And they came to the hollow land of Lacedaemon with its many ravines, and drove to the palace of glorious Menelaus. Him they found giving a marriage feast to his many kinsfolk for his noble son and daughter within his house.His daughter he was sending to the son of Achilles, breaker of the ranks of men, for in the land of Troy he first had promised and pledged that he would give her, and now the gods were bringing their marriage to pass. Her then he was sending forth with horses and chariots to go her way to the glorious city of the Myrmidons, over whom her lord was king;but for his son he was bringing to his home from Sparta the daughter of Alector, even for the stalwart Megapenthes, who was his son well-beloved,[*](1) born of a slave woman; for to Helen the gods vouchsafed issue no more after that she had at the first borne her lovely child, Hermione, who had the beauty of golden Aphrodite.So they were feasting in the great high-roofed hall, the neighbors and kinsfolk of glorious Menelaus, and making merry; and among them a divine minstrel was singing to the lyre, and two tumblers whirled up and down through the midst of them, as he began his song. Then the two, the prince Telemachus and the glorious son of Nestor, halted at the gateway of the palace, they and their two horses. And the lord Eteoneus came forth and saw them, the busy squire of glorious Menelaus; and he went through the hall to bear the tidings to the shepherd of the people.So he came near and spoke to him winged words: “Here are two strangers, Menelaus, fostered of Zeus, two men that are like the seed of great Zeus. But tell me, shall we unyoke for them their swift horses, or send them on their way to some other host, who will give them entertainment?” Then, stirred to sore displeasure, fair-haired Menelaus spoke to him: “Aforetime thou was not wont to be a fool, Eteoneus, son of Boethous, but now like a child thou talkest folly. Surely we two ate full often hospitable cheer of other men, ere we came hither in the hope that Zeuswould hereafter grant us respite from sorrow. Nay, unyoke the strangers' horses, and lead the men forward into the house, that they may feast.” So he spoke, and the other hastened through the hall, and called to the other busy squires to follow along with him. They loosed the sweating horses from beneath the yokeand tied them at the stalls of the horses, and flung before them spelt, and mixed therewith white barley. Then they tilted the chariot against the bright entrance walls, and led the men into the divine palace. But at the sight they marvelled as they passed through the palace of the king, fostered of Zeus;for there was a gleam as of sun or moon over the high-roofed house of glorious Menelaus. But when they had satisfied their eyes with gazing they went into the polished baths and bathed.
And when the maids had bathed them and anointed them with oil,and had cast about them fleecy cloaks and tunics, they sat down on chairs beside Menelaus, son of Atreus. Then 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 dainties in abundance, giving freely of her store. And a carver lifted up and placed before them platters of all manner of meats, and set by them golden goblets. Then fair-haired Menelaus greeted the two and said: “Take of the food, and be glad, and then when you have supped, we will ask you who among men you are; for in you two the breed of your sires is not lost, but ye are of the breed of men that are sceptred kings, fostered of Zeus; for base churls could not beget such sons as you.” So saying he took in his hands roast meat and set it before them, even the fat ox-chine which they had set before himself as a mess of honor. 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, lo, then Telemachus spoke to the son of Nestor,holding his head close to him, that the others might not hear: “Son of Nestor, dear to this heart of mine, mark the flashing of bronze throughout the echoing halls, and the flashing of gold, of electrum,[*](1) of silver, and of ivory. Of such sort, methinks, is the court of Olympian Zeus within,such untold wealth is here; amazement holds me as I look.” Now as he spoke fair-haired Menelaus heard him, and he spoke and addressed them with winged words: “Dear children, with Zeus verily no mortal man could vie, for everlasting are his halls and his possessions;but of men another might vie with me in wealth or haply might not. For of a truth after many woes and wide wanderings I brought my wealth home in my ships and came in the eighth year. Over Cyprus and Phoenicia I wandered, and Egypt, and I came to the Ethiopians and the Sidonians and the Erembi,and to Libya, where the lambs are horned from their birth.[*](1) For there the ewes bear their young thrice within the full course of the year; there neither master nor shepherd has any lack of cheese or of meat or of sweet milk, but the flocks ever yield milk to the milking the year through.While I wandered in those lands gathering much livelihood, meanwhile another slew my brother by stealth and at unawares, by the guile of his accursed wife. Thus, thou mayest see, I have no joy in being lord of this wealth; and you may well have heard of this from your fathers, whosoever theymay be, for full much did I suffer, and let fall into ruin a stately house and one stored with much goodly treasure. Would that I dwelt in my halls with but a third part of this wealth, and that those men were safe who then perished in the broad land of Troy far from horse-pasturing Argos.
