Calypso. She took me in and was kind to me, but I
need say no more about this, for I told you and your noble wife all
about it yesterday, and I hate saying the same thing over and over
again."
BOOK XIII

Thus did he speak, and they all held their peace throughout the
covered cloister, enthralled by the charm of his story, till presently
Alcinous began to speak.
"Ulysses," said he, "now that you have reached my house I doubt
not you will get home without further misadventure no matter how
much you have suffered in the past. To you others, however, who come
here night after night to drink my choicest wine and listen to my
bard, I would insist as follows. Our guest has already packed up the
clothes, wrought gold, and other valuables which you have brought
for his acceptance; let us now, therefore, present him further, each
one of us, with a large tripod and a cauldron. We will recoup
ourselves by the levy of a general rate; for private individuals
cannot be expected to bear the burden of such a handsome present."
Every one approved of this, and then they went home to bed each in
his own abode. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn,
appeared, they hurried down to the ship and brought their cauldrons
with them. Alcinous went on board and saw everything so securely
stowed under the ship's benches that nothing could break adrift and
injure the rowers. Then they went to the house of Alcinous to get
dinner, and he sacrificed a bull for them in honour of Jove who is the
lord of all. They set the steaks to grill and made an excellent
dinner, after which the inspired bard, Demodocus, who was a
favourite with every one, sang to them; but Ulysses kept on turning
his eyes towards the sun, as though to hasten his setting, for he
was longing to be on his way. As one who has been all day ploughing
a fallow field with a couple of oxen keeps thinking about his supper
and is glad when night comes that he may go and get it, for it is
all his legs can do to carry him, even so did Ulysses rejoice when the
sun went down, and he at once said to the Phaecians, addressing
himself more particularly to King Alcinous:
"Sir, and all of you, farewell. Make your drink-offerings and send
me on my way rejoicing, for you have fulfilled my heart's desire by
giving me an escort, and making me presents, which heaven grant that I
may turn to good account; may I find my admirable wife living in peace
among friends, and may you whom I leave behind me give satisfaction to
your wives and children; may heaven vouchsafe you every good grace,
and may no evil thing come among your people."
Thus did he speak. His hearers all of them approved his saying and
agreed that he should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken
reasonably. Alcinous therefore said to his servant, "Pontonous, mix
some wine and hand it round to everybody, that we may offer a prayer
to father Jove, and speed our guest upon his way."
Pontonous mixed the wine and handed it to every one in turn; the
others each from his own seat made a drink-offering to the blessed
gods that live in heaven, but Ulysses rose and placed the double cup
in the hands of queen Arete.
"Farewell, queen," said he, "henceforward and for ever, till age and
death, the common lot of mankind, lay their hands upon you. I now take
my leave; be happy in this house with your children, your people,
and with king Alcinous."
As he spoke he crossed the threshold, and Alcinous sent a man to
conduct him to his ship and to the sea shore. Arete also sent some
maid servants with him- one with a clean shirt and cloak, another to
carry his strong-box, and a third with corn and wine. When they got to
the water side the crew took these things and put them on board,
with all the meat and drink; but for Ulysses they spread a rug and a
linen sheet on deck that he might sleep soundly in the stern of the
ship. Then he too went on board and lay down without a word, but the
crew took every man his place and loosed the hawser from the pierced
stone to which it had been bound. Thereon, when they began rowing
out to sea, Ulysses fell into a deep, sweet, and almost deathlike
slumber.
The ship bounded forward on her way as a four in hand chariot
flies over the course when the horses feel the whip. Her prow curveted
as it were the neck of a stallion, and a great wave of dark blue water
seethed in her wake. She held steadily on her course, and even a
falcon, swiftest of all birds, could not have kept pace with her.
Thus, then, she cut her way through the water. carrying one who was as
cunning as the gods, but who was now sleeping peacefully, forgetful of
all that he had suffered both on the field of battle and by the
waves of the weary sea.
When the bright star that heralds the approach of dawn began to
show. the ship drew near to land. Now there is in Ithaca a haven of
the old merman Phorcys, which lies between two points that break the
line of the sea and shut the harbour in. These shelter it from the
storms of wind and sea that rage outside, so that, when once within
it, a ship may lie without being even moored. At the head of this
harbour there is a large olive tree, and at no distance a fine
overarching cavern sacred to the nymphs who are called Naiads. There
are mixing-bowls within it and wine-jars of stone, and the bees hive
there. Moreover, there are great looms of stone on which the nymphs
weave their robes of sea purple- very curious to see- and at all times
there is water within it. It has two entrances, one facing North by
which mortals can go down into the cave, while the other comes from
the South and is more mysterious; mortals cannot possibly get in by
it, it is the way taken by the gods.
Into this harbour, then, they took their ship, for they knew the
place, She had so much way upon her that she ran half her own length
on to the shore; when, however, they had landed, the first thing
they did was to lift Ulysses with his rug and linen sheet out of the
ship, and lay him down upon the sand still fast asleep. Then they took
out the presents which Minerva had persuaded the Phaeacians to give
him when he was setting out on his voyage homewards. They put these
all together by the root of the olive tree, away from the road, for
fear some passer by might come and steal them before Ulysses awoke;
and then they made the best of their way home again.
But Neptune did not forget the threats with which he had already
threatened Ulysses, so he took counsel with Jove. "Father Jove,"
said he, "I shall no longer be held in any sort of respect among you
gods, if mortals like the Phaeacians, who are my own flesh and
blood, show such small regard for me. I said I would Ulysses get
home when he had suffered sufficiently. I did not say that he should
never get home at all, for I knew you had already nodded your head
about it, and promised that he should do so; but now they have brought
him in a ship fast asleep and have landed him in Ithaca after
loading him with more magnificent presents of bronze, gold, and
raiment than he would ever have brought back from Troy, if he had
had his share of the spoil and got home without misadventure."
And Jove answered, "What, O Lord of the Earthquake, are you
talking about? The gods are by no means wanting in respect for you. It
would be monstrous were they to insult one so old and honoured as
you are. As regards mortals, however, if any of them is indulging in
insolence and treating you disrespectfully, it will always rest with
yourself to deal with him as you may think proper, so do just as you
please."
"I should have done so at once," replied Neptune, "if I were not
anxious to avoid anything that might displease you; now, therefore,
I should like to wreck the Phaecian ship as it is returning from its
escort. This will stop them from escorting people in future; and I
should also like to bury their city under a huge mountain."
"My good friend," answered Jove, "I should recommend you at the very
moment when the people from the city are watching the ship on her way,
to turn it into a rock near the land and looking like a ship. This
will astonish everybody, and you can then bury their city under the
mountain."
When earth-encircling Neptune heard this he went to Scheria where
the Phaecians live, and stayed there till the ship, which was making
rapid way, had got close-in. Then he went up to it, turned it into
stone, and drove it down with the flat of his hand so as to root it in
the ground. After this he went away.
The Phaeacians then began talking among themselves, and one would
turn towards his neighbour, saying, "Bless my heart, who is it that
can have rooted the ship in the sea just as she was getting into port?
We could see the whole of her only moment ago."
This was how they talked, but they knew nothing about it; and
Alcinous said, "I remember now the old prophecy of my father. He
said that Neptune would be angry with us for taking every one so
safely over the sea, and would one day wreck a Phaeacian ship as it
was returning from an escort, and bury our city under a high mountain.
This was what my old father used to say, and now it is all coming
true. Now therefore let us all do as I say; in the first place we must
leave off giving people escorts when they come here, and in the next
let us sacrifice twelve picked bulls to Neptune that he may have mercy
upon us, and not bury our city under the high mountain." When the
people heard this they were afraid and got ready the bulls.
Thus did the chiefs and rulers of the Phaecians to king Neptune,
standing round his altar; and at the same time Ulysses woke up once
more upon his own soil. He had been so long away that he did not
know it again; moreover, Jove's daughter Minerva had made it a foggy
day, so that people might not know of his having come, and that she
might tell him everything without either his wife or his fellow
citizens and friends recognizing him until he had taken his revenge
upon the wicked suitors. Everything, therefore, seemed quite different
to him- the long straight tracks, the harbours, the precipices, and
the goodly trees, appeared all changed as he started up and looked
upon his native land. So he smote his thighs with the flat of his
hands and cried aloud despairingly.
"Alas," he exclaimed, "among what manner of people am I fallen?
Are they savage and uncivilized or hospitable and humane? Where
shall I put all this treasure, and which way shall I go? I wish I
had stayed over there with the Phaeacians; or I could have gone to
some other great chief who would have been good to me and given me
an escort. As it is I do not know where to put my treasure, and I
cannot leave it here for fear somebody else should get hold of it.
In good truth the chiefs and rulers of the Phaeacians have not been
dealing fairly by me, and have left me in the wrong country; they said
they would take me back to Ithaca and they have not done so: may
Jove the protector of suppliants chastise them, for he watches over
everybody and punishes those who do wrong. Still, I suppose I must
count my goods and see if the crew have gone off with any of them."
He counted his goodly coppers and cauldrons, his gold and all his
clothes, but there was nothing missing; still he kept grieving about
not being in his own country, and wandered up and down by the shore of
the sounding sea bewailing his hard fate. Then Minerva came up to
him disguised as a young shepherd of delicate and princely mien,
with a good cloak folded double about her shoulders; she had sandals
on her comely feet and held a javelin in her hand. Ulysses was glad
when he saw her, and went straight up to her.
"My friend," said he, "you are the first person whom I have met with
in this country; I salute you, therefore, and beg you to be will
disposed towards me. Protect these my goods, and myself too, for I
embrace your knees and pray to you as though you were a god. Tell
me, then, and tell me truly, what land and country is this? Who are
its inhabitants? Am I on an island, or is this the sea board of some
continent?"
Minerva answered, "Stranger, you must be very simple, or must have
come from somewhere a long way off, not to know what country this
is. It is a very celebrated place, and everybody knows it East and
West. It is rugged and not a good driving country, but it is by no
means a bid island for what there is of it. It grows any quantity of
corn and also wine, for it is watered both by rain and dew; it
breeds cattle also and goats; all kinds of timber grow here, and there
are watering places where the water never runs dry; so, sir, the
name of Ithaca is known even as far as Troy, which I understand to
be a long way off from this Achaean country."
Ulysses was glad at finding himself, as Minerva told him, in his own
country, and he began to answer, but he did not speak the truth, and
made up a lying story in the instinctive wiliness of his heart.
"I heard of Ithaca," said he, "when I was in Crete beyond the
seas, and now it seems I have reached it with all these treasures. I
have left as much more behind me for my children, but am flying
because I killed Orsilochus son of Idomeneus, the fleetest runner in
Crete. I killed him because he wanted to rob me of the spoils I had
got from Troy with so much trouble and danger both on the field of
battle and by the waves of the weary sea; he said I had not served his
father loyally at Troy as vassal, but had set myself up as an
independent ruler, so I lay in wait for him and with one of my
followers by the road side, and speared him as he was coming into town
from the country. my It was a very dark night and nobody saw us; it
was not known, therefore, that I had killed him, but as soon as I
had done so I went to a ship and besought the owners, who were
Phoenicians, to take me on board and set me in Pylos or in Elis
where the Epeans rule, giving them as much spoil as satisfied them.
They meant no guile, but the wind drove them off their course, and
we sailed on till we came hither by night. It was all we could do to
get inside the harbour, and none of us said a word about supper though
we wanted it badly, but we all went on shore and lay down just as we
were. I was very tired and fell asleep directly, so they took my goods
out of the ship, and placed them beside me where I was lying upon
the sand. Then they sailed away to Sidonia, and I was left here in
great distress of mind."
Such was his story, but Minerva smiled and caressed him with her
hand. Then she took the form of a woman, fair, stately, and wise,
"He must be indeed a shifty lying fellow," said she, "who could
surpass you in all manner of craft even though you had a god for
your antagonist. Dare-devil that you are, full of guile, unwearying in
deceit, can you not drop your tricks and your instinctive falsehood,
even now that you are in your own country again? We will say no
more, however, about this, for we can both of us deceive upon
occasion- you are the most accomplished counsellor and orator among
all mankind, while I for diplomacy and subtlety have no equal among
the gods. Did you not know Jove's daughter Minerva- me, who have
been ever with you, who kept watch over you in all your troubles,
and who made the Phaeacians take so great a liking to you? And now,
again, I am come here to talk things over with you, and help you to
hide the treasure I made the Phaeacians give you; I want to tell you
about the troubles that await you in your own house; you have got to
face them, but tell no one, neither man nor woman, that you have
come home again. Bear everything, and put up with every man's
insolence, without a word."
And Ulysses answered, "A man, goddess, may know a great deal, but
you are so constantly changing your appearance that when he meets
you it is a hard matter for him to know whether it is you or not. This
much, however, I know exceedingly well; you were very kind to me as
long as we Achaeans were fighting before Troy, but from the day on
which we went on board ship after having sacked the city of Priam, and
heaven dispersed us- from that day, Minerva, I saw no more of you, and
cannot ever remember your coming to my ship to help me in a
difficulty; I had to wander on sick and sorry till the gods
delivered me from evil and I reached the city of the Phaeacians, where
you encouraged me and took me into the town. And now, I beseech you in
your father's name, tell me the truth, for I do not believe I am
really back in Ithaca. I am in some other country and you are
mocking me and deceiving me in all you have been saying. Tell me
then truly, have I really got back to my own country?"
"You are always taking something of that sort into your head,"
replied Minerva, "and that is why I cannot desert you in your
afflictions; you are so plausible, shrewd and shifty. Any one but
yourself on returning from so long a voyage would at once have gone
home to see his wife and children, but you do not seem to care about
asking after them or hearing any news about them till you have
exploited your wife, who remains at home vainly grieving for you,
and having no peace night or day for the tears she sheds on your
behalf. As for my not coming near you, I was never uneasy about you,
for I was certain you would get back safely though you would lose
all your men, and I did not wish to quarrel with my uncle Neptune, who
never forgave you for having blinded his son. I will now, however,
point out to you the lie of the land, and you will then perhaps
believe me. This is the haven of the old merman Phorcys, and here is
the olive tree that grows at the head of it; [near it is the cave
sacred to the Naiads;] here too is the overarching cavern in which you
have offered many an acceptable hecatomb to the nymphs, and this is
the wooded mountain Neritum."
As she spoke the goddess dispersed the mist and the land appeared.
Then Ulysses rejoiced at finding himself again in his own land, and
kissed the bounteous soil; he lifted up his hands and prayed to the
nymphs, saying, "Naiad nymphs, daughters of Jove, I made sure that I
was never again to see you, now therefore I greet you with all
loving salutations, and I will bring you offerings as in the old days,
if Jove's redoubtable daughter will grant me life, and bring my son to
manhood."
"Take heart, and do not trouble yourself about that," rejoined
Minerva, "let us rather set about stowing your things at once in the
cave, where they will be quite safe. Let us see how we can best manage
it all."
Therewith she went down into the cave to look for the safest
hiding places, while Ulysses brought up all the treasure of gold,
bronze, and good clothing which the Phaecians had given him. They
stowed everything carefully away, and Minerva set a stone against
the door of the cave. Then the two sat down by the root of the great
olive, and consulted how to compass the destruction of the wicked
suitors.
"Ulysses," said Minerva, "noble son of Laertes, think how you can
lay hands on these disreputable people who have been lording it in
your house these three years, courting your wife and making wedding
presents to her, while she does nothing but lament your absence,
giving hope and sending your encouraging messages to every one of
them, but meaning the very opposite of all she says'
And Ulysses answered, "In good truth, goddess, it seems I should
have come to much the same bad end in my own house as Agamemnon did,
if you had not given me such timely information. Advise me how I shall
best avenge myself. Stand by my side and put your courage into my
heart as on the day when we loosed Troy's fair diadem from her brow.
Help me now as you did then, and I will fight three hundred men, if
you, goddess, will be with me."
"Trust me for that," said she, "I will not lose sight of you when
once we set about it, and I would imagine that some of those who are
devouring your substance will then bespatter the pavement with their
blood and brains. I will begin by disguising you so that no human
being shall know you; I will cover your body with wrinkles; you
shall lose all your yellow hair; I will clothe you in a garment that
shall fill all who see it with loathing; I will blear your fine eyes
for you, and make you an unseemly object in the sight of the
suitors, of your wife, and of the son whom you left behind you. Then
go at once to the swineherd who is in charge of your pigs; he has been
always well affected towards you, and is devoted to Penelope and
your son; you will find him feeding his pigs near the rock that is
called Raven by the fountain Arethusa, where they are fattening on
beechmast and spring water after their manner. Stay with him and
find out how things are going, while I proceed to Sparta and see
your son, who is with Menelaus at Lacedaemon, where he has gone to try
and find out whether you are still alive."
"But why," said Ulysses, "did you not tell him, for you knew all
about it? Did you want him too to go sailing about amid all kinds of
hardship while others are eating up his estate?"
Minerva answered, "Never mind about him, I sent him that he might be
well spoken of for having gone. He is in no sort of difficulty, but is
staying quite comfortably with Menelaus, and is surrounded with
abundance of every kind. The suitors have put out to sea and are lying
in wait for him, for they mean to kill him before he can get home. I
do not much think they will succeed, but rather that some of those who
are now eating up your estate will first find a grave themselves."
As she spoke Minerva touched him with her wand and covered him
with wrinkles, took away all his yellow hair, and withered the flesh
over his whole body; she bleared his eyes, which were naturally very
fine ones; she changed his clothes and threw an old rag of a wrap
about him, and a tunic, tattered, filthy, and begrimed with smoke; she
also gave him an undressed deer skin as an outer garment, and
furnished him with a staff and a wallet all in holes, with a twisted
thong for him to sling it over his shoulder.
When the pair had thus laid their plans they parted, and the goddess
went straight to Lacedaemon to fetch Telemachus.
BOOK XIV

Ulysses now left the haven, and took the rough track up through
the wooded country and over the crest of the mountain till he
reached the place where Minerva had said that he would find the
swineherd, who was the most thrifty servant he had. He found him
sitting in front of his hut, which was by the yards that he had
built on a site which could be seen from far. He had made them
spacious and fair to see, with a free ran for the pigs all round them;
he had built them during his master's absence, of stones which he
had gathered out of the ground, without saying anything to Penelope or
Laertes, and he had fenced them on top with thorn bushes. Outside
the yard he had run a strong fence of oaken posts, split, and set
pretty close together, while inside lie had built twelve sties near
one another for the sows to lie in. There were fifty pigs wallowing in
each sty, all of them breeding sows; but the boars slept outside and
were much fewer in number, for the suitors kept on eating them, and
die swineherd had to send them the best he had continually. There were
three hundred and sixty boar pigs, and the herdsman's four hounds,
which were as fierce as wolves, slept always with them. The
swineherd was at that moment cutting out a pair of sandals from a good
stout ox hide. Three of his men were out herding the pigs in one place
or another, and he had sent the fourth to town with a boar that he had
been forced to send the suitors that they might sacrifice it and
have their fill of meat.
When the hounds saw Ulysses they set up a furious barking and flew
at him, but Ulysses was cunning enough to sit down and loose his
hold of the stick that he had in his hand: still, he would have been
torn by them in his own homestead had not the swineherd dropped his ox
hide, rushed full speed through the gate of the yard and driven the
dogs off by shouting and throwing stones at them. Then he said to
Ulysses, "Old man, the dogs were likely to have made short work of
you, and then you would have got me into trouble. The gods have
given me quite enough worries without that, for I have lost the best
of masters, and am in continual grief on his account. I have to attend
swine for other people to eat, while he, if he yet lives to see the
light of day, is starving in some distant land. But come inside, and
when you have had your fill of bread and wine, tell me where you
come from, and all about your misfortunes."
On this the swineherd led the way into the hut and bade him sit
down. He strewed a good thick bed of rushes upon the floor, and on the
top of this he threw the shaggy chamois skin- a great thick one- on
which he used to sleep by night. Ulysses was pleased at being made
thus welcome, and said "May Jove, sir, and the rest of the gods
grant you your heart's desire in return for the kind way in which
you have received me."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Stranger, though a still
poorer man should come here, it would not be right for me to insult
him, for all strangers and beggars are from Jove. You must take what
you can get and be thankful, for servants live in fear when they
have young lords for their masters; and this is my misfortune now, for
heaven has hindered the return of him who would have been always
good to me and given me something of my own- a house, a piece of land,
a good looking wife, and all else that a liberal master allows a
servant who has worked hard for him, and whose labour the gods have
prospered as they have mine in the situation which I hold. If my
master had grown old here he would have done great things by me, but
he is gone, and I wish that Helen's whole race were utterly destroyed,
for she has been the death of many a good man. It was this matter that
took my master to Ilius, the land of noble steeds, to fight the
Trojans in the cause of kin Agamemnon."
As he spoke he bound his girdle round him and went to the sties
where the young sucking pigs were penned. He picked out two which he
brought back with him and sacrificed. He singed them, cut them up, and
spitted on them; when the meat was cooked he brought it all in and set
it before Ulysses, hot and still on the spit, whereon Ulysses
sprinkled it over with white barley meal. The swineherd then mixed
wine in a bowl of ivy-wood, and taking a seat opposite Ulysses told
him to begin.
"Fall to, stranger," said he, "on a dish of servant's pork. The
fat pigs have to go to the suitors, who eat them up without shame or
scruple; but the blessed gods love not such shameful doings, and
respect those who do what is lawful and right. Even the fierce
free-booters who go raiding on other people's land, and Jove gives
them their spoil- even they, when they have filled their ships and got
home again live conscience-stricken, and look fearfully for judgement;
but some god seems to have told these people that Ulysses is dead
and gone; they will not, therefore, go back to their own homes and
make their offers of marriage in the usual way, but waste his estate
by force, without fear or stint. Not a day or night comes out of
heaven, but they sacrifice not one victim nor two only, and they
take the run of his wine, for he was exceedingly rich. No other
great man either in Ithaca or on the mainland is as rich as he was; he
had as much as twenty men put together. I will tell you what he had.
There are twelve herds of cattle upon the mainland, and as many flocks
of sheep, there are also twelve droves of pigs, while his own men
and hired strangers feed him twelve widely spreading herds of goats.
Here in Ithaca he runs even large flocks of goats on the far end of
the island, and they are in the charge of excellent goatherds. Each
one of these sends the suitors the best goat in the flock every day.
As for myself, I am in charge of the pigs that you see here, and I
have to keep picking out the best I have and sending it to them."
This was his story, but Ulysses went on eating and drinking
ravenously without a word, brooding his revenge. When he had eaten
enough and was satisfied, the swineherd took the bowl from which he
usually drank, filled it with wine, and gave it to Ulysses, who was
pleased, and said as he took it in his hands, "My friend, who was this
master of yours that bought you and paid for you, so rich and so
powerful as you tell me? You say he perished in the cause of King
Agamemnon; tell me who he was, in case I may have met with such a
person. Jove and the other gods know, but I may be able to give you
news of him, for I have travelled much."
Eumaeus answered, "Old man, no traveller who comes here with news
will get Ulysses' wife and son to believe his story. Nevertheless,
tramps in want of a lodging keep coming with their mouths full of
lies, and not a word of truth; every one who finds his way to Ithaca
goes to my mistress and tells her falsehoods, whereon she takes them
in, makes much of them, and asks them all manner of questions,
crying all the time as women will when they have lost their
husbands. And you too, old man, for a shirt and a cloak would
doubtless make up a very pretty story. But the wolves and birds of
prey have long since torn Ulysses to pieces, or the fishes of the
sea have eaten him, and his bones are lying buried deep in sand upon
some foreign shore; he is dead and gone, and a bad business it is
for all his friends- for me especially; go where I may I shall never
find so good a master, not even if I were to go home to my mother
and father where I was bred and born. I do not so much care,
however, about my parents now, though I should dearly like to see them
again in my own country; it is the loss of Ulysses that grieves me
most; I cannot speak of him without reverence though he is here no
longer, for he was very fond of me, and took such care of me that
whereever he may be I shall always honour his memory."
"My friend," replied Ulysses, "you are very positive, and very
hard of belief about your master's coming home again, nevertheless I
will not merely say, but will swear, that he is coming. Do not give me
anything for my news till he has actually come, you may then give me a
shirt and cloak of good wear if you will. I am in great want, but I
will not take anything at all till then, for I hate a man, even as I
hate hell fire, who lets his poverty tempt him into lying. I swear
by king Jove, by the rites of hospitality, and by that hearth of
Ulysses to which I have now come, that all will surely happen as I
have said it will. Ulysses will return in this self same year; with
the end of this moon and the beginning of the next he will be here
to do vengeance on all those who are ill treating his wife and son."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Old man, you will
neither get paid for bringing good news, nor will Ulysses ever come
home; drink you wine in peace, and let us talk about something else.
Do not keep on reminding me of all this; it always pains me when any
one speaks about my honoured master. As for your oath we will let it
alone, but I only wish he may come, as do Penelope, his old father
Laertes, and his son Telemachus. I am terribly unhappy too about
this same boy of his; he was running up fast into manhood, and bade
fare to be no worse man, face and figure, than his father, but some
one, either god or man, has been unsettling his mind, so he has gone
off to Pylos to try and get news of his father, and the suitors are
lying in wait for him as he is coming home, in the hope of leaving the
house of Arceisius without a name in Ithaca. But let us say no more
about him, and leave him to be taken, or else to escape if the son
of Saturn holds his hand over him to protect him. And now, old man,
tell me your own story; tell me also, for I want to know, who you
are and where you come from. Tell me of your town and parents, what
manner of ship you came in, how crew brought you to Ithaca, and from
what country they professed to come- for you cannot have come by
land."
And Ulysses answered, "I will tell you all about it. If there were
meat and wine enough, and we could stay here in the hut with nothing
to do but to eat and drink while the others go to their work, I
could easily talk on for a whole twelve months without ever
finishing the story of the sorrows with which it has pleased heaven to
visit me.
"I am by birth a Cretan; my father was a well-to-do man, who had
many sons born in marriage, whereas I was the son of a slave whom he
had purchased for a concubine; nevertheless, my father Castor son of
Hylax (whose lineage I claim, and who was held in the highest honour
among the Cretans for his wealth, prosperity, and the valour of his
sons) put me on the same level with my brothers who had been born in
wedlock. When, however, death took him to the house of Hades, his sons
divided his estate and cast lots for their shares, but to me they gave
a holding and little else; nevertheless, my valour enabled me to marry
into a rich family, for I was not given to bragging, or shirking on
the field of battle. It is all over now; still, if you look at the
straw you can see what the ear was, for I have had trouble enough
and to spare. Mars and Minerva made me doughty in war; when I had
picked my men to surprise the enemy with an ambuscade I never gave
death so much as a thought, but was the first to leap forward and
spear all whom I could overtake. Such was I in battle, but I did not
care about farm work, nor the frugal home life of those who would
bring up children. My delight was in ships, fighting, javelins, and
arrows- things that most men shudder to think of; but one man likes
one thing and another another, and this was what I was most
naturally inclined to. Before the Achaeans went to Troy, nine times
was I in command of men and ships on foreign service, and I amassed
much wealth. I had my pick of the spoil in the first instance, and
much more was allotted to me later on.
"My house grew apace and I became a great man among the Cretans, but
when Jove counselled that terrible expedition, in which so many
perished, the people required me and Idomeneus to lead their ships
to Troy, and there was no way out of it, for they insisted on our
doing so. There we fought for nine whole years, but in the tenth we
sacked the city of Priam and sailed home again as heaven dispersed us.
Then it was that Jove devised evil against me. I spent but one month
happily with my children, wife, and property, and then I conceived the
idea of making a descent on Egypt, so I fitted out a fine fleet and
manned it. I had nine ships, and the people flocked to fill them.
For six days I and my men made feast, and I found them many victims
both for sacrifice to the gods and for themselves, but on the
seventh day we went on board and set sail from Crete with a fair North
wind behind us though we were going down a river. Nothing went ill
with any of our ships, and we had no sickness on board, but sat
where we were and let the ships go as the wind and steersmen took
them. On the fifth day we reached the river Aegyptus; there I
stationed my ships in the river, bidding my men stay by them and
keep guard over them while I sent out scouts to reconnoitre from every
point of vantage.
"But the men disobeyed my orders, took to their own devices, and
ravaged the land of the Egyptians, killing the men, and taking their
wives and children captive. The alarm was soon carried to the city,
and when they heard the war cry, the people came out at daybreak
till the plain was filled with horsemen and foot soldiers and with the
gleam of armour. Then Jove spread panic among my men, and they would
no longer face the enemy, for they found themselves surrounded. The
Egyptians killed many of us, and took the rest alive to do forced
labour for them. Jove, however, put it in my mind to do thus- and I
wish I had died then and there in Egypt instead, for there was much
sorrow in store for me- I took off my helmet and shield and dropped my
spear from my hand; then I went straight up to the king's chariot,
clasped his knees and kissed them, whereon he spared my life, bade
me get into his chariot, and took me weeping to his own home. Many
made at me with their ashen spears and tried to kil me in their
fury, but the king protected me, for he feared the wrath of Jove the
protector of strangers, who punishes those who do evil.
"I stayed there for seven years and got together much money among
the Egyptians, for they all gave me something; but when it was now
going on for eight years there came a certain Phoenician, a cunning
rascal, who had already committed all sorts of villainy, and this
man talked me over into going with him to Phoenicia, where his house
and his possessions lay. I stayed there for a whole twelve months, but
at the end of that time when months and days had gone by till the same
season had come round again, he set me on board a ship bound for
Libya, on a pretence that I was to take a cargo along with him to that
place, but really that he might sell me as a slave and take the
money I fetched. I suspected his intention, but went on board with
him, for I could not help it.
"The ship ran before a fresh North wind till we had reached the
sea that lies between Crete and Libya; there, however, Jove counselled
their destruction, for as soon as we were well out from Crete and
could see nothing but sea and sky, he raised a black cloud over our
ship and the sea grew dark beneath it. Then Jove let fly with his
thunderbolts and the ship went round and round and was filled with
fire and brimstone as the lightning struck it. The men fell all into
the sea; they were carried about in the water round the ship looking
like so many sea-gulls, but the god presently deprived them of all
chance of getting home again. I was all dismayed; Jove, however,
sent the ship's mast within my reach, which saved my life, for I clung
to it, and drifted before the fury of the gale. Nine days did I
drift but in the darkness of the tenth night a great wave bore me on
to the Thesprotian coast. There Pheidon king of the Thesprotians
entertained me hospitably without charging me anything at all for
his son found me when I was nearly dead with cold and fatigue, whereon
he raised me by the hand, took me to his father's house and gave me
clothes to wear.
"There it was that I heard news of Ulysses, for the king told me
he had entertained him, and shown him much hospitality while he was on
his homeward journey. He showed me also the treasure of gold, and
wrought iron that Ulysses had got together. There was enough to keep
his family for ten generations, so much had he left in the house of
king Pheidon. But the king said Ulysses had gone to Dodona that he
might learn Jove's mind from the god's high oak tree, and know whether
after so long an absence he should return to Ithaca openly, or in
secret. Moreover the king swore in my presence, making drink-offerings
in his own house as he did so, that the ship was by the water side,
and the crew found, that should take him to his own country. He sent
me off however before Ulysses returned, for there happened to be a
Thesprotian ship sailing for the wheat-growing island of Dulichium,
and he told those in charge of her to be sure and take me safely to
King Acastus.
"These men hatched a plot against me that would have reduced me to
the very extreme of misery, for when the ship had got some way out
from land they resolved on selling me as a slave. They stripped me
of the shirt and cloak that I was wearing, and gave me instead the
tattered old clouts in which you now see me; then, towards
nightfall, they reached the tilled lands of Ithaca, and there they
bound me with a strong rope fast in the ship, while they went on shore
to get supper by the sea side. But the gods soon undid my bonds for
me, and having drawn my rags over my head I slid down the rudder
into the sea, where I struck out and swam till I was well clear of
them, and came ashore near a thick wood in which I lay concealed. They
were very angry at my having escaped and went searching about for
me, till at last they thought it was no further use and went back to
their ship. The gods, having hidden me thus easily, then took me to
a good man's door- for it seems that I am not to die yet awhile."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Poor unhappy stranger, I
have found the story of your misfortunes extremely interesting, but
that part about Ulysses is not right; and you will never get me to
believe it. Why should a man like you go about telling lies in this
way? I know all about the return of my master. The gods one and all of
them detest him, or they would have taken him before Troy, or let
him die with friends around him when the days of his fighting were
done; for then the Achaeans would have built a mound over his ashes
and his son would have been heir to his renown, but now the storm
winds have spirited him away we know not whither.
"As for me I live out of the way here with the pigs, and never go to
the town unless when Penelope sends for me on the arrival of some news
about Ulysses. Then they all sit round and ask questions, both those
who grieve over the king's absence, and those who rejoice at it
because they can eat up his property without paying for it. For my own
part I have never cared about asking anyone else since the time when I
was taken in by an Aetolian, who had killed a man and come a long
way till at last he reached my station, and I was very kind to him. He
said he had seen Ulysses with Idomeneus among the Cretans, refitting
his ships which had been damaged in a gale. He said Ulysses would
return in the following summer or autumn with his men, and that he
would bring back much wealth. And now you, you unfortunate old man,
since fate has brought you to my door, do not try to flatter me in
this way with vain hopes. It is not for any such reason that I shall
treat you kindly, but only out of respect for Jove the god of
hospitality, as fearing him and pitying you."
Ulysses answered, "I see that you are of an unbelieving mind; I have
given you my oath, and yet you will not credit me; let us then make
a bargain, and call all the gods in heaven to witness it. If your
master comes home, give me a cloak and shirt of good wear, and send me
to Dulichium where I want to go; but if he does not come as I say he
will, set your men on to me, and tell them to throw me from yonder
precepice, as a warning to tramps not to go about the country
telling lies."
"And a pretty figure I should cut then," replied Eumaeus, both now
and hereafter, if I were to kill you after receiving you into my hut
and showing you hospitality. I should have to say my prayers in good
earnest if I did; but it is just supper time and I hope my men will
come in directly, that we may cook something savoury for supper."
Thus did they converse, and presently the swineherds came up with
the pigs, which were then shut up for the night in their sties, and
a tremendous squealing they made as they were being driven into
them. But Eumaeus called to his men and said, "Bring in the best pig
you have, that I may sacrifice for this stranger, and we will take
toll of him ourselves. We have had trouble enough this long time
feeding pigs, while others reap the fruit of our labour."
On this he began chopping firewood, while the others brought in a
fine fat five year old boar pig, and set it at the altar. Eumaeus
did not forget the gods, for he was a man of good principles, so the
first thing he did was to cut bristles from the pig's face and throw
them into the fire, praying to all the gods as he did so that
Ulysses might return home again. Then he clubbed the pig with a billet
of oak which he had kept back when he was chopping the firewood, and
stunned it, while the others slaughtered and singed it. Then they
cut it up, and Eumaeus began by putting raw pieces from each joint
on to some of the fat; these he sprinkled with barley meal, and laid
upon the embers; they cut the rest of the meat up small, put the
pieces upon the spits and roasted them till they were done; when
they had taken them off the spits they threw them on to the dresser in
a heap. The swineherd, who was a most equitable man, then stood up
to give every one his share. He made seven portions; one of these he
set apart for Mercury the son of Maia and the nymphs, praying to
them as he did so; the others he dealt out to the men man by man. He
gave Ulysses some slices cut lengthways down the loin as a mark of
especial honour, and Ulysses was much pleased. "I hope, Eumaeus," said
he, "that Jove will be as well disposed towards you as I am, for the
respect you are showing to an outcast like myself."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Eat, my good fellow, and
enjoy your supper, such as it is. God grants this, and withholds that,
just as he thinks right, for he can do whatever he chooses."
As he spoke he cut off the first piece and offered it as a burnt
sacrifice to the immortal gods; then he made them a drink-offering,
put the cup in the hands of Ulysses, and sat down to his own
portion. Mesaulius brought them their bread; the swineherd had
bought this man on his own account from among the Taphians during
his master's absence, and had paid for him with his own money
without saying anything either to his mistress or Laertes. They then
laid their hands upon the good things that were before them, and
when they had had enough to eat and drink, Mesaulius took away what
was left of the bread, and they all went to bed after having made a
hearty supper.
Now the night came on stormy and very dark, for there was no moon.
It poured without ceasing, and the wind blew strong from the West,
which is a wet quarter, so Ulysses thought he would see whether
Eumaeus, in the excellent care he took of him, would take off his
own cloak and give it him, or make one of his men give him one.
"Listen to me," said he, "Eumaeus and the rest of you; when I have
said a prayer I will tell you something. It is the wine that makes
me talk in this way; wine will make even a wise man fall to singing;
it will make him chuckle and dance and say many a word that he had
better leave unspoken; still, as I have begun, I will go on. Would
that I were still young and strong as when we got up an ambuscade
before Troy. Menelaus and Ulysses were the leaders, but I was in
command also, for the other two would have it so. When we had come
up to the wall of the city we crouched down beneath our armour and lay
there under cover of the reeds and thick brush-wood that grew about
the swamp. It came on to freeze with a North wind blowing; the snow
fell small and fine like hoar frost, and our shields were coated thick
with rime. The others had all got cloaks and shirts, and slept
comfortably enough with their shields about their shoulders, but I had
carelessly left my cloak behind me, not thinking that I should be
too cold, and had gone off in nothing but my shirt and shield. When
the night was two-thirds through and the stars had shifted their their
places, I nudged Ulysses who was close to me with my elbow, and he
at once gave me his ear.
"'Ulysses,' said I, 'this cold will be the death of me, for I have
no cloak; some god fooled me into setting off with nothing on but my
shirt, and I do not know what to do.'
"Ulysses, who was as crafty as he was valiant, hit upon the
following plan:
"'Keep still,' said he in a low voice, 'or the others will hear
you.' Then he raised his head on his elbow.
"'My friends,' said he, 'I have had a dream from heaven in my sleep.
We are a long way from the ships; I wish some one would go down and
tell Agamemnon to send us up more men at once.'
"On this Thoas son of Andraemon threw off his cloak and set out
running to the ships, whereon I took the cloak and lay in it
comfortably enough till morning. Would that I were still young and
strong as I was in those days, for then some one of you swineherds
would give me a cloak both out of good will and for the respect due to
a brave soldier; but now people look down upon me because my clothes
are shabby."
And Eumaeus answered, "Old man, you have told us an excellent story,
and have said nothing so far but what is quite satisfactory; for the
present, therefore, you shall want neither clothing nor anything
else that a stranger in distress may reasonably expect, but
to-morrow morning you have to shake your own old rags about your
body again, for we have not many spare cloaks nor shirts up here,
but every man has only one. When Ulysses' son comes home again he will
give you both cloak and shirt, and send you wherever you may want to
go."
With this he got up and made a bed for Ulysses by throwing some
goatskins and sheepskins on the ground in front of the fire. Here
Ulysses lay down, and Eumaeus covered him over with a great heavy
cloak that he kept for a change in case of extraordinarily bad
weather.
Thus did Ulysses sleep, and the young men slept beside him. But
the swineherd did not like sleeping away from his pigs, so he got
ready to go and Ulysses was glad to see that he looked after his
property during his master's absence. First he slung his sword over
his brawny shoulders and put on a thick cloak to keep out the wind. He
also took the skin of a large and well fed goat, and a javelin in case
of attack from men or dogs. Thus equipped he went to his rest where
the pigs were camping under an overhanging rock that gave them shelter
from the North wind.
BOOK XV

