And straightway Menelaus, good at the war-cry, asked me in quest of what I had come to goodly Lacedaemon; and I told him all the truth. Then he made answer to me, and said: “‘Out upon them! for verily in the bed of a man of valiant heartwere they fain to lie, who are themselves cravens. Even as when in the thicket-lair of a mighty lion a hind has laid to sleep her new-born suckling fawns, and roams over the mountain slopes and grassy vales seeking pasture, and then the lion comes to his lairand upon the two lets loose a cruel doom, so will Odysseus let loose a cruel doom upon these men. I would, O father Zeus, and Athena, and Apollo, that in such strength, as when once in fair-stablished Lesbos he rose up and wrestled a match with Philomeleidesand threw him mightily, and all the Achaeans rejoiced, even in such strength Odysseus might come among the wooers; then should they all find swift destruction and bitterness in their wooing. But in this matter of which thou dost ask and entreat me, verily I will not swerve aside to speak of other things, nor will I deceive thee;but of all that the unerring old man of the sea told me, not one thing will I hide from thee or conceal. He said that he had seen Odysseus in an island in grievous distress, in the halls of the nymph Calypso, who keeps him there perforce. And he cannot come to his own native land, for he has at hand no ships with oars, and no comrades,to send him on his way over the broad back of the sea.’ “So spoke Menelaus, son of Atreus, the famous spearman. Now when I had made an end of all this I set out for home, and the immortals gave me a fair wind and brought me quickly to my dear native land.” So he spoke, and stirred the heart in her breast. Then among them spoke also the godlike Theoclymenus, saying: “Honored wife of Odysseus, son of Laertes, he truly has no clear understanding; but do thou hearken to my words, for with certain knowledge will I prophesy to thee, and will hide naught.Be my witness Zeus above all gods, and this hospitable board and the hearth of noble Odysseus to which I am come, that verily Odysseus is even now in his native land, resting or moving, learning of these evil deeds, and he is sowing the seeds of evil for all the wooers.So plain a bird of omen did I mark as I sat on the benched ship, and I declared it to Telemachus.” Then wise Penelope answered him: “Ah, stranger, I would that this word of thine might be fulfilled. Then shouldest thou straightway know of kindness and many a giftfrom me, so that one who met thee would call the blessed.”
Thus they spoke to one another. And the wooers meanwhile in front of the palace of Odysseus were making merry, throwing the discus and the javelin in a levelled place, as their wont was, in insolence of heart.But when it was the hour for dinner, and the flocks came in from all sides from the fields, and the men led them who were wont to lead, then Medon, who of all the heralds was most to their liking and was ever present at their feasts, spoke to them, saying: “Youths, now that you have all made glad your hearts with sport,come to the house that we may make ready a feast; for it is no bad thing to take one's dinner in season.” So he spoke, and they rose up and went, and hearkened to his word. And when they had come to the stately house they laid their cloaks on the chairs and high seats,and men fell to slaying great sheep and fat goats, aye, and fatted and swine, and a heifer of the herd, and so made ready the meal. But Odysseus and the goodly swineherd were making haste to go from the field to the city; and the swineherd, a leader of men, spoke first, and said: “Stranger, since thou art eager to go the city today, as my master bade—though for myself I would rather have thee left here to keep the farmstead; but I reverence and fear him, lest hereafter he chide me, and hard are the rebukes of masters—come now, let us go. The day is far spent, and soon thou wilt find it colder toward evening.” Then Odysseus of many wiles answered him, and said: “I see, I give heed; this thou biddest one with understanding. Come, let us go, and be thou my guide all the way.But give me a staff to lean upon, if thou hast one cut anywhere, for verily ye said that the way was treacherous.” He spoke, and flung about his shoulders his miserable wallet, full of holes, slung by a twisted cord, and Eumaeus gave him a staff to his liking.So they two set forth, and the dogs and the herdsmen stayed behind to guard the farmstead; but the swineherd led his master to the city in the likeness of a woeful and aged beggar, leaning on a staff; and miserable was the raiment that he wore about his body.
