The Odyssey – Book 1 – 5

BOOK I

TELL ME, O MUSE, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide
after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit,
and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was
acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save
his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he
could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer
folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god
prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all
these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may
know them.
So now all who escaped death in battle or by shipwreck had got
safely home except Ulysses, and he, though he was longing to return to
his wife and country, was detained by the goddess Calypso, who had got
him into a large cave and wanted to marry him. But as years went by,
there came a time when the gods settled that he should go back to
Ithaca; even then, however, when he was among his own people, his
troubles were not yet over; nevertheless all the gods had now begun to
pity him except Neptune, who still persecuted him without ceasing
and would not let him get home.
Now Neptune had gone off to the Ethiopians, who are at the world’s
end, and lie in two halves, the one looking West and the other East.
He had gone there to accept a hecatomb of sheep and oxen, and was
enjoying himself at his festival; but the other gods met in the
house of Olympian Jove, and the sire of gods and men spoke first. At
that moment he was thinking of Aegisthus, who had been killed by
Agamemnon’s son Orestes; so he said to the other gods:
“See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all
nothing but their own folly. Look at Aegisthus; he must needs make
love to Agamemnon’s wife unrighteously and then kill Agamemnon, though
he knew it would be the death of him; for I sent Mercury to warn him
not to do either of these things, inasmuch as Orestes would be sure to
take his revenge when he grew up and wanted to return home. Mercury
told him this in all good will but he would not listen, and now he has
paid for everything in full.”
Then Minerva said, “Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, it
served Aegisthus right, and so it would any one else who does as he
did; but Aegisthus is neither here nor there; it is for Ulysses that
my heart bleeds, when I think of his sufferings in that lonely
sea-girt island, far away, poor man, from all his friends. It is an
island covered with forest, in the very middle of the sea, and a
goddess lives there, daughter of the magician Atlas, who looks after
the bottom of the ocean, and carries the great columns that keep
heaven and earth asunder. This daughter of Atlas has got hold of
poor unhappy Ulysses, and keeps trying by every kind of blandishment
to make him forget his home, so that he is tired of life, and thinks
of nothing but how he may once more see the smoke of his own chimneys.
You, sir, take no heed of this, and yet when Ulysses was before Troy
did he not propitiate you with many a burnt sacrifice? Why then should
you keep on being so angry with him?”
And Jove said, “My child, what are you talking about? How can I
forget Ulysses than whom there is no more capable man on earth, nor
more liberal in his offerings to the immortal gods that live in
heaven? Bear in mind, however, that Neptune is still furious with
Ulysses for having blinded an eye of Polyphemus king of the
Cyclopes. Polyphemus is son to Neptune by the nymph Thoosa, daughter
to the sea-king Phorcys; therefore though he will not kill Ulysses
outright, he torments him by preventing him from getting home.
Still, let us lay our heads together and see how we can help him to
return; Neptune will then be pacified, for if we are all of a mind
he can hardly stand out against us.”
And Minerva said, “Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, if, then,
the gods now mean that Ulysses should get home, we should first send
Mercury to the Ogygian island to tell Calypso that we have made up our
minds and that he is to return. In the meantime I will go to Ithaca,
to put heart into Ulysses’ son Telemachus; I will embolden him to call
the Achaeans in assembly, and speak out to the suitors of his mother
Penelope, who persist in eating up any number of his sheep and oxen; I
will also conduct him to Sparta and to Pylos, to see if he can hear
anything about the return of his dear father- for this will make
people speak well of him.”
So saying she bound on her glittering golden sandals,
imperishable, with which she can fly like the wind over land or sea;
she grasped the redoubtable bronze-shod spear, so stout and sturdy and
strong, wherewith she quells the ranks of heroes who have displeased
her, and down she darted from the topmost summits of Olympus,
whereon forthwith she was in Ithaca, at the gateway of Ulysses’ house,
disguised as a visitor, Mentes, chief of the Taphians, and she held
a bronze spear in her hand. There she found the lordly suitors
seated on hides of the oxen which they had killed and eaten, and
playing draughts in front of the house. Men-servants and pages were
bustling about to wait upon them, some mixing wine with water in the
mixing-bowls, some cleaning down the tables with wet sponges and
laying them out again, and some cutting up great quantities of meat.
Telemachus saw her long before any one else did. He was sitting
moodily among the suitors thinking about his brave father, and how
he would send them flying out of the house, if he were to come to
his own again and be honoured as in days gone by. Thus brooding as
he sat among them, he caught sight of Minerva and went straight to the
gate, for he was vexed that a stranger should be kept waiting for
admittance. He took her right hand in his own, and bade her give him
her spear. “Welcome,” said he, “to our house, and when you have
partaken of food you shall tell us what you have come for.”
He led the way as he spoke, and Minerva followed him. When they were
within he took her spear and set it in the spear- stand against a
strong bearing-post along with the many other spears of his unhappy
father, and he conducted her to a richly decorated seat under which he
threw a cloth of damask. There was a footstool also for her feet,
and he set another seat near her for himself, away from the suitors,
that she might not be annoyed while eating by their noise and
insolence, and that he might ask her more freely about his father.
A maid servant then brought them water in a beautiful golden ewer
and poured it into a silver basin for them to wash their hands, and
she drew a clean table beside them. An upper servant brought them
bread, and offered them many good things of what there was in the
house, the carver fetched them plates of all manner of meats and set
cups of gold by their side, and a man-servant brought them wine and
poured it out for them.
Then the suitors came in and took their places on the benches and
seats. Forthwith men servants poured water over their hands, maids
went round with the bread-baskets, pages filled the mixing-bowls
with wine and water, and they laid their hands upon the good things
that were before them. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink
they wanted music and dancing, which are the crowning embellishments
of a banquet, so a servant brought a lyre to Phemius, whom they
compelled perforce to sing to them. As soon as he touched his lyre and
began to sing Telemachus spoke low to Minerva, with his head close
to hers that no man might hear.
“I hope, sir,” said he, “that you will not be offended with what I
am going to say. Singing comes cheap to those who do not pay for it,
and all this is done at the cost of one whose bones lie rotting in
some wilderness or grinding to powder in the surf. If these men were
to see my father come back to Ithaca they would pray for longer legs
rather than a longer purse, for money would not serve them; but he,
alas, has fallen on an ill fate, and even when people do sometimes say
that he is coming, we no longer heed them; we shall never see him
again. And now, sir, tell me and tell me true, who you are and where
you come from. Tell me of your town and parents, what manner of ship
you came in, how your crew brought you to Ithaca, and of what nation
they declared themselves to be- for you cannot have come by land. Tell
me also truly, for I want to know, are you a stranger to this house,
or have you been here in my father’s time? In the old days we had many
visitors for my father went about much himself.”
