Return of Ulysses to His Palace

Meeting of Telemachus and Penelope, Ulysses conducted by Eumaeus to the palace, where he is known by the dog Argus, who dies on seeing him⁠—Entrance of Ulysses among the suitors⁠—Assault made by Antinoüs upon Ulysses⁠—Ulysses sent for by Penelope.

Now when the rosy-fingered Morn looked forth⁠—
The daughter of the Dawn⁠—Telemachus,
The dear son of the great Ulysses, bound
The shapely sandals underneath his feet,
And took the massive spear that fitted well
His grasp, and, as he stood in act to go
Up to the town, bespake the swineherd thus:⁠—

“Father, I hasten to the town, that there
My mother may behold me; for I think
She will not cease to grieve, and fear, and weep,
Till her eyes rest on me. I leave with thee
The charge of leading our unfortunate guest
Into the city, there to beg his bread.
Whoever will may give him food and drink.
All men I cannot feed, and I have cares
Enough already. If he chafe at this,
The worse for him. I like to speak my mind.”

And thus Ulysses, the sagacious, spake:
“Nor do I wish, my friend, to loiter here.
Better it is for one like me to beg
In town than in the country. In the town,
Whoever chooses will bestow his dole;
But here, if I remain about the stalls,
I am no longer of an age to do
All that a master may require. Go thou;
This man, at thy command, will lead me hence,
As soon as I have warmed me at the fire,
And the air grows milder. This keen morning-cold
May end me, and the way, ye say, is long.”

He ended; from the lodge Telemachus
Passed quickly, meditating to destroy
The suitors. Coming to his stately home,
He leaned his spear against a column’s shaft,
And, crossing the stone threshold, entered in.
First Eurycleia, who had been his nurse,
Beheld him, as she spread the beautiful thrones
With skins, and ran to him with weeping eyes;
And round him other handmaids of the house
Of resolute Ulysses thronged. They gave
Fond welcome, kissing him upon the brow
And shoulders. Issuing from her chamber next
The chaste Penelope, like Dian’s self
In beauty, or like golden Venus, came,
And, weeping, threw her arms about her son,
And kissed him on his forehead and on both
His glorious eyes, and said, amidst her tears:⁠—

“Light of my eyes! O my Telemachus!
Art thou, then, come? I never thought again
To see thee, when I heard thou hadst embarked
For Pylos⁠—secretly, and knowing me
Unwilling⁠—in the hope to gather there
Some tidings of thy father. Tell me now
All that has happened, all that thou hast seen.”

And thus discreet Telemachus replied:
“Nay, mother, waken not my griefs again,
Nor move my heart to rage. I have just now
Escaped a cruel death. But go and bathe,
And put fresh garments on, and when thou com’st
Into thy chamber with thy maidens, make
A vow to all the gods that thou wilt burn
A sacrifice of chosen hecatombs
When Jupiter shall have avenged our wrongs.
Now must I hasten to the marketplace
In quest of one who came with me a guest
From Pylos. Him, with all my faithful crew,
I sent before me to this port, and bade
Piraeus lead him to his own abode,
There to be lodged and honored till I came.”

He spake, nor flew his words unheeded by.
The princess bathed, and put fresh garments on,
And vowed to all the gods a sacrifice
Of chosen hecatombs when Jupiter
Should punish the wrongdoers. While she prayed,
Telemachus went forth, his spear in hand.
Two fleet dogs followed him. Minerva shed
A godlike beauty o’er his form and face,
And all the people wondered as he came.
The suitors thronged around him with smooth words,
Yet plotting mischief in their hearts. He turned
From their assembly hastily, and took
His place where Mentor sat with Antiphus,
And Halitherses⁠—all his father’s friends
And his from the beginning. While they asked
Of all that he had seen, Piraeus came,
The famous spearman, bringing through the town
The stranger with him to the marketplace.
Nor long Telemachus delayed, but came
To meet his guest, and then Piraeus said:⁠—

“Telemachus, despatch to where I dwell
Thy serving-women; I would send to thee,
At once, the gifts which Menelaus gave.”

“And then discreet Telemachus replied:
“We know not yet, Piraeus, what may be
The event; and if the suitors privily
Should slay me in the palace, and divide
The inheritance among them, I prefer
That thou, instead of them, shouldst have the gifts;
But should they meet the fate which I have planned,
And be cut off, then shalt thou gladly bring
The treasures, which I gladly will receive.”