And yet, though I often sit in my halls weeping and sorrowing for them all—one moment indeed I ease my heart with weeping, and then again I cease, for men soon have surfeit of chill lament—yet for them all I mourn not so much, despite my grief,as for one only, who makes me to loathe both sleep and food, when I think of him; for no one of the Achaeans toiled so much as Odysseus toiled and endured. But to himself, as it seems, his portion was to be but woe, and for me there is sorrow never to be forgotten for him, in that he is gone so long, nor do we know aughtwhether he be alive or dead. Mourned is he, I ween, by the old man Laertes, and by constant Penelope, and by Telemachus, whom he left a new-born child in his house.” So he spoke, and in Telemachus he roused the desire to weep for his father. Tears from his eyelids he let fall upon the ground, when he heard his father's name,and with both hands held up his purple cloak before his eyes. And Menelaus noted him, and debated in mind and heart whether he should leave him to speak of his father himself, or whether he should first question him and prove him in each thing. While he pondered thus in mind and heart, forth then from her fragrant high-roofed chamber came Helen, like Artemis of the golden arrows;[*](1) and with her came Adraste, and placed for her a chair, beautifully wrought, and Alcippe brought a rug of soft wooland Phylo a silver basket, which Alcandre had given her, the wife of Polybus, who dwelt in Thebes of Egypt, where greatest store of wealth is laid up in men's houses. He gave to Menelaus two silver baths and two tripods and ten talents of gold.And besides these, his wife gave to Helen also beautiful gifts,—a golden distaff and a basket with wheels beneath did she give, a basket of silver, and with gold were the rims thereof gilded.[*](1) This then the handmaid, Phylo, brought and placed beside her, filled with finely-spun yarn, and across itwas laid the distaff laden with violet-dark wool. So Helen sat down upon the chair, and below was a footstool for the feet; and at once she questioned her husband on each matter, and said: “Do we know, Menelaus, fostered of Zeus, who these men declare themselves to be who have come to our house?Shall I disguise my thought, or speak the truth? Nay, my heart bids me speak. For never yet, I declare, saw I one so like another, whether man or woman—amazement holds me, as I look—as this man is like the son of great-hearted Odysseus, even Telemachus, whom that warrior left a new-born child in his house, when for the sake of shameless me ye Achaeans came up under the walls of Troy, pondering in your hearts fierce war.”
Then fair-haired Menelaus answered her: “Even so do I myself now note it, wife, as thou markest the likeness. Such were his feet, such his hands,and the glances of his eyes, and his head and hair above. And verily but now, as I made mention of Odysseus and was telling of all the woe and toil he endured for my sake, this youth let fall a bitter tear from beneath his brows, holding up his purple cloak before his eyes.” Then Peisistratus, son of Nestor, answered him:“Menelaus, son of Atreus, fostered of Zeus, leader of hosts, his son indeed this youth is, as thou sayest. But he is of prudent mind and feels shame at heart thus on his first coming to make a show of forward wordsin the presence of thee, in whose voice we both take delight as in a god's. But the horseman, Nestor of Gerenia, sent me forth to go with him as his guide, for he was eager to see thee, that thou mightest put in his heart some word or some deed. For many sorrows has a sonin his halls when his father is gone, when there are none other to be his helpers, even as it is now with Telemachus; his father is gone, and there are no others among the people who might ward off ruin.” Then fair-haired Menelaus answered him and said: “Lo now, verily is there come to my house the son of a man well-beloved,who for my sake endured many toils. And I thought that if he came back I should give him welcome beyond all the other Argives, if Olympian Zeus, whose voice is borne afar, had granted to us two a return in our swift ships over the sea. And in Argos I would have given him a city to dwell in, and would have built him a house,when I had brought him from Ithaca with his goods and his son and all his people, driving out the dwellers of some one city among those that lie round about and obey me myself as their lord. Then, living here, should we ofttimes have met together, nor would aught have parted us, loving and joying in one another,until the black cloud of death enfolded us. Howbeit of this, methinks, the god himself must have been jealous, who to that hapless man alone vouchsafed no return.”
So he spoke, and in them all aroused the desire of lament. Argive Helen wept, the daughter of Zeus,Telemachus wept, and Menelaus, son of Atreus, nor could the son of Nestor keep his eyes tearless. For he thought in his heart of peerless Antilochus, whom the glorious son of the bright Dawn[*](1) had slain. Thinking of him, he spoke winged words: “Son of Atreus, old Nestor used ever to say that thou wast wise above all men, whenever we made mention of thee in his halls and questioned one another. And now, if it may in any wise be, hearken to me, for I take no joy in weeping at supper time,[*](2)—and moreoverearly dawn will soon be here.[*](3) I count it indeed no blame to weep for any mortal who has died and met his fate. Yea, this is the only due we pay to miserable mortals, to cut the hair and let a tear fall from the cheeks. For a brother of mine, too, is dead, nowise the meanestof the Argives, and thou mayest well have known him. As for me, I never met him nor saw him; but men say that Antilochus was above all others pre-eminent in speed of foot and as a warrior.” Then fair-haired Menelaus answered him and said: “My friend, truly thou hast said all that a wise manmight say or do, even one that was older than thou; for from such a father art thou sprung, wherefore thou dost even speak wisely. Easily known is the seed of that man for whom the son of Cronos spins the thread of good fortune at marriage and at birth, even as now he has granted to Nestor throughout all his days continually thathe should himself reach a sleek old age in his halls, and that his sons in their turn should be wise and most valiant with the spear. But we will cease the weeping which but now was made, and let us once more think of our supper, and let them pour water over our hands. Tales there will be in the morning alsofor Telemachus and me to tell to one another to the full.” So he spoke, and Asphalion poured water over their hands, the busy squire of glorious Menelaus. And they put forth their hands to the good cheer lying ready before them.
