Translation of: The Odyssey of Homer: Book XVII

A poem by William Cowper


Telemachus returns to the city, and relates to his mother the principal passages of his voyage; Ulysses, conducted by Eumæus, arrives there also, and enters among the suitors, having been known only by his old dog Argus, who dies at his feet. The curiosity of Penelope being excited by the account which Eumæus gives her of Ulysses, she orders him immediately into her presence, but Ulysses postpones the interview till evening, when the suitors having left the palace, there shall be no danger of interruption. Eumæus returns to his cottage.

Now look'd Aurora from the East abroad,
When the illustrious offspring of divine
Ulysses bound his sandals to his feet;
He seiz'd his sturdy spear match'd to his gripe,
And to the city meditating quick
Departure now, the swine-herd thus bespake.
Father! I seek the city, to convince
My mother of my safe return, whose tears,
I judge, and lamentation shall not cease
Till her own eyes behold me. But I lay
On thee this charge. Into the city lead,
Thyself, this hapless guest, that he may beg
Provision there, a morsel and a drop
From such as may, perchance, vouchsafe the boon.
I cannot, vext and harass'd as I am,
Feed all, and should the stranger take offence,
The worse for him. Plain truth is my delight.
To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied.
Nor is it my desire to be detained.
Better the mendicant in cities seeks
His dole, vouchsafe it whosoever may,
Than in the villages. I am not young,
Nor longer of an age that well accords
With rural tasks, nor could I all perform
That it might please a master to command.
Go then, and when I shall have warm'd my limbs
Before the hearth, and when the risen sun
Shall somewhat chase the cold, thy servant's task
Shall be to guide me thither, as thou bidd'st,
For this is a vile garb; the frosty air
Of morning would benumb me thus attired,
And, as ye say, the city is remote.
He ended, and Telemachus in haste
Set forth, his thoughts all teeming as he went
With dire revenge. Soon in the palace-courts
Arriving, he reclined his spear against
A column, and proceeded to the hall.
Him Euryclea, first, his nurse, perceived,
While on the variegated seats she spread
Their fleecy cov'ring; swift with tearful eyes
She flew to him, and the whole female train
Of brave Ulysses swarm'd around his son,
Clasping him, and his forehead and his neck
Kissing affectionate; then came, herself,
As golden Venus or Diana fair,
Forth from her chamber to her son's embrace,
The chaste Penelope; with tears she threw
Her arms around him, his bright-beaming eyes
And forehead kiss'd, and with a murmur'd plaint
Maternal, in wing'd accents thus began.
Thou hast return'd, light of my eyes! my son!
My lov'd Telemachus! I had no hope
To see thee more when once thou hadst embark'd
For Pylus, privily, and with no consent
From me obtain'd, news seeking of thy sire.
But haste; unfold. Declare what thou hast seen.
To whom Telemachus, discrete, replied.
Ah mother! let my sorrows rest, nor me
From death so lately 'scaped afflict anew,
But, bathed and habited in fresh attire,
With all the maidens of thy train ascend
To thy superior chamber, there to vow
A perfect hecatomb to all the Gods,
When Jove shall have avenged our num'rous wrongs.
I seek the forum, there to introduce
A guest, my follower from the Pylian shore,
Whom sending forward with my noble band,
I bade Piræus to his own abode
Lead him, and with all kindness entertain
The stranger, till I should myself arrive.
He spake, nor flew his words useless away.
She, bathed and habited in fresh attire,
Vow'd a full hecatomb to all the Gods,
Would Jove but recompense her num'rous wrongs.
Then, spear in hand, went forth her son, two dogs
Fleet-footed following him. O'er all his form
Pallas diffused a dignity divine,
And ev'ry eye gazed on him as he pass'd.
The suitors throng'd him round, joy on their lips
And welcome, but deep mischief in their hearts.
