Odyssey

Homer

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

So he spoke, and set the bow from him, leaning it against the jointed, polished door,and hard by he leaned the swift arrow against the fair bow-tip, and then sat down on the seat from which he had risen. But Antinous rebuked him, and spoke, and addressed him: “Leiodes, what a word has escaped the barrier of thy teeth, a dread word and grievous! I am angered to hear it,if forsooth this bow is to rob princes of spirit and of life, because thou art not able to string it. For, I tell thee, thy honored mother did not bear thee of such strength as to draw a bow and shoot arrows; but others of the lordly wooers will soon string it.” So he spoke, and called to Melanthius, the goatherd: “Come now, light a fire in the hall, Melanthius; and set by it a great seat with a fleece upon it, and bring forth a great cake of the fat that is within, that we youths may warm the bow, and anoint it with fat,and so make trial of it, and end the contest.” So he spoke, and Melanthius straightway rekindled the unwearied fire, and brought and placed by it a great seat with a fleece upon it, and he brought forth a great cake of the fat that was within. Therewith the youths warmed the bow, and made trial of it, but they could notstring it, for they were far lacking in strength. Now Antinous was still persisting and godlike Eurymachus, leaders of the wooers, who were far the best in valiance; but those other two had gone forth both together from the hall, the neatherd and the swineherd of divine Odysseus;and after them Odysseus himself went forth from the house. But when they were now outside the gates and the court, he spoke and addressed them with gentle words: “Neatherd, and thou too swineherd, shall I tell you something or keep it to myself? Nay, my spirit bids me tell it.What manner of men would you be to defend Odysseus, if he should come from somewhere thus suddenly, and some god should bring him? Would you bear aid to the wooers or to Odysseus? Speak out as your heart and spirit bid you.” Then the herdsmen of the cattle answered him:“Father Zeus, oh that thou wouldest fulfil this wish! Grant that that man may come back, and that some god may guide him. Then shouldest thou know what manner of might is mine, and how my hands obey.” And even in like manner did Eumaeus pray to all the gods that wise Odysseus; might come back to his own home.

But when he knew with certainty the mind of these, he made answer, and spoke to them again, saying: “At home now in truth am I here before you, my very self. After many grievous toils I am come in the twentieth year to my native land. And I know that by you twoalone of all my thralls is my coming desired, but of the rest have I heard not one praying that I might come back again to my home. But to you two will I tell the truth, even as it shall be. If a god shall subdue the lordly wooers unto me, I will bring you each a wife, and will give you possessionsand a house built near my own, and thereafter you two shall be in my eyes friends and brothers of Telemachus. Nay, come, more than this, I will shew you also a manifest sign, that you may know me well and be assured in heart, even the scar of the wound which long ago a boar dealt me with his white tusk,when I went to Parnassus with the sons of Autolycus.” So saying, he drew aside the rags from the great scar. And when the two had seen it, and had marked each thing well, they flung their arms about wise Odysseus, and wept; and they kissed his head and shoulders in loving welcome.And even in like manner Odysseus kissed their heads and hands. And now the light of the sun would have gone down upon their weeping, had not Odysseus himself checked them, and said: “Cease now from weeping and wailing, lest some one come forth from the hall and see us, and make it known within as well.But go within one after another, not all together, I first and you thereafter, and let this be made a sign. All the rest, as many as are lordly wooers, will not suffer the bow and the quiver to be given to me; but do thou, goodly Eumaeus, as thou bearest the bow through the halls,place it in my hands, and bid the women bar the close-fitting doors of their hall. And if any one of them hears groanings or the din of men within our walls, let them not rush out, but remain where they are in silence at their work.But to thee, goodly Philoetius, do I give charge to fasten with a bar the gate of the court, and swiftly to cast a cord upon it.” So saying, he entered the stately house, and went and sat down on the seat from which he had risen. And the two slaves of divine Odysseus went in as well. Eurymachus was now handling the bow, warming it on this side and on that in the light of the fire; but not even so was he able to string it; and in his noble heart he groaned, and with a burst of anger he spoke and addressed them: “Out on it! Verily I am grieved for myself and for you all.It is in no wise for the marriage that I mourn so greatly, grieved though I am; for there are many other Achaean women, some in sea-girt Ithaca itself, and some in other cities; but I mourn if in truth we fall so far short of godlike Odysseus in might, seeing that we cannot stringhis bow. This is a reproach for men that are yet to be to hear of.”

