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he judged her to be the elder of the two, say-
ing, " Pray now to the Lord Poseidon, and
make thy drink offering, and when thou hast
so done, give the cup to thy friend that he
may do likewise."

Then Athene took the cup and prayed to
Poseidon, saying : " Vouchsafe renown to Nes-
tor and his son, and a due return to the men
of Pylos for this great sacrifice. And grant
that we may accomplish that for which we
have come hither."

And the son of Ulysses prayed in like


When they had eaten and drunk their fill,
Nestor said : " Strangers, who are ye ? Sail
ye over the seas for trade, or as pirates that
wander at hazard of their lives ? '

To him Telemachus made reply, Athene
putting courage into his heart : " We come
from Ithaca, and our errand concerns our-
selves. I seek for tidings of my father, who
in old time fought by thy side, and sacked the
city of Troy. Of all the others, as many as
did battle with the men of Troy, we have
heard, whether they have returned, or where
they died ; but of this man even the death
remains untold. Therefore am I come hither
to thee, if haply thou mayest be willing to tell
me of him, whether thou sawest his death with
thine own eyes, or hast heard it from another.
Speak me no soft words for pity's sake, but
tell me plainly what thou hast seen."

Nestor made answer : " Thou bringest to
my mind all that we endured, warring round
Priam's mighty town. There the best of us
were slain. Valiant Ajax lies there, and there
Achilles, and there Patroclus, and there my


own dear son Antilochus. Who could tell the
tale of all that we endured ? Truly, no one, not
though thou shouldst abide here five years or
six to listen. For nine whole years we were
busy, devising the ruin of the enemy, which yet
Zeus brought not to pass. And always Ulysses
passed the rest in craft, thy father Ulysses, if
indeed thou art his son, and verily thy speech
is like to his; one would not think that a
younger man could be so like to an elder.
But listen to my tale. When we had sacked
Priam's town, Zeus devised evil against the
Greeks in the matter of their return, for indeed
they were not all prudent or just, and they had
provoked the wrath of Athene. First there
arose debate between the sons of Atreus.
They called the Greeks to the assembly at the
going down of the sun, a thing which was
against order, and the people came heavy with
wine. Then Menelaiis charged them that they
should return across the sea without delay ; but
Agamemnon was minded to keep back the
host, and offer sacrifice to Athene, if haply he
might appease her wrath. Fool t for he knew


not that she was not to be persuaded. The
gods do not easily repent them of their pur-
poses. So the twain contended, and the Greeks
made a dreadful clamour. That night we


rested, bein^ wroth with each other. And the


next day we of the one part launched our ships,
and put on board our possessions and the spoil
we' had taken from Troy. One-half of the
people set sail, and one abode with Agamem-
non. And when we came to Tenedos there
arose fresh strife among us, for Ulysses turned,
back to Troy, but I went on my way, for 1
knew that the gods intended mischief against
us. Diomed also fled, and Menelaiis followed
after us, overtaking us in Lesbos. There we


doubted whether we should sail to seaward of
Chios or within it. And when we asked the
god for a sign, he showed us that we should go
straight across the sea to Eubcea. Then there
arose a shrill wind, and the ships ran swiftly
before it. On the fourth day Diomed moored
his ships in Argos ; and I still sailed for Pylos
nor did the wind fail me till I came. So it is
that I know not of my own knowledge which


of the Greeks was saved and which was lost.
But what I have heard, sitting here in my hall,
thou shalt know, and I will hide nothing from


thee. The Myrmidons, the people of Achilles,
came safe, and safe Philoctetes, and safe Idom-
eneus, with all them that the war had not
devoured. But of the son of Atreus ye have
heard vourselves how /Eonsthus slew him in

^ o

his hall, and paid a dreadful penalty therefor.
Verily, it is a good thing that a son of a dead
man should be left to take vengeance for him.
Only do thou, as thou art tall and comely, so
be valiant also."

Then said Telemachus : " Orestes avenged
his father, and gained great glory thereby.
Would that the gods might give me the like
strength, that I might take vengeance on the
suitors, who work me such ill ! '

Nestor spake : " Tell me, dost thou willingly
submit to this oppression ? or do the people of
the land hate thee ? Haply Ulysses himself
may come and requite them for their wicked-
ness. Yea, and if Athene cared for thee, as
she cared for him never did I see a god show


such love to a man as did Athene to him
then might some of these men forget their
thoughts of marriage."