He, shunning all that crowd, chose to himself
A seat, where Mentor sat, and Antiphus,
And Halytherses, long his father's friends
Sincere, who of his voyage much enquired.
Then drew Piræus nigh, leading his guest
Toward the forum; nor Telemachus
Stood long aloof, but greeted his approach,
And was accosted by Piræus thus.
Sir! send thy menial women to bring home
The precious charge committed to my care,
Thy gifts at Menelaus' hands received.
To whom Telemachus, discrete, replied.
Piræus! wait; for I not yet foresee
The upshot. Should these haughty ones effect
My death, clandestine, under my own roof,
And parcel my inheritance by lot,
I rather wish those treasures thine, than theirs.
But should I with success plan for them all
A bloody death, then, wing'd with joy, thyself
Bring home those presents to thy joyful friend.
So saying, he led the anxious stranger thence
Into the royal mansion, where arrived,
Each cast his mantle on a couch or throne,
And plung'd his feet into a polish'd bath.
There wash'd and lubricated with smooth oils,
From the attendant maidens each received
Tunic and shaggy mantle. Thus attired,
Forth from the baths they stepp'd, and sat again.
A maiden, next, with golden ewer charged,
And silver bowl, pour'd water on their hands,
And spread the polish'd table, which with food
Of all kinds, remnants of the last regale,
The mistress of the household charge supplied.
Meantime, beside a column of the dome
His mother, on a couch reclining, twirl'd
Her slender threads. They to the furnish'd board
Stretch'd forth their hands, and, hunger now and thirst
Both satisfied, Penelope began.
Telemachus! I will ascend again,
And will repose me on my woeful bed;
For such it hath been, and with tears of mine
Ceaseless bedew'd, e'er since Ulysses went
With Atreus' sons to Troy. For not a word
Thou would'st vouchsafe me till our haughty guests
Had occupied the house again, of all
That thou hast heard (if aught indeed thou hast)
Of thy long-absent father's wish'd return.
Her answer'd then Telemachus discrete.
Mother, at thy request I will with truth
Relate the whole. At Pylus shore arrived
We Nestor found, Chief of the Pylian race.
Receiving me in his august abode,
He entertain'd me with such welcome kind
As a glad father shews to his own son
Long-lost and newly found; so Nestor me,
And his illustrious offspring, entertain'd,
But yet assured me that he nought had heard
From mortal lips of my magnanimous sire,
Whether alive or dead; with his own steeds
He sent me, and with splendid chariot thence
To spear-famed Menelaus, Atreus' son.
There saw I Helen, by the Gods' decree
Auth'ress of trouble both to Greece and Troy.
The Hero Menelaus then enquired
What cause had urged me to the pleasant vale
Of Lacedæmon; plainly I rehearsed
The occasion, and the Hero thus replied.
Ye Gods! they are ambitious of the bed
Of a brave man, however base themselves.
But, as it chances when the hart hath laid
Her fawns new-yean'd and sucklings yet, to rest
In some resistless lion's den, she roams,
Meantime, the hills, and in the grassy vales
Feeds heedless, but the lion to his lair
Returning soon, both her and hers destroys,
So shall thy father, brave Ulysses, them.
Jove! Pallas! and Apollo! oh that such
As erst in well-built Lesbos, where he strove
With Philomelides, whom wrestling, flat
He threw, when all Achaia's sons rejoiced,
Ulysses, now, might mingle with his foes!
Short life and bitter nuptials should be theirs,
But thy enquiries neither indirect
Will I evade, nor give thee false reply,
But all that from the Ancient of the Deep[73]
I have received will utter, hiding nought.
The God declared that he had seen thy sire
In a lone island, sorrowing, and detain'd
An inmate in the grotto of the nymph
Calypso, wanting also means by which
To reach the country of his birth again,
For neither gallant barks nor friends had he
To speed his passage o'er the boundless waves.
So Menelaus spake, the spear-renown'd.