Then Helen, daughter of Zeus, took other counsel.Straightway she cast into the wine of which they were drinking a drug to quiet all pain and strife, and bring forgetfulness of every ill. Whoso should drink this down, when it is mingled in the bowl, would not in the course of that day let a tear fall down over his cheeks,no, not though his mother and father should lie there dead, or though before his face men should slay with the sword his brother or dear son, and his own eyes beheld it. Such cunning drugs had the daughter of Zeus, drugs of healing, which Polydamna, the wife of Thon, had given her, a woman of Egypt, for there the earth, the giver of grain, bears greatest storeof drugs, many that are healing when mixed, and many that are baneful; there every man is a physician, wise above human kind; for they are of the race of Paeeon. Now when she had cast in the drug, and had bidden pour forth the wine, again she made answer, and said: “Menelaus, son of Atreus, fostered of Zeus, and ye that are here, sons of noble men—though now to one and now to another Zeus gives good and ill, for he can do all things,—now verily sit ye in the halls and feast, and take ye joy in telling tales, for I will tell what fitteth the time.All things I cannot tell or recount, even all the labours of Odysseus of the steadfast heart; but what a thing was this which that mighty man wrought and endured in the land of the Trojans, where you Achaens suffered woes! Marring his own body with cruel blows,and flinging a wretched garment about his shoulders, in the fashion of a slave he entered the broad-wayed city of the foe, and he hid himself under the likeness of another, a beggar, he who was in no wise such an one at the ships of the Achaeans. In this likeness he entered the city of the Trojans, and all of them were but as babes.[*](1) I alone recognized him in this disguise, and questioned him, but he in his cunning sought to avoid me. Howbeit when I was bathing him and anointing him with oil, and had put on him raiment, and sworn a mighty oath not to make him known among the Trojans as Odysseusbefore that he reached the swift ships and the huts, then at length he told me all the purpose of the Achaeans. And when he had slain many of the Trojans with the long sword, he returned to the company of the Argives and brought back plentiful tidings. Then the other Trojan women wailed aloud, but my soulwas glad, for already my heart was turned to go back to my home, and I groaned for the blindness that Aphrodite gave me, when she led me thither from my dear native land, forsaking my child and my bridal chamber, and my husband, a man who lacked nothing, whether in wisdom or in comeliness.”
Then fair-haired Menelaus answered her and said:“Aye verily, all this, wife, hast thou spoken aright. Ere now have I come to know the counsel and the mind of many warriors, and have travelled over the wide earth, but never yet have mine eyes beheld such an oneas was Odysseus of the steadfast heart. What a thing was this, too, which that mighty man wrought and endured in the carven horse, wherein all we chiefs of the Argives were sitting, bearing to the Trojans death and fate! Then thou camest thither, and it must be that thou wast biddenby some god, who wished to grant glory to the Trojans, and godlike Deiphobus followed thee on thy way. Thrice didst thou go about the hollow ambush, trying it with thy touch, and thou didst name aloud the chieftains of the Danaans by their names, likening thy voice to the voices of the wives of all the Argives.Now I and the son of Tydeus and goodly Odysseus sat there in the midst and heard how thou didst call, and we two were eager to rise up and come forth, or else to answer straightway from within, but Odysseus held us back and stayed us, despite our eagerness.Then all the other sons of the Achaeans held their peace, but Anticlus alone was fain to speak and answer thee; but Odysseus firmly closed his mouth with strong hands, and saved all the Achaeans, and held him thus until Pallas Athena led thee away.” Then wise Telemachus answered him: “Menelaus, son of Atreus, fostered of Zeus, leader of hosts, all the more grievous is it; for in no wise did this ward off from him woeful destruction, nay, not though the heart within him had been of iron. But come, send us to bed, that lulled nowby sweet sleep we may rest and take our joy.” Thus he spoke, and Argive Helen bade her handmaids place bedsteads beneath the portico, and to lay on them fair purple blankets, and to spread there over coverlets, and on these to put fleecy cloaks for clothing.But the maids went forth from the hall with torches in their hands and strewed the couch, and a herald led forth the guests. So they slept there in the fore-hall of the palace, the prince Telemachus and the glorious son of Nestor; but the son of Atreus slept in the inmost chamber of the lofty house,and beside him lay long-robed Helen, peerless among women. So soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, up from his bed arose Menelaus, good at the war-cry, and put on his clothing. About his shoulders he slung his sharp sword, and beneath his shining feet bound his fair sandals,and went forth from his chamber like unto a god to look upon. Then he sat down beside Telemachus, and spoke, and addressed him: “What need has brought thee hither, prince Telemachus, to goodly Lacedaemon over the broad back of the sea? Is it a public matter, or thine own? Tell me the truth of this.”
