Odyssey

Homer

Homer, creator; Murray, A. T. (Augustus Taber), 1866-1940, translator

He spoke, and sacrificed the firstling pieces to the gods that are for ever, and, when he had made libations of the flaming wine, he placed the cup in the hands of Odysseus, the sacker of cities, and took his seat by his own portion. And bread was served to them by Mesaulius, whom the swineherdhad gotten by himself alone, while his master was gone, without the knowledge of his mistress or the old Laertes, buying him of the Taphians with his own goods. So they put forth their hands to the good cheer lying ready before them. But when they had put from them the desire of food and drink,Mesaulius took away the food, and they were fain to go to their rest, sated with bread and meat. Now the night came on, foul and without a moon, and Zeus rained the whole night through, and the West Wind, ever the rainy wind, blew strong. Then Odysseus spoke among them, making trial of the swineherd,to see whether he would strip off his own cloak and give it him, or bid some other of his comrades to do so, since he cared for him so greatly: “Hear me now, Eumaeus and all the rest of you, his men, with a wish in my heart will I tell a tale; for the wine bids me, befooling wine, which sets one, even though he be right wise, to singingand laughing softly, and makes him stand up and dance, aye, and brings forth a word which were better unspoken. Still, since I have once spoken out, I will hide nothing. Would that I were young and my strength firm as when we made ready our ambush, and led it beneath the walls of Troy.The leaders were Odysseus and Menelaus, son of Atreus, and with them I was third in command; for so had they ordered it themselves. Now when we had come to the city and the steep wall, round about the town in the thick brushwood among the needs and swamp-landwe lay, crouching beneath our arms, and night came on, foul, when the North Wind had fallen, and frosty, and snow came down on us from above, covering us like rime, bitter cold, and ice formed upon our shields. Now all the rest had cloaks and tunics, and slept in peace, with their shields covering their shoulders,but I, when I set out, had left my cloak behind with my comrades in my folly, for I did not think that even so I should be cold, and had come with my shield alone and my bright kilt. But when it was the third watch of the night, and the stars had turned their course, then I spoke to Odysseus, who was near me,nudging him with my elbow; and he straightway gave ear: “Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, lo now, no longer shall I be among the living. Nay, the cold is killing me, for I have no cloak. Some god beguiled me to wear my tunic only, and now there is no more escape.’ “So I spoke, and he then devised this plan in his heart, such a man was he both to plan and to fight; and speaking in a low voice he said to me: ‘Be silent now, lest another of the Achaeans hear thee.’

“With this he raised his head upon his elbow, and spoke, saying:‘Hear me, friends; a dream from the gods came to me in my sleep. Lo, we have come very far from the ships, and I would that there were one to bear word to Agamemnon, son of Atreus, shepherd of the host, in the hope that he might bid more men to come from the ships.’ “So he spoke, and Thoas, son of Andraemon, sprang upquickly, and from him flung his purple cloak, and set out to run to the ships. Then in his garment I gladly lay, and golden-throned Dawn appeared. Would that I were young as then, and my strength as firm; then would one of the swineherds in the farmstead give me a cloakboth from kindness and from respect for a brave warrior. But as it is they scorn me, since I have foul raiment about me.” To him then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer, and say: “Old man, the tale thou hast told is a good one, nor hast thou thus far spoken aught amiss or unprofitably.Wherefore thou shalt lack neither clothing nor aught else that a sore-tried suppliant should receive, when he meets one—for this night at least; but in the morning thou shalt shake about thee those rags of thine. For not many cloaks are here or changes of tunics to put on, but each man has one alone.But when the dear son of Odysseus comes, he will himself give thee a cloak and a tunic as raiment, and will send thee whithersoever thy heart and spirit bid thee go.” So saying, he sprang up and placed a bed for Odysseus near the fire, and cast upon it skins of sheep and goats.There Odysseus lay down, and the swineherd threw over him a great thick cloak, which he kept at hand for a change of clothing whenever a terrible storm should arise. So there Odysseus slept, and beside him slept the young men. But the swineherdliked not a bed in that place, that he should lay him down away from the boars; so he made ready to go outside. And Odysseus was glad that he took such care of his master's substance while he was afar. First Eumaeus flung his sharp sword over his strong shoulders, and then put about him a cloak, very thick, to keep off the wind;and he picked up the fleece of a large, well-fatted goat, took a sharp javelin to ward off dogs and men, and went forth to lie down to sleep where the white-tusked boars slept beneath a hollow rock, in a place sheltered from the North Wind.