My errand thus accomplish'd, I return'd--
And by the Gods with gales propitious blest,
Was wafted swiftly to my native shore.
He spake, and tumult in his mother's heart
So speaking, raised. Consolatory, next,
The godlike Theoclymenus began.
Consort revered of Laertiades!
Little the Spartan knew, but list to me,
For I will plainly prophesy and sure.
Be Jove of all in heav'n my witness first,
Then this thy hospitable board, and, last,
The household Gods of the illustrious Chief
Ulysses, at whose hearth I have arrived,[74]
That, even now, within his native isle
Ulysses somewhere sits, or creeps obscure,
Witness of these enormities, and seeds
Sowing of dire destruction for his foes;
So sure an augury, while on the deck
Reclining of the gallant bark, I saw,
And with loud voice proclaim'd it to thy son.
Him answer'd then Penelope discrete.
Grant heav'n, my guest, that this good word of thine
Fail not! then shalt thou soon such bounty share
And friendship at my hands, that at first sight
Whoe'er shall meet thee shall pronounce thee blest.
Thus they conferr'd. Meantime the suitors hurl'd
The quoit and lance on the smooth area spread
Before Ulysses' gate, the custom'd scene
Of their contentions, sports, and clamours rude.
But when the hour of supper now approach'd,
And from the pastures on all sides the sheep
Came with their wonted drivers, Medon then
(For he of all the heralds pleas'd them most,
And waited at the board) them thus address'd.
Enough of play, young princes! ent'ring now
The house, prepare we sedulous our feast,
Since in well-timed refreshment harm is none.
He spake, whose admonition pleas'd. At once
All, rising, sought the palace; there arrived,
Each cast his mantle off, which on his throne
Or couch he spread, then, brisk, to slaughter fell
Of many a victim; sheep and goats and brawns
They slew, all fatted, and a pastur'd ox,
Hast'ning the banquet; nor with less dispatch
Ulysses and Eumæus now prepared
To seek the town, when thus the swain began.
My guest! since thy fixt purpose is to seek
This day the city as my master bade,
Though I, in truth, much rather wish thee here
A keeper of our herds, yet, through respect
And rev'rence of his orders, whose reproof
I dread, for masters seldom gently chide,
I would be gone. Arise, let us depart,
For day already is far-spent, and soon
The air of even-tide will chill thee more.
To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied.
It is enough. I understand. Thou speak'st
To one intelligent. Let us depart,
And lead, thyself, the way; but give me, first,
(If thou have one already hewn) a staff
To lean on, for ye have described the road
Rugged, and ofttimes dang'rous to the foot.
So saying, his tatter'd wallet o'er his back
He cast, suspended by a leathern twist,
Eumæus gratified him with a staff,
And forth they went, leaving the cottage kept
By dogs and swains. He city-ward his King
Led on, in form a squalid beggar old,
Halting, and in unseemly garb attired.
But when, slow-travelling the craggy way,
They now approach'd the town, and had attain'd
The marble fountain deep, which with its streams
Pellucid all the citizens supplied,
(Ithacus had that fountain framed of old
With Neritus and Polyctor, over which
A grove of water-nourish'd alders hung
Circular on all sides, while cold the rill
Ran from the rock, on whose tall summit stood
The altar of the nymphs, by all who pass'd
With sacrifice frequented, still, and pray'r)
Melantheus, son of Dolius, at that fount
Met them; the chosen goats of ev'ry flock,
With two assistants, from the field he drove,
The suitors' supper. He, seeing them both,
In surly accent boorish, such as fired
Ulysses with resentment, thus began.
Ay--this is well--The villain leads the vile--
Thus evermore the Gods join like to like.
Thou clumsy swine-herd, whither would'st conduct
This morsel-hunting mendicant obscene,
Defiler base of banquets? many a post
Shall he rub smooth that props him while he begs
Lean alms, sole object of his low pursuit,
Who ne'er to sword or tripod yet aspired.
