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05-27-2007, 01:26 AM
Book XVI

Telemachus sends Eumaeus to the city to tell his mother of
his return. And how, in the meantime, Odysseus discovers
himself to his son.

Now these twain, Odysseus and the goodly swineherd, within
the hut had kindled a fire, and were making ready breakfast
at the dawn, and had sent forth the herdsmen with the
droves of swine. And round Telemachus the hounds, that love
to bark, fawned and barked not, as he drew nigh. And goodly
Odysseus took note of the fawning of the dogs, and the
noise of footsteps fell upon his ears. Then straight he
spake to Eumaeus winged words:

'Eumaeus, verily some friend or some other of thy familiars
will soon be here, for the dogs do not bark but fawn
around, and I catch the sound of footsteps.'

While the word was yet on his lips, his own dear son stood
at the entering in of the gate. Then the swineherd sprang
up in amazement, and out of his hands fell the vessels
wherewith he was busied in mingling the dark wine. And he
came over against his master and kissed his head and both
his beautiful eyes and both his hands, and he let a great
tear fall. And even as a loving father welcomes his son
that has come in the tenth year from a far country, his
only son and well-beloved, for whose sake he has had great
sorrow and travail, even so did the goodly swineherd fall
upon the neck of godlike Telemachus, and kiss him all over
as one escaped from death, and he wept aloud and spake to
him winged words:

'Thou art come, Telemachus, a sweet light in the dark;
methought I should see thee never again, after thou hadst
gone in thy ship to Pylos. Nay now enter, dear child, that
my heart may be glad at the sight of thee in mine house,
who hast newly come from afar. For thou dost not often
visit the field and the herdsmen, but abidest in the town;
so it seems has thy good pleasure been, to look on the
ruinous throng of the wooers.'

Then wise Telemachus answered him, saying: 'So be it,
father, as thou sayest; and for thy sake am I come hither
to see thee with mine eyes, and to hear from thy lips
whether my mother yet abides in the halls or another has
already wedded her, and the couch of Odysseus, perchance,
lies in lack of bedding and deep in foul spider-webs.'

Then the swineherd, a master of men, answered him: 'Yea
verily, she abides with patient spirit in thy halls, and
wearily for her the nights wane always and the days, in
shedding of tears.'

So he spake and took from him the spear of bronze. Then
Telemachus passed within and crossed the threshold of
stone. As he came near, his father Odysseus arose from his
seat to give him place; but Telemachus, on his part, stayed
him and spake saying:

'Be seated, stranger, and we will find a seat some other
where in our steading, and there is a man here to set it
for us.'

So he spake, and Odysseus went back and sat him down again.
And the swineherd strewed for Telemachus green brushwood
below, and a fleece thereupon, and there presently the dear
son of Odysseus sat him down. Next the swineherd set by
them platters of roast flesh, the fragments that were left
from the meal of yesterday. And wheaten bread he briskly
heaped up in baskets, and mixed the honey-sweet wine in a
goblet of ivy wood, and himself sat down over against
divine Odysseus. So 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, Telemachus spake to the
goodly swineherd, saying:

'Father, whence came this stranger to thee? How did sailors
bring him to Ithaca? and who did they avow them to be? For
in no wise, I deem, did he come hither by land.'

Then didst thou make answer, swineherd Eumaeus: 'Yea now,
my son, I will tell thee all the truth. Of wide Crete he
avows him to be by lineage, and he says that round many
cities of mortals he has wandered at adventure; even so has
some god spun for him the thread of fate. But now, as a
runaway from a ship of the Thesprotians, has he come to my
steading, and I will give him to thee for thy man; do with
him as thou wilt; he avows him for thy suppliant.'