But Pallas Athena went to spacious Lacedaemon to remind the glorious son of great-hearted Odysseus of his return, and to hasten his coming. She found Telemachus and the noble son of Nestorlying in the fore-hall of the palace of glorious Menelaus. Now Nestor's son was overcome with soft sleep, but sweet sleep did not hold Telemachus, but all through the immortal night anxious thoughts for his father kept him wakeful. And flashing-eyed Athena stood near him, and said: “Telemachus, thou dost not well to wander longer far from thy home, leaving behind thee thy wealth and men in thy house so insolent, lest they divide and devour all thy possessions, and thou shalt have gone on a fruitless journey. Nay, rouse with all speed Menelaus, good at the war-cry,to send thee on thy way, that thou mayest find thy noble mother still in her home. For now her father and her brothers bid her wed Eurymachus, for he surpasses all the wooers in his presents, and has increased his gifts of wooing. Beware lest she carry forth from thy halls some treasure against thy will.For thou knowest what sort of a spirit there is in a woman's breast; she is fain to increase the house of the man who weds her, but of her former children and of the lord of her youth she takes no thought, when once he is dead, and asks no longer concerning them. Nay, go, and thyself put all thy possessions in the charge of whatsoever oneof the handmaids seems to thee the best, until the gods shall show thee a noble bride. And another thing will I tell thee, and do thou lay it to heart. The best men of the wooers lie in wait for thee of set purpose in the strait between Ithaca and rugged Samos,eager to slay thee before thou comest to thy native land. But methinks this shall not be; ere that shall the earth cover many a one of the wooers that devour thy substance. But do thou keep thy well-built ship far from the islands, and sail by night as well as by day, and thatone of the immortals, who keeps and guards thee, will send a fair breeze in thy wake. But when thou hast reached the nearest shore of Ithaca, send thy ship and all thy comrades on to the city, but thyself go first of all to the swineherd who keeps thy swine, and withal has a kindly heart toward thee.There do thou spend the night, and bid him to go to the city to bear word to wise Penelope that she has thee safe, and thou art come from Pylos.” So saying, she departed to high Olympus. But Telemachus woke the son of Nestor out of sweet sleep,rousing him with a touch of his heel, and spoke to him, saying: “Awake, Peisistratus, son of Nestor; bring up thy fiery-hoofed[*](1) horses, and yoke them beneath the car, that we may speed on our way.”

