Homer (fl. 850 B.C.). The Odyssey.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
Book XVIITelemachus relates to his mother what he had heard of Pylos and Sparta.
‘Verily, father, I am bound for the city, that my mother may see me, for methinks that she will not cease from grievous wailing, and tearful lament, until she beholds my very face. But this command I give thee: Lead this stranger, the hapless one, to the city, that there he may beg his meat, and whoso chooses will give him a morsel of bread and a cup of water. As for myself, I can in no wise suffer every guest who comes to me, so afflicted am I in spirit. But if the stranger be sore angered hereat, the more grievous will it be for himself; howbeit I for one love to speak the truth.’
And Odysseus of many counsels answered him saying: ‘I too, my friend, have no great liking to be left behind here. It is better that a beggar should beg his meat in the town than in the fields, and whoso chooses will give it me. For I am not now of an age to abide at the steading, and to obey in all things the word of the master. Nay go, and this man that thou biddest will lead me, so soon as I shall be warmed with the fire, and the sun waxes hot. For woefully poor are these garments of mine, and I fear lest the hoar frost of the dawn overcome me; moreover ye say the city is far away.’
So he spake, and Telemachus passed out through the steading, stepping forth at a quick pace, and was sowing seeds of evil for the wooers. Now when he was come to the fair-lying house, he set his spear against the tall pillar and leaned it there, and himself went in and crossed the threshold of stone.
And the nurse Eurycleia saw him far before the rest, as she was strewing skin coverlets upon the carven chairs, and straightway she drew near him, weeping, and all the other maidens of Odysseus, of the hardy heart, were gathered about him, and kissed him lovingly on the head and shoulders. Now wise Penelope came forth from her chamber, like Artemis or golden Aphrodite, and cast her arms about her dear son, and fell a weeping, and kissed his face and both his beautiful eyes, and wept aloud, and spake to him winged words:
‘Thou art come, Telemachus, a sweet light in the dark; methought I see thee never again, after thou hadst gone in thy ship to Pylos, secretly and without my will, to seek tidings of thy dear father. Come now, tell me, what sight thou didst get of him?’
And wise Telemachus answered her, saying: ‘Mother mine, wake not wailing in my soul, nor stir the heart within the breast of me, that have but now fled from utter death. Nay, but wash thee in water, and take to thee fresh raiment, and go aloft to thine upper chamber with the women thy handmaids, and vow to all the gods an acceptable sacrifice of hecatombs, if haply Zeus may grant that deeds of requital be made. But I will go to the assembly-place to bid a stranger to our house, one that accompanied me as I came hither from Pylos. I sent him forward with my godlike company, and commanded Piraeus to lead him home, and to take heed to treat him lovingly and with worship till I should come.’
Thus he spake, and wingless her speech remained. And she washed her in water, and took to her fresh raiment, and vowed to all the gods an acceptable sacrifice of hecatombs, if haply Zeus might grant that deeds of requital should be made.
Now Telemachus went out through the hall with the spear in his hand: and two swift hounds bare him company. And Athene shed on him a wondrous grace, and all the people marvelled at him as he came. And the lordly wooers gathered about him with fair words on their lips, but brooding evil in the deep of their heart. Then he avoided the great press of the wooers, but where Mentor sat, and Antiphus, and Halitherses, who were friends of his house from of old, there he went and sat down; and they asked him of all his adventures. Then Piraeus, the famed spearsman, drew nigh, leading the stranger to the assembly-place by the way of the town; and Telemachus kept not aloof from him long, but went up to him.
Then Piraeus first spake to him, saying: ‘Bestir the women straightway to go to my house, that I may send thee gifts that Menelaus gave thee.’
Then wise Telemachus answered him, saying: ‘Piraeus, we know not how these matters will fall out. If the lordly wooers shall slay me by guile in the halls, and divide among them the heritage of my father, then I should wish thee to keep and enjoy the gifts thyself, rather than any of these. But if I shall sow the seeds of death and fate for the wooers, then gladly bring me to the house the gifts that I will gladly take.’