Then wise Telemachus answered him, saying: 'Eumaeus, verily
a bitter word is this that thou speakest. How indeed shall
I receive this guest in my house? Myself I am young, and
trust not yet to my strength of hands to defend me against
the man who does violence without a cause. And my mother
has divisions of heart, whether to abide here with me and
keep the house, respecting the bed of her lord and the
voice of the people, or straightway to go with whomsoever
of the Achaeans that woo her in the halls is the best man,
and gives most bridal gifts. But behold, as for this guest
of thine, now that he has come to thy house, I will clothe
him in a mantle and a doublet, goodly raiment, and I will
give him a two-edged sword, and shoes for his feet, and
send him on his way, whithersoever his heart and his spirit
bid him go. Or, if thou wilt, hold him here in the steading
and take care of him, and raiment I will send hither, and
all manner of food to eat, that he be not ruinous to thee
and to thy fellows. But thither into the company of the
wooers would I not suffer him to go, for they are exceeding
full of infatuate insolence, lest they mock at him, and
that would be a sore grief to me. And hard it is for one
man, how valiant soever, to achieve aught among a
multitude, for verily they are far the stronger.'

Then the steadfast goodly Odysseus answered him: 'My
friend, since it is indeed my right to answer thee withal,
of a truth my heart is rent as I hear your words, such
infatuate deeds ye say the wooers devise in the halls, in
despite of thee, a man so noble. Say, dost thou willingly
submit thee to oppression, or do the people through the
township hate thee, obedient to the voice of a god? Or hast
thou cause to blame thy brethren, in whose battle a man
puts trust, even if a great feud arise? Ah, would that I
had the youth, as now I have the spirit, and were either
the son of noble Odysseus or Odysseus' very self, {*}
straightway then might a stranger sever my head from off my
neck, if I went not to the halls of Odysseus, son of
Laertes, and made myself the bane of every man among them!
But if they should overcome me by numbers, being but one
man against so many, far rather would I die slain in mine
own halls, than witness for ever these unseemly deeds,
strangers shamefully entreated, and men haling the
handmaidens in foul wise through the fair house, and wine
drawn wastefully and the wooers devouring food all
recklessly without avail, at a work that knows no ending.'

{* We omit line 101, which spoils the sense of the passage,
and was rejected by antiquity.}

Then wise Telemachus answered him, saying: 'Yea now,
stranger I will plainly tell thee all. There is no grudge
and hatred borne my by the whole people, neither have I
cause to blame my brethren, in whose battle a man puts
trust, even if a great feud arise. For thus, as thou seest,
Cronion has made us a house of but one heir. Arceisius got
him one only son Laertes, and one only son Odysseus was
begotten of his father, and Odysseus left me the only child
of his getting in these halls, and had no joy of me;
wherefore now are foemen innumerable in the house. For all
the noblest that are princes in the islands, in Dulichium
and Same and wooded Zacynthus, and as many as lord it in
rocky Ithaca, all these woo my mother and waste my house.
But as for her she neither refuseth the hated bridal, nor
hath the heart to make and end; so they devour and minish
my house; and ere long will they make havoc likewise of
myself. Howbeit these things surely lie on the knees of the
gods. Nay, father, but do thou go with haste and tell the
constant Penelope that she hath got me safe and that I am
come up out of Pylos. As for me, I will tarry here, and do
thou return hither when thou hast told the tidings to her
alone; but of the other Achaeans let no man learn it, for
there be many that devise mischief against me.'

Then didst thou make answer, swineherd Eumaeus: 'I mark, I
heed, all this thou speakest to one with understanding. But
come, declare me this and tell it plainly; whether or no I
shall go the same road with tidings to Laertes, that
hapless man, who till lately, despite his great sorrow for
Odysseus' sake, yet had oversight of the tillage, and did
eat and drink with the thralls in his house, as often as
his heart within him bade him. But now, from the day that
thou wentest in thy ship to Pylos, never to this hour, they
say, hath he so much as eaten and drunken, nor looked to
the labours of the field, but with groaning and lamentation
he sits sorrowing, and the flesh wastes away about his

Then wise Telemachus answered him, saying: 'All the more
grievous it is! yet will we let him be, though we sorrow
thereat. For if men might in any wise have all their will,
we should before ought else choose the day of my father's
returning. But do thou when thou hast told the tidings come
straight back, and go not wandering through the fields
after Laertes. But speak to my mother that with all speed
she send forth the house-dame her handmaid, secretly, for
she might bear tidings to the old man.'