But when, as they went along the rugged path,they were near the city, and had come to a well-wrought, fair-flowing fountain, wherefrom the townsfolk drew water—this Ithacus had made, and Neritus, and Polyctor, and around was a grove of poplars, that grow by the waters, circling it on all sides, and down the cold water flowedfrom the rock above, and on the top was built an altar to the nymphs where all passers-by made offerings—there Melantheus, son of Dolius, met them as he was driving his she-goats, the best that were in all the herds, to make a feast for the wooers; and two herdsmen followed with him.As he saw them, he spoke and addressed them, and reviled them in terrible and unseemly words, and stirred the heart of Odysseus: “Lo, now, in very truth the vile leads the vile. As ever, the god is bringing like and like together. Whither, pray, art thou leading this filthy wretch,[*](1) thou miserable swineherd,this nuisance of a beggar to mar our feasts? He is a man to stand and rub his shoulders on many doorposts, begging for scraps, not for swords or cauldrons.[*](2) If thou wouldest give me this fellow to keep my farmstead, to sweep out the pens and to carry young shoots to the kids,then by drinking whey he might get himself a sturdy thigh. But since he has learned only deeds of evil, he will not care to busy himself with work, but is minded rather to go skulking through the land, that by begging he may feed his insatiate belly. But I will speak out to thee, and this word shall verily be brought to pass.If he comes to the palace of divine Odysseus, many a footstool, hurled about his head by the hands of those that are men, shall be broken on his ribs[*](1) as he is pelted through the house.” So he spoke, and as he passed he kicked Odysseus on the hip in his folly, yet he did not drive him from the path,but he stood steadfast. And Odysseus pondered whether he should leap upon him and take his life with his staff, or seize him round about,[*](2) and lift him up, and dash his head upon the ground. Yet he endured, and stayed him from his purpose. And the swineherd looked the man in the face, and rebuked him, and lifted up his hands, and prayed aloud: “Nymphs of the fountain, daughters of Zeus, if ever Odysseus burned upon your altars pieces of the thighs of lambs or kids, wrapped in rich fat, fulfil for me this prayer; grant that he, my master, may come back, and that some god may guide him. Then would he scatter all the proud airswhich now thou puttest on in thy insolence,ever roaming about the city, while evil herdsmen destroy the flock.”
Then Melanthius, the goatherd, answered him: “Lo now, how the cur talks, his mind full of mischief. Him will I some daytake on a black, benched ship far from Ithaca, that he may bring me in much wealth. Would that Apollo, of the silver bow, might smite Telemachus to-day in the halls, or that he might be slain by the wooers, as surely as for Odysseus in a far land the day of return has been lost.” So saying, he left them there, as they walked slowly on,but himself strode forward and right swiftly came to the palace of the king. Straightway he entered in and sat down among the wooers over against Eurymachus, for he loved him best of all. Then by him those that served set a portion of meat, and the grave housewife brought and set before him bread,for him to eat. And Odysseus and the goodly swineherd halted as they drew nigh, and about them rang the sound of the hollow lyre, for Phemius was striking the chords to sing before the wooers. Then Odysseus clasped the swineherd by the hand, and said: “Eumaeus, surely this is the beautiful house of Odysseus.Easily might it be known, though seen among many. There is building upon building, and the court is built with wall and coping, and the double gates are well-fenced; no man may scorn it. And I mark that in the house itself manymen are feasting: for the savour of meat arises from it, and therewith resounds the voice of the lyre, which the gods have made the companion of the feast.” To him then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer, and say: “Easily hast thou marked it, for in all things thou art ready of wit. But come, let us take thought how these things shall be.Either do thou go first into the stately palace, and enter the company of the wooers, and I will remain behind here, or, if thou wilt, remain thou here and I will go before thee. But do not thou linger long, lest some man see thee without and pelt thee or smite thee. Of this I bid thee take thought.” Then the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus answered him: “I see, I give heed: this thou biddest one with understanding. But go thou before, and I will remain behind here; for no whit unused am I to blows and peltings. Staunch is my heart, for much evil have I sufferedamid the waves and in war; let this too be added to what has gone before. But a ravening belly may no man hide, an accursed plague that brings many evils upon men. Because of it are the benched ships also made ready, that bear evil to foemen over the unresting sea.”