Therewith he led the travel-worn stranger to the house. Now when they came to the fair-lying palace, they laid aside their mantles on the chairs and high seats, and went to the polished baths and bathed them. So when the maidens had bathed them and anointed them with olive oil, and cast about them thick mantles and doublets, they came forth from the baths, and sat upon the seats. Then the handmaid bare water for the hands in a goodly golden ewer, and poured it forth over a silver basin to wash withal, and drew to their side a polished table. And the grave dame bare wheaten bread, and set it by them, and laid on the board many dainties, giving freely of such things as she had by her. And the mother of Telemachus sat over against him by the pillar of the hall, leaning against a chair, and spinning the slender threads from the yarn. And they stretched forth their hands upon the good cheer set before them. Now when they had put from them the desire of meat and drink, the wise Penelope first spake among them:
‘Telemachus, verily I will go up to my upper chamber, and lay me in my bed, the place of my groanings, that is ever watered by my tears since the day that Odysseus departed with the sons of Atreus for Ilios. Yet thou hadst no care to tell me clearly, before the lordly wooers came to this house, concerning the returning of thy father, if haply thou hast heard thereof.’
And wise Telemachus answered her, saying: ‘Yea now, mother, I will tell thee all the truth. We went to Pylos and to Nestor, the shepherd of the people, and he received me in his lofty house, and was diligent to entreat me lovingly, as a father might his son that had but newly come from strange lands after many years; even so diligently he cared for me with his renowned sons. Yet he said that he had heard no word from any man on earth concerning Odysseus, of the hardy heart, whether alive or dead. But he sent me forward on my way with horses and a chariot, well compact, to Menelaus, son of Atreus, spearman renowned. There I saw Argive Helen, for whose sake the Argives and Trojans bore much travail by the gods’ designs. Then straightway Menelaus, of the loud war-cry, asked me on what quest I had come to goodly Lacedaemon. And I told him all the truth. Then he made answer, and spake, saying:
‘“Out upon them, for truly in the bed of a brave-hearted man were they minded to lie, very cravens as they are! Even as when a hind hath couched her newborn fawns unweaned in a strong lion’s lair, and searcheth out the mountain-knees and grassy hollows, seeking pasture; and afterward the lion cometh back to his bed, and sendeth forth unsightly death upon that pair, even so shall Odysseus send forth unsightly death upon the wooers. Would to our father Zeus, and Athene and Apollo, would that in such might as when of old in stablished Lesbos he rose up in strife and wrestled with Philomeleides, and threw him mightily, and all the Achaeans rejoiced; would that in such strength Odysseus might consort with the wooers; then should they all have swift fate and bitter wedlock! But for that whereof thou askest and entreatest me, be sure I will not swerve from the truth in aught that I say, nor deceive thee; but of all that the ancient one of the sea, whose speech is sooth, declareth to me, not a word will I hide or keep from thee. He said that he saw Odysseus in an island, suffering strong pains in the halls of the nymph Calypso, who holds him there perforce; so that he may not come to his own country, for he has by him no ships with oars, and no companions to send him on his way over the broad back of the sea.” So spake Menelaus, son of Atreus, spearsman renowned. The having fulfilled all, I set out for home, and the deathless gods gave me a fair wind, and brought me swiftly to mine own dear country.’
So he spake, and stirred her heart within her breast. And next the godlike Theoclymenus spake among them:
‘O wife revered of Odysseus, son of Laertes, verily he hath no clear knowledge; but my word do thou mark, for I will prophesy to thee most truly and hide nought. Now Zeus be witness before any god, and this hospitable board and this hearth of noble Odysseus, whereunto I am come, that Odysseus is even now of a surety in his own country, resting or faring, learning of these evil deeds, and sowing the seeds of evil for all the wooers. So clear was the omen of the bird that I saw as I sat on the decked ship, and I proclaimed it to Telemachus.’
Then wise Penelope answered him, saying: ‘Ah, stranger, would that this thy word may be accomplished! Soon shouldest thou be aware of kindness and of many a gift at my hands, so that whoso met with thee would call thee blessed.’
Thus they spake one to the other. But the wooers meantime were before the palace of Odysseus, taking their pleasure in casting of weights and of spears on a levelled place, as heretofore, in their insolence. But when it was now the hour for supper, and the flocks came home from the fields all around, and the men led them whose custom it was, then Medon, who of all the henchmen was most to their mind, and was ever with them at the feast, spake to them, saying:
‘Noble youths, now that ye have had sport to your hearts’ content, get you into the house, that we may make ready a feast; for truly it is no bad thing to take meat in season.’