And Minerva answered, “I will tell you truly and particularly all
about it. I am Mentes, son of Anchialus, and I am King of the
Taphians. I have come here with my ship and crew, on a voyage to men
of a foreign tongue being bound for Temesa with a cargo of iron, and I
shall bring back copper. As for my ship, it lies over yonder off the
open country away from the town, in the harbour Rheithron under the
wooded mountain Neritum. Our fathers were friends before us, as old
Laertes will tell you, if you will go and ask him. They say,
however, that he never comes to town now, and lives by himself in
the country, faring hardly, with an old woman to look after him and
get his dinner for him, when he comes in tired from pottering about
his vineyard. They told me your father was at home again, and that was
why I came, but it seems the gods are still keeping him back, for he
is not dead yet not on the mainland. It is more likely he is on some
sea-girt island in mid ocean, or a prisoner among savages who are
detaining him against his will I am no prophet, and know very little
about omens, but I speak as it is borne in upon me from heaven, and
assure you that he will not be away much longer; for he is a man of
such resource that even though he were in chains of iron he would find
some means of getting home again. But tell me, and tell me true, can
Ulysses really have such a fine looking fellow for a son? You are
indeed wonderfully like him about the head and eyes, for we were close
friends before he set sail for Troy where the flower of all the
Argives went also. Since that time we have never either of us seen the
other.”
“My mother,” answered Telemachus, tells me I am son to Ulysses,
but it is a wise child that knows his own father. Would that I were
son to one who had grown old upon his own estates, for, since you
ask me, there is no more ill-starred man under heaven than he who they
tell me is my father.”
And Minerva said, “There is no fear of your race dying out yet,
while Penelope has such a fine son as you are. But tell me, and tell
me true, what is the meaning of all this feasting, and who are these
people? What is it all about? Have you some banquet, or is there a
wedding in the family- for no one seems to be bringing any
provisions of his own? And the guests- how atrociously they are
behaving; what riot they make over the whole house; it is enough to
disgust any respectable person who comes near them.”
“Sir,” said Telemachus, “as regards your question, so long as my
father was here it was well with us and with the house, but the gods
in their displeasure have willed it otherwise, and have hidden him
away more closely than mortal man was ever yet hidden. I could have
borne it better even though he were dead, if he had fallen with his
men before Troy, or had died with friends around him when the days
of his fighting were done; for then the Achaeans would have built a
mound over his ashes, and I should myself have been heir to his
renown; but now the storm-winds have spirited him away we know not
wither; he is gone without leaving so much as a trace behind him,
and I inherit nothing but dismay. Nor does the matter end simply
with grief for the loss of my father; heaven has laid sorrows upon
me of yet another kind; for the chiefs from all our islands,
Dulichium, Same, and the woodland island of Zacynthus, as also all the
principal men of Ithaca itself, are eating up my house under the
pretext of paying their court to my mother, who will neither point
blank say that she will not marry, nor yet bring matters to an end; so
they are making havoc of my estate, and before long will do so also
with myself.”
“Is that so?” exclaimed Minerva, “then you do indeed want Ulysses
home again. Give him his helmet, shield, and a couple lances, and if
he is the man he was when I first knew him in our house, drinking
and making merry, he would soon lay his hands about these rascally
suitors, were he to stand once more upon his own threshold. He was
then coming from Ephyra, where he had been to beg poison for his
arrows from Ilus, son of Mermerus. Ilus feared the ever-living gods
and would not give him any, but my father let him have some, for he
was very fond of him. If Ulysses is the man he then was these
suitors will have a short shrift and a sorry wedding.
“But there! It rests with heaven to determine whether he is to
return, and take his revenge in his own house or no; I would, however,
urge you to set about trying to get rid of these suitors at once. Take
my advice, call the Achaean heroes in assembly to-morrow -lay your
case before them, and call heaven to bear you witness. Bid the suitors
take themselves off, each to his own place, and if your mother’s
mind is set on marrying again, let her go back to her father, who will
find her a husband and provide her with all the marriage gifts that so
dear a daughter may expect. As for yourself, let me prevail upon you
to take the best ship you can get, with a crew of twenty men, and go
in quest of your father who has so long been missing. Some one may
tell you something, or (and people often hear things in this way) some
heaven-sent message may direct you. First go to Pylos and ask
Nestor; thence go on to Sparta and visit Menelaus, for he got home
last of all the Achaeans; if you hear that your father is alive and on
his way home, you can put up with the waste these suitors will make
for yet another twelve months. If on the other hand you hear of his
death, come home at once, celebrate his funeral rites with all due
pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make your mother marry
again. Then, having done all this, think it well over in your mind
how, by fair means or foul, you may kill these suitors in your own
house. You are too old to plead infancy any longer; have you not heard
how people are singing Orestes’ praises for having killed his father’s
murderer Aegisthus? You are a fine, smart looking fellow; show your
mettle, then, and make yourself a name in story. Now, however, I
must go back to my ship and to my crew, who will be impatient if I
keep them waiting longer; think the matter over for yourself, and
remember what I have said to you.”
“Sir,” answered Telemachus, “it has been very kind of you to talk to
me in this way, as though I were your own son, and I will do all you
tell me; I know you want to be getting on with your voyage, but stay a
little longer till you have taken a bath and refreshed yourself. I
will then give you a present, and you shall go on your way
rejoicing; I will give you one of great beauty and value- a keepsake
such as only dear friends give to one another.”
Minerva answered, “Do not try to keep me, for I would be on my way
at once. As for any present you may be disposed to make me, keep it
till I come again, and I will take it home with me. You shall give
me a very good one, and I will give you one of no less value in
return.”
With these words she flew away like a bird into the air, but she had
given Telemachus courage, and had made him think more than ever
about his father. He felt the change, wondered at it, and knew that
the stranger had been a god, so he went straight to where the
suitors were sitting.
Phemius was still singing, and his hearers sat rapt in silence as he
told the sad tale of the return from Troy, and the ills Minerva had
laid upon the Achaeans. Penelope, daughter of Icarius, heard his
song from her room upstairs, and came down by the great staircase, not
alone, but attended by two of her handmaids. When she reached the
suitors she stood by one of the bearing posts that supported the
roof of the cloisters with a staid maiden on either side of her. She
held a veil, moreover, before her face, and was weeping bitterly.
“Phemius,” she cried, “you know many another feat of gods and
heroes, such as poets love to celebrate. Sing the suitors some one
of these, and let them drink their wine in silence, but cease this sad
tale, for it breaks my sorrowful heart, and reminds me of my lost
husband whom I mourn ever without ceasing, and whose name was great
over all Hellas and middle Argos.”
“Mother,” answered Telemachus, “let the bard sing what he has a mind
to; bards do not make the ills they sing of; it is Jove, not they, who
makes them, and who sends weal or woe upon mankind according to his
own good pleasure. This fellow means no harm by singing the
ill-fated return of the Danaans, for people always applaud the
latest songs most warmly. Make up your mind to it and bear it; Ulysses
is not the only man who never came back from Troy, but many another
went down as well as he. Go, then, within the house and busy
yourself with your daily duties, your loom, your distaff, and the
ordering of your servants; for speech is man’s matter, and mine
above all others- for it is I who am master here.”
She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son’s saying in
her heart. Then, going upstairs with her handmaids into her room,
she mourned her dear husband till Minerva shed sweet sleep over her
eyes. But the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered cloisters,
and prayed each one that he might be her bed fellow.
