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they said one to another, " There will be little
of Irus left, so stalwart seems this beggar man."
But as for Irus himself, he would have slunk


out of sight, but they that were set to gird him
compelled him to come forth.

Then said Antinoiis : " How is this, thou
braggart, that thou fearest this old man, all
woe-begone as he is ? Hearken thou to this.
If this man prevails against thee, thou shalt be
cast into a ship and taken to the land of King
Echetus, who will cut off thy ears and thy nose
for his dogs to eat.


So the two came together. And Ulysses
thought whether he should strike the fellow
and slay him out of hand, or fell him to the
ground. And this last seemed the better of
the two. So when Irus had dealt him his
blow, he smote him on the jaw, and brake in
the bone, so that he fell howling on the
ground, and the blood poured amain from his

Then all the suitors laughed aloud. But


Ulysses dragged the fellow out of the hall, and
propped him by the wall of the courtyard, put-
ting a staff in his hand, and saying, "Sit there,
and keep dogs and swine from the door, but
dare not hereafter to lord it over men, no,


not even over strangers and beggars, lest some
worse thino- befall thee."


Then Antinoiis gave Ulysses a great paunch,
and Amphinomus gave two loaves, and pledged
him in a cup, saying, " Good luck to thee,
father, hereafter, though now thou seemest to
have evil fortune ! '

And Ulysses made reply: " O Amphinomus,
thou hast much wisdom, methinks, and thy
father, I know, is wise ! Take heed, therefore.
There is naught feebler upon earth than man.
For in the days of his prosperity he thinketh
nothing of trouble; but when the srods send

o o

evil to him, there is no help in him. I also
trusted once in myself and my kinsmen, and
now behold me what I am ! Let no man,
therefore, do violence and wrong, for Zeus
shall requite such deeds at the last. And
now these suitors of the Queen are working
evil to him who is absent. Yet will he return
some day and slay his enemies. Fly thou,
therefore, while yet there is time, nor meet him
when he comes."

So he spake, with kindly thought.


But the other went through the house, sad
at heart, for he boded evil. But his doom
was before him, that he should die.

After this Athene put it into the heart of
Penelope to show herself to the suitors, that
their hearts might be lifted up within them to
their ruin, and she might have more honour
from her husband and her son. Then Penel-
ope spake to the nurse, saying : " I have a
desire, now for the first time, to show myself
to the suitors, though indeed they be hateful
to me. Also I would say a word to my son,
that he consort not too much with these inso-
lent men, lest they do him some hurt."

The nurse answered : " It is well, lady ; go,
speak to thy son ; but first wash and anoint thy
face. Let not thy cheeks be stained with tears ;
for it is not good to sorrow without ceasing."

But Penelope said : " Speak no comfortable
v\rords to me; bid me not wash and anoint my
face ; my bloom hath perished from the day
that my husband departed. But bid two of
the maidens come with me, for I am ashamed
to go alone among men."


Then the old woman went to hasten the
coming of the maidens. But Athene had


other thoughts in her mind. She caused
sweet sleep to come upon the Queen, and while
she slept, the goddess gave her immortal gifts.
Her face she steeped in beauty, such as Aph-
rodite hath when she 2foeth to the dances of


the Graces. Also she made her taller and
greater to see, and brighter than ivory newly
wrought. Having done this she departed, and
the maidens drew nisrh.


Then sleep left Penelope, and she said,
" Would that Artemis would give a death
painless as this slumber, that I might no
more waste my life mourning for my lord
that is gone ! '

Then she came and stood in the door of the
hall, with a handmaid on either side. So fair
she was to see that the hearts of all the suitors
were filled with love, and each of them prayed
that he might have her to wife.

But Penelope spake to Telemachus, saying :
" My son, thou art not as prudent as of old.
When thou wast a child thou hadst a ready


wit; but now, though thou hast come to man-
hood, and art such for stature and beauty as a
king's son should be, thy thoughts go astray.
What a deed hath even now been wrought in
thy house, when this stranger was mis-handled!
It were a shame to thee forever if he came to
harm through such misdeeds."