So spake the prince, and to the palace led
The unhappy man, his guest. When now they reached
The stately pile, they both laid down their cloaks
Upon the benches, and betook themselves
To the well-polished baths. The attendant maids
There ministered and smoothed their limbs with oil,
And each received a tunic at their hands,
And fleecy mantle. Then they left the baths
And took their seats. A damsel came, and poured
Water from a fair ewer wrought of gold
Into a silver basin for their hands,
And spread a polished table near their seats;
And there the matron of the household placed
Bread, and the many dishes which her stores
Supplied. The queen was seated opposite,
Beside a column of the pile, and twirled
A slender spindle, while the son and guest
Put forth their hands and shared the meal prepared.
And when the calls of hunger and of thirst
Had ceased, thus spake the sage Penelope:⁠—

“Telemachus, when I again go up
Into my chamber, I shall lay me down
Upon the couch which, since Ulysses sailed
For Troy with Atreus’ sons, has been to me
A couch of mourning, sprinkled with my tears.
And now thou hast not chosen to reveal,
Ere yet the haughty suitors throng again
Into these halls, what in thy voyage thou
Hast haply heard concerning his return.”

And thus discreet Telemachus replied:
“Then, mother, will I truly tell thee all.
We went to Pylos, and saw Nestor there,
The shepherd of the people. Kindly he
Received me in his stately home, as one
Might welcome back a wandering son returned
From foreign lands. Such welcome I received
Both from the king and his illustrious sons.
But he had heard, he said, from living man,
No tidings of the much-enduring chief
Ulysses, whether he were yet alive
Or dead. He therefore sent me with his steeds
And chariot to the court of Atreus’ son,
The warlike Menelaus. There I saw
The Argive Helen, for whose sake the Greeks
And Trojans, by the appointment of the gods,
Suffered so much. The valiant king inquired
What wish of mine had brought me to the town
Of hallowed Lacedsemon. I replied,
And truly told him all, and everything
In order. Then he answered me, and said:⁠—

“ ‘So then! these men, unwarlike as they are,
Aspire to occupy a brave man’s bed,
As when a hart hath left two suckling fawns,
Just born, asleep in a strong lion’s lair,
And roams for pasturage the mountain slopes
And grassy lawns, the lion suddenly
Comes back, and makes a cruel end of both,
So will Ulysses bring a sudden doom
Upon the suitors. Would to Father Jove,
And Pallas, and Apollo, that the chief,
Returning mighty, as he was when once
In well-built Lesbos, at a wrestling-match,
He rose to strive with Philomelides,
And threw him heavily, and all the Greeks
Rejoiced⁠—would he might come as then he was!
Short-lived would then the suitors be, and taste
A bitter marriage-feast. But now, to come
To what thou hast inquired, I will not seek
To turn from it, and talk of other things,
Nor will deceive. Of all that I was told
By the Ancient of the Deep, whose words are true,
I will not hide a single word from thee.
He saw thy father in an isle, he said,
A prey to wasting sorrows, and detained,
Unwilling, in the palace of the nymph
Calypso. To the country of his birth
He cannot come; no ships are there with oars
And crew to bear him o’er the great wide sea.’

“Thus Menelaus, mighty with the spear,
The son of Atreus, said. And having now
Fulfilled my errand, I returned. The gods
Gave favoring winds, and sent me swiftly home.”

He ended, and the queen was deeply moved.
Then Theoclymenus, the godlike, said:⁠—

“O gracious consort of Laertes’ son,
King Menelaus knew not all. Hear now
What I shall say⁠—for I will prophesy,
And truly, nor will keep back aught from thee.
Let Jupiter, the mightiest of the gods,
And this thy hospitable board, and this
The hearth of great Ulysses, where I find
A refuge, be my witnesses, that now
Ulysses is in his own land again,
And sits or walks observant of the deeds
Of wrong, and planning vengeance, yet to fall
On all the suitors; such the augury
Which I beheld when in the gallant barque
I sat and told it to Telemachus.”

And thus the sage Penelope replied:
“O stranger! may thy saying be fulfilled!
Then shalt thou have such thanks and such rewards
That all who greet thee shall rejoice with thee.”