But Minerva went to the fair city of Lacedaemon to tell Ulysses' son
that he was to return at once. She found him and Pisistratus
sleeping in the forecourt of Menelaus's house; Pisistratus was fast
asleep, but Telemachus could get no rest all night for thinking of his
unhappy father, so Minerva went close up to him and said:
"Telemachus, you should not remain so far away from home any longer,
nor leave your property with such dangerous people in your house; they
will eat up everything you have among them, and you will have been
on a fool's errand. Ask Menelaus to send you home at once if you
wish to find your excellent mother still there when you get back.
Her father and brothers are already urging her to marry Eurymachus,
who has given her more than any of the others, and has been greatly
increasing his wedding presents. I hope nothing valuable may have been
taken from the house in spite of you, but you know what women are-
they always want to do the best they can for the man who marries them,
and never give another thought to the children of their first husband,
nor to their father either when he is dead and done with. Go home,
therefore, and put everything in charge of the most respectable
woman servant that you have, until it shall please heaven to send
you a wife of your own. Let me tell you also of another matter which
you had better attend to. The chief men among the suitors are lying in
wait for you in the Strait between Ithaca and Samos, and they mean
to kill you before you can reach home. I do not much think they will
succeed; it is more likely that some of those who are now eating up
your property will find a grave themselves. Sail night and day, and
keep your ship well away from the islands; the god who watches over
you and protects you will send you a fair wind. As soon as you get
to Ithaca send your ship and men on to the town, but yourself go
straight to the swineherd who has charge your pigs; he is well
disposed towards you, stay with him, therefore, for the night, and
then send him to Penelope to tell her that you have got back safe from
Pylos."
Then she went back to Olympus; but Telemachus stirred Pisistratus
with his heel to rouse him, and said, "Wake up Pisistratus, and yoke
the horses to the chariot, for we must set off home."
But Pisistratus said, "No matter what hurry we are in we cannot
drive in the dark. It will be morning soon; wait till Menelaus has
brought his presents and put them in the chariot for us; and let him
say good-bye to us in the usual way. So long as he lives a guest
should never forget a host who has shown him kindness."
As he spoke day began to break, and Menelaus, who had already risen,
leaving Helen in bed, came towards them. When Telemachus saw him he
put on his shirt as fast as he could, threw a great cloak over his
shoulders, and went out to meet him. "Menelaus," said he, "let me go
back now to my own country, for I want to get home."
And Menelaus answered, "Telemachus, if you insist on going I will
not detain you. not like to see a host either too fond of his guest or
too rude to him. Moderation is best in all things, and not letting a
man go when he wants to do so is as bad as telling him to go if he
would like to stay. One should treat a guest well as long as he is
in the house and speed him when he wants to leave it. Wait, then, till
I can get your beautiful presents into your chariot, and till you have
yourself seen them. I will tell the women to prepare a sufficient
dinner for you of what there may be in the house; it will be at once
more proper and cheaper for you to get your dinner before setting
out on such a long journey. If, moreover, you have a fancy for
making a tour in Hellas or in the Peloponnese, I will yoke my
horses, and will conduct you myself through all our principal
cities. No one will send us away empty handed; every one will give
us something- a bronze tripod, a couple of mules, or a gold cup."
"Menelaus," replied Telemachus, "I want to go home at once, for when
I came away I left my property without protection, and fear that while
looking for my father I shall come to ruin myself, or find that
something valuable has been stolen during my absence."
When Menelaus heard this he immediately told his wife and servants
to prepare a sufficient dinner from what there might be in the
house. At this moment Eteoneus joined him, for he lived close by and
had just got up; so Menelaus told him to light the fire and cook
some meat, which he at once did. Then Menelaus went down into his
fragrant store room, not alone, but Helen went too, with
Megapenthes. When he reached the place where the treasures of his
house were kept, he selected a double cup, and told his son
Megapenthes to bring also a silver mixing-bowl. Meanwhile Helen went
to the chest where she kept the lovely dresses which she had made with
her own hands, and took out one that was largest and most
beautifully enriched with embroidery; it glittered like a star, and
lay at the very bottom of the chest. Then they all came back through
the house again till they got to Telemachus, and Menelaus said,
"Telemachus, may Jove, the mighty husband of Juno, bring you safely
home according to your desire. I will now present you with the
finest and most precious piece of plate in all my house. It is a
mixing-bowl of pure silver, except the rim, which is inlaid with gold,
and it is the work of Vulcan. Phaedimus king of the Sidonians made
me a present of it in the course of a visit that I paid him while I
was on my return home. I should like to give it to you."
With these words he placed the double cup in the hands of
Telemachus, while Megapenthes brought the beautiful mixing-bowl and
set it before him. Hard by stood lovely Helen with the robe ready in
her hand.
"I too, my son," said she, "have something for you as a keepsake
from the hand of Helen; it is for your bride to wear upon her
wedding day. Till then, get your dear mother to keep it for you;
thus may you go back rejoicing to your own country and to your home."
So saying she gave the robe over to him and he received it gladly.
Then Pisistratus put the presents into the chariot, and admired them
all as he did so. Presently Menelaus took Telemachus and Pisistratus
into the house, and they both of them sat down to table. A maid
servant brought them water in a beautiful golden ewer, and poured it
into a silver basin for them to wash their hands, and she drew a clean
table beside them; an upper servant brought them bread and offered
them many good things of what there was in the house. Eteoneus
carved the meat and gave them each their portions, while Megapenthes
poured out the wine. Then they laid their hands upon the good things
that were before them, but as soon as they had had had enough to eat
and drink Telemachus and Pisistratus yoked the horses, and took
their places in the chariot. They drove out through the inner
gateway and under the echoing gatehouse of the outer court, and
Menelaus came after them with a golden goblet of wine in his right
hand that they might make a drink-offering before they set out. He
stood in front of the horses and pledged them, saying, "Farewell to
both of you; see that you tell Nestor how I have treated you, for he
was as kind to me as any father could be while we Achaeans were
fighting before Troy."
"We will be sure, sir," answered Telemachus, "to tell him everything
as soon as we see him. I wish I were as certain of finding Ulysses
returned when I get back to Ithaca, that I might tell him of the
very great kindness you have shown me and of the many beautiful
presents I am taking with me."
As he was thus speaking a bird flew on his right hand- an eagle with
a great white goose in its talons which it had carried off from the
farm yard- and all the men and women were running after it and
shouting. It came quite close up to them and flew away on their
right hands in front of the horses. When they saw it they were glad,
and their hearts took comfort within them, whereon Pisistratus said,
"Tell me, Menelaus, has heaven sent this omen for us or for you?"
Menelaus was thinking what would be the most proper answer for him
to make, but Helen was too quick for him and said, "I will read this
matter as heaven has put it in my heart, and as I doubt not that it
will come to pass. The eagle came from the mountain where it was
bred and has its nest, and in like manner Ulysses, after having
travelled far and suffered much, will return to take his revenge- if
indeed he is not back already and hatching mischief for the suitors."
"May Jove so grant it," replied Telemachus; "if it should prove to
be so, I will make vows to you as though you were a god, even when I
am at home."
As he spoke he lashed his horses and they started off at full
speed through the town towards the open country. They swayed the
yoke upon their necks and travelled the whole day long till the sun
set and darkness was over all the land. Then they reached Pherae,
where Diocles lived who was son of Ortilochus, the son of Alpheus.
There they passed the night and were treated hospitably. When the
child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, they again yoked their
horses and their places in the chariot. They drove out through the
inner gateway and under the echoing gatehouse of the outer court. Then
Pisistratus lashed his horses on and they flew forward nothing
loath; ere long they came to Pylos, and then Telemachus said:
"Pisistratus, I hope you will promise to do what I am going to ask
you. You know our fathers were old friends before us; moreover, we are
both of an age, and this journey has brought us together still more
closely; do not, therefore, take me past my ship, but leave me
there, for if I go to your father's house he will try to keep me in
the warmth of his good will towards me, and I must go home at once."
Pisistratus thought how he should do as he was asked, and in the end
he deemed it best to turn his horses towards the ship, and put
Menelaus's beautiful presents of gold and raiment in the stern of
the vessel. Then he said, "Go on board at once and tell your men to do
so also before I can reach home to tell my father. I know how
obstinate he is, and am sure he will not let you go; he will come down
here to fetch you, and he will not go back without you. But he will be
very angry."
With this he drove his goodly steeds back to the city of the Pylians
and soon reached his home, but Telemachus called the men together
and gave his orders. "Now, my men," said he, "get everything in
order on board the ship, and let us set out home."
Thus did he speak, and they went on board even as he had said. But
as Telemachus was thus busied, praying also and sacrificing to Minerva
in the ship's stern, there came to him a man from a distant country, a
seer, who was flying from Argos because he had killed a man. He was
descended from Melampus, who used to live in Pylos, the land of sheep;
he was rich and owned a great house, but he was driven into exile by
the great and powerful king Neleus. Neleus seized his goods and held
them for a whole year, during which he was a close prisoner in the
house of king Phylacus, and in much distress of mind both on account
of the daughter of Neleus and because he was haunted by a great sorrow
that dread Erinyes had laid upon him. In the end, however, he
escaped with his life, drove the cattle from Phylace to Pylos, avenged
the wrong that had been done him, and gave the daughter of Neleus to
his brother. Then he left the country and went to Argos, where it
was ordained that he should reign over much people. There he
married, established himself, and had two famous sons Antiphates and
Mantius. Antiphates became father of Oicleus, and Oicleus of
Amphiaraus, who was dearly loved both by Jove and by Apollo, but he
did not live to old age, for he was killed in Thebes by reason of a
woman's gifts. His sons were Alcmaeon and Amphilochus. Mantius, the
other son of Melampus, was father to Polypheides and Cleitus.
Aurora, throned in gold, carried off Cleitus for his beauty's sake,
that he might dwell among the immortals, but Apollo made Polypheides
the greatest seer in the whole world now that Amphiaraus was dead.
He quarrelled with his father and went to live in Hyperesia, where
he remained and prophesied for all men.
His son, Theoclymenus, it was who now came up to Telemachus as he
was making drink-offerings and praying in his ship. "Friend'" said he,
"now that I find you sacrificing in this place, I beseech you by
your sacrifices themselves, and by the god to whom you make them, I
pray you also by your own head and by those of your followers, tell me
the truth and nothing but the truth. Who and whence are you? Tell me
also of your town and parents."
Telemachus said, "I will answer you quite truly. I am from Ithaca,
and my father is 'Ulysses, as surely as that he ever lived. But he has
come to some miserable end. Therefore I have taken this ship and got
my crew together to see if I can hear any news of him, for he has been
away a long time."
"I too," answered Theoclymenus, am an exile, for I have killed a man
of my own race. He has many brothers and kinsmen in Argos, and they
have great power among the Argives. I am flying to escape death at
their hands, and am thus doomed to be a wanderer on the face of the
earth. I am your suppliant; take me, therefore, on board your ship
that they may not kill me, for I know they are in pursuit."
"I will not refuse you," replied Telemachus, "if you wish to join
us. Come, therefore, and in Ithaca we will treat you hospitably
according to what we have."
On this he received Theoclymenus' spear and laid it down on the deck
of the ship. He went on board and sat in the stern, bidding
Theoclymenus sit beside him; then the men let go the hawsers.
Telemachus told them to catch hold of the ropes, and they made all
haste to do so. They set the mast in its socket in the cross plank,
raised it and made it fast with the forestays, and they hoisted
their white sails with sheets of twisted ox hide. Minerva sent them
a fair wind that blew fresh and strong to take the ship on her
course as fast as possible. Thus then they passed by Crouni and
Chalcis.
Presently the sun set and darkness was over all the land. The vessel
made a quick pass sage to Pheae and thence on to Elis, where the
Epeans rule. Telemachus then headed her for the flying islands,
wondering within himself whether he should escape death or should be
taken prisoner.
Meanwhile Ulysses and the swineherd were eating their supper in
the hut, and the men supped with them. As soon as they had had to
eat and drink, Ulysses began trying to prove the swineherd and see
whether he would continue to treat him kindly, and ask him to stay
on at the station or pack him off to the city; so he said:
"Eumaeus, and all of you, to-morrow I want to go away and begin
begging about the town, so as to be no more trouble to you or to
your men. Give me your advice therefore, and let me have a good
guide to go with me and show me the way. I will go the round of the
city begging as I needs must, to see if any one will give me a drink
and a piece of bread. I should like also to go to the house of Ulysses
and bring news of her husband to queen Penelope. I could then go about
among the suitors and see if out of all their abundance they will give
me a dinner. I should soon make them an excellent servant in all sorts
of ways. Listen and believe when I tell you that by the blessing of
Mercury who gives grace and good name to the works of all men, there
is no one living who would make a more handy servant than I should- to
put fresh wood on the fire, chop fuel, carve, cook, pour out wine, and
do all those services that poor men have to do for their betters."
The swineherd was very much disturbed when he heard this. "Heaven
help me," he exclaimed, "what ever can have put such a notion as
that into your head? If you go near the suitors you will be undone
to a certainty, for their pride and insolence reach the very
heavens. They would never think of taking a man like you for a
servant. Their servants are all young men, well dressed, wearing
good cloaks and shirts, with well looking faces and their hair
always tidy, the tables are kept quite clean and are loaded with
bread, meat, and wine. Stay where you are, then; you are not in
anybody's way; I do not mind your being here, no more do any of the
others, and when Telemachus comes home he will give you a shirt and
cloak and will send you wherever you want to go."
Ulysses answered, "I hope you may be as dear to the gods as you
are to me, for having saved me from going about and getting into
trouble; there is nothing worse than being always ways on the tramp;
still, when men have once got low down in the world they will go
through a great deal on behalf of their miserable bellies. Since
however you press me to stay here and await the return of
Telemachus, tell about Ulysses' mother, and his father whom he left on
the threshold of old age when he set out for Troy. Are they still
living or are they already dead and in the house of Hades?"
"I will tell you all about them," replied Eumaeus, "Laertes is still
living and prays heaven to let him depart peacefully his own house,
for he is terribly distressed about the absence of his son, and also
about the death of his wife, which grieved him greatly and aged him
more than anything else did. She came to an unhappy end through sorrow
for her son: may no friend or neighbour who has dealt kindly by me
come to such an end as she did. As long as she was still living,
though she was always grieving, I used to like seeing her and asking
her how she did, for she brought me up along with her daughter
Ctimene, the youngest of her children; we were boy and girl
together, and she made little difference between us. When, however, we
both grew up, they sent Ctimene to Same and received a splendid
dowry for her. As for me, my mistress gave me a good shirt and cloak
with a pair of sandals for my feet, and sent me off into the
country, but she was just as fond of me as ever. This is all over now.
Still it has pleased heaven to prosper my work in the situation
which I now hold. I have enough to eat and drink, and can find
something for any respectable stranger who comes here; but there is no
getting a kind word or deed out of my mistress, for the house has
fallen into the hands of wicked people. Servants want sometimes to see
their mistress and have a talk with her; they like to have something
to eat and drink at the house, and something too to take back with
them into the country. This is what will keep servants in a good
humour."
Ulysses answered, "Then you must have been a very little fellow,
Eumaeus, when you were taken so far away from your home and parents.
Tell me, and tell me true, was the city in which your father and
mother lived sacked and pillaged, or did some enemies carry you off
when you were alone tending sheep or cattle, ship you off here, and
sell you for whatever your master gave them?"
"Stranger," replied Eumaeus, "as regards your question: sit still,
make yourself comfortable, drink your wine, and listen to me. The
nights are now at their longest; there is plenty of time both for
sleeping and sitting up talking together; you ought not to go to bed
till bed time, too much sleep is as bad as too little; if any one of
the others wishes to go to bed let him leave us and do so; he can then
take my master's pigs out when he has done breakfast in the morning.
We two will sit here eating and drinking in the hut, and telling one
another stories about our misfortunes; for when a man has suffered
much, and been buffeted about in the world, he takes pleasure in
recalling the memory of sorrows that have long gone by. As regards
your question, then, my tale is as follows:
"You may have heard of an island called Syra that lies over above
Ortygia, where the land begins to turn round and look in another
direction. It is not very thickly peopled, but the soil is good,
with much pasture fit for cattle and sheep, and it abounds with wine
and wheat. Dearth never comes there, nor are the people plagued by any
sickness, but when they grow old Apollo comes with Diana and kills
them with his painless shafts. It contains two communities, and the
whole country is divided between these two. My father Ctesius son of
Ormenus, a man comparable to the gods, reigned over both.
"Now to this place there came some cunning traders from Phoenicia
(for the Phoenicians are great mariners) in a ship which they had
freighted with gewgaws of all kinds. There happened to be a Phoenician
woman in my father's house, very tall and comely, and an excellent
servant; these scoundrels got hold of her one day when she was washing
near their ship, seduced her, and cajoled her in ways that no woman
can resist, no matter how good she may be by nature. The man who had
seduced her asked her who she was and where she came from, and on
this she told him her father's name. 'I come from Sidon,' said she,
'and am daughter to Arybas, a man rolling in wealth. One day as I
was coming into the town from the country some Taphian pirates
seized me and took me here over the sea, where they sold me to the man
who owns this house, and he gave them their price for me.'
"The man who had seduced her then said, 'Would you like to come
along with us to see the house of your parents and your parents
themselves? They are both alive and are said to be well off.'
"'I will do so gladly,' answered she, 'if you men will first swear
me a solemn oath that you will do me no harm by the way.'
"They all swore as she told them, and when they had completed
their oath the woman said, 'Hush; and if any of your men meets me in
the street or at the well, do not let him speak to me, for fear some
one should go and tell my master, in which case he would suspect
something. He would put me in prison, and would have all of you
murdered; keep your own counsel therefore; buy your merchandise as
fast as you can, and send me word when you have done loading. I will
bring as much gold as I can lay my hands on, and there is something
else also that I can do towards paying my fare. I am nurse to the
son of the good man of the house, a funny little fellow just able to
run about. I will carry him off in your ship, and you will get a great
deal of money for him if you take him and sell him in foreign parts.'
"On this she went back to the house. The Phoenicians stayed a
whole year till they had loaded their ship with much precious
merchandise, and then, when they had got freight enough, they sent
to tell the woman. Their messenger, a very cunning fellow, came to
my father's house bringing a necklace of gold with amber beads
strung among it; and while my mother and the servants had it in
their hands admiring it and bargaining about it, he made a sign
quietly to the woman and then went back to the ship, whereon she
took me by the hand and led me out of the house. In the fore part of
the house she saw the tables set with the cups of guests who had
been feasting with my father, as being in attendance on him; these
were now all gone to a meeting of the public assembly, so she snatched
up three cups and carried them off in the bosom of her dress, while
I followed her, for I knew no better. The sun was now set, and
darkness was over all the land, so we hurried on as fast as we could
till we reached the harbour, where the Phoenician ship was lying. When
they had got on board they sailed their ways over the sea, taking us
with them, and Jove sent then a fair wind; six days did we sail both
night and day, but on the seventh day Diana struck the woman and she
fell heavily down into the ship's hold as though she were a sea gull
alighting on the water; so they threw her overboard to the seals and
fishes, and I was left all sorrowful and alone. Presently the winds
and waves took the ship to Ithaca, where Laertes gave sundry of his
chattels for me, and thus it was that ever I came to set eyes upon
this country."
Ulysses answered, "Eumaeus, I have heard the story of your
misfortunes with the most lively interest and pity, but Jove has given
you good as well as evil, for in spite of everything you have a good
master, who sees that you always have enough to eat and drink; and you
lead a good life, whereas I am still going about begging my way from
city to city."
Thus did they converse, and they had only a very little time left
for sleep, for it was soon daybreak. In the meantime Telemachus and
his crew were nearing land, so they loosed the sails, took down the
mast, and rowed the ship into the harbour. They cast out their mooring
stones and made fast the hawsers; they then got out upon the sea
shore, mixed their wine, and got dinner ready. As soon as they had had
enough to eat and drink Telemachus said, "Take the ship on to the
town, but leave me here, for I want to look after the herdsmen on
one of my farms. In the evening, when I have seen all I want, I will
come down to the city, and to-morrow morning in return for your
trouble I will give you all a good dinner with meat and wine."
Then Theoclymenus said, 'And what, my dear young friend, is to
become of me? To whose house, among all your chief men, am I to
repair? or shall I go straight to your own house and to your mother?"
"At any other time," replied Telemachus, "I should have bidden you
go to my own house, for you would find no want of hospitality; at
the present moment, however, you would not be comfortable there, for I
shall be away, and my mother will not see you; she does not often show
herself even to the suitors, but sits at her loom weaving in an
upper chamber, out of their way; but I can tell you a man whose
house you can go to- I mean Eurymachus the son of Polybus, who is held
in the highest estimation by every one in Ithaca. He is much the
best man and the most persistent wooer, of all those who are paying
court to my mother and trying to take Ulysses' place. Jove, however,
in heaven alone knows whether or no they will come to a bad end before
the marriage takes place."
As he was speaking a bird flew by upon his right hand- a hawk,
Apollo's messenger. It held a dove in its talons, and the feathers, as
it tore them off, fell to the ground midway between Telemachus and the
ship. On this Theoclymenus called him apart and caught him by the
hand. "Telemachus," said he, "that bird did not fly on your right hand
without having been sent there by some god. As soon as I saw it I knew
it was an omen; it means that you will remain powerful and that
there will be no house in Ithaca more royal than your own."
"I wish it may prove so," answered Telemachus. "If it does, I will
show you so much good will and give you so many presents that all
who meet you will congratulate you."
Then he said to his friend Piraeus, "Piraeus, son of Clytius, you
have throughout shown yourself the most willing to serve me of all
those who have accompanied me to Pylos; I wish you would take this
stranger to your own house and entertain him hospitably till I can
come for him."
And Piraeus answered, "Telemachus, you may stay away as long as
you please, but I will look after him for you, and he shall find no
lack of hospitality."
As he spoke he went on board, and bade the others do so also and
loose the hawsers, so they took their places in the ship. But
Telemachus bound on his sandals, and took a long and doughty spear
with a head of sharpened bronze from the deck of the ship. Then they
loosed the hawsers, thrust the ship off from land, and made on towards
the city as they had been told to do, while Telemachus strode on as
fast as he could, till he reached the homestead where his countless
herds of swine were feeding, and where dwelt the excellent
swineherd, who was so devoted a servant to his master.
BOOK XVI