Then Peisistratus, son of Nestor, answered, and said: “Telemachus, in no wise may wedrive through the dark night, how eager soever for our journey; and soon it will be dawn. Wait then, until the warrior son of Atreus, Menelaus, famed for his spear, shall bring gifts and set them on the car, and shall send us on our way with kindly words of farewell. For a guest remembers all his daysthe host who shews him kindness.” So he spoke, and presently came golden-throned Dawn. Up to them then came Menelaus, good at the war-cry, rising from his couch from beside fair-tressed Helen. And when the prince, the dear son of Odysseus, saw him,he made haste to put about him his bright tunic, and to fling over his mighty shoulders a great cloak, and went forth. Then Telemachus, the dear son of divine Odysseus, came up to Menelaus, and addressed him, saying: “Menelaus, son of Atreus, fostered of Zeus, leader of hosts,send me back now at length to my dear native land, for now my heart is eager to return home.” Then Menelaus, good at the war-cry, answered him: “Telemachus, I verily shall not hold thee here a long time, when thou art eager to return. Nay, I should blame another, who, as host, loves overmuch or hates overmuch; better is due measure in all things. 'Tis equal wrong if a man speed on a guest who is loath to go, and if he keep back one that is eager to be gone. One should make welcome the present guest, and send forth him that would go.But stay, till I bring fair gifts and put them on thy car, and thine own eyes behold them, and till I bid the women make ready a meal in the halls of the abundant store that is within. It is a double boon—honor and glory it brings, and profit withal—that the traveller should dine before he goes forth over the wide and boundless earth.And if thou art fain to journey through Hellas and mid-Argos, be it so, to the end that I may myself go with thee, and I will yoke for thee horses, and lead thee to the cities of men. Nor will any one send us away empty-handed, but will give us some one thing at least to bear with us, a fair brazen tripod or cauldron,or a pair of mules, or a golden cup.” Then wise Telemachus answered him: “Menelaus, son of Atreus, fostered of Zeus, leader of hosts, rather would I go at once to my home, for when I departed I left behind me no one to watch over my possessions.I would not that in seeking for my god-like father I myself should perish, or some goodly treasure be lost from my halls.”

Now when Menelaus, good in battle, heard this, he straightway bade his wife and her handmaids make ready a meal in the halls of the abundant store that was within.Up to him then came Eteoneus, son of Boethous, just risen from his bed, for he dwelt not far from him. Him Menelaus, good at the war-cry, bade kindle a fire and roast of the flesh; and he heard, and obeyed. And Menelaus himself went down to his vaulted[*](1) treasure-chamber,not alone, for with him went Helen and Megapenthes. But when they came to the place where his treasures were stored, the son of Atreus took a two-handled cup, and bade his son Megapenthes bear a mixing bowl of silver. And Helen came up to the chestsin which were her richly-broidered robes, that she herself had wrought. One of these Helen, the beautiful lady, lifted out and bore away, the one that was fairest in its broideries, and the amplest. It shone like a star, and lay beneath all the rest. Then they went forth through the house until they came toTelemachus; and fair-haired Menelaus spoke to him, and said: “Telemachus, may Zeus, the loud-thundering lord of Here, verily bring to pass for thee thy return, even as thy heart desires. And of all the gifts that lie stored as treasures in my house, I will give thee that one which is fairest and costliest.I will give thee a well-wrought mixing-bowl. It is all of silver, and with gold are the rims thereof gilded, the work of Hephaestus; and the warrior Phaedimus, king of the Sidonians, gave it me, when his house sheltered me as I came thither; and now I am minded to give it to thee.” So saying, the warrior, son of Atreus, placed the two-handled cup in his hands. And the strong Megapenthes brought the bright mixing-bowl of silver and set it before him, and fair-cheeked Helen came up with the robe in her hands, and spoke, and addressed him: “Lo, I too give thee this gift, dear child, a remembrance of the hands of Helen, against the day of thy longed-for marriage, for thy bride to wear it. But until then let it lie in thy halls in the keeping of thy dear mother. And for thyself I wish that with joy thou mayest reach thy well-built house and thy native land.”

