View Full Version : Odyssey, The - Homer

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05-27-2007, 01:17 AM
Book I

In a Council of the Gods, Poseidon absent, Pallas procureth
an order for the restitution of Odysseus; and appearing to
his son Telemachus, in human shape, adviseth him to
complain of the Wooers before the Council of the people,
and then go to Pylos and Sparta to inquire about his

Tell me, Muse, of that man, so ready at need, who wandered
far and wide, after he had sacked the sacred citadel of
Troy, and many were the men whose towns he saw and whose
mind he learnt, yea, and many the woes he suffered in his
heart upon the deep, striving to win his own life and the
return of his company. Nay, but even so he saved not his
company, though he desired it sore. For through the
blindness of their own hearts they perished, fools, who
devoured the oxen of Helios Hyperion: but the god took from
them their day of returning. Of these things, goddess,
daughter of Zeus, whencesoever thou hast heard thereof,
declare thou even unto us.

Now all the rest, as many as fled from sheer destruction,
were at home, and had escaped both war and sea, but
Odysseus only, craving for his wife and for his homeward
path, the lady nymph Calypso held, that fair goddess, in
her hollow caves, longing to have him for her lord. But
when now the year had come in the courses of the seasons,
wherein the gods had ordained that he should return home to
Ithaca, not even there was he quit of labours, not even
among his own; but all the gods had pity on him save
Poseidon, who raged continually against godlike Odysseus,
till be came to his own country. Howbeit Poseidon had now
departed for the distant Ethiopians, the Ethiopians that
are sundered in twain, the uttermost of men, abiding some
where Hyperion sinks and some where he rises. There he
looked to receive his hecatomb of bulls and rams, there he
made merry sitting at the feast, but the other gods were
gathered in the halls of Olympian Zeus. Then among them the
father of gods and men began to speak, for he bethought him
in his heart of noble Aegisthus, whom the son of Agamemnon,
far-famed Orestes, slew. Thinking upon him he spake out
among the Immortals:

'Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For
of us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves,
through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows
beyond that which is ordained. Even as of late Aegisthus,
beyond that which was ordained, took to him the wedded wife
of the son of Atreus, and killed her lord on his return,
and that with sheer doom before his eyes, since we had
warned him by the embassy of Hermes the keen-sighted, the
slayer of Argos, that he should neither kill the man, nor
woo his wife. For the son of Atreus shall be avenged at the
hand of Orestes, so soon as he shall come to man's estate
and long for his own country. So spake Hermes, yet he
prevailed not on the heart of Aegisthus, for all his good
will; but now hath he paid one price for all.'

And the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, answered him, saying: 'O
father, our father Cronides, throned in the highest; that
man assuredly lies in a death that is his due; so perish
likewise all who work such deeds! But my heart is rent for
wise Odysseus, that hapless one, who far from his friends
this long while suffereth affliction in a seagirt isle,
where is the navel of the sea, a woodland isle, and therein
a goddess hath her habitation, the daughter of the wizard
Atlas, who knows the depths of every sea, and himself
upholds the tall pillars which keep earth and sky asunder.
His daughter it is that holds the hapless man in sorrow:
and ever with soft and guileful tales she is wooing him to
forgetfulness of Ithaca. But Odysseus yearning to see if it
were but the smoke leap upwards from his own land, hath a
desire to die. As for thee, thine heart regardeth it not at
all, Olympian! What! did not Odysseus by the ships of the
Argives make thee free offering of sacrifice in the wide
Trojan land? Wherefore wast thou then so wroth with him, O

