Alfred John Church.

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ter hadst thou died before the walls of Troy,
for then had the Greeks raised for thee a
mighty tomb ! '

To him the spirit of Agamemnon made
answer : " Happy wert thou, son of Peleus,
in that thou diedst far a\vay from the land
of Greece. Many valiant men of the sons of
Troy and of the Greeks were slain around
thee, where thou wast lying with the dust of
the battle about thee, forgetting all thy craft
of war. All that day we fought, and had not
ceased but that Zeus stayed the battle with a
whirlwind. Then we carried thee back to the
ships, and laid thy body on a bed, and washed
it with water and anointed it with ointment.
And even as we sat weeping about thee, came
thy mother with the deathless daughters of the
sea ; and we heard a terrible voice and were


sore afraid. Then had we fled to the ships but
that Nestor, the wise old man, stayed us, say-
ing, ' Tarry ye here, sons of the Greeks, for
the mother of Achilles cometh with the dau^h-


ters of the sea to mourn for her son.'

" Then we feared no more ; and the daugh-
ters of the sea stood about thee, making lamen-
tation, and put on thee clothing of the gods.
And the nine Muses sang thy dirge, answering
one the other with a very lovely voice ; and
there was not one of the Greeks but wept, so
sweetly did they sing. Seventeen nights and
days as many we bewailed thee, gods and men
mingled together ; and on the eighteenth day
we kindled a great fire and burnt thy body.
Many sheep and oxen did we slay ; and thou
didst lie upon the pile with the garments of the
gods about thee, being anointed with much
ointment and honey ; and the chiefs ran round
the burning pile clad in their armour, and the
cry of the host went up to heaven. And when
the flame had consumed thy body, then we
gathered thy white bones together and laid
them in an urn of gold that thy mother had


brought, for Dionysus had given it to her, and
it was the fire-god's workmanship. And with
thy bones were mingled the bones of Patro-
clus ; and near to them, but apart, were the
bones of Nestor's son, Antilochus, whom thou
didst love beyond all thy comrades, save Patro-
clus only. And for you three the Greeks made
a great tomb upon a jutting rock, near to the
Hellespont, that men who pass thereby may
see it for all time to come. And thy mother
brought prizes for which the sons of the
Greeks might contend in running, wrestling,
and the like. Truly I have seen the burying
of many men, when the young men gird up
their loins to contend together, doing honour
to some king that is dead, but never have I
seen such a burying as thine, so fair were the
prizes that Thetis of the silver feet set before
the chiefs of the host. Verily, thou wast dear
to the gods, and thy name shall be famous for-
ever ; but as for me, I died an evil death by
the hands of yEgisthus and of my accursed

Thus did they speak together. And mean-


while the souls of the suitors came near, an
exceeding great company. And the heroes
marvelled to see them. And when King
Agamemnon looked upon them he knew
Amphimedon; for he had been his guest-
friend in old time. And he said : " Tell me,
Amphimedon, how is this, that ye come hither
in this fashion, chiefs all of you, and all of you
of equal age. Did Poseidon slay you on ship-
board, raising stormy winds and great waves
of the sea against you? or did ye fall by the
hand of the enemy on the land ? Tell me, I
pray thee, for thou art a friend by inheritance.
Dost thou not remember how I came, and my
brother Menelalis with me, to the house of thy
father, that we might persuade Ulysses to go
with us against Troy ? '

To him Amphimedon made answer : " All
this I remember. And as to the fashion of our
death, I will tell thee truly. We sought the
wife of Ulysses in marriage, thinking that he
was dead. But she would none of our wooing,
but devised this device. She set up a great
loom and said: 'Suffer me to tarry till I have


made a shroud for the burial of Laertes, that
is father to my husband ; that I may have no
reproach among the daughters of the Greeks.
And when I have made it, then will I marry
the one whom I shall choose ! ' And when we
had consented thereto, she deceived us, for she
wrought the shroud by day, but at night she
undid all that she had wrought. So she de-
ceived us for the space of three years ; and in
the fourth year we discovered her deceit.
And after this an evil fate brought Ulysses to
his home again ; and he, and his son Telem-
achus, and Eumaeus, the swineherd, contrived
our death. For he bade Queen Penelope
bring forth the bow that was his, and say that
whosoever should bend it, he should be her
husband. So we took the bow, but there was
not one of us that could bend it ; but when
Ulysses took it in his hand he bent it right
easily. Then he stood on the threshold of the
chamber, and shot arrows against us. Anti-
nous first of all he slew, and the rest after-
wards, so that not one of us was left alive.
And now our bodies lie uncared for in his


hall, nor is there any one to mourn for us or
to bury us."