Meanwhile Ulysses and the swineherd had lit a fire in the hut and
were were getting breakfast ready at daybreak for they had sent the
men out with the pigs. When Telemachus came up, the dogs did not bark,
but fawned upon him, so Ulysses, hearing the sound of feet and
noticing that the dogs did not bark, said to Eumaeus:
"Eumaeus, I hear footsteps; I suppose one of your men or some one of
your acquaintance is coming here, for the dogs are fawning urn him and
not barking."
The words were hardly out of his mouth before his son stood at the
door. Eumaeus sprang to his feet, and the bowls in which he was mixing
wine fell from his hands, as he made towards his master. He kissed his
head and both his beautiful eyes, and wept for joy. A father could not
be more delighted at the return of an only son, the child of his old
age, after ten years' absence in a foreign country and after having
gone through much hardship. He embraced him, kissed him all over as
though he had come back from the dead, and spoke fondly to him saying:
"So you are come, Telemachus, light of my eyes that you are. When
I heard you had gone to Pylos I made sure I was never going to see you
any more. Come in, my dear child, and sit down, that I may have a good
look at you now you are home again; it is not very often you come into
the country to see us herdsmen; you stick pretty close to the town
generally. I suppose you think it better to keep an eye on what the
suitors are doing."
"So be it, old friend," answered Telemachus, "but I am come now
because I want to see you, and to learn whether my mother is still
at her old home or whether some one else has married her, so that
the bed of Ulysses is without bedding and covered with cobwebs."
"She is still at the house," replied Eumaeus, "grieving and breaking
her heart, and doing nothing but weep, both night and day
continually."
As spoke he took Telemachus' spear, whereon he crossed the stone
threshold and came inside. Ulysses rose from his seat to give him
place as he entered, but Telemachus checked him; "Sit down, stranger."
said he, "I can easily find another seat, and there is one here who
will lay it for me."
Ulysses went back to his own place, and Eumaeus strewed some green
brushwood on the floor and threw a sheepskin on top of it for
Telemachus to sit upon. Then the swineherd brought them platters of
cold meat, the remains from what they had eaten the day before, and he
filled the bread baskets with bread as fast as he could. He mixed wine
also in bowls of ivy-wood, and took his seat facing Ulysses. Then they
laid their hands on the good things that were before them, and as soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink Telemachus said to Eumaeus,
"Old friend, where does this stranger come from? How did his crew
bring him to Ithaca, and who were they?-for assuredly he did not
come here by land"'
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "My son, I will tell
you the real truth. He says he is a Cretan, and that he has been a
great traveller. At this moment he is running away from a
Thesprotian ship, and has refuge at my station, so I will put him into
your hands. Do whatever you like with him, only remember that he is
your suppliant."
"I am very much distressed," said Telemachus, "by what you have just
told me. How can I take this stranger into my house? I am as yet
young, and am not strong enough to hold my own if any man attacks
me. My mother cannot make up her mind whether to stay where she is and
look after the house out of respect for public opinion and the
memory of her husband, or whether the time is now come for her to take
the best man of those who are wooing her, and the one who will make
her the most advantageous offer; still, as the stranger has come to
your station I will find him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a
sword and sandals, and will send him wherever he wants to go. Or if
you like you can keep him here at the station, and I will send him
clothes and food that he may be no burden on you and on your men;
but I will not have him go near the suitors, for they are very
insolent, and are sure to ill-treat him in a way that would greatly
grieve me; no matter how valiant a man may be he can do nothing
against numbers, for they will be too strong for him."
Then Ulysses said, "Sir, it is right that I should say something
myself. I am much shocked about what you have said about the
insolent way in which the suitors are behaving in despite of such a
man as you are. Tell me, do you submit to such treatment tamely, or
has some god set your people against you? May you not complain of your
brothers- for it is to these that a man may look for support,
however great his quarrel may be? I wish I were as young as you are
and in my present mind; if I were son to Ulysses, or, indeed,
Ulysses himself, I would rather some one came and cut my head off, but
I would go to the house and be the bane of every one of these men.
If they were too many for me- I being single-handed- I would rather
die fighting in my own house than see such disgraceful sights day
after day, strangers grossly maltreated, and men dragging the women
servants about the house in an unseemly way, wine drawn recklessly,
and bread wasted all to no purpose for an end that shall never be
accomplished."
And Telemachus answered, "I will tell you truly everything. There is
no emnity between me and my people, nor can I complain of brothers, to
whom a man may look for support however great his quarrel may be. Jove
has made us a race of only sons. Laertes was the only son of
Arceisius, and Ulysses only son of Laertes. I am myself the only son
of Ulysses who left me behind him when he went away, so that I have
never been of any use to him. Hence it comes that my house is in the
hands of numberless marauders; for the chiefs from all the
neighbouring islands, Dulichium, Same, Zacynthus, as also all the
principal men of Ithaca itself, are eating up my house under the
pretext of paying court to my mother, who will neither say point blank
that she will not marry, nor yet bring matters to an end, so they
are making havoc of my estate, and before long will do so with
myself into the bargain. The issue, however, rests with heaven. But do
you, old friend Eumaeus, go at once and tell Penelope that I am safe
and have returned from Pylos. Tell it to herself alone, and then
come back here without letting any one else know, for there are many
who are plotting mischief against me."
"I understand and heed you," replied Eumaeus; "you need instruct
me no further, only I am going that way say whether I had not better
let poor Laertes know that you are returned. He used to superintend
the work on his farm in spite of his bitter sorrow about Ulysses,
and he would eat and drink at will along with his servants; but they
tell me that from the day on which you set out for Pylos he has
neither eaten nor drunk as he ought to do, nor does he look after
his farm, but sits weeping and wasting the flesh from off his bones."
"More's the pity," answered Telemachus, "I am sorry for him, but
we must leave him to himself just now. If people could have everything
their own way, the first thing I should choose would be the return
of my father; but go, and give your message; then make haste back
again, and do not turn out of your way to tell Laertes. Tell my mother
to send one of her women secretly with the news at once, and let him
hear it from her."
Thus did he urge the swineherd; Eumaeus, therefore, took his
sandals, bound them to his feet, and started for the town. Minerva
watched him well off the station, and then came up to it in the form
of a woman- fair, stately, and wise. She stood against the side of the
entry, and revealed herself to Ulysses, but Telemachus could not see
her, and knew not that she was there, for the gods do not let
themselves be seen by everybody. Ulysses saw her, and so did the dogs,
for they did not bark, but went scared and whining off to the other
side of the yards. She nodded her head and motioned to Ulysses with
her eyebrows; whereon he left the hut and stood before her outside the
main wall of the yards. Then she said to him:
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it is now time for you to tell
your son: do not keep him in the dark any longer, but lay your plans
for the destruction of the suitors, and then make for the town. I will
not be long in joining you, for I too am eager for the fray."
As she spoke she touched him with her golden wand. First she threw a
fair clean shirt and cloak about his shoulders; then she made him
younger and of more imposing presence; she gave him back his colour,
filled out his cheeks, and let his beard become dark again. Then she
went away and Ulysses came back inside the hut. His son was
astounded when he saw him, and turned his eyes away for fear he
might be looking upon a god.
"Stranger," said he, "how suddenly you have changed from what you
were a moment or two ago. You are dressed differently and your
colour is not the same. Are you some one or other of the gods that
live in heaven? If so, be propitious to me till I can make you due
sacrifice and offerings of wrought gold. Have mercy upon me."
And Ulysses said, "I am no god, why should you take me for one? I am
your father, on whose account you grieve and suffer so much at the
hands of lawless men."
As he spoke he kissed his son, and a tear fell from his cheek on
to the ground, for he had restrained all tears till now. but
Telemachus could not yet believe that it was his father, and said:
"You are not my father, but some god is flattering me with vain
hopes that I may grieve the more hereafter; no mortal man could of
himself contrive to do as you have been doing, and make yourself old
and young at a moment's notice, unless a god were with him. A second
ago you were old and all in rags, and now you are like some god come
down from heaven."
Ulysses answered, "Telemachus, you ought not to be so immeasurably
astonished at my being really here. There is no other Ulysses who will
come hereafter. Such as I am, it is I, who after long wandering and
much hardship have got home in the twentieth year to my own country.
What you wonder at is the work of the redoubtable goddess Minerva, who
does with me whatever she will, for she can do what she pleases. At
one moment she makes me like a beggar, and the next I am a young man
with good clothes on my back; it is an easy matter for the gods who
live in heaven to make any man look either rich or poor."
As he spoke he sat down, and Telemachus threw his arms about his
father and wept. They were both so much moved that they cried aloud
like eagles or vultures with crooked talons that have been robbed of
their half fledged young by peasants. Thus piteously did they weep,
and the sun would have gone down upon their mourning if Telemachus had
not suddenly said, "In what ship, my dear father, did your crew
bring you to Ithaca? Of what nation did they declare themselves to be-
for you cannot have come by land?"
"I will tell you the truth, my son," replied Ulysses. "It was the
Phaeacians who brought me here. They are great sailors, and are in the
habit of giving escorts to any one who reaches their coasts. They took
me over the sea while I was fast asleep, and landed me in Ithaca,
after giving me many presents in bronze, gold, and raiment. These
things by heaven's mercy are lying concealed in a cave, and I am now
come here on the suggestion of Minerva that we may consult about
killing our enemies. First, therefore, give me a list of the
suitors, with their number, that I may learn who, and how many, they
are. I can then turn the matter over in my mind, and see whether we
two can fight the whole body of them ourselves, or whether we must
find others to help us."
To this Telemachus answered, "Father, I have always heard of your
renown both in the field and in council, but the task you talk of is a
very great one: I am awed at the mere thought of it; two men cannot
stand against many and brave ones. There are not ten suitors only, nor
twice ten, but ten many times over; you shall learn their number at
once. There are fifty-two chosen youths from Dulichium, and they
have six servants; from Same there are twenty-four; twenty young
Achaeans from Zacynthus, and twelve from Ithaca itself, all of them
well born. They have with them a servant Medon, a bard, and two men
who can carve at table. If we face such numbers as this, you may
have bitter cause to rue your coming, and your revenge. See whether
you cannot think of some one who would be willing to come and help
us."
"Listen to me," replied Ulysses, "and think whether Minerva and
her father Jove may seem sufficient, or whether I am to try and find
some one else as well."
"Those whom you have named," answered Telemachus, "are a couple of
good allies, for though they dwell high up among the clouds they
have power over both gods and men."
"These two," continued Ulysses, "will not keep long out of the fray,
when the suitors and we join fight in my house. Now, therefore, return
home early to-morrow morning, and go about among the suitors as
before. Later on the swineherd will bring me to the city disguised
as a miserable old beggar. If you see them ill-treating me, steel your
heart against my sufferings; even though they drag me feet foremost
out of the house, or throw things at me, look on and do nothing beyond
gently trying to make them behave more reasonably; but they will not
listen to you, for the day of their reckoning is at hand.
Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart, when Minerva shall
put it in my mind, I will nod my head to you, and on seeing me do this
you must collect all the armour that is in the house and hide it in
the strong store room. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why
you are removing it; say that you have taken it to be out of the way
of the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses
went away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this
more particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to
quarrel over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm
which may disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms
sometimes tempts people to use them. But leave a sword and a spear
apiece for yourself and me, and a couple oxhide shields so that we can
snatch them up at any moment; Jove and Minerva will then soon quiet
these people. There is also another matter; if you are indeed my son
and my blood runs in your veins, let no one know that Ulysses is
within the house- neither Laertes, nor yet the swineherd, nor any of
the servants, nor even Penelope herself. Let you and me exploit the
women alone, and let us also make trial of some other of the men
servants, to see who is on our side and whose hand is against us."
"Father," replied Telemachus, "you will come to know me by and by,
and when you do you will find that I can keep your counsel. I do not
think, however, the plan you propose will turn out well for either
of us. Think it over. It will take us a long time to go the round of
the farms and exploit the men, and all the time the suitors will be
wasting your estate with impunity and without compunction. Prove the
women by all means, to see who are disloyal and who guiltless, but I
am not in favour of going round and trying the men. We can attend to
that later on, if you really have some sign from Jove that he will
support you."
Thus did they converse, and meanwhile the ship which had brought
Telemachus and his crew from Pylos had reached the town of Ithaca.
When they had come inside the harbour they drew the ship on to the
land; their servants came and took their armour from them, and they
left all the presents at the house of Clytius. Then they sent a
servant to tell Penelope that Telemachus had gone into the country,
but had sent the ship to the town to prevent her from being alarmed
and made unhappy. This servant and Eumaeus happened to meet when
they were both on the same errand of going to tell Penelope. When they
reached the House, the servant stood up and said to the queen in the
presence of the waiting women, "Your son, Madam, is now returned
from Pylos"; but Eumaeus went close up to Penelope, and said privately
that her son had given bidden him tell her. When he had given his
message he left the house with its outbuildings and went back to his
pigs again.
The suitors were surprised and angry at what had happened, so they
went outside the great wall that ran round the outer court, and held a
council near the main entrance. Eurymachus, son of Polybus, was the
first to speak.
"My friends," said he, "this voyage of Telemachus's is a very
serious matter; we had made sure that it would come to nothing. Now,
however, let us draw a ship into the water, and get a crew together to
send after the others and tell them to come back as fast as they can."
He had hardly done speaking when Amphinomus turned in his place
and saw the ship inside the harbour, with the crew lowering her sails,
and putting by their oars; so he laughed, and said to the others,
"We need not send them any message, for they are here. Some god must
have told them, or else they saw the ship go by, and could not
overtake her.
On this they rose and went to the water side. The crew then drew the
ship on shore; their servants took their armour from them, and they
went up in a body to the place of assembly, but they would not let any
one old or young sit along with them, and Antinous, son of
Eupeithes, spoke first.
"Good heavens," said he, "see how the gods have saved this man
from destruction. We kept a succession of scouts upon the headlands
all day long, and when the sun was down we never went on shore to
sleep, but waited in the ship all night till morning in the hope of
capturing and killing him; but some god has conveyed him home in spite
of us. Let us consider how we can make an end of him. He must not
escape us; our affair is never likely to come off while is alive,
for he is very shrewd, and public feeling is by no means all on our
side. We must make haste before he can call the Achaeans in
assembly; he will lose no time in doing so, for he will be furious
with us, and will tell all the world how we plotted to kill him, but
failed to take him. The people will not like this when they come to
know of it; we must see that they do us no hurt, nor drive us from our
own country into exile. Let us try and lay hold of him either on his
farm away from the town, or on the road hither. Then we can divide
up his property amongst us, and let his mother and the man who marries
her have the house. If this does not please you, and you wish
Telemachus to live on and hold his father's property, then we must not
gather here and eat up his goods in this way, but must make our offers
to Penelope each from his own house, and she can marry the man who
will give the most for her, and whose lot it is to win her."
They all held their peace until Amphinomus rose to speak. He was the
son of Nisus, who was son to king Aretias, and he was foremost among
all the suitors from the wheat-growing and well grassed island of
Dulichium; his conversation, moreover, was more agreeable to
Penelope than that of any of the other for he was a man of good
natural disposition. "My friends," said he, speaking to them plainly
and in all honestly, "I am not in favour of killing Telemachus. It
is a heinous thing to kill one who is of noble blood. Let us first
take counsel of the gods, and if the oracles of Jove advise it, I will
both help to kill him myself, and will urge everyone else to do so;
but if they dissuade us, I would have you hold your hands."
Thus did he speak, and his words pleased them well, so they rose
forthwith and went to the house of Ulysses where they took their
accustomed seats.
Then Penelope resolved that she would show herself to the suitors.
She knew of the plot against Telemachus, for the servant Medon had
overheard their counsels and had told her; she went down therefore
to the court attended by her maidens, and when she reached the suitors
she stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the
cloister holding a veil before her face, and rebuked Antinous saying:
"Antinous, insolent and wicked schemer, they say you are the best
speaker and counsellor of any man your own age in Ithaca, but you
are nothing of the kind. Madman, why should you try to compass the
death of Telemachus, and take no heed of suppliants, whose witness
is Jove himself? It is not right for you to plot thus against one
another. Do you not remember how your father fled to this house in
fear of the people, who were enraged against him for having gone
with some Taphian pirates and plundered the Thesprotians who were at
peace with us? They wanted to tear him in pieces and eat up everything
he had, but Ulysses stayed their hands although they were
infuriated, and now you devour his property without paying for it, and
break my heart by his wooing his wife and trying to kill his son.
Leave off doing so, and stop the others also."
To this Eurymachus son of Polybus answered, "Take heart, Queen
Penelope daughter of Icarius, and do not trouble yourself about
these matters. The man is not yet born, nor never will be, who shall
lay hands upon your son Telemachus, while I yet live to look upon
the face of the earth. I say- and it shall surely be- that my spear
shall be reddened with his blood; for many a time has Ulysses taken me
on his knees, held wine up to my lips to drink, and put pieces of meat
into my hands. Therefore Telemachus is much the dearest friend I have,
and has nothing to fear from the hands of us suitors. Of course, if
death comes to him from the gods, he cannot escape it." He said this
to quiet her, but in reality he was plotting against Telemachus.
Then Penelope went upstairs again and mourned her husband till
Minerva shed sleep over her eyes. In the evening Eumaeus got back to
Ulysses and his son, who had just sacrificed a young pig of a year old
and were ready; helping one another to get supper ready; Minerva
therefore came up to Ulysses, turned him into an old man with a stroke
of her wand, and clad him in his old clothes again, for fear that
the swineherd might recognize him and not keep the secret, but go
and tell Penelope.
Telemachus was the first to speak. "So you have got back,
Eumaeus," said he. "What is the news of the town? Have the suitors
returned, or are they still waiting over yonder, to take me on my
way home?"
"I did not think of asking about that," replied Eumaeus, "when I was
in the town. I thought I would give my message and come back as soon
as I could. I met a man sent by those who had gone with you to
Pylos, and he was the first to tell the new your mother, but I can say
what I saw with my own eyes; I had just got on to the crest of the
hill of Mercury above the town when I saw a ship coming into harbour
with a number of men in her. They had many shields and spears, and I
thought it was the suitors, but I cannot be sure."
On hearing this Telemachus smiled to his father, but so that Eumaeus
could not see him.
Then, when they had finished their work and the meal was ready, they
ate it, and every man had his full share so that all were satisfied.
As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, they laid down to
rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.
BOOK XVII