Would'st thou afford him to me for a guard
Or sweeper of my stalls, or to supply
My kids with leaves, he should on bulkier thewes
Supported stand, though nourish'd but with whey.
But no such useful arts hath he acquired,
Nor likes he work, but rather much to extort
From others food for his unsated maw.
But mark my prophecy, for it is true,
At famed Ulysses' house should he arrive,
His sides shall shatter many a footstool hurl'd
Against them by the offended princes there.
He spake, and drawing nigh, with his rais'd foot,
Insolent as he was and brutish, smote
Ulysses' haunch, yet shook not from his path
The firm-set Chief, who, doubtful, mused awhile
Whether to rush on him, and with his staff
To slay him, or uplifting him on high,
Downward to dash him headlong; but his wrath
Restraining, calm he suffer'd the affront.
Him then Eumæus with indignant look
Rebuking, rais'd his hands, and fervent pray'd.
Nymphs of the fountains, progeny of Jove!
If e'er Ulysses on your altar burn'd
The thighs of fatted lambs or kidlings, grant
This my request. O let the Hero soon,
Conducted by some Deity, return!
So shall he quell that arrogance which safe
Thou now indulgest, roaming day by day
The city, while bad shepherds mar the flocks.
To whom the goat-herd answer thus return'd
Melantheus. Marvellous! how rare a speech
The subtle cur hath framed! whom I will send
Far hence at a convenient time on board
My bark, and sell him at no little gain.
I would, that he who bears the silver bow
As sure might pierce Telemachus this day
In his own house, or that the suitors might,
As that same wand'rer shall return no more!
He said, and them left pacing slow along,
But soon, himself, at his Lord's house arrived;
There ent'ring bold, he with the suitors sat
Opposite to Eurymachus, for him
He valued most. The sewers his portion placed
Of meat before him, and the maiden, chief
Directress of the household gave him bread.
And now, Ulysses, with the swain his friend
Approach'd, when, hearing the harmonious lyre,
Both stood, for Phemius had begun his song.
He grasp'd the swine-herd's hand, and thus he said.
This house, Eumæus! of Ulysses seems
Passing magnificent, and to be known
With ease for his among a thousand more.
One pile supports another, and a wall
Crested with battlements surrounds the court;
Firm, too, the folding doors all force of man
Defy; but num'rous guests, as I perceive,
Now feast within; witness the sav'ry steam
Fast-fuming upward, and the sounding harp,
Divine associate of the festive board.
To whom, Eumæus, thou didst thus reply.
Thou hast well-guess'd; no wonder, thou art quick
On ev'ry theme; but let us well forecast
This business. Wilt thou, ent'ring first, thyself,
The splendid mansion, with the suitors mix,
Me leaving here? or shall I lead the way
While thou remain'st behind? yet linger not,
Lest, seeing thee without, some servant strike
Or drive thee hence. Consider which were best.
Him answer'd, then, the patient Hero bold.
It is enough. I understand. Thou speak'st
To one intelligent. Lead thou the way
Me leaving here, for neither stripes nor blows
To me are strange. Much exercised with pain
In fight and on the Deep, I have long since
Learn'd patience. Follow, next, what follow may!
But, to suppress the appetite, I deem
Impossible; the stomach is a source
Of ills to man, an avaricious gulph
Destructive, which to satiate, ships are rigg'd,
Seas travers'd, and fierce battles waged remote.
Thus they discoursing stood; Argus the while,
Ulysses' dog, uplifted where he lay
His head and ears erect. Ulysses him
Had bred long since, himself, but rarely used,
Departing, first, to Ilium. Him the youths
In other days led frequent to the chace
Of wild goat, hart and hare; but now he lodg'd
A poor old cast-off, of his Lord forlorn,
Where mules and oxen had before the gate
Much ordure left, with which Ulysses' hinds
Should, in due time, manure his spacious fields.