With that word he roused the swineherd, who took his
sandals in his hands and bound them beneath his feet and
departed for the city. Now Athene noted Eumaeus the
swineherd pass from the steading, and she drew nigh in the
semblance of a woman fair and tall, and skilled in splendid
handiwork. And she stood in presence manifest to Odysseus
over against the doorway of the hut; but it was so that
Telemachus saw her not before him and marked her not; for
the gods in no wise appear visibly to all. But Odysseus was
ware of her and the dogs likewise, which barked not, but
with a low whine shrank cowering to the far side of the
steading. Then she nodded at him with bent brows, and
goodly Odysseus perceived it, and came forth from the room,
past the great wall of the yard, and stood before her, and
Athene spake to him, saying:

'Son of Laertes, of the seed of Zeus, Odysseus of many
devices, now is the hour to reveal thy word to thy son, and
hide it not, that ye twain having framed death and doom for
the wooers, may fare to the famous town. Nor will I, even
I, be long away from you, being right eager for battle.'

Therewith Athene touched him with her golden wand. First
she cast about his breast a fresh linen robe and a doublet,
and she increased his bulk and bloom. Dark his colour grew
again, and his cheeks filled out, and the black beard
spread thick around his chin.

Now she, when she had so wrought, withdrew again, but
Odysseus went into the hut, and his dear son marvelled at
him and looked away for very fear lest it should be a god,
and he uttered his voice and spake to him winged words:

'Even now, stranger, thou art other in my sight than that
thou wert a moment since, and other garments thou hast, and
the colour of thy skin is no longer the same. Surely thou
art a god of those that keep the wide heaven. Nay then, be
gracious, that we may offer to thee well-pleasing
sacrifices and golden gifts, beautifully wrought; and spare
us I pray thee.'

Then the steadfast goodly Odysseus answered him, saying:
'Behold, no god am I; why likenest thou me to the
immortals? nay, thy father am I, for whose sake thou
sufferest many pains and groanest sore, and submittest thee
to the despite of men,'

At the word he kissed his son, and from his cheeks let a
tear fall to earth: before, he had stayed the tears
continually. But Telemachus (for as yet he believed not
that it was his father) answered in turn and spake, saying:

'Thou art not Odysseus my father, but some god beguiles me,
that I may groan for more exceeding sorrow. For it cannot
be that a mortal man should contrive this by the aid of his
own wit, unless a god were himself to visit him, and
lightly of his own will to make him young or old. For
truly, but a moment gone, thou wert old and foully clad,
but now thou art like the gods who keep the wide heaven.'

Then Odysseus of many counsels answered him saying:
'Telemachus, it fits thee not to marvel overmuch that thy
father is come home, or to be amazed. Nay for thou shalt
find no other Odysseus come hither any more; but lo, I, all
as I am, after sufferings and much wandering have come in
the twentieth year to mine own country. Behold, this is the
work of Athene, driver of the spoil, who makes me such
manner of man as she will,--for with her it is possible,--
now like a beggar, and now again like a young man, and one
clad about in rich raiment. Easy it is for the gods who
keep the wide heaven to glorify or to abase a mortal man.'

With this word then he sat down again; but Telemachus,
flinging himself upon his noble father's neck, mourned and
shed tears, and in both their hearts arose the desire of
lamentation. And they wailed aloud, more ceaselessly than
birds, sea-eagles or vultures of crooked claws, whose
younglings the country folk have taken from the nest, ere
yet they are fledged. Even so pitifully fell the tears
beneath their brows. And now would the sunlight have gone
down upon their sorrowing, had not Telemachus spoken to his
father suddenly:

'And in what manner of ship, father dear, did sailors at
length bring thee hither to Ithaca? and who did they avow
them to be? For in no wise, I deem, didst thou come hither
by land.'

And the steadfast goodly Odysseus answered him: 'Yea now,
my child, I will tell thee all the truth. The Phaeacians
brought me hither, mariners renowned, who speed other men
too upon their way, whosoever comes to them. Asleep in the
swift ship they bore me over the seas and set me down in
Ithaca, and gave me splendid gifts, bronze and gold in
plenty and woven raiment. And these treasures are lying by
the gods' grace in the caves. But now I am come hither by
the promptings of Athene, that we may take counsel for the
slaughter of the foemen. But come, tell me all the tale of
the wooers and their number, that I may know how many and
what men they be, and that so I may commune with my good
heart and advise me, whether we twain shall be able alone
to make head against them without aid, or whether we should
even seek succour of others.'

