Odyssey

Homer

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

So spoke Antinous, and his word was pleasing to them, and each man sent forth a herald to bring his gifts. For Antinous he brought a large and beautiful robe, richly broidered, and in it were golden brooches, twelve in all, fitted with curved clasps.And a chain did another straightway bring to Eurymachus, one cunningly wrought of gold, strung with amber beads, bright as the sun. A pair of earrings his squires brought to Eurydamas, with three clustering[*](1) drops, and great grace shone therefrom. And out of the house of lord Peisander, son of Polyctor,his squire brought a necklace, a jewel exceeding fair. So of the Achaeans one brought one fair gift and one another. But she thereafter, the fair lady, went up to her upper chamber, and her handmaids bare for her the beautiful gifts. But the wooersturned to dance and gladsome song, and made them merry, and waited for evening to come on. And as they made merry dark evening came upon them. Presently they set up three braziers in the hall to give them light, and round about them placed dry faggots, long since seasoned and hard, and newly split with the axe;and in the spaces between they set torches;[*](2) and in turn the handmaids of Odysseus, of the steadfast heart, kindled the flame. Then Zeus-born Odysseus, of many wiles, himself spoke among the maids, and said: “Maidens of Odysseus, that has long been gone, go to the chambers where your honored queen abides,and twist the yarn by her side, and make glad her heart, as you sit in the chamber, or card the wool with your hands; but I will give light to all these men. For if they wish to wait for fair-throned Dawn, they shall in no wise outdo me. I am one that can endure much.” So he spoke, and the maids broke into a laugh, and glanced at one another. And fair-cheeked Melantho rated him shamefully, Melantho, whom Dolius begot, but whom Penelope had reared and cherished as her own child, and gave her playthings to her heart's desire. Yet even so she had at heart no sorrow for Penelope,but she loved Eurymachus and was wont to lie with him. She then rated Odysseus with reviling words: “Wretched stranger, thou art but a crack-brained fellow, unwilling to go to a smithy to sleep, or to a common lodge, but pratest here continually,unabashed in the company of many lords, and hast no fear at heart. Surely wine has mastered thy wits, or else thy mind is ever thus, that thou dost babble idly. Art thou beside thyself because thou hast beaten that vagrant Irus? Beware, lest presently another better than Irus shall rise up against theeto beat thee about the head with heavy hands, and befoul thee with streams of blood, and send thee forth from the house.”

Then with an angry glance from beneath his brows Odysseus of many wiles answered her: “Presently shall I go yonder, thou shameless thing, and tell Telemachus, since thou speakest thus, that on the spot he may cut thee limb from limb.” So he spoke, and with his words scattered the women, who fled through the hall, and the limbs of each were loosened beneath her in terror, for they thought that he spoke truth. But Odysseus took his stand by the burning braziers to give light, and looked upon all the men.Yet other things was the heart within him pondering—things that were not to be unfulfilled. But Athena would in no wise suffer the proud wooers to abstain from bitter outrage, that pain might sink yet deeper into the heart of Odysseus, son of Laertes. So among them Eurymachus, son of Polybus, began to speak,jeering at Odysseus, and making mirth for his companions: “Hear me, wooers of the glorious queen, that I may say what the heart in my breast bids me. Not without the will of the gods has this man come to the palace of Odysseus; in any case there is a glare of torches from him—from his head, for there is no hair on it, no, not a trace.”[*](1) Therewith he called to Odysseus, sacker of cities: “Stranger, wouldest thou have a mind to serve for hire, if I should take thee into service on an outlying farm—thy pay shall be assured thee—gathering stones for walls, and planting tall trees?There would I provide thee with food the year through, and clothe thee with raiment and give thee sandals for thy feet. But since thou hast learned only deeds of evil, thou wilt not care to busy thyself with work, but art minded rather to go skulking through the land, that thou mayest have wherewith to feed thy insatiate belly.”

Then Odysseus of many wiles answered him, and said: “Eurymachus, I would that we two might have a match in working in the season of spring, when the long days come, at mowing the grass, I with a curved scythe in my hands and thou with another like it,and that the grass might be in plenty that so we might test our work, fasting till late evening. Or I would again that there were oxen to drive—the best there are, tawny and large, both well fed with grass, of like age and like power to bear the yoke, tireless in strength—and that there were a field of four acres, and the soil should yield before the plough:then shouldest thou see me, whether or no I could cut a straight furrow to the end. Or I would again that this day the son of Cronos might bring war upon us from whence he would, and I had a shield and two spears and a helmet all of bronze, that fitted well my temples: then shouldest thou see me mingling amid the foremost fighters,and wouldest not prate, taunting me with this belly of mine. But right insolent art thou, and thy heart is cruel, and forsooth thou thinkest thyself to be some great man and mighty, because thou consortest with few men and weak. If but Odysseus might return, and come to his native land,soon would yonder doors, right wide though they are, prove all too narrow for thee in thy flight out through the doorway.” So he spoke, and Eurymachus waxed the more wroth at heart, and with an angry glance from beneath his brows spoke to him winged words: “Wretch, presently will I work thee evil, that thou pratest thus,unabashed in the presence of many lords, and hast no fear at heart. Surely wine has mastered thy wits, or else thy mind is ever thus, that thou dost babble idly. Art thou beside thyself because thou hast beaten that vagrant Irus?”