But Telemachus answered, " Scarcely can
this be accomplished, old man ; no, not even if
the gods so willed it."

Thereupon Athene spake, saying : " What
word is this that thou hast said, Telemachus?
A god might bring a man back, even from far,
did he will it so. But death, which is the
common lot of all, the gods themselves cannot

Then Telemachus spake again : " Talk no
more of these things, Mentor. I would now ask
Nestor of another matter. Tell me now, son
of Neleus, how died King Agamemnon ? Where
was Menelaiis ? Was he not in Arsros, that


^Egisthus took heart and slew his brother ? '
Nestor made answer : " I will tell thee the
whole truth. While we were besieging Troy,
^Egisthus, sitting in peace in Argos, tempted
the wife of Agamemnon, the fair Clytemnestra,
to sin. At the first she scorned him, for she
was wise of heart. Also there was a certain


minstrel to whom the King, when he de-
parted from his home, gave the charge of his
wife. But him ^Eo-isthus carried to a lonelv

O j

island, and left him there to be the prey of the
birds. After that he persuaded the wife of the
King. Many sacrifices did he offer, and many
gifts did he give to the gods, if haply he might
appease their wrath. Now, as for Menelaiis,
he and I sailed together from Troy. But when
we came to Sunium, which is the headland of
Athens, Apollo slew the pilot of the King with
his painless shafts. And the King was holden
there, for all that he was eager to go, that he
might pay due burial honours to his friend.
But when he sailed, then great waves rose
against his ships, and the fleet was divided.
Part was brought near to Crete, and there the
ships perished on a great headland that there
is looking towards the southwest wind, and the
men hardly escaped. But Menelaiis himself
was driven to Egypt with five ships. There
he wandered long among men of alien speech,
and gathered for himself much gold. While
he was there, even for seven years, ^Egisthus


bare rule in Mycenae, and the people were sub-
dued unto him. But in the eighth year the
goodly Orestes came from Athens and slew
him. avenging his father. On that self-same


day came Menelaiis home from Egypt, bring-
ing much treasure in his ships. But wander
not thou, my son, far from home, while
strangers devour thy substance. Rather go to
Menelaiis, for he hath but lately come back
from a far country ; go and ask him to tell thee
all that he knoweth. If thou wilt, go with thy
ships, or, if it please thee better, I will send
thee with a chariot and horses, and my sons
shall be thy guides."

So he spake, and the sun went down.

Then said Athene : " Let us cut up the
tongues of the beasts, and mix the wine, and
make libation to Poseidon and the other gods,
and so bethink us of sleep, for it is the time.
It is not seemly to sit long at a banquet of the
gods, when the sun hath set."

So she spake, and they hearkened to her
words. And when they had finished, Athene
and Telemachus would have gone back to


their ship. But Nestor stayed them, saying :
" Now Zeus and all the gods forbid that ye
should depart to your ships from my house, as
though it were the dwelling of a needy man
that hath not ru^s and blankets in his house,


whereon his guests may sleep ! Not so ; I have
rugs and blankets enough. Never shall the
son of my friend Ulysses lay him down on his
ship's deck, while I am alive, or my children
after me, to entertain strangers in my hall."

Thereupon said the false Mentor: " This is
good, dear father. , Let Telemachus abide
with thee ; but I will go back to the ship,
and cheer the company, and tell them all.
There I will sleep this night, and to-morrow
I go to the Cauconians, \vhere there is owing
to me a debt neither small nor of yesterday.
But do thou send this man on his way in thy

Then the goddess departed in the semblance
of a sea-eagle, and all that saw it were amazed.

Then the old man took Telemachus by the
hand, and said : " No coward or weakling art
thou like to be, whom the gods attend even


now in thy youth. This is none other than
Athene, daughter of Zeus, the same that stood
by thy father in the land of Troy."

After this the old man led the company to
his house. Here he mixed for them a bowl
of wine eleven years old; and they made liba-
tions and prayed to Athene ; and when they
had drunk to their hearts' content they lay
down to sleep. Telemachus slept on a bed-
stead beneath the gallery, and Peisistratus, who
alone of Nestor's sons was unwedded, slept by

The next day, as soon as it was morning,
Nestor arose and his sons. And the old man
said : " Let one man go to the plain for a
heifer, and let another go to the ship of Telem-
achus, and bid all the company come hither,
leaving two only behind. And a third shall
command the goldsmith that he gild the horns
of the heifer, and let the handmaids prepare all
things for a feast."