Even so he spake, and they rose up and departed, and were obedient to his word. Now when they were come into the fair-lying house, they laid aside their mantles on the chairs and high seats, and they sacrificed great sheep and stout goats, yea, and the fatlings of the boars and an heifer of the herd, and got ready the feast.
Now all this while Odysseus and the goodly swineherd were bestirring them to go from the field to the city; and the swineherd, a master of men, spake first saying:
‘Well, my friend, forasmuch as I see thou art eager to be going to the city to-day, even as my master gave command;—though myself I would well that thou shouldest be left here to keep the steading, but I hold him in reverence and fear, lest he chide me afterwards, and grievous are the rebukes of masters—come then, let us go on our way, for lo, the day is far spent, and soon wilt thou find it colder toward evening.’
Then Odysseus of many counsels answered him saying: ‘I mark, I heed: all this thou speakest to one with understanding. But let us be going, and be thou my guide withal to the end. And if thou hast anywhere a staff ready cut, give it me to lean upon, for truly ye said that slippery was the way.
Therewith he cast about his shoulders a mean scrip, all tattered, and a cord withal to hang it, and Eumaeus gave him a staff to his mind. So these twain went on their way, and the dogs and the herdsmen stayed behind to guard the steading. And the swineherd led his lord to the city in the guise of a beggar, a wretched man and an old, leaning on a staff; and sorry was the raiment wherewith he was clothed upon. But as they fared along the rugged path they drew near to the town, and came to the fair flowing spring, with a basin fashioned, whence the people of the city drew water. This well Ithacus and Neritus and Polyctor had builded. And around it was a thicket of alders that grow by the waters, all circlewise, and down the cold stream fell from a rock on high, and above was reared an altar to the Nymphs, whereat all wayfarers made offering. In that place Melanthius, son of Dolius, met them, leading his goats to feast the wooers, the best goats that were in all the herds; and two herdsmen bare him company. Now when he saw them he reviled them, and spake and hailed them, in terrible and evil fashion, and stirred the heart of Odysseus, saying:
‘Now in very truth the vile is leading the vile, for god brings ever like to like! Say, whither art thou leading this glutton,—thou wretched swineherd,—this plaguy beggar, a kill-joy of the feast? He is one to stand about and rub his shoulders against many doorposts, begging for scraps of meat, not for swords or cauldrons. If thou wouldst give me the fellow to watch my steading and sweep out the stalls, and carry fresh fodder to the kids, then he might drink whey and get him a stout thigh. Howbeit, since he is practised only in evil, he will not care to betake him to the labour of the farm, but rather chooses to go louting through the land asking alms to fill his insatiate belly. But now I will speak out and my word shall surely be accomplished. If ever he fares to the house of divine Odysseus, many a stool that men’s hands hurl shall fly about his head, and break upon his ribs, as they pelt him through the house.’
Therewith, as he went past, he kicked Odysseus on the hip, in his witlessness, yet he drave him not from the path, but he abode steadfast. And Odysseus pondered whether he should rush upon him and take away his life with the staff, or lift him in his grasp and smite his head to the earth. Yet he hardened his heart to endure and refrained himself. And the swineherd looked at the other and rebuked him, and lifting up his hands prayed aloud:
‘Nymphs of the well-water, daughters of Zeus, if ever Odysseus burned on your altars pieces of the thighs of rams or kids, in their covering of rich fat, fulfil for me this wish:—oh that he, even he, may come home, and that some god may bring him! Then would he scatter all thy bravery, which now thou flauntest insolently, wandering ever about the city, while evil shepherds destroy the flock.’
Then Melanthius, the goatherd, answered: ‘Lo now, what a word has this evil-witted dog been saying! Some day I will take him in a black decked ship far from Ithaca, that he may bring me in much livelihood. Would God that Apollo, of the silver bow, might smite Telemachus to-day in the halls, or that he might fall before the wooers, so surely as for Odysseus the day of returning has in a far land gone by!’
So he spake and left them there as they walked slowly on. But Melanthius stepped forth, and came very speedily to the house of the prince, and straightway he went in and sat down among the wooers, over against Eurymachus, who chiefly showed him kindness. And they that ministered set by him a portion of flesh, and the grave dame brought wheaten bread and set it by him to eat. Now Odysseus and the goodly swineherd drew near and stood by, and the sound of the hollow lyre rang around them, for Phemius was lifting up his voice amid the company in song, and Odysseus caught the swineherd by the hand, and spake, saying:
‘Eumaeus, verily this is the fair house of Odysseus, and right easily might it be known and marked even among many. There is building beyond building, and the court of the house is cunningly wrought with a wall and battlements, and well-fenced are the folding doors; no man may hold it in disdain. And I see that many men keep revel within, for the savour of the fat rises upward, and the voice of the lyre is heard there, which the gods have made to be the mate of the feast.’