So saying, he seized a footstool, but Odysseussat down at the knees of Amphinomus of Dulichium, in fear of Eurymachus. And so Eurymachus struck a cup-bearer on the right hand, and the wine-jug fell to the ground with a clang, and the bearer groaned, and fell backwards in the dust. Then the wooers broke into uproar throughout the shadowy halls,and thus would one man speak with a glance at his neighbor: “Would that yon stranger had perished elsewhere on his wanderings or ever he came hither; then should he never have brought among us all this tumult. But now we are brawling about beggars, nor shall there be any joy in our rich feast, since worse things prevail.” Then among them spoke the strong and mighty Telemachus: “Strange sirs, ye are mad, and no longer hide that ye have eaten and drunk; some god surely is moving you. Nay, now that you have well feasted, go to your homes and take your rest, when your spirits bid you. Yet do I drive no man forth.” So he spoke, and they all bit their lips, and marvelled at Telemachus, that he spoke boldly. But Amphinomus spoke, and addressed them—he was son of the noble prince Nisus, son of Aretias: “Friends, no man in answer to what has been fairly spokenwould wax wroth and make reply with wrangling words. Abuse not any more this stranger nor any one of the slaves that are in the house of divine Odysseus. Nay, come, let the bearer pour drops for libation in the cups, that we may pour libations, and go home to take our rest. As for this stranger,let us leave him in the halls of Odysseus to be cared for by Telemachus; for to his house has he come.” So said he, and the words that he spoke were pleasing to all. Then a bowl was mixed for them by the lord Mulius, a herald from Dulichium, who was squire to Amphinomus.And he served out to all, coming up to each in turn; and they made libations to the blessed gods, and drank the honey-sweet wine. Then when they had made libations and had drunk to their heart's content, they went their way, each man to his own house, to take their rest.

So goodly Odysseus was left behind in the hall, planning with Athena's aid the slaying of the wooers, and he straightway spoke winged words to Telemachus: “Telemachus, the weapons of war thou must needs lay away withinone and all, and when the wooers miss them and question thee, thou must beguile them with gentle words, saying: ‘Out of the smoke have I laid them, since they are no longer like those which of old Odysseus left behind him, when he went forth to Troy, but are all befouled, so far as the breath of fire has reached them.And furthermore this greater fear has a god put in my heart, lest haply, when heated with wine, you may set a quarrel afoot among you, and wound one another, and so bring shame on your feast and on your wooing. For of itself does the iron draw a man to it.’” So he spoke, and Telemachus hearkened to his dear father,and calling forth the nurse Eurycleia, said to her: “Nurse, come now, I bid thee, shut up the women in their rooms, while I lay away in the store-room the weapons of my father, the goodly weapons which all uncared-for the smoke bedims in the hall since my father went forth, and I was still a child.But now I am minded to lay them away, where the breath of the fire will not come upon them.” Then the dear nurse Eurycleia answered him: “Aye, child, I would thou mightest ever take thought to care for the house and guard all its wealth. But come, who then shall fetch a light and bear it for thee,since thou wouldest not suffer the maids, who might have given light, to go before thee?” Then wise Telemachus answered her; “This stranger here; for I will suffer no man to be idle who touches my portion of meal,[*](1) even though he has come from afar.” So he spoke, but her word remained unwinged, and she locked the doors of the stately hall.Then the two sprang up, Odysseus and his glorious son, and set about bearing within the helmets and the bossy shields and the sharp-pointed spears; and before them Pallas Athena, bearing a golden lamp, made a most beauteous light.Then Telemachus suddenly spoke to his father, and said: “Father, verily this is a great marvel that my eyes behold; certainly the walls of the house and the fair beams[*](2) and cross-beams of fir and the pillars that reach on high, glow in my eyes as with the light of blazing fire.Surely some god is within, one of those who hold broad heaven.” Then Odysseus of many wiles answered him, and said: “Hush, check thy thought, and ask no question; this, I tell thee, is the way of the gods that hold Olympus. But do thou go and take thy rest and I will remain behind here,that I may stir yet more the minds of the maids and of thy mother; and she with weeping shall ask me of each thing separately.”