There lay, with dog-devouring vermin foul
All over, Argus; soon as he perceived
Long-lost Ulysses nigh, down fell his ears
Clapp'd close, and with his tail glad sign he gave
Of gratulation, impotent to rise
And to approach his master as of old.
Ulysses, noting him, wiped off a tear
Unmark'd, and of Eumæus quick enquired.
I can but wonder seeing such a dog
Thus lodg'd, Eumæus! beautiful in form
He is, past doubt, but whether he hath been
As fleet as fair I know not; rather such
Perchance as masters sometimes keep to grace
Their tables, nourish'd more for shew than use.
To whom, Eumæus, thou didst thus reply.
He is the dog of one dead far remote.
But had he now such feat-performing strength
As when Ulysses left him, going hence
To Ilium, in one moment thou shouldst mark,
Astonish'd, his agility and force.
He never in the sylvan deep recess
The wild beast saw that 'scaped him, and he track'd
Their steps infallible; but he hath now
No comfort, for (the master dead afar)
The heedless servants care not for his dog.
Domestics, missing once their Lord's controul,
Grow wilful, and refuse their proper tasks;
For whom Jove dooms to servitude, he takes
At once the half of that man's worth away.
He said, and, ent'ring at the portal, join'd
The suitors. Then his destiny released
Old Argus, soon as he had lived to see
Ulysses in the twentieth year restored.
Godlike Telemachus, long ere the rest,
Marking the swine-herd's entrance, with a nod
Summon'd him to approach. Eumæus cast
His eye around, and seeing vacant there
The seat which the dispenser of the feast
Was wont to occupy while he supplied
The num'rous guests, planted it right before
Telemachus, and at his table sat,
On which the herald placed for him his share
Of meat, and from the baskets gave him bread.
Soon after him, Ulysses enter'd slow
The palace, like a squalid beggar old,
Staff-propp'd, and in loose tatters foul attired.
Within the portal on the ashen sill
He sat, and, seeming languid, lean'd against
A cypress pillar by the builder's art
Polish'd long since, and planted at the door.
Then took Telemachus a loaf entire
Forth from the elegant basket, and of flesh
A portion large as his two hands contained,
And, beck'ning close the swine-herd, charged him thus.
These to the stranger; whom advise to ask
Some dole from ev'ry suitor; bashful fear
Ill suits the mendicant by want oppress'd.
He spake; Eumæus went, and where he sat
Arriving, in wing'd accents thus began.
Telemachus, oh stranger, sends thee these,
And counsels thee to importune for more
The suitors, one by one; for bashful fear
Ill suits the mendicant by want oppress'd.
To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied.
Jove, King of all, grant ev'ry good on earth
To kind Telemachus, and the complete
Accomplishment of all that he desires!
He said, and with both hands outspread, the mess
Receiving as he sat, on his worn bag
Disposed it at his feet. Long as the bard
Chaunted, he ate, and when he ceas'd to eat,
Then also ceas'd the bard divine to sing.
And now ensued loud clamour in the hall
And tumult, when Minerva, drawing nigh
To Laertiades, impell'd the Chief
Crusts to collect, or any pittance small
At ev'ry suitor's hand, for trial's sake
Of just and unjust; yet deliv'rance none
From evil she design'd for any there.
From left to right[75] his progress he began
Petitioning, with outstretch'd hands, the throng,
As one familiar with the beggar's art.
They, pitying, gave to him, but view'd him still
With wonder, and enquiries mutual made
Who, and whence was he? Then the goat-herd rose
Melanthius, and th' assembly thus address'd.
Hear me, ye suitors of th' illustrious Queen!
This guest, of whom ye ask, I have beheld
Elsewhere; the swine-herd brought him; but himself
I know not, neither who nor whence he is.
So he; then thus Antinoüs stern rebuked
The swine-herd. Ah, notorious as thou art,
Why hast thou shewn this vagabond the way
Into the city? are we not enough
Infested with these troublers of our feasts?