So talked they with each other. In the space
Before the palace of Ulysses stood
The suitors, pleased with hurling quoits and spears
On the smooth pavement, where their insolence
So oft was seen. But when the supper-hour
Was near, and from the fields the cattle came,
Driven by the herdsmen, Medon⁠—he whom most
They liked of all the heralds, and who sat
Among them at the feast⁠—bespake them thus:⁠—

“Youths! since ye now have had your pastime here,
Come in, and help prepare the evening meal;
At the due hour a banquet is not ill.”

He spake; the suitors hearkened and obeyed,
And rose, and came into the halls, and laid
Their cloaks upon the benches and the thrones,
And slaughtered well-fed sheep and fading goats,
And made a victim of a pampered brawn,
And a stalled ox, preparing for the feast.
Meantime Ulysses and that noble hind
The swineherd hastened to begin their walk
To town, and thus the master swineherd spake:⁠—

“Since, stranger, ’tis thy wish to pass today
Into the city, as my master bade⁠—
Though I by far prefer that thou remain
A guardian of the stalls, yet much I fear
My master, and am sure that he would chide,
And harsh the upbraidings of a master are⁠—
Let us depart; the day is now far spent,
And chill will be the air of eventide.”

Ulysses, the sagacious, answered thus:
“Enough; I know; thy words are heard by one
Who understands them. Let us then depart.
Lead thou the way; and if thou hast a staff,
Cut from the wood to lean on, give it me,
Since, as thou say’st, we have a slippery road.”

He spake, and o’er his shoulders flung a scrip,
Old, cracked, and hanging by a twisted thong.
Eumaeus gave the staff he asked, and both
Went forth; the dogs and herdsmen stayed to guard
The lodge. The swineherd led his master on
Townward, a squalid beggar to the sight,
And aged, leaning on a staff, and wrapped
In sordid rags. There by the rugged way,
As they drew near the town, they passed a fount
Wrought by the hand of man, and pouring forth
Its pleasant streams, from which the citizens
Drew water. Ithacus and Neritus
Founded it with Polyctor, and a grove
Of alders feeding on the moistened earth
Grew round it on all sides. The ice-cold rill
Gushed from a lofty rock, upon whose brow
An altar stood, at which the passersby
Worshipped, and laid their offerings for the Nymphs.
There did Melanthius, son of Dolius, meet
The twain, as he was driving to the town
The finest goats of all the flocks, to make
A banquet for the suitors; with him went
Two shepherds, following the flock. As soon
As he beheld Eumaeus and his guest,
He railed at them with rude and violent words,
That made the anger of Ulysses rise.

“See that vile fellow lead the vile about!
Thus ever doth some god join like with like.
Thou worthless swineherd! whither wouldst thou take
This hungry, haunting beggar-man, this pest
Of feasts, who at the posts of many a door
Against them rubs his shoulders, asking crusts,
Tripods or cauldrons never. Shouldst thou leave
The wretch to me, to watch my stalls, and sweep
The folds, and bring fresh branches to the kids,
He might by drinking whey get stouter thighs.
But he has learned no good, and will refuse
To work; he better likes to stroll about
With that insatiable stomach, asking alms
To fill it. Let me tell thee what is sure
To happen to him, should he ever come
Into the palace of the glorious chief
Ulysses. Many a footstool will be flung
Around him by the hands of those who sit
As guests, and they will tear the fellow’s sides.”

He spake, and in his folly thrust his heel
Against the hero’s thigh. The blow moved not
Ulysses from his path, nor swerved he aught,
But meditated whether with a blow
Of his good staff to take the fellow’s life,
Or lift him in the air and dash his head
Against the ground. Yet he endured the affront
And checked his wrath. The swineherd spake, and chid
The offender, and thus prayed with lifted hands:⁠—

“Nymphs of the fountain, born to Jupiter!
If e’er in sacrifice Ulysses burned
To you the thighs of lambs and goats, o’erlaid
With fat, be pleased to grant the prayer I make,
That, guided by some deity, the chief
May yet return. Then thy rude boasts would cease.
Melanthius, which thou utterest in thy way
From place to place while wandering through the town.
Unfaithful shepherds make a perishing flock.”

Melanthius, keeper of the goats, rejoined:
“ ’Tis wonderful how flippant is the cur,
And shrewd! But I shall carry him on board
A good black ship, far off from Ithaca,
And there will sell him for a goodly price.
Would that Apollo of the silver bow
Might in the palace slay Telemachus
This very hour, or that the suitors might,
As certainly as that the day which brings
Ulysses to his home will never dawn!”