Thus they spoke to one another. And a hound that lay there raised his head and pricked up his ears, Argos, the hound of Odysseus, of the steadfast heart, whom of old he had himself bred, but had no joy of him, for ere that he went to sacred Ilios. In days past the young men were wont to take the hound to huntthe wild goats, and deer, and hares; but now he lay neglected, his master gone, in the deep dung of mules and cattle, which lay in heaps before the doors, till the slaves of Odysseus should take it away to dung his wide lands.There lay the hound Argos, full of vermin; yet even now, when he marked Odysseus standing near, he wagged his tail and dropped both his ears, but nearer to his master he had no longer strength to move. Then Odysseus looked aside and wiped away a tear,easily hiding from Eumaeus what he did; and straightway he questioned him, and said: “Eumaeus, verily it is strange that this hound lies here in the dung. He is fine of form, but I do not clearly know whether he has speed of foot to match this beauty or whether he is merely as table-dogsare, which their masters keep for show.” To him then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer and say: “Aye, verily this is the hound of a man that has died in a far land. If he were but in form and in action such as he was when Odysseus left him and went to Troy,thou wouldest soon be amazed at seeing his speed and his strength. No creature that he started in the depths of the thick wood could escape him, and in tracking too he was keen of scent. But now he is in evil plight, and his master has perished far from his native land, and the heedless women give him no care.Slaves, when their masters lose their power, are no longer minded thereafter to do honest service: for Zeus, whose voice is borne afar, takes away half his worth from a man, when the day of slavery comes upon him.” So saying, he entered the stately houseand went straight to the hall to join the company of the lordly wooers. But as for Argos, the fate of black death seized him straightway when he had seen Odysseus in the twentieth year. Now as the swineherd came through the hall godlike Telemachus was far the first to see him, and quicklywith a nod he called him and to his side. And Eumaeus looked about him and took a stool that lay near, on which the carver was wont to sit when carving for the wooers the many joints of meat, as they feasted in the hall. This he took and placed at the table of Telemachus, over against him, and there sat down himself. And a heraldtook a portion of meat and set it before him, and bread from out the basket.
Night after him Odysseus entered the palace in the likeness of a woeful and aged beggar, leaning on a staff, and miserable was the raiment that he wore about his body. He sat down upon the ashen threshold within the doorway,leaning against a post of cypress wood, which of old a carpenter had skilfully planed, and made straight to the line. Then Telemachus called the swineherd to him, and, taking a whole loaf from out the beautiful basket, and all the meat his hands could hold in their grasp, spoke to him saying: “Take, and give this mess to yon stranger, and bid him go about himself and beg of the wooers one and all. Shame is no good comrade for a man that is in need.” So he spoke, and the swineherd went, when he had heard this saying, and coming up to Odysseus spoke to him winged words: “Stranger, Telemachus gives thee these, and bids thee go about and beg of the wooers one and all. Shame, he says, is no good thing in a beggar man.” Then Odysseus of many wiles answered him, and said, “King Zeus, grant, I pray thee, that Telemachus may be blest among men,and may have all that his heart desires.” He spoke, and took the mess in both his hands and set it down there before his feet on his miserable wallet. Then he ate so long as the minstrel sang in the halls. But when he had dined and the divine minstrel was ceasing to sing,the wooers broke into uproar throughout the halls; but Athena drew close to the side of Odysseus, son of Laertes, and roused him to go among the wooers and gather bits of bread, and learn which of them were righteous and which lawless. Yet even so she was not minded to save one of them from ruin.So he set out to beg of every man, beginning on the right, stretching out his hand on every side, as though he had been long a beggar. And they pitied him and gave, and marvelled at him, asking one another who he was and whence he came. Then among them spoke Melanthius, the goatherd:“Hear me, wooers of the glorious queen, regarding this stranger, for verily I have seen him before. Truly it was the swineherd that led him hither, but of the man himself I know not surely from whence he declares his birth to be.” So he spoke, and Antinous rebuked the swineherd, saying:“Notorious swineherd, why, pray, didst thou bring this man to the city? Have we not vagabonds enough without him, nuisances of beggars to mar our feast? Dost thou not think it enough that they gather here and devour the substance of thy master, that thou dost bid this fellow too?”