Then Antinous, son of Eupeithes, answered him: “Eurymachus, this shall not be so, and thou of thyself too knowest it. For to-day throughout the land is the feast of the god[*](1)—a holy feast. Who then would bend a bow? Nay, quietlyset it by; and as for the axes—what if we should let them all stand as they are? No man, methinks, will come to the hall of Odysseus, son of Laertes, and carry them off. Nay, come, let the bearer pour drops for libation into the cups, that we may pour libations, and lay aside the curved bow.And in the morning bid Melanthius, the goatherd, to bring she-goats, far the best in all the herds, that we may lay thigh-pieces on the altar of Apollo, the famed archer; and so make trial of the bow, and end the contest.” So spoke Antinous, and his word was pleasing to them.Then the heralds poured water over their hands, and youths filled the bowls brim full of drink, and served out to all, pouring first drops for libation into the cups. But when they had poured libations, and had drunk to their heart's content, then with crafty mind Odysseus of many wiles spoke among them: “Hear me, wooers of the glorious queen, that I may say what the heart in my breast bids me. To Eurymachus most of all do I make my prayer, and to godlike Antinous, since this word also of his was spoken aright, namely that for the present you cease to try the bow, and leave the issue with the gods;and in the morning the god will give the victory to whomsoever he will. But come, give me the polished bow, that in your midst I may prove my hands and strength, whether I have yet might such as was of old in my supple limbs, or whether by now my wanderings and lack of food have destroyed it.” So he spoke, and they all waxed exceeding wroth, fearing lest he might string the polished bow. And Antinous rebuked him, and spoke and addressed him: “Ah, wretched stranger, thou hast no wit, no, not a trace. Art thou not contentthat thou feastest undisturbed in our proud company, and lackest naught of the banquet, but hearest our words and our speech, while no other that is a stranger and beggar hears our words? It is wine that wounds thee, honey-sweet wine, which works harm to others too, if one takes it in great gulps, and drinks beyond measure.It was wine that made foolish even the centaur, glorious Eurytion, in the hall of greathearted Peirithous, when he went to the Lapithae: and when his heart had been made foolish with wine, in his madness he wrought evil in the house of Peirithous. Then grief seized the heroes,and they leapt up and dragged him forth through the gateway, when they had shorn off his ears and his nostrils with the pitiless bronze, and he, made foolish in heart, went his way, bearing with him the curse of his sin in the folly of his heart. From hence the feud arose between the centaurs and mankind; but it was for himself first that he found evil, being heavy with wine.Even so do I declare great harm for thee, if thou shalt string the bow, for thou shalt meet with no kindness at the hands of anyone in our land, but we will send thee straightway in a black ship to king Echetus, the maimer of all men, from whose hands thou shalt in no wise escape alive. Nay, then, be still,and drink thy wine, and do not strive with men younger than thou.”