Then Telemachus spoke, “Shameless,” he cried, “and insolent suitors,
let us feast at our pleasure now, and let there be no brawling, for it
is a rare thing to hear a man with such a divine voice as Phemius has;
but in the morning meet me in full assembly that I may give you formal
notice to depart, and feast at one another’s houses, turn and turn
about, at your own cost. If on the other hand you choose to persist in
spunging upon one man, heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with
you in full, and when you fall in my father’s house there shall be
no man to avenge you.”
The suitors bit their lips as they heard him, and marvelled at the
boldness of his speech. Then, Antinous, son of Eupeithes, said, “The
gods seem to have given you lessons in bluster and tall talking; may
Jove never grant you to be chief in Ithaca as your father was before
you.”
Telemachus answered, “Antinous, do not chide with me, but, god
willing, I will be chief too if I can. Is this the worst fate you
can think of for me? It is no bad thing to be a chief, for it brings
both riches and honour. Still, now that Ulysses is dead there are many
great men in Ithaca both old and young, and some other may take the
lead among them; nevertheless I will be chief in my own house, and
will rule those whom Ulysses has won for me.”
Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered, “It rests with heaven
to decide who shall be chief among us, but you shall be master in your
own house and over your own possessions; no one while there is a man
in Ithaca shall do you violence nor rob you. And now, my good
fellow, I want to know about this stranger. What country does he
come from? Of what family is he, and where is his estate? Has he
brought you news about the return of your father, or was he on
business of his own? He seemed a well-to-do man, but he hurried off so
suddenly that he was gone in a moment before we could get to know
him.”
“My father is dead and gone,” answered Telemachus, “and even if some
rumour reaches me I put no more faith in it now. My mother does indeed
sometimes send for a soothsayer and question him, but I give his
prophecyings no heed. As for the stranger, he was Mentes, son of
Anchialus, chief of the Taphians, an old friend of my father’s.” But
in his heart he knew that it had been the goddess.
The suitors then returned to their singing and dancing until the
evening; but when night fell upon their pleasuring they went home to
bed each in his own abode. Telemachus’s room was high up in a tower
that looked on to the outer court; hither, then, he hied, brooding and
full of thought. A good old woman, Euryclea, daughter of Ops, the
son of Pisenor, went before him with a couple of blazing torches.
Laertes had bought her with his own money when she was quite young; he
gave the worth of twenty oxen for her, and shewed as much respect to
her in his household as he did to his own wedded wife, but he did
not take her to his bed for he feared his wife’s resentment. She it
was who now lighted Telemachus to his room, and she loved him better
than any of the other women in the house did, for she had nursed him
when he was a baby. He opened the door of his bed room and sat down
upon the bed; as he took off his shirt he gave it to the good old
woman, who folded it tidily up, and hung it for him over a peg by
his bed side, after which she went out, pulled the door to by a silver
catch, and drew the bolt home by means of the strap. But Telemachus as
he lay covered with a woollen fleece kept thinking all night through
of his intended voyage of the counsel that Minerva had given him.

BOOK II

NOW when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Telemachus rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his
comely feet, girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call
the people in assembly, so they called them and the people gathered
thereon; then, when they were got together, he went to the place of
assembly spear in hand- not alone, for his two hounds went with him.
Minerva endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all
marvelled at him as he went by, and when he took his place’ in his
father’s seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.
Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite experience,
the first to speak His son Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius,
land of noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him when
they were all shut up in the cave, and had cooked his last dinner
for him, He had three sons left, of whom two still worked on their
father’s land, while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors;
nevertheless their father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and
was still weeping for him when he began his speech.
“Men of Ithaca,” he said, “hear my words. From the day Ulysses
left us there has been no meeting of our councillors until now; who
then can it be, whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to
convene us? Has he got wind of some host approaching, and does he wish
to warn us, or would he speak upon some other matter of public moment?
I am sure he is an excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him
his heart’s desire.”
Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once, for he
was bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the middle of the
assembly and the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then,
turning to Aegyptius, “Sir,” said he, “it is I, as you will shortly
learn, who have convened you, for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I
have not got wind of any host approaching about which I would warn
you, nor is there any matter of public moment on which I would
speak. My grieveance is purely personal, and turns on two great
misfortunes which have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the
loss of my excellent father, who was chief among all you here present,
and was like a father to every one of you; the second is much more
serious, and ere long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The sons of
all the chief men among you are pestering my mother to marry them
against her will. They are afraid to go to her father Icarius,
asking him to choose the one he likes best, and to provide marriage
gifts for his daughter, but day by day they keep hanging about my
father’s house, sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their
banquets, and never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of
wine they drink. No estate can stand such recklessness; we have now no
Ulysses to ward off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own
against them. I shall never all my days be as good a man as he was,
still I would indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I
cannot stand such treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced
and ruined. Have respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to
public opinion. Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods should
be displeased and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, who is
the beginning and the end of councils, [do not] hold back, my friends,
and leave me singlehanded- unless it be that my brave father Ulysses
did some wrong to the Achaeans which you would now avenge on me, by
aiding and abetting these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out
of house and home at all, I had rather you did the eating
yourselves, for I could then take action against you to some
purpose, and serve you with notices from house to house till I got
paid in full, whereas now I have no remedy.”
With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst into
tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat still and no
one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only Antinous, who
spoke thus:
“Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to
throw the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother’s fault not ours,
for she is a very artful woman. This three years past, and close on
four, she has been driving us out of our minds, by encouraging each
one of us, and sending him messages without meaning one word of what
she says. And then there was that other trick she played us. She set
up a great tambour frame in her room, and began to work on an enormous
piece of fine needlework. ‘Sweet hearts,’ said she, ‘Ulysses is indeed
dead, still do not press me to marry again immediately, wait- for I
would not have skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
completed a pall for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against
the time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women
of the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.’
“This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see her
working on her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick
the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for
three years and we never found her out, but as time wore on and she
was now in her fourth year, one of her maids who knew what she was
doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so
she had to finish it whether she would or no. The suitors,
therefore, make you this answer, that both you and the Achaeans may
understand-’Send your mother away, and bid her marry the man of her
own and of her father’s choice’; for I do not know what will happen if
she goes on plaguing us much longer with the airs she gives herself on
the score of the accomplishments Minerva has taught her, and because
she is so clever. We never yet heard of such a woman; we know all
about Tyro, Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, but they
were nothing to your mother, any one of them. It was not fair of her
to treat us in that way, and as long as she continues in the mind with
which heaven has now endowed her, so long shall we go on eating up
your estate; and I do not see why she should change, for she gets
all the honour and glory, and it is you who pay for it, not she.
Understand, then, that we will not go back to our lands, neither
here nor elsewhere, till she has made her choice and married some
one or other of us.”
Telemachus answered, “Antinous, how can I drive the mother who
bore me from my father’s house? My father is abroad and we do not know
whether he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to pay
Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I insist on sending his
daughter back to him. Not only will he deal rigorously with me, but
heaven will also punish me; for my mother when she leaves the house
will calf on the Erinyes to avenge her; besides, it would not be a
creditable thing to do, and I will have nothing to say to it. If you
choose to take offence at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere at
one another’s houses at your own cost turn and turn about. If, on
the other hand, you elect to persist in spunging upon one man,
heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full, and when you
fall in my father’s house there shall be no man to avenge you.”