Then didst thou make answer, swineherd Eumaeus: ‘Easily thou knowest it, for indeed thou never lackest understanding. But come, let us advise us, how things shall fall out here. Either do thou go first within the fair-lying halls, and join the company of the wooers, so will I remain here, or if thou wilt, abide here, and I will go before thy face, and tarry not long, lest one see thee without, and hurl at thee or strike thee. Look well to this, I bid thee.’
Then the steadfast goodly Odysseus answered him, saying: ‘I mark, I heed, all this thou speakest to one with understanding. Do thou then go before me, and I will remain here, for well I know what it is to be smitten and hurled at. My heart is full of hardiness, for much evil have I suffered in perils of waves and war; let this be added to the tale of those. But a ravening belly may none conceal, a thing accursed, that works much ill for men. For this cause too the benched ships are furnished, that bear mischief to foemen over the unharvested seas.’
Thus they spake one to the other. And lo, a hound raised up his head and pricked his ears, even where he lay, Argos, the hound of Odysseus, of the hardy heart, which of old himself had bred, but had got no joy of him, for ere that, he went to sacred Ilios. Now in time past the young men used to lead the hound against wild goats and deer and hares; but as then, despised he lay (his master being afar) in the deep dung of mules and kine, whereof an ample bed was spread before the doors, till the thralls of Odysseus should carry it away to dung therewith his wide demesne. There lay the dog Argos, full of vermin. Yet even now when he was ware of Odysseus standing by, he wagged his tail and dropped both his ears, but nearer to his master he had not now the strength to draw. But Odysseus looked aside and wiped away a tear that he easily hid from Eumaeus, and straightway he asked him, saying:
‘Eumaeus, verily this is a great marvel, this hound lying here in the dung. Truly he is goodly of growth, but I know not certainly if he have speed with this beauty, or if he be comely only, like as are men’s trencher dogs that their lords keep for the pleasure of the eye.’
Then didst thou make answer, swineherd Eumaeus: ‘In very truth this is the dog of a man that has died in a far land. If he were what once he was in limb and in the feats of the chase, when Odysseus left him to go to Troy, soon wouldst thou marvel at the sight of his swiftness and his strength. There was no beast that could flee from him in the deep places of the wood, when he was in pursuit; for even on a track he was the keenest hound. But now he is holden in an evil case, and his lord hath perished far from his own country, and the careless women take no charge of him. Nay, thralls are no more inclined to honest service when their masters have lost the dominion, for Zeus, of the far-borne voice, takes away the half of a man’s virtue, when the day of slavery comes upon him.’
Therewith he passed within the fair-lying house, and went straight to the hall, to the company of the proud wooers. But upon Argos came the fate of black death even in the hour that he beheld Odysseus again, in the twentieth year.
Now godlike Telemachus was far the first to behold the swineherd as he came into the hall, and straightway then he beckoned and called him to his side. So Eumaeus looked about and took a settle that lay by him, where the carver was wont to sit dividing much flesh among the wooers that were feasting in the house. This seat he carried and set by the table of Telemachus over against him, and there sat down himself. And the henchman took a mess and served it him, and wheaten bread out of the basket.
And close behind him Odysseus entered the house in the guise of a beggar, a wretched man and an old, leaning on his staff, and clothed on with sorry raiment. And he sat down on the ashen threshold within the doorway, leaning against a pillar of cypress wood, which the carpenter on a time had deftly planed, and thereon made straight the line. And Telemachus called the swineherd to him, and took a whole loaf out of the fair basket, and of flesh so much as his hands could hold in their grasp, saying:
‘Take and give this to the stranger, and bid him go about and beg himself of all the wooers in their turn, for shame is an ill mate of a needy man.’
So he spake, and the swineherd went when he heard that saying, and stood by and spake to him winged words:
‘Stranger, Telemachus gives thee these and bids thee go about and beg of all the wooers in their turn, for, he says, “shame ill becomes a beggar man.”’