Then wise Penelope answered him: “Antinous, it is not well nor just to rob of their due the guests of Telemachus, whosoever he be that comes to this house. Dost thou think that, if yon strangerstrings the great bow of Odysseus, trusting in his strength and his might, he will lead me to his home, and make me his wife? Nay, he himself, I ween, has not this hope in his breast; so let no one of you on this account sit at meat here in sorrow of heart; nay, that were indeed unseemly.” Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered her: “Daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, it is not that we think the man will lead thee to his home—that were indeed unseemly—but that we dread the talk of men and women, lest hereafter some base fellow among the Achaeans should say:‘Truly men weaker far are wooing the wife of a noble man, and cannot string his polished bow. But another, a beggar, that came on his wanderings, easily strung the bow, and shot through the iron.’ Thus will men speak, but to us this would become a reproach.” Then wise Penelope answered him again: “Eurymachus, in no wise can there be good report in the land for men who dishonor and consume the house of a prince. Why then do you make this matter[*](1) a reproach? This stranger is right tall and well-built,and declares himself to be born the son of a good father. Nay, come, give him the polished bow and let us see. For thus will I speak out to thee, and this word shall verily be brought to pass; if he shall string the bow, and Apollo grant him glory, I will clothe him with a cloak and tunic, fair raiment,and will give him a sharp javelin to ward off dogs and men, and a two-edged sword; and I will give him sandals to bind beneath his feet, and will send him whithersoever his heart and spirit bid him go.” Then wise Telemachus answered her: “My mother, as for the bow, no man of the Achaeanshas a better right than I to give or to deny it to whomsoever I will—no, not all those who lord it in rocky Ithaca, or in the islands towards horse-pasturing Elis. No man among these shall thwart me against my will, even though I should wish to give this bow outright to the stranger to bear away with him.But do thou go thy chamber, and busy thyself with thine own tasks, the loom and the distaff, and bid thy handmaids ply their tasks. The bow shall be for men, for all, but most of all for me; since mine is the authority in the house.”

She then, seized with wonder, went back to her chamber,for she laid to heart the wise saying of her son. Up to her upper chamber she went with her handmaids, and then bewailed Odysseus, her dear husband, until flashing-eyed Athena cast sweet sleep upon her eyelids. Now the goodly swineherd had taken the curved bow and was bearing it,but the wooers all cried out in the halls. And thus would one of the proud youths speak: “Whither, pray, art thou bearing the curved bow, miserable swineherd, thou man distraught? Soon by thy swine, alone and apart from men, shall the swift hounds devour thee—hounds thyself didst rear—if but Apollobe gracious to us, and the other immortal gods.” So they spoke, and he set down the bow, as he bore it, in that very place, seized with fear because many men were crying out aloud in the halls. But Telemachus on the other side called out threateningly: “Father, bear the bow onward—soon shalt thou rue giving heed to all—lest, younger though I am, I drive thee to the field, and pelt thee with stones; for in strength I am the better. I would that I were even so much better in strength and might than all the wooers that are in the house; then would I soon send many a oneforth from our house to go his way in evil case; for they devise wickedness.” So he spoke, but all the wooers laughed merrily at him, and relaxed the bitterness of their anger against Telemachus. Howbeit the swineherd bore the bow through the hall, and came up to wise Odysseus, and put it in his hands.Then he called forth the nurse Eurycleia, and said to her: “Telemachus bids thee, wise Eurycleia, to bar the close-fitting doors of the hall, and if any of the women hear within groanings or the din of men within our walls, let them notrush out, but remain where they are in silence at their work.” So he spoke, but her word remained unwinged; and she barred the doors of the stately halls. But in silence Philoetius hastened forth from the house, and barred the gates of the well-fenced court.Now there lay beneath the portico the cable of a curved ship, made of byblus plant, wherewith he made fast the gates, and then himself went within. Thereafter he came and sat down on the seat from which he had risen, and gazed upon Odysseus; now he was already handling the bow, turning it round and round, and trying it this way and that,lest worms might have eaten the horns, while its lord was afar. And thus would one speak with a glance at his neighbor: “Verily he has a shrewd eye, and is a cunning knave with a bow. It may be haply that he has himself such bows stored away at home, or else he is minded to make one, that he thusturns it this way and that in his hands, the rascally vagabond.”