To him then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer, and say: “Antinous, no fair words are these thou speakest, noble though thou art. Who pray, of himself ever seeks out and bids a stranger from abroad, unless it be one of those that are masters of some public craft, a prophet, or a healer of ills, or a builder,aye, or a divine minstrel, who gives delight with his song? For these men are bidden all over the boundless earth. Yet a beggar would no man bid to be burden to himself. But thou art ever harsh above all the wooers to the slaves of Odysseus, and most of all to me; yet Icare not, so long as my lady, the constant Penelope, lives in the hall, and godlike Telemachus.” Then wise Telemachus answered him: “Be silent: do not, I bid thee, answer yonder man with many words, for Antinous is wont ever in evil wise to provoke to angerwith harsh words, aye, and urges on the others too.” With this he spoke winged words to Antinous: “Antinous, truly thou carest well for me, as a father for his son, seeing that thou biddest me drive yonder stranger from the hall with a word of compulsion. May the god never bring such a thing to pass.Nay, take and give him somewhat: I begrudge it not, but rather myself bid thee give. In this matter regard not my mother, no, nor any of the slaves that are in the house of divine Odysseus. But verily far other is the thought in thy breast; for thou art far more fain thyself to eat than to give to another.” Then Antinous answered him, and said: “Telemachus, thou braggart, unrestrained in daring, what a thing hast thou said! If all the wooers would but hand him as much as I, for full three months' space this house would keep him at a distance.” So he spoke, and seized the footstoolon which he was wont to rest his shining feet as he feasted, and shewed it from beneath the table, where it lay. But all the rest gave gifts, and filled the wallet with bread and bits of meat. And now Odysseus was like to have gone back again to the threshold, and to have made trial of the Achaeans without cost,[*](1) but he paused by Antinous, and spoke to him, saying: “Friend, give me some gift; thou seemest not in my eyes to be the basest of the Achaeans, but rather the noblest, for thou art like a king. Therefore it is meet that thou shouldest give even a better portion of bread than the rest; so would I make thy fame known all over the boundless earth. For I too once dwelt in a house of my own among men,a rich man in a wealthy house, and full often I gave gifts to a wanderer, whosoever he was and with whatsoever need he came. Slaves too I had past counting, and all other things in abundance whereby men live well and are reputed wealthy.
But Zeus, son of Cronos, brought all to naught—so, I ween, was his good pleasure—who sent me forth with roaming pirates to go to Egypt, a far voyage, that I might meet my ruin; and in the river Aegyptus I moored my curved ships. Then verily I bade my trusty comrades to remain there by the ships and to guard the ships,and I sent out scouts to go to places of outlook. But my comrades, yielding to wantonness and led on by their own might, straightway set about wasting the fair fields of the men of Egypt; and they carried off the women and little children, and slew the men; and the cry came quickly to the city.Then, hearing the shouting, the people came forth at break of day, and the whole plain was filled with footmen and chariots and the flashing of bronze. And Zeus, who hurls the thunderbolt, cast an evil panic upon my comrades, and none had courage to take his stand and face the foe; for evil surrounded us on every side.So then they slew many of us with the sharp bronze, and others they led up to their city alive, to work for them perforce. But they gave me to a friend who met them to take to Cyprus, even to Dmetor, son of Iasus, who ruled mightily over Cyprus; and from thence am I now come hither, sore distressed.” Then Antinous answered him, and said: “What god has brought this bane hither to trouble our feast? Stand off yonder in the midst, away from my table, lest thou come presently to a bitter Egypt and a bitter Cyprus, seeing that thou art a bold and shameless beggar.Thou comest up to every man in turn, and they give recklessly; for there is no restraint or scruple in giving freely of another's goods, since each man has plenty beside him.” Then Odysseus of many wiles drew back, and said to him: “Lo, now, it seems that thou at least hast not wits to match thy beauty.Thou wouldest not out of thine own substance give even a grain of salt to thy suppliant, thou who now, when sitting at another's table, hadst not the heart to take of the bread and give me aught. Yet here lies plenty at thy hand.” So he spoke, and Antinous waxed the more wroth at heart, and with an angry glance from beneath his brows spoke to him winged words: “Now verily, methinks, thou shalt no more go forth from the hall in seemly fashion, since thou dost even utter words of reviling.”