Then Odysseus of many counsels answered him and said: ‘King Zeus, grant me that Telemachus may be happy among men, and may he have all his heart’s desire!’
Therewith he took the gift in both hands, and set it there before his feet on his unsightly scrip. Then he ate meat so long as the minstrel was singing in the halls. When he had done supper, and the divine minstrel was ending his song, then the wooers raised a clamour through the halls; but Athene stood by Odysseus, son of Laertes, and moved him to go gathering morsels of bread among the wooers, and learn which were righteous and which unjust. Yet not even so was she fated to redeem one man of them from an evil doom. So he set out, beginning on the right, to ask of each man, stretching out his hand on every side, as though he were a beggar from of old. And they in pity gave him somewhat, and were amazed at the man, asking one another who he was and whence he came?
Then Melanthius, the goatherd, spake among them:
‘Listen, ye wooers of the renowned queen, concerning this stranger, for verily I have seen him before. The swineherd truly was his guide hither, but of him I have no certain knowledge, whence he avows him to be born.’
So spake he, but Antinous rebuked the swineherd, saying: ‘Oh notorious swineherd, wherefore, I pray thee, didst thou bring this man to the city? Have we not vagrants enough besides plaguy beggars, kill-joys of the feast? Dost thou count it a light thing that they assemble here and devour the living of thy master, but thou must needs call in this man too?’
Then didst thou make answer, swineherd Eumaeus: ‘Antinous, no fair words are these of thine, noble though thou art. For who ever himself seeks out and bids to the feast a stranger from afar, save only one of those that are craftsmen of the people, a prophet or a healer of ills, or a shipwright or even a godlike minstrel, who can delight all with his song? Nay, these are the men that are welcome over all the wide earth. But none would call a beggar to the banquet, to waste his substance. But thou art ever hard above all the other wooers to the servants of Odysseus, and, beyond all, to me; but behold, I care not, so long as my mistress, the constant Penelope, lives in the halls and godlike Telemachus.’
Then wise Telemachus answered him, saying: ‘Be silent, answer him not, I pray thee, with many words, for Antinous is wont ever to chide us shamefully with bitter speech, yea, and urges the others thereto.’
Therewithal he spake winged words to Antinous: ‘Antinous, verily thou hast a good care for me, as it were a father for his son, thou that biddest me drive our guest from the hall with a harsh command. God forbid that such a thing should be! Take somewhat and give it him: lo, I grudge it not; nay, I charge thee to do it. And herein regard not my mother, nor any of the thralls that are in the house of divine Odysseus. Nay, but thou hast no such thought in thy heart, for thou art far more fain to eat thyself than to give to another.’
Then Antinous answered him and spake, saying: ‘Telemachus, proud of speech, and unrestrained in fury, what word hast thou spoken? If all the wooers should vouchsafe him as much as I, this house would keep him far enough aloof even for three months’ space.’
So he spake, and seized the footstool whereon he rested his sleek feet as he sat at the feast, and showed it from beneath the table where it lay. But all the others gave somewhat and filled the wallet with bread and flesh; yea, and even now, Odysseus as he returned to the threshold, was like to escape scot free, making trial of the Achaeans, but he halted by Antinous, and spake to him, saying:
‘Friend, give me somewhat; for methinks thou art not the basest of the Achaeans, but the best man of them all, for thou art like a king. Wherefore thou shouldest give me a portion of bread, and that a better than the others; so would I make thee renowned over all the wide earth. For I too, once had a house of mine own among men, a rich man with a wealthy house, and many a time would I give to a wanderer, what manner of man soever he might be, and in whatsoever need he came. And I had thralls out of number, and all else in plenty, wherewith folk live well and have a name for riches. But Zeus, the son of Cronos, made me desolate of all,—for surely it was his will,—who sent me with wandering sea-robbers to go to Egypt, a far road, to my ruin. And in the river Aegyptus I stayed my curved ships. Then verily I bade my loved companions to abide there by the ships, and to guard the ship, and I sent forth scouts to range the points of outlook. Now they gave place to wantonness, being the fools of their own force, and soon they fell to wasting the fields of the Egyptians, exceeding fair, and carried away their wives and infant children, and slew the men. And the cry came quickly to the city, and the people heard the shout and came forth at the breaking of the day; and all the plain was filled with footmen and horsemen and with the glitter of bronze. And Zeus, whose joy is in the thunder, sent an evil panic upon my company, and none durst stand and face the foe: for danger encompassed us on every side. There they slew many of us with the edge of the sword, and others they led up with them alive to work for them perforce. But they gave me to a friend who met them, to take to Cyrus, even to Dmetor son of Iasus, who ruled mightily over Cyprus; and thence, behold, am I now come hither in sore distress.’