As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain, and
they flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in their own
lordly flight. When they were right over the middle of the assembly
they wheeled and circled about, beating the air with their wings and
glaring death into the eyes of them that were below; then, fighting
fiercely and tearing at one another, they flew off towards the right
over the town. The people wondered as they saw them, and asked each
other what an this might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best
prophet and reader of omens among them, spoke to them plainly and in
all honesty, saying:
“Hear me, men of Ithaca, and I speak more particularly to the
suitors, for I see mischief brewing for them. Ulysses is not going
to be away much longer; indeed he is close at hand to deal out death
and destruction, not on them alone, but on many another of us who live
in Ithaca. Let us then be wise in time, and put a stop to this
wickedness before he comes. Let the suitors do so of their own accord;
it will be better for them, for I am not prophesying without due
knowledge; everything has happened to Ulysses as I foretold when the
Argives set out for Troy, and he with them. I said that after going
through much hardship and losing all his men he should come home again
in the twentieth year and that no one would know him; and now all this
is coming true.”
Eurymachus son of Polybus then said, “Go home, old man, and prophesy
to your own children, or it may be worse for them. I can read these
omens myself much better than you can; birds are always flying about
in the sunshine somewhere or other, but they seldom mean anything.
Ulysses has died in a far country, and it is a pity you are not dead
along with him, instead of prating here about omens and adding fuel to
the anger of Telemachus which is fierce enough as it is. I suppose you
think he will give you something for your family, but I tell you-
and it shall surely be- when an old man like you, who should know
better, talks a young one over till he becomes troublesome, in the
first place his young friend will only fare so much the worse- he will
take nothing by it, for the suitors will prevent this- and in the
next, we will lay a heavier fine, sir, upon yourself than you will
at all like paying, for it will bear hardly upon you. As for
Telemachus, I warn him in the presence of you all to send his mother
back to her father, who will find her a husband and provide her with
all the marriage gifts so dear a daughter may expect. Till we shall go
on harassing him with our suit; for we fear no man, and care neither
for him, with all his fine speeches, nor for any fortune-telling of
yours. You may preach as much as you please, but we shall only hate
you the more. We shall go back and continue to eat up Telemachus’s
estate without paying him, till such time as his mother leaves off
tormenting us by keeping us day after day on the tiptoe of
expectation, each vying with the other in his suit for a prize of such
rare perfection. Besides we cannot go after the other women whom we
should marry in due course, but for the way in which she treats us.”
Then Telemachus said, “Eurymachus, and you other suitors, I shall
say no more, and entreat you no further, for the gods and the people
of Ithaca now know my story. Give me, then, a ship and a crew of
twenty men to take me hither and thither, and I will go to Sparta
and to Pylos in quest of my father who has so long been missing.
Some one may tell me something, or (and people often hear things in
this way) some heaven-sent message may direct me. If I can hear of him
as alive and on his way home I will put up with the waste you
suitors will make for yet another twelve months. If on the other
hand I hear of his death, I will return at once, celebrate his funeral
rites with all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make my
mother marry again.”
With these words he sat down, and Mentor who had been a friend of
Ulysses, and had been left in charge of everything with full authority
over the servants, rose to speak. He, then, plainly and in all honesty
addressed them thus:
“Hear me, men of Ithaca, I hope that you may never have a kind and
well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern you equitably; I
hope that all your chiefs henceforward may be cruel and unjust, for
there is not one of you but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled you as
though he were your father. I am not half so angry with the suitors,
for if they choose to do violence in the naughtiness of their
hearts, and wager their heads that Ulysses will not return, they can
take the high hand and eat up his estate, but as for you others I am
shocked at the way in which you all sit still without even trying to
stop such scandalous goings on-which you could do if you chose, for
you are many and they are few.”
Leiocritus, son of Evenor, answered him saying, “Mentor, what
folly is all this, that you should set the people to stay us? It is
a hard thing for one man to fight with many about his victuals. Even
though Ulysses himself were to set upon us while we are feasting in
his house, and do his best to oust us, his wife, who wants him back so
very badly, would have small cause for rejoicing, and his blood
would be upon his own head if he fought against such great odds. There
is no sense in what you have been saying. Now, therefore, do you
people go about your business, and let his father’s old friends,
Mentor and Halitherses, speed this boy on his journey, if he goes at
all- which I do not think he will, for he is more likely to stay where
he is till some one comes and tells him something.”
On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own
abode, while the suitors returned to the house of Ulysses.
Then Telemachus went all alone by the sea side, washed his hands
in the grey waves, and prayed to Minerva.
“Hear me,” he cried, “you god who visited me yesterday, and bade
me sail the seas in search of my father who has so long been
missing. I would obey you, but the Achaeans, and more particularly the
wicked suitors, are hindering me that I cannot do so.”
As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness
and with the voice of Mentor. “Telemachus,” said she, “if you are made
of the same stuff as your father you will be neither fool nor coward
henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word nor left his work
half done. If, then, you take after him, your voyage will not be
fruitless, but unless you have the blood of Ulysses and of Penelope in
your veins I see no likelihood of your succeeding. Sons are seldom
as good men as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better;
still, as you are not going to be either fool or coward
henceforward, and are not entirely without some share of your father’s
wise discernment, I look with hope upon your undertaking. But mind you
never make common cause with any of those foolish suitors, for they
have neither sense nor virtue, and give no thought to death and to the
doom that will shortly fall on one and all of them, so that they shall
perish on the same day. As for your voyage, it shall not be long
delayed; your father was such an old friend of mine that I will find
you a ship, and will come with you myself. Now, however, return
home, and go about among the suitors; begin getting provisions ready
for your voyage; see everything well stowed, the wine in jars, and the
barley meal, which is the staff of life, in leathern bags, while I
go round the town and beat up volunteers at once. There are many ships
in Ithaca both old and new; I will run my eye over them for you and
will choose the best; we will get her ready and will put out to sea
without delay.”
Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time
in doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily and found the
suitors flaying goats and singeing pigs in the outer court. Antinous
came up to him at once and laughed as he took his hand in his own,
saying, “Telemachus, my fine fire-eater, bear no more ill blood
neither in word nor deed, but eat and drink with us as you used to do.
The Achaeans will find you in everything- a ship and a picked crew
to boot- so that you can set sail for Pylos at once and get news of
your noble father.”
“Antinous,” answered Telemachus, “I cannot eat in peace, nor take
pleasure of any kind with such men as you are. Was it not enough
that you should waste so much good property of mine while I was yet
a boy? Now that I am older and know more about it, I am also stronger,
and whether here among this people, or by going to Pylos, I will do
you all the harm I can. I shall go, and my going will not be in vain
though, thanks to you suitors, I have neither ship nor crew of my own,
and must be passenger not captain.”
As he spoke he snatched his hand from that of Antinous. Meanwhile
the others went on getting dinner ready about the buildings, jeering
at him tauntingly as they did so.
