Alfred John Church.

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might slay the suitors in his hall.

Then Athene came down from Olympus,
and stood over his head, having taken upon
herself the likeness of a woman. And she
spake, saying : " Wakest thou still, man of
many troubles ? Is not this thy house ? And
is not thy wife within, and thy son, being such
an one as thou wouldest have him to be ? '

Ulysses made answer : " This is true, O god-


dess. But I think how I, being one against
many, can slay the suitors in my hall. And
this also troubles me : how, if I slay them, shall
I escape the avengers of blood ? '

Then answered the goddess : " Verily, thou
art weak in faith. Some put trust in men, yet
men are weaker than the gods ; why trustest
not thou in me ? Verily, I am with thee, and
will keep thee to the end. But now sleep, for
to watch all the night is vexation of spirit."

So saying, she poured sleep upon his eyes
and went back to Olympus.

When the morning came Ulysses awoke,
and he took up the fleeces, and set them on a
seat in the hall, and the bull's hide he carried
without. Then he lifted up his hands to Zeus,
and prayed, saying, " O Father Zeus, if thou
hast led me to mine own country of good will,
then give me a sign."

And even as he spake Zeus thundered from
Olympus ; and Ulysses heard it, and was glad.
Also a woman at the mill spake a word of
omen. Twelve women there were that ground
the meal, wheat, and barley. Eleven of these


were now sleeping, for they had finished their
task; but this one, being weakest of all, was
still grinding. And now she stayed her work,
and said : " Surely, Father Zeus, this is a sign,
that thou hast thundered in a clear sky. Grant
now that this be the last meal that I shall grind
for the suitors in the house of Ulysses ! '

Afterwards came Telemachus, and spake to
the nurse, saying, " Hast thou given to the
guest food and bedding as is meet, or doth he
lie uncared for ? '

The nurse made answer : " The stranger
drank as much as he would, and ate till he
said that he had had enough ; but blankets
and a mattress he would not have ; on an
undressed hide he slept, with fleeces of sheep
above. Also we cast a mantle over him."

Next came the swineherd, leading three
fatted hogs, the best of all the herd. And
he said, " Stranger, do these men treat thee
well ? "

Ulysses made answer, " May the gods re-
quite them as they have dealt insolently with



Afterwards came Melanthius, the goatherd,
having goats for the feast of the day. And he
spake to Ulysses bitter words : " Wilt thou still
plague us, stranger, with thy begging ? Verily,
I think that we shall not part till we have
made trial of each other with our fists. Thy
begging is not to be borne ; and there are
other feasts whither thou mightest go."

But Ulysses answered him not a word.

Last came Philcetius, the neatherd, bring-
ing a barren heifer for the feast of the suitors.
He spake to Ulysses, saying : " May happiness
come to thee, stranger, hereafter ! Now thou
art encompassed with sorrows. Mine eyes are
full of tears as I behold thee, for it may be that
Ulysses is clad in vile garments like to these,
wandering about among men, if, indeed, is yet
alive. But if he is dead, that, indeed, is a great
sorrow. For he set me over his cattle, and
these are now increased beyond all count-
ing ; never have herds increased more plenti-
fully. Nevertheless, it vexeth my heart because
strangers are ever devouring them in his hall.

O C5

Verily, I would have fled long since, for the


thing is past all enduring, but that I hope to
see Ulysses yet come again to his own."

Then Ulysses made answer : " Neatherd,
thou art a man of an understanding heart.


Now hearken to what I shall say, and I will
confirm it with an oath. While thou art still
in this place, Ulysses shall come home, and
thou shalt see it with thine eyes, yea, and the
slaying of the suitors also."

And after awhile the suitors came and sat
down, as was their wont, to the feast. And
the servants bare to Ulysses, as Telemachus
had bidden, a full share with the others. And
when Ctesippus, a prince of Samos, saw this
(he was a man heedless of right and of the
gods), he said : " Is it well that this fellow
should fare even as we ? Look now at the
gift that I shall give him." Whereupon he
took a bullock's foot out of a basket wherein it
lay, and cast it at Ulysses.

But he moved his head to the left and
shunned it, and it flew on, marking the wall.
And Telemachus cried in srreat wrath :


"It is well for thee, Ctesippus, that thou


didst not strike this stranger. For surely,
hadst thou done this thing, my spear had
pierced thee through, and thy father had
made good cheer, not for thy marriage, but
for thy burial."