Then Antinous answered, and spake, saying: ‘What god hath brought this plague hither to trouble the feast? Stand forth thus in the midst, away from my table, lest thou come soon to a bitter Egypt and a sad Cyprus; for a bold beggar art thou and a shameless. Thou standest by all in turn and recklessly they give to thee, for they hold not their hand nor feel any ruth in giving freely of others’ goods, for that each man has plenty by him.’
Then Odysseus of many counsels drew back and answered him: ‘Lo now, I see thou hast not wisdom with thy beauty! From out of thine own house thou wouldest not give even so much as a grain of salt to thy suppliant, thou who now even at another’s board dost sit, and canst not find it in thy heart to take of the bread and give it me, where there is plenty to thy hand.’
He spake, and Antinous was mightily angered at heart, and looked fiercely on him and spake winged words:
‘Henceforth, methinks, thou shalt not get thee out with honour from the hall, seeing thou dost even rail upon me.’
Therewith he caught up the foot-stool and smote Odysseus at the base of the right shoulder by the back. But he stood firm as a rock, nor reeled he beneath the blow of Antinous, but shook his head in silence, brooding evil in the deep of his heart. Then he went back to the threshold, and sat him there, and laid down his well-filled scrip, and spake among the wooers:
‘Hear me, ye wooers of the renowned queen, and I will say what my spirit within me bids me. Verily there is neither pain nor grief of heart, when a man is smitten in battle fighting for his own possessions, whether cattle or white sheep. But now Antinous hath stricken me for my wretched belly’s sake, a thing accursed, that works much ill for men. Ah, if indeed there be gods and Avengers of beggars, may the issues of death come upon Antinous before his wedding!’
Then Antinous, son of Eupeithes, answered him: ‘Sit and eat thy meat in quiet, stranger, or get thee elsewhere, lest the young men drag thee by hand or foot through the house for thy evil words, and strip all thy flesh from off thee.’
Even so he spake, and they were all exceeding wroth at his word. And on this wise would one of the lordly young men speak:
‘Antinous, thou didst ill to strike the hapless wanderer, doomed man that thou art,—if indeed there be a god in heaven. Yea and the gods, in the likeness of strangers from far countries, put on all manner of shapes, and wander through the cities, beholding the violence and the righteousness of men.’
So the wooers spake, but he heeded not their words. Now Telemachus nursed in his heart a mighty grief at the smiting of Odysseus, yet he let no tear fall from his eyelids to the ground, but shook his head in silence, brooding evil in the deep of his heart.
Now when wise Penelope heard of the stranger being smitten in the halls, she spake among her maidens, saying:
‘Oh that Apollo, the famed archer, may so smite thee thyself, Antinous!’
And the house-dame, Eurynome, answered her, saying: ‘Oh that we might win fulfillment of our prayers! So should not one of these men come to the fair-throned Dawn.’
And wise Penelope answered her: ‘Nurse, they are all enemies, for they all devise evil continually, but of them all Antinous is the most like to black fate. Some hapless stranger is roaming about the house, begging alms of the men, as his need bids him; and all the others filled his wallet and gave him somewhat, but Antinous smote him at the base of the right shoulder with a stool.’
So she spake among her maidens, sitting in her chamber, while goodly Odysseus was at meat. Then she called to her the goodly swineherd and spake, saying:
‘Go thy way, goodly Eumaeus, and bid the stranger come hither, that I may speak him a word of greeting, and ask him if haply he has heard tidings of Odysseus of the hardy heart, or seen him with his eyes; for he seems like one that has wandered far.’
Then didst thou make answer, swineherd Eumaeus: ‘Queen, oh that the Achaeans would hold their peace! so would he charm thy very heart, such things doth he say. For I kept him three nights and three days I held him in the steading, for to me he came first when he fled from the ship, yet he had not made an end of the tale of his affliction. Even as when a man gazes on a singer, whom the gods have taught to sing words of yearning joy to mortals, and they have a ceaseless desire to hear him, so long as he will sing; even so he charmed me, sitting by me in the halls. He says that he is a friend of Odysseus and of his house, one that dwells in Crete, where is the race of Minos. Thence he has come hither even now, with sorrow by the way, onward and yet onward wandering; and he stands to it that he has heard tidings of Odysseus nigh at hand and yet alive in the fat land of the men of Thesprotia; and he is bringing many treasures to his home.’