He spake, and left them there. They followed on
Slowly. Melanthius hastened, and was soon
At the king’s palace gate, and, entering, took
A seat right opposite Eurymachus,
Whose favorite he was. The attendants there
Brought meats, the matron of the household bread,
And both were set before them. Meantime stopped
Ulysses with the noble swineherd near
The palace, for around them in the air
Came the sweet murmurs of a lyre. Just then
Phemius, the minstrel, had begun his song,
Ulysses took the swineherd’s hand, and said:⁠—

“Eumaeus, this must be the noble pile
In which Ulysses dwelt, for easily
’Tis known among the others that are near.
Rooms over rooms are here; around its court
Are walls and battlements, and folding-doors
Shut fast the entrance; no man may contemn
Its strength. And I perceive that many guests
Banquet within; the smoke of fat goes up,
And the sweet lyre is heard; the gods have given
Its music to accompany the feast.”

And then, Eumaeus, thou didst make reply:
“Thou speakest rightly, and in other things
Thou art not slow of thought. Now let us think
What we shall do. First enter, if thou wilt,
The sumptuous rooms, while I remain without;
Or, if it please thee, I will enter first,
While thou remainest; yet delay not long,
Lest someone, seeing thee, should deal a blow,
Or drive thee hence. I pray thee, think of this.”

Ulysses, the great sufferer, answered thus:
“Enough; I know; thy words are heard by one
Who understands them. Go before me, then,
And leave me here. I am not quite unused
To blows and stripes, and patient is my mood,
For greatly have I suffered, both at sea
And in the wars; and I submit to bear
This also. But the stomach’s eagerness
Is desperate, and is not to be withstood,
And many are the mischiefs which it brings
Upon the race of men; it fits out fleets
That cross the barren deep arrayed for war,
And carry death and woe to hostile realms.”

So talked the twain. A dog was lying near,
And lifted up his head and pricked his ears.
’Twas Argus, which the much-enduring man
Ulysses long before had reared, but left
Untried, when for the hallowed town of Troy
He sailed. The young men oft had led him forth
In eager chase of wild goats, stags, and hares;
But now, his master far away, he lay
Neglected, just before the stable doors,
Amid the droppings of the mules and beeves,
Heaped high till carried to the spacious fields
Of which Ulysses was the lord. There lay
Argus, devoured with vermin. As he saw
Ulysses drawing near, he wagged his tail
And dropped his ears, but found that he could come
No nearer to his master. Seeing this,
Ulysses wiped away a tear unmarked
By the good swineherd, whom he questioned thus:⁠—

“Eumaeus, this I marvel at⁠—this dog,
That lies upon the dunghill, beautiful
In form, but whether in the chase as fleet
As he is fairly shaped I cannot tell.
Worthless, perchance, as house-dogs often are,
Whose masters keep them for the sake of show.”

And thus, Eumaeus, thou didst make reply:
“The dog belongs to one who died afar.
Had he the power of limb which once he had
For feats of hunting when Ulysses sailed
For Troy and left him, thou wouldst be amazed
Both at his swiftness and his strength. No beast
In the thick forest depths which once he saw,
Or even tracked by footprints, could escape.
And now he is a sufferer, since his lord
Has perished far from his own land. No more
The careless women heed the creature’s wants;
For, when the master is no longer near,
The servants cease from their appointed tasks,
And on the day that one becomes a slave
The Thunderer, Jove, takes half his worth away.”

He spake, and, entering that fair dwelling-place,
Passed through to where the illustrious suitors sat,
While over Argus the black night of death
Came suddenly as soon as he had seen
Ulysses, absent now for twenty years.
Telemachus, the godlike, was the first
To mark the swineherd coming through the hall,
And, nodding, called to him. The swineherd looked
About him, and beheld a seat on which
The carver of the feast was wont to sit,
Distributing the meats. He bore it thence
And placed it opposite Telemachus,
And at his table. Then he sat him down,
And thither came the herald, bringing him
A portion of the feast, and gave him bread
From the full canister. Soon after him
Ulysses entered, seemingly an old
And wretched beggar, propped upon a staff,
And wrapped in sordid weeds. He sat him down
On the ashen threshold, just within the doors,
And leaned against a shaft of cypress-wood,
Which some artificer had skilfully
Wrought by a line, and smoothed. Telemachus
Called to the swineherd, bade him come, and took
A loaf that lay in the fair canister,
And all the flesh which his two hands could grasp.