Then said Aorelaus : "This is well said.


Telemachus should not be wronged, no, nor
this stranger. But, on the other hand, he
must bid his mother choose out of the suitors
whom she will, and marry him, nor waste our
time any more."

And Telemachus said : "It is well. She
shall marry whom she will. But from my
house I will never send her against her will. 1


And the suitors laughed ; but their laughter

o o

was not of mirth, and the flesh which they ate
dripped with blood, and their eyes were full of
tears. And the eyes of the seer Theoclymenus
were opened, and he cried :

" What ails you, miserable ones ? For your
heads and your faces and your knees are cov-
ered with darkness, and the voice of groaning
comes from you, and your cheeks are wet with
tears. Also the walls and the pillars are sprin-

I f . I ;

' - . I






















kled with blood, and the porch and the hall are
full of shadows that move towards hell, and the
sun has perished from the heaven, and an evil
mist is over all."

But they laughed to hear him ; and Eurym-
achus said, " This stranger is mad ; let us
send him out of doors into the market-place,
for it seems that here it is dark."

Also they scoffed at Telemachus, but he
heeded them not, but sat waiting till his father
should give the sign.

After this Penelope went to fetch the great
bow of Ulysses, which Iphitus had given to
him. From the peg on which it hung she took
it with its sheath, and, sitting down, she laid it
on her knees and wept over it, and after this
rose up and went to where the suitors sat feast-
ing in the hall. The bow she brought, and also
the quiver full of arrows, and standing by the
pillar of the dome, spake thus :

" Ye suitors, who devour this house, making
pretence that ye wish to wed me, lo ! here is a
proof of your skill. Here is the bow of the
great Ulysses. Whoso shall bend it easiest


in his hands, and shoot an arrow most easily
through the helve-holes of the twelve axes that


Telemachus shall set up, him will I follow,
leaving this house, which I shall remember


only in my dreams."

Then she bade Eumaeus bear the bow and
the arrows to the suitors. And the good
swineherd wept to see his master's bow, and
Philaetius, the herdsman of the kine, wept also,
for he was a good man, and loved the house of

Then Telemachus planted in due order the
axes wherein were the helve-holes, and was
minded himself to draw the bow ; and indeed
would have done the thing, but Ulysses signed
to him that he should not. Wherefore, he
said, " Methinks I am too weak and young ;
ye that are elder should try the first."

Then first Leiodes, the priest, who alone
among the suitors hated their evil ways, made
trial of the bow. But he moved it not, but
wearied his hands with it, for they were tender,
and unwont to toil. And he said, " I can-
not bend this bow ; let some other try ; but


think that it shall be grief and pain to many
this day."

And Antinoiis was wroth to hear such words,
and bade Melanthius bring forth from the
stores a roll of fat, that they might anoint the
string and soften it withal. So they softened
the string with fat, but not for that the more


could they bend it, for they tried all of them in
vain, till only Antinoiis and Eurymachus were
left, who, indeed, were the bravest and the
strongest of them all.


Now the swineherd and the herdsman of the
kine had gone forth out of the yard, and Ulys-
ses came behind them and said ; " What would
ye do if Ulysses were to come back to his
home ? Would ye fight for him or for the
suitors ? '

And both said that they would fight for him.

And Ulysses said : " It is even I who am
come back in the twentieth year, and ye, I
know, are glad at heart that I am come ; nor
know I of any one besides. And if ye will
help me as brave men to-day, wives shall ye
have, and possessions and houses near to mine


own. And ye shall be brothers and comrades
to Telemachus. And for a sign, behold this
scar, which the wild boar made when I hunted
with Autolycus."

Then they wept for joy and kissed Ulysses,
and he also kissed them. And he said to
Eumasus that he should bring the bow to him
when the suitors had tried their fortune there-
with ; also that he should bid the women keep
within doors, nor stir out if they should hear
the noise of battle. And Philaetius he bade
lock the doors of the hall, and fasten them
with a rope.