And Zeus the cloud-gatherer answered her, and said, 'My
child, what word hath escaped the door of thy lips? Yea,
how should I forget divine Odysseus, who in understanding
is beyond mortals and beyond all men hath done sacrifice to
the deathless gods, who keep the wide heaven? Nay, but it
is Poseidon, the girdler of the earth, that hath been wroth
continually with quenchless anger for the Cyclops' sake
whom he blinded of his eye, even godlike Polyphemus whose
power is mightiest amongst all the Cyclopes. His mother was
the nymph Thoosa, daughter of Phorcys, lord of the
unharvested sea, and in the hollow caves she lay with
Poseidon. From that day forth Poseidon the earth-shaker
doth not indeed slay Odysseus, but driveth him wandering
from his own country. But come, let us here one and all
take good counsel as touching his returning, that he may be
got home; so shall Poseidon let go his displeasure, for he
will in no wise be able to strive alone against all, in
despite of all the deathless gods.'

Then the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, answered him, and said:
'O father, our father Cronides, throned in the highest, if
indeed this thing is now well pleasing to the blessed gods,
that wise Odysseus should return to his own home, let us
then speed Hermes the Messenger, the slayer of Argos, to
the island of Ogygia. There with all speed let him declare
to the lady of the braided tresses our unerring counsel,
even the return of the patient Odysseus, that so he may
come to his home. But as for me I will go to Ithaca that I
may rouse his son yet the more, planting might in his
heart, to call an assembly of the long-haired Achaeans and
speak out to all the wooers who slaughter continually the
sheep of his thronging flocks, and his kine with trailing
feet and shambling gait. And I will guide him to Sparta and
to sandy Pylos to seek tidings of his dear father's return,
if peradventure he may hear thereof and that so he may be
had in good report among men.'

She spake and bound beneath her feet her lovely golden
sandals that wax not old, and bare her alike over the wet
sea and over the limitless land, swift as the breath of the
wind. And she seized her doughty spear, shod with sharp
bronze, weighty and huge and strong, wherewith she quells
the ranks of heroes with whomsoever she is wroth, the
daughter of the mighty sire. Then from the heights of
Olympus she came glancing down, and she stood in the land
of Ithaca, at the entry of the gate of Odysseus, on the
threshold of the courtyard, holding in her hand the spear
of bronze, in the semblance of a stranger, Mentes the
captain of the Taphians. And there she found the lordly
wooers: now they were taking their pleasure at draughts in
front of the doors, sitting on hides of oxen, which
themselves had slain. And of the henchmen and the ready
squires, some were mixing for them wine and water in bowls,
and some again were washing the tables with porous sponges
and were setting them forth, and others were carving flesh
in plenty.

And godlike Telemachus was far the first to descry her, for
he was sitting with a heavy heart among the wooers dreaming
on his good father, if haply he might come somewhence, and
make a scattering of the wooers there throughout the
palace, and himself get honour and bear rule among his own
possessions. Thinking thereupon, as he sat among wooers, he
saw Athene--and he went straight to the outer porch, for he
thought it blame in his heart that a stranger should stand
long at the gates: and halting nigh her he clasped her
right hand and took from her the spear of bronze, and
uttered his voice and spake unto her winged words:

'Hail, stranger, with us thou shalt be kindly entreated,
and thereafter, when thou hast tasted meat, thou shalt tell
us that whereof thou hast need.'

Therewith he led the way, and Pallas Athene followed. And
when they were now within the lofty house, he set her spear
that he bore against a tall pillar, within the polished
spear-stand, where stood many spears besides, even those of
Odysseus of the hardy heart; and he led the goddess and
seated her on a goodly carven chair, and spread a linen
cloth thereunder, and beneath was a footstool for the feet.
For himself he placed an inlaid seat hard by, apart from
the company of the wooers, lest the stranger should be
disquieted by the noise and should have a loathing for the
meal, being come among overweening men, and also that he
might ask him about his father that was gone from his home.

Then a handmaid bare water for the washing of hands in a
goodly golden ewer, and poured it forth over a silver basin
to wash withal, and drew to their side a polished table.
And a grave dame bare wheaten bread and set it by them, and
laid on the board many dainties, giving freely of such
things as she had by her. And a carver lifted and placed by
them platters of divers kinds of flesh, and nigh them he
set golden bowls, and a henchman walked to and fro pouring
out to them the wine.