So saying, he seized the footstool and flung it, and struck Odysseus on the base of the right shoulder, where it joins the back. But he stood firm as a rock, nor did the missile of Antinous make him reel;but he shook his head in silence, pondering evil in the deep of his heart. Then back to the threshold he went and sat down, and down he laid his well-filled wallet; and he spoke among the wooers: “Hear me, wooers of the glorious queen, that I may say what the heart in my breast bids me.Verily there is no pain of heart nor any grief when a man is smitten while fighting for his own possessions, whether for his cattle or for his white sheep; but Antinous has smitten me for my wretched belly's sake, an accursed plague that brings many evils upon men.Ah, if for beggars there are gods and avengers, may the doom of death come upon Antinous before his marriage.” Then Antinous, son of Eupeithes, answered him: “Sit still, and eat, stranger, or go elsewhere; lest the young men drag theeby hand or foot through the house for words like these, and strip off all thy skin.” So he spoke, but they all were filled with exceeding indignation, and thus would one of the proud youths speak: “Antinous, thou didst not well to strike the wretched wanderer. Doomed man that thou art, what if haply he be some god come down from heaven!Aye, and the gods in the guise of strangers from afar put on all manner of shapes, and visit the cities, beholding the violence and the righteousness of men.” So spoke the wooers, but Antinous paid no heed to their words. And Telemachus nursed in his heart great grieffor the smiting, though he let no tear fall from his eyelids to the ground; but he shook his head in silence, pondering evil in the deep of his heart. Howbeit when wise Penelope heard of the man's being smitten in the hall, she spoke among her handmaids, and said: “Even so may thine own self be smitten by the famed archer Apollo.” And again the housewife Eurynome said to her: “Would that fulfillment might be granted to our prayers. So should not one of these men come to the fair-throned Dawn.” And wise Penelope answered her: “Nurse, enemies are they all, for they devise evil.But Antinous more than all is like black fate. Some wretched stranger roams through the house, begging alms of the men, for want compels him, and all the others filled his wallet and gave him gifts, but Antinous flung a footstool and smote him at the base of the right shoulder.”
So she spoke among her handmaids, sitting in her chamber, while goodly Odysseus was at meat. Then she called to her the goodly swineherd, and said: “Go, goodly Eumaeus, and bid the stranger come hither, that I may give him greeting, and ask himif haply he has heard of Odysseus of the steadfast heart, or has seen him with his eyes. He seems like one that has wandered far.” To her, then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer, and say: “I would, O queen, that the Achaeans would keep silence, for he speaks such words as would charm thy very soul.Three nights I had him by me, and three days I kept him in my hut, for to me first he came when he fled by stealth from a ship, but he had not yet ended the tale of his sufferings. Even as when a man gazes upon a minstrel who sings to mortals songs of longing that the gods have taught him,and their desire to hear him has no end, whensoever he sings, even so he charmed me as he sat in my hall. He says that he is an ancestral friend of Odysseus, and that he dwells in Crete, where is the race of Minos. From thence has he now come on this journey hither, ever suffering woesas he wanders on and on. And he insists that he has heard tidings of Odysseus, near at hand in the rich land of the Thesprotians and yet alive; and he is bringing many treasures to his home.” Then wise Penelope answered him: “Go, call him hither, that he may himself tell me to my face.But as for these men, let them make sport as they sit in the doorway or here in the house, since their hearts are merry. For their own possessions lie untouched in their homes, bread and sweet wine, and on these do their servants feed. But themselves throng our house day after day,slaying our oxen, and sheep, and fat goats, and keep revel and drink the flaming wine recklessly, and havoc is made of all this wealth, for there is no man here such as Odysseus was to keep ruin from the house. But if Odysseus should come and return to his native land,straightway would he with his son take vengeance on these men for their violent deeds.” So she spoke, and Telemachus sneezed loudly, and all the room round about echoed wondrously. And Penelope laughed, and straightway spoke to Eumaeus winged words: “Go, pray, call the stranger here before me.Dost thou not note that my son has sneezed at all my words. Therefore shall utter death fall upon the wooers one and all, nor shall one of them escape death and the fates. And another thing will I tell thee, and do thou lay it to heart. If I find that he speaks all things truly,I will clothe him in a cloak and tunic, fair raiment.” So she spoke, and the swineherd went when he had heard this saying; and coming up to Odysseus he spoke to him winged words: “Sir stranger, wise Penelope calls for thee, the mother of Telemachus, and her heartbids her make enquiry about her husband, though she has suffered many woes. And if she finds that thou speakest all things truly, she will clothe thee in a cloak and tunic, which thou needest most of all. As for thy food, thou shalt beg it through the land, and feed thy belly, and whoso will shall give it thee.”