After this he came back to the hall, and
Eurymachus had the bow in his hands, and
sought to warm it at the fire. Then he essayed
to draw it, but could not. And he groaned


aloud, saying : " Woe is me ! not for loss of
this marriage only, for there are other women
to be wooed in Greece, but that we are so
much weaker than the great Ulysses. This is,
indeed, shame to tell."

Then said Antinous : " Not so ; to-day is a
holy day of the god of archers ; therefore we


could not draw the bow. But to-morrow will
we try once more, after due sacrifice to Apollo."

And this saying pleased them all ; but
Ulysses said, " Let me try this bow ; for I
would fain know whether I have such strength
as I had in former days."

At this all the suitors were wroth, and chiefly
Antinoiis, but Penelope said that it should be
so, and promised the man great gifts if he could
draw this bow.

But Telemachus spake thus : " Mother, the
bow is mine to give or to refuse. And no man
shall say me nay, if I will that this stranger
make trial of it. But do thou go to thy
chamber with thy maidens, and let men take
thought for these things."

And this he said, for that he would have her
depart from the hall forthwith, knowing what
should happen therein. But she marvelled to
hear him speak with such authority, and
answered not, but departed. And when Eu-
maeus would have carried the bow to Ulysses,
the suitors spake roughly to him, but Telema-
chus constrained him to go. Therefore he


took the bow and gave it to his master. Then
went he to Eurycleia, and bade her shut the
door of the women's chambers and keep them
within, whatsoever they might hear.

Then Ulysses handled the great bow, trying
it, whether it had taken any hurt, but the
suitors thought scorn of him. Then, when he
had found it to be without flaw, just as a min-
strel fastens a string upon his harp and strains
it to the pitch, so he strung the bow without
toil ; and holding the string in his right hand,
he tried its tone, and the tone was sweet as the
voice of a swallow. Then he took an arrow
from the quiver, and laid the notch upon the
string and drew it, sitting as he was, and the
arrow passed through every ring, and stood in
the wall beyond. Then he said to Telema-
chus :

" There is yet a feast to be held before the
sun go down."

And he nodded the sign to Telemachus.


And forthwith the young man stood by him,
armed with spear and helmet and shield.












THEN spake Ulysses among the suitors :
" This labour has been accomplished. Let me
try at yet another mark."

And he aimed his arrow at Antinolis. But
the man was just raising a cup to his lips,
thinking not of death, for who had thought
that any man, though mightiest of mortals,
would venture on such a deed, being one
among many ? Right through the neck passed
the arrow-head, and the blood gushed from his
nostrils, and he dropped the cup and spurned
the table from him.

And all the suitors, when they saw him fall,
leapt from their seats ; but when they looked,
there was neither spear nor shield upon the
wall. And they knew not whether it was by
chance or of set purpose that the stranger had


smitten him. But Ulysses then declared who
he was, saying :

" Dogs, ye thought that I should never come
back ! Therefore have ye devoured my house,
and made suit to my wife while I yet lived, and
feared not the gods nor regarded men. There-
fore a sudden destruction is come upon you

Then when all the others trembled for fear,
Eurymachus said : " If thou be indeed Ulysses
of Ithaca, thou hast said well. Foul wrong has
been done to thee in the house and in the field.
But lo ! he who was the mover of it all lieth
here, even Antinolis. Nor was it so much this
marriage that he sought, as to be King of this
land, having destroyed thy house. But we will
pay thee back for all that we have devoured,
even twenty times as much."

But Ulysses said : " Speak not of paying
back. My hands shall not cease from slaying
till I have taken vengeance on you all."

Then said Eurymachus to his comrades :
" This man will not stay his hands. He will
smite us all with his arrows where he stands.


But let us win the door, and raise a cry in the
city ; soon then will this archer have shot his

And he rushed on, with his two-edged knife
in his hand. But as he rushed, Ulysses smote
him on the breast with an arrow, and he fell
forwards. And when Amphinomus came on,
Telemachus slew him with his spear, but drew
not the spear from the body, lest some one
should smite him unawares.

Then he ran to his father and said, " Shall I
fetch arms for us and our helpers ? '

" Yea," said he, " and tarry not, lest my
arrows be spent."