Then in came the lordly wooers; and they sat them down in
rows on chairs, and on high seats, and henchmen poured
water on their hands, and maidservants piled wheaten bread
by them in baskets, and pages crowned the bowls with drink;
and they stretched forth their hands upon the good cheer
spread before them. Now when the wooers had put from them
the desire of meat and drink, they minded them of other
things, even of the song and dance: for these are the crown
of the feast. And a henchman placed a beauteous lyre in the
hands of Phemius, who was minstrel to the wooers despite
his will. Yea and as he touched the lyre he lifted up his
voice in sweet songs.{*}

{* Or, according to the ordinary interpretation of [Greek]:
So he touched the chords in prelude to his sweet singing.}

But Telemachus spake unto grey-eyed Athene, holding his
head close to her that those others might not hear: 'Dear
stranger, wilt thou of a truth be wroth at the word that I
shall say? Yonder men verily care for such things as these,
the lyre and song, lightly, as they that devour the
livelihood of another without atonement, of that man whose
white bones, it may be, lie wasting in the rain upon the
mainland, or the billow rolls them in the brine. Were but
these men to see him returned to Ithaca, they all would
pray rather for greater speed of foot than for gain of gold
and raiment. But now he hath perished, even so, an evil
doom, and for us is no comfort, no, not though any of
earthly men should say that he will come again. Gone is the
day of his returning! But come declare me this, and tell me
all plainly: Who art thou of the sons of men, and whence?
Where is thy city, where are they that begat thee? Say, on
what manner of ship didst thou come, and how did sailors
bring thee to Ithaca, and who did they avow themselves to
be, for in nowise do I deem that thou camest hither by
land. And herein tell me true, that I may know for a
surety whether thou art a newcomer, or whether thou art a
guest of the house, seeing that many were the strangers
that came to our home, for that HE too had voyaged much
among men.'

Then the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, answered him: 'Yea now,
I will plainly tell thee all. I avow me to be Mentes, son
of wise Anchialus, and I bear rule among the Taphians,
lovers of the oar. And now am I come to shore, as thou
seest, with ship and crew, sailing over the wine-dark sea,
unto men of strange speech, even to Temesa, {*} in quest of
copper, and my cargo is shining iron. And there my ship is
lying toward the upland, away from the city, in the harbour
of Rheithron beneath wooded Neion: and we declare ourselves
to be friends one of the other, and of houses friendly,
from of old. Nay, if thou wouldest be assured, go ask the
old man, the hero Laertes, who they say no more comes to
the city, but far away toward the upland suffers
affliction, with an ancient woman for his handmaid, who
sets by him meat and drink, whensoever weariness takes hold
of his limbs, as he creeps along the knoll of his vineyard
plot. And now am I come; for verily they said that HE, thy
father, was among his people; but lo, the gods withhold him
from his way. For goodly Odysseus hath not yet perished on
the earth; but still, methinks, he lives and is kept on the
wide deep in a seagirt isle, and hard men constrain him,
wild folk that hold him, it may be, sore against his will.
But now of a truth will I utter my word of prophecy, as the
Immortals bring it into my heart and as I deem it will be
accomplished, though no soothsayer am I, nor skilled in the
signs of birds. Henceforth indeed for no long while shall
he be far from his own dear country, not though bonds of
iron bind him; he will advise him of a way to return, for
he is a man of many devices. But come, declare me this, and
tell me all plainly, whether indeed, so tall as thou art,
thou art sprung from the loins of Odysseus. Thy head surely
and they beauteous eyes are wondrous like to his, since
full many a time have we held converse together ere he
embarked for Troy, whither the others, aye the bravest of
the Argives, went in hollow ships. From that day forth
neither have I seen Odysseus, nor he me.'