To her Telemachus made answer : " I blame
not thy anger, my mother. Nevertheless, I can-
not order all things well, for evil men constrain
me. But this battle between Irus and the
stranger did not end as the suitors would have


had it, for the stranger vanquished him. Would
that all the suitors were now even as he is, for
he sits wagging his head by the gates, and
cannot stand upon his feet, nor get him to his
own home, so has the stranger loosened his
limbs ! "

But Eurymachus said to Penelope: "Verily,
daughter of Icarus, if all the Greeks could see
thee, a greater crowd of suitors would feast in
thy halls to-morrow, so fair art thou, and tall,
and wise also of mind, surpassing all other
women ! "


Then Penelope answered : " My beauty
perished in the day when my lord Ulysses de-
parted for Troy. If only he would return, then
would it be well with me ! I remember how,
when he departed, he took me by the hand and
said : ' O lady, not all the Greeks, methinks,
will come back safe from Troy, for the men of
Troy, they say, are mighty with the spear and
with the bow, and skilful to drive chariots.
Therefore I know not whether I shall come
back safe, or shall perish there before the city.
Do thou, therefore, care for my father and my
mother, while I am absent, as now thou carest,
yea, and even more. And when thy son shall
grow to be a bearded man, then marry whom
thou wilt.' So my husband spake. And now
these things have come to pass ; for a day must
be when I shall be constrained to another
marriage, unhappy that I am. And I have also
this grief : my suitors are not such as suitors
are wont to be. For the custom with those
who would woo a lady, the daughter of a rich
man, is to bring sheep and oxen of their own,
and to prepare a banquet for the friends of the


bride, but not to devour the substance of an-
other and make no payment for it."

So she spake, and Ulysses was glad to see
how she beguiled the suitors, and drew gifts
from them, having other thoughts in her heart.

Then Antinoiis made answer : " Take thou
the gifts that we bring thee, Penelope, for it is
not well to refuse a gift ; but know that we will
not depart from thy halls, till thou hast chosen
the best of us for thy husband."

So he spake, and the rest agreed to his
words. Each man sent his squire to fetch his
gift. The gift of Antinoiis was a broidered
robe, very fair and broad, with twelve brooches
of gold and twelve clasps. The gift of Eu-
rymachus was a chain of curious work, w r ith
beads of amber. Eurydamus gave earrings
with three drops, and Peisander a very precious
jewel. All the suitors gave a gift.

Then the Queen went to her chamber, and
the suitors delighted themselves with music
and dancing ; and Ulysses stood by the
braziers, tending them, and watched the men.

Then Eurymachus began to speak among


his friends: "Hear me, suitors of the Queen!
Surely the gods have sent this man to us.
How marvellously does the light of the torches
flash from his bald head, whereon there is
never a hair ! '

Thereupon he turned him to Ulysses, and
said : " Stranger, wilt thou serve me for hire at


my farm among the hills ? Thy wages shall
be sure, and thou shalt labour, gathering stones
for the building of walls, and planting trees.
Bread will I give thee, and raiment, and shoes
for thy feet. But thou art not minded, me-
thinks, to labour in the field ; thou likest better
to be a vagabond, and to fill thy belly without

But Ulysses made reply: " Eurymachus, I
would that there might be a trial between us,
mowing grass, each with a scythe in his hand,
when the days grow long in the spring time !
Then might we two try one another, working
till the evening is late, and fasting the while.
Or would that we were driving each a yoke of
two stout oxen, well fed and strong, in a field of
four acres ! Verily, thou shouldest see whether


or no I could drive a clean furrow before me.
Or would that Zeus would stir up war! Thou
shouldest see me in the forefront of the battle,
nor wouldest thou taunt me again with my
appetite. Thou thinkest over much of thyself,
but if Ulysses would return yonder door would
not be wide enough for thee and thy fellows to

Thereat Eurymachus waxed very wroth.
" Old man," he said, " I will do thee a mis-
chief, for that thou speakest such idle words.
Is it that the wine hast stolen thy wits, or dost
thou always prate thus idly, or art thou beside
thyself for joy because thou hast vanquished
Irus ? "

So speaking he caught a footstool, and
Ulysses sat down in fear by the knees of
Amphinomus, for he feared the prince. And
Eurymachus smote the cupbearer on the right
hand as he ladled out the wine, and the young
man fell backward groaning. Then said one
of the suitors to his fellow : " Would that
this stranger had perished before he came
hither ! See what tumult he has wrought.