Deem'st it a trifle that such numbers eat
At thy Lord's cost, and hast thou, therefore, led
This fellow hither, found we know not where?
To whom, Eumæus, thou didst thus reply.
Antinoüs! though of high degree, thou speak'st
Not wisely. What man to another's house
Repairs to invite him to a feast, unless
He be of those who by profession serve
The public, prophet, healer of disease,
Ingenious artist, or some bard divine
Whose music may exhilarate the guests?
These, and such only, are in ev'ry land
Call'd to the banquet; none invites the poor,
Who much consume, and no requital yield.
But thou of all the suitors roughly treat'st
Ulysses' servants most, and chiefly me;
Yet thee I heed not, while the virtuous Queen
Dwells in this palace, and her godlike son.
To whom Telemachus, discrete, replied.
Peace! answer not verbose a man like him.
Antinoüs hath a tongue accustom'd much
To tauntings, and promotes them in the rest.
Then, turning to Antinoüs, quick he said--
Antinoüs! as a father for his son
Takes thought, so thou for me, who bidd'st me chase
The stranger harshly hence; but God forbid![76]
Impart to him. I grudge not, but myself
Exhort thee to it; neither, in this cause,
Fear thou the Queen, or in the least regard
Whatever menial throughout all the house
Of famed Ulysses. Ah! within thy breast
Dwells no such thought; thou lov'st not to impart
To others, but to gratify thyself.
To whom Antinoüs answer thus return'd.
High-soaring and intemp'rate in thy speech
How hast thou said, Telemachus? Would all
As much bestow on him, he should not seek
Admittance here again three months to come.
So saying, he seized the stool which, banqueting,
He press'd with his nice feet, and from beneath
The table forth advanced it into view.
The rest all gave to him, with bread and flesh
Filling his wallet, and Ulysses, now,
Returning to his threshold, there to taste
The bounty of the Greeks, paused in his way
Beside Antinoüs, whom he thus address'd.
Kind sir! vouchsafe to me! for thou appear'st
Not least, but greatest of the Achaians here,
And hast a kingly look. It might become
Thee therefore above others to bestow,
So should I praise thee wheresoe'er I roam.
I also lived the happy owner once
Of such a stately mansion, and have giv'n
To num'rous wand'rers (whencesoe'er they came)
All that they needed; I was also served
By many, and enjoy'd all that denotes
The envied owner opulent and blest.
But Jove (for so it pleas'd him) hath reduced
My all to nothing, prompting me, in league
With rovers of the Deep, to sail afar
To Ægypt, for my sure destruction there.
Within th' Ægyptian stream my barks well-oar'd
I station'd, and, enjoining strict my friends
To watch them close-attendant at their side,
Commanded spies into the hill-tops; but they,
Under the impulse of a spirit rash
And hot for quarrel, the well-cultur'd fields
Pillaged of the Ægyptians, captive led
Their wives and little-ones, and slew the men.
Ere long, the loud alarm their city reach'd.
Down came the citizens, by dawn of day,
With horse and foot and with the gleam of arms
Filling the plain. Then Jove with panic dread
Struck all my people; none found courage more
To stand, for mischiefs swarm'd on ev'ry side.
There, num'rous by the glitt'ring spear we fell
Slaughter'd, while others they conducted thence
Alive to servitude; but me they gave
To Dmetor, King in Cyprus, Jasus' son;
He entertained me liberally, and thence
This land I reach'd, but poor and woe-begone.
Then answer thus Antinoüs harsh return'd.
What dæmon introduced this nuisance here,
This troubler of our feast? stand yonder, keep
Due distance from my table, or expect
To see an Ægypt and a Cyprus worse
Than those, bold mendicant and void of shame!
Thou hauntest each, and, inconsid'rate, each
Gives to thee, because gifts at other's cost
Are cheap, and, plentifully serv'd themselves,
They squander, heedless, viands not their own.