{* Tamasia, in the mountainous centre of Cyprus.}

Then wise Telemachus answered her, and said: 'Yea, sir, now
will I plainly tell thee all. My mother verily saith that I
am his; for myself I know not, for never man yet knew of
himself his own descent. O that I had been the son of some
blessed man, whom old age overtook among his own
possessions! But now of him that is the most hapless of
mortal men, his son they say that I am, since thou dost
question me hereof.'

Then the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, spake unto him, and
said: 'Surely no nameless lineage have the gods ordained
for thee in days to come, since Penelope bore thee so
goodly a man. But come, declare me this, and tell it all
plainly. What feast, nay, what rout is this? What hast thou
to do therewith? Is it a clan drinking, or a wedding feast,
for here we have no banquet where each man brings his
share? In such wise, flown with insolence, do they seem to
me to revel wantonly through the house: and well might any
man be wroth to see so many deeds of shame, whatso wise man
came among them.'

Then wise Telemachus answered her, and said: 'Sir,
forasmuch as thou questionest me of these things and
inquirest thereof, our house was once like to have been
rich and honourable, while yet that man was among his
people. But now the gods willed it otherwise, in evil
purpose, who have made him pass utterly out of sight as no
man ever before. Truly I would not even for his death make
so great sorrow, had he fallen among his fellows in the
land of the Trojans, or in the arms of his friends when he
had wound up the clew of war. Then would the whole Achaean
host have builded him a barrow, and even for his son would
he have won great glory in the after days. But now the
spirits of the storm have swept him away inglorious. He is
gone, lost to sight and hearsay, but for me hath he left
anguish and lamentation; nor henceforth is it for him alone
that I mourn and weep, since the gods have wrought for me
other sore distress. For all the noblest that are princes
in the isles, 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 an
end: so they devour and minish my house, and ere long will
they make havoc likewise of myself.'

Then in heavy displeasure spake unto him Pallas Athene:
'God help thee! thou art surely sore in need of Odysseus
that is afar, to stretch forth his hands upon the shameless
wooers. If he could but come now and stand at the entering
in of the gate, with helmet and shield and lances twain, as
mighty a man as when first I marked him in our house
drinking and making merry what time he came up out of
Ephyra from Ilus son of Mermerus! For even thither had
Odysseus gone on his swift ship to seek a deadly drug, that
he might have wherewithal to smear his bronze-shod arrows:
but Ilus would in nowise give it to him, for he had in awe
the everliving gods. But my father gave it him, for he bare
him wondrous love. O that Odysseus might in such strength
consort with the wooers: so should they all have swift fate
and bitter wedlock! Howbeit these things surely lie on the
knees of the gods, whether he shall return or not, and take
vengeance in his halls. But I charge thee to take counsel
how thou mayest thrust forth the wooers from the hall. Come
now, mark and take heed unto my words. On the morrow call
the Achaean lords to the assembly, and declare thy saying
to all, and take the gods to witness. As for the wooers bid
them scatter them each one to his own, and for thy mother,
if her heart is moved to marriage, let her go back to the
hall of that mighty man her father, and her kinsfolk will
furnish a wedding feast, and array the gifts of wooing
exceeding many, all that should go back with a daughter
dearly beloved. And to thyself I will give a word of wise
counsel, if perchance thou wilt hearken. Fit out a ship,
the best thou hast, with twenty oarsmen, and go to inquire
concerning thy father that is long afar, if perchance any
man shall tell thee aught, or if thou mayest hear the voice
from Zeus, which chiefly brings tidings to men. Get thee
first to Pylos and inquire of goodly Nestor, and from
thence to Sparta to Menelaus of the fair hair, for he came
home the last of the mail-coated Achaeans. If thou shalt
hear news of the life and the returning of thy father, then
verily thou mayest endure the wasting for yet a year. But
if thou shalt hear that he is dead and gone, return then to
thine own dear country and pile his mound, and over it pay
burial rites, full many as is due, and give thy mother to a
husband. But when thou hast done this and made an end,
thereafter take counsel in thy mind and heart, how thou
mayest slay the wooers in thy halls, whether by guile or
openly; for thou shouldest not carry childish thoughts,
being no longer of years thereto. Or hast thou not heard
what renown the goodly Orestes gat him among all men in
that he slew the slayer of his father, guileful Aegisthus,
who killed his famous sire? And thou, too, my friend, for I
see that thou art very comely and tall, be valiant, that
even men unborn may praise thee. But I will now go down to
the swift ship and to my men, who methinks chafe much at
tarrying for me; and do thou thyself take heed and give ear
unto my words.'