When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Telemachus bound on his sandals and took a strong spear that suited
his hands, for he wanted to go into the city. "Old friend," said he to
the swineherd, "I will now go to the town and show myself to my
mother, for she will never leave off grieving till she has seen me. As
for this unfortunate stranger, take him to the town and let him beg
there of any one who will give him a drink and a piece of bread. I
have trouble enough of my own, and cannot be burdened with other
people. If this makes him angry so much the worse for him, but I
like to say what I mean."
Then Ulysses said, "Sir, I do not want to stay here; a beggar can
always do better in town than country, for any one who likes can
give him something. I am too old to care about remaining here at the
beck and call of a master. Therefore let this man do as you have
just told him, and take me to the town as soon as I have had a warm by
the fire, and the day has got a little heat in it. My clothes are
wretchedly thin, and this frosty morning I shall be perished with
cold, for you say the city is some way off."
On this Telemachus strode off through the yards, brooding his
revenge upon the When he reached home he stood his spear against a
bearing-post of the cloister, crossed the stone floor of the
cloister itself, and went inside.
Nurse Euryclea saw him long before any one else did. She was putting
the fleeces on to the seats, and she burst out crying as she ran up to
him; all the other maids came up too, and covered his head and
shoulders with their kisses. Penelope came out of her room looking
like Diana or Venus, and wept as she flung her arms about her son. She
kissed his forehead and both his beautiful eyes, "Light of my eyes,"
she cried as she spoke fondly to him, "so you are come home again; I
made sure I was never going to see you any more. To think of your
having gone off to Pylos without saying anything about it or obtaining
my consent. But come, tell me what you saw."
"Do not scold me, mother,' answered Telemachus, "nor vex me,
seeing what a narrow escape I have had, but wash your face, change
your dress, go upstairs with your maids, and promise full and
sufficient hecatombs to all the gods if Jove will only grant us our
revenge upon the suitors. I must now go to the place of assembly to
invite a stranger who has come back with me from Pylos. I sent him
on with my crew, and told Piraeus to take him home and look after
him till I could come for him myself."
She heeded her son's words, washed her face, changed her dress,
and vowed full and sufficient hecatombs to all the gods if they
would only vouchsafe her revenge upon the suitors.
Telemachus went through, and out of, the cloisters spear in hand-
not alone, for his two fleet dogs went with him. Minerva endowed him
with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marvelled at him as
he went by, and the suitors gathered round him with fair words in
their mouths and malice in their hearts; but he avoided them, and went
to sit with Mentor, Antiphus, and Halitherses, old friends of his
father's house, and they made him tell them all that had happened to
him. Then Piraeus came up with Theoclymenus, whom he had escorted
through the town to the place of assembly, whereon Telemachus at
once joined them. Piraeus was first to speak: "Telemachus," said he,
"I wish you would send some of your women to my house to take awa
the presents Menelaus gave you."
"We do not know, Piraeus," answered Telemachus, "what may happen. If
the suitors kill me in my own house and divide my property among them,
I would rather you had the presents than that any of those people
should get hold of them. If on the other hand I manage to kill them, I
shall be much obliged if you will kindly bring me my presents."
With these words he took Theoclymenus to his own house. When they
got there they laid their cloaks on the benches and seats, went into
the baths, and washed themselves. When the maids had washed and
anointed them, and had given them cloaks and shirts, they took their
seats at table. A maid servant then brought them water in a
beautiful golden ewer, and poured it into a silver basin for them to
wash their hands; and she drew a clean table beside them. An upper
servant brought them bread and offered them many good things of what
there was in the house. Opposite them sat Penelope, reclining on a
couch by one of the bearing-posts of the cloister, and spinning.
Then they laid their hands on the good things that were before them,
and as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink Penelope said:
"Telemachus, I shall go upstairs and lie down on that sad couch,
which I have not ceased to water with my tears, from the day Ulysses
set out for Troy with the sons of Atreus. You failed, however, to make
it clear to me before the suitors came back to the house, whether or
no you had been able to hear anything about the return of your
father."
"I will tell you then truth," replied her son. "We went to Pylos and
saw Nestor, who took me to his house and treated me as hospitably as
though I were a son of his own who had just returned after a long
absence; so also did his sons; but he said he had not heard a word
from any human being about Ulysses, whether he was alive or dead. He
sent me, therefore, with a chariot and horses to Menelaus. There I saw
Helen, for whose sake so many, both Argives and Trojans, were in
heaven's wisdom doomed to suffer. Menelaus asked me what it was that
had brought me to Lacedaemon, and I told him the whole truth,
whereon he said, 'So, then, these cowards would usurp a brave man's
bed? A hind might as well lay her new-born young in the lair of a
lion, and then go off to feed in the forest or in some grassy dell.
The lion, when he comes back to his lair, will make short work with
the pair of them, and so will Ulysses with these suitors. By father
Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, if Ulysses is still the man that he was
when he wrestled with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and threw him so
heavily that all the Greeks cheered him- if he is still such, and were
to come near these suitors, they would have a short shrift and a sorry
wedding. As regards your question, however, I will not prevaricate nor
deceive you, but what the old man of the sea told me, so much will I
tell you in full. He said he could see Ulysses on an island
sorrowing bitterly in the house of the nymph Calypso, who was
keeping him prisoner, and he could not reach his home, for he had no
ships nor sailors to take him over the sea.' This was what Menelaus
told me, and when I had heard his story I came away; the gods then
gave me a fair wind and soon brought me safe home again."
With these words he moved the heart of Penelope. Then Theoclymenus
said to her:
"Madam, wife of Ulysses, Telemachus does not understand these
things; listen therefore to me, for I can divine them surely, and will
hide nothing from you. May Jove the king of heaven be my witness,
and the rites of hospitality, with that hearth of Ulysses to which I
now come, that Ulysses himself is even now in Ithaca, and, either
going about the country or staying in one place, is enquiring into all
these evil deeds and preparing a day of reckoning for the suitors. I
saw an omen when I was on the ship which meant this, and I told
Telemachus about it."
"May it be even so," answered Penelope; "if your words come true,
you shall have such gifts and such good will from me that all who
see you shall congratulate you."
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs,
or aiming with spears at a mark on the levelled ground in front of the
house, and behaving with all their old insolence. But when it was
now time for dinner, and the flock of sheep and goats had come into
the town from all the country round, with their shepherds as usual,
then Medon, who was their favourite servant, and who waited upon
them at table, said, "Now then, my young masters, you have had
enough sport, so come inside that we may get dinner ready. Dinner is
not a bad thing, at dinner time."
They left their sports as he told them, and when they were within
the house, they laid their cloaks on the benches and seats inside, and
then sacrificed some sheep, goats, pigs, and a heifer, all of them fat
and well grown. Thus they made ready for their meal. In the meantime
Ulysses and the swineherd were about starting for the town, and the
swineherd said, "Stranger, I suppose you still want to go to town
to-day, as my master said you were to do; for my own part I should
have liked you to stay here as a station hand, but I must do as my
master tells me, or he will scold me later on, and a scolding from
one's master is a very serious thing. Let us then be off, for it is
now broad day; it will be night again directly and then you will
find it colder."
"I know, and understand you," replied Ulysses; "you need say no
more. Let us be going, but if you have a stick ready cut, let me
have it to walk with, for you say the road is a very rough one."
As he spoke he threw his shabby old tattered wallet over his
shoulders, by the cord from which it hung, and Eumaeus gave him a
stick to his liking. The two then started, leaving the station in
charge of the dogs and herdsmen who remained behind; the swineherd led
the way and his master followed after, looking like some broken-down
old tramp as he leaned upon his staff, and his clothes were all in
rags. When they had got over the rough steep ground and were nearing
the city, they reached the fountain from which the citizens drew their
water. This had been made by Ithacus, Neritus, and Polyctor. There was
a grove of water-loving poplars planted in a circle all round it,
and the clear cold water came down to it from a rock high up, while
above the fountain there was an altar to the nymphs, at which all
wayfarers used to sacrifice. Here Melanthius son of Dolius overtook
them as he was driving down some goats, the best in his flock, for the
suitors' dinner, and there were two shepherds with him. When he saw
Eumaeus and Ulysses he reviled them with outrageous and unseemly
language, which made Ulysses very angry.
"There you go," cried he, "and a precious pair you are. See how
heaven brings birds of the same feather to one another. Where, pray,
master swineherd, are you taking this poor miserable object? It
would make any one sick to see such a creature at table. A fellow like
this never won a prize for anything in his life, but will go about
rubbing his shoulders against every man's door post, and begging,
not for swords and cauldrons like a man, but only for a few scraps not
worth begging for. If you would give him to me for a hand on my
station, he might do to clean out the folds, or bring a bit of sweet
feed to the kids, and he could fatten his thighs as much as he pleased
on whey; but he has taken to bad ways and will not go about any kind
of work; he will do nothing but beg victuals all the town over, to
feed his insatiable belly. I say, therefore and it shall surely be- if
he goes near Ulysses' house he will get his head broken by the
stools they will fling at him, till they turn him out."
On this, as he passed, he gave Ulysses a kick on the hip out of pure
wantonness, but Ulysses stood firm, and did not budge from the path.
For a moment he doubted whether or no to fly at Melanthius and kill
him with his staff, or fling him to the ground and beat his brains
out; he resolved, however, to endure it and keep himself in check, but
the swineherd looked straight at Melanthius and rebuked him, lifting
up his hands and praying to heaven as he did so.
"Fountain nymphs," he cried, "children of Jove, if ever Ulysses
burned you thigh bones covered with fat whether of lambs or kids,
grant my prayer that heaven may send him home. He would soon put an
end to the swaggering threats with which such men as you go about
insulting people-gadding all over the town while your flocks are going
to ruin through bad shepherding."
Then Melanthius the goatherd answered, "You ill-conditioned cur,
what are you talking about? Some day or other I will put you on
board ship and take you to a foreign country, where I can sell you and
pocket the money you will fetch. I wish I were as sure that Apollo
would strike Telemachus dead this very day, or that the suitors
would kill him, as I am that Ulysses will never come home again."
With this he left them to come on at their leisure, while he went
quickly forward and soon reached the house of his master. When he
got there he went in and took his seat among the suitors opposite
Eurymachus, who liked him better than any of the others. The
servants brought him a portion of meat, and an upper woman servant set
bread before him that he might eat. Presently Ulysses and the
swineherd came up to the house and stood by it, amid a sound of music,
for Phemius was just beginning to sing to the suitors. Then Ulysses
took hold of the swineherd's hand, and said:
"Eumaeus, this house of Ulysses is a very fine place. No matter
how far you go you will find few like it. One building keeps following
on after another. The outer court has a wall with battlements all
round it; the doors are double folding, and of good workmanship; it
would be a hard matter to take it by force of arms. I perceive, too,
that there are many people banqueting within it, for there is a
smell of roast meat, and I hear a sound of music, which the gods
have made to go along with feasting."
Then Eumaeus said, "You have perceived aright, as indeed you
generally do; but let us think what will be our best course. Will
you go inside first and join the suitors, leaving me here behind
you, or will you wait here and let me go in first? But do not wait
long, or some one may you loitering about outside, and throw something
at you. Consider this matter I pray you."
And Ulysses answered, "I understand and heed. Go in first and
leave me here where I am. I am quite used to being beaten and having
things thrown at me. I have been so much buffeted about in war and
by sea that I am case-hardened, and this too may go with the rest. But
a man cannot hide away the cravings of a hungry belly; this is an
enemy which gives much trouble to all men; it is because of this
that ships are fitted out to sail the seas, and to make war upon other
people."
As they were thus talking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised
his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argos, whom Ulysses had
bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any work out of
him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when
they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his
master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow
dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come
and draw it away to manure the great close; and he was full of
fleas. As soon as he saw Ulysses standing there, he dropped his ears
and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When
Ulysses saw the dog on the other side of the yard, dashed a tear
from his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:
"Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap:
his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he
only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept
merely for show?"
"This hound," answered Eumaeus, "belonged to him who has died in a
far country. If he were what he was when Ulysses left for Troy, he
would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in
the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its
tracks. But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead
and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their
work when their master's hand is no longer over them, for Jove takes
half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him."
As he spoke he went inside the buildings to the cloister where the
suitors were, but Argos died as soon as he had recognized his master.
Telemachus saw Eumaeus long before any one else did, and beckoned
him to come and sit beside him; so he looked about and saw a seat
lying near where the carver sat serving out their portions to the
suitors; he picked it up, brought it to Telemachus's table, and sat
down opposite him. Then the servant brought him his portion, and
gave him bread from the bread-basket.
Immediately afterwards Ulysses came inside, looking like a poor
miserable old beggar, leaning on his staff and with his clothes all in
rags. He sat down upon the threshold of ash-wood just inside the doors
leading from the outer to the inner court, and against a
bearing-post of cypress-wood which the carpenter had skillfully
planed, and had made to join truly with rule and line. Telemachus took
a whole loaf from the bread-basket, with as much meat as he could hold
in his two hands, and said to Eumaeus, "Take this to the stranger, and
tell him to go the round of the suitors, and beg from them; a beggar
must not be shamefaced."
So Eumaeus went up to him and said, "Stranger, Telemachus sends
you this, and says you are to go the round of the suitors begging, for
beggars must not be shamefaced."
Ulysses answered, "May King Jove grant all happiness to
Telemachus, and fulfil the desire of his heart."
Then with both hands he took what Telemachus had sent him, and
laid it on the dirty old wallet at his feet. He went on eating it
while the bard was singing, and had just finished his dinner as he
left off. The suitors applauded the bard, whereon Minerva went up to
Ulysses and prompted him to beg pieces of bread from each one of the
suitors, that he might see what kind of people they were, and tell the
good from the bad; but come what might she was not going to save a
single one of them. Ulysses, therefore, went on his round, going
from left to right, and stretched out his hands to beg as though he
were a real beggar. Some of them pitied him, and were curious about
him, asking one another who he was and where he came from; whereon the
goatherd Melanthius said, "Suitors of my noble mistress, I can tell
you something about him, for I have seen him before. The swineherd
brought him here, but I know nothing about the man himself, nor
where he comes from."
On this Antinous began to abuse the swineherd. "You precious idiot,"
he cried, "what have you brought this man to town for? Have we not
tramps and beggars enough already to pester us as we sit at meat? Do
you think it a small thing that such people gather here to waste
your master's property and must you needs bring this man as well?"
And Eumaeus answered, "Antinous, your birth is good but your words
evil. It was no doing of mine that he came here. Who is likely to
invite a stranger from a foreign country, unless it be one of those
who can do public service as a seer, a healer of hurts, a carpenter,
or a bard who can charm us with his Such men are welcome all the world
over, but no one is likely to ask a beggar who will only worry him.
You are always harder on Ulysses' servants than any of the other
suitors are, and above all on me, but I do not care so long as
Telemachus and Penelope are alive and here."
But Telemachus said, "Hush, do not answer him; Antinous has the
bitterest tongue of all the suitors, and he makes the others worse."
Then turning to Antinous he said, "Antinous, you take as much care
of my interests as though I were your son. Why should you want to
see this stranger turned out of the house? Heaven forbid; take'
something and give it him yourself; I do not grudge it; I bid you take
it. Never mind my mother, nor any of the other servants in the
house; but I know you will not do what I say, for you are more fond of
eating things yourself than of giving them to other people."
"What do you mean, Telemachus," replied Antinous, "by this
swaggering talk? If all the suitors were to give him as much as I
will, he would not come here again for another three months."
As he spoke he drew the stool on which he rested his dainty feet
from under the table, and made as though he would throw it at Ulysses,
but the other suitors all gave him something, and filled his wallet
with bread and meat; he was about, therefore, to go back to the
threshold and eat what the suitors had given him, but he first went up
to Antinous and said:
"Sir, give me something; you are not, surely, the poorest man
here; you seem to be a chief, foremost among them all; therefore you
should be the better giver, and I will tell far and wide of your
bounty. I too was a rich man once, and had a fine house of my own;
in those days I gave to many a tramp such as I now am, no matter who
he might be nor what he wanted. I had any number of servants, and
all the other things which people have who live well and are accounted
wealthy, but it pleased Jove to take all away from me. He sent me with
a band of roving robbers to Egypt; it was a long voyage and I was
undone by it. I stationed my bade ships in the river Aegyptus, and
bade my men stay by them and keep guard over them, while sent out
scouts to reconnoitre from every point of vantage.
"But the men disobeyed my orders, took to their own devices, and
ravaged the land of the Egyptians, killing the men, and taking their
wives and children captives. The alarm was soon carried to the city,
and when they heard the war-cry, the people came out at daybreak
till the plain was filled with soldiers horse and foot, and with the
gleam of armour. Then Jove spread panic among my men, and they would
no longer face the enemy, for they found themselves surrounded. The
Egyptians killed many of us, and took the rest alive to do forced
labour for them; as for myself, they gave me to a friend who met them,
to take to Cyprus, Dmetor by name, son of Iasus, who was a great man
in Cyprus. Thence I am come hither in a state of great misery."
Then Antinous said, "What god can have sent such a pestilence to
plague us during our dinner? Get out, into the open part of the court,
or I will give you Egypt and Cyprus over again for your insolence
and importunity; you have begged of all the others, and they have
given you lavishly, for they have abundance round them, and it is easy
to be free with other people's property when there is plenty of it."
On this Ulysses began to move off, and said, "Your looks, my fine
sir, are better than your breeding; if you were in your own house
you would not spare a poor man so much as a pinch of salt, for
though you are in another man's, and surrounded with abundance, you
cannot find it in you to give him even a piece of bread."
This made Antinous very angry, and he scowled at him saying, "You
shall pay for this before you get clear of the court." With these
words he threw a footstool at him, and hit him on the right
shoulder-blade near the top of his back. Ulysses stood firm as a
rock and the blow did not even stagger him, but he shook his head in
silence as he brooded on his revenge. Then he went back to the
threshold and sat down there, laying his well-filled wallet at his
feet.
"Listen to me," he cried, "you suitors of Queen Penelope, that I may
speak even as I am minded. A man knows neither ache nor pain if he
gets hit while fighting for his money, or for his sheep or his cattle;
and even so Antinous has hit me while in the service of my miserable
belly, which is always getting people into trouble. Still, if the poor
have gods and avenging deities at all, I pray them that Antinous may
come to a bad end before his marriage."
"Sit where you are, and eat your victuals in silence, or be off
elsewhere," shouted Antinous. "If you say more I will have you dragged
hand and foot through the courts, and the servants shall flay you
alive."
The other suitors were much displeased at this, and one of the young
men said, "Antinous, you did ill in striking that poor wretch of a
tramp: it will be worse for you if he should turn out to be some
god- and we know the gods go about disguised in all sorts of ways as
people from foreign countries, and travel about the world to see who
do amiss and who righteously."
Thus said the suitors, but Antinous paid them no heed. Meanwhile
Telemachus was furious about the blow that had been given to his
father, and though no tear fell from him, he shook his head in silence
and brooded on his revenge.
Now when Penelope heard that the beggar had been struck in the
banqueting-cloister, she said before her maids, "Would that Apollo
would so strike you, Antinous," and her waiting woman Eurynome
answered, "If our prayers were answered not one of the suitors would
ever again see the sun rise." Then Penelope said, "Nurse, I hate every
single one of them, for they mean nothing but mischief, but I hate
Antinous like the darkness of death itself. A poor unfortunate tramp
has come begging about the house for sheer want. Every one else has
given him something to put in his wallet, but Antinous has hit him
on the right shoulder-blade with a footstool."
Thus did she talk with her maids as she sat in her own room, and
in the meantime Ulysses was getting his dinner. Then she called for
the swineherd and said, "Eumaeus, go and tell the stranger to come
here, I want to see him and ask him some questions. He seems to have
travelled much, and he may have seen or heard something of my
unhappy husband."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "If these Achaeans,
Madam, would only keep quiet, you would be charmed with the history of
his adventures. I had him three days and three nights with me in my
hut, which was the first place he reached after running away from
his ship, and he has not yet completed the story of his misfortunes.
If he had been the most heaven-taught minstrel in the whole world,
on whose lips all hearers hang entranced, I could not have been more
charmed as I sat in my hut and listened to him. He says there is an
old friendship between his house and that of Ulysses, and that he
comes from Crete where the descendants of Minos live, after having
been driven hither and thither by every kind of misfortune; he also
declares that he has heard of Ulysses as being alive and near at
hand among the Thesprotians, and that he is bringing great wealth home
with him."
"Call him here, then," said Penelope, "that I too may hear his
story. As for the suitors, let them take their pleasure indoors or out
as they will, for they have nothing to fret about. Their corn and wine
remain unwasted in their houses with none but servants to consume
them, while they keep hanging about our house day after day
sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their banquets, and
never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of wine they
drink. No estate can stand such recklessness, for we have now no
Ulysses to protect us. If he were to come again, he and his son
would soon have their revenge."
As she spoke Telemachus sneezed so loudly that the whole house
resounded with it. Penelope laughed when she heard this, and said to
Eumaeus, "Go and call the stranger; did you not hear how my son
sneezed just as I was speaking? This can only mean that all the
suitors are going to be killed, and that not one of them shall escape.
Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart: if I am
satisfied that the stranger is speaking the truth I shall give him a
shirt and cloak of good wear."
When Eumaeus heard this he went straight to Ulysses and said,
"Father stranger, my mistress Penelope, mother of Telemachus, has sent
for you; she is in great grief, but she wishes to hear anything you
can tell her about her husband, and if she is satisfied that you are
speaking the truth, she will give you a shirt and cloak, which are the
very things that you are most in want of. As for bread, you can get
enough of that to fill your belly, by begging about the town, and
letting those give that will."
"I will tell Penelope," answered Ulysses, "nothing but what is
strictly true. I know all about her husband, and have been partner
with him in affliction, but I am afraid of passing. through this crowd
of cruel suitors, for their pride and insolence reach heaven. Just
now, moreover, as I was going about the house without doing any
harm, a man gave me a blow that hurt me very much, but neither
Telemachus nor any one else defended me. Tell Penelope, therefore,
to be patient and wait till sundown. Let her give me a seat close up
to the fire, for my clothes are worn very thin- you know they are, for
you have seen them ever since I first asked you to help me- she can
then ask me about the return of her husband."
The swineherd went back when he heard this, and Penelope said as she
saw him cross the threshold, "Why do you not bring him here,
Eumaeus? Is he afraid that some one will ill-treat him, or is he shy
of coming inside the house at all? Beggars should not be shamefaced."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "The stranger is quite
reasonable. He is avoiding the suitors, and is only doing what any one
else would do. He asks you to wait till sundown, and it will be much
better, madam, that you should have him all to yourself, when you
can hear him and talk to him as you will."
"The man is no fool," answered Penelope, "it would very likely be as
he says, for there are no such abominable people in the whole world as
these men are."
When she had done speaking Eumaeus went back to the suitors, for
he had explained everything. Then he went up to Telemachus and said in
his ear so that none could overhear him, "My dear sir, I will now go
back to the pigs, to see after your property and my own business.
You will look to what is going on here, but above all be careful to
keep out of danger, for there are many who bear you ill will. May Jove
bring them to a bad end before they do us a mischief."
"Very well," replied Telemachus, "go home when you have had your
dinner, and in the morning come here with the victims we are to
sacrifice for the day. Leave the rest to heaven and me."
On this Eumaeus took his seat again, and when he had finished his
dinner he left the courts and the cloister with the men at table,
and went back to his pigs. As for the suitors, they presently began to
amuse themselves with singing and dancing, for it was now getting on
towards evening.
BOOK XVIII

Now there came a certain common tramp who used to go begging all
over the city of Ithaca, and was notorious as an incorrigible
glutton and drunkard. This man had no strength nor stay in him, but he
was a great hulking fellow to look at; his real name, the one his
mother gave him, was Arnaeus, but the young men of the place called
him Irus, because he used to run errands for any one who would send
him. As soon as he came he began to insult Ulysses, and to try and
drive him out of his own house.
"Be off, old man," he cried, "from the doorway, or you shall be
dragged out neck and heels. Do you not see that they are all giving me
the wink, and wanting me to turn you out by force, only I do not
like to do so? Get up then, and go of yourself, or we shall come to
blows."
Ulysses frowned on him and said, "My friend, I do you no manner of
harm; people give you a great deal, but I am not jealous. There is
room enough in this doorway for the pair of us, and you need not
grudge me things that are not yours to give. You seem to be just
such another tramp as myself, but perhaps the gods will give us better
luck by and by. Do not, however, talk too much about fighting or you
will incense me, and old though I am, I shall cover your mouth and
chest with blood. I shall have more peace to-morrow if I do, for you
will not come to the house of Ulysses any more."
Irus was very angry and answered, "You filthy glutton, you run on
trippingly like an old fish-fag. I have a good mind to lay both
hands about you, and knock your teeth out of your head like so many
boar's tusks. Get ready, therefore, and let these people here stand by
and look on. You will never be able to fight one who is so much
younger than yourself."
Thus roundly did they rate one another on the smooth pavement in
front of the doorway, and when Antinous saw what was going on he
laughed heartily and said to the others, "This is the finest sport
that you ever saw; heaven never yet sent anything like it into this
house. The stranger and Irus have quarreled and are going to fight,
let us set them on to do so at once."
The suitors all came up laughing, and gathered round the two
ragged tramps. "Listen to me," said Antinous, "there are some goats'
paunches down at the fire, which we have filled with blood and fat,
and set aside for supper; he who is victorious and proves himself to
be the better man shall have his pick of the lot; he shall be free
of our table and we will not allow any other beggar about the house at
all."
The others all agreed, but Ulysses, to throw them off the scent,
said, "Sirs, an old man like myself, worn out with suffering, cannot
hold his own against a young one; but my irrepressible belly urges
me on, though I know it can only end in my getting a drubbing. You
must swear, however that none of you will give me a foul blow to
favour Irus and secure him the victory."
They swore as he told them, and when they had completed their oath
Telemachus put in a word and said, "Stranger, if you have a mind to
settle with this fellow, you need not be afraid of any one here.
Whoever strikes you will have to fight more than one. I am host, and
the other chiefs, Antinous and Eurymachus, both of them men of
understanding, are of the same mind as I am."
Every one assented, and Ulysses girded his old rags about his loins,
thus baring his stalwart thighs, his broad chest and shoulders, and
his mighty arms; but Minerva came up to him and made his limbs even
stronger still. The suitors were beyond measure astonished, and one
would turn towards his neighbour saying, "The stranger has brought
such a thigh out of his old rags that there will soon be nothing
left of Irus."
Irus began to be very uneasy as he heard them, but the servants
girded him by force, and brought him [into the open part of the court]
in such a fright that his limbs were all of a tremble. Antinous
scolded him and said, "You swaggering bully, you ought never to have
been born at all if you are afraid of such an old broken-down creature
as this tramp is. I say, therefore- and it shall surely be- if he
beats you and proves himself the better man, I shall pack you off on
board ship to the mainland and send you to king Echetus, who kills
every one that comes near him. He will cut off your nose and ears, and
draw out your entrails for the dogs to eat."
This frightened Irus still more, but they brought him into the
middle of the court, and the two men raised their hands to fight. Then
Ulysses considered whether he should let drive so hard at him as to
make an end of him then and there, or whether he should give him a
lighter blow that should only knock him down; in the end he deemed
it best to give the lighter blow for fear the Achaeans should begin to
suspect who he was. Then they began to fight, and Irus hit Ulysses
on the right shoulder; but Ulysses gave Irus a blow on the neck
under the ear that broke in the bones of his skull, and the blood came
gushing out of his mouth; he fell groaning in the dust, gnashing his
teeth and kicking on the ground, but the suitors threw up their
hands and nearly died of laughter, as Ulysses caught hold of him by
the foot and dragged him into the outer court as far as the
gate-house. There he propped him up against the wall and put his staff
in his hands. "Sit here," said he, "and keep the dogs and pigs off;
you are a pitiful creature, and if you try to make yourself king of
the beggars any more you shall fare still worse."
Then he threw his dirty old wallet, all tattered and torn, over
his shoulder with the cord by which it hung, and went back to sit down
upon the threshold; but the suitors went within the cloisters,
laughing and saluting him, "May Jove, and all the other gods," said
they, 'grant you whatever you want for having put an end to the
importunity of this insatiable tramp. We will take him over to the
mainland presently, to king Echetus, who kills every one that comes
near him."
Ulysses hailed this as of good omen, and Antinous set a great goat's
paunch before him filled with blood and fat. Amphinomus took two
loaves out of the bread-basket and brought them to him, pledging him
as he did so in a golden goblet of wine. "Good luck to you," he
said, "father stranger, you are very badly off at present, but I
hope you will have better times by and by."
To this Ulysses answered, "Amphinomus, you seem to be a man of
good understanding, as indeed you may well be, seeing whose son you
are. I have heard your father well spoken of; he is Nisus of
Dulichium, a man both brave and wealthy. They tell me you are his son,
and you appear to be a considerable person; listen, therefore, and
take heed to what I am saying. Man is the vainest of all creatures
that have their being upon earth. As long as heaven vouchsafes him
health and strength, he thinks that he shall come to no harm
hereafter, and even when the blessed gods bring sorrow upon him, he
bears it as he needs must, and makes the best of it; for God
Almighty gives men their daily minds day by day. I know all about
it, for I was a rich man once, and did much wrong in the
stubbornness of my pride, and in the confidence that my father and
my brothers would support me; therefore let a man fear God in all
things always, and take the good that heaven may see fit to send him
without vainglory. Consider the infamy of what these suitors are
doing; see how they are wasting the estate, and doing dishonour to the
wife, of one who is certain to return some day, and that, too, not
long hence. Nay, he will be here soon; may heaven send you home
quietly first that you may not meet with him in the day of his coming,
for once he is here the suitors and he will not part bloodlessly."
With these words he made a drink-offering, and when he had drunk
he put the gold cup again into the hands of Amphinomus, who walked
away serious and bowing his head, for he foreboded evil. But even so
he did not escape destruction, for Minerva had doomed him fall by
the hand of Telemachus. So he took his seat again at the place from
which he had come.
Then Minerva put it into the mind of Penelope to show herself to the
suitors, that she might make them still more enamoured of her, and win
still further honour from her son and husband. So she feigned a
mocking laugh and said, "Eurynome, I have changed my and have a
fancy to show myself to the suitors although I detest them. I should
like also to give my son a hint that he had better not have anything
more to do with them. They speak fairly enough but they mean
mischief."
"My dear child," answered Eurynome, "all that you have said is true,
go and tell your son about it, but first wash yourself and anoint your
face. Do not go about with your cheeks all covered with tears; it is
not right that you should grieve so incessantly; for Telemachus,
whom you always prayed that you might live to see with a beard, is
already grown up."
"I know, Eurynome," replied Penelope, "that you mean well, but do
not try and persuade me to wash and to anoint myself, for heaven
robbed me of all my beauty on the day my husband sailed; nevertheless,
tell Autonoe and Hippodamia that I want them. They must be with me
when I am in the cloister; I am not going among the men alone; it
would not be proper for me to do so."
On this the old woman went out of the room to bid the maids go to
their mistress. In the meantime Minerva bethought her of another
matter, and sent Penelope off into a sweet slumber; so she lay down on
her couch and her limbs became heavy with sleep. Then the goddess shed
grace and beauty over her that all the Achaeans might admire her.
She washed her face with the ambrosial loveliness that Venus wears
when she goes dancing with the Graces; she made her taller and of a
more commanding figure, while as for her complexion it was whiter than
sawn ivory. When Minerva had done all this she went away, whereon
the maids came in from the women's room and woke Penelope with the
sound of their talking.
"What an exquisitely delicious sleep I have been having," said
she, as she passed her hands over her face, "in spite of all my
misery. I wish Diana would let me die so sweetly now at this very
moment, that I might no longer waste in despair for the loss of my
dear husband, who possessed every kind of good quality and was the
most distinguished man among the Achaeans."
With these words she came down from her upper room, not alone but
attended by two of her maidens, and when she reached the suitors she
stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister,
holding a veil before her face, and with a staid maid servant on
either side of her. As they beheld her the suitors were so overpowered
and became so desperately enamoured of her, that each one prayed he
might win her for his own bed fellow.
"Telemachus," said she, addressing her son, "I fear you are no
longer so discreet and well conducted as you used to be. When you were
younger you had a greater sense of propriety; now, however, that you
are grown up, though a stranger to look at you would take you for
the son of a well-to-do father as far as size and good looks go,
your conduct is by no means what it should be. What is all this
disturbance that has been going on, and how came you to allow a
stranger to be so disgracefully ill-treated? What would have
happened if he had suffered serious injury while a suppliant in our
house? Surely this would have been very discreditable to you."
"I am not surprised, my dear mother, at your displeasure," replied
Telemachus, "I understand all about it and know when things are not as
they should be, which I could not do when I was younger; I cannot,
however, behave with perfect propriety at all times. First one and
then another of these wicked people here keeps driving me out of my
mind, and I have no one to stand by me. After all, however, this fight
between Irus and the stranger did not turn out as the suitors meant it
to do, for the stranger got the best of it. I wish Father Jove,
Minerva, and Apollo would break the neck of every one of these
wooers of yours, some inside the house and some out; and I wish they
might all be as limp as Irus is over yonder in the gate of the outer
court. See how he nods his head like a drunken man; he has had such
a thrashing that he cannot stand on his feet nor get back to his home,
wherever that may be, for has no strength left in him."
Thus did they converse. Eurymachus then came up and said, "Queen
Penelope, daughter of Icarius, if all the Achaeans in Iasian Argos
could see you at this moment, you would have still more suitors in
your house by tomorrow morning, for you are the most admirable woman
in the whole world both as regards personal beauty and strength of
understanding."
To this Penelope replied, "Eurymachus, heaven robbed me of all my
beauty whether of face or figure when the Argives set sail for Troy
and my dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after
my affairs, I should both be more respected and show a better presence
to the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the
afflictions which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. My husband
foresaw it all, and when he was leaving home he took my right wrist in
his hand- 'Wife, 'he said, 'we shall not all of us come safe home
from Troy, for the Trojans fight well both with bow and spear. They
are excellent also at fighting from chariots, and nothing decides
the issue of a fight sooner than this. I know not, therefore,
whether heaven will send me back to you, or whether I may not fall
over there at Troy. In the meantime do you look after things here.
Take care of my father and mother as at present, and even more so
during my absence, but when you see our son growing a beard, then
marry whom you will, and leave this your present home. This is what he
said and now it is all coming true. A night will come when I shall
have to yield myself to a marriage which I detest, for Jove has
taken from me all hope of happiness. This further grief, moreover,
cuts me to the very heart. You suitors are not wooing me after the
custom of my country. When men are courting a woman who they think
will be a good wife to them and who is of noble birth, and when they
are each trying to win her for himself, they usually bring oxen and
sheep to feast the friends of the lady, and they make her
magnificent presents, instead of eating up other people's property
without paying for it."
This was what she said, and Ulysses was glad when he heard her
trying to get presents out of the suitors, and flattering them with
fair words which he knew she did not mean.
Then Antinous said, "Queen Penelope, daughter of Icarius, take as
many presents as you please from any one who will give them to you; it
is not well to refuse a present; but we will not go about our business
nor stir from where we are, till you have married the best man among
us whoever he may be."
The others applauded what Antinous had said, and each one sent his
servant to bring his present. Antinous's man returned with a large and
lovely dress most exquisitely embroidered. It had twelve beautifully
made brooch pins of pure gold with which to fasten it. Eurymachus
immediately brought her a magnificent chain of gold and amber beads
that gleamed like sunlight. Eurydamas's two men returned with some
earrings fashioned into three brilliant pendants which glistened
most beautifully; while king Pisander son of Polyctor gave her a
necklace of the rarest workmanship, and every one else brought her a
beautiful present of some kind.
Then the queen went back to her room upstairs, and her maids brought
the presents after her. Meanwhile the suitors took to singing and
dancing, and stayed till evening came. They danced and sang till it
grew dark; they then brought in three braziers to give light, and
piled them up with chopped firewood very and dry, and they lit torches
from them, which the maids held up turn and turn about. Then Ulysses
said:
"Maids, servants of Ulysses who has so long been absent, go to the
queen inside the house; sit with her and amuse her, or spin, and
pick wool. I will hold the light for all these people. They may stay
till morning, but shall not beat me, for I can stand a great deal."
The maids looked at one another and laughed, while pretty Melantho
began to gibe at him contemptuously. She was daughter to Dolius, but
had been brought up by Penelope, who used to give her toys to play
with, and looked after her when she was a child; but in spite of all
this she showed no consideration for the sorrows of her mistress,
and used to misconduct herself with Eurymachus, with whom she was in
love.
"Poor wretch," said she, "are you gone clean out of your mind? Go
and sleep in some smithy, or place of public gossips, instead of
chattering here. Are you not ashamed of opening your mouth before your
betters- so many of them too? Has the wine been getting into your
head, or do you always babble in this way? You seem to have lost
your wits because you beat the tramp Irus; take care that a better man
than he does not come and cudgel you about the head till he pack you
bleeding out of the house."
"Vixen," replied Ulysses, scowling at her, "I will go and tell
Telemachus what you have been saying, and he will have you torn limb
from limb."
With these words he scared the women, and they went off into the
body of the house. They trembled all aver, for they thought he would
do as he said. But Ulysses took his stand near the burning braziers,
holding up torches and looking at the people- brooding the while on
things that should surely come to pass.
But Minerva would not let the suitors for one moment cease their
insolence, for she wanted Ulysses to become even more bitter against
them; she therefore set Eurymachus son of Polybus on to gibe at him,
which made the others laugh. "Listen to me," said he, "you suitors
of Queen Penelope, that I may speak even as I am minded. It is not for
nothing that this man has come to the house of Ulysses; I believe
the light has not been coming from the torches, but from his own head-
for his hair is all gone, every bit of it."
Then turning to Ulysses he said, "Stranger, will you work as a
servant, if I send you to the wolds and see that you are well paid?
Can you build a stone fence, or plant trees? I will have you fed all
the year round, and will find you in shoes and clothing. Will you
go, then? Not you; for you have got into bad ways, and do not want
to work; you had rather fill your belly by going round the country
begging."
"Eurymachus," answered Ulysses, "if you and I were to work one
against the other in early summer when the days are at their
longest- give me a good scythe, and take another yourself, and let
us see which will fast the longer or mow the stronger, from dawn
till dark when the mowing grass is about. Or if you will plough
against me, let us each take a yoke of tawny oxen, well-mated and of
great strength and endurance: turn me into a four acre field, and
see whether you or I can drive the straighter furrow. If, again, war
were to break out this day, give me a shield, a couple of spears and a
helmet fitting well upon my temples- you would find me foremost in the
fray, and would cease your gibes about my belly. You are insolent
and cruel, and think yourself a great man because you live in a little
world, ind that a bad one. If Ulysses comes to his own again, the
doors of his house are wide, but you will find them narrow when you
try to fly through them."
Eurymachus was furious at all this. He scowled at him and cried,
"You wretch, I will soon pay you out for daring to say such things
to me, and in public too. Has the wine been getting into your head
or do you always babble in this way? You seem to have lost your wits
because you beat the tramp Irus. With this he caught hold of a
footstool, but Ulysses sought protection at the knees of Amphinomus of
Dulichium, for he was afraid. The stool hit the cupbearer on his right
hand and knocked him down: the man fell with a cry flat on his back,
and his wine-jug fell ringing to the ground. The suitors in the
covered cloister were now in an uproar, and one would turn towards his
neighbour, saying, "I wish the stranger had gone somewhere else, bad
luck to hide, for all the trouble he gives us. We cannot permit such
disturbance about a beggar; if such ill counsels are to prevail we
shall have no more pleasure at our banquet."
On this Telemachus came forward and said, "Sirs, are you mad? Can
you not carry your meat and your liquor decently? Some evil spirit has
possessed you. I do not wish to drive any of you away, but you have
had your suppers, and the sooner you all go home to bed the better."
The suitors bit their lips and marvelled at the boldness of his
speech; but Amphinomus the son of Nisus, who was son to Aretias, said,
"Do not let us take offence; it is reasonable, so let us make no
answer. Neither let us do violence to the stranger nor to any of
Ulysses' servants. Let the cupbearer go round with the
drink-offerings, that we may make them and go home to our rest. As for
the stranger, let us leave Telemachus to deal with him, for it is to
his house that he has come."
Thus did he speak, and his saying pleased them well, so Mulius of
Dulichium, servant to Amphinomus, mixed them a bowl of wine and
water and handed it round to each of them man by man, whereon they
made their drink-offerings to the blessed gods: Then, when they had
made their drink-offerings and had drunk each one as he was minded,
they took their several ways each of them to his own abode.
BOOK XIX