To whom Ulysses while he slow retired.
Gods! how illib'ral with that specious form!
Thou wouldst not grant the poor a grain of salt
From thy own board, who at another's fed
So nobly, canst thou not spare a crust to me.
He spake; then raged Antinoüs still the more,
And in wing'd accents, louring, thus replied.
Take such dismission now as thou deserv'st,
Opprobrious! hast thou dared to scoff at me?
So saying, he seized his stool, and on the joint
Of his right shoulder smote him; firm as rock
He stood, by no such force to be displaced,
But silent shook his brows, and dreadful deeds
Of vengeance ruminating, sought again
His seat the threshold, where his bag full-charged
He grounded, and the suitors thus address'd.
Hear now, ye suitors of the matchless Queen,
My bosom's dictates. Trivial is the harm,
Scarce felt, if, fighting for his own, his sheep
Perchance, or beeves, a man receive a blow.
But me Antinoüs struck for that I ask'd
Food from him merely to appease the pangs
Of hunger, source of num'rous ills to man.
If then the poor man have a God t' avenge
His wrongs, I pray to him that death may seize
Antinoüs, ere his nuptial hour arrive!
To whom Antinoüs answer thus return'd,
Son of Eupithes. Either seated there
Or going hence, eat, stranger, and be still;
Lest for thy insolence, by hand or foot
We drag thee forth, and thou be flay'd alive.
He ceased, whom all indignant heard, and thus
Ev'n his own proud companions censured him.
Antinoüs! thou didst not well to smite
The wretched vagabond. O thou art doom'd
For ever, if there be a God in heav'n;[77]
For, in similitude of strangers oft,
The Gods, who can with ease all shapes assume,
Repair to populous cities, where they mark
The outrageous and the righteous deeds of men.
So they, for whose reproof he little cared.
But in his heart Telemachus that blow
Resented, anguish-torn, yet not a tear
He shed, but silent shook his brows, and mused
Terrible things. Penelope, meantime,
Told of the wand'rer so abused beneath
Her roof, among her maidens thus exclaim'd.
So may Apollo, glorious archer, smite
Thee also. Then Eurynome replied,
Oh might our pray'rs prevail, none of them all
Should see bright-charioted Aurora more.
Her answer'd then Penelope discrete.
Nurse! they are odious all, for that alike
All teem with mischief; but Antinoüs' looks
Remind me ever of the gloom of death.
A stranger hath arrived who, begging, roams
The house, (for so his penury enjoins)
The rest have giv'n him, and have fill'd his bag
With viands, but Antinoüs hath bruised
His shoulder with a foot-stool hurl'd at him.
While thus the Queen conversing with her train
In her own chamber sat, Ulysses made
Plenteous repast. Then, calling to her side
Eumæus, thus she signified her will.
Eumæus, noble friend! bid now approach
Yon stranger. I would speak with him, and ask
If he has seen Ulysses, or have heard
Tidings, perchance, of the afflicted Chief,
For much a wand'rer by his garb he seems.
To whom, Eumæus, thou didst thus reply.
Were those Achaians silent, thou shouldst hear,
O Queen! a tale that would console thy heart.
Three nights I housed him, and within my cot
Three days detain'd him, (for his ship he left
A fugitive, and came direct to me)
But half untold his hist'ry still remains.
As when his eye one fixes on a bard
From heav'n instructed in such themes as charm
The ear of mortals, ever as he sings
The people press, insatiable, to hear,
So, in my cottage, seated at my side,
That stranger with his tale enchanted me.
Laertes, he affirms, hath been his guest
Erewhile in Crete, where Minos' race resides,
And thence he hath arrived, after great loss,
A suppliant to the very earth abased;
He adds, that in Thesprotia's neighbour realm
He of Ulysses heard, both that he lives,
And that he comes laden with riches home.
To whom Penelope, discrete, replied.
Haste; call him. I would hear, myself, his tale.