Then wise Telemachus answered her, saying: 'Sir, verily
thou speakest these things out of a friendly heart, as a
father to his son, and never will I forget them. But now I
pray thee abide here, though eager to be gone, to the end
that after thou hast bathed and had all thy heart's desire,
thou mayest wend to the ship joyful in spirit, with a
costly gift and very goodly, to be an heirloom of my
giving, such as dear friends give to friends.'

Then the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, answered him: 'Hold me
now no longer, that am eager for the way. But whatsoever
gift thine heart shall bid thee give me, when I am on my
way back let it be mine to carry home: bear from thy stores
a gift right goodly, and it shall bring thee the worth
thereof in return.'

So spake she and departed, the grey-eyed Athene, and like
an eagle of the sea she flew away, but in his spirit she
planted might and courage, and put him in mind of his
father yet more than heretofore. And he marked the thing
and was amazed, for he deemed that it was a god; and anon
he went among the wooers, a godlike man.

Now the renowned minstrel was singing to the wooers, and
they sat listening in silence; and his song was of the
pitiful return of the Achaeans, that Pallas Athene laid on
them as they came forth from Troy. And from her upper
chamber the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, caught the
glorious strain, and she went down the high stairs from her
chamber, not alone, for two of her handmaids bare her
company. Now when the 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 a faithful maiden
stood on either side her. Then she fell a weeping, and
spake unto the divine minstrel:

'Phemius, since thou knowest many other charms for mortals,
deeds of men and gods, which bards rehearse, some one of
these do thou sing as thou sittest by them, and let them
drink their wine in silence; but cease from this pitiful
strain, that ever wastes my heart within my breast, since
to me above all women hath come a sorrow comfortless. So
dear a head do I long for in constant memory, namely, that
man whose fame is noised abroad from Hellas to mid Argos.'

Then wise Telemachus answered her, and said: 'O my mother,
why then dost thou grudge the sweet minstrel to gladden us
as his spirit moves him? It is not minstrels who are in
fault, but Zeus, methinks, is in fault, who gives to men,
that live by bread, to each one as he will. As for him it
is no blame if he sings the ill-faring of the Danaans; for
men always prize that song the most, which rings newest in
their ears. But let thy heart and mind endure to listen,
for not Odysseus only lost in Troy the day of his
returning, but many another likewise perished. Howbeit go
to thy chamber and mind thine own housewiferies, the loom
and distaff, and bid thy handmaids ply their tasks. But
speech shall be for men, for all, but for me in chief; for
mine is the lordship in the house.'

Then in amaze she went back to her chamber, for she laid up
the wise saying of her son in her heart. She ascended to
her upper chamber with the women her handmaids, and then
was bewailing Odysseus, her dear lord, till grey-eyed
Athene cast sweet sleep upon her eyelids.