Now we shall have no more pleasure in the

But Telemachus said : " Plain is it, sirs, that
ye have eaten and drunken. And now that ye
have had enough, go home and rest."

So he spake, and they marvelled at his bold-

Then said Amphinomus : " The prince hath
spoken well. Let us make libation to the
gods, and so depart."

And they did so.




ULYSSES spake to Telemachus, saying :
" Come now, let us hide away the arms that are
in the hall. And if any of the suitors ask con-
cerning them, thou shalt say, ' I have put them
away out of the smoke, for they are not such
as they were when Ulysses departed, for the
breath of fire hath marred them. And for this
cause also have I put them away, lest ye should
quarrel and wound one another when ye are
heated with wine ; for the sight of iron tempt-
eth a man to strike.' So shalt thou speak to
the suitors."

Then said Telemachus to Eurycleia, the
nurse, " Shut up the women in their chambers,
till I have put away in the armoury the weapons
of my father, for the smoke in the hall hath
made them dim."

The nurse made answer: " I wish, my child,


that thou wouldest ever have such care for thy
father's possessions ! But say, who shall bear
the light, if thou wilt not have any of the
women to go before thee ? '

Then said Telemachus, " This stranger shall
do it, for I will not have any man eat my bread
in idleness."

So the nurse shut up the women in their
chambers, and Ulysses and his son set them-
selves to carry the arms, to wit, the shields and
the helmets and the spears, from the hall into
the armoury. And Athene went ever before
them, holding a lamp of gold, that shed a
very fair light. Thereupon said Telemachus,
" Surely, my father, this is a great wonder that
I behold! See the walls, and the beams, and
the pillars are bright as it were with flames of
fire. This must be the doing of a god."

But Ulysses made answer : " Hold thy peace ;
keep the matter in thine heart, and inquire not
concerning it. And now lie down and sleep,
for I would talk with thy mother."

So Telemachus went to his chamber, and
slept, and Ulysses was left alone in the hall,


devising in his heart how he might slay the

And now Penelope came down, and sat by
the fire, on a chair cunningly wrought of silver
and ivory, with a footstool that was part of the
chair. And soon the maidens came in, and
took away the fragments of food that were left,
and the cups from which the suitors drank,
and piled fresh logs on the fire.

Then Penelope called to the nurse, saying,
" Nurse, bring me now a settle with a fleece
upon it, that the stranger may sit and tell me
his story."

So the nurse brought the settle and the


fleece, and Ulysses sat him down ; and Penel-
ope spake, saying : " Stranger, I w r ill ask thee
first who art thou ? Whence didst thou come ?
What is thy city and thy father's name ? '

Ulysses made answer : " Lady, no man could
find any fault in thee. Thy fame is as the
fame of a king who fears the gods, and reigns
over a valiant people, and his land beareth
increase of wheat and barley, and the trees are
full of fruit, and the sheep bring forth and fail


not, and in the sea are many fish, and all things
prosper with him. Ask me now other things
as thou wilt ; but ask me not of my name, or
my race, or my native country, lest I weep as I
think thereon, for I am a man of many sorrows ;
and it is not fitting to mourn and weep in the
house of another. Haply, too, the maidens may
see me, and be wroth with me, and say that I
am melted in tears, even as a man that is
drunken with wine."

To him Penelope made reply : " Stranger,
the gods took away from me all comeliness of
face and form on the day when Ulysses, my
husband, went with the Greeks to Troy. And
now I am sore beset with troubles. For the
princes of the islands round about, yea and of
Ithaca itself, woo me against my will, and
devour my house. Vainly have I sought to
escape their wooing. For Athene put this into
my heart that I should say to them : ' Noble
youths that would wed me, now that Ulysses is
dead, abide patiently, though ye be eager to
hasten the marriage, till I shall have finished
this robe, to wit, a winding-sheet for Laertes ;


for it were a shame, if he, having had great

o o

wealth, should lie in his orrave without a wind-


ing-sheet.' So I spake, and they gave consent.
Three years did I deceive them, weaving the
web by day, and by night unravelling it ; but
in the fourth year my handmaids betrayed me.
And now I have no escape from marriage, for
my parents are instant with me, and my son is
vexed because these men devour his substance,
and he is now of an age to manage his own
house. But come, tell me of what race thou
art ; thou art not born of an oak tree or a rock,
as the old fables have it."