And again another of the proud youths would say: “Would that the fellow might find profit in just such measure as he shall prove able ever to string this bow.” So spoke the wooers, but Odysseus of many wiles,as soon as he had lifted the great bow and scanned it on every side—even as when a man well-skilled in the lyre and in song easily stretches the string about a new peg, making fast at either end the twisted sheep-gut—so without effort did Odysseus string the great bow.And he held it in his right hand, and tried the string, which sang sweetly beneath his touch, like to a swallow in tone. But upon the wooers came great grief, and the faces of them changed color, and Zeus thundered loud, shewing forth his signs. Then glad at heart was the much-enduring, goodly Odysseusthat the son of crooked-counselling Cronos sent him an omen, and he took up a swift arrow, which lay by him on the table, bare, but the others were stored within the hollow quiver, even those of which the Achaeans were soon to taste. This he took, and laid upon the bridge of the bow, and drew the bow-string and the notched arroweven from the chair where he sat, and let fly the shaft with sure aim, and did not miss the end of the handle of one of the axes, but clean through and out at the end passed the arrow weighted with bronze. But he spoke to Telemachus, saying: “Telemachus, the strangerthat sits in thy halls brings no shame upon thee, nor in any wise did I miss the mark, or labour long in stringing the bow; still is my strength unbroken—not as the wooers scornfully taunt me. But now it is time that supper too be made ready for the Achaeans, while yet there is light, and thereafter must yet other sport be madewith song and with the lyre; for these things are the accompaniments of a feast.” He spoke, and made a sign with his brows, and Telemachus, the dear son of divine Odysseus, girt about him his sharp sword, and took his spear in his grasp, and stood by the chair at his father's side, armed with gleaming bronze.

But Odysseus of many wiles stripped off his rags and sprang to the great threshold with the bow and the quiver full of arrows, and poured forth the swift arrows right there before his feet, and spoke among the wooers: “Lo, now at last is this decisive contest ended; and now as for another mark, which till now no man has ever smitten, I will know[*](1) if haply I may strike it, and Apollo grant me glory.” He spoke, and aimed a bitter arrow at Antinous. Now he was on the point of raising to his lips a fair goblet,a two-eared cup of gold, and was even now handling it, that he might drink of the wine, and death was not in his thoughts. For who among men that sat at meat could think that one man among many, how strong soever he were, would bring upon himself evil death and black fate?But Odysseus took aim, and smote him with an arrow in the throat, and clean out through the tender neck passed the point; he sank to one side, and the cup fell from his hand as he was smitten, and straightway up through his nostrils there came a thick jet of the blood of man; and quicklyhe thrust the table from him with a kick of his foot, and spilled all the food on the floor, and the bread and roast flesh were befouled. Then into uproar broke the wooers through the halls, as they saw the man fallen, and from their high seats they sprang, driven in fear through the hall, gazing everywhere along the well-built walls;but nowhere was there a shield or mighty spear to seize. But they railed at Odysseus with angry words: “Stranger, to thy cost dost thou shoot at men; never again shalt thou take part in other contests; now is thy utter destruction sure. Aye, for thou hast now slain a man who was far the bestof the youths in Ithaca; therefore shall vultures devour thee here.” So spoke[*](1) each man, for verily they thought that he had not slain the man willfully; and in their folly they knew not this, that over themselves one and all the cords of destruction had been made fast. Then with an angry glance from beneath his brows Odysseus of many wiles answered them: “Ye dogs, ye thought that I should never more come home from the land of the Trojans, seeing that ye wasted my house, and lay with the maidservants by force, and while yet I lived covertly wooed my wife, having no fear of the gods, who hold broad heaven,nor of the indignation of men, that is to be hereafter. Now over you one and all have the cords of destruction been made fast.”