Now the wooers clamoured throughout the shadowy halls, and
each one uttered a prayer to be her bedfellow. And wise
Telemachus first spake among them:

'Wooers of my mother, men despiteful out of measure, let us
feast now and make merry and let there be no brawling; for,
lo, it is a good thing to list to a minstrel such as him,
like to the gods in voice. But in the morning let us all go
to the assembly and sit us down, that I may declare my
saying outright, to wit that ye leave these halls: and busy
yourselves with other feasts, eating your own substance,
going in turn from house to house. But if ye deem this a
likelier and a better thing, that one man's goods should
perish without atonement, then waste ye as ye will; and I
will call upon the everlasting gods, if haply Zeus may
grant that acts of recompense be made: so should ye
hereafter perish within the halls without atonement.'

So spake he, and all that heard him bit their lips and
marvelled at Telemachus, in that he spake boldly.

Then Antinous, son of Eupeithes, answered him: 'Telemachus,
in very truth the gods themselves instruct thee to be proud
of speech and boldly to harangue. Never may Cronion make
thee king in seagirt Ithaca, which thing is of inheritance
thy right!'

Then wise Telemachus answered him, and said: 'Antinous,
wilt thou indeed be wroth at the word that I shall say?
Yea, at the hand of Zeus would I be fain to take even this
thing upon me. Sayest thou that this is the worst hap that
can befal a man? Nay, verily, it is no ill thing to be a
king: the house of such an one quickly waxeth rich and
himself is held in greater honour. Howsoever there are many
other kings of the Achaeans in seagirt Ithaca, kings young
and old; someone of them shall surely have this kingship
since goodly Odysseus is dead. But as for me, I will be
lord of our own house and thralls, that goodly Odysseus gat
me with his spear.'

Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered him, saying:
'Telemachus, on the knees of the gods it surely lies, what
man is to be king over the Achaeans in seagirt Ithaca. But
mayest thou keep thine own possessions and be lord in thine
own house! Never may that man come, who shall wrest from
thee thy substance violently in thine own despite while
Ithaca yet stands. But I would ask thee, friend, concerning
the stranger--whence he is, and of what land he avows him
to be? Where are his kin and his native fields? Doth he
bear some tidings of thy father on his road, or cometh he
thus to speed some matter of his own? In such wise did he
start up, and lo, he was gone, nor tarried he that we
should know him;--and yet he seemed no mean man to look
upon.' {*}

{* The [Greek] explains the expression of surprise at the
sudden departure of the stranger.}

Then wise Telemachus answered him, and said: 'Eurymachus,
surely the day of my father's returning hath gone by.
Therefore no more do I put faith in tidings, whencesoever
they may come, neither have I regard unto any divination,
whereof my mother may inquire at the lips of a diviner,
when she hath bidden him to the hall. But as for that man,
he is a friend of my house from Taphos, and he avows him to
be Mentes, son of wise Anchialus, and he hath lordship
among the Taphians, lovers of the oar.'

So spake Telemachus, but in his heart he knew the deathless
goddess. Now the wooers turned them to the dance and the
delightsome song, and made merry, and waited till evening
should come on. And as they made merry, dusk evening came
upon them. Then they went each one to his own house to lie
down to rest.

But Telemachus, where his chamber was builded high up in
the fair court, in a place with wide prospect, thither
betook him to his bed, pondering many thoughts in his mind;
and with him went trusty Eurycleia, and bare for him
torches burning. She was the daughter of Ops, son of
Peisenor, and Laertes bought her on a time with his wealth,
while as yet she was in her first youth, and gave for her
the worth of twenty oxen. And he honoured her even as he
honoured his dear wife in the halls, but he never lay with
her, for he shunned the wrath of his lady. She went with
Telemachus and bare for him the burning torches: and of all
the women of the household she loved him most, and she had
nursed him when a little one. Then he opened the doors of
the well-builded chamber and sat him on the bed and took
off his soft doublet, and put it in the wise old woman's
hands. So she folded the doublet and smoothed it, and hung
it on a pin by the jointed bedstead, and went forth on her
way from the room, and pulled to the door with the silver
handle, and drew home the bar with the thong. There, all
night through, wrapped in a fleece of wool, he meditated in
his heart upon the journey that Athene had showed him.