“Telemachus,” said one youngster, “means to be the death of us; I
suppose he thinks he can bring friends to help him from Pylos, or
again from Sparta, where he seems bent on going. Or will he go to
Ephyra as well, for poison to put in our wine and kill us?”
Another said, “Perhaps if Telemachus goes on board ship, he will
be like his father and perish far from his friends. In this case we
should have plenty to do, for we could then divide up his property
amongst us: as for the house we can let his mother and the man who
marries her have that.”
This was how they talked. But Telemachus went down into the lofty
and spacious store-room where his father’s treasure of gold and bronze
lay heaped up upon the floor, and where the linen and spare clothes
were kept in open chests. Here, too, there was a store of fragrant
olive oil, while casks of old, well-ripened wine, unblended and fit
for a god to drink, were ranged against the wall in case Ulysses
should come home again after all. The room was closed with well-made
doors opening in the middle; moreover the faithful old house-keeper
Euryclea, daughter of Ops the son of Pisenor, was in charge of
everything both night and day. Telemachus called her to the store-room
and said:
“Nurse, draw me off some of the best wine you have, after what you
are keeping for my father’s own drinking, in case, poor man, he should
escape death, and find his way home again after all. Let me have
twelve jars, and see that they all have lids; also fill me some
well-sewn leathern bags with barley meal- about twenty measures in
all. Get these things put together at once, and say nothing about
it. I will take everything away this evening as soon as my mother
has gone upstairs for the night. I am going to Sparta and to Pylos
to see if I can hear anything about the return of my dear father.
When Euryclea heard this she began to cry, and spoke fondly to
him, saying, “My dear child, what ever can have put such notion as
that into your head? Where in the world do you want to go to- you, who
are the one hope of the house? Your poor father is dead and gone in
some foreign country nobody knows where, and as soon as your back is
turned these wicked ones here will be scheming to get you put out of
the way, and will share all your possessions among themselves; stay
where you are among your own people, and do not go wandering and
worrying your life out on the barren ocean.”
“Fear not, nurse,” answered Telemachus, “my scheme is not without
heaven’s sanction; but swear that you will say nothing about all
this to my mother, till I have been away some ten or twelve days,
unless she hears of my having gone, and asks you; for I do not want
her to spoil her beauty by crying.”
The old woman swore most solemnly that she would not, and when she
had completed her oath, she began drawing off the wine into jars,
and getting the barley meal into the bags, while Telemachus went
back to the suitors.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. She took his shape,
and went round the town to each one of the crew, telling them to
meet at the ship by sundown. She went also to Noemon son of
Phronius, and asked him to let her have a ship- which he was very
ready to do. When the sun had set and darkness was over all the
land, she got the ship into the water, put all the tackle on board her
that ships generally carry, and stationed her at the end of the
harbour. Presently the crew came up, and the goddess spoke
encouragingly to each of them.
Furthermore she went to the house of Ulysses, and threw the
suitors into a deep slumber. She caused their drink to fuddle them,
and made them drop their cups from their hands, so that instead of
sitting over their wine, they went back into the town to sleep, with
their eyes heavy and full of drowsiness. Then she took the form and
voice of Mentor, and called Telemachus to come outside.
“Telemachus,” said she, “the men are on board and at their oars,
waiting for you to give your orders, so make haste and let us be off.”
On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps.
When they got to the ship they found the crew waiting by the water
side, and Telemachus said, “Now my men, help me to get the stores on
board; they are all put together in the cloister, and my mother does
not know anything about it, nor any of the maid servants except one.”
With these words he led the way and the others followed after.
When they had brought the things as he told them, Telemachus went on
board, Minerva going before him and taking her seat in the stern of
the vessel, while Telemachus sat beside her. Then the men loosed the
hawsers and took their places on the benches. Minerva sent them a fair
wind from the West, that whistled over the deep blue waves whereon
Telemachus told them to catch hold of the ropes and hoist sail, and
they did as he told them. They set the mast in its socket in the cross
plank, raised it, and made it fast with the forestays; then they
hoisted their white sails aloft with ropes of twisted ox hide. As
the sail bellied out with the wind, the ship flew through the deep
blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward.
Then they made all fast throughout the ship, filled the mixing-bowls
to the brim, and made drink offerings to the immortal gods that are
from everlasting, but more particularly to the grey-eyed daughter of
Jove.
Thus, then, the ship sped on her way through the watches of the
night from dark till dawn.

BOOK III

BUT as the sun was rising from the fair sea into the firmament of
heaven to shed Blight on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos the
city of Neleus. Now the people of Pylos were gathered on the sea shore
to offer sacrifice of black bulls to Neptune lord of the Earthquake.
There were nine guilds with five hundred men in each, and there were
nine bulls to each guild. As they were eating the inward meats and
burning the thigh bones [on the embers] in the name of Neptune,
Telemachus and his crew arrived, furled their sails, brought their
ship to anchor, and went ashore.
Minerva led the way and Telemachus followed her. Presently she said,
“Telemachus, you must not be in the least shy or nervous; you have
taken this voyage to try and find out where your father is buried
and how he came by his end; so go straight up to Nestor that we may
see what he has got to tell us. Beg of him to speak the truth, and
he will tell no lies, for he is an excellent person.”
“But how, Mentor,” replied Telemachus, “dare I go up to Nestor,
and how am I to address him? I have never yet been used to holding
long conversations with people, and am ashamed to begin questioning
one who is so much older than myself.”
“Some things, Telemachus,” answered Minerva, “will be suggested to
you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further; for I am
assured that the gods have been with you from the time of your birth
until now.”
She then went quickly on, and Telemachus followed in her steps
till they reached the place where the guilds of the Pylian people were
assembled. There they found Nestor sitting with his sons, while his
company round him were busy getting dinner ready, and putting pieces
of meat on to the spits while other pieces were cooking. When they saw
the strangers they crowded round them, took them by the hand and
bade them take their places. Nestor’s son Pisistratus at once
offered his hand to each of them, and seated them on some soft
sheepskins that were lying on the sands near his father and his
brother Thrasymedes. Then he gave them their portions of the inward
meats and poured wine for them into a golden cup, handing it to
Minerva first, and saluting her at the same time.
“Offer a prayer, sir,” said he, “to King Neptune, for it is his
feast that you are joining; when you have duly prayed and made your
drink-offering, pass the cup to your friend that he may do so also.
I doubt not that he too lifts his hands in prayer, for man cannot live
without God in the world. Still he is younger than you are, and is
much of an age with myself, so I he handed I will give you the
precedence.”
As he spoke he handed her the cup. Minerva thought it very right and
proper of him to have given it to herself first; she accordingly began
praying heartily to Neptune. “O thou,” she cried, “that encirclest the
earth, vouchsafe to grant the prayers of thy servants that call upon
thee. More especially we pray thee send down thy grace on Nestor and
on his sons; thereafter also make the rest of the Pylian people some
handsome return for the goodly hecatomb they are offering you. Lastly,
grant Telemachus and myself a happy issue, in respect of the matter
that has brought us in our to Pylos.”
When she had thus made an end of praying, she handed the cup to
Telemachus and he prayed likewise. By and by, when the outer meats
were roasted and had been taken off the spits, the carvers gave
every man his portion and they all made an excellent dinner. As soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene,
began to speak.