So he fetched from the armoury four shields
and four helmets and eight spears. And he
and the servants, Eumaeus and Philaetius,
armed themselves. Also Ulysses, when his
arrows were spent, donned helmet and shield,
and took a mighty spear in each hand. But
Melanthius, the goatherd, crept up to the
armoury and brought down therefrom twelve
helmets and shields, and spears as many. And
when Ulysses saw that the suitors were arming


themselves, he feared greatly, and said to his
son :

" There is treachery here. It is one of the
women, or, it may be, Melanthius, the goat-

And Telemachus said, " This fault is mine,
my father, for I left the door of the chamber

And soon Eumaeus spied Melanthius steal-
ing up to the chamber again, and followed him,
and Philaetius with him. There they caught
him, even as he took a helmet in one hand and
a shield in the other, and bound his feet and
hands, and fastened him aloft by a rope to the
beams of the ceiling.

Then these two went back to the hall, and
there also came Athene, having the shape of
Mentor. Still, for she would yet further try
the courage of Ulysses and his son, she helped
them not as yet, but, changing her shape, sat on
the roof-beam like unto a swallow.

And then cried Agelaiis : " Friends, Mentor
is gone, and helps them not. Let us not cast
our spears at random, but let six come on


together, if, perchance, we may prevail against

Then they cast their spears, but Athene
turned them aside, one to the pillar, and another
to the door, and another to the wall. But
Ulysses and Telemachus and the two herds-
men slew each his man ; and yet again they
did so, and again. Only Amphimedon wounded
Telemachus, and Ctesippus grazed the shoulder
of Eumaeus. But Telemachus struck down
Amphimedon, and the herdsman of the kine
slew Ctesippus, saying : " Take this, for the ox-
foot which thou gavest to our guest." And all
the while Athene waved her flaming aegis shield
from above, and the suitors fell as birds are
scattered and torn by eagles.

Then Leiodes, the priest, made supplication
to Ulysses, saying : " I never wrought evil in
this house, and would have kept others from
it, but they would not. Naught have I done
save serve at the altar; wherefore, slay me not."

And Ulysses made reply, " That thou hast
served at the altar of these men is enough, and
also that thou wouldest wed my wife."


So he slew him ; but Phemius, the minstrel,
he spared, for he had sung among the suitors
in the hall, of compulsion, and not of good
will ; and also Medon, the herald, bidding them
go into the yard without. There they sat,
holding by the altar and looking fearfully
every way, for yet they feared that they should

So the slaughtering of the suitors was
ended; and now Ulysses bade cleanse the
hall and wash the benches and the tables with
water, and purify them with sulphur. And
when this was done, that Eurycleia, the nurse,
should go to Penelope and tell her that her
husband was indeed returned.




EURYCLEIA went to the chamber of her mis-
tress, bearing the glad tidings. She made
haste in her great joy, and her feet stumbled
one over the other. And she stood by the
head of Penelope, and spake, saying : " Awake,
dear child, and see with thine eyes that which
thou hast desired so long. For, indeed, Ulys-
ses hath come back, and hath slain the men
that devoured his substance."

But Penelope made answer : " Surely, dear
nurse, the gods have bereft thee of thy sense ;
and verily, they can make the wisdom of the
wise to be foolishness, and they can give wis-
dom to the simple. Why dost thou mock me,
rousing me out of my sleep, the sweetest that
hath ever come to my eyes since the day when
Ulysses sailed for Troy, most hateful of cities ?
Go, get thee to the chamber of the women !


Had another of the maids roused me in this
fashion, I had sent her back with a sharp
rebuke. But thine old age protects thee."

Then said the nurse : " I mock thee not,
dear child. In very truth Ulysses is here.
He is the stranger to whom such dishonour
was done. But Telemachus knew long since
who he was, and hid the matter, that they
might take vengeance on the suitors."

O < '

Then was Penelope glad, and she leapt from
bed, and fell upon the neck of the old woman,
weeping, and saying, " Tell me "now the truth,
whether, indeed, he hath come home, and hath
slain the suitors, he being but one man, and
they many."

The nurse made answer : " How it was done
I know not ; only I heard the groaning of men
that were slain. Amazed did we women sit in
our chamber till thy son called me. Then I
found Ulysses standing among the dead, who
lay one upon another. Verily, thou hadst
been elad at heart to see him, so like to lion


was he, all stained with blood and the labour
of the fight. And now the suitors lie in a


heap, and he is purifying his house with brim-
stone. But come, that ye may have an end
of all the sorrow that ye have endured, for thy
desire is fulfilled. Thy husband hath come
back, and hath avenged him to the full on
these evil men."