Ulysses was left in the cloister, pondering on the means whereby
with Minerva's help he might be able to kill the suitors. Presently he
said to Telemachus, "Telemachus, we must get the armour together and
take it down inside. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why you
have removed it. Say that you have taken it to be out of the way of
the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses went
away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this more
particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to quarrel
over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm which may
disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms sometimes
tempts people to use them."
Telemachus approved of what his father had said, so he called
nurse Euryclea and said, "Nurse, shut the women up in their room,
while I take the armour that my father left behind him down into the
store room. No one looks after it now my father is gone, and it has
got all smirched with soot during my own boyhood. I want to take it
down where the smoke cannot reach it."
"I wish, child," answered Euryclea, "that you would take the
management of the house into your own hands altogether, and look after
all the property yourself. But who is to go with you and light you
to the store room? The maids would have so, but you would not let
them.
"The stranger," said Telemachus, "shall show me a light; when people
eat my bread they must earn it, no matter where they come from."
Euryclea did as she was told, and bolted the women inside their
room. Then Ulysses and his son made all haste to take the helmets,
shields, and spears inside; and Minerva went before them with a gold
lamp in her hand that shed a soft and brilliant radiance, whereon
Telemachus said, "Father, my eyes behold a great marvel: the walls,
with the rafters, crossbeams, and the supports on which they rest
are all aglow as with a flaming fire. Surely there is some god here
who has come down from heaven."
"Hush," answered Ulysses, "hold your peace and ask no questions, for
this is the manner of the gods. Get you to your bed, and leave me here
to talk with your mother and the maids. Your mother in her grief
will ask me all sorts of questions."
On this Telemachus went by torch-light to the other side of the
inner court, to the room in which he always slept. There he lay in his
bed till morning, while Ulysses was left in the cloister pondering
on the means whereby with Minerva's help he might be able to kill
the suitors.
Then Penelope came down from her room looking like Venus or Diana,
and they set her a seat inlaid with scrolls of silver and ivory near
the fire in her accustomed place. It had been made by Icmalius and had
a footstool all in one piece with the seat itself; and it was
covered with a thick fleece: on this she now sat, and the maids came
from the women's room to join her. They set about removing the
tables at which the wicked suitors had been dining, and took away
the bread that was left, with the cups from which they had drunk. They
emptied the embers out of the braziers, and heaped much wood upon them
to give both light and heat; but Melantho began to rail at Ulysses a
second time and said, "Stranger, do you mean to plague us by hanging
about the house all night and spying upon the women? Be off, you
wretch, outside, and eat your supper there, or you shall be driven out
with a firebrand."
Ulysses scowled at her and answered, "My good woman, why should
you be so angry with me? Is it because I am not clean, and my
clothes are all in rags, and because I am obliged to go begging
about after the manner of tramps and beggars generall? I too was a
rich man once, and had a fine house of my own; in those days I gave to
many a tramp such as I now am, no matter who he might be nor what he
wanted. I had any number of servants, and all the other things which
people have who live well and are accounted wealthy, but it pleased
Jove to take all away from me; therefore, woman, beware lest you too
come to lose that pride and place in which you now wanton above your
fellows; have a care lest you get out of favour with your mistress,
and lest Ulysses should come home, for there is still a chance that he
may do so. Moreover, though he be dead as you think he is, yet by
Apollo's will he has left a son behind him, Telemachus, who will
note anything done amiss by the maids in the house, for he is now no
longer in his boyhood."
Penelope heard what he was saying and scolded the maid, "Impudent
baggage, said she, "I see how abominably you are behaving, and you
shall smart for it. You knew perfectly well, for I told you myself,
that I was going to see the stranger and ask him about my husband, for
whose sake I am in such continual sorrow."
Then she said to her head waiting woman Eurynome, "Bring a seat with
a fleece upon it, for the stranger to sit upon while he tells his
story, and listens to what I have to say. I wish to ask him some
questions."
Eurynome brought the seat at once and set a fleece upon it, and as
soon as Ulysses had sat down Penelope began by saying, "Stranger, I
shall first ask you who and whence are you? Tell me of your town and
parents."
"Madam;" answered Ulysses, "who on the face of the whole earth can
dare to chide with you? Your fame reaches the firmament of heaven
itself; you are like some blameless king, who upholds righteousness,
as the monarch over a great and valiant nation: the earth yields its
wheat and barley, the trees are loaded with fruit, the ewes bring
forth lambs, and the sea abounds with fish by reason of his virtues,
and his people do good deeds under him. Nevertheless, as I sit here in
your house, ask me some other question and do not seek to know my race
and family, or you will recall memories that will yet more increase my
sorrow. I am full of heaviness, but I ought not to sit weeping and
wailing in another person's house, nor is it well to be thus
grieving continually. I shall have one of the servants or even
yourself complaining of me, and saying that my eyes swim with tears
because I am heavy with wine."
Then Penelope answered, "Stranger, heaven robbed me of all beauty,
whether of face or figure, when the Argives set sail for Troy and my
dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after my affairs
I should be both more respected and should show a better presence to
the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the
afflictions which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. The chiefs from
all our islands- Dulichium, Same, and Zacynthus, as also from Ithaca
itself, are wooing me against my will and are wasting my estate. I can
therefore show no attention to strangers, nor suppliants, nor to
people who say that they are skilled artisans, but am all the time
brokenhearted about Ulysses. They want me to marry again at once,
and I have to invent stratagems in order to deceive them. In the first
place heaven put it in my mind to set up a great tambour-frame in my
room, and to begin working upon an enormous piece of fine
needlework. Then I said to them, 'Sweethearts, Ulysses is indeed dead,
still, do not press me to marry again immediately; wait- for I would
not have my skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
finished making a pall for the hero Laertes, to be ready against the
time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women of
the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.' This was what I
said, and they assented; whereon I used to keep working at my great
web all day long, but at night I would unpick the stitches again by
torch light. I fooled them in this way for three years without their
finding it out, but as time wore on and I was now in my fourth year,
in the waning of moons, and many days had been accomplished, those
good-for-nothing hussies my maids betrayed me to the suitors, who
broke in upon me and caught me; they were very angry with me, so I was
forced to finish my work whether I would or no. And now I do not see
how I can find any further shift for getting out of this marriage.
My parents are putting great pressure upon me, and my son chafes at
the ravages the suitors are making upon his estate, for he is now
old enough to understand all about it and is perfectly able to look
after his own affairs, for heaven has blessed him with an excellent
disposition. Still, notwithstanding all this, tell me who you are
and where you come from- for you must have had father and mother of
some sort; you cannot be the son of an oak or of a rock."
Then Ulysses answered, "madam, wife of Ulysses, since you persist in
asking me about my family, I will answer, no matter what it costs
me: people must expect to be pained when they have been exiles as long
as I have, and suffered as much among as many peoples. Nevertheless,
as regards your question I will tell you all you ask. There is a
fair and fruitful island in mid-ocean called Crete; it is thickly
peopled and there are nine cities in it: the people speak many
different languages which overlap one another, for there are Achaeans,
brave Eteocretans, Dorians of three-fold race, and noble Pelasgi.
There is a great town there, Cnossus, where Minos reigned who every
nine years had a conference with Jove himself. Minos was father to
Deucalion, whose son I am, for Deucalion had two sons Idomeneus and
myself. Idomeneus sailed for Troy, and I, who am the younger, am
called Aethon; my brother, however, was at once the older and the more
valiant of the two; hence it was in Crete that I saw Ulysses and
showed him hospitality, for the winds took him there as he was on
his way to Troy, carrying him out of his course from cape Malea and
leaving him in Amnisus off the cave of Ilithuia, where the harbours
are difficult to enter and he could hardly find shelter from the winds
that were then xaging. As soon as he got there he went into the town
and asked for Idomeneus, claiming to be his old and valued friend, but
Idomeneus had already set sail for Troy some ten or twelve days
earlier, so I took him to my own house and showed him every kind of
hospitality, for I had abundance of everything. Moreover, I fed the
men who were with him with barley meal from the public store, and
got subscriptions of wine and oxen for them to sacrifice to their
heart's content. They stayed with me twelve days, for there was a gale
blowing from the North so strong that one could hardly keep one's feet
on land. I suppose some unfriendly god had raised it for them, but
on the thirteenth day the wind dropped, and they got away."
Many a plausible tale did Ulysses further tell her, and Penelope
wept as she listened, for her heart was melted. As the snow wastes
upon the mountain tops when the winds from South East and West have
breathed upon it and thawed it till the rivers run bank full with
water, even so did her cheeks overflow with tears for the husband
who was all the time sitting by her side. Ulysses felt for her and was
for her, but he kept his eyes as hard as or iron without letting
them so much as quiver, so cunningly did he restrain his tears.
Then, when she had relieved herself by weeping, she turned to him
again and said: "Now, stranger, I shall put you to the test and see
whether or no you really did entertain my husband and his men, as
you say you did. Tell me, then, how he was dressed, what kind of a man
he was to look at, and so also with his companions."
"Madam," answered Ulysses, "it is such a long time ago that I can
hardly say. Twenty years are come and gone since he left my home,
and went elsewhither; but I will tell you as well as I can
recollect. Ulysses wore a mantle of purple wool, double lined, and
it was fastened by a gold brooch with two catches for the pin. On
the face of this there was a device that showed a dog holding a
spotted fawn between his fore paws, and watching it as it lay
panting upon the ground. Every one marvelled at the way in which these
things had been done in gold, the dog looking at the fawn, and
strangling it, while the fawn was struggling convulsively to escape.
As for the shirt that he wore next his skin, it was so soft that it
fitted him like the skin of an onion, and glistened in the sunlight to
the admiration of all the women who beheld it. Furthermore I say,
and lay my saying to your heart, that I do not know whether Ulysses
wore these clothes when he left home, or whether one of his companions
had given them to him while he was on his voyage; or possibly some one
at whose house he was staying made him a present of them, for he was a
man of many friends and had few equals among the Achaeans. I myself
gave him a sword of bronze and a beautiful purple mantle, double
lined, with a shirt that went down to his feet, and I sent him on
board his ship with every mark of honour. He had a servant with him, a
little older than himself, and I can tell you what he was like; his
shoulders were hunched, he was dark, and he had thick curly hair.
His name was Eurybates, and Ulysses treated him with greater
familiarity than he did any of the others, as being the most
like-minded with himself."
Penelope was moved still more deeply as she heard the indisputable
proofs that Ulysses laid before her; and when she had again found
relief in tears she said to him, "Stranger, I was already disposed
to pity you, but henceforth you shall be honoured and made welcome
in my house. It was I who gave Ulysses the clothes you speak of. I
took them out of the store room and folded them up myself, and I
gave him also the gold brooch to wear as an ornament. Alas! I shall
never welcome him home again. It was by an ill fate that he ever set
out for that detested city whose very name I cannot bring myself
even to mention."
Then Ulysses answered, "Madam, wife of Ulysses, do not disfigure
yourself further by grieving thus bitterly for your loss, though I can
hardly blame you for doing so. A woman who has loved her husband and
borne him children, would naturally be grieved at losing him, even
though he were a worse man than Ulysses, who they say was like a
god. Still, cease your tears and listen to what I can tell I will hide
nothing from you, and can say with perfect truth that I have lately
heard of Ulysses as being alive and on his way home; he is among the
Thesprotians, and is bringing back much valuable treasure that he
has begged from one and another of them; but his ship and all his crew
were lost as they were leaving the Thrinacian island, for Jove and the
sun-god were angry with him because his men had slaughtered the
sun-god's cattle, and they were all drowned to a man. But Ulysses
stuck to the keel of the ship and was drifted on to the land of the
Phaecians, who are near of kin to the immortals, and who treated him
as though he had been a god, giving him many presents, and wishing
to escort him home safe and sound. In fact Ulysses would have been
here long ago, had he not thought better to go from land to land
gathering wealth; for there is no man living who is so wily as he
is; there is no one can compare with him. Pheidon king of the
Thesprotians told me all this, and he swore to me- making
drink-offerings in his house as he did so- that the ship was by the
water side and the crew found who would take Ulysses to his own
country. He sent me off first, for there happened to be a
Thesprotian ship sailing for the wheat-growing island of Dulichium,
but he showed me all treasure Ulysses had got together, and he had
enough lying in the house of king Pheidon to keep his family for ten
generations; but the king said Ulysses had gone to Dodona that he
might learn Jove's mind from the high oak tree, and know whether after
so long an absence he should return to Ithaca openly or in secret.
So you may know he is safe and will be here shortly; he is close at
hand and cannot remain away from home much longer; nevertheless I will
confirm my words with an oath, and call Jove who is the first and
mightiest of all gods to witness, as also that hearth of Ulysses to
which I have now come, that all I have spoken shall surely come to
pass. Ulysses will return in this self same year; with the end of this
moon and the beginning of the next he will be here."
"May it be even so," answered Penelope; "if your words come true you
shall have such gifts and such good will from me that all who see
you shall congratulate you; but I know very well how it will be.
Ulysses will not return, neither will you get your escort hence, for
so surely as that Ulysses ever was, there are now no longer any such
masters in the house as he was, to receive honourable strangers or
to further them on their way home. And now, you maids, wash his feet
for him, and make him a bed on a couch with rugs and blankets, that he
may be warm and quiet till morning. Then, at day break wash him and
anoint him again, that he may sit in the cloister and take his meals
with Telemachus. It shall be the worse for any one of these hateful
people who is uncivil to him; like it or not, he shall have no more to
do in this house. For how, sir, shall you be able to learn whether
or no I am superior to others of my sex both in goodness of heart
and understanding, if I let you dine in my cloisters squalid and ill
clad? Men live but for a little season; if they are hard, and deal
hardly, people wish them ill so long as they are alive, and speak
contemptuously of them when they are dead, but he that is righteous
and deals righteously, the people tell of his praise among all
lands, and many shall call him blessed."
Ulysses answered, "Madam, I have foresworn rugs and blankets from
the day that I left the snowy ranges of Crete to go on shipboard. I
will lie as I have lain on many a sleepless night hitherto. Night
after night have I passed in any rough sleeping place, and waited
for morning. Nor, again, do I like having my feet washed; I shall
not let any of the young hussies about your house touch my feet;
but, if you have any old and respectable woman who has gone through as
much trouble as I have, I will allow her to wash them."
To this Penelope said, "My dear sir, of all the guests who ever
yet came to my house there never was one who spoke in all things
with such admirable propriety as you do. There happens to be in the
house a most respectable old woman- the same who received my poor dear
husband in her arms the night he was born, and nursed him in
infancy. She is very feeble now, but she shall wash your feet."
"Come here," said she, "Euryclea, and wash your master's age-mate; I
suppose Ulysses' hands and feet are very much the same now as his are,
for trouble ages all of us dreadfully fast."
On these words the old woman covered her face with her hands; she
began to weep and made lamentation saying, "My dear child, I cannot
think whatever I am to do with you. I am certain no one was ever
more god-fearing than yourself, and yet Jove hates you. No one in
the whole world ever burned him more thigh bones, nor gave him finer
hecatombs when you prayed you might come to a green old age yourself
and see your son grow up to take after you; yet see how he has
prevented you alone from ever getting back to your own home. I have no
doubt the women in some foreign palace which Ulysses has got to are
gibing at him as all these sluts here have been gibing you. I do not
wonder at your not choosing to let them wash you after the manner in
which they have insulted you; I will wash your feet myself gladly
enough, as Penelope has said that I am to do so; I will wash them both
for Penelope's sake and for your own, for you have raised the most
lively feelings of compassion in my mind; and let me say this
moreover, which pray attend to; we have had all kinds of strangers
in distress come here before now, but I make bold to say that no one
ever yet came who was so like Ulysses in figure, voice, and feet as
you are."
"Those who have seen us both," answered Ulysses, "have always said
we were wonderfully like each other, and now you have noticed it too.
Then the old woman took the cauldron in which she was going to
wash his feet, and poured plenty of cold water into it, adding hot
till the bath was warm enough. Ulysses sat by the fire, but ere long
he turned away from the light, for it occurred to him that when the
old woman had hold of his leg she would recognize a certain scar which
it bore, whereon the whole truth would come out. And indeed as soon as
she began washing her master, she at once knew the scar as one that
had been given him by a wild boar when he was hunting on Mount
Parnassus with his excellent grandfather Autolycus- who was the most
accomplished thief and perjurer in the whole world- and with the
sons of Autolycus. Mercury himself had endowed him with this gift, for
he used to burn the thigh bones of goats and kids to him, so he took
pleasure in his companionship. It happened once that Autolycus had
gone to Ithaca and had found the child of his daughter just born. As
soon as he had done supper Euryclea set the infant upon his knees
and said, you must find a name for your grandson; you greatly wished
that you might have one."
'Son-in-law and daughter," replied Autolycus, "call the child
thus: I am highly displeased with a large number of people in one
place and another, both men and women; so name the child 'Ulysses,' or
the child of anger. When he grows up and comes to visit his mother's
family on Mount Parnassus, where my possessions lie, I will make him a
present and will send him on his way rejoicing."
Ulysses, therefore, went to Parnassus to get the presents from
Autolycus, who with his sons shook hands with him and gave him
welcome. His grandmother Amphithea threw her arms about him, and
kissed his head, and both his beautiful eyes, while Autolycus
desired his sons to get dinner ready, and they did as he told them.
They brought in a five year old bull, flayed it, made it ready and
divided it into joints; these they then cut carefully up into
smaller pieces and spitted them; they roasted them sufficiently and
served the portions round. Thus through the livelong day to the
going down of the sun they feasted, and every man had his full share
so that all were satisfied; but when the sun set and it came on
dark, they went to bed and enjoyed the boon of sleep.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the sons of
Autolycus went out with their hounds hunting, and Ulysses went too.
They climbed the wooded slopes of Parnassus and soon reached its
breezy upland valleys; but as the sun was beginning to beat upon the
fields, fresh-risen from the slow still currents of Oceanus, they came
to a mountain dell. The dogs were in front searching for the tracks of
the beast they were chasing, and after them came the sons of
Autolycus, among whom was Ulysses, close behind the dogs, and he had a
long spear in his hand. Here was the lair of a huge boar among some
thick brushwood, so dense that the wind and rain could not get through
it, nor could the sun's rays pierce it, and the ground underneath
lay thick with fallen leaves. The boar heard the noise of the men's
feet, and the hounds baying on every side as the huntsmen came up to
him, so rushed from his lair, raised the bristles on his neck, and
stood at bay with fire flashing from his eyes. Ulysses was the first
to raise his spear and try to drive it into the brute, but the boar
was too quick for him, and charged him sideways, ripping him above the
knee with a gash that tore deep though it did not reach the bone. As
for the boar, Ulysses hit him on the right shoulder, and the point
of the spear went right through him, so that he fell groaning in the
dust until the life went out of him. The sons of Autolycus busied
themselves with the carcass of the boar, and bound Ulysses' wound;
then, after saying a spell to stop the bleeding, they went home as
fast as they could. But when Autolycus and his sons had thoroughly
healed Ulysses, they made him some splendid presents, and sent him
back to Ithaca with much mutual good will. When he got back, his
father and mother were rejoiced to see him, and asked him all about
it, and how he had hurt himself to get the scar; so he told them how
the boar had ripped him when he was out hunting with Autolycus and his
sons on Mount Parnassus.
As soon as Euryclea had got the scarred limb in her hands and had
well hold of it, she recognized it and dropped the foot at once. The
leg fell into the bath, which rang out and was overturned, so that all
the water was spilt on the ground; Euryclea's eyes between her joy and
her grief filled with tears, and she could not speak, but she caught
Ulysses by the beard and said, "My dear child, I am sure you must be
Ulysses himself, only I did not know you till I had actually touched
and handled you."
As she spoke she looked towards Penelope, as though wanting to
tell her that her dear husband was in the house, but Penelope was
unable to look in that direction and observe what was going on, for
Minerva had diverted her attention; so Ulysses caught Euryclea by
the throat with his right hand and with his left drew her close to
him, and said, "Nurse, do you wish to be the ruin of me, you who
nursed me at your own breast, now that after twenty years of wandering
I am at last come to my own home again? Since it has been borne in
upon you by heaven to recognize me, hold your tongue, and do not say a
word about it any one else in the house, for if you do I tell you- and
it shall surely be- that if heaven grants me to take the lives of
these suitors, I will not spare you, though you are my own nurse, when
I am killing the other women."
"My child," answered Euryclea, "what are you talking about? You know
very well that nothing can either bend or break me. I will hold my
tongue like a stone or a piece of iron; furthermore let me say, and
lay my saying to your heart, when heaven has delivered the suitors
into your hand, I will give you a list of the women in the house who
have been ill-behaved, and of those who are guiltless."
And Ulysses answered, "Nurse, you ought not to speak in that way;
I am well able to form my own opinion about one and all of them;
hold your tongue and leave everything to heaven."
As he said this Euryclea left the cloister to fetch some more water,
for the first had been all spilt; and when she had washed him and
anointed him with oil, Ulysses drew his seat nearer to the fire to
warm himself, and hid the scar under his rags. Then Penelope began
talking to him and said:
"Stranger, I should like to speak with you briefly about another
matter. It is indeed nearly bed time- for those, at least, who can
sleep in spite of sorrow. As for myself, heaven has given me a life of
such unmeasurable woe, that even by day when I am attending to my
duties and looking after the servants, I am still weeping and
lamenting during the whole time; then, when night comes, and we all of
us go to bed, I lie awake thinking, and my heart comes a prey to the
most incessant and cruel tortures. As the dun nightingale, daughter of
Pandareus, sings in the early spring from her seat in shadiest
covert hid, and with many a plaintive trill pours out the tale how
by mishap she killed her own child Itylus, son of king Zethus, even so
does my mind toss and turn in its uncertainty whether I ought to
stay with my son here, and safeguard my substance, my bondsmen, and
the greatness of my house, out of regard to public opinion and the
memory of my late husband, or whether it is not now time for me to
go with the best of these suitors who are wooing me and making me such
magnificent presents. As long as my son was still young, and unable to
understand, he would not hear of my leaving my husband's house, but
now that he is full grown he begs and prays me to do so, being
incensed at the way in which the suitors are eating up his property.
Listen, then, to a dream that I have had and interpret it for me if
you can. I have twenty geese about the house that eat mash out of a
trough, and of which I am exceedingly fond. I dreamed that a great
eagle came swooping down from a mountain, and dug his curved beak into
the neck of each of them till he had killed them all. Presently he
soared off into the sky, and left them lying dead about the yard;
whereon I wept in my room till all my maids gathered round me, so
piteously was I grieving because the eagle had killed my geese. Then
he came back again, and perching on a projecting rafter spoke to me
with human voice, and told me to leave off crying. 'Be of good
courage,' he said, 'daughter of Icarius; this is no dream, but a
vision of good omen that shall surely come to pass. The geese are
the suitors, and I am no longer an eagle, but your own husband, who am
come back to you, and who will bring these suitors to a disgraceful
end.' On this I woke, and when I looked out I saw my geese at the
trough eating their mash as usual."
"This dream, Madam," replied Ulysses, "can admit but of one
interpretation, for had not Ulysses himself told you how it shall be
fulfilled? The death of the suitors is portended, and not one single
one of them will escape."
And Penelope answered, "Stranger, dreams are very curious and
unaccountable things, and they do not by any means invariably come
true. There are two gates through which these unsubstantial fancies
proceed; the
one is of horn, and the other ivory. Those that come
through the gate of ivory are fatuous, but those from the gate of horn
mean something to those that see them. I do not think, however, that
my own dream came through the gate of horn, though I and my son should
be most thankful if it proves to have done so. Furthermore I say-
and lay my saying to your heart- the coming dawn will usher in the
ill-omened day that is to sever me from the house of Ulysses, for I am
about to hold a tournament of axes. My husband used to set up twelve
axes in the court, one in front of the other, like the stays upon
which a ship is built; he would then go back from them and shoot an
arrow through the whole twelve. I shall make the suitors try to do the
same thing, and whichever of them can string the bow most easily,
and send his arrow through all the twelve axes, him will I follow, and
quit this house of my lawful husband, so goodly and so abounding in
wealth. But even so, I doubt not that I shall remember it in my
dreams."
Then Ulysses answered, "Madam wife of Ulysses, you need not defer
your tournament, for Ulysses will return ere ever they can string
the bow, handle it how they will, and send their arrows through the
iron."
To this Penelope said, "As long, sir, as you will sit here and
talk to me, I can have no desire to go to bed. Still, people cannot do
permanently without sleep, and heaven has appointed us dwellers on
earth a time for all things. I will therefore go upstairs and
recline upon that couch which I have never ceased to flood with my
tears from the day Ulysses set out for the city with a hateful name."
She then went upstairs to her own room, not alone, but attended by
her maidens, and when there, she lamented her dear husband till
Minerva shed sweet sleep over her eyelids.
BOOK XX