Then wise Telemachus answered him, saying: 'Verily, father,
I have ever heard of thy great fame, for a warrior hardy of
thy hands, and sage in counsel. But this is a hard saying
of thine: awe comes over me; for it may not be that two men
should do battle with many men and stalwart. For of the
wooers there are not barely ten nor twice ten only, but
many a decad more: and straight shalt thou learn the tale
of them ere we part. From Dulichium there be two and fifty
chosen lords, and six serving men go with them; and out of
Same four and twenty men; and from Zacynthus there are
twenty lords of the Achaeans; and from Ithaca itself full
twelve men of the best, and with them Medon the henchman,
and the divine minstrel, and two squires skilled in carving
viands. If we shall encounter all these within the halls,
see thou to it, lest bitter and baneful for us be the
vengeance thou takest on their violence at thy coming. But
do thou, if thou canst think of some champion, advise thee
of any that may help us with all his heart.'

Then the steadfast goodly Odysseus answered him, saying:
'Yea now, I will tell thee, and do thou mark and listen to
me, and consider whether Athene with Father Zeus will
suffice for us twain, or whether I shall cast about for
some other champion.'

Then wise Telemachus answered him, saying: 'Valiant
helpers, in sooth, are these two thou namest, whose seat is
aloft in the clouds, and they rule among all men and among
the deathless gods!'

Then the steadfast goodly Odysseus answered him: 'Yet will
the twain not long keep aloof from the strong tumult of
war, when between the wooers and us in my halls is held the
trial of the might of Ares. But as now, do thou go homeward
at the breaking of the day, and consort with the proud
wooers. As for me, the swineherd will lead me to the town
later in the day, in the likeness of a beggar, a wretched
man and an old. And if they shall evil entreat me in the
house, let thy heart harden itself to endure while I am
shamefully handled, yea even if they drag me by the feet
through the house to the doors, or cast at me and smite me:
still do thou bear the sight. Howbeit thou shalt surely bid
them cease from their folly, exhorting them with smooth
words; yet no whit will they hearken, nay for the day of
their doom is at hand. Yet another thing will I tell thee,
and do thou ponder it in thy heart. When Athene, of deep
counsel, shall put it into my heart, I will nod to thee
with my head and do thou note it, and carry away all thy
weapons of war that lie in the halls, and lay them down
every one in the secret place of the lofty chamber. And
when the wooers miss them and ask thee concerning them,
thou shalt beguile them with soft words, saying:

'"Out of the smoke I laid them by, since they were no
longer like those that Odysseus left behind him of old when
he went to Troy, but they are wholly marred: so mightily
hath passed upon them the vapour of fire. Moreover Cronion
hath put into my heart this other and greater care, that
perchance, when ye are heated with wine, ye set a quarrel
between you and wound one the other and thereby shame the
feast and the wooing; for iron of itself draws a man
thereto." But for us twain alone leave two swords and two
spears and two shields of oxhide to grasp, that we may rush
upon the arms and seize them; and then shall Pallas Athene
and Zeus the counsellor enchant the wooers to their ruin.
Yet another thing will I tell thee, and do thou ponder it
in thy heart. If in very truth thou art my son and of our
blood, then let no man hear that Odysseus is come home;
neither let Laertes know it, nor the swineherd nor any of
the household nor Penelope herself, but let me and thee
alone discover the intent of the women. Yea, and we would
moreover make trial of certain of the men among the
thralls, and learn who {*} of them chances to honour us and
to fear us heartily, and who regards us not at all and
holds even thee in no esteem, so noble a man as thou art.'

{* Reading [Greek]}

Then his renowned son answered him, and said: 'O my father,
of a truth thou shalt learn, methinks, even hereafter what
spirit I am of, for no whit doth folly possess me. But I
deem not that this device of thine will be gainful to us
twain, so I bid thee to give heed. For thou shalt be long
time on thy road to little purpose, making trial of each
man, while thou visitest the farm lands; but at ease in thy
halls the wooers devour thy goods with insolence, and now
there is no sparing. Howbeit I would have thee take
knowledge of the women, who they be that dishonour thee,
and who are guiltless. But of the men I would not that we
should make trial in the steadings, but that we should see
to this task afterwards, if indeed thou knowest some sign
from Zeus, lord of the aegis.'