Then wise Penelope answered him, saying: ‘Go, call him hither, that he may speak to me face to face. But let these men sit in the doorway and take their pleasure, or even here in the house, since their heart is glad. For their own wealth lies unspoiled at home, bread and sweet wine, and thereon do their servants feed. But they resorting to our house day by day sacrifice oxen and sheep and fat goats, and keep revel and drink the dark wine recklessly; and, lo, our great wealth is wasted, for there is no man now alive, such as Odysseus was, to keep ruin from the house. Oh, if Odysseus might come again to his own country; soon would he and his son avenge the violence of these men!’
Even so she spake, and Telemachus sneezed loudly, and around the roof rang wondrously. And Penelope laughed, and straightway spake to Eumaeus winged words:
‘Go, call me the stranger, even so, into my presence. Dost thou not mark how my son has sneezed a blessing on all my words? Wherefore no half-wrought doom shall befall the wooers every one, nor shall any avoid death and the fates. Yet another thing will I say, and do thou ponder it in thy heart. If I shall find that he himself speaks nought but truth, I will clothe him with a mantle and a doublet, goodly raiment.’
So she spake, and the swineherd departed when he heard that saying, and stood by the stranger and spake winged words:
‘Father and stranger, wise Penelope, the mother of Telemachus, is calling for thee, and her mind bids her inquire as touching her lord, albeit she has sorrowed much already. And if she shall find that thou dost speak nought but truth, she will clothe thee in a mantle and a doublet, whereof thou standest most in need. Moreover thou shalt beg thy bread through the land and shalt fill thy belly, and whosoever will, shall give to thee.’
Then the steadfast goodly Odysseus answered him, saying: ‘Eumaeus, soon would I tell all the truth to the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, for well I know his story, and we have borne our travail together. But I tremble before the throng of the froward wooers, whose outrage and violence reach even to the iron heaven. For even now, as I was going through the house, when this man struck and pained me sore, and that for no ill deed, neither Telemachus nor any other kept off the blow. Wherefore now, bid Penelope tarry in the chambers, for all her eagerness, till the going down of the sun, and then let her ask me concerning her lord, as touching the day of his returning, and let her give me a seat yet nearer to the fire, for behold, I have sorry raiment, and thou knowest it thyself, since I made my supplication first to thee.’
Even so he spake, and the swineherd departed when he heard that saying. And as he crossed the threshold Penelope spake to him:
‘Thou bringest him not, Eumaeus: what means the wanderer hereby? Can it be that he fears some one out of measure, or is he even ashamed of tarrying in the house? A shamefaced man makes a bad beggar.’
Then didst thou make answer, swineherd Eumaeus: ‘He speaks aright, and but as another would deem, in that he shuns the outrage of overweening men. Rather would he have thee wait till the going down of the sun. Yea, and it is far meeter for thyself, O queen, to utter thy word to the stranger alone, and to listen to his speech.’
Then the wise Penelope answered: ‘Not witless is the stranger; even as he deems, so it well may be. For there are no mortal men, methinks, so wanton as these, and none that devise such infatuate deeds.’
So she spake, and the goodly swineherd departed into the throng of the wooers, when he had showed her all his message. And straightway he spake to Telemachus winged words, holding his head close to him, that the others might nor hear:
‘Friend, I am going hence to look after thy swine and the things of the farm, thy livelihood and mine; but do thou take charge of all that is here. Yet first look to thyself and take heed that no evil comes nigh thee, for many of the Achaeans have ill will against us, whom my Zeus confound before their mischief falls on us!’
And wise Telemachus answered him, and said: ‘Even so shall it be, father; and do thou get thee on thy way, when thou hast supped. And in the morning come again, and bring fair victims for sacrifice. And all these matters will be a care to me and to the deathless gods.’
Thus he spake, and the other sat down again on the polished settle; and when he had satisfied his heart with meat and drink, he went on his way to the swine, leaving the courts and the hall full of feasters; and they were making merry with dance and song, for already it was close on eventide.