Ulysses slept in the cloister upon an undressed bullock's hide, on
the top of which he threw several skins of the sheep the suitors had
eaten, and Eurynome threw a cloak over him after he had laid himself
down. There, then, Ulysses lay wakefully brooding upon the way in
which he should kill the suitors; and by and by, the women who had
been in the habit of misconducting themselves with them, left the
house giggling and laughing with one another. This made Ulysses very
angry, and he doubted whether to get up and kill every single one of
them then and there, or to let them sleep one more and last time
with the suitors. His heart growled within him, and as a bitch with
puppies growls and shows her teeth when she sees a stranger, so did
his heart growl with anger at the evil deeds that were being done: but
he beat his breast and said, "Heart, be still, you had worse than this
to bear on the day when the terrible Cyclops ate your brave
companions; yet you bore it in silence till your cunning got you
safe out of the cave, though you made sure of being killed."
Thus he chided with his heart, and checked it into endurance, but he
tossed about as one who turns a paunch full of blood and fat in
front of a hot fire, doing it first on one side and then on the other,
that he may get it cooked as soon as possible, even so did he turn
himself about from side to side, thinking all the time how, single
handed as he was, he should contrive to kill so large a body of men as
the wicked suitors. But by and by Minerva came down from heaven in the
likeness of a woman, and hovered over his head saying, "My poor
unhappy man, why do you lie awake in this way? This is your house:
your wife is safe inside it, and so is your son who is just such a
young man as any father may be proud of."
"Goddess," answered Ulysses, "all that you have said is true, but
I am in some doubt as to how I shall be able to kill these wicked
suitors single handed, seeing what a number of them there always
are. And there is this further difficulty, which is still more
considerable. Supposing that with Jove's and your assistance I succeed
in killing them, I must ask you to consider where I am to escape to
from their avengers when it is all over."
"For shame," replied Minerva, "why, any one else would trust a worse
ally than myself, even though that ally were only a mortal and less
wise than I am. Am I not a goddess, and have I not protected you
throughout in all your troubles? I tell you plainly that even though
there were fifty bands of men surrounding us and eager to kill us, you
should take all their sheep and cattle, and drive them away with
you. But go to sleep; it is a very bad thing to lie awake all night,
and you shall be out of your troubles before long."
As she spoke she shed sleep over his eyes, and then went back to
Olympus.
While Ulysses was thus yielding himself to a very deep slumber
that eased the burden of his sorrows, his admirable wife awoke, and
sitting up in her bed began to cry. When she had relieved herself by
weeping she prayed to Diana saying, "Great Goddess Diana, daughter
of Jove, drive an arrow into my heart and slay me; or let some
whirlwind snatch me up and bear me through paths of darkness till it
drop me into the mouths of overflowing Oceanus, as it did the
daughters of Pandareus. The daughters of Pandareus lost their father
and mother, for the gods killed them, so they were left orphans. But
Venus took care of them, and fed them on cheese, honey, and sweet
wine. Juno taught them to excel all women in beauty of form and
understanding; Diana gave them an imposing presence, and Minerva
endowed them with every kind of accomplishment; but one day when Venus
had gone up to Olympus to see Jove about getting them married (for
well does he know both what shall happen and what not happen to
every one) the storm winds came and spirited them away to become
handmaids to the dread Erinyes. Even so I wish that the gods who
live in heaven would hide me from mortal sight, or that fair Diana
might strike me, for I would fain go even beneath the sad earth if I
might do so still looking towards Ulysses only, and without having
to yield myself to a worse man than he was. Besides, no matter how
much people may grieve by day, they can put up with it so long as they
can sleep at night, for when the eyes are closed in slumber people
forget good and ill alike; whereas my misery haunts me even in my
dreams. This very night methought there was one lying by my side who
was like Ulysses as he was when he went away with his host, and I
rejoiced, for I believed that it was no dream, but the very truth
itself."
On this the day broke, but Ulysses heard the sound of her weeping,
and it puzzled him, for it seemed as though she already knew him and
was by his side. Then he gathered up the cloak and the fleeces on
which he had lain, and set them on a seat in the cloister, but he took
the bullock's hide out into the open. He lifted up his hands to
heaven, and prayed, saying "Father Jove, since you have seen fit to
bring me over land and sea to my own home after all the afflictions
you have laid upon me, give me a sign out of the mouth of some one
or other of those who are now waking within the house, and let me have
another sign of some kind from outside."
Thus did he pray. Jove heard his prayer and forthwith thundered high
up among the from the splendour of Olympus, and Ulysses was glad
when he heard it. At the same time within the house, a miller-woman
from hard by in the mill room lifted up her voice and gave him another
sign. There were twelve miller-women whose business it was to grind
wheat and barley which are the staff of life. The others had ground
their task and had gone to take their rest, but this one had not yet
finished, for she was not so strong as they were, and when she heard
the thunder she stopped grinding and gave the sign to her master.
"Father Jove," said she, "you who rule over heaven and earth, you have
thundered from a clear sky without so much as a cloud in it, and
this means something for somebody; grant the prayer, then, of me
your poor servant who calls upon you, and let this be the very last
day that the suitors dine in the house of Ulysses. They have worn me
out with the labour of grinding meal for them, and I hope they may
never have another dinner anywhere at all."
Ulysses was glad when he heard the omens conveyed to him by the
woman's speech, and by the thunder, for he knew they meant that he
should avenge himself on the suitors.
Then the other maids in the house rose and lit the fire on the
hearth; Telemachus also rose and put on his clothes. He girded his
sword about his shoulder, bound his sandals on his comely feet, and
took a doughty spear with a point of sharpened bronze; then he went to
the threshold of the cloister and said to Euryclea, "Nurse, did you
make the stranger comfortable both as regards bed and board, or did
you let him shift for himself?- for my mother, good woman though she
is, has a way of paying great attention to second-rate people, and
of neglecting others who are in reality much better men."
"Do not find fault child," said Euryclea, "when there is no one to
find fault with. The stranger sat and drank his wine as long as he
liked: your mother did ask him if he would take any more bread and
he said he would not. When he wanted to go to bed she told the
servants to make one for him, but he said he was re such wretched
outcast that he would not sleep on a bed and under blankets; he
insisted on having an undressed bullock's hide and some sheepskins put
for him in the cloister and I threw a cloak over him myself."
Then Telemachus went out of the court to the place where the
Achaeans were meeting in assembly; he had his spear in his hand, and
he was not alone, for his two dogs went with him. But Euryclea
called the maids and said, "Come, wake up; set about sweeping the
cloisters and sprinkling them with water to lay the dust; put the
covers on the seats; wipe down the tables, some of you, with a wet
sponge; clean out the mixing-jugs and the cups, and for water from the
fountain at once; the suitors will be here directly; they will be here
early, for it is a feast day."
Thus did she speak, and they did even as she had said: twenty of
them went to the fountain for water, and the others set themselves
busily to work about the house. The men who were in attendance on
the suitors also came up and began chopping firewood. By and by the
women returned from the fountain, and the swineherd came after them
with the three best pigs he could pick out. These he let feed about
the premises, and then he said good-humouredly to Ulysses,
"Stranger, are the suitors treating you any better now, or are they as
insolent as ever?"
"May heaven," answered Ulysses, "requite to them the wickedness with
which they deal high-handedly in another man's house without any sense
of shame."
Thus did they converse; meanwhile Melanthius the goatherd came up,
for he too was bringing in his best goats for the suitors' dinner; and
he had two shepherds with him. They tied the goats up under the
gatehouse, and then Melanthius began gibing at Ulysses. "Are you still
here, stranger," said he, "to pester people by begging about the
house? Why can you not go elsewhere? You and I shall not come to an
understanding before we have given each other a taste of our fists.
You beg without any sense of decency: are there not feasts elsewhere
among the Achaeans, as well as here?"
Ulysses made no answer, but bowed his head and brooded. Then a third
man, Philoetius, joined them, who was bringing in a barren heifer
and some goats. These were brought over by the boatmen who are there
to take people over when any one comes to them. So Philoetius made his
heifer and his goats secure under the gatehouse, and then went up to
the swineherd. "Who, Swineherd," said he, "is this stranger that is
lately come here? Is he one of your men? What is his family? Where
does he come from? Poor fellow, he looks as if he had been some
great man, but the gods give sorrow to whom they will- even to kings
if it so pleases them
As he spoke he went up to Ulysses and saluted him with his right
hand; "Good day to you, father stranger," said he, "you seem to be
very poorly off now, but I hope you will have better times by and
by. Father Jove, of all gods you are the most malicious. We are your
own children, yet you show us no mercy in all our misery and
afflictions. A sweat came over me when I saw this man, and my eyes
filled with tears, for he reminds me of Ulysses, who I fear is going
about in just such rags as this man's are, if indeed he is still among
the living. If he is already dead and in the house of Hades, then,
alas! for my good master, who made me his stockman when I was quite
young among the Cephallenians, and now his cattle are countless; no
one could have done better with them than I have, for they have bred
like ears of corn; nevertheless I have to keep bringing them in for
others to eat, who take no heed of his son though he is in the
house, and fear not the wrath of heaven, but are already eager to
divide Ulysses' property among them because he has been away so
long. I have often thought- only it would not be right while his son
is living- of going off with the cattle to some foreign country; bad
as this would be, it is still harder to stay here and be ill-treated
about other people's herds. My position is intolerable, and I should
long since have run away and put myself under the protection of some
other chief, only that I believe my poor master will yet return, and
send all these suitors flying out of the house."
"Stockman," answered Ulysses, "you seem to be a very well-disposed
person, and I can see that you are a man of sense. Therefore I will
tell you, and will confirm my words with an oath: by Jove, the chief
of all gods, and by that hearth of Ulysses to which I am now come,
Ulysses shall return before you leave this place, and if you are so
minded you shall see him killing the suitors who are now masters
here."
"If Jove were to bring this to pass," replied the stockman, "you
should see how I would do my very utmost to help him."
And in like manner Eumaeus prayed that Ulysses might return home.
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile the suitors were hatching a plot
to murder Telemachus: but a bird flew near them on their left hand- an
eagle with a dove in its talons. On this Amphinomus said, "My friends,
this plot of ours to murder Telemachus will not succeed; let us go
to dinner instead."
The others assented, so they went inside and laid their cloaks on
the benches and seats. They sacrificed the sheep, goats, pigs, and the
heifer, and when the inward meats were cooked they served them
round. They mixed the wine in the mixing-bowls, and the swineherd gave
every man his cup, while Philoetius handed round the bread in the
breadbaskets, and Melanthius poured them out their wine. Then they
laid their hands upon the good things that were before them.
Telemachus purposely made Ulysses sit in the part of the cloister
that was paved with stone; he gave him a shabby-looking seat at a
little table to himself, and had his portion of the inward meats
brought to him, with his wine in a gold cup. "Sit there," said he,
"and drink your wine among the great people. I will put a stop to
the gibes and blows of the suitors, for this is no public house, but
belongs to Ulysses, and has passed from him to me. Therefore, suitors,
keep your hands and your tongues to yourselves, or there will be
mischief."
The suitors bit their lips, and marvelled at the boldness of his
speech; then Antinous said, "We do not like such language but we
will put up with it, for Telemachus is threatening us in good earnest.
If Jove had let us we should have put a stop to his brave talk ere
now."
Thus spoke Antinous, but Telemachus heeded him not. Meanwhile the
heralds were bringing the holy hecatomb through the city, and the
Achaeans gathered under the shady grove of Apollo.
Then they roasted the outer meat, drew it off the spits, gave
every man his portion, and feasted to their hearts' content; those who
waited at table gave Ulysses exactly the same portion as the others
had, for Telemachus had told them to do so.
But Minerva would not let the suitors for one moment drop their
insolence, for she wanted Ulysses to become still more bitter
against them. Now there happened to be among them a ribald fellow,
whose name was Ctesippus, and who came from Same. This man,
confident in his great wealth, was paying court to the wife of
Ulysses, and said to the suitors, "Hear what I have to say. The
stranger has already had as large a portion as any one else; this is
well, for it is not right nor reasonable to ill-treat any guest of
Telemachus who comes here. I will, however, make him a present on my
own account, that he may have something to give to the bath-woman,
or to some other of Ulysses' servants."
As he spoke he picked up a heifer's foot from the meat-basket in
which it lay, and threw it at Ulysses, but Ulysses turned his head a
little aside, and avoided it, smiling grimly Sardinian fashion as he
did so, and it hit the wall, not him. On this Telemachus spoke
fiercely to Ctesippus, "It is a good thing for you," said he, "that
the stranger turned his head so that you missed him. If you had hit
him I should have run you through with my spear, and your father would
have had to see about getting you buried rather than married in this
house. So let me have no more unseemly behaviour from any of you,
for I am grown up now to the knowledge of good and evil and understand
what is going on, instead of being the child that I have been
heretofore. I have long seen you killing my sheep and making free with
my corn and wine: I have put up with this, for one man is no match for
many, but do me no further violence. Still, if you wish to kill me,
kill me; I would far rather die than see such disgraceful scenes day
after day- guests insulted, and men dragging the women servants
about the house in an unseemly way."
They all held their peace till at last Agelaus son of Damastor said,
"No one should take offence at what has just been said, nor gainsay
it, for it is quite reasonable. Leave off, therefore, ill-treating the
stranger, or any one else of the servants who are about the house; I
would say, however, a friendly word to Telemachus and his mother,
which I trust may commend itself to both. 'As long,' I would say,
'as you had ground for hoping that Ulysses would one day come home, no
one could complain of your waiting and suffering the suitors to be
in your house. It would have been better that he should have returned,
but it is now sufficiently clear that he will never do so; therefore
talk all this quietly over with your mother, and tell her to marry the
best man, and the one who makes her the most advantageous offer.
Thus you will yourself be able to manage your own inheritance, and
to eat and drink in peace, while your mother will look after some
other man's house, not yours."'
To this Telemachus answered, "By Jove, Agelaus, and by the sorrows
of my unhappy father, who has either perished far from Ithaca, or is
wandering in some distant land, I throw no obstacles in the way of
my mother's marriage; on the contrary I urge her to choose
whomsoever she will, and I will give her numberless gifts into the
bargain, but I dare not insist point blank that she shall leave the
house against her own wishes. Heaven forbid that I should do this."
Minerva now made the suitors fall to laughing immoderately, and
set their wits wandering; but they were laughing with a forced
laughter. Their meat became smeared with blood; their eyes filled with
tears, and their hearts were heavy with forebodings. Theoclymenus
saw this and said, "Unhappy men, what is it that ails you? There is
a shroud of darkness drawn over you from head to foot, your cheeks are
wet with tears; the air is alive with wailing voices; the walls and
roof-beams drip blood; the gate of the cloisters and the court
beyond them are full of ghosts trooping down into the night of hell;
the sun is blotted out of heaven, and a blighting gloom is over all
the land."
Thus did he speak, and they all of them laughed heartily. Eurymachus
then said, "This stranger who has lately come here has lost his
senses. Servants, turn him out into the streets, since he finds it
so dark here."
But Theoclymenus said, "Eurymachus, you need not send any one with
me. I have eyes, ears, and a pair of feet of my own, to say nothing of
an understanding mind. I will take these out of the house with me, for
I see mischief overhanging you, from which not one of you men who
are insulting people and plotting ill deeds in the house of Ulysses
will be able to escape."
He left the house as he spoke, and went back to Piraeus who gave him
welcome, but the suitors kept looking at one another and provoking
Telemachus fly laughing at the strangers. One insolent fellow said
to him, "Telemachus, you are not happy in your guests; first you
have this importunate tramp, who comes begging bread and wine and
has no skill for work or for hard fighting, but is perfectly
useless, and now here is another fellow who is setting himself up as a
prophet. Let me persuade you, for it will be much better, to put
them on board ship and send them off to the Sicels to sell for what
they will bring."
Telemachus gave him no heed, but sat silently watching his father,
expecting every moment that he would begin his attack upon the
suitors.
Meanwhile the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, had had had a rich
seat placed for her facing the court and cloisters, so that she
could hear what every one was saying. The dinner indeed had been
prepared amid merriment; it had been both good and abundant, for
they had sacrificed many victims; but the supper was yet to come,
and nothing can be conceived more gruesome than the meal which a
goddess and a brave man were soon to lay before them- for they had
brought their doom upon themselves.
BOOK XXI

Minerva now put it in Penelope's mind to make the suitors try
their skill with the bow and with the iron axes, in contest among
themselves, as a means of bringing about their destruction. She went
upstairs and got the store room key, which was made of bronze and
had a handle of ivory; she then went with her maidens into the store
room at the end of the house, where her husband's treasures of gold,
bronze, and wrought iron were kept, and where was also his bow, and
the quiver full of deadly arrows that had been given him by a friend
whom he had met in Lacedaemon- Iphitus the son of Eurytus. The two
fell in with one another in Messene at the house of Ortilochus,
where Ulysses was staying in order to recover a debt that was owing
from the whole people; for the Messenians had carried off three
hundred sheep from Ithaca, and had sailed away with them and with
their shepherds. In quest of these Ulysses took a long journey while
still quite young, for his father and the other chieftains sent him on
a mission to recover them. Iphitus had gone there also to try and
get back twelve brood mares that he had lost, and the mule foals
that were running with them. These mares were the death of him in
the end, for when he went to the house of Jove's son, mighty Hercules,
who performed such prodigies of valour, Hercules to his shame killed
him, though he was his guest, for he feared not heaven's vengeance,
nor yet respected his own table which he had set before Iphitus, but
killed him in spite of everything, and kept the mares himself. It
was when claiming these that Iphitus met Ulysses, and gave him the bow
which mighty Eurytus had been used to carry, and which on his death
had been left by him to his son. Ulysses gave him in return a sword
and a spear, and this was the beginning of a fast friendship, although
they never visited at one another's houses, for Jove's son Hercules
killed Iphitus ere they could do so. This bow, then, given him by
Iphitus, had not been taken with him by Ulysses when he sailed for
Troy; he had used it so long as he had been at home, but had left it
behind as having been a keepsake from a valued friend.
Penelope presently reached the oak threshold of the store room;
the carpenter had planed this duly, and had drawn a line on it so as
to get it quite straight; he had then set the door posts into it and
hung the doors. She loosed the strap from the handle of the door,
put in the key, and drove it straight home to shoot back the bolts
that held the doors; these flew open with a noise like a bull
bellowing in a meadow, and Penelope stepped upon the raised
platform, where the chests stood in which the fair linen and clothes
were laid by along with fragrant herbs: reaching thence, she took down
the bow with its bow case from the peg on which it hung. She sat
down with it on her knees, weeping bitterly as she took the bow out of
its case, and when her tears had relieved her, she went to the
cloister where the suitors were, carrying the bow and the quiver, with
the many deadly arrows that were inside it. Along with her came her
maidens, bearing a chest that contained much iron and bronze which her
husband had won as prizes. When she reached the suitors, she stood
by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister,
holding a veil before her face, and with a maid on either side of her.
Then she said:
"Listen to me you suitors, who persist in abusing the hospitality of
this house because its owner has been long absent, and without other
pretext than that you want to marry me; this, then, being the prize
that you are contending for, I will bring out the mighty bow of
Ulysses, and whomsoever of you shall string it most easily and send
his arrow through each one of twelve axes, him will I follow and
quit this house of my lawful husband, so goodly, and so abounding in
wealth. But even so I doubt not that I shall remember it in my
dreams."
As she spoke, she told Eumaeus to set the bow and the pieces of iron
before the suitors, and Eumaeus wept as he took them to do as she
had bidden him. Hard by, the stockman wept also when he saw his
master's bow, but Antinous scolded them. "You country louts," said he,
"silly simpletons; why should you add to the sorrows of your
mistress by crying in this way? She has enough to grieve her in the
loss of her husband; sit still, therefore, and eat your dinners in
silence, or go outside if you want to cry, and leave the bow behind
you. We suitors shall have to contend for it with might and main,
for we shall find it no light matter to string such a bow as this
is. There is not a man of us all who is such another as Ulysses; for I
have seen him and remember him, though I was then only a child."
This was what he said, but all the time he was expecting to be
able to string the bow and shoot through the iron, whereas in fact
he was to be the first that should taste of the arrows from the
hands of Ulysses, whom he was dishonouring in his own house- egging
the others on to do so also.
Then Telemachus spoke. "Great heavens!" he exclaimed, "Jove must
have robbed me of my senses. Here is my dear and excellent mother
saying she will quit this house and marry again, yet I am laughing and
enjoying myself as though there were nothing happening. But,
suitors, as the contest has been agreed upon, let it go forward. It is
for a woman whose peer is not to be found in Pylos, Argos, or
Mycene, nor yet in Ithaca nor on the mainland. You know this as well
as I do; what need have I to speak in praise of my mother? Come on,
then, make no excuses for delay, but let us see whether you can string
the bow or no. I too will make trial of it, for if I can string it and
shoot through the iron, I shall not suffer my mother to quit this
house with a stranger, not if I can win the prizes which my father won
before me."
As he spoke he sprang from his seat, threw his crimson cloak from
him, and took his sword from his shoulder. First he set the axes in
a row, in a long groove which he had dug for them, and had Wade
straight by line. Then he stamped the earth tight round them, and
everyone was surprised when they saw him set up so orderly, though
he had never seen anything of the kind before. This done, he went on
to the pavement to make trial of the bow; thrice did he tug at it,
trying with all his might to draw the string, and thrice he had to
leave off, though he had hoped to string the bow and shoot through the
iron. He was trying for the fourth time, and would have strung it
had not Ulysses made a sign to check him in spite of all his
eagerness. So he said:
"Alas! I shall either be always feeble and of no prowess, or I am
too young, and have not yet reached my full strength so as to be
able to hold my own if any one attacks me. You others, therefore,
who are stronger than I, make trial of the bow and get this contest
settled."
On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door
[that led into the house] with the arrow standing against the top of
the bow. Then he sat down on the seat from which he had risen, and
Antinous said:
"Come on each of you in his turn, going towards the right from the
place at which the. cupbearer begins when he is handing round the
wine."
The rest agreed, and Leiodes son of OEnops was the first to rise. He
was sacrificial priest to the suitors, and sat in the corner near
the mixing-bowl. He was the only man who hated their evil deeds and
was indignant with the others. He was now the first to take the bow
and arrow, so he went on to the pavement to make his trial, but he
could not string the bow, for his hands were weak and unused to hard
work, they therefore soon grew tired, and he said to the suitors,
"My friends, I cannot string it; let another have it; this bow shall
take the life and soul out of many a chief among us, for it is
better to die than to live after having missed the prize that we
have so long striven for, and which has brought us so long together.
Some one of us is even now hoping and praying that he may marry
Penelope, but when he has seen this bow and tried it, let him woo
and make bridal offerings to some other woman, and let Penelope
marry whoever makes her the best offer and whose lot it is to win
her."
On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door,
with the arrow standing against the tip of the bow. Then he took his
seat again on the seat from which he had risen; and Antinous rebuked
him saying:
"Leiodes, what are you talking about? Your words are monstrous and
intolerable; it makes me angry to listen to you. Shall, then, this bow
take the life of many a chief among us, merely because you cannot bend
it yourself? True, you were not born to be an archer, but there are
others who will soon string it."
Then he said to Melanthius the goatherd, "Look sharp, light a fire
in the court, and set a seat hard by with a sheep skin on it; bring us
also a large ball of lard, from what they have in the house. Let us
warm the bow and grease it we will then make trial of it again, and
bring the contest to an end."
Melanthius lit the fire, and set a seat covered with sheep skins
beside it. He also brought a great ball of lard from what they had
in the house, and the suitors warmed the bow and again made trial of
it, but they were none of them nearly strong enough to string it.
Nevertheless there still remained Antinous and Eurymachus, who were
the ringleaders among the suitors and much the foremost among them
all.
Then the swineherd and the stockman left the cloisters together, and
Ulysses followed them. When they had got outside the gates and the
outer yard, Ulysses said to them quietly:
"Stockman, and you swineherd, I have something in my mind which I am
in doubt whether to say or no; but I think I will say it. What
manner of men would you be to stand by Ulysses, if some god should
bring him back here all of a sudden? Say which you are disposed to do-
to side with the suitors, or with Ulysses?"
"Father Jove," answered the stockman, "would indeed that you might
so ordain it. If some god were but to bring Ulysses back, you should
see with what might and main I would fight for him."
In like words Eumaeus prayed to all the gods that Ulysses might
return; when, therefore, he saw for certain what mind they were of,
Ulysses said, "It is I, Ulysses, who am here. I have suffered much,
but at last, in the twentieth year, I am come back to my own
country. I find that you two alone of all my servants are glad that
I should do so, for I have not heard any of the others praying for
my return. To you two, therefore, will I unfold the truth as it
shall be. If heaven shall deliver the suitors into my hands, I will
find wives for both of you, will give you house and holding close to
my own, and you shall be to me as though you were brothers and friends
of Telemachus. I will now give you convincing proofs that you may know
me and be assured. See, here is the scar from the boar's tooth that
ripped me when I was out hunting on Mount Parnassus with the sons of
Autolycus."
As he spoke he drew his rags aside from the great scar, and when
they had examined it thoroughly, they both of them wept about Ulysses,
threw their arms round him and kissed his head and shoulders, while
Ulysses kissed their hands and faces in return. The sun would have
gone down upon their mourning if Ulysses had not checked them and
said:
"Cease your weeping, lest some one should come outside and see us,
and tell those who a are within. When you go in, do so separately, not
both together; I will go first, and do you follow afterwards; Let this
moreover be the token between us; the suitors will all of them try
to prevent me from getting hold of the bow and quiver; do you,
therefore, Eumaeus, place it in my hands when you are carrying it
about, and tell the women to close the doors of their apartment. If
they hear any groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house,
they must not come out; they must keep quiet, and stay where they
are at their work. And I charge you, Philoetius, to make fast the
doors of the outer court, and to bind them securely at once."
When he had thus spoken, he went back to the house and took the seat
that he had left. Presently, his two servants followed him inside.
At this moment the bow was in the hands of Eurymachus, who was
warming it by the fire, but even so he could not string it, and he was
greatly grieved. He heaved a deep sigh and said, "I grieve for
myself and for us all; I grieve that I shall have to forgo the
marriage, but I do not care nearly so much about this, for there are
plenty of other women in Ithaca and elsewhere; what I feel most is the
fact of our being so inferior to Ulysses in strength that we cannot
string his bow. This will disgrace us in the eyes of those who are yet
unborn."
"It shall not be so, Eurymachus," said Antinous, "and you know it
yourself. To-day is the feast of Apollo throughout all the land; who
can string a bow on such a day as this? Put it on one side- as for the
axes they can stay where they are, for no one is likely to come to the
house and take them away: let the cupbearer go round with his cups,
that we may make our drink-offerings and drop this matter of the
bow; we will tell Melanthius to bring us in some goats to-morrow-
the best he has; we can then offer thigh bones to Apollo the mighty
archer, and again make trial of the bow, so as to bring the contest to
an end."
The rest approved his words, and thereon men servants poured water
over the hands of the guests, while pages filled the mixing-bowls with
wine and water and handed it round after giving every man his
drink-offering. Then, when they had made their offerings and had drunk
each as much as he desired, Ulysses craftily said:
"Suitors of the illustrious queen, listen that I may speak even as I
am minded. I appeal more especially to Eurymachus, and to Antinous who
has just spoken with so much reason. Cease shooting for the present
and leave the matter to the gods, but in the morning let heaven give
victory to whom it will. For the moment, however, give me the bow that
I may prove the power of my hands among you all, and see whether I
still have as much strength as I used to have, or whether travel and
neglect have made an end of it."
This made them all very angry, for they feared he might string the
bow; Antinous therefore rebuked him fiercely saying, "Wretched
creature, you have not so much as a grain of sense in your whole body;
you ought to think yourself lucky in being allowed to dine unharmed
among your betters, without having any smaller portion served you than
we others have had, and in being allowed to hear our conversation.
No other beggar or stranger has been allowed to hear what we say among
ourselves; the wine must have been doing you a mischief, as it does
with all those drink immoderately. It was wine that inflamed the
Centaur Eurytion when he was staying with Peirithous among the
Lapithae. When the wine had got into his head he went mad and did
ill deeds about the house of Peirithous; this angered the heroes who
were there assembled, so they rushed at him and cut off his ears and
nostrils; then they dragged him through the doorway out of the
house, so he went away crazed, and bore the burden of his crime,
bereft of understanding. Henceforth, therefore, there was war
between mankind and the centaurs, but he brought it upon himself
through his own drunkenness. In like manner I can tell you that it
will go hardly with you if you string the bow: you will find no
mercy from any one here, for we shall at once ship you off to king
Echetus, who kills every one that comes near him: you will never get
away alive, so drink and keep quiet without getting into a quarrel
with men younger than yourself."
Penelope then spoke to him. "Antinous," said she, "it is not right
that you should ill-treat any guest of Telemachus who comes to this
house. If the stranger should prove strong enough to string the mighty
bow of Ulysses, can you suppose that he would take me home with him
and make me his wife? Even the man himself can have no such idea in
his mind: none of you need let that disturb his feasting; it would
be out of all reason."
"Queen Penelope," answered Eurymachus, "we do not suppose that
this man will take you away with him; it is impossible; but we are
afraid lest some of the baser sort, men or women among the Achaeans,
should go gossiping about and say, 'These suitors are a feeble folk;
they are paying court to the wife of a brave man whose bow not one
of them was able to string, and yet a beggarly tramp who came to the
house strung it at once and sent an arrow through the iron.' This is
what will be said, and it will be a scandal against us."
"Eurymachus," Penelope answered, "people who persist in eating up
the estate of a great chieftain and dishonouring his house must not
expect others to think well of them. Why then should you mind if men
talk as you think they will? This stranger is strong and well-built,
he says moreover that he is of noble birth. Give him the bow, and
let us see whether he can string it or no. I say- and it shall
surely be- that if Apollo vouchsafes him the glory of stringing it,
I will give him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a javelin to keep
off dogs and robbers, and a sharp sword. I will also give him sandals,
and will see him sent safely whereever he wants to go."
Then Telemachus said, "Mother, I am the only man either in Ithaca or
in the islands that are over against Elis who has the right to let any
one have the bow or to refuse it. No one shall force me one way or the
other, not even though I choose to make the stranger a present of
the bow outright, and let him take it away with him. Go, then,
within the house and busy yourself with your daily duties, your
loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants. This bow is a
man's matter, and mine above all others, for it is I who am master
here."
She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son's saying in
her heart. Then going upstairs with her handmaids into her room, she
mourned her dear husband till Minerva sent sweet sleep over her
eyelids.
The swineherd now took up the bow and was for taking it to
Ulysses, but the suitors clamoured at him from all parts of the
cloisters, and one of them said, "You idiot, where are you taking
the bow to? Are you out of your wits? If Apollo and the other gods
will grant our prayer, your own boarhounds shall get you into some
quiet little place, and worry you to death."
Eumaeus was frightened at the outcry they all raised, so he put
the bow down then and there, but Telemachus shouted out at him from
the other side of the cloisters, and threatened him saying, "Father
Eumaeus, bring the bow on in spite of them, or young as I am I will
pelt you with stones back to the country, for I am the better man of
the two. I wish I was as much stronger than all the other suitors in
the house as I am than you, I would soon send some of them off sick
and sorry, for they mean mischief."
Thus did he speak, and they all of them laughed heartily, which
put them in a better humour with Telemachus; so Eumaeus brought the
bow on and placed it in the hands of Ulysses. When he had done this,
he called Euryclea apart and said to her, "Euryclea, Telemachus says
you are to close the doors of the women's apartments. If they hear any
groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house, they are not to
come out, but are to keep quiet and stay where they are at their
work."
Euryclea did as she was told and closed the doors of the women's
apartments.
Meanwhile Philoetius slipped quietly out and made fast the gates
of the outer court. There was a ship's cable of byblus fibre lying
in the gatehouse, so he made the gates fast with it and then came in
again, resuming the seat that he had left, and keeping an eye on
Ulysses, who had now got the bow in his hands, and was turning it
every way about, and proving it all over to see whether the worms
had been eating into its two horns during his absence. Then would
one turn towards his neighbour saying, "This is some tricky old
bow-fancier; either he has got one like it at home, or he wants to
make one, in such workmanlike style does the old vagabond handle it."
Another said, "I hope he may be no more successful in other things
than he is likely to be in stringing this bow."
But Ulysses, when he had taken it up and examined it all over,
strung it as easily as a skilled bard strings a new peg of his lyre
and makes the twisted gut fast at both ends. Then he took it in his
right hand to prove the string, and it sang sweetly under his touch
like the twittering of a swallow. The suitors were dismayed, and
turned colour as they heard it; at that moment, moreover, Jove
thundered loudly as a sign, and the heart of Ulysses rejoiced as he
heard the omen that the son of scheming Saturn had sent him.
He took an arrow that was lying upon the table- for those which
the Achaeans were so shortly about to taste were all inside the
quiver- he laid it on the centre-piece of the bow, and drew the
notch of the arrow and the string toward him, still seated on his
seat. When he had taken aim he let fly, and his arrow pierced every
one of the handle-holes of the axes from the first onwards till it had
gone right through them, and into the outer courtyard. Then he said to
Telemachus:
"Your guest has not disgraced you, Telemachus. I did not miss what I
aimed at, and I was not long in stringing my bow. I am still strong,
and not as the suitors twit me with being. Now, however, it is time
for the Achaeans to prepare supper while there is still daylight,
and then otherwise to disport themselves with song and dance which are
the crowning ornaments of a banquet."
As he spoke he made a sign with his eyebrows, and Telemachus
girded on his sword, grasped his spear, and stood armed beside his
father's seat.
BOOK XXII