Thus they spake one to the other. And now the well-builded
ship was being brought to land at Ithaca, the ship that
bare Telemachus from Pylos with all his company. When they
were now come within the deep harbour, the men drew up the
black ship on the shore, while squires, haughty of heart,
bare away their weapons, and straightway carried the
glorious gifts to the house of Clytius. Anon they sent
forward a herald to the house of Odysseus to bear the
tidings to prudent Penelope, namely, how Telemachus was in
the field, and had bidden the ship sail to the city, lest
the noble queen should be afraid, and let the round tears
fall. So these two met, the herald and the goodly
swineherd, come on the same errand to tell all to the lady.
Now when they were got to the house of the divine king, the
herald spake out among all the handmaids saying:

'Verily, O queen, thy son hath come out of Pylos.'

But the swineherd went up to Penelope, and told her all
that her dear son had bidden him say. So, when he had
declared all that had been enjoined him, he went on his way
to the swine and left the enclosure and the hall.

Now the wooers were troubled and downcast in spirit, and
forth they went from the hall past the great wall of the
court, and there in front of the gates they held their
session. And Eurymachus son of Polybus first spake among
them saying:

'Verily, friends, a proud deed hath Telemachus accomplished
with a high hand, even this journey, and we said that he
should never bring it to pass. But come, launch we a black
ship, the best there is, and let us get together oarsmen of
the sea, who shall straightway bear word to our friends to
return home with speed.'

The word was yet on his lips, when Amphinomus turned in his
place and saw the ship within the deep harbour, and the men
lowering the sails and with the oars in their hands. Then
sweetly he laughed out and spake among his fellows:

'Nay, let us now send no message any more, for lo, they are
come home. Either some god has told them all or they
themselves have seen the ship of Telemachus go by, and have
not been able to catch her.'

Thus he spake, and they arose and went to the sea-banks.
Swiftly the men drew up the black ship on the shore, and
squires, haughty of heart, bare away their weapons. And the
wooers all together went to the assembly-place, and
suffered none other to sit with them, either of the young
men or of the elders. Then Antinous spake among them, the
son of Eupeithes:

'Lo now, how the gods have delivered this man from his evil
case! All day long did scouts sit along the windy
headlands, ever in quick succession, and at the going down
of the sun we never rested for a night upon the shore, but
sailing with our swift ship on the high seas we awaited the
bright Dawn, as we lay in wait for Telemachus, that we
might take and slay the man himself; but meanwhile some god
has brought him home. But even here let us devise an evil
end for him, even for Telemachus, and let him not escape
out of our hands, for methinks that while he lives we shall
never achieve this task of ours. For he himself has
understanding in counsel and wisdom, and the people no
longer show us favour in all things. Nay come, before he
assembles all the Achaeans to the gathering; for methinks
that he will in nowise be slack, but will be exceeding
wroth, and will stand up and speak out among them all, and
tell how we plotted against him sheer destruction but did
not overtake him. Then will they not approve us, when they
hear these evil deeds. Beware then lest they do us a harm,
and drive us forth from our country, and we come to the
land of strangers. Nay, but let us be beforehand and take
him in the field far from the city, or by the way; and let
us ourselves keep his livelihood and his possessions,
making fair division among us, but the house we would give
to his mother to keep and to whomsoever marries her. But if
this saying likes you not, but ye chose rather that he
should live and keep the heritage of his father, no longer
then let us gather here and eat all his store of pleasant
substance, but let each one from his own hall woo her with
his bridal gifts and seek to win her; so should she wed the
man that gives the most and comes as the chosen of fate.'

So he spake, and they all held their peace. Then Amphinomus
made harangue and spake out among them; he was the famous
son of Nisus the prince, the son of Aretias, and he led the
wooers that came from out Dulichium, a land rich in wheat
and in grass, and more than all the rest his words were
pleasing to Penelope, for he was of an understanding mind.
And now of his good will he made harangue, and spake among

'Friends, I for one would not choose to kill Telemachus; it
is a fearful thing to slay one of the stock of kings! Nay,
first let us seek to the counsel of the gods, and if the
oracles of great Zeus approve, myself I will slay him and
bid all the rest to aid. But if the gods are disposed to
avert it, I bid you to refrain.'