“Bear this to yonder stranger; bid him go
And ask a dole from every suitor here.
No beggar should be bashful in his need.”

He spake, the hind obeyed, and, drawing near
Ulysses, said to him in winged words:⁠—

“These from Telemachus, who bids thee ask
A dole from every suitor, for he says
No beggar should be bashful in his need.”

Ulysses, the sagacious, answered thus:
“May Jove, the sovereign, make Telemachus
A happy man among the sons of men,
And grant him all his heart desires in life!”

He spake, and took the gift in both his hands,
And laid it down upon his tattered scrip
Close to his feet. Then, while the poet sang,
He ate, and, just as he had supped, the bard
Closed his divine recital. Then ensued
Great clamor in the hall, but Pallas came
And moved Ulysses to arise, and ask
From every suitor there a dole of bread,
That he might know the better from the worse,
Though none were to be spared. From right to left
He took his way, and asked of every man,
With outstretched hand, as if he had been long
A beggar. And they pitied him, and gave,
And looked at him with wonder, and inquired
One of another who he was, and whence.
Then spake Melanthius, keeper of the goats:⁠—

“Give ear, ye suitors of the illustrious queen.
As to this stranger, I have seen him once.
The swineherd brought him; but I know him not,
And of what race he is I cannot tell.”

He spake; Antinoüs chid the swineherd thus:
“Why hast thou brought him, too well known thyself?
Have we not vagabonds enough? enough
Of sturdy beggars, pests of every feast.
Or is it a light matter that they throng
Hither to waste the substance of thy lord,
And therefore thou art with this fellow here?”

And thus, Eumaeus, thou didst make reply:
“Antinoüs, high as is thy station, thou
Hast spoken ill. What man goes ever forth
To bid a stranger to his house, unless
The stranger be of those whose office is
To serve the people, be he seer, or leech,
Or architect, or poet heaven-inspired,
Whose song is gladly heard? All these are called
To feasts wherever men are found; but none
Call in the poor, to live upon their means.
Antinoüs, thou, of all the suitor-train,
Dost ever with the greatest harshness treat
The servants of Ulysses, chiefly me.
I heed it not while sage Penelope
Dwells in the palace with her godlike son.”

Then interposed discreet Telemachus:
“Nay, have no strife of words with him, I pray.
Antinoüs takes delight in bitter words,
And rails, and stirs up railing in the rest.”
And then he turned, and thus with winged words
Bespake Antinoüs: “Truly thou dost care
For me as might a father for a son,
Bidding me drive a stranger from my door
With violent words⁠—which God forbid. Take now
Somewhat and give to him. I grudge it not,
Nay, I advise it. Fear not to offend
My mother, or displease a single one
Of all the household of the godlike chief,
Ulysses. But thou hast not thought of this.
It suits thee best to feast and never give.”

Antinoüs thus rejoined: “O utterer
Of big and braggart words! Telemachus,
If all the other suitors would bestow
As much as I will, he would not be seen
Within these halls for three months yet to come.”

So speaking, he brought forward to the sight,
From underneath the board, a stool, on which
Rested his dainty feet. The others all
Gave somewhat to Ulysses, till his scrip
Was filled with meat and bread Then as he went
Back to the threshold, there to feast on what
The Greeks had given him in his rounds, he stopped
Beside Antinoüs, and bespake him thus:⁠—

“Give somewhat also, friend. Thou dost not seem
One of the humbler rank among the Greeks,
But of the highest. Kingly is thy look;
It therefore will become thee to bestow
More freely than the rest, and I will sound
Thy praise through all the earth. Mine too was once
A happy lot, for I inhabited
A palace filled with goods, and often gave
To wanderers, whosoever they might be
That sought me out, and in whatever need.
And I had many servants, and large store
Of everything by which men live at ease
And are accounted rich. Saturnian Jove⁠—
Such was his pleasure⁠—brought me low; for, moved
By him, I joined me to a wandering band
Of pirates, and to my perdition sailed
Upon a distant voyage to the coast
Of Egypt. In the river of that land
I stationed my good ships, and bade my men
Remain with them and watch them well. I placed
Sentries upon the heights. Yet confident
In their own strength, and rashly giving way
To greed, my comrades ravaged the fair fields
Of the Egyptians, slew them, and bore off
Their wives and little ones. The rumor reached
The city soon; the people heard the alarm
And came together. With the dawn of day
All the great plain was thronged with horse and foot,
And gleamed with brass, while Jove, the Thunderer, sent
A deadly fear into our ranks, where none
Dared face the foe. On every side was death.
The Egyptians hewed down many with the sword,
And some they led away alive to toil
For them in slavery. Me my captors gave
Into a stranger’s hands, upon his way
To Cyprus, where he reigned, a mighty king,
Demetor, son of Jasus. Thence at last
I came through many hardships to this isle.”