Then Ulysses tore off his rags, and sprang on to the broad
pavement with his bow and his quiver full of arrows. He shed the
arrows on to the ground at his feet and said, "The mighty contest is
at an end. I will now see whether Apollo will vouchsafe it to me to
hit another mark which no man has yet hit."
On this he aimed a deadly arrow at Antinous, who was about to take
up a two-handled gold cup to drink his wine and already had it in
his hands. He had no thought of death- who amongst all the revellers
would think that one man, however brave, would stand alone among so
many and kill him? The arrow struck Antinous in the throat, and the
point went clean through his neck, so that he fell over and the cup
dropped from his hand, while a thick stream of blood gushed from his
nostrils. He kicked the table from him and upset the things on it,
so that the bread and roasted meats were all soiled as they fell
over on to the ground. The suitors were in an uproar when they saw
that a man had been hit; they sprang in dismay one and all of them
from their seats and looked everywhere towards the walls, but there
was neither shield nor spear, and they rebuked Ulysses very angrily.
"Stranger," said they, "you shall pay for shooting people in this way:
om yi you shall see no other contest; you are a doomed man; he whom
you have slain was the foremost youth in Ithaca, and the vultures
shall devour you for having killed him."
Thus they spoke, for they thought that he had killed Antinous by
mistake, and did not perceive that death was hanging over the head
of every one of them. But Ulysses glared at them and said:
"Dogs, did you think that I should not come back from Troy? You have
wasted my substance, have forced my women servants to lie with you,
and have wooed my wife while I was still living. You have feared
neither Cod nor man, and now you shall die."
They turned pale with fear as he spoke, and every man looked round
about to see whither he might fly for safety, but Eurymachus alone
spoke.
"If you are Ulysses," said he, "then what you have said is just.
We have done much wrong on your lands and in your house. But
Antinous who was the head and front of the offending lies low already.
It was all his doing. It was not that he wanted to marry Penelope;
he did not so much care about that; what he wanted was something quite
different, and Jove has not vouchsafed it to him; he wanted to kill
your son and to be chief man in Ithaca. Now, therefore, that he has
met the death which was his due, spare the lives of your people. We
will make everything good among ourselves, and pay you in full for all
that we have eaten and drunk. Each one of us shall pay you a fine
worth twenty oxen, and we will keep on giving you gold and bronze till
your heart is softened. Until we have done this no one can complain of
your being enraged against us."
Ulysses again glared at him and said, "Though you should give me all
that you have in the world both now and all that you ever shall
have, I will not stay my hand till I have paid all of you in full. You
must fight, or fly for your lives; and fly, not a man of you shall."
Their hearts sank as they heard him, but Eurymachus again spoke
saying:
"My friends, this man will give us no quarter. He will stand where
he is and shoot us down till he has killed every man among us. Let
us then show fight; draw your swords, and hold up the tables to shield
you from his arrows. Let us have at him with a rush, to drive him from
the pavement and doorway: we can then get through into the town, and
raise such an alarm as shall soon stay his shooting."
As he spoke he drew his keen blade of bronze, sharpened on both
sides, and with a loud cry sprang towards Ulysses, but Ulysses
instantly shot an arrow into his breast that caught him by the
nipple and fixed itself in his liver. He dropped his sword and fell
doubled up over his table. The cup and all the meats went over on to
the ground as he smote the earth with his forehead in the agonies of
death, and he kicked the stool with his feet until his eyes were
closed in darkness.
Then Amphinomus drew his sword and made straight at Ulysses to try
and get him away from the door; but Telemachus was too quick for
him, and struck him from behind; the spear caught him between the
shoulders and went right through his chest, so that he fell heavily to
the ground and struck the earth with his forehead. Then Telemachus
sprang away from him, leaving his spear still in the body, for he
feared that if he stayed to draw it out, some one of the Achaeans
might come up and hack at him with his sword, or knock him down, so he
set off at a run, and immediately was at his father's side. Then he
said:
"Father, let me bring you a shield, two spears, and a brass helmet
for your temples. I will arm myself as well, and will bring other
armour for the swineherd and the stockman, for we had better be
armed."
"Run and fetch them," answered Ulysses, "while my arrows hold out,
or when I am alone they may get me away from the door."
Telemachus did as his father said, and went off to the store room
where the armour was kept. He chose four shields, eight spears, and
four brass helmets with horse-hair plumes. He brought them with all
speed to his father, and armed himself first, while the stockman and
the swineherd also put on their armour, and took their places near
Ulysses. Meanwhile Ulysses, as long as his arrows lasted, had been
shooting the suitors one by one, and they fell thick on one another:
when his arrows gave out, he set the bow to stand against the end wall
of the house by the door post, and hung a shield four hides thick
about his shoulders; on his comely head he set his helmet, well
wrought with a crest of horse-hair that nodded menacingly above it,
and he grasped two redoubtable bronze-shod spears.
Now there was a trap door on the wall, while at one end of the
pavement there was an exit leading to a narrow passage, and this
exit was closed by a well-made door. Ulysses told Philoetius to
stand by this door and guard it, for only one person could attack it
at a time. But Agelaus shouted out, "Cannot some one go up to the trap
door and tell the people what is going on? Help would come at once,
and we should soon make an end of this man and his shooting."
"This may not be, Agelaus," answered Melanthius, "the mouth of the
narrow passage is dangerously near the entrance to the outer court.
One brave man could prevent any number from getting in. But I know
what I will do, I will bring you arms from the store room, for I am
sure it is there that Ulysses and his son have put them."
On this the goatherd Melanthius went by back passages to the store
room of Ulysses, house. There he chose twelve shields, with as many
helmets and spears, and brought them back as fast as he could to
give them to the suitors. Ulysses' heart began to fail him when he saw
the suitors putting on their armour and brandishing their spears. He
saw the greatness of the danger, and said to Telemachus, "Some one
of the women inside is helping the suitors against us, or it may be
Melanthius."
Telemachus answered, "The fault, father, is mine, and mine only; I
left the store room door open, and they have kept a sharper look out
than I have. Go, Eumaeus, put the door to, and see whether it is one
of the women who is doing this, or whether, as I suspect, it is
Melanthius the son of Dolius."
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Melanthius was again going to
the store room to fetch more armour, but the swineherd saw him and
said to Ulysses who was beside him, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it
is that scoundrel Melanthius, just as we suspected, who is going to
the store room. Say, shall I kill him, if I can get the better of him,
or shall I bring him here that you may take your own revenge for all
the many wrongs that he has done in your house?"
Ulysses answered, "Telemachus and I will hold these suitors in
check, no matter what they do; go back both of you and bind
Melanthius' hands and feet behind him. Throw him into the store room
and make the door fast behind you; then fasten a noose about his body,
and string him close up to the rafters from a high bearing-post,
that he may linger on in an agony."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said; they went to
the store room, which they entered before Melanthius saw them, for
he was busy searching for arms in the innermost part of the room, so
the two took their stand on either side of the door and waited. By and
by Melanthius came out with a helmet in one hand, and an old
dry-rotted shield in the other, which had been borne by Laertes when
he was young, but which had been long since thrown aside, and the
straps had become unsewn; on this the two seized him, dragged him back
by the hair, and threw him struggling to the ground. They bent his
hands and feet well behind his back, and bound them tight with a
painful bond as Ulysses had told them; then they fastened a noose
about his body and strung him up from a high pillar till he was
close up to the rafters, and over him did you then vaunt, O
swineherd Eumaeus, saying, "Melanthius, you will pass the night on a
soft bed as you deserve. You will know very well when morning comes
from the streams of Oceanus, and it is time for you to be driving in
your goats for the suitors to feast on."
There, then, they left him in very cruel bondage, and having put
on their armour they closed the door behind them and went back to take
their places by the side of Ulysses; whereon the four men stood in the
cloister, fierce and full of fury; nevertheless, those who were in the
body of the court were still both brave and many. Then Jove's daughter
Minerva came up to them, having assumed the voice and form of
Mentor. Ulysses was glad when he saw her and said, "Mentor, lend me
your help, and forget not your old comrade, nor the many good turns he
has done you. Besides, you are my age-mate."
But all the time he felt sure it was Minerva, and the suitors from
the other side raised an uproar when they saw her. Agelaus was the
first to reproach her. "Mentor," he cried, "do not let Ulysses beguile
you into siding with him and fighting the suitors. This is what we
will do: when we have killed these people, father and son, we will
kill you too. You shall pay for it with your head, and when we have
killed you, we will take all you have, in doors or out, and bring it
into hotch-pot with Ulysses' property; we will not let your sons
live in your house, nor your daughters, nor shall your widow
continue to live in the city of Ithaca."
This made Minerva still more furious, so she scolded Ulysses very
angrily. "Ulysses," said she, "your strength and prowess are no longer
what they were when you fought for nine long years among the Trojans
about the noble lady Helen. You killed many a man in those days, and
it was through your stratagem that Priam's city was taken. How comes
it that you are so lamentably less valiant now that you are on your
own ground, face to face with the suitors in your own house? Come
on, my good fellow, stand by my side and see how Mentor, son of
Alcinous shall fight your foes and requite your kindnesses conferred
upon him."
But she would not give him full victory as yet, for she wished still
further to prove his own prowess and that of his brave son, so she
flew up to one of the rafters in the roof of the cloister and sat upon
it in the form of a swallow.
Meanwhile Agelaus son of Damastor, Eurynomus, Amphimedon,
Demoptolemus, Pisander, and Polybus son of Polyctor bore the brunt
of the fight upon the suitors' side; of all those who were still
fighting for their lives they were by far the most valiant, for the
others had already fallen under the arrows of Ulysses. Agelaus shouted
to them and said, "My friends, he will soon have to leave off, for
Mentor has gone away after having done nothing for him but brag.
They are standing at the doors unsupported. Do not aim at him all at
once, but six of you throw your spears first, and see if you cannot
cover yourselves with glory by killing him. When he has fallen we need
not be uneasy about the others."
They threw their spears as he bade them, but Minerva made them all
of no effect. One hit the door post; another went against the door;
the pointed shaft of another struck the wall; and as soon as they
had avoided all the spears of the suitors Ulysses said to his own men,
"My friends, I should say we too had better let drive into the
middle of them, or they will crown all the harm they have done us by
us outright."
They therefore aimed straight in front of them and threw their
spears. Ulysses killed Demoptolemus, Telemachus Euryades, Eumaeus
Elatus, while the stockman killed Pisander. These all bit the dust,
and as the others drew back into a corner Ulysses and his men rushed
forward and regained their spears by drawing them from the bodies of
the dead.
The suitors now aimed a second time, but again Minerva made their
weapons for the most part without effect. One hit a bearing-post of
the cloister; another went against the door; while the pointed shaft
of another struck the wall. Still, Amphimedon just took a piece of the
top skin from off Telemachus's wrist, and Ctesippus managed to graze
Eumaeus's shoulder above his shield; but the spear went on and fell to
the ground. Then Ulysses and his men let drive into the crowd of
suitors. Ulysses hit Eurydamas, Telemachus Amphimedon, and Eumaeus
Polybus. After this the stockman hit Ctesippus in the breast, and
taunted him saying, "Foul-mouthed son of Polytherses, do not be so
foolish as to talk wickedly another time, but let heaven direct your
speech, for the gods are far stronger than men. I make you a present
of this advice to repay you for the foot which you gave Ulysses when
he was begging about in his own house."
Thus spoke the stockman, and Ulysses struck the son of Damastor with
a spear in close fight, while Telemachus hit Leocritus son of Evenor
in the belly, and the dart went clean through him, so that he fell
forward full on his face upon the ground. Then Minerva from her seat
on the rafter held up her deadly aegis, and the hearts of the
suitors quailed. They fled to the other end of the court like a herd
of cattle maddened by the gadfly in early summer when the days are
at their longest. As eagle-beaked, crook-taloned vultures from the
mountains swoop down on the smaller birds that cower in flocks upon
the ground, and kill them, for they cannot either fight or fly, and
lookers on enjoy the sport- even so did Ulysses and his men fall
upon the suitors and smite them on every side. They made a horrible
groaning as their brains were being battered in, and the ground
seethed with their blood.
Leiodes then caught the knees of Ulysses and said, "Ulysses I
beseech you have mercy upon me and spare me. I never wronged any of
the women in your house either in word or deed, and I tried to stop
the others. I saw them, but they would not listen, and now they are
paying for their folly. I was their sacrificing priest; if you kill
me, I shall die without having done anything to deserve it, and
shall have got no thanks for all the good that I did."
Ulysses looked sternly at him and answered, "If you were their
sacrificing priest, you must have prayed many a time that it might
be long before I got home again, and that you might marry my wife
and have children by her. Therefore you shall die."
With these words he picked up the sword that Agelaus had dropped
when he was being killed, and which was lying upon the ground. Then he
struck Leiodes on the back of his neck, so that his head fell
rolling in the dust while he was yet speaking.
The minstrel Phemius son of Terpes- he who had been forced by the
suitors to sing to them- now tried to save his life. He was standing
near towards the trap door, and held his lyre in his hand. He did
not know whether to fly out of the cloister and sit down by the
altar of Jove that was in the outer court, and on which both Laertes
and Ulysses had offered up the thigh bones of many an ox, or whether
to go straight up to Ulysses and embrace his knees, but in the end
he deemed it best to embrace Ulysses' knees. So he laid his lyre on
the ground the ground between the mixing-bowl and the silver-studded
seat; then going up to Ulysses he caught hold of his knees and said,
"Ulysses, I beseech you have mercy on me and spare me. You will be
sorry for it afterwards if you kill a bard who can sing both for
gods and men as I can. I make all my lays myself, and heaven visits me
with every kind of inspiration. I would sing to you as though you were
a god, do not therefore be in such a hurry to cut my head off. Your
own son Telemachus will tell you that I did not want to frequent
your house and sing to the suitors after their meals, but they were
too many and too strong for me, so they made me."
Telemachus heard him, and at once went up to his father. "Hold!"
he cried, "the man is guiltless, do him no hurt; and we will Medon
too, who was always good to me when I was a boy, unless Philoetius
or Eumaeus has already killed him, or he has fallen in your way when
you were raging about the court."
Medon caught these words of Telemachus, for he was crouching under a
seat beneath which he had hidden by covering himself up with a freshly
flayed heifer's hide, so he threw off the hide, went up to Telemachus,
and laid hold of his knees.
"Here I am, my dear sir," said he, "stay your hand therefore, and
tell your father, or he will kill me in his rage against the suitors
for having wasted his substance and been so foolishly disrespectful to
yourself."
Ulysses smiled at him and answered, "Fear not; Telemachus has
saved your life, that you may know in future, and tell other people,
how greatly better good deeds prosper than evil ones. Go, therefore,
outside the cloisters into the outer court, and be out of the way of
the slaughter- you and the bard- while I finish my work here inside."
The pair went into the outer court as fast as they could, and sat
down by Jove's great altar, looking fearfully round, and still
expecting that they would be killed. Then Ulysses searched the whole
court carefully over, to see if anyone had managed to hide himself and
was still living, but he found them all lying in the dust and
weltering in their blood. They were like fishes which fishermen have
netted out of the sea, and thrown upon the beach to lie gasping for
water till the heat of the sun makes an end of them. Even so were
the suitors lying all huddled up one against the other.
Then Ulysses said to Telemachus, "Call nurse Euryclea; I have
something to say to her."
Telemachus went and knocked at the door of the women's room. "Make
haste," said he, "you old woman who have been set over all the other
women in the house. Come outside; my father wishes to speak to you."
When Euryclea heard this she unfastened the door of the women's room
and came out, following Telemachus. She found Ulysses among the
corpses bespattered with blood and filth like a lion that has just
been devouring an ox, and his breast and both his cheeks are all
bloody, so that he is a fearful sight; even so was Ulysses
besmirched from head to foot with gore. When she saw all the corpses
and such a quantity of blood, she was beginning to cry out for joy,
for she saw that a great deed had been done; but Ulysses checked
her, "Old woman," said he, "rejoice in silence; restrain yourself, and
do not make any noise about it; it is an unholy thing to vaunt over
dead men. Heaven's doom and their own evil deeds have brought these
men to destruction, for they respected no man in the whole world,
neither rich nor poor, who came near them, and they have come to a bad
end as a punishment for their wickedness and folly. Now, however, tell
me which of the women in the house have misconducted themselves, and
who are innocent."
"I will tell you the truth, my son," answered Euryclea. "There are
fifty women in the house whom we teach to do things, such as carding
wool, and all kinds of household work. Of these, twelve in all have
misbehaved, and have been wanting in respect to me, and also to
Penelope. They showed no disrespect to Telemachus, for he has only
lately grown and his mother never permitted him to give orders to
the female servants; but let me go upstairs and tell your wife all
that has happened, for some god has been sending her to sleep."
"Do not wake her yet," answered Ulysses, "but tell the women who
have misconducted themselves to come to me."
Euryclea left the cloister to tell the women, and make them come
to Ulysses; in the meantime he called Telemachus, the stockman, and
the swineherd. "Begin," said he, "to remove the dead, and make the
women help you. Then, get sponges and clean water to swill down the
tables and seats. When you have thoroughly cleansed the whole
cloisters, take the women into the space between the domed room and
the wall of the outer court, and run them through with your swords
till they are quite dead, and have forgotten all about love and the
way in which they used to lie in secret with the suitors."
On this the women came down in a body, weeping and wailing bitterly.
First they carried the dead bodies out, and propped them up against
one another in the gatehouse. Ulysses ordered them about and made them
do their work quickly, so they had to carry the bodies out. When
they had done this, they cleaned all the tables and seats with sponges
and water, while Telemachus and the two others shovelled up the
blood and dirt from the ground, and the women carried it all away
and put it out of doors. Then when they had made the whole place quite
clean and orderly, they took the women out and hemmed them in the
narrow space between the wall of the domed room and that of the
yard, so that they could not get away: and Telemachus said to the
other two, "I shall not let these women die a clean death, for they
were insolent to me and my mother, and used to sleep with the
suitors."
So saying he made a ship's cable fast to one of the bearing-posts
that supported the roof of the domed room, and secured it all around
the building, at a good height, lest any of the women's feet should
touch the ground; and as thrushes or doves beat against a net that has
been set for them in a thicket just as they were getting to their
nest, and a terrible fate awaits them, even so did the women have to
put their heads in nooses one after the other and die most
miserably. Their feet moved convulsively for a while, but not for very
long.
As for Melanthius, they took him through the cloister into the inner
court. There they cut off his nose and his ears; they drew out his
vitals and gave them to the dogs raw, and then in their fury they
cut off his hands and his feet.
When they had done this they washed their hands and feet and went
back into the house, for all was now over; and Ulysses said to the
dear old nurse Euryclea, "Bring me sulphur, which cleanses all
pollution, and fetch fire also that I may burn it, and purify the
cloisters. Go, moreover, and tell Penelope to come here with her
attendants, and also all the maid servants that are in the house."
"All that you have said is true," answered Euryclea, "but let me
bring you some clean clothes- a shirt and cloak. Do not keep these
rags on your back any longer. It is not right."
"First light me a fire," replied Ulysses.
She brought the fire and sulphur, as he had bidden her, and
Ulysses thoroughly purified the cloisters and both the inner and outer
courts. Then she went inside to call the women and tell them what
had happened; whereon they came from their apartment with torches in
their hands, and pressed round Ulysses to embrace him, kissing his
head and shoulders and taking hold of his hands. It made him feel as
if he should like to weep, for he remembered every one of them.
BOOK XXIII

Euryclea now went upstairs laughing to tell her mistress that her
dear husband had come home. Her aged knees became young again and
her feet were nimble for joy as she went up to her mistress and bent
over her head to speak to her. "Wake up Penelope, my dear child,"
she exclaimed, "and see with your own eyes something that you have
been wanting this long time past. Ulysses has at last indeed come home
again, and has killed the suitors who were giving so much trouble in
his house, eating up his estate and ill-treating his son."
"My good nurse," answered Penelope, "you must be mad. The gods
sometimes send some very sensible people out of their minds, and
make foolish people become sensible. This is what they must have
been doing to you; for you always used to be a reasonable person.
Why should you thus mock me when I have trouble enough already-
talking such nonsense, and waking me up out of a sweet sleep that
had taken possession of my eyes and closed them? I have never slept so
soundly from the day my poor husband went to that city with the
ill-omened name. Go back again into the women's room; if it had been
any one else, who had woke me up to bring me such absurd news I should
have sent her away with a severe scolding. As it is, your age shall
protect you."
"My dear child," answered Euryclea, "I am not mocking you. It is
quite true as I tell you that Ulysses is come home again. He was the
stranger whom they all kept on treating so badly in the cloister.
Telemachus knew all the time that he was come back, but kept his
father's secret that he might have his revenge on all these wicked
people.
Then Penelope sprang up from her couch, threw her arms round
Euryclea, and wept for joy. "But my dear nurse," said she, "explain
this to me; if he has really come home as you say, how did he manage
to overcome the wicked suitors single handed, seeing what a number
of them there always were?"
"I was not there," answered Euryclea, "and do not know; I only heard
them groaning while they were being killed. We sat crouching and
huddled up in a corner of the women's room with the doors closed, till
your son came to fetch me because his father sent him. Then I found
Ulysses standing over the corpses that were lying on the ground all
round him, one on top of the other. You would have enjoyed it if you
could have seen him standing there all bespattered with blood and
filth, and looking just like a lion. But the corpses are now all piled
up in the gatehouse that is in the outer court, and Ulysses has lit
a great fire to purify the house with sulphur. He has sent me to
call you, so come with me that you may both be happy together after
all; for now at last the desire of your heart has been fulfilled; your
husband is come home to find both wife and son alive and well, and
to take his revenge in his own house on the suitors who behaved so
badly to him."
"'My dear nurse," said Penelope, "do not exult too confidently
over all this. You know how delighted every one would be to see
Ulysses come home- more particularly myself, and the son who has
been born to both of us; but what you tell me cannot be really true.
It is some god who is angry with the suitors for their great
wickedness, and has made an end of them; for they respected no man
in the whole world, neither rich nor poor, who came near them, who
came near them, and they have come to a bad end in consequence of
their iniquity. Ulysses is dead far away from the Achaean land; he
will never return home again."
Then nurse Euryclea said, "My child, what are you talking about? but
you were all hard of belief and have made up your mind that your
husband is never coming, although he is in the house and by his own
fire side at this very moment. Besides I can give you another proof;
when I was washing him I perceived the scar which the wild boar gave
him, and I wanted to tell you about it, but in his wisdom he would not
let me, and clapped his hands over my mouth; so come with me and I
will make this bargain with you- if I am deceiving you, you may have
me killed by the most cruel death you can think of."
"My dear nurse," said Penelope, "however wise you may be you can
hardly fathom the counsels of the gods. Nevertheless, we will go in
search of my son, that I may see the corpses of the suitors, and the
man who has killed them."
On this she came down from her upper room, and while doing so she
considered whether she should keep at a distance from her husband
and question him, or whether she should at once go up to him and
embrace him. When, however, she had crossed the stone floor of the
cloister, she sat down opposite Ulysses by the fire, against the
wall at right angles [to that by which she had entered], while Ulysses
sat near one of the bearing-posts, looking upon the ground, and
waiting to see what his wife would say to him when she saw him. For
a long time she sat silent and as one lost in amazement. At one moment
she looked him full in the face, but then again directly, she was
misled by his shabby clothes and failed to recognize him, till
Telemachus began to reproach her and said:
"Mother- but you are so hard that I cannot call you by such a
name- why do you keep away from my father in this way? Why do you
not sit by his side and begin talking to him and asking him questions?
No other woman could bear to keep away from her husband when he had
come back to her after twenty years of absence, and after having
gone through so much; but your heart always was as hard as a stone."
Penelope answered, "My son, I am so lost in astonishment that I
can find no words in which either to ask questions or to answer
them. I cannot even look him straight in the face. Still, if he really
is Ulysses come back to his own home again, we shall get to understand
one another better by and by, for there are tokens with which we two
are alone acquainted, and which are hidden from all others."
Ulysses smiled at this, and said to Telemachus, "Let your mother put
me to any proof she likes; she will make up her mind about it
presently. She rejects me for the moment and believes me to be
somebody else, because I am covered with dirt and have such bad
clothes on; let us, however, consider what we had better do next. When
one man has killed another, even though he was not one who would leave
many friends to take up his quarrel, the man who has killed him must
still say good bye to his friends and fly the country; whereas we have
been killing the stay of a whole town, and all the picked youth of
Ithaca. I would have you consider this matter."
"Look to it yourself, father," answered Telemachus, "for they say
you are the wisest counsellor in the world, and that there is no other
mortal man who can compare with you. We will follow you with right
good will, nor shall you find us fail you in so far as our strength
holds out."
"I will say what I think will be best," answered Ulysses. "First
wash and put your shirts on; tell the maids also to go to their own
room and dress; Phemius shall then strike up a dance tune on his lyre,
so that if people outside hear, or any of the neighbours, or some
one going along the street happens to notice it, they may think
there is a wedding in the house, and no rumours about the death of the
suitors will get about in the town, before we can escape to the
woods upon my own land. Once there, we will settle which of the
courses heaven vouchsafes us shall seem wisest."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. First they
washed and put their shirts on, while the women got ready. Then
Phemius took his lyre and set them all longing for sweet song and
stately dance. The house re-echoed with the sound of men and women
dancing, and the people outside said, "I suppose the queen has been
getting married at last. She ought to be ashamed of herself for not
continuing to protect her husband's property until he comes home."
This was what they said, but they did not know what it was that
had been happening. The upper servant Eurynome washed and anointed
Ulysses in his own house and gave him a shirt and cloak, while Minerva
made him look taller and stronger than before; she also made the
hair grow thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like
hyacinth blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders just
as a skilful workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan
or Minerva- and his work is full of beauty- enriches a piece of silver
plate by gilding it. He came from the bath looking like one of the
immortals, and sat down opposite his wife on the seat he had left. "My
dear," said he, "heaven has endowed you with a heart more unyielding
than woman ever yet had. No other woman could bear to keep away from
her husband when he had come back to her after twenty years of
absence, and after having gone through so much. But come, nurse, get a
bed ready for me; I will sleep alone, for this woman has a heart as
hard as iron."
"My dear," answered Penelope, "I have no wish to set myself up,
nor to depreciate you; but I am not struck by your appearance, for I
very well remember what kind of a man you were when you set sail
from Ithaca. Nevertheless, Euryclea, take his bed outside the bed
chamber that he himself built. Bring the bed outside this room, and
put bedding upon it with fleeces, good coverlets, and blankets."
She said this to try him, but Ulysses was very angry and said,
"Wife, I am much displeased at what you have just been saying. Who has
been taking my bed from the place in which I left it? He must have
found it a hard task, no matter how skilled a workman he was, unless
some god came and helped him to shift it. There is no man living,
however strong and in his prime, who could move it from its place, for
it is a marvellous curiosity which I made with my very own hands.
There was a young olive growing within the precincts of the house,
in full vigour, and about as thick as a bearing-post. I built my
room round this with strong walls of stone and a roof to cover them,
and I made the doors strong and well-fitting. Then I cut off the top
boughs of the olive tree and left the stump standing. This I dressed
roughly from the root upwards and then worked with carpenter's tools
well and skilfully, straightening my work by drawing a line on the
wood, and making it into a bed-prop. I then bored a hole down the
middle, and made it the centre-post of my bed, at which I worked
till I had finished it, inlaying it with gold and silver; after this I
stretched a hide of crimson leather from one side of it to the
other. So you see I know all about it, and I desire to learn whether
it is still there, or whether any one has been removing it by
cutting down the olive tree at its roots."
When she heard the sure proofs Ulysses now gave her, she fairly
broke down. She flew weeping to his side, flung her arms about his
neck, and kissed him. "Do not be angry with me Ulysses," she cried,
"you, who are the wisest of mankind. We have suffered, both of us.
Heaven has denied us the happiness of spending our youth, and of
growing old, together; do not then be aggrieved or take it amiss
that I did not embrace you thus as soon as I saw you. I have been
shuddering all the time through fear that someone might come here
and deceive me with a lying story; for there are many very wicked
people going about. Jove's daughter Helen would never have yielded
herself to a man from a foreign country, if she had known that the
sons of Achaeans would come after her and bring her back. Heaven put
it in her heart to do wrong, and she gave no thought to that sin,
which has been the source of all our sorrows. Now, however, that you
have convinced me by showing that you know all about our bed (which no
human being has ever seen but you and I and a single maid servant, the
daughter of Actor, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and
who keeps the doors of our room) hard of belief though I have been I
can mistrust no longer."
Then Ulysses in his turn melted, and wept as he clasped his dear and
faithful wife to his bosom. As the sight of land is welcome to men who
are swimming towards the shore, when Neptune has wrecked their ship
with the fury of his winds and waves- a few alone reach the land,
and these, covered with brine, are thankful when they find
themselves on firm ground and out of danger- even so was her husband
welcome to her as she looked upon him, and she could not tear her
two fair arms from about his neck. Indeed they would have gone on
indulging their sorrow till rosy-fingered morn appeared, had not
Minerva determined otherwise, and held night back in the far west,
while she would not suffer Dawn to leave Oceanus, nor to yoke the
two steeds Lampus and Phaethon that bear her onward to break the day
upon mankind.
At last, however, Ulysses said, "Wife, we have not yet reached the
end of our troubles. I have an unknown amount of toil still to
undergo. It is long and difficult, but I must go through with it,
for thus the shade of Teiresias prophesied concerning me, on the day
when I went down into Hades to ask about my return and that of my
companions. But now let us go to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy
the blessed boon of sleep."
"You shall go to bed as soon as you please," replied Penelope,
"now that the gods have sent you home to your own good house and to
your country. But as heaven has put it in your mind to speak of it,
tell me about the task that lies before you. I shall have to hear
about it later, so it is better that I should be told at once."
"My dear," answered Ulysses, "why should you press me to tell you?
Still, I will not conceal it from you, though you will not like
it. I do not like it myself, for Teiresias bade me travel far and
wide, carrying an oar, till I came to a country where the people
have never heard of the sea, and do not even mix salt with their food.
They know nothing about ships, nor oars that are as the wings of a
ship. He gave me this certain token which I will not hide from you. He
said that a wayfarer should meet me and ask me whether it was a
winnowing shovel that I had on my shoulder. On this, I was to fix my
oar in the ground and sacrifice a ram, a bull, and a boar to
Neptune; after which I was to go home and offer hecatombs to all the
gods in heaven, one after the other. As for myself, he said that death
should come to me from the sea, and that my life should ebb away
very gently when I was full of years and peace of mind, and my
people should bless me. All this, he said, should surely come to
pass."
And Penelope said, "If the gods are going to vouchsafe you a happier
time in your old age, you may hope then to have some respite from
misfortune."
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Eurynome and the nurse took
torches and made the bed ready with soft coverlets; as soon as they
had laid them, the nurse went back into the house to go to her rest,
leaving the bed chamber woman Eurynome to show Ulysses and Penelope to
bed by torch light. When she had conducted them to their room she went
back, and they then came joyfully to the rites of their own old bed.
Telemachus, Philoetius, and the swineherd now left off dancing, and
made the women leave off also. They then laid themselves down to sleep
in the cloisters.
When Ulysses and Penelope had had their fill of love they fell
talking with one another. She told him how much she had had to bear in
seeing the house filled with a crowd of wicked suitors who had
killed so many sheep and oxen on her account, and had drunk so many
casks of wine. Ulysses in his turn told her what he had suffered,
and how much trouble he had himself given to other people. He told her
everything, and she was so delighted to listen that she never went
to sleep till he had ended his whole story.
He began with his victory over the Cicons, and how he thence reached
the fertile land of the Lotus-eaters. He told her all about the
Cyclops and how he had punished him for having so ruthlessly eaten his
brave comrades; how he then went on to Aeolus, who received him
hospitably and furthered him on his way, but even so he was not to
reach home, for to his great grief a hurricane carried him out to
sea again; how he went on to the Laestrygonian city Telepylos, where
the people destroyed all his ships with their crews, save himself
and his own ship only. Then he told of cunning Circe and her craft,
and how he sailed to the chill house of Hades, to consult the ghost of
the Theban prophet Teiresias, and how he saw his old comrades in arms,
and his mother who bore him and brought him up when he was a child;
how he then heard the wondrous singing of the Sirens, and went on to
the wandering rocks and terrible Charybdis and to Scylla, whom no
man had ever yet passed in safety; how his men then ate the cattle
of the sun-god, and how Jove therefore struck the ship with his
thunderbolts, so that all his men perished together, himself alone
being left alive; how at last he reached the Ogygian island and the
nymph Calypso, who kept him there in a cave, and fed him, and wanted
him to marry her, in which case she intended making him immortal so
that he should never grow old, but she could not persuade him to let
her do so; and how after much suffering he had found his way to the
Phaeacians, who had treated him as though he had been a god, and
sent him back in a ship to his own country after having given him
gold, bronze, and raiment in great abundance. This was the last
thing about which he told her, for here a deep sleep took hold upon
him and eased the burden of his sorrows.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. When she deemed that
Ulysses had had both of his wife and of repose, she bade
gold-enthroned Dawn rise out of Oceanus that she might shed light upon
mankind. On this, Ulysses rose from his comfortable bed and said to
Penelope, "Wife, we have both of us had our full share of troubles,
you, here, in lamenting my absence, and I in being prevented from
getting home though I was longing all the time to do so. Now, however,
that we have at last come together, take care of the property that
is in the house. As for the sheep and goats which the wicked suitors
have eaten, I will take many myself by force from other people, and
will compel the Achaeans to make good the rest till they shall have
filled all my yards. I am now going to the wooded lands out in the
country to see my father who has so long been grieved on my account,
and to yourself I will give these instructions, though you have little
need of them. At sunrise it will at once get abroad that I have been
killing the suitors; go upstairs, therefore, and stay there with
your women. See nobody and ask no questions."
As he spoke he girded on his armour. Then he roused Telemachus,
Philoetius, and Eumaeus, and told them all to put on their armour
also. This they did, and armed themselves. When they had done so, they
opened the gates and sallied forth, Ulysses leading the way. It was
now daylight, but Minerva nevertheless concealed them in darkness
and led them quickly out of the town.
BOOK XXIV