They did as the old man commanded ; and
after the sacrifice the fair Polycaste, that was
Nestor's youngest daughter, gave Telemachus


the bath, and anointed him with olive oil, and
arrayed him in a goodly mantle and tunic.
Then he sat him down by Nestor's side.

When they had eaten and drunk, old Nestor
said, " Put now the horses in the chariot that
Telemachus may go his way."

So they yoked the horses, and the dame that
kept the stores put into the chariot food and
wine and dainties, such as princes eat. And
Peisistratus took the reins, and Telemachus
rode with him. And all that day they jour-
neyed ; and when the land grew dark they
came to the city of Pherae, where Diocles,
son of Orsilochus, was King, and there they
rested ; and the next day, travelling again,
came to Lacedaemon, to the palace of King




Now it chanced that Menelaiis had made a
great feast that day, for his daughter Hermione,
the child of the fair Helen, was married to Ne-
optolemus, the son of Achilles, to whom she
had been promised at Troy ; and he had also
taken a wife for his son Megapenthes. And
the two wayfarers stayed their chariot at the
door, and the steward spied them, and said to
Menelaiis :

" Lo ! here are two strangers who are like
the children of kings. Shall we keep them
here, or send them to another ? '

But Menelaiis was wroth, and said : " Shall
we, who have eaten so often of the bread of
hospitality, send these strangers to another?
Nay, but unyoke their horses and bid them
sit down to meat."

So the squires loosed the horses from the
yoke, and fastened them in the stall, and gave


them spelt to eat and white barley mixed with
it, and led the men into the hall. Much did
they marvel at the sight, for there was a gleam
as of the sun or moon in the palace of Mene-
laiis. And when they had gazed their fill,
they bathed them in the polished baths. After
that they sat them down by the side of Mene-
lalis. Then a handmaid bare water in an ewer
of gold, and poured it over a basin of silver
that they might wash their hands. Afterwards
she drew a polished table to their side, and a
dame of reverend look brought food, and set it
by them, laying many dainties on the board,
and a carver placed by them platters of divers
kinds of flesh, and set near them golden bowls.

Then said Menelaiis : " Eat and be glad ;
afterwards I will ask you who ye are, for ye
seem like to the sons of kings. No churls
could have such children as ye are."

So spake he, and set before them the chine,
which was his own portion of the feast ; and
when they had! ended the meal, Telemachus,
looking round at the hall, said to his com-
panion :


" See the gold and the amber, and the silver
and the ivory. This is as the hall of Olympian

This he spake with his face close to his
comrade's ear, but Menelaiis heard him and
said :

" With the halls of the gods nothing mortal
may compare. And among men also there
may be the match of these things. Yet I
have wandered far, and got many possessions
in many lands. But woe is me ! while I gath-
ered these things my brother was foully slain
in his house. Would that I had but the third
part of this wealth of mine, so that they
who perished at Troy were alive again ! And
most of all I mourn for the great Ulysses,
for whether he be alive or dead no man

But Telemachus wept to hear mention of his
father, holding up his purple cloak before his
eyes. This Menelaiis saw, and knew him who
he was, and pondered whether he should wait
till he should himself speak of his father, or
should rather ask him of his errand. But


while he pondered there came in the fair
Helen, and three maidens with her, of whom
one set a couch for her to sit, and one spread a
carpet for her feet, and one bare a basket of
purple wool; but she herself had a distaff of
gold in her hand. And when she saw the
strangers she said :


" Who are these, Menelaiis ? Never have I
seen such likeness in man or woman as this
one bears to Ulysses. Surely' tis his son Telem-
achus, whom he left an infant at home when
ye went to Troy for my sake ! '

Then said Menelaiis : " It must indeed be so,
lady. For these are the hands and feet of
Ulysses, and the look of his eyes and his hair.
And but now, when I made mention of his
name, he wept, holding his mantle before his

Then said Peisistratus : " King Menelaiis,
thou speakest truth. This is indeed the
son of Ulysses, who is come to thee, if haply
thou canst help him by word or deed."