But Penelope said : " Dear nurse, be not too
bold in thy joy. Thou knowest how gladly I
would see him. But this is not he ; it is one
of the gods that hath slain the suitors, being
wroth at their insolence and wrong-doing. But
Ulysses himself hath perished."

Then the nurse spake, saying : " What is
that thou sayest ? That thy husband will
return no more, when he is even now in his
own house ? Nay, thou art, indeed, slow to
believe. Hear now this manifest token that
I espied with mine eyes, the scar of the
wound that long since a wild boar dealt him
with his tusk. I saw it when I washed his
feet, and would fain have told thee, but he
laid his hand upon my mouth, and in his
wisdom suffered me not to speak."

To her Penelope made answer : " It is hard


for thee to know the purposes of the gods.
Nevertheless, I will go to my son, that I may see
the suitors dead, and the man that slew them."

So she went and sat in the twilight by the
other wall, and Ulysses sat by a pillar, with
eyes cast down, waiting till his wife should
speak to him. But she was sore perplexed ;
for now she seemed to know him, and now she
knew him not, being in such evil case, for he
had not suffered that the women should put
new robes upon him.

And Telemachus said : " Mother, evil mother,
sittest thou apart from my father, and speakest
not to him ? Surely thy heart is harder than a

But Ulysses said : " Let be, Telemachus.
Thy mother will know that which is true in
3-ood time. But now let us hide this slaughter

o o

for awhile, lest the friends of these men seek
vengeance against us. Wherefore, let there be
music and dancing in the hall, so that men shall


say, ' This is the wedding of the Queen, and
there is joy in the palace,' and know not of the









So the minstrel played and the women danced.
And meanwhile Ulysses went to the bath, and
clothed himself in bright apparel, and came
back to the hall, and Athene made him fair and
young to see. Then he sat him down as before,
over against his wife, and said :

" Surely, O lady, the gods have made thee
harder of heart than all women besides. Would
other wife have kept away from her husband,
coming back now after twenty years ? '

And when she doubted yet, he spake again :
" Hear thou this, Penelope, and know that
it is I indeed. I will tell thee of the fashion of
my bed. There grew an olive in the inner
court, with a stem of the bigness of a pillar.
Round this did I build the chamber, and I
roofed it over, and put doors upon it. Then
I lopped off the boughs of the olive, and
made it into the bedpost. Afterwards, begin-
ning from this, I wrought the bedstead till I
had finished it, inlaying the work with gold and
silver and ivory. And within I fastened a band
of ox-hide that had been dyed with purple.
Whether the bedstead be now fast in its place,


or whether some one hath moved it and
verily, it was no light thing to move I know
not. But this was its fashion of old."

Then Penelope knew him, that he was her
husband indeed, and ran to him, and threw her
arms about him and kissed him, saying: " Par-
don me, my lord, if I was slow to know thee ;
for ever I feared, so many wiles have men, that
some one should deceive me, saying that he
was my husband. But now I know this, that
thou art he and not another."

And they wept over each other and kissed
each other. So did Ulysses come back to his
home after twenty years.




THE suitors being slain, Hermes led their
souls down to the dwellings of the dead, hav-
ing in his hand the rod of gold wherewith he

o o

toucheth the eyes of men, causing some to
sleep and some to wake, and led them down ;
and they followed after with a clattering noise,
like to the noise of bats when they fly to and
fro in a cavern. Then they went along the
dark waters of death, by the side of the stream
of Ocean, and the gates of the Sun, and the
land of dreams, till they came to the meadow
of asphodel, where dwell the spirits of them
that have lived their life. There they saw the
spirit of Achilles, and of Patroclus, and of An-
tilochus, son of Nestor, and of Ajax ; and after
these the spirit of Agamemnon, and with him
they that had perished in his company by the
hand of ^Egisthus.


Then spake Achilles to Agamemnon :
" Truly, son of Atreus, men were wont to
say that Zeus loved thee above all others,
making thee ruler over many valiant men in
the land of Troy. Nevertheless, the doom of
death came upon thee after an evil sort. Bet-

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchThe story of the Odyssey → online text (page 12 of 15)