Then the much-enduring goodly Odysseus answered him: “Eumaeus, soon will I tell all the truth to the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope. For well do I know of Odysseus, and in common have we borne affliction. But I have fear of this throng of harsh wooers,whose wantonness and violence reach the iron heaven. For even now, when, as I was going through the hall doing no evil, this man struck me and hurt me, neither Telemachus nor any other did aught to ward off the blow. Wherefore now bid Penelopeto wait in the halls, eager though she be, till set of sun; and then let her ask me of her husband regarding the day of his return, giving me a seat nearer the fire, for lo, the raiment that I wear is mean, and this thou knowest of thyself, for to thee first did I make my prayer.” So he spoke, and the swineherd went when he had heard this saying.And as he passed over the threshold Penelope said to him: “Thou dost not bring him, Eumaeus. What does the wanderer mean by this? Does he fear some one beyond measure, or does he idly feel ashamed in the house? 'Tis ill for a beggar to feel shame.” To her, then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer and say:“He speaks rightly, even as any other man would deem, in seeking to shun the insolence of overweening men. But he bids thee to wait till set of sun. And for thyself, too, it is far more seemly, O queen, to speak to the stranger alone, and to hear his words.” Then wise Penelope answered him: “Not without wisdom is the stranger; he divines how it may be. There are no mortal men, methinks, who in wantonness devise such wicked folly as these.” So she spoke, and the goodly swineherd departedinto the throng of the wooers when he had told her all. And straightway he spoke winged words to Telemachus, holding his head close to him that the others might not hear: “Friend, I am going forth to guard the swine and all things there, thy livelihood and mine; but have thou charge of all things here.Thine own self do thou keep safe first of all, and let thy mind beware lest some ill befall thee, for many of the Achaeans are devising evil, whom may Zeus utterly destroy before harm fall on us.” Then wise Telemachus answered him: “So shall it be, father; go thy way when thou hast supped.And in the morning do thou come and bring goodly victims. But all matters here shall be a care to me and to the immortals.” So he spoke, and the swineherd sat down again on the polished chair. But when he had satisfied his heart with meat and drink, he went his way to the swine, and left the courts and the hallfull of banqueters. And they were making merry with dance and song, for evening had now come on.
Now there came up a public beggar who was wont to beg through the town of Ithaca, and was known for his greedy belly, eating and drinking without end. No strength had he nor might, but in bulk was big indeed to look upon.Arnaeus was his name, for this name his honored mother had given him at his birth; but Irus all the young men called him, because he used to run on errands[*](1) when anyone bade him. He came now, and was for driving Odysseus from his own house; and he began to revile him, and spoke winged words: “Give way, old man, from the doorway, lest soon thou be even dragged out by the foot. Dost thou not see that all men are winking at me, and bidding me drag thee? Yet for myself, I am ashamed to do it. Nay, up with thee, lest our quarrel even come to blows.” Then with an angry glance from beneath his brows Odysseus of many wiles answered him:“Good fellow, I harm thee not in deed or word, nor do I begrudge that any man should give thee, though the portion he took up were a large one. This threshold will hold us both, and thou hast no need to be jealous for the goods of other folk. Thou seemest to me to be a vagrant, even as I am; and as for happy fortune, it is the gods that are like to give us that.[*](1) But with thy fists do not provoke me overmuch, lest thou anger me, and, old man though I am, I befoul thy breast and lips with blood. So should I have the greater peace tomorrow, for I deem not that thou shalt return a second time to the hall of Odysseus, son of Laertes.” Then, waxing wroth, the vagrant Irus said to him: “Now see how glibly the filthy wretch talks, like an old kitchen-wife. But I will devise evil for him, smiting him left and right, and will scatter on the ground all the teeth from his jaws, as though he were a swine wasting the corn.Gird thyself now, that these men, too, may all know our fighting. But how couldst thou fight with a younger man?” Thus on the polished threshold before the lofty doors they stirred one another's rage right heartily. And the strong and mighty Antinous heard the two,and, breaking into a merry laugh, he spoke among the wooers: “Friends, never before has such a thing come to pass, that a god has brought sport like this to this house. Yon stranger and Irus are provoking one another to blows. Come, let us quickly set them on.” So he spoke, and they all sprang up laughing and gathered about the tattered beggars. And Antinous, son of Eupeithes, spoke among them, and said: “Hear me, ye proud wooers, that I may say somewhat. Here at the fire are goats' paunches lying, whichwe set there for supper, when we had filled them with fat and blood. Now whichever of the two wins and proves himself the better man, let him rise and choose for himself which one of these he will. And furthermore he shall always feast with us, nor will we suffer any other beggar to join our company and beg of us.”