And Menelaiis answered : " Then is he the
son of a man whom I loved right well. I


thought to give him a city in this land, bring-
ing him from Ithaca with all his o^oods. Then

o o

might we often have companied together, nor
should aught have divided us but death itself.
But these things the gods have ordered other-


At these words they all wept the fail-
Helen and Telemachus and Menalaiis ; nor
could Peisistratus refrain himself, for he
thought of his dear brother Antilochus, whom
Memnon, son of the Morning, slew at

Thus thinking, he spake to Menelalis, say-
ing, " Son of Atreus, Nestor hath ever said of
thee that thou art wise beyond all other men.
Yet I would have thee listen to me, for I for
one have no pleasure in weeping when we sit
at supper time. I blame not indeed these who
weep for him that hath died. This, indeed, is
all the due that we can pay to the dead, to
cut the hair and to weep. And I too have a
brother dead, not the meanest of the Greeks,
whom thou must have known. I never, in-
deed, beheld him, but men say that Antilochus


was excellent in speed of foot and in the


To him Menelalis made reply : " Thou hast
said all that a wise man might say ; yea,
though he were older than thou. Fitting it is
that thou shouldest speak wisely, being sprung
from such a sire. But now will w r e cease from
weeping; and to-morrow there is much that
Telemachus and I must say one to the other."

Then the fair Helen put a mighty medicine
in the wine whereof they drank nepenthe
men call it.. So mighty is it that whosoever
drinks of it, that day he weeps not, though
father and mother die, and though men slay
brother or son before his eyes. Polydamna,
wife of King Thoas, had given it to her in
Egypt, where, indeed, many medicines grow
that are mighty both for good and ill."

And after this she said : " It were long to
tell all the wise and valiant deeds of Ulysses.
One thing, however, ye shall hear, and it is
this : while the Greeks were before Troy he
came into the city, having disguised himself
as a beggar-man, yea, and he had laid many


blows upon himself, so that he seemed to have
been shamefully entreated. I only knew him
who he was, and questioned him, but he an-
swered craftily. And afterwards, when I had
bathed him and anointed him with oil, I swore
that I would not tell the thing till he had gone
back to the camp. So he slew many Trojans
with the sword, and learnt many things. And
while other women in Troy lamented, I was
glad, for my heart was turned again to my

Then Menelaiis said : " Thou speakest truly,
lady. Many men have I seen, and travelled
over many lands, but never have I seen one
who might be matched with Ulysses. Well
do I remember how, when I and other chiefs
of the Greeks sat in the horse of wood, thou
didst come, Dei'phobus following thee. Some
god who loved the sons of Troy put the thing
into thy heart. Thrice didst thou walk round
our hiding-place and call by name to each one
of the chiefs, likening thy voice in marvellous
fashion to the voice of his wife. Then would
Diomed and I have either risen from our place


or answered thee straightway. But Ulysses
hindered us, so saving all the Greeks."

But Telemachus said : " Yet all these things
have not kept him, but that he has perished."

And after that they slept.




THE next day Menelaiis said to Telemachus :
" For what end hast thou come hither to fair
Lacedaemon ? Is it on some matter of the
common weal, or on business of thine own ? '

Then Telemachus said : "I have come, if
haply thou canst tell me aught, of my father.
For certain suitors of my mother devour my
goods, nor do I see any help. Tell me, there-
fore, true, sparing me not at all, but saying if
thou knowest anything of thyself, or hast
heard it from another ? '

And Menelaiis answered : " It angers me to
hear of these cowards who would lie in a brave
man's bed. So a hind lays its young in a
lion's den, but when he comes he slays both
her and them. So shall it be with these in the
day when Ulysses shall come back. But as to
what thou askest me, I will answer clearly and
without turning aside.