So saying, she placed it in his hands, and he took it gladly. And the prince Peisistratus took the gifts, and laid them in the box of the chariot, and gazed at them all wondering in his heart. Then fair-haired Menelaus led them to the house, and the two sat down on chairs and high seats.And a handmaid brought water for the hands in a fair pitcher of gold, and poured it over a silver basin for them to wash, and beside them drew up a polished table. And the grave housewife brought and set before them bread, and therewith meats in abundance, granting freely of her store.And hard by the son of Boethous carved the meat, and divided the portions, and the son of glorious Menelaus poured the wine. So they put forth their hands to the good cheer lying ready before them. But when they had put from them the desire of food and drink, then Telemachus and the glorious son of Nestoryoked the horses and mounted the inlaid car, and drove forth from the gateway and the echoing portico. After them went the son of Atreus, fair-haired Menelaus, bearing in his right hand honey-hearted wine in a cup of gold, that they might pour libations ere they set out.And he took his stand before the horses, and pledged the youths, and said: “Fare ye well, young men, and bear greeting to Nestor, shepherd of the host, for verily he was kind as a father to me, while we sons of the Achaeans warred in the land of Troy.” Then wise Telemachus answered him:“Aye, verily, king, fostered of Zeus, to him will we tell all this on our coming, as thou dost bid. And I would that, when I return to Ithaca, I might as surely find Odysseus in his house, to tell him how I met with every kindness at thy hands, ere I departed and bring with me treasures many and goodly.” Even as he spoke a bird flew by on the right, an eagle, bearing in his talons a great, white goose, a tame fowl from the yard, and men and women followed shouting. But the eagle drew near to them, and darted off to the right in front of the horses; andthey were glad as they saw it, and the hearts in the breasts of all were cheered. And among them Peisistratus, son of Nestor, was first to speak: “Consider, Menelaus, fostered of Zeus, leader of hosts, whether it was for us two that the god showed this sign, or for thyself.” so he spoke, and Menelaus, dear to Ares, ponderedhow he might with understanding interpret the sign aright. But long-robed Helen took the word from him, and said: “Hear me, and I will prophesy as the immortals put it into my heart, and as I think it will be brought to pass. Even as this eagle camefrom the mountain, where are his kin, and where he was born, and snatched up the goose that was bred in the house, even so shall Odysseus return to his home after many toils and many wanderings, and shall take vengeance; or even now he is at home, and is sowing the seeds of evil for all the wooers.”

Then again wise Telemachus answered her:“So may Zeus grant, the loud-thundering lord of Here; then will I even there ever pray to thee, as to a god.” He spoke, and touched the two horses with the lash, and they sped swiftly toward the plain, coursing eagerly through the city. So all day long they shook the yoke they bore about their necks.And the sun set, and all the ways grew dark. And they came to Pherae, to the house of Diocles, son of Ortilochus, whom Alpheus begot. There they spent the night, and before them he set the entertainment due to strangers. As soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered,they yoked the horses, and mounted the inlaid car, and drove forth from the gateway and the echoing portico. Then Peisistratus touched the horses with the whip to start them, and nothing loath the pair sped onward, and soon thereafter they reached the steep citadel of Pylos. Then Telemachus spoke to the son of Nestor, saying: “Son of Nestor, wilt thou now make me a promise, and fulfil it, as I bid? Friends from of old we call ourselves by reason of our fathers' friendship, and we are moreover of the same age, and this journey shall yet more stablish us in oneness of heart. Lead me not past my ship, O thou fostered of Zeus, but leave me there,lest that old man keep me in his house against my will, fain to show me kindness, whereas I must needs hasten home.” So he spoke, and the son of Nestor took counsel with his heart, how he might duly give the promise and fulfil it. And, as he pondered, this seemed to him the better course.He turned his horses to the swift ship and the shore of the sea, and took out, and set in the stern of the ship the beautiful gifts, the raiment and gold, which Menelaus gave him. And he urged on Telemachus, and addressed him with winged words: “Make haste now to go on board, and bid all thy comrades to do likewise,before I reach home and bring the old man word. For well I know this in mind and heart, so masterful is his spirit he will not let thee go, but will himself come hither to bid thee to his house; and, I tell thee, he will not go back without thee; for very wroth will he be, despite of all.” So saying, he drove his horses with beautiful mane back to the city of the Pylians, and speedily reached the palace. And Telemachus called to his men, and gave command to them, saying: “Set all the gear in order, men, in the black ship, and let us go on board ourselves, that we may speed on our way.” So he spoke, and they readily hearkened and obeyed; and at once they went on board, and sat down upon the benches.