So spoke Antinous, and his word was pleasing to them. Then with crafty mind Odysseus of many wiles spoke among them: “Friends, in no wise may an old man that is overcome with woe fight with a younger. Howbeit my belly, that worker of evil, urges me on, that I may be overcome by his blows.But come now, do you all swear to me a mighty oath, to the end that no man, doing a favour to Irus, may deal me a foul blow with heavy hand, and so by violence subdue me to this fellow.” So he spoke, and they all gave the oath not to smite him, even as he bade. But when they had sworn and made an end of the oath,among them spoke again the strong and mighty Telemachus: “Stranger, if thy heart and thy proud spirit bid thee beat off this fellow, then fear not thou any man of all the Achaeans, for whoso strikes thee shall have to fight with more than thou. Thy host am I, and the princes assent hereto,Antinous and Eurymachus, men of prudence both.” So he spoke, and they all praised his words. But Odysseus girded his rags about his loins and showed his thighs, comely and great, and his broad shoulders came to view, and his chest and mighty arms. And Athenadrew nigh and made greater the limbs of the shepherd of the people. Then all the wooers marvelled exceedingly, and thus would one speak with a glance at his neighbor: “Right soon shall Irus, un-Irused, have a bane of his own bringing, such a thigh does yon old man show from beneath his rags.” So they spoke, and the mind of Irus was miserably shaken; yet even so the serving men girded him, and led him out perforce all filled with dread, and his flesh trembled on his limbs. Then Antinous rated him and spoke, and addressed him: “Better were it now, thou braggart, that thou wert not living, nor hadst ever been born,if thou quailest and art so terribly afraid of this fellow—a man that is old and overcome by the woe that has come upon him. But I will speak out to thee, and this word shall verily be brought to pass. If this fellow conquers thee and proves the better man, I will fling thee into a black ship and send thee to the mainlandto King Echetus, the maimer of all men, who will cut off thy nose and ears with the pitiless bronze, and will draw forth thy vitals and give them raw to dogs to rend.”
So he spoke, and thereat yet greater trembling seized the other's limbs, and they led him into the ring and both men put up their hands.Then the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus was divided in mind whether he should strike him so that life should leave him even there as he fell, or whether he should deal him a light blow and stretch him on the earth. And, as he pondered, this seemed to him the better course, to deal him a light blow, that the Achaeans might not take note of him.Then verily, when they had put up their hands, Irus let drive at the right shoulder, but Odysseus smote him on the neck beneath the ear and crushed in the bones, and straightway the red blood ran forth from his mouth, and down he fell in the dust with a moan, and he gnashed his teeth, kicking the ground with his feet. But the lordly wooersraised their hands, and were like to die with laughter. Then Odysseus seized him by the foot, and dragged him forth through the doorway until he came to the court and the gates of the portico. And he set him down and leaned him against the wall of the court, and thrust his staff into his hand and spoke, and addressed him with winged words: “Sit there now, and scare off swine and dogs, and do not thou be lord of strangers and beggars, miserable that thou art, lest haply thou meet with some worse thing to profit withal.” He spoke, and flung about his shoulders his miserable wallet, full of holes, and slung by a twisted cord.Then back to the threshold he went and sat down; and the wooers went within, laughing merrily, and they greeted him, saying: “May Zeus grant thee, stranger, and the other immortal gods what thou desirest most, and the dearest wish of thy heart, seeing that thou hast made this insatiate fellow to cease from beggingin the land. For soon shall we take him to the mainland to King Echetus, the maimer of all men.” So they spoke, and goodly Odysseus was glad at the word of omen. And Antinous set before him the great paunch, filled with fat and blood, and Amphinomustook up two loaves from the basket and set them before him, and pledged him in a cup of gold, and said: “Hail, Sir stranger; may happy fortune be thine in time to come, though now thou art the thrall of many sorrows.”