So spake Amphinomus, and his saying pleased them well. Then
straightway they arose and went to the house of Odysseus,
and entering in sat down on the polished seats.

Then the wise Penelope had a new thought, namely, to show
herself to the wooers, so despiteful in their insolence;
for she had heard of the death of her son that was to be in
the halls, seeing that Medon the henchman had told her of
it; who heard their counsels. So she went on her way to the
hall, with the women her handmaids. Now when that fair lady
had come unto the wooers, she stood by the pillar of the
well-builded roof, holding up her glistening tire before
her face, and rebuked Antinous and spake and hailed him:

'Antinous, full of all insolence, deviser of mischief! and
yet they say that in the land of Ithaca thou art chiefest
among thy peers in counsel and in speech. Nay, no such man
dost thou show thyself. Fool! why indeed dost thou contrive
death and doom for Telemachus, and hast no regard unto
suppliants who have Zeus to witness? Nay but it is an
impious thing to contrive evil one against another. What!
knowest thou not of the day when thy father fled to this
house in fear of the people, for verily they were exceeding
wroth against him, because he had followed with Taphian sea
robbers and harried the Thesprotians, who were at peace
with us. So they wished to destroy thy father and wrest
from him his dear life, and utterly to devour all his great
and abundant livelihood; but Odysseus stayed and withheld
them, for all their desire. His house thou now consumest
without atonement, and his wife thou wooest, and wouldst
slay his son, and dost greatly grieve me. But I bid thee
cease, and command the others to do likewise.'

Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered her saying:
'Daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, take courage, and let
not thy heart be careful for these things. The man is not,
nor shall be, nor ever shall be born, that shall stretch
forth his hands against Telemachus, thy son, while I live
and am on earth and see the light. For thus will I declare
to thee, and it shall surely come to pass. Right quickly
shall the black blood of such an one flow about our spear;
for Odysseus, waster of cities, of a truth did many a time
set me too upon his knees, and gave me roasted flesh into
my hand, and held the red wine to my lips. Wherefore
Telemachus is far the dearest of all men to me, and I bid
him have no fear of death, not from the wooers' hands; but
from the gods none may avoid it.'

Thus he spake comforting her, but was himself the while
framing death for her son.

Now she ascended to her shining upper chamber, and then was
bewailing Odysseus, her dear lord, till grey-eyed Athene
cast sweet sleep upon her eyelids.

And in the evening the goodly swineherd came back to
Odysseus and his son, and they made ready and served the
supper, when they had sacrificed a swine of a year old.
Then Athene drew near Odysseus, son of Laertes, and smote
him with her wand, and made him into an old man again. In
sorry raiment she clad him about his body, lest the
swineherd should look on him and know him, and depart to
tell the constant Penelope, and not keep the matter in his

Then Telemachus spake first to the swineherd, saying:
'Thou hast come, goodly Eumaeus. What news is there in the
town? Are the lordly wooers now come in from their ambush,
or do they still watch for me as before on my homeward

Then didst thou make answer, swineherd Eumaeus: 'I had no
mind to go down the city asking and inquiring hereof; my
heart bade me get me home again, as quick as might be, when
once I had told the tidings. And the swift messenger from
thy company joined himself unto me, the henchman, who was
the first to tell the news to thy mother. Yet this, too, I
know, if thou wouldest hear; for I beheld it with mine
eyes. Already had I come in my faring above the city, where
is the hill Hermaean, when I marked a swift ship entering
our haven, and many men there were in her, and she was
laden with shields and two-headed spears, and methought
they were the wooers, but I know not at all.'

So spake he, and the mighty prince Telemachus smiled, and
glanced at his father, while he shunned the eye of the

Now when they had ceased from the work and got supper
ready, they fell to feasting, and their hearts lacked not
ought of the equal banquet. But when they had put from them
the desire of meat and drink, they bethought them of rest,
and took the boon of sleep.