Then wise Telemachus answered him: “Menelaus, son of Atreus, fostered of Zeus, leader of hosts, I came if haply thou mightest tell me some tidings of my father. My home is being devoured and my rich lands are ruined; with men that are foes my house is filled, who are everslaying my thronging sheep and my sleek kine of shambling gait, even the wooers of my mother, overweening in their insolence. Therefore am I now come to thy knees, if perchance thou wilt be willing to tell me of his woeful death, whether thou sawest it haply with thine own eyes, or didst hear from some other the storyof his wanderings; for beyond all men did his mother bear him to sorrow. And do thou no wise out of ruth or pity for me speak soothing words, but tell me truly how thou didst come to behold him. I beseech thee, if ever my father, noble Odysseus, promised aught to thee of word or deed and fulfilled itin the land of the Trojans, where you Achaeans suffered woes, be mindful of it now, I pray thee, and tell me the truth.” Then, stirred to sore displeasure, fair-haired Menelaus spoke to him: “Out upon them, for verily in the bed of a man of valiant heart were 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 lair and upon the two[*](1) 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 Philomeleides and 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 beseech 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.
“In Egypt,[*](1) eager though I was to journey hither, the gods still held me back, because I offered not to them hecatombs that bring fulfillment, and the gods ever wished that men should be mindful of their commands. Now there is an island in the surging seain front of Egypt, and men call it Pharos, distant as far as a hollow ship runs in a whole day when the shrill wind blows fair behind her. Therein is a harbor with good anchorage, whence men launch the shapely ships into the sea, when they have drawn supplies of black[*](2) water.There for twenty days the gods kept me, nor ever did the winds that blow over the deep spring up, which speed men's ships over the broad back of the sea. And now would all my stores have been spent and the strength of my men, had not one of the gods taken pity on me and saved me, even Eidothea,daughter of mighty Proteus, the old man of the sea; for her heart above all others had I moved. She met me as I wandered alone apart from my comrades, who were ever roaming about the island, fishing with bent hooks, for hunger pinched their bellies;and she came close to me, and spoke, and said: “‘Art thou so very foolish, stranger, and slack of wit, or art thou of thine own will remiss, and hast pleasure in suffering woes? So long art thou pent in the isle and canst find no sign of deliverance[*](1) and the heart of thy comrades grows faint.’ “So she spoke, and I made answer and said: ‘I will speak out and tell thee, whosoever among goddesses thou art, that in no wise am I pent here of mine own will, but it must be that I have sinned against the immortals, who hold broad heaven. But do thou tell me—for the gods know all things—who of the immortals fetters me here, and has hindered me from my path, and tell me of my return, how I may go over the teeming deep.’ “So I spoke, and the beautiful goddess straightway made answer: ‘Then verily, stranger, will I frankly tell thee all. There is wont to come hither the unerring old man of the sea,immortal Proteus of Egypt, who knows the depths of every sea, and is the servant of Poseidon. He, they say, is my father that begat me. If thou couldst in any wise lie in wait and catch him, he will tell thee thy way and the measure of thy path,and of thy return, how thou mayest go over the teeming deep. Aye, and he will tell thee, thou fostered of Zeus, if so thou wilt, what evil and what good has been wrought in thy halls, while thou hast been gone on thy long and grievous way.’ “So she spoke, and I made answer and said:‘Do thou thyself now devise a means of lying in wait for the divine old man, lest haply he see me beforehand and being ware of my purpose avoid me. For hard is a god for a mortal man to master.’
“So I spoke, and the beautiful goddess straightway made answer: ‘Then verily, stranger, will I frankly tell thee all.When the sun hath reached mid-heaven, the unerring old man of the sea is wont to come forth from the brine at the breath of the West Wind, hidden by the dark ripple. And when he is come forth, he lies down to sleep in the hollow caves; and around him the seals, the brood of the fair daughter of the sea,sleep in a herd, coming forth from the gray water, and bitter is the smell they breathe of the depths of the sea. Thither will I lead thee at break of day and lay you all in a row; for do thou choose carefully three of thy companions, who are the best thou hast in thy well-benched ships.And I will tell thee all the wizard wiles of that old man. First he will count the seals, and go over them; but when he has told them all off by fives, and beheld them, he will lay himself down in their midst, as a shepherd among his flocks of sheep. Now so soon as you see him laid to rest,thereafter let your hearts be filled with strength and courage, and do you hold him there despite his striving and struggling to escape. For try he will, and will assume all manner of shapes of all things that move upon the earth, and of water, and of wondrous blazing fire. Yet do ye hold him unflinchingly and grip him yet the more.But when at length of his own will he speaks and questions thee in that shape in which you saw him laid to rest, then, hero, stay thy might, and set the old man free, and ask him who of the gods is wroth with thee, and of thy return, how thou mayest go over the teeming deep.’ “So saying she plunged beneath the surging sea, but I went to my ships, where they stood on the sand, and many things did my heart darkly ponder as I went. But when I had come down to the ship and to the sea, and we had made ready our supper, and immortal night had come on,then we lay down to rest on the shore of the sea. And as soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, I went along the shore of the broad-wayed sea, praying earnestly to the gods; and I took with me three of my comrades, in whom I trusted most for every adventure.