He verily was busied thus, and was praying and offering sacrifice to Athena by the stern of the ship, when there drew nigh to him a man from a far land, one that was fleeing out of Argos because he had slain a man;and he was a seer. By lineage he was sprung from Melampus, who of old dwelt in Pylos, mother of flocks, a rich man and one that had a very wealthy house among the Pylians, but had afterward come to a land of strangers, fleeing from his country and from great-hearted Neleus, the lordliest of living men,who for a full year had kept much wealth from him by force.[*](1) Now Melampus meanwhile lay bound with bitter bonds in the halls of Phylacus, suffering grievous pains because of the daughter of Neleus, and the terrible blindness of heart which the goddess, the Erinys, who brings houses to ruin,[*](2) had laid upon him.Howbeit he escaped his fate, and drove off the deep-lowing kine from Phylace to Pylos, and avenged the cruel deed upon godlike Neleus, and brought the maiden home to be his own brother's wife. For himself, he went to the land of other men, to horse-pasturing Argos, for there it was appointed himto dwell, bearing sway over many Argives. There he wedded a wife and built him a high-roofed house, and begot Antiphates and Mantius, two stalwart sons. Now Antiphates begot great-hearted Oicles, and Oicles Amphiaraus, the rouser of the host,whom Zeus, who bears the aegis, and Apollo heartily loved with all manner of love. Yet he did not reach the threshold of old age, but died in Thebe, because of a woman's gifts. To him were born sons, Alcmaeon and Amphilochus. And Mantius on his part begot Polypheides and Cleitus.Now Cleitus golden-throned Dawn snatched away by reason of his beauty, that he might dwell with the immortals; but of Polypheides, high of heart, Apollo made a seer, far the best of mortals, after that Amphiaraus was dead. He removed to Hyperesia, having waxed wroth with his father,and there he dwelt and prophesied to all men. His son it was, Theoclymenus by name, who now came and stood by Telemachus; and he found him pouring libations and praying by his swift, black ship, and he spoke, and addressed him with winged words: “Friend, since I find thee making burnt-offering in this place, I beseech thee by thine offerings and by the god, aye, and by thine own life and the lives of thy comrades who follow thee, tell me truly what I ask, and hide it not. Who art thou among men, and from whence? Where is thy city, and where thy parents?”

And wise Telemachus answered him: “Then verily, stranger, will I frankly tell thee all. Of Ithaca I am by birth, and my father is Odysseus, as sure as ever[*](1) such a one there was; but now he has perished by a pitiful fate. Therefore have I now taken my comrades and a black ship,and am come to seek tidings of my father, that has long been gone.” Then godlike Theoclymenus answered him: “Even so have I, too, fled from my country, for that I slew a man, one of mine own kin. And many brethren and kinsmen of his there are in horse-pasturing Argos, and mightily do they bear sway over the Achaeans.It is to shun death and black fate at their hands that I flee, for, I ween, it is my lot to be a wanderer among men. But do thou set me on thy ship, since in my flight I have made prayer to thee, lest they utterly slay me; for methinks they are in pursuit.” And wise Telemachus answered him:“Then will I in no wise thrust thee from my shapely ship, since thou art eager to come. Nay, follow with us, and in our home shalt thou find entertainment such as we have.” So saying, he took from him his spear of bronze, and laid it at length on the deck of the curved ship, and himself went aboard the seafaring ship.Then he sat down in the stern and made Theoclymenus sit down beside him; and his men loosed the stern cables. And Telemachus called to his men and bade them lay hold of the tackling, and they quickly obeyed. The mast of firthey raised and set in the hollow socket, and made it fast with fore-stays, and hauled up the white sail with twisted thongs of oxhide. And flashing-eyed Athena sent them a favorable wind, blowing strongly through the sky, that, speeding swiftly, the ship might accomplish her way over the salt water of the sea.So they fared past Crouni and Chalcis, with its beautiful streams. Now the sun set and all the ways grew dark. And the ship drew near to Pheae, sped by the wind of Zeus, and on past goodly Elis, where the Epeans hold sway. From thence again he steered for the sharp isles[*](1) pondering whether he should escape death or be taken.