Then said Agamemnon : " Happy art thou,
Ulysses, and mightily hast thou avenged thy
wife. And she verily hath a heart that is good
and true. Never shall her fame perish from
among men. But as for Clytemnestra, she
shall have an evil report forever because she
slew her husband."

So these spake together in the dwellings of
the dead. Meanwhile, Ulysses went forth
from his palace to the dwelling of Laertes, that
was in the fields. There the old man dwelt,
and a woman of Sicily cared for him. And
Ulysses spake to his son and to the shepherds,
saying : " Go ye into the house and prepare a
meal of swine's flesh, as savoury as may be ;
and I will make trial of my father, whether he
will know me. For it may well be that he
hath forgotten me, seeing that I have been now
a long time absent."

So spake Ulysses, and gave also his arms to
the men to keep for him. So they went into
the house. And Ulysses went to the orchard,


making search for his father. There he found


not Dolius, that was steward to Laertes, nor
any one of his servants, nor of his sons, for
they were gone to make a fence about the
field. Only the old man he found ; and he
was busy digging about a tree. Filthy was
the tunic that he had about him and sewn
with thread ; and he had coverings of ox-hide
on his legs to keep them from the thorns, and
gloves upon his hands, and a cap of dog-skin
on his head. And when Ulysses saw him, how
that he was worn with old age and very sor-
rowful, he stood under a pear tree and wept.
Then for awhile he took counsel with himself,
whether he should kiss his father and embrace
him, and make himself known, and tell him
how he had come back to his home, or should
first inquire of him, and learn all that he would
know. And he judged it best first to inquire.
So he came near to the old man ; and the old
man was digging about a tree, having his head
bent down.

Then said Ulysses : " Verily, old man, thou
wantest not in skill to deal with an orchard


And truly, neither fig, nor vine, nor olive, nor
pear may flourish in a garden without care.
But yet another thing will I say to thee, and
be not thou wroth when thou hearest it. Thy
garden, indeed, is well cared for, but thou thy-
self art in evil plight. For old age lieth heavy
upon thee, and thou art clad in filthy garments.
Yet truly thou art not idle, that thy master thus
dealeth with thee ; nor, indexed, art thou in any
wise like unto a slave ; for thy face and thy
stature are as it might be of a king. Such an
one as thou art should wash himself, and sit
down to meat, and sleep softly ; for such is the
due of old age. But come, tell me truly, whose
servant art thou? Whose orchard dost thou
tend ? Tell me this also : Is this, indeed, the
land of Ithaca to which I am come ? This,
indeed, a certain man that I met as I came
hither told me, but he seemed to be but of
scanty wit, nor would he listen to my words,
nor tell me of a guest-friend that I have who


dwelleth in this place, whether he be alive or
dead. I entertained him a long time since in
my house, and never was there straiiger whom


I loved more than him. And he said that he
was the son of Laertes, and that he came from
the land of Ithaca. Gifts also I gave him,
seven talents of gold, and a mixing-bowl of sil-
ver, wrought about with flowers, and twelve
cloaks that had never been washed, and rugs
as many, and four cloths, and tunics as many
also. Also I gave him four women, fair to look
upon, and skilled in all manner of handiwork."
To him Laertes made answer, weeping the
while : " Doubt not, stranger, that thou art
come to the land of which thou inquirest.
But unrighteous and violent men have it in
possession. But as for the son of Laertes,
hadst thou found him here, verily, he had sent
thee away with many gifts, even such as thou
gavest to him. But tell me truly, is it long
time since thou didst give him entertainment ?
For, indeed, he is my son, unhappy man that I
am. Surely either he hath been drowned in
the sea, and the fishes have devoured him, or
wild beasts and birds of the air have eaten him
upon the land. And neither father nor
mother, nor his wife, Penelope, most prudent


of women, could make lamentation for him and
lay him out for his burial. But tell me, who
art thou ? Where is thy city, and what thy
parentage ? Did thine own ship bring thee
hither, and thy companions with thee, or didst
thou come as a trader upon the ship of
another ? '

Then said Ulysses : " All this I will tell thee
truly. I am of the city of Alybas, and my
father is Apheidas, and my name Eperitus.
It was of the doin^ of the 2fods that I came

o o

hither from the land of Sicily, and not of mine
own will. And my ship is moored hard by.
As for Ulysses, it is now the fifth year since he
left me. Yet verily, the omens were good
when he went forth on his journey, so that we
both rejoiced, thinking that he would journey
safely, and that we should be friends the one
to the other in the time to come."