“She meanwhile had plunged beneath the broad bosom of the sea, and had brought forth from the deep the skins of four seals, and all were newly flayed; and she devised a plot against her father. She had scooped out lairs in the sand of the sea, and sat waiting; and we came very near to her,and she made us to lie down in a row, and cast a skin over each. Then would our ambush have proved most terrible, for terribly did the deadly stench of the brine-bred seals distress us—who would lay him down by a beast of the sea?—but she of herself delivered us, and devised a great boon;she brought and placed ambrosia of a very sweet fragrance beneath each man's nose, and destroyed the stench of the beast. So all the morning we waited with steadfast heart, and the seals came forth from the sea in throngs. These then laid them down in rows along the shore of the sea,and at noon the old man came forth from the sea and found the fatted seals; and he went over all, and counted their number. Among the creatures he counted us first, nor did his heart guess that there was guile; and then he too laid him down. Thereat we rushed upon him with a shout, andthrew our arms about him, nor did that old man forget his crafty wiles. Nay, at the first he turned into a bearded lion, and then into a serpent, and a leopard, and a huge boar; then he turned into flowing water, and into a tree, high and leafy; but we held on unflinchingly with steadfast heart.But when at last that old man, skilled in wizard arts, grew weary, then he questioned me, and spoke, and said: “‘Who of the gods, son of Atreus, took counsel with thee that thou mightest lie in wait for me, and take me against my will? Of what hast thou need?’ “So he spoke, and I made answer, and said:‘Thou knowest, old man—why dost thou seek to put me off with this question?—how long a time I am pent in this isle, and can find no sign of deliverance, and my heart grows faint within me. But do thou tell me—for the gods know all things—who of the immortals fetters me here, and has hindered me from my path, and tell meof my return, how I may go over the teeming deep.’ “So I spoke, and he straightway made answer, and said: ‘Nay, surely thou oughtest to have made fair offerings to Zeus and the other gods before embarking, that with greatest speed thou mightest have come to thy country, sailing over the wine-dark sea.For it is not thy fate to see thy friends, and reach thy well-built house and thy native land, before that thou hast once more gone to the waters of Aegyptus, the heaven-fed river, and hast offered holy hecatombs to the immortal gods who hold broad heaven.Then at length shall the gods grant thee the journey thou desirest.’
“So he spoke, and my spirit was broken within me, for that he bade me go again over the misty deep to Aegyptus, a long and weary way. Yet even so I made answer, and said: “‘All this will I perform, old man, even as thou dost bid. But come now, tell me this, and declare it truly. Did all the Achaeans return unscathed in their ships, all those whom Nestor and I left, as we set out from Troy? Or did any perish by a cruel death on board his ship,or in the arms of his friends, when he had wound up the skein of war?’ “So I spoke, and he straightway made answer, and said: ‘Son of Atreus, why dost thou question me of this? In no wise does it behove thee to know, or to learn my mind; nor, methinks, wilt thou long be free from tears, when thou hast heard all aright.For many of them were slain, and many were left; but two chieftains alone of the brazen-coated Achaeans perished on their homeward way ( as for the fighting, thou thyself wast there), and one, I ween, still lives, and is held back on the broad deep. “‘Aias truly was lost amid his long-oared ships.Upon the great rocks of Gyrae Poseidon at first drove him, but saved him from the sea; and he would have escaped his doom, hated of Athena though he was, had he not uttered a boastful word in great blindness of heart. He declared that it was in spite of the gods that he had escaped the great gulf of the sea;and Poseidon heard his boastful speech, and straightway took his trident in his mighty hands, and smote the rock of Gyrae and clove it in sunder. And one part abode in its place, but the sundered part fell into the sea, even that on which Aias sat at the first when his heart was greatly blinded,and it bore him down into the boundless surging deep. So there he perished, when he had drunk the salt water.