But the two, Odysseus and the goodly swineherd, were supping in the hut, and with them supped the other men. But when they had put from them the desire of food and drink, Odysseus spoke among them, making trial of the swineherd to seewhether he would still entertain him with kindly care and bid him remain there at the farmstead, or send him forth to the city: “Hearken now, Eumaeus, and all ye other men. In the morning I am minded to go forth to the city to beg, that I may not be the ruin of thee and of thy men. Now then, give me good counsel, and send with me a trusty guide to lead me thither;but through the city will I wander by myself perforce, in the hope that one haply will give me a cup of water and a loaf. Aye, and I would go to the house of godlike Odysseus and bear tidings to the wise Penelope,and join the company of the insolent wooers, if perchance they may give me a meal, since they have good cheer in abundance. Straightway might I do good service among them in all that they would. For I will tell thee, and do thou give heed and hearken. By the favour of Hermes, the messenger, wholends grace and glory to all men's work, in the business of serving no man beside can vie with me, in piling well a fire, in splitting dry faggots, in carving and roasting meat, and in pouring wine —in all things in which meaner men serve the noble.” Then deeply moved didst thou speak to him, swineherd Eumaeus: “Ah me, stranger, why has such a thought come into thy mind? Verily thou art fain utterly to perish there, if thou wouldest indeed enter the throng of the wooers, whose wantonness and violence reach the iron heaven.Not such as thou are their serving men; nay, they that serve them are young men, well clad in cloaks and tunics, and ever are their heads and bright faces sleek; and polished tables are laden with bread, and meat, and wine.Nay, abide here; there is none that is vexed by thy presence, not I, nor any other of the men that are with me. But when the dear son of Odysseus comes, he will himself clothe thee in a cloak and a tunic as raiment, and will send thee whithersoever thy heart and spirit bid thee go.”

Then the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus answered him: “Would, Eumaeus, that thou mightest be as dear to father Zeus as thou art to me, for that thou hast made me cease from wandering and from grievous hardships. Than roaming naught else is more evil for mortals; yet for their cursed belly's sakemen endure evil woes, when wandering and sorrow and pain come upon them. But now, since thou keepest me here and biddest me await thy master, come, tell me of the mother of godlike Odysseus, and of the father, whom, when he went forth, he left behind him on the threshold of old age. Are they haply still living beneath the rays of the sun?or are they now dead and in the house of Hades?” Then the swineherd, a leader of men, answered him: “Then verily, stranger, will I frankly tell thee. Laertes still lives, but ever prays to Zeus that his life may waste away from his limbs within his halls.For wondrously does he grieve for his son that is gone, and for the wise lady, his wedded wife, whose death troubled him most of all, and brought him to untimely old age. But she died of grief for her glorious son by a miserable death, as I would that no man may diewho dwells here as my friend and does me kindness. So long as she lived, though it was in sorrow, it was ever a pleasure to me to ask and enquire after her, for she herself had brought me up with long-robed Ctimene, her noble daughter, whom she bore as her youngest child.With her was I brought up, and the mother honored me little less than her own children. But when we both reached the longed-for prime of youth they sent her to Same to wed, and got themselves countless bridal gifts, but as for me, my lady clad me in a cloak and tunic, right goodly raiment, and gave me sandals for my feetand sent me forth to the field; but in her heart she loved me the more. But now I lack all this, though for my own part the blessed gods make to prosper the work to which I give heed. Therefrom have I eaten and drunk, and given to reverend strangers. But from my mistress I may hear naught pleasant,whether word or deed, for a plague has fallen upon the house, even overweening men. Yet greatly do servants long to speak before their mistress, and learn of all, and to eat and drink, and thereafter to carry off somewhat also to the fields, such things as ever make the heart of a servant to grow warm.”