" In the river /Egyptus I was stayed long
time, though I was eao;er to ^et me home ; the

o o o

gods stayed me, for I had not offered to them
due sacrifice. Now there is an island in the
wash of the waves over against the land of
Egypt men call it Pharos, and it is distant
one day's voyage for a ship, if the wind blow-
eth fair in her wake. Here did the gods keep
me twenty days, nor did the sea winds ever
blow. Then had all my corn been spent, and
the lives also of my men, but that the daughter
of Proteus had pity on me. Her heart was
moved to see me when I wandered alone, apart
from my company, for they all roamed about
the island, fishing with hooks because hunger
gnawed them. So she stood by me and spake,
saying : ' Art thou foolish, stranger, and feeble
of wit, or dost thou sit still for thine own
pleasure, because it is sweet to thee to suffer?
Verily, thou stayest long in this place, and
canst find no escape, while the heart of thy
people faileth within them.' Then I an-
swered : ' I will tell thee the truth, whosoever
thou art. It is not my own will that holdeth


me here; I must needs have sinned against
the o;ods. Tell me now which of the ods

o o

have I offended, and how shall I contrive to
return to my own home ? ' So I spake, and
straightway the goddess made answer: ' I will
tell thee all. To this place resorteth Proteus,
who knoweth the depths of all the sea. My
father is he. If thou couldst lay an ambush
for him and catch him, he will declare to thee
thy way, how thou mayest return across the
deep. Also he will show thee what good and
what evil have happened within thy halls while
thou hast been wandering far away.' So she
spake, and I made reply, ' Devise thyself this
ambush, lest by any chance he see me first
and avoid me, for it is hard for a man to over-
come a god.' Then said the goddess: 'When
the sun in his course hath reached the mid-
heaven, then cometh the old man from the
sea; before the breath of the west wind he
cometh, and the ripple covereth him. And
when he is come out of the sea, he lieth down
in the caves to sleep, and all about him lie the
seals, the brood of ocean, and bitter is the


smell of the salt water that they breathe.
Thither will I lead thee at break of day, thee
and three of thy companions. Choose them
from thy ships, the bravest that thou hast.
And now I will tell thee the old man's art.
First, he will count the seals, and when he has
told the tale of them, he will lie down in the
midst, as a shepherd in the midst of his flock.
Now, so soon as ye shall see him thus laid
down, then remember your courage, and hold
him there, for all that he shall strive to be free.
For he will take all manner of shapes of creat-
ures that creep upon the earth, and of water
likewise, and of burning fire. But do ye grasp
him fast, and press him hard, and when he
shall question thee, returning to his proper
shape, then let him go free, and ask him which
of the gods is angry with thee, and how thou
mayest return across the deep.' Thereupon
she dived beneath the sea, and I betook me to
the ships ; but I w r as sorely troubled in heart.
The next morning I took three of my com-
rades, in whom I trusted most, and lo ! she
had brought from the sea the skins of four


sea-calves, which she had newly flayed, for she
was minded to lay a snare for her father. She
scooped hiding-places for us in the sand, and
made us lie down therein, and cast the skin of
a sea-calf over each of us. It would have been
a grievous ambush, for the stench of the skins
had distressed us sore, who, indeed, would
lay him down by a beast of the sea ? but she
wrought a deliverance for us. She took am-
brosia, very sweet, and put it under each man's
nostrils, that it might do away with the stench
of the beast.

" So all the morning we waited with steadfast
hearts. And the seals came forth from the
brine, and ranged them in order upon the
shore. And at noon the old man, came forth
out of the sea, and went along the line of the
sea-beasts, and counted them. Us, too, he
counted among them, and perceived not our
device ; and after that he laid him down to
sleep. Then we rushed upon him with a cry,
and held him fast ; nor did he forget his cun-
ning, for he became a bearded lion, and a
snake, and a pard, and a great wild boar.


Also he took the shape of running water,
and of a flowering tree. And all the while
we held him fast. When at last he was
weary, he said, ' Which of the gods, son of
Atreus, bade thee thus waylay me ? ' But I
answered him : ' Wherefore dost thou beguile
me, old man, with crooked words ? I am
holden in this isle, and can find no escape
therefrom. Tell me now which of the gods
hindereth me, and how I may return across
the sea ? ' The old man made reply : ' Thou
shouldest have done sacrifice to Zeus and the
other gods before embarking, if thou wouldst
have reached thy native country with speed.
But now thou must go again to the river
^gyptus, and make offerings to the gods;
so shall they grant that which thou desirest.'
Then was my spirit broken within me, when I
heard that I must traverse again this weary
way, but I said : ' Old man, I will do all thy
bidding. But tell me now, I pray thee, did
the other Greeks, whom Nestor and I left be-
hind us in Troy, return safe to their homes, or
perished any by an evil death on board of his


ship or among his friends ? ' To this the old

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchThe story of the Odyssey → online text (page 2 of 15)