“Now,” said he, “that our guests have done their dinner, it will
be best to ask them who they are. Who, then, sir strangers, are you,
and from what port have you sailed? Are you traders? or do you sail
the seas as rovers with your hand against every man, and every man’s
hand against you?”
Telemachus answered boldly, for Minerva had given him courage to ask
about his father and get himself a good name.
“Nestor,” said he, “son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean name, you
ask whence we come, and I will tell you. We come from Ithaca under
Neritum, and the matter about which I would speak is of private not
public import. I seek news of my unhappy father Ulysses, who is said
to have sacked the town of Troy in company with yourself. We know what
fate befell each one of the other heroes who fought at Troy, but as
regards Ulysses heaven has hidden from us the knowledge even that he
is dead at all, for no one can certify us in what place he perished,
nor say whether he fell in battle on the mainland, or was lost at
sea amid the waves of Amphitrite. Therefore I am suppliant at your
knees, if haply you may be pleased to tell me of his melancholy end,
whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other
traveller, for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things
out of any pity for me, but tell me in all plainness exactly what
you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service, either
by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed among the Trojans,
bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all.”
“My friend,” answered Nestor, “you recall a time of much sorrow to
my mind, for the brave Achaeans suffered much both at sea, while
privateering under Achilles, and when fighting before the great city
of king Priam. Our best men all of them fell there- Ajax, Achilles,
Patroclus peer of gods in counsel, and my own dear son Antilochus, a
man singularly fleet of foot and in fight valiant. But we suffered
much more than this; what mortal tongue indeed could tell the whole
story? Though you were to stay here and question me for five years, or
even six, I could not tell you all that the Achaeans suffered, and you
would turn homeward weary of my tale before it ended. Nine long
years did we try every kind of stratagem, but the hand of heaven was
against us; during all this time there was no one who could compare
with your father in subtlety- if indeed you are his son- I can
hardly believe my eyes- and you talk just like him too- no one would
say that people of such different ages could speak so much alike. He
and I never had any kind of difference from first to last neither in
camp nor council, but in singleness of heart and purpose we advised
the Argives how all might be ordered for the best.
“When however, we had sacked the city of Priam, and were setting
sail in our ships as heaven had dispersed us, then Jove saw fit to vex
the Argives on their homeward voyage; for they had Not all been either
wise or understanding, and hence many came to a bad end through the
displeasure of Jove’s daughter Minerva, who brought about a quarrel
between the two sons of Atreus.
“The sons of Atreus called a meeting which was not as it should
be, for it was sunset and the Achaeans were heavy with wine. When they
explained why they had called- the people together, it seemed that
Menelaus was for sailing homeward at once, and this displeased
Agamemnon, who thought that we should wait till we had offered
hecatombs to appease the anger of Minerva. Fool that he was, he
might have known that he would not prevail with her, for when the gods
have made up their minds they do not change them lightly. So the two
stood bandying hard words, whereon the Achaeans sprang to their feet
with a cry that rent the air, and were of two minds as to what they
should do.
“That night we rested and nursed our anger, for Jove was hatching
mischief against us. But in the morning some of us drew our ships into
the water and put our goods with our women on board, while the rest,
about half in number, stayed behind with Agamemnon. We- the other
half- embarked and sailed; and the ships went well, for heaven had
smoothed the sea. When we reached Tenedos we offered sacrifices to the
gods, for we were longing to get home; cruel Jove, however, did not
yet mean that we should do so, and raised a second quarrel in the
course of which some among us turned their ships back again, and
sailed away under Ulysses to make their peace with Agamemnon; but I,
and all the ships that were with me pressed forward, for I saw that
mischief was brewing. The son of Tydeus went on also with me, and
his crews with him. Later on Menelaus joined us at Lesbos, and found
us making up our minds about our course- for we did not know whether
to go outside Chios by the island of Psyra, keeping this to our
left, or inside Chios, over against the stormy headland of Mimas. So
we asked heaven for a sign, and were shown one to the effect that we
should be soonest out of danger if we headed our ships across the open
sea to Euboea. This we therefore did, and a fair wind sprang up
which gave us a quick passage during the night to Geraestus, where
we offered many sacrifices to Neptune for having helped us so far on
our way. Four days later Diomed and his men stationed their ships in
Argos, but I held on for Pylos, and the wind never fell light from the
day when heaven first made it fair for me.
“Therefore, my dear young friend, I returned without hearing
anything about the others. I know neither who got home safely nor
who were lost but, as in duty bound, I will give you without reserve
the reports that have reached me since I have been here in my own
house. They say the Myrmidons returned home safely under Achilles’ son
Neoptolemus; so also did the valiant son of Poias, Philoctetes.
Idomeneus, again, lost no men at sea, and all his followers who
escaped death in the field got safe home with him to Crete. No
matter how far out of the world you live, you will have heard of
Agamemnon and the bad end he came to at the hands of Aegisthus- and
a fearful reckoning did Aegisthus presently pay. See what a good thing
it is for a man to leave a son behind him to do as Orestes did, who
killed false Aegisthus the murderer of his noble father. You too,
then- for you are a tall, smart-looking fellow- show your mettle and
make yourself a name in story.”
“Nestor son of Neleus,” answered Telemachus, “honour to the
Achaean name, the Achaeans applaud Orestes and his name will live
through all time for he has avenged his father nobly. Would that
heaven might grant me to do like vengeance on the insolence of the
wicked suitors, who are ill treating me and plotting my ruin; but
the gods have no such happiness in store for me and for my father,
so we must bear it as best we may.”
“My friend,” said Nestor, “now that you remind me, I remember to
have heard that your mother has many suitors, who are ill disposed
towards you and are making havoc of your estate. Do you submit to this
tamely, or are public feeling and the voice of heaven against you? Who
knows but what Ulysses may come back after all, and pay these
scoundrels in full, either single-handed or with a force of Achaeans
behind him? If Minerva were to take as great a liking to you as she
did to Ulysses when we were fighting before Troy (for I never yet
saw the gods so openly fond of any one as Minerva then was of your
father), if she would take as good care of you as she did of him,
these wooers would soon some of them him, forget their wooing.”
Telemachus answered, “I can expect nothing of the kind; it would
be far too much to hope for. I dare not let myself think of it. Even
though the gods themselves willed it no such good fortune could befall
me.”
On this Minerva said, “Telemachus, what are you talking about?
Heaven has a long arm if it is minded to save a man; and if it were
me, I should not care how much I suffered before getting home,
provided I could be safe when I was once there. I would rather this,
than get home quickly, and then be killed in my own house as Agamemnon
was by the treachery of Aegisthus and his wife. Still, death is
certain, and when a man’s hour is come, not even the gods can save
him, no matter how fond they are of him.”