So he spoke, and Telemachus went forth through the hall by the light of blazing torches to go to his chamber to lie down, where he had heretofore been wont to rest, when sweet sleep came upon him.There now too he lay down and waited for the bright Dawn. But goodly Odysseus was left behind in the hall, planning with Athena's aid the slaying of the wooers. Then wise Penelope came forth from her chamber like unto Artemis or golden Aphrodite,and for her they set by the fire, where she was wont to sit, a chair inlaid with spirals of ivory and silver, which of old the craftsman Icmalius had made, and had set beneath it a foot-stool for the feet, that was part of the chair, and upon it a great fleece was wont to be laid. On this then wise Penelope sat down,and the white-armed maids came forth from the women's hall. These began to take away the abundant food, the tables, and the cups from which the lordly men had been drinking, and they cast the embers from the braziers on to the floor, and piled upon the braziers fresh logs in abundance, to give light and warmth. But Melantho began again a second time to rate Odysseus, saying: “Stranger, wilt thou even now still be a plague to us through the night, roaming through the house, and wilt thou spy upon the women? Nay, get thee forth, thou wretch, and be content with thy supper, or straightway shalt thou even be smitten with a torch, and so go forth.” Then with an angry glance from beneath his brows Odysseus of many wiles answered her: “Good woman, why, pray, dost thou thus assail me with angry heart? Is it because I am foul and wear mean raiment on my body, and beg through the land? Aye, for necessity compels me. Of such sort are beggars and vagabond folk.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. Wherefore, woman, beware lest thou too some day lose all the glory whereby thou now hast excellence among the handmaids; lest perchance thy mistress wax wroth and be angry with thee, or Odysseus come home; for there is yet room for hope.But if, even as it seems, he is dead, and is no more to return, yet now is his son by the favour of Apollo such as he was—even Telemachus. Him it escapes not if any of the women in the halls work wantonness; for he is no longer the child he was.”

So he spoke, and wise Penelope heard him;and she rebuked the handmaid and spoke, and addressed her: “Be sure, thou bold and shameless thing, that thy outrageous deed is in no wise hid from me, and with thine own head shalt thou wipe out its stain. Full well didst thou know, for thou hast heard it from my own lips, that I was mindedto question the stranger in my halls concerning my husband; for I am sore distressed.” With this she spoke also to the housewife Eurynome, and said: “Eurynome, bring hither a chair and a fleece upon it, that the stranger may sit down and tell his tale, and listen to me; for I am fain to ask him of all things.” So she spoke, and Eurynome speedily brought a polished chair and set it in place, and on it cast a fleece. Then the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus sat down upon it, and the wise Penelope spoke first, and said: “Stranger, this question will I myself ask thee first.Who art thou among men, and from whence? Where is thy city, and where thy parents?” Then Odysseus of many wiles answered her, and said: “Lady, no one of mortals upon the boundless earth could find fault with thee, for thy fame goes up to the broad heaven, as does the fame of some blameless king, who with the fear of the gods in his heart,is lord over many mighty men, upholding justice; and the black earth bears wheat and barley, and the trees are laden with fruit, the flocks bring forth young unceasingly, and the sea yields fish, all from his good leading; and the people prosper under him.Wherefore question me now in thy house of all things else, but ask not concerning my race and my native land, lest thou fill my heart the more with pains, as I think thereon; for I am a man of many sorrows. Moreover it is not fittingthat I should sit weeping and wailing in another's house, for it is ill to grieve ever without ceasing. I would not that one of thy maidens or thine own self be vexed with me, and say that I swim in tears because my mind is heavy with wine.” Then wise Penelope answered him: “Stranger, all excellence of mine, both of beauty and of form,the immortals destroyed on the day when the Argives embarked for Ilios, and with them went my husband, Odysseus. If he might but come, and watch over this life of mine, greater would be my fame and fairer. But now I am in sorrow, so many woes has some god brought upon me.For all the princes who hold sway over the islands—Dulichium and Same and wooded Zacynthus—and those who dwell around in clear-seen Ithaca itself, all these woo me against my will, and lay waste my house. Wherefore I pay no heed to strangers or to suppliantsor in any wise to heralds, whose trade is a public one; but in longing for Odysseus I waste my heart away. So these men urge on my marriage, and I wind a skein of wiles. First some god breathed the thought in my heart to set up a great web in my halls and fall to weaving a robe—fine of thread was the web and very wide; and I straightway spoke among them: “‘Young men, my wooers, since goodly Odysseus is dead, be patient, though eager for my marriage, until I finish this robe—I would not that my spinning should come to naught—a shroud for the lord Laertes against the time whenthe fell fate of grievous death shall strike him down; lest any one of the Achaean women in the land should be wroth with me, if he were to lie without a shroud, who had won great possessions.’