Antinoüs lifted up his voice, and said:
“What god hath sent this nuisance to disturb
The banquet? Take thyself to the mid-hall,
Far from thy table, else expect to see
An Egypt and a Cyprus of a sort
That thou wilt little like. Thou art a bold
And shameless beggar. Thou dost take thy round
And ask from each, and foolishly they give,
And spare not nor consider; well supplied
Is each, and freely gives what is not his.”

Then sage Ulysses said as he withdrew:
“ ’Tis strange; thy mind agrees not with thy form.
Thou wouldst not give a suppliant even salt
In thine own house⁠—thou who, while sitting here
Fed at another’s table, canst not bear
To give me bread from thy well-loaded board.”

He spake. Antinoüs grew more angry still,
And frowned and answered him with winged words:⁠—

“Dealer in saucy words! I hardly think
That thou wilt leave this palace unchastised.”

He spake, and raised the footstool in his hand,
And smote Ulysses on the lower part
Of the right shoulder. Like a rock he stood,
Unmoved beneath the blow Antinoüs gave,
But shook his head in silence as he thought
Of vengeance. Then, returning, he sat down
Upon the threshold, where he laid his scrip
Well filled, and thus bespake the suitor-train:⁠—

“Hear me, ye suitors of the illustrious queen.
Grief or resentment no man feels for blows
Received by him while fighting for his own⁠—
His beeves or white-woolled sheep. But this man here,
Antinoüs, dealt that blow on me because
I have an empty stomach; hunger brings
Great mischiefs upon men. If there be gods
Or furies who avenge the poor, may death
O’ertake Antinoüs ere his marriage-day!”

He ended. Then again Eupeithes’ son,
Antinoüs, spake: “Eat, stranger, quietly;
Sit still, or get thee hence; our young men else
Who hear thy words will seize thee by the feet
Or hands, and drag thee forth and flay thee there.”

He spake, and greatly were the rest incensed,
And one of those proud youths took up the word:⁠—

“Antinoüs, it was ill of thee to smite
That hapless wanderer. Madman! what if he
Came down from heaven and were a god! The gods
Put on the form of strangers from afar,
And walk our towns in many different shapes,
To mark the good and evil deeds of men.”

Thus spake the suitors, but he heeded not
Their words. Telemachus, who saw the blow,
Felt his heart swell with anger and with grief,
Yet from his eyelids fell no tear; he shook
His head in silence, pondering to repay
The wrong. Meantime the sage Penelope
Heard of the stranger smitten in her halls,
And thus bespake the maidens of her train:⁠—

“Would that Apollo, mighty with the bow,
Might smite thee also!” Then Eurynomè,
The matron of the household, said in turn:

“O, were our prayers but heard, not one of these
Should look upon the golden morn again!”

Then spake again the sage Penelope:
“Mother, they all are hateful; everyone
Plots mischief, but Antinoüs most of all;
And he is like black death, to be abhorred.
A friendless stranger passes through these halls,
Compelled by need, and asks an alms of each,
And all the others give, and fill his scrip;
Antinoüs flings a footstool, and the blow
Bruises the shoulder of the suppliant man.”

So talked they with each other where they sat
In the queen’s chamber, mid the attendant train
Of women, while meantime Ulysses took
The evening meal. The queen then bade to call
The noble swineherd, and bespake him thus:⁠—

“My worthy friend Eumaeus, go and bring
The stranger hither. I would speak with him,
And ask if anywhere he saw or heard
Aught of Ulysses; for he seems like one
Whose wanderings have been in many lands.”