Then said Ulysses : " If thou wilt still ask
me of my race, then will I tell thee ; but thou
wilt so bring sorrow upon me beyond that to
which I am bound ; for it is grief to a man who
hath wandered far and suffered much to speak
of the matter. There is in the midst of the sea
a land that men call Crete. A fair land it is
and fertile, and there are many inhabitants
therein, and cities fourscore and ten. In one
of these cities, even Cnossus, reigned Minos
the King. Nine years old was he when he


began to reign. And Minos begat Deucalion,
and Deucalion had two sons, to wit, Idomeneus
and me ; he was the elder of the two, and by
far the better. My name is Aethon. Thither
came Ulysses, when he was sailing to Troy, for
the wind had carried him out of his course.
And he came up to the city asking for Idome-
neus, for he said that he was his friend ; but it
was the tenth day or the eleventh since Idome-
neus had sailed for Troy. Then I gave enter-
tainment to him and his company, barley meal,
and wine, and oxen for sacrifice. Twelve days
did they abide with me, for so long the north
wind blew continually, but on the thirteenth
day it abated, and they weighed anchor."

So Ulysses told his tale. False it was, but
it seemed to be true. And Penelope wept to
hear it. As the snow melts upon the hills when
the southeast wind bloweth, and the streams
run full, so did Penelope weep for her lord.
And Ulysses had compassion on his wife,
when he saw her weep ; but his own eyes he
kept as if they had been horn or iron.

But Penelope said : " Friend, suffer me to


make trial of thee, whether this was indeed my
husband Ulysses. Tell me now with what
raiment he was clothed, and what manner of
man he w r as, and what his company."

Then Ulysses made answer : " I remember
me that he had a mantle, twofold, woollen, of
sea-purple, clasped with a brooch of gold,
whereon was a dog that held a fawn by the
throat ; marvellously wrought was the dog and
the fawn, so hard held the one, so strove the
other to be free. Also he had a tunic, w r hite
and smooth, even as the skin of an onion when
it is dry, which the women much admired to
see. But whether some one had given him
these things I know not, for, indeed, many gave
him gifts, and I also, even a sword and a tunic,
Also he had a herald with him, one Eurybates,
older than he, dark-skinned, round in the
shoulders, with curly hair."

When Penelope heard this she wept yet
more, for she knew by these tokens that this
man was indeed her lord. " This is true," she
said, " O stranger, for I myself gave him these
garments, and I folded them myself, and I also


gave him the jewel. And now, alas ! I shall
see him no more."

But Ulysses made answer : " Nay, wife of
Ulysses, say not so. Cease from thy mourn-
ing, for Ulysses is yet alive. Near at hand
is he, in the land of the Thesprotians, and is
bringing many gifts with him. So Pheidon,
the King of the land, told me, and showed me
the gifts which he had gathered ; many they
were and great, and will enrich his house to
the tenth generation. But Ulysses himself,
when I was there, had gone to Dodona, to
inquire of Zeus for there is the oracle of the
god in the midst of an oak tree whether he
shall return to his home openly or by stealth.
Be sure, O lady, that in this tenth year Ulysses
shall come, even w r hen the old moon waneth
and the new is born."

Then said Penelope : " May thy words
be accomplished, O stranger ! Verily, thou
3houldest have much kindness at my hands and
many gifts. Yet I have a boding in my heart
that it shall not be. But now the handmaids
shall spread a bed for thee with mattress and


blankets that thou mayest sleep warm till
morning shall come. And they shall wash thy

But Ulysses spake, saying : " Mattress and
blankets have been hateful to me since I left
the land of Crete. I will lie as I have been
wont to lie for many nights, sleepless and wait-
ing for the day. And I have no delight in the
bath ; nor shall any of these maidens touch my
feet. Yet if there be some old woman, faithful
of heart, her I would suffer to touch my feet."

Then said Penelope : " Such an one there is,
even the woman who nursed my lord, and
cherished him, and carried him in her arms,
from the time when his mother bare him. She
is now weak with age, but she will wash thy

And she spake to the nurse, saying, " Up,
now, and wash this man, who is of like age
with thy master."