So spake Ulysses ; and when the old man,
his father, heard these words, great grief came
upon him, and he took up the dust in his
hands and poured it upon the white hairs of
his head. And the heart of Ulysses was


moved within him as he saw it, and he was
ready to weep when he beheld his father.
Then he threw his arms about him and kissed
him, and said : " My father, here am I, thy son
for whom thou weepest. Lo ! I am come back
to my native country after twenty years, and I
have avenged myself on them that sought my
wife in marriage, slaying them all."

To him the old man made answer, " If thou
art my very son Ulysses, tell me some clear
sign whereby I may know thee."

Then said Ulysses : " See, now, this scar
upon my thigh where the wild boar wounded
me on Mount Parnassus. For thou and my
mother sent me to my grandfather Autolycus,
and I was wounded in the hunting:. And let


this also be a si^n to thee. I will tell thee


\vhat trees of the orchard thou gavest me long
since, when I was a boy and walked with thee,
inquiring of thee their names. Thirteen pear
trees didst thou give me, and ten apple trees,
and of fig trees two score. Fifty rows also of
vines didst thou promise to give me when the
time of grapes should come."


And the old man's heart was moved within
him, and his knees failed him, for he knew
that the signs were true. And he threw his


arms about his son, and his son took him to
him, and the spirit of the old man revived,
and he said : " Now I know that there are
gods in heaven when I hear that these evil
men, the suitors, have been punished for their
wrong-doing. Nevertheless, I fear me much

o o

lest their kinsmen should stir up the men of
Ithaca and of the islands round about against


Then said Ulysses : " Trouble not thyself
with these matters, my father. Let us go
rather to the house. There are Telemachus
and Eumaeus, and the keeper of the herds,
and they have made ready, that we may dine."

So they went to the house, and found Te-
lemachus and his companions cutting flesh for
the dinner and mixing the wine. Then the


woman of Sicilv washed the old man Laertes


and anointed him with oil, and clad him in a
fair cloak. And Athene also stood by him,
and made him taller and sturdier to look on


than before. And his son marvelled to behold
him, so fair he was and like to the gods that
live forever, so that he spake to him, saying,
" O my father, surely one of the gods that live
forever hath made thee fair to look upon and
tall ! "

And Laertes made answer : " Would to God
that I had stood by you yesterday, taking ven-
geance on the suitors, such as I was in the old
time when I took the fair city of Nericus.
Many a man had I slain with my spear, and
thou wouldest have rejoiced in thy heart."

Thus spake they together. And when the
dinner was ready they sat down to meat ; and
the old man Dolius, with his sons, approached,
coming in from their labour; for the woman of
Sicily, that was the mother of the lads, had
called them. And when they saw Ulysses, they
stood amazed and speechless. And Ulysses
said, " Cease to wonder, old man, at this sight,
and sit down to meat ; truly we are ready for
cur meat, and have waited long time for you."

Then Dolius ran to him, stretching forth


both his hands, and caught the hand of Ulysses


and kissed it on the wrist. And he spake,
saying : " Right glad are we at thy coming, for
we looked not for thee. Surely it is of the
gods that thou hast returned. May all things
be well with thee. But tell me this. Knoweth
Queen Penelope of thy coming, or shall I send
a messenger to tell her ? "


" Verily, she knoweth it," said Ulysses.
Then the old man sat down to meat, and his
sons also, when they had greeted Ulysses.