“‘But thy brother escaped, indeed, the fates and shunned them with his hollow ships, for queenly Hera saved him. But when he was now aboutto reach the steep height of Malea, then the storm-wind caught him up and bore him over the teeming deep, groaning heavily, to the border of the land,[*](1) where aforetime Thyestes dwelt, but where now dwelt Thyestes' son Aegisthus. But when from hence too a safe return was shewed him,and the gods changed the course of the wind that it blew fair, and they reached home, then verily with rejoicing did Agamemnon set foot on his native land, and he clasped his land and kissed it, and many were the hot tears that streamed from his eyes, for welcome to him was the sight of his land. Now from his place of watch a watchman saw him, whomguileful Aegisthus took and set there, promising him as a reward two talents of gold; and he had been keeping guard for a year, lest Agamemnon should pass by him unseen, and be mindful of his furious might. So he went to the palace to bear the tidings to the shepherd of the people, and Aegisthus straightway planned a treacherous device.He chose out twenty men, the best in the land, and set them to lie in wait, but on the further side of the hall he bade prepare a feast. Then he went with chariot and horses to summon Agamemnon, shepherd of the people, his mind pondering a dastardly deed. So he brought him up all unaware of his doom,and when he had feasted him he slew him, as one slays an ox at the stall. And not one of the comrades of the son of Atreus was left, of all that followed him, nor one of the men of Aegisthus, but they were all slain in the halls.’ “So he spoke, and my spirit was broken within me, and I wept, as I sat on the sands, nor had my heartany longer desire to live and to behold the light of the sun. But when I had had my fill of weeping and writhing, then the unerring old man of the sea said to me: “‘No more, son of Atreus, do thou weep long time thus without ceasing, for in it we shall find no help. Nay, rather, with all the speed thou canst,strive that thou mayest come to thy native land, for either thou wilt find Aegisthus alive, or haply Orestes may have forestalled thee and slain him, and thou mayest chance upon his funeral feast.’ “So he spoke, and my heart and spirit were again warmed with comfort in my breast despite my grief,and I spoke, and addressed him with winged words: “‘Of these men now I know, but do thou name the third, who he is that still lives, and is held back upon the broad sea, or is haply dead. Fain would I hear, despite my grief.’
“So I spoke, and he straightway made answer, and said:‘It is the son of Laertes, whose home is in Ithaca. Him I saw in an island, shedding big tears, in the halls of the nymph Calypso, who keeps him there perforce, and he cannot come to his native land, for he has at hand no ships with oars and no comradesto send him on his way over the broad back of the sea. But for thyself, Menelaus, fostered of Zeus, it is not ordained that thou shouldst die and meet thy fate in horse-pasturing Argos, but to the Elysian plain and the bounds of the earth will the immortals convey thee, where dwells fair-haired Rhadamanthus,and where life is easiest for men. No snow is there, nor heavy storm, nor ever rain, but ever does Ocean send up blasts of the shrill-blowing West Wind that they may give cooling to men; for thou hast Helen to wife, and art in their eyes the husband of the daughter of Zeus.’ “So saying he plunged beneath the surging sea, but I went to my ships with my god like comrades, and many things did my heart darkly ponder as I went. But when I had come down to the ship and to the sea, and we had made ready our supper, and immortal night had come on,then we lay down to rest on the shore of the sea. And as soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, our ships first of all we drew down to the bright sea, and set the masts and the sails in the shapely ships, and the men, too, went on board and sat down upon the benches,and sitting well in order smote the grey sea with their oars. So back again to the waters of Aegyptus, the heaven-fed river, I sailed, and there moored my ships and offered hecatombs that bring fulfillment. But when I had stayed the wrath of the gods that are forever, I heaped up a mound to Agamemnon, that his fame might be unquenchable.Then, when I had made an end of this, I set out for home, and the immortals gave me a fair wind, and brought me swiftly to my dear native land. But come now, tarry in my halls until the eleventh or the twelfth day be come. Then will I send thee forth with honor and give thee splendid gifts,three horses and a well-polished car; and besides I will give thee a beautiful cup, that thou mayest pour libations to the immortal gods, and remember me all thy days.”
Then wise Telemachus answered him: “Son of Atreus, keep me no long time here,for verily for a year would I be content to sit in thy house, nor would desire for home or parents come upon me; for wondrous is the pleasure I take in listening to thy tales and thy speech. But even now my comrades are chafing in sacred Pylos, and thou art keeping me long time here.And whatsoever gift thou wouldest give me, let it be some treasure; but horses will I not take to Ithaca, but will leave them here for thyself to delight in, for thou art lord of a wide plain, wherein is lotus in abundance, and galingale and wheat and spelt, and broad-eared white barley.But in Ithaca there are no widespread courses nor aught of meadow-land. It is a pasture-land of goats and pleasanter than one that pastures horses. For not one of the islands that lean upon the sea is fit for driving horses, or rich in meadows, and Ithaca least of all.” So he spoke, and Menelaus, good at the war-cry, smiled,and stroked him with his hand, and spoke, and addressed him: “Thou art of noble blood, dear child, that thou speakest thus. Therefore will I change these gifts, for well I may. 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. All of silver it is, 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.” Thus they spoke to one another, and meanwhile the banqueters came to the palace of the divine king. They drove up sheep, and brought strengthening wine, and their wives with beautiful veils sent them bread. Thus they were busied about the feast in the halls.