Then the old woman covered her face with
her hands and wept, saying : " Willingly will I
wash thy feet both for Penelope's sake and
thine own. Many strangers, worn with travel,


have come hither, but never saw I one that
was so like to Ulysses in voice and in feet."

And Ulysses made answer, " Even so have
I heard before ; men said ever that we were
most like one to the other."

But when she had made ready the bath, then
Ulysses sat aloof from the hearth, and turned
his face to the darkness, for he feared in his
heart lest, when the old woman should handle
his leg, she might know a great scar that was

Now the scar happened in this wise.

Ulysses went to Parnassus to see Autolycus,
that was his mother's father, a man who was
skilful, above all others, in thieving and in the
making of oaths. This gift Hermes had him-
self given him. Now Autolycus had once
upon a time gone to Ithaca, and found there
his daughter's son newly born. And after
supper, the nurse, even Eurycleia, had laid the
babe upon his knees, saying, "Autolycus, give
thyself a name to this child ; for he is the child
of many prayers." Then Autolycus spake,
saying : " My daughter, and my daughter's


husband, give this child the name that I shall
say. I came to this land, having great anger
against many men. Let, therefore, his name
be Ulysses, ' the man of wrath.' And when
he is come to man's estate let him come to me,
and I will give him such a gift as shall rejoice
his heart." Thus did it come to pass that
Ulysses went to see Autolycus ; and his grand-
father and his grandmother and their sons
greeted him well, and made a feast for him.
The next morning they all went to the chase,
and Ulysses went' with them. Up the hill of
Parnassus did they climb ; and it was the time
of sunrise. The beaters came to a Q-lade of the


woodland, and the dogs went before, tracking
a scent, and after them came the sons of
Autolycus, and with them Ulysses. There in
a very thick lair lay a great wild boar. So
thick was it that neither the sun nor rain could
pierce it, and there was a great store of fallen
leaves in the place. And when the boar was
roused by the trampling of men's feet, and by

* Odusseus in the Greek form, as if from " odussesthai "= " to be


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' /: :



. ' :


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' -. . .















the dogs, he sprang from his lair, and his hair
bristled upon his back, and his eyes shone, as
he stood at bay. Then Ulysses rushed in, first
of all the company, holding his spear aloft with
his hand, beinff earner to smite the beast. But

o o

the boar was too quick for him, for it charged,
and wounded him above the knee, and made a
great rent in the flesh, striking him sideways
with his tusks; nevertheless, it reached not to
the bone. But Ulysses aimed at him right
well, and smote him in the right shoulder,
piercing him through, so that he fell dead on
the ground. Then the sons of Autolycus
bound up the wound, staying the blood with a
song of healing; and they returned to the
house of their father. There they kept him
till he was healed of his wound ; and after-
wards they sent him to his home with many
noble gifts. But the scar of the wound was left.

By this scar, then, the old nurse knew that
it was Ulysses himself, and said, " O Ulysses,
O my child, to think that I knew thee not ! '

And she looked towards the Queen, as mean-
ing to tell the thing to her. But Ulysses laid


his hand on her throat: " Mother, wouldest thou
kill me ? I am returned after twenty years,
and none must know till I shall be ready to
take vengeance."

And the old woman held her peace. And
after this Penelope talked with him again, tell-
ing him her dreams, how she had seen a flock
of geese in her palace, and how that an eagle
had slain them, and when she mourned for the
geese, lo ! a voice that said, " These geese are
thy suitors, and the eagle thy husband."

And Ulysses said that the dream was well.
And then she said that on the morrow she
must make her choice, for that she had prom-
ised to bring forth the great bow that was

> C5

Ulysses's, and whosoever should draw it most;
easily, and shoot an arrow best at a mark, he
should be her husband.

And Ulysses made answer to her : " It is
well, lady. Put not off this trial of the bow,
for before one of them shall draw the string,
the great Ulysses shall come and duly shoot at
the mark that shall be set."

After this Penelope slept.




ULYSSES laid him down to sleep in the gallery
of the hall. On a bull's hide undressed he lay,
and over him he put fleeces of sheep that had
been slain for sacrifice and feast, and the dame
that kept the house threw a mantle over him.

But he slept not, for he had many thoughts
in his heart. As a man turns a paunch before
a fire, so Ulysses turned him from side to side,
thinking how, being one against many, he

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchThe story of the Odyssey → online text (page 11 of 15)