“Mentor,” answered Telemachus, “do not let us talk about it any
more. There is no chance of my father’s ever coming back; the gods
have long since counselled his destruction. There is something else,
however, about which I should like to ask Nestor, for he knows much
more than any one else does. They say he has reigned for three
generations so that it is like talking to an immortal. Tell me,
therefore, Nestor, and tell me true; how did Agamemnon come to die
in that way? What was Menelaus doing? And how came false Aegisthus
to kill so far better a man than himself? Was Menelaus away from
Achaean Argos, voyaging elsewhither among mankind, that Aegisthus took
heart and killed Agamemnon?”
“I will tell you truly,” answered Nestor, “and indeed you have
yourself divined how it all happened. If Menelaus when he got back
from Troy had found Aegisthus still alive in his house, there would
have been no barrow heaped up for him, not even when he was dead,
but he would have been thrown outside the city to dogs and vultures,
and not a woman would have mourned him, for he had done a deed of
great wickedness; but we were over there, fighting hard at Troy, and
Aegisthus who was taking his ease quietly in the heart of Argos,
cajoled Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra with incessant flattery.
“At first she would have nothing to do with his wicked scheme, for
she was of a good natural disposition; moreover there was a bard
with her, to whom Agamemnon had given strict orders on setting out for
Troy, that he was to keep guard over his wife; but when heaven had
counselled her destruction, Aegisthus thus this bard off to a desert
island and left him there for crows and seagulls to batten upon- after
which she went willingly enough to the house of Aegisthus. Then he
offered many burnt sacrifices to the gods, and decorated many
temples with tapestries and gilding, for he had succeeded far beyond
his expectations.
“Meanwhile Menelaus and I were on our way home from Troy, on good
terms with one another. When we got to Sunium, which is the point of
Athens, Apollo with his painless shafts killed Phrontis the
steersman of Menelaus’ ship (and never man knew better how to handle a
vessel in rough weather) so that he died then and there with the
helm in his hand, and Menelaus, though very anxious to press
forward, had to wait in order to bury his comrade and give him his due
funeral rites. Presently, when he too could put to sea again, and
had sailed on as far as the Malean heads, Jove counselled evil against
him and made it it blow hard till the waves ran mountains high. Here
he divided his fleet and took the one half towards Crete where the
Cydonians dwell round about the waters of the river Iardanus. There is
a high headland hereabouts stretching out into the sea from a place
called Gortyn, and all along this part of the coast as far as Phaestus
the sea runs high when there is a south wind blowing, but arter
Phaestus the coast is more protected, for a small headland can make
a great shelter. Here this part of the fleet was driven on to the
rocks and wrecked; but the crews just managed to save themselves. As
for the other five ships, they were taken by winds and seas to
Egypt, where Menelaus gathered much gold and substance among people of
an alien speech. Meanwhile Aegisthus here at home plotted his evil
deed. For seven years after he had killed Agamemnon he ruled in
Mycene, and the people were obedient under him, but in the eighth year
Orestes came back from Athens to be his bane, and killed the
murderer of his father. Then he celebrated the funeral rites of his
mother and of false Aegisthus by a banquet to the people of Argos, and
on that very day Menelaus came home, with as much treasure as his
ships could carry.
“Take my advice then, and do not go travelling about for long so far
from home, nor leave your property with such dangerous people in
your house; they will eat up everything you have among them, and you
will have been on a fool’s errand. Still, I should advise you by all
means to go and visit Menelaus, who has lately come off a voyage among
such distant peoples as no man could ever hope to get back from,
when the winds had once carried him so far out of his reckoning;
even birds cannot fly the distance in a twelvemonth, so vast and
terrible are the seas that they must cross. Go to him, therefore, by
sea, and take your own men with you; or if you would rather travel
by land you can have a chariot, you can have horses, and here are my
sons who can escort you to Lacedaemon where Menelaus lives. Beg of him
to speak the truth, and he will tell you no lies, for he is an
excellent person.”
As he spoke the sun set and it came on dark, whereon Minerva said,
“Sir, all that you have said is well; now, however, order the
tongues of the victims to be cut, and mix wine that we may make
drink-offerings to Neptune, and the other immortals, and then go to
bed, for it is bed time. People should go away early and not keep late
hours at a religious festival.”
Thus spoke the daughter of Jove, and they obeyed her saying. Men
servants poured water over the hands of the guests, while pages filled
the mixing-bowls with wine and water, and handed it round after giving
every man his drink-offering; then they threw the tongues of the
victims into the fire, and stood up to make their drink-offerings.
When they had made their offerings and had drunk each as much as he
was minded, Minerva and Telemachus were forgoing on board their
ship, but Nestor caught them up at once and stayed them.
“Heaven and the immortal gods,” he exclaimed, “forbid that you
should leave my house to go on board of a ship. Do you think I am so
poor and short of clothes, or that I have so few cloaks and as to be
unable to find comfortable beds both for myself and for my guests? Let
me tell you I have store both of rugs and cloaks, and shall not permit
the son of my old friend Ulysses to camp down on the deck of a ship-
not while I live- nor yet will my sons after me, but they will keep
open house as have done.”
Then Minerva answered, “Sir, you have spoken well, and it will be
much better that Telemachus should do as you have said; he, therefore,
shall return with you and sleep at your house, but I must go back to
give orders to my crew, and keep them in good heart. I am the only
older person among them; the rest are all young men of Telemachus’ own
age, who have taken this voyage out of friendship; so I must return to
the ship and sleep there. Moreover to-morrow I must go to the
Cauconians where I have a large sum of money long owing to me. As
for Telemachus, now that he is your guest, send him to Lacedaemon in a
chariot, and let one of your sons go with him. Be pleased also to
provide him with your best and fleetest horses.”
When she had thus spoken, she flew away in the form of an eagle, and
all marvelled as they beheld it. Nestor was astonished, and took
Telemachus by the hand. “My friend,” said he, “I see that you are
going to be a great hero some day, since the gods wait upon you thus
while you are still so young. This can have been none other of those
who dwell in heaven than Jove’s redoubtable daughter, the
Trito-born, who showed such favour towards your brave father among the
Argives.” “Holy queen,” he continued, “vouchsafe to send down thy
grace upon myself, my good wife, and my children. In return, I will
offer you in sacrifice a broad-browed heifer of a year old,
unbroken, and never yet brought by man under the yoke. I will gild her
horns, and will offer her up to you in sacrifice.”
Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer. He then led the
way to his own house, followed by his sons and sons-in-law. When
they had got there and had taken their places on the benches and
seats, he mixed them a bowl of sweet wine that was eleven years old
when the housekeeper took the lid off the jar that held it. As he
mixed the wine, he prayed much and made drink-offerings to Minerva,
daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove. Then, when they had made their
drink-offerings and had drunk each as much as he was minded, the
others went home to bed each in his own abode; but Nestor put
Telemachus to sleep in the room that was over the gateway along with
Pisistratus, who was the only unmarried son now left him. As for
himself, he slept in an inner room of the house, with the queen his
wife by his side.
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Nestor left his couch and took his seat on the benches of white and
polished marble that stood in front of his house. Here aforetime sat
Neleus, peer of gods in counsel, but he was now dead, and had gone
to the house of Hades; so Nestor sat in his seat, sceptre in hand,
as guardian of the public weal. His sons as they left their rooms
gathered round him, Echephron, Stratius, Perseus, Aretus, and
Thrasymedes; the sixth son was Pisistratus, and when Telemachus joined
them they made him sit with them. Nestor then addressed them.