Then Mercury of Cyllene summoned the ghosts of the suitors, and in
his hand he held the fair golden wand with which he seals men's eyes
in sleep or wakes them just as he pleases; with this he roused the
ghosts and led them, while they followed whining and gibbering
behind him. As bats fly squealing in the hollow of some great cave,
when one of them has fallen out of the cluster in which they hang,
even so did the ghosts whine and squeal as Mercury the healer of
sorrow led them down into the dark abode of death. When they had
passed the waters of Oceanus and the rock Leucas, they came to the
gates of the sun and the land of dreams, whereon they reached the
meadow of asphodel where dwell the souls and shadows of them that
can labour no more.
Here they found the ghost of Achilles son of Peleus, with those of
Patroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax, who was the finest and handsomest man
of all the Danaans after the son of Peleus himself.
They gathered round the ghost of the son of Peleus, and the ghost of
Agamemnon joined them, sorrowing bitterly. Round him were gathered
also the ghosts of those who had perished with him in the house of
Aeisthus; and the ghost of Achilles spoke first.
"Son of Atreus," it said, "we used to say that Jove had loved you
better from first to last than any other hero, for you were captain
over many and brave men, when we were all fighting together before
Troy; yet the hand of death, which no mortal can escape, was laid upon
you all too early. Better for you had you fallen at Troy in the
hey-day of your renown, for the Achaeans would have built a mound over
your ashes, and your son would have been heir to your good name,
whereas it has now been your lot to come to a most miserable end."
"Happy son of Peleus," answered the ghost of Agamemnon, "for
having died at Troy far from Argos, while the bravest of the Trojans
and the Achaeans fell round you fighting for your body. There you
lay in the whirling clouds of dust, all huge and hugely, heedless
now of your chivalry. We fought the whole of the livelong day, nor
should we ever have left off if Jove had not sent a hurricane to
stay us. Then, when we had borne you to the ships out of the fray,
we laid you on your bed and cleansed your fair skin with warm water
and with ointments. The Danaans tore their hair and wept bitterly
round about you. Your mother, when she heard, came with her immortal
nymphs from out of the sea, and the sound of a great wailing went
forth over the waters so that the Achaeans quaked for fear. They would
have fled panic-stricken to their ships had not wise old Nestor
whose counsel was ever truest checked them saying, 'Hold, Argives, fly
not sons of the Achaeans, this is his mother coming from the sea
with her immortal nymphs to view the body of her son.'
"Thus he spoke, and the Achaeans feared no more. The daughters of
the old man of the sea stood round you weeping bitterly, and clothed
you in immortal raiment. The nine muses also came and lifted up
their sweet voices in lament- calling and answering one another; there
was not an Argive but wept for pity of the dirge they chaunted. Days
and nights seven and ten we mourned you, mortals and immortals, but on
the eighteenth day we gave you to the flames, and many a fat sheep
with many an ox did we slay in sacrifice around you. You were burnt in
raiment of the gods, with rich resins and with honey, while heroes,
horse and foot, clashed their armour round the pile as you were
burning, with the tramp as of a great multitude. But when the flames
of heaven had done their work, we gathered your white bones at
daybreak and laid them in ointments and in pure wine. Your mother
brought us a golden vase to hold them- gift of Bacchus, and work of
Vulcan himself; in this we mingled your bleached bones with those of
Patroclus who had gone before you, and separate we enclosed also those
of Antilochus, who had been closer to you than any other of your
comrades now that Patroclus was no more.
"Over these the host of the Argives built a noble tomb, on a point
jutting out over the open Hellespont, that it might be seen from far
out upon the sea by those now living and by them that shall be born
hereafter. Your mother begged prizes from the gods, and offered them
to be contended for by the noblest of the Achaeans. You must have been
present at the funeral of many a hero, when the young men gird
themselves and make ready to contend for prizes on the death of some
great chieftain, but you never saw such prizes as silver-footed Thetis
offered in your honour; for the gods loved you well. Thus even in
death your fame, Achilles, has not been lost, and your name lives
evermore among all mankind. But as for me, what solace had I when
the days of my fighting were done? For Jove willed my destruction on
my return, by the hands of Aegisthus and those of my wicked wife."
Thus did they converse, and presently Mercury came up to them with
the ghosts of the suitors who had been killed by Ulysses. The ghosts
of Agamemnon and Achilles were astonished at seeing them, and went
up to them at once. The ghost of Agamemnon recognized Amphimedon son
of Melaneus, who lived in Ithaca and had been his host, so it began to
talk to him.
"Amphimedon," it said, "what has happened to all you fine young men-
all of an age too- that you are come down here under the ground? One
could pick no finer body of men from any city. Did Neptune raise his
winds and waves against you when you were at sea, or did your
enemies make an end of you on the mainland when you were
cattle-lifting or sheep-stealing, or while fighting in defence of
their wives and city? Answer my question, for I have been your
guest. Do you not remember how I came to your house with Menelaus,
to persuade Ulysses to join us with his ships against Troy? It was a
whole month ere we could resume our voyage, for we had hard work to
persuade Ulysses to come with us."
And the ghost of Amphimedon answered, "Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
king of men, I remember everything that you have said, and will tell
you fully and accurately about the way in which our end was brought
about. Ulysses had been long gone, and we were courting his wife,
who did not say point blank that she would not marry, nor yet bring
matters to an end, for she meant to compass our destruction: this,
then, was the trick she played us. She set up a great tambour frame in
her room and began to work on an enormous piece of fine needlework.
'Sweethearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed dead, still, do not
press me to marry again immediately; wait- for I would not have my
skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have completed a pall
for the hero Laertes, against the time when death shall take him. He
is very rich, and the women of the place will talk if he is laid out
without a pall.' This is what she said, and we assented; whereupon
we could see her working upon her great web all day long, but at night
she would unpick the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in
this way for three years without our finding it out, but as time
wore on and she was now in her fourth year, in the waning of moons and
many days had been accomplished, one of her maids who knew what she
was doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work,
so she had to finish it whether she would or no; and when she showed
us the robe she had made, after she had had it washed, its splendour
was as that of the sun or moon.
"Then some malicious god conveyed Ulysses to the upland farm where
his swineherd lives. Thither presently came also his son, returning
from a voyage to Pylos, and the two came to the town when they had
hatched their plot for our destruction. Telemachus came first, and
then after him, accompanied by the swineherd, came Ulysses, clad in
rags and leaning on a staff as though he were some miserable old
beggar. He came so unexpectedly that none of us knew him, not even the
older ones among us, and we reviled him and threw things at him. He
endured both being struck and insulted without a word, though he was
in his own house; but when the will of Aegis-bearing Jove inspired
him, he and Telemachus took the armour and hid it in an inner chamber,
bolting the doors behind them. Then he cunningly made his wife offer
his bow and a quantity of iron to be contended for by us ill-fated
suitors; and this was the beginning of our end, for not one of us
could string the bow- nor nearly do so. When it was about to reach the
hands of Ulysses, we all of us shouted out that it should not be given
him, no matter what he might say, but Telemachus insisted on his
having it. When he had got it in his hands he strung it with ease
and sent his arrow through the iron. Then he stood on the floor of the
cloister and poured his arrows on the ground, glaring fiercely about
him. First he killed Antinous, and then, aiming straight before him,
he let fly his deadly darts and they fell thick on one another. It was
plain that some one of the gods was helping them, for they fell upon
us with might and main throughout the cloisters, and there was a
hideous sound of groaning as our brains were being battered in, and
the ground seethed with our blood. This, Agamemnon, is how we came
by our end, and our bodies are lying still un-cared for in the house
of Ulysses, for our friends at home do not yet know what has happened,
so that they cannot lay us out and wash the black blood from our
wounds, making moan over us according to the offices due to the
departed."
"Happy Ulysses, son of Laertes," replied the ghost of Agamemnon,
"you are indeed blessed in the possession of a wife endowed with
such rare excellence of understanding, and so faithful to her wedded
lord as Penelope the daughter of Icarius. The fame, therefore, of
her virtue shall never die, and the immortals shall compose a song
that shall be welcome to all mankind in honour of the constancy of
Penelope. How far otherwise was the wickedness of the daughter of
Tyndareus who killed her lawful husband; her song shall be hateful
among men, for she has brought disgrace on all womankind even on the
good ones."
Thus did they converse in the house of Hades deep down within the
bowels of the earth. Meanwhile Ulysses and the others passed out of
the town and soon reached the fair and well-tilled farm of Laertes,
which he had reclaimed with infinite labour. Here was his house,
with a lean-to running all round it, where the slaves who worked for
him slept and sat and ate, while inside the house there was an old
Sicel woman, who looked after him in this his country-farm. When
Ulysses got there, he said to his son and to the other two:
"Go to the house, and kill the best pig that you can find for
dinner. Meanwhile I want to see whether my father will know me, or
fail to recognize me after so long an absence."
He then took off his armour and gave it to Eumaeus and Philoetius,
who went straight on to the house, while he turned off into the
vineyard to make trial of his father. As he went down into the great
orchard, he did not see Dolius, nor any of his sons nor of the other
bondsmen, for they were all gathering thorns to make a fence for the
vineyard, at the place where the old man had told them; he therefore
found his father alone, hoeing a vine. He had on a dirty old shirt,
patched and very shabby; his legs were bound round with thongs of
oxhide to save him from the brambles, and he also wore sleeves of
leather; he had a goat skin cap on his head, and was looking very
woe-begone. When Ulysses saw him so worn, so old and full of sorrow,
he stood still under a tall pear tree and began to weep. He doubted
whether to embrace him, kiss him, and tell him all about his having
come home, or whether he should first question him and see what he
would say. In the end he deemed it best to be crafty with him, so in
this mind he went up to his father, who was bending down and digging
about a plant.
"I see, sir," said Ulysses, "that you are an excellent gardener-
what pains you take with it, to be sure. There is not a single
plant, not a fig tree, vine, olive, pear, nor flower bed, but bears
the trace of your attention. I trust, however, that you will not be
offended if I say that you take better care of your garden than of
yourself. You are old, unsavoury, and very meanly clad. It cannot be
because you are idle that your master takes such poor care of you,
indeed your face and figure have nothing of the slave about them,
and proclaim you of noble birth. I should have said that you were
one of those who should wash well, eat well, and lie soft at night
as old men have a right to do; but tell me, and tell me true, whose
bondman are you, and in whose garden are you working? Tell me also
about another matter. Is this place that I have come to really Ithaca?
I met a man just now who said so, but he was a dull fellow, and had
not the patience to hear my story out when I was asking him about an
old friend of mine, whether he was still living, or was already dead
and in the house of Hades. Believe me when I tell you that this man
came to my house once when I was in my own country and never yet did
any stranger come to me whom I liked better. He said that his family
came from Ithaca and that his father was Laertes, son of Arceisius.
I received him hospitably, making him welcome to all the abundance
of my house, and when he went away I gave him all customary
presents. I gave him seven talents of fine gold, and a cup of solid
silver with flowers chased upon it. I gave him twelve light cloaks,
and as many pieces of tapestry; I also gave him twelve cloaks of
single fold, twelve rugs, twelve fair mantles, and an equal number
of shirts. To all this I added four good looking women skilled in
all useful arts, and I let him take his choice."
His father shed tears and answered, "Sir, you have indeed come to
the country that you have named, but it is fallen into the hands of
wicked people. All this wealth of presents has been given to no
purpose. If you could have found your friend here alive in Ithaca,
he would have entertained you hospitably and would have required
your presents amply when you left him- as would have been only right
considering what you have already given him. But tell me, and tell
me true, how many years is it since you entertained this guest- my
unhappy son, as ever was? Alas! He has perished far from his own
country; the fishes of the sea have eaten him, or he has fallen a prey
to the birds and wild beasts of some continent. Neither his mother,
nor I his father, who were his parents, could throw our arms about him
and wrap him in his shroud, nor could his excellent and richly dowered
wife Penelope bewail her husband as was natural upon his death bed,
and close his eyes according to the offices due to the departed. But
now, tell me truly for I want to know. Who and whence are you- tell me
of your town and parents? Where is the ship lying that has brought you
and your men to Ithaca? Or were you a passenger on some other man's
ship, and those who brought you here have gone on their way and left
you?"
"I will tell you everything," answered Ulysses, "quite truly. I come
from Alybas, where I have a fine house. I am son of king Apheidas, who
is the son of Polypemon. My own name is Eperitus; heaven drove me
off my course as I was leaving Sicania, and I have been carried here
against my will. As for my ship it is lying over yonder, off the
open country outside the town, and this is the fifth year since
Ulysses left my country. Poor fellow, yet the omens were good for
him when he left me. The birds all flew on our right hands, and both
he and I rejoiced to see them as we parted, for we had every hope that
we should have another friendly meeting and exchange presents."
A dark cloud of sorrow fell upon Laertes as he listened. He filled
both hands with the dust from off the ground and poured it over his
grey head, groaning heavily as he did so. The heart of Ulysses was
touched, and his nostrils quivered as he looked upon his father;
then he sprang towards him, flung his arms about him and kissed him,
saying, "I am he, father, about whom you are asking- I have returned
after having been away for twenty years. But cease your sighing and
lamentation- we have no time to lose, for I should tell you that I
have been killing the suitors in my house, to punish them for their
insolence and crimes."
"If you really are my son Ulysses," replied Laertes, "and have
come back again, you must give me such manifest proof of your identity
as shall convince me."
"First observe this scar," answered Ulysses, "which I got from a
boar's tusk when I was hunting on Mount Parnassus. You and my mother
had sent me to Autolycus, my mother's father, to receive the
presents which when he was over here he had promised to give me.
Furthermore I will point out to you the trees in the vineyard which
you gave me, and I asked you all about them as I followed you round
the garden. We went over them all, and you told me their names and
what they all were. You gave me thirteen pear trees, ten apple
trees, and forty fig trees; you also said you would give me fifty rows
of vines; there was corn planted between each row, and they yield
grapes of every kind when the heat of heaven has been laid heavy
upon them."
Laertes' strength failed him when he heard the convincing proofs
which his son had given him. He threw his arms about him, and
Ulysses had to support him, or he would have gone off into a swoon;
but as soon as he came to, and was beginning to recover his senses, he
said, "O father Jove, then you gods are still in Olympus after all, if
the suitors have really been punished for their insolence and folly.
Nevertheless, I am much afraid that I shall have all the townspeople
of Ithaca up here directly, and they will be sending messengers
everywhere throughout the cities of the Cephallenians."
Ulysses answered, "Take heart and do not trouble yourself about
that, but let us go into the house hard by your garden. I have already
told Telemachus, Philoetius, and Eumaeus to go on there and get dinner
ready as soon as possible."
Thus conversing the two made their way towards the house. When
they got there they found Telemachus with the stockman and the
swineherd cutting up meat and mixing wine with water. Then the old
Sicel woman took Laertes inside and washed him and anointed him with
oil. She put him on a good cloak, and Minerva came up to him and
gave him a more imposing presence, making him taller and stouter
than before. When he came back his son was surprised to see him
looking so like an immortal, and said to him, "My dear father, some
one of the gods has been making you much taller and better-looking."
Laertes answered, "Would, by Father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo,
that I were the man I was when I ruled among the Cephallenians, and
took Nericum, that strong fortress on the foreland. If I were still
what I then was and had been in our house yesterday with my armour on,
I should have been able to stand by you and help you against the
suitors. I should have killed a great many of them, and you would have
rejoiced to see it."
Thus did they converse; but the others, when they had finished their
work and the feast was ready, left off working, and took each his
proper place on the benches and seats. Then they began eating; by
and by old Dolius and his sons left their work and came up, for
their mother, the Sicel woman who looked after Laertes now that he was
growing old, had been to fetch them. When they saw Ulysses and were
certain it was he, they stood there lost in astonishment; but
Ulysses scolded them good-naturedly and said, "Sit down to your
dinner, old man, and never mind about your surprise; we have been
wanting to begin for some time and have been waiting for you."
Then Dolius put out both his hands and went up to Ulysses. "Sir,"
said he, seizing his master's hand and kissing it at the wrist, "we
have long been wishing you home: and now heaven has restored you to us
after we had given up hoping. All hail, therefore, and may the gods
prosper you. But tell me, does Penelope already know of your return,
or shall we send some one to tell her?"
"Old man," answered Ulysses, "she knows already, so you need not
trouble about that." On this he took his seat, and the sons of
Dolius gathered round Ulysses to give him greeting and embrace him one
after the other; then they took their seats in due order near Dolius
their father.
While they were thus busy getting their dinner ready, Rumour went
round the town, and noised abroad the terrible fate that had
befallen the suitors; as soon, therefore, as the people heard of it
they gathered from every quarter, groaning and hooting before the
house of Ulysses. They took the dead away, buried every man his own,
and put the bodies of those who came from elsewhere on board the
fishing vessels, for the fishermen to take each of them to his own
place. They then met angrily in the place of assembly, and when they
were got together Eupeithes rose to speak. He was overwhelmed with
grief for the death of his son Antinous, who had been the first man
killed by Ulysses, so he said, weeping bitterly, "My friend, this
man has done the Achaeans great wrong. He took many of our best men
away with him in his fleet, and he has lost both ships and men; now,
moreover, on his return he has been killing all the foremost men among
the Cephallenians. Let us be up and doing before he can get away to
Pylos or to Elis where the Epeans rule, or we shall be ashamed of
ourselves for ever afterwards. It will be an everlasting disgrace to
us if we do not avenge the murder of our sons and brothers. For my own
part I should have no mote pleasure in life, but had rather die at
once. Let us be up, then, and after them, before they can cross over
to the mainland."
He wept as he spoke and every one pitied him. But Medon and the bard
Phemius had now woke up, and came to them from the house of Ulysses.
Every one was astonished at seeing them, but they stood in the
middle of the assembly, and Medon said, "Hear me, men of Ithaca.
Ulysses did not do these things against the will of heaven. I myself
saw an immortal god take the form of Mentor and stand beside him. This
god appeared, now in front of him encouraging him, and now going
furiously about the court and attacking the suitors whereon they
fell thick on one another."
On this pale fear laid hold of them, and old Halitherses, son of
Mastor, rose to speak, for he was the only man among them who knew
both past and future; so he spoke to them plainly and in all
honesty, saying,
"Men of Ithaca, it is all your own fault that things have turned out
as they have; you would not listen to me, nor yet to Mentor, when we
bade you check the folly of your sons who were doing much wrong in the
wantonness of their hearts- wasting the substance and dishonouring the
wife of a chieftain who they thought would not return. Now, however,
let it be as I say, and do as I tell you. Do not go out against
Ulysses, or you may find that you have been drawing down evil on
your own heads."
This was what he said, and more than half raised a loud shout, and
at once left the assembly. But the rest stayed where they were, for
the speech of Halitherses displeased them, and they sided with
Eupeithes; they therefore hurried off for their armour, and when
they had armed themselves, they met together in front of the city, and
Eupeithes led them on in their folly. He thought he was going to
avenge the murder of his son, whereas in truth he was never to return,
but was himself to perish in his attempt.
Then Minerva said to Jove, "Father, son of Saturn, king of kings,
answer me this question- What do you propose to do? Will you set
them fighting still further, or will you make peace between them?"
And Jove answered, "My child, why should you ask me? Was it not by
your own arrangement that Ulysses came home and took his revenge
upon the suitors? Do whatever you like, but I will tell you what I
think will be most reasonable arrangement. Now that Ulysses is
revenged, let them swear to a solemn covenant, in virtue of which he
shall continue to rule, while we cause the others to forgive and
forget the massacre of their sons and brothers. Let them then all
become friends as heretofore, and let peace and plenty reign."
This was what Minerva was already eager to bring about, so down
she darted from off the topmost summits of Olympus.
Now when Laertes and the others had done dinner, Ulysses began by
saying, "Some of you go out and see if they are not getting close up
to us." So one of Dolius's sons went as he was bid. Standing on the
threshold he could see them all quite near, and said to Ulysses, "Here
they are, let us put on our armour at once."
They put on their armour as fast as they could- that is to say
Ulysses, his three men, and the six sons of Dolius. Laertes also and
Dolius did the same- warriors by necessity in spite of their grey
hair. When they had all put on their armour, they opened the gate
and sallied forth, Ulysses leading the way.
Then Jove's daughter Minerva came up to them, having assumed the
form and voice of Mentor. Ulysses was glad when he saw her, and said
to his son Telemachus, "Telemachus, now that are about to fight in
an engagement, which will show every man's mettle, be sure not to
disgrace your ancestors, who were eminent for their strength and
courage all the world over."
"You say truly, my dear father," answered Telemachus, "and you shall
see, if you will, that I am in no mind to disgrace your family."
Laertes was delighted when he heard this. "Good heavens, he
exclaimed, "what a day I am enjoying: I do indeed rejoice at it. My
son and grandson are vying with one another in the matter of valour."
On this Minerva came close up to him and said, "Son of Arceisius-
best friend I have in the world- pray to the blue-eyed damsel, and
to Jove her father; then poise your spear and hurl it."
As she spoke she infused fresh vigour into him, and when he had
prayed to her he poised his spear and hurled it. He hit Eupeithes'
helmet, and the spear went right through it, for the helmet stayed
it not, and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily to
the ground. Meantime Ulysses and his son fell the front line of the
foe and smote them with their swords and spears; indeed, they would
have killed every one of them, and prevented them from ever getting
home again, only Minerva raised her voice aloud, and made every one
pause. "Men of Ithaca," she cried, cease this dreadful war, and settle
the matter at once without further bloodshed."
On this pale fear seized every one; they were so frightened that
their arms dropped from their hands and fell upon the ground at the
sound of the goddess's voice, and they fled back to the city for their
lives. But Ulysses gave a great cry, and gathering himself together
swooped down like a soaring eagle. Then the son of Saturn sent a
thunderbolt of fire that fell just in front of Minerva, so she said to
Ulysses, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, stop this warful strife, or
Jove will be angry with you."
Thus spoke Minerva, and Ulysses obeyed her gladly. Then Minerva
assumed the form and voice of Mentor, and presently made a covenant of
peace between the two contending parties.


-THE END-
.


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Poems About Rose

  1. 101. The Odyssey , Homer
  2. 102. A Single Red Rose , kerry green
  3. 103. The Rose... , hazem al jaber
  4. 104. Red Rose , sarah bishop
  5. 105. The Rose , Henry Lawson
  6. 106. Carric-Thura , James Macpherson
  7. 107. {if The World Gave Me A Rose} , Kiid Dukah
  8. 108. 'A Gallant Gentleman' , Clarence Michael James Stani ..
  9. 109. One Rose , Lexie Night
  10. 110. Rose’s Rose Rose , Sarah Jay
  11. 111. Calthon And Colmal , James Macpherson
  12. 112. Rose , Dheeraj Haran
  13. 113. A Pioneering Rose. , Fay Slimm
  14. 114. May-Rose , George Parsons Lathrop
  15. 115. Dozen Roses , Jameaka Shibles
  16. 116. Temora - Book Viii , James Macpherson
  17. 117. Art And Lies , neo riddick
  18. 118. Sweet Perfume , Ernestine Northover
  19. 119. Red Rose Of Love , Edward Kofi Louis
  20. 120. A Colourful Rose Flower! , Ramesh T A
  21. 121. I Rose… , Rajesh Thankappan
  22. 122. Rose For A Rose , Randy McClave
  23. 123. A Rose , Nuku Desmond
  24. 124. A Rose Doth Be But What A Rose Doth Be. , Michael Gale
  25. 125. God Showered You With Roses , JoJo Bean
  26. 126. Pondering Upon The Rose On A Sunday Morn.. , Patricia Gale
  27. 127. Rose , Nichole Baptista
  28. 128. Temora - Book Vii , James Macpherson
  29. 129. The Rose , William Bean
  30. 130. White Rose, Red , Trey Mitchell
  31. 131. That Perfect Rose , Sylvia Chidi
  32. 132. Yellow Rose , Jay P Narain
  33. 133. Rose, Are You Jealous? , Dr. Antony Theodore
  34. 134. The Rose , Mark R Slaughter
  35. 135. One Red Rose , Melissa Furey
  36. 136. *the White Rose , Vimal Kumar N
  37. 137. Temora - Book Iv , James Macpherson
  38. 138. My Pink Rose , Heather Burns
  39. 139. ! ! Gertrude Stein Met Marilyn Monroe In.. , Michael Shepherd
  40. 140. A Madman's Ballad For His Golden Rose , Avik Datta Gupta
  41. 141. A Bleeding Rose And The Black Dragons Love , Nicolette Gonzalez
  42. 142. Rose Garden , Heather Burns
  43. 143. ' The Ocean Rose (An Homograph/Homonym .. , MoonBee Canady
  44. 144. A Rose Is, But A Rose , Kenneth Davis
  45. 145. My Bouquet Of Life (My Coral Rose) , Heather Burns
  46. 146. The Rose Within The Cover , Bazi alis Subrata Ray
  47. 147. With Rose In Hand , Meg Harrison
  48. 148. My Rose... , hazem al jaber
  49. 149. Rose, Rose, Rose , Sylvia Chidi
  50. 150. The Red Rose.... , hazem al jaber
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