“So I spoke, and their proud hearts consented. Then day by day I would weave at the great web,but by night would unravel it, when I had let place torches by me. Thus for three years I kept the Achaeans from knowing, and beguiled them; but when the fourth year came, as the seasons rolled on, as the months waned, and the many days were brought in their course, then verily by the help of my maidens, shameless creatures and reckless,they came upon me and caught me, and upbraided me loudly. So I finished the web against my will perforce. And now I can neither escape the marriage nor devise any counsel more, and my parents are pressing me to marry, and my son frets, while these men devour his livelihood,as he takes note of it all; for by now he is a man, and fully able to care for a household to which Zeus grants honor. Yet even so tell me of thy stock from whence thou art; for thou art not sprung from an oak of ancient story, or from a stone.”[*](1) Then Odysseus of many wiles answered her, and said:“Honored wife of Odysseus, son of Laertes, wilt thou never cease to ask me of my lineage? Well, I will tell thee; though verily thou wilt give me over to pains yet more than those by which I am now held in thrall; for so it ever is, when a man has been far from his country as long as I have now,wandering through the many cities of men in sore distress. Yet even so will I tell thee what thou dost ask and enquire. There is a land called Crete, in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair, rich land, begirt with water, and therein are many men, past counting, and ninety cities.They have not all the same speech, but their tongues are mixed. There dwell Achaeans, there great-hearted native Cretans, there Cydonians, and Dorians of waving plumes, and goodly Pelasgians. Among their cities is the great city Cnosus, where Minos reigned when nine years old,[*](2) he that held converse with great Zeus,and was father of my father, great-hearted Deucalion. Now Deucalion begat me and prince Idomeneus. Idomeneus had gone forth in his beaked ships to Ilios with the sons of Atreus; but my famous name is Aethon; I was the younger by birth, while he was the elder and the better man.There it was that I saw Odysseus and gave him gifts of entertainment; for the force of the wind had brought him too to Crete, as he was making for the land of Troy, and drove him out of his course past Malea. So he anchored his ships at Amnisus, where is the cave of Eilithyia, in a difficult harbor, and hardly did he escape the storm.

Then straightway he went up to the city and asked for Idomeneus; for he declared that he was his friend, beloved and honored. But it was now the tenth or the eleventh dawn since Idomeneus had gone in his beaked ships to Ilios. So I took him to the house, and gave him entertainmentwith kindly welcome of the rich store that was in the house, and to the rest of his comrades who followed with him I gathered and gave out of the public store barley meal and flaming wine and bulls for sacrifice, that their hearts might be satisfied. There for twelve days the goodly Achaeans tarried,for the strong North Wind penned them there, and would not suffer them to stand upon their feet on the land, for some angry god had roused it. But on the thirteenth day the wind fell and they put to sea.” He spoke, and made the many falsehoods of his tale seem like the truth,[*](1) and as she listened her tears flowed and her face meltedas the snow melts on the lofty mountains, the snow which the East Wind thaws when the West Wind has strewn it, and as it melts the streams of the rivers flow full: so her fair cheeks melted as she wept and mourned for her husband, who even then was sitting by her side. And Odysseusin his heart had pity for his weeping wife, but his eyes stood fixed between his lids as though they were horn or iron, and with guile he hid his tears. But she, when she had had her fill of tearful wailing, again answered him and spoke, saying: “Now verily, stranger, am I minded to put thee to the test, whether or no thou didst in very truth entertain there in thy halls my husband with his godlike comrades, even as thou sayest. Tell me what manner of raiment he wore about his body, and what manner of man he was himself; and tell me of the comrades who followed him.” Then Odysseus of many wiles answered her, and said: “Lady, hard is it for one that has been so long afar to tell thee this, for it is now the twentieth year since he went thence and departed from my country. But I will tell thee as my mind pictures him.A fleecy cloak of purple did goodly Odysseus wear, a cloak of double fold, but the brooch upon it was fashioned of gold with double clasps, and on the front it was curiously wrought: a hound held in his fore paws a dappled fawn, and pinned it[*](1) in his jaws as it writhed. And at this all men marvelled,how, though they were of gold, the hound was pinning the fawn and strangling it, and the fawn was writhing with its feet and striving to flee. And I noted the tunic about his body, all shining as is the sheen upon the skin of a dried onion, so soft it was; and it glistened like the sun.Verily many women gazed at him in wonder. And another thing will I tell thee, and do thou lay it to heart. I know not whether Odysseus was thus clothed at home, or whether one of his comrades gave him the raiment when he went on board the swift ship, or haply even some stranger, since to many menwas Odysseus dear, for few of the Achaeans were his peers.