In the meanwhile there spread through the
city the tidings how the suitors had been slain;
and the kindred of the men came to the house
of Ulysses with many groans and tears, and
carried away the dead bodies and buried them.
But such as came from other lands they put
on shipboard, that they might carry them to
the sepulchres of their fathers. And when
these things were ended they gathered them-
selves together in the market-place; and
Eupeithes stood up amongst them, being sore
troubled in his heart for his son Antinolis,
whom Ulysses had slain first of all the suitors.
He stood up, therefore, in the midst, and spake :


" Surely this man hath wrought great evils in
this land. First he took comrades with him to
Troy, many in number and brave. These all
he lost, and their ships also. And now he hath
come hither and slain the princes of the people.
Shame it were to us, yea, among the genera-
tions to come, if we avenge not ourselves on
them that have slain our sons and our
brothers. Verily, I desire not life, if such
should go unpunished. Come, therefore, let
us make haste lest they cross over the sea and
so escape."

So Eupeithes spake, weeping the while.
And all the people had pity to hear him. But
Medon, the herald, stood up in the assembly
and spake, saying: " Hear me, men of Ithaca!
Verily, Ulysses did not all these things without
the helping of the gods that live forever. I,
indeed, saw with mine own eyes one of the
gods standing by Ulysses, being like to Prince
Mentor in shape. By Ulysses there stood a
god, and strengthened him ; and another was
there among the suitors, troubling them so that
they fell."


Thus spake Medon, the herald, and after him
stood up Alitherses, the seer, that knew all
things that had been and should be hereafter,
and spake, saying : " It is of your folly, ye men
of Ithaca, that all these things have come to
pass. Ye would not hearken to me, no, nor to
Mentor, nor w r ould ye restrain your sons from
their folly. Great wickedness did they work,
wasting the goods of a brave man, and making
suit to his wife, for they thought not that he
would return. Come now, hearken unto me,
lest some worse evil befall you."

Then some indeed rose up and made haste
to depart ; and these were the greater part ;
but the others remained in their places, for
they liked not the counsel of Medon and the
seer, but regarded the words of Eupeithes.
Then they clad themselves in their armour
and marched to the city, Eupeithes leading

Then spake Athene to Zeus : " Tell me, my
father, what dost thou purpose in thy heart?
Wilt thou that there be strife or friendship
between these two ? '


To her Zeus made answer : " Why dost thou
inquire this thing of me ? Was it not of thy
contriving that Ulysses slew the suitors in his
palace? Order it as thou wilt. But let there
be peace and friendship in the end, that Ulysses
may prosper in the land, and the people dwell
in happiness about him."

Then Athene departed, and came to the
land of Ithaca.

And when Ulysses and they that sat with
him had made an end of eating and drinking,
the King said, " Let some one go forth and
see whether these men are near at hand."

So the son of Dolius went forth. And as
he stood on the threshold he saw them ap-
proaching, and cried, " They are even now
close at hand ; let us arm ourselves in all

So they armed themselves. With Ulysses
were Telemachus, and Eumaeus, and the keeper
of the herds. Also there stood with him six
sons of Dolius ; and the two old men also,
Laertes and Dolius, though their heads were
white with age. And as they went forth from


the house Athene came near, having the form
and the voice of Prince Mentor. And when
Ulysses saw her, he was glad at heart, and
spake to Telemachus, saying, " I know thee
well, my son, that thou wilt bear thyself
bravely, and do no dishonour to the house
of thy fathers, that have ever been famous
in the land for courage and manhood."

Telemachus answered, " This, my father,
thou shalt see for thyself, if thou wilt."

And Laertes was glad at heart, and said,
" How happy is this day, in the which my son
and my grandson contend one with the other
in valour."

Then Athene came near to the old man, and
said, " Laertes, pray thou first to Athene and
Father Zeus, and then cast thy spear."

So she spake, and breathed great strength
into his heart. And having prayed, he cast
his spear, and smote Eupeithes through the
helmet, so that he fell dead upon the ground.
Then Ulysses and his son fell upon the men
of Ithaca with swords and two-handed spears.
Verily, they had slain them all, but that


Athene cried aloud, saying, " Cease, men of
Ithaca, from the battle, for it is too hard for

And the men were sore afraid when they
heard her voice, and threw their arms upon
the ground and fled, if haply they might
escape to the city. And when Ulysses would
have pursued after them, Zeus cast a thunder-
bolt from heaven, so that it fell before the feet
of Athene. And Athene cried, " Cease from
the battle, son of Laertes, lest Zeus be wroth
with thee."

So Ulysses was stayed from the battle ; and
Zeus and Athene made peace between the
King and the men of Ithaca.




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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchThe story of the Odyssey → online text (page 13 of 15)