But the wooers 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; and Antinous and godlike Eurymachus were sitting there, the leaders of the wooers, who in valiance were far the best of all.To them Noemon, son of Phronius, drew near, and he questioned Antinous, and spoke, and said: “Antinous, know we at all in our hearts, or know we not, when Telemachus will return from sandy Pylos? He is gone, taking a ship of mine, and I have need of herto cross over to spacious Elis, where I have twelve brood mares, and at the teat sturdy mules as yet unbroken. Of these I would fain drive one off and break him in.” So he spoke, and they marvelled at heart, for they did not deem that Telemachus had gone to Neleian Pylos, but that he was somewhere thereon his lands, among the flocks or with the swineherd. Then Antinous, son of Eupeithes, spoke to him, saying: “Tell me the truth; when did he go, and what youths went with him? Were they chosen youths of Ithaca, or hirelings and slaves of his own? Able would he be to accomplish even that.And tell me this truly, that I may know full well. Was it perforce and against thy will that he took from thee the black ship? or didst thou give it him freely of thine own will, because he besought thee?” Then Noemon, son of Phronius, answered him:“I myself freely gave it him. What else could any man do,when a man like him, his heart laden with care, makes entreaty? Hard it were to deny the gift. The youths that are the noblest in the land after ourselves, even these have gone with him; and among them I noted one going on board as their leader, Mentor, or a god, who was in all things like unto Mentor.But at this I marvel. I saw goodly Mentor here yesterday at early dawn; but at that time he embarked for Pylos.” So saying he departed to his father's house, but of those two the proud hearts were angered. The wooers they straightway made to sit down and cease from their games;and among them spoke Antinous, son of Eupeithes, in displeasure; and with rage was his black heart wholly filled, and his eyes were like blazing fire. “Out upon him, verily a proud deed has been insolently brought to pass by Telemachus, even this journey, and we deemed that he would never see it accomplished.Forth in despite of all of us here the lad is gone without more ado, launching a ship, and choosing the best men in the land. He will begin by and by to be our bane; but to his own undoing may Zeus destroy his might before ever he reaches the measure of manhood. But come, give me a swift ship and twenty men,that I may watch in ambush for him as he passes in the strait between Ithaca and rugged Samos. Thus shall his voyaging in search of his father come to a sorry end.” So he spoke, and they all praised his words, and bade him act. And straightway they rose up and went to the house of Odysseus.
Now Penelope was no long time without knowledge of the plans which the wooers were plotting in the deep of their hearts; for the herald Medon told her, who heard their counsel as he stood without the court and they within were weaving their plot. So he went through the hall to bear the tidings to Penelope;and as he stepped across the threshold Penelope spoke to him and said: “Herald, why have the lordly wooers sent thee forth? Was it to tell the handmaids of divine Odysseus to cease from their tasks, and make ready a feast for them? Never wooing[*](1) any more, nor consorting together elsewhere,may they now feast here their latest and their last—even ye who are ever thronging here and wasting much livelihood, the wealth of wise Telemachus. Surely ye hearkened not at all in olden days, when ye were children, when your fathers told what manner of man Odysseus was among them that begat you,in that he wrought no wrong in deed or word to any man in the land, as the wont is of divine kings—one man they hate and another they love. Yet he never wrought iniquity at all to any man. But your mind and your unseemly deedsare plain to see, nor is there in after days any gratitude for good deeds done.” Then Medon, wise of heart, answered her: “I would, O queen, that this were the greatest evil. But another greater far and more grievous are the wooers planning, which I pray that the son of Cronos may never bring to pass.They are minded to slay Telemachus with the sharp sword on his homeward way; for he went in quest of tidings of his father to sacred Pylos and to goodly Lacedaemon.” So he spoke, and her knees were loosened where she sat, and her heart melted. Long time she was speechless, and both her eyeswere filled with tears, and the flow of her voice was checked. But at last she made answer, and said to him: “Herald, why is my son gone? He had no need to go on board swift-faring ships, which serve men as horses of the deep, and cross over the wide waters of the sea.Was it that not even his name should be left among men?” Then Medon, wise of heart, answered her: “I know not whether some god impelled him, or whether his own heart was moved to go to Pylos, that he might learn either of his father's return or what fate he had met.”
So he spoke, and departed through the house of Odysseus, and on her fell a cloud of soul-consuming grief, and she had no more the heart to sit upon one of the many seats that were in the room, but down upon the threshold of her fair-wrought chamber she sank, moaning piteously, and round about her wailed her handmaids,even all that were in the house, both young and old. Among these with sobs of lamentation spoke Penelope: “Hear me, my friends, for to me the Olympian has given sorrow above all the women who were bred and born with me. For long since I lost my noble husband of the lion heart,pre-eminent in all manner of worth among the Danaans, my noble husband, whose fame is wide through Hellas and mid-Argos. And now again my well-loved son have the storm-winds swept away from our halls without tidings, nor did I hear of his setting forth. Cruel, that ye are! Not even you took thought, any one of you,to rouse me from my couch, though in your hearts ye knew full well when he went on board the hollow black ship. For had I learned that he was pondering this journey, he should verily have stayed here, how eager soever to be gone, or he should have left me dead in the halls.But now let one hasten to call hither the aged Dolius, my servant, whom my father gave me or ever I came hither, and who keeps my garden of many trees, that he may straightway go and sit by Laertes, and tell him of all these things. So haply may Laertes weave some plan in his heart,and go forth and with weeping make his plea to the people, who are minded to destroy his race and that of godlike Odysseus.” Then the good nurse Eurycleia answered her:“Dear lady, thou mayest verily slay me with the pitiless sword or let me abide in the house, yet will I not hide my word from thee.I knew all this, and gave him whatever he bade me, bread and sweet wine. But he took from me a mighty oath not to tell thee until at least the twelfth day should come, or thou shouldst thyself miss him and hear that he was gone, that thou mightest not mar thy fair flesh with weeping.But now bathe thyself, and take clean raiment for thy body, and then go up to thy upper chamber with thy handmaids and pray to Athena, the daughter of Zeus who bears the aegis; for she may then save him even from death. And trouble not a troubled old man; forthe race of the son of Arceisius is not, methinks, utterly hated by the blessed gods, but there shall still be one, I ween, to hold the high-roofed halls and the rich fields far away.”