So he spoke, and thereat[*](2) pale fear seized them all, and each man gazed about to see how he might escape utter destruction; Eurymachus alone answered him, and said: “If thou art indeed Odysseus of Ithaca, come home again, this that thou sayest is just regarding all that the Achaeans have wrought—many deeds of wanton folly in thy halls and many in the field. But he now lies dead, who was to blame for all, even Antinous; for it was he who set on foot these deeds,not so much through desire or need of the marriage, but with another purpose, which the son of Cronos did not bring to pass for him, that in the land of settled Ithaca he might himself be king, and might lie in wait for thy son and slay him. But now he lies slain, as was his due, but do thou spare the peoplethat are thine own; and we will hereafter go about the land and get thee recompense for all that has been drunk and eaten in thy halls, and will bring each man for himself in requital the worth of twenty oxen, and pay thee back in bronze and gold until thy heart be warmed; but till then no one could blame thee that thou art wroth.” Then with an angry glance from beneath his brows Odysseus of many wiles answered him: “Eurymachus, not even if you should give me in requital all that your fathers left you, even all that you now have, and should add other wealth thereto from whence ye might, not even so would I henceforth stay my hands from slaying until the wooers had paid the full price of all their transgression.Now it lies before you to fight in open fight, or to flee, if any man may avoid death and the fates; but many a one, methinks, shall not escape from utter destruction.” So he spoke, and their knees were loosened where they stood, and their hearts melted; and Eurymachus spoke among them again a second time: “Friends, for you see that this man will not stay his invincible hands, but now that he was got the polished bow and the quiver, will shoot from the smooth threshold until he slays us all, come, let us take thought of battle. Draw your swords, and hold the tables before you againstthe arrows that bring swift death, and let us all have at him in a body, in the hope that we may thrust him from the threshold and the doorway, and go throughout the city, and so the alarm be swiftly raised; then should this fellow soon have shot his last.”

So saying, he drew his sharp swordof bronze, two-edged, and sprang upon Odysseus with a terrible cry, but at the same instant goodly Odysseus let fly an arrow, and struck him upon the breast beside the nipple, and fixed the swift shaft in his liver. And Eurymachus let the sword fall from his hand to the ground, and writhing over the tablehe bowed and fell, and spilt upon the floor the food and the two-handled cup. With his brow he beat the earth in agony of soul, and with both his feet he spurned and shook the chair, and a mist was shed over his eyes. Then Amphinomus made at glorious Odysseus,rushing straight upon him, and had drawn his sharp sword, in hope that Odysseus might give way before him from the door. But Telemachus was too quick for him, and cast, and smote him from behind with his bronze-tipped spear between the shoulders, and drove it through his breast; and he fell with a thud, and struck the ground full with his forehead.But Telemachus sprang back, leaving the long spear where it was, fixed in Amphinomus, for he greatly feared lest, as he sought to draw forth the long spear, one of the Achaeans might rush upon him and stab with his sword, or deal him a blow as he stooped over the corpse. So he started to run, and came quickly to his dear father,and standing by his side spoke to him winged words: “Father, now will I bring thee a shield and two spears and a helmet all of bronze, well fitted to the temples, and when I come back I will arm myself, and will give armour likewise to the swineherd and yon neatherd; for it is better to be clothed in armour.” Then Odysseus of many wiles answered him and said: “Run, and bring them, while yet I have arrows to defend me, lest they thrust me from the door, alone as I am.” So he spoke, and Telemachus hearkened to his dear father, and went his way to the store-chamber where the glorious arms were stored.Thence he took four shields and eight spears and four helmets of bronze, with thick plumes of horse-hair; and he bore them forth, and quickly came to his dear father. Then first of all he himself girded the bronze about his body, and even in like manner the two slaves put on them the beautiful armour,and took their stand on either side of Odysseus, the wise and crafty-minded. But he, so long as he had arrows to defend him, would ever aim, and smite the wooers one by one in his house, and they fell thick and fast. But when the arrows failed the prince, as he shot,he leaned the bow against the door-post of the well-built hall, and let it stand against the bright entrance wall. For himself, he put about his shoulders a four-fold shield, and set on his mighty head a well-wrought helmet with horse-hair plume, and terribly did the plume wave above him;and he took two mighty spears, tipped with bronze.