Meantime, let these, or in the palace gate
Sport jocular, or here; their hearts are light,
For their possessions are secure; their wine
None drinks, or eats their viands, save their own,
While my abode, day after day, themselves
Haunting, my beeves and sheep and fatted goats
Slay for the banquet, and my casks exhaust
Extravagant, whence endless waste ensues;
For no such friend as was Ulysses once
Have I to expel the mischief. But might he
Revisit once his native shores again,
Then, aided by his son, he should avenge,
Incontinent, the wrongs which now I mourn.
Then sneezed Telemachus with sudden force,
That all the palace rang; his mother laugh'd,
And in wing'd accents thus the swain bespake.
Haste--bid him hither--hear'st thou not the sneeze
Propitious of my son? oh might it prove
A presage of inevitable death
To all these revellers! may none escape!
Now mark me well. Should the event his tale
Confirm, at my own hands he shall receive
Mantle and tunic both for his reward.
She spake; he went, and where Ulysses sat
Arriving, in wing'd accents thus began.
Penelope, my venerable friend!
Calls thee, the mother of Telemachus.
Oppress'd by num'rous troubles, she desires
To ask thee tidings of her absent Lord.
And should the event verify thy report,
Thy meed shall be (a boon which much thou need'st)
Tunic and mantle; but she gives no more;
Thy sustenance thou must, as now, obtain,[78]
Begging it at their hands who chuse to give.
Then thus Ulysses, Hero toil-inured.
Eumæus! readily I can relate
Truth, and truth only, to the prudent Queen
Icarius' daughter; for of him I know
Much, and have suff'red sorrows like his own.
But dread I feel of this imperious throng
Perverse, whose riot and outrageous acts
Of violence echo through the vault of heav'n.
And, even now, when for no fault of mine
Yon suitor struck me as I pass'd, and fill'd
My flesh with pain, neither Telemachus
Nor any interposed to stay his arm.
Now, therefore, let Penelope, although
Impatient, till the sun descend postpone
Her questions; then she may enquire secure
When comes her husband, and may nearer place
My seat to the hearth-side, for thinly clad
Thou know'st I am, whose aid I first implored.
He ceas'd; at whose reply Eumæus sought
Again the Queen, but ere he yet had pass'd
The threshold, thus she greeted his return.
Com'st thou alone, Eumæus? why delays
The invited wand'rer? dreads he other harm?
Or sees he aught that with a bashful awe
Fills him? the bashful poor are poor indeed.
To whom, Eumæus, thou didst thus reply.
He hath well spoken; none who would decline
The rudeness of this contumelious throng
Could answer otherwise; thee he entreats
To wait till sun-set, and that course, O Queen,
Thou shalt thyself far more commodious find,
To hold thy conf'rence with the guest, alone.
Then answer thus Penelope return'd.
The stranger, I perceive, is not unwise,
Whoe'er he be, for on the earth are none
Proud, insolent, and profligate as these.
So spake the Queen. Then (all his message told)
The good Eumæus to the suitors went
Again, and with his head inclined toward
Telemachus, lest others should his words
Witness, in accents wing'd him thus address'd.
Friend and kind master! I return to keep
My herds, and to attend my rural charge,
Whence we are both sustain'd. Keep thou, meantime,
All here with vigilance, but chiefly watch
For thy own good, and save thyself from harm;
For num'rous here brood mischief, whom the Gods
Exterminate, ere yet their plots prevail!
To whom Telemachus, discrete, replied.
So be it, father! and (thy evening-mess
Eaten) depart; to-morrow come again,
Bringing fair victims hither; I will keep,
I and the Gods, meantime, all here secure.
He ended; then resumed once more the swain
His polish'd seat, and, both with wine and food
Now satiate, to his charge return'd, the court
Leaving and all the palace throng'd with guests;
They (for it now was evening) all alike
Turn'd jovial to the song and to the dance.

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