And thus, Eumaeus, thou didst make reply:
“Would that these Greeks, O queen, would hold their peace,
Then might this stranger in thy hearing speak
Words full of consolation. For three nights
I had him with me, for three days I made
My lodge his home⁠—for at the very first
He came to me, escaping from his ship⁠—
Nor when he left me had he told of all
That he had suffered. As a hearer looks
Upon a minstrel whom the gods have taught
To sing the poems that delight all hearts,
And, listening, longs to listen without end;
So, as the stranger sat beneath my roof,
He held me charmed. He was the ancestral friend,
He said, of thy Ulysses, and his home
Was Crete, where dwells the stock of Minos yet.
From Crete he came, and much had suffered since,
Driven on from place to place. And he had heard
Some tidings of Ulysses yet alive⁠—
So he affirmed⁠—in a rich region near
The realm of the Thesprotians, and prepared
To bring much riches to his native isle.”

Then spake the sage Penelope again:
“Go, call him hither, that he may relate
His story in my presence. Let these men,
As it may please them, sitting at our gates
Or in our halls, amuse themselves, for light
Are they of heart. Unwasted in their homes
Lie their possessions, and their bread and wine
Are only for their servants, while themselves
Frequent our palace, day by day, and slay
Our beeves and sheep and fatling goats, and feast,
And drink abundantly the dark red wine,
And all with lavish waste. No man is here,
Such as Ulysses was, to drive away
This pest from our abode. Should he return
To his own land, he and his son would take
Swift vengeance on the men who do him wrong.”

She ended. Suddenly Telemachus
Sneezed loudly, so that all the palace rang;
And, laughing as she heard, Penelope
Bespake Eumaeus thus with winged words:⁠—

“Go, call the stranger. Dost thou not perceive
My son has sneezed as to confirm my words.
Not unfulfilled will now remain the doom
That waits the suitors; none will now escape
Death and the Fates. This further let me say,
And thou remember it; if what he tells
Be true, I will bestow on him a change
Of fair attire, a tunic and a cloak.”

She spake, the swineherd went, and, drawing near
Ulysses, said to him in winged words:⁠—

“Stranger and father, sage Penelope,
The mother of the prince, hath sent for thee.
Though sorrowing, she is minded to inquire
What of her husband thou canst haply say;
And should she find that all thy words are true,
She will bestow a tunic and a cloak,
Garments which much thou needest. For thy food,
What will appease thy hunger thou wilt find
Among the people; ask, and each will give.”

Ulysses, much-enduring man, replied:
“Eumaeus, faithfully will I declare
All that I know to sage Penelope,
The daughter of Icarius. Well I knew
Her husband, and with like calamities
We both have suffered. But I greatly dread
This reckless suitor-crew, whose riotous acts
And violence reach to the iron heavens.
Even now, when that man dealt me, as I passed,
A painful blow, though I had done no harm,
None interposed, not even Telemachus,
In my defence. Now, therefore, ask, I pray,
Penelope that she will deign to wait
Till sunset in her rooms, though strong her wish
To hear my history. Of her husband then,
And his return, she may inquire, while I
Sit by the blazing hearth; for scant have been
My garments, as thou knowest, since the day
When first I came, a suppliant, to thy door.”

He spake; the swineherd went, and as he crossed
The threshold of Penelope she said:⁠—

“Thou bringst him not, Eumaeus? What may be
The wanderer’s scruple? Fear of someone here?
Or in a palace is he filled with awe?
To be a bashful beggar is most hard.”

And thus, Eumaeus, thou didst answer her:
“Rightly he speaks, and just as one would think
Who shuns the encounter of disorderly men.
He prays that thou wilt wait till set of sun;
And better were it for thyself, O queen,
To speak with him and hear his words alone.”

Then spake discreet Penelope again:
“Whoe’er may be the stranger, not unwise
He seems; for nowhere among men are done
Such deeds of wrong and outrage as by these.”

She spake, and the good swineherd, having told
The lady all, went forth among the crowd
Of suitors, drawing near Telemachus,
And bowed his head beside him that none else
Might hear, and said to him in winged words:⁠—

“I go, my friend, to tend the swine and guard
What there thou hast, thy sustenance and mine.
The charge of what is here belongs to thee.
Be thy first care to save thyself, and watch
To see that mischief overtake thee not⁠—
For many are the Achaians plotting it,
Whom Jove destroy ere we become their prey!”

Then spake discreet Telemachus in turn:
“So be it, father, and, when thou hast supped,
Depart, but with the morning come, and bring
Choice victims for the sacrifice. The care
Of all things here is with the gods and me.”

He spake; the swineherd sat him down again
Upon his polished seat, and satisfied
His appetite and thirst with food and wine.
Then he departed to his herd, and left
The palace and the court before it thronged
With revellers, who gave the hour to song,
And joined the dance; for evening now was come.