So she spoke, and lulled Penelope's laments, and made her eyes to cease from weeping. She then bathed, and took clean raiment for her body,and went up to her upper chamber with her handmaids, and placing barley grains in a basket prayed to Athena: “Hear me, child of Zeus who bears the aegis, unwearied one. If ever Odysseus, of many wiles, burnt to thee in his halls fat thigh-pieces of heifer or ewe,remember these things now, I pray thee, and save my dear son, and ward off from him the wooers in their evil insolence.” So saying she raised the sacred cry, and the goddess heard her prayer. But the wooers broke into uproar throughout the shadowy halls, and thus would one of the proud youths speak: “Aye, verily the queen, wooed of many, is preparing our marriage, nor does she know at all that death has been made ready for her son.” So would one of them speak; but they knew not how these things were to be. And Antinous addressed their company, and said: “Good sirs,[*](1) shun haughty speechof every kind alike, lest someone report your speech even within the house. Nay come, in silence thus let us arise and put into effect our plan which pleased us one and all at heart.” So he spoke, and chose twenty men that were best, and they went their way to the swift ship and the shore of the sea.The ship first of all they drew down to the deep water, and set the mast and sail in the black ship, and fitted the oars in the leathern thole-straps, all in due order, and spread the white sail. And proud squires brought them their weapons.Well out in the roadstead they moored the ship, and themselves disembarked. There then they took supper, and waited till evening should come. But she, the wise Penelope, lay there in her upper chamber, touching no food, tasting neither meat nor drink, pondering whether her peerless son would escape death,or be slain by the insolent wooers. And even as a lion is seized with fear and broods amid a throng of men, when they draw their crafty ring about him, so was she pondering when sweet[*](1) sleep came upon her. And she sank back and slept, and all her joints relaxed.
Then the goddess, flashing-eyed Athena, took other counsel. She made a phantom, and likened it in form to a woman, Iphthime, daughter of great-hearted Icarius, whom Eumelus wedded, whose home was in Pherae. And she sent it to the house of divine Odysseus,to Penelope in the midst of her wailing and lamenting, to bid her cease from weeping and tearful lamentation. So into the chamber it passed by the thong of the bolt, and stood above her head, and spoke to her, and said: “Sleepest thou, Penelope, thy heart sore stricken?Nay, the gods that live at ease suffer thee not to weep or be distressed, seeing that thy son is yet to return; for in no wise is he a sinner in the eyes of the gods.” Then wise Penelope answered her, as she slumbered very sweetly at the gates of dreams:“Why, sister, art thou come hither? Thou hast not heretofore been wont to come, for thou dwellest in a home far away. And thou biddest me cease from my grief and the many pains that distress me in mind and heart. Long since I lost my noble husband of the lion heart,pre-eminent in all manner of worth among the Danaans, my noble husband whose fame is wide in Hellas and mid-Argos. And now again my well-loved son is gone forth in a hollow ship, a mere child, knowing naught of toils and the gatherings of men. For him I sorrow even more than for that other,and tremble for him, and fear lest aught befall him, whether it be in the land of the men to whom he is gone, or on the sea. For many foes are plotting against him, eager to slay him before he comes back to his native land.” Then the dim phantom answered her, and said:“Take heart, and be not in thy mind too sore afraid; since such a guide goes with him as men have full often besought to stand by their side, for she has power,—even Pallas Athena. And she pities thee in thy sorrow, for she it is that has sent me forth to tell thee this.” Then again wise Penelope answered her: “If thou art indeed a god, and hast listened to the voice of a god, come, tell me, I pray thee, also of that hapless one, whether he still lives and beholds the light of the sun, or whether he is already dead and in the house of Hades.” And the dim phantom answered her, and said:“Nay, of him I may not speak at length, whether he be alive or dead; it is an ill thing to speak words vain as wind.” So saying the phantom glided away by the bolt of the door into the breath of the winds. Andthe daughter of Icarius started up from sleep, and her heart was warmed with comfort, that so clear a vision had sped to her in the darkness[*](1) of night. But the wooers embarked, and sailed over the watery ways, pondering in their hearts utter murder for Telemachus. There is a rocky isle in the midst of the sea,midway between Ithaca and rugged Samos, Asteris, of no great size, but therein is a harbor where ships may lie, with an entrance on either side. There it was that the Achaeans tarried, lying in wait for Telemachus.