“My sons,” said he, “make haste to do as I shall bid you. I wish
first and foremost to propitiate the great goddess Minerva, who
manifested herself visibly to me during yesterday’s festivities. Go,
then, one or other of you to the plain, tell the stockman to look me
out a heifer, and come on here with it at once. Another must go to
Telemachus’s ship, and invite all the crew, leaving two men only in
charge of the vessel. Some one else will run and fetch Laerceus the
goldsmith to gild the horns of the heifer. The rest, stay all of you
where you are; tell the maids in the house to prepare an excellent
dinner, and to fetch seats, and logs of wood for a burnt offering.
Tell them also- to bring me some clear spring water.”
On this they hurried off on their several errands. The heifer was
brought in from the plain, and Telemachus’s crew came from the ship;
the goldsmith brought the anvil, hammer, and tongs, with which he
worked his gold, and Minerva herself came to the sacrifice. Nestor
gave out the gold, and the smith gilded the horns of the heifer that
the goddess might have pleasure in their beauty. Then Stratius and
Echephron brought her in by the horns; Aretus fetched water from the
house in a ewer that had a flower pattern on it, and in his other hand
he held a basket of barley meal; sturdy Thrasymedes stood by with a
sharp axe, ready to strike the heifer, while Perseus held a bucket.
Then Nestor began with washing his hands and sprinkling the barley
meal, and he offered many a prayer to Minerva as he threw a lock
from the heifer’s head upon the fire.
When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley meal
Thrasymedes dealt his blow, and brought the heifer down with a
stroke that cut through the tendons at the base of her neck, whereon
the daughters and daughters-in-law of Nestor, and his venerable wife
Eurydice (she was eldest daughter to Clymenus) screamed with
delight. Then they lifted the heifer’s head from off the ground, and
Pisistratus cut her throat. When she had done bleeding and was quite
dead, they cut her up. They cut out the thigh bones all in due course,
wrapped them round in two layers of fat, and set some pieces of raw
meat on the top of them; then Nestor laid them upon the wood fire
and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with
five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thighs were burned and
they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest of the meat up
small, put the pieces on the spits and toasted them over the fire.
Meanwhile lovely Polycaste, Nestor’s youngest daughter, washed
Telemachus. When she had washed him and anointed him with oil, she
brought him a fair mantle and shirt, and he looked like a god as he
came from the bath and took his seat by the side of Nestor. When the
outer meats were done they drew them off the spits and sat down to
dinner where they were waited upon by some worthy henchmen, who kept
pouring them out their wine in cups of gold. As soon as they had had
had enough to eat and drink Nestor said, “Sons, put Telemachus’s
horses to the chariot that he may start at once.”
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said, and yoked the
fleet horses to the chariot. The housekeeper packed them up a
provision of bread, wine, and sweetmeats fit for the sons of
princes. Then Telemachus got into the chariot, while Pisistratus
gathered up the reins and took his seat beside him. He lashed the
horses on and they flew forward nothing loth into the open country,
leaving the high citadel of Pylos behind them. All that day did they
travel, swaying the yoke upon their necks till the sun went down and
darkness was over all the land. Then they reached Pherae where Diocles
lived, who was son to Ortilochus and grandson to Alpheus. Here they
passed the night and Diocles entertained them hospitably. When the
child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn; appeared, they again yoked their
horses and drove out through the gateway under the echoing
gatehouse. Pisistratus lashed the horses on and they flew forward
nothing loth; presently they came to the corn lands Of the open
country, and in the course of time completed their journey, so well
did their steeds take them.
Now when the sun had set and darkness was over the land,

BOOK IV

THEY reached the low lying city of Lacedaemon them where they
drove straight to the of abode Menelaus [and found him in his own
house, feasting with his many clansmen in honour of the wedding of his
son, and also of his daughter, whom he was marrying to the son of that
valiant warrior Achilles. He had given his consent and promised her to
him while he was still at Troy, and now the gods were bringing the
marriage about; so he was sending her with chariots and horses to
the city of the Myrmidons over whom Achilles' son was reigning. For
his only son he had found a bride from Sparta, daughter of Alector.
This son, Megapenthes, was born to him of a bondwoman, for heaven
vouchsafed Helen no more children after she had borne Hermione, who
was fair as golden Venus herself.
So the neighbours and kinsmen of Menelaus were feasting and making
merry in his house. There was a bard also to sing to them and play his
lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of them
when the man struck up with his tune.]
Telemachus and the son of Nestor stayed their horses at the gate,
whereon Eteoneus servant to Menelaus came out, and as soon as he saw
them ran hurrying back into the house to tell his Master. He went
close up to him and said, “Menelaus, there are some strangers come
here, two men, who look like sons of Jove. What are we to do? Shall we
take their horses out, or tell them to find friends elsewhere as
they best can?”
Menelaus was very angry and said, “Eteoneus, son of Boethous, you
never used to be a fool, but now you talk like a simpleton. Take their
horses out, of course, and show the strangers in that they may have
supper; you and I have stayed often enough at other people’s houses
before we got back here, where heaven grant that we may rest in
peace henceforward.”
So Eteoneus bustled back and bade other servants come with him. They
took their sweating hands from under the yoke, made them fast to the
mangers, and gave them a feed of oats and barley mixed. Then they
leaned the chariot against the end wall of the courtyard, and led
the way into the house. Telemachus and Pisistratus were astonished
when they saw it, for its splendour was as that of the sun and moon;
then, when they had admired everything to their heart’s content,
they went into the bath room and washed themselves.
When the servants had washed them and anointed them with oil, they
brought them woollen cloaks and shirts, and the two took their seats
by the side of Menelaus. A maidservant brought them water in a
beautiful golden ewer, and poured it into a silver basin for them to
wash their hands; and she drew a clean table beside them. An upper
servant brought them bread, and offered them many good things of
what there was in the house, while the carver fetched them plates of
all manner of meats and set cups of gold by their side.
Menelaus then greeted them saying, “Fall to, and welcome; when you
have done supper I shall ask who you are, for the lineage of such
men as you cannot have been lost. You must be descended from a line of
sceptre-bearing kings, for poor people do not have such sons as you
are.”
On this he handed them a piece of fat roast loin, which had been set
near him as being a prime part, and they laid their hands on the
good things that were before them; as soon as they had had enough to
eat and drink, Telemachus said to the son of Nestor, with his head
so close that no one might hear, “Look, Pisistratus, man after my
own heart, see the gleam of bronze and gold- of amber, ivory, and
silver. Everything is so splendid that it is like seeing the palace of
Olympian Jove. I am lost in admiration.”
Menelaus overheard him and said, “No one, my sons, can hold his
own with Jove, for his house and everything about him is immortal; but
among mortal men- well, there may be another who has as much wealth as
I have, or there may not; but at all events I have travelled much
and have undergone much hardship, for it was nearly eight years before
I could get home with my fleet. I went to Cyprus, Phoenicia and the
Egyptians; I went also to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the
Erembians, and to Libya where the lambs have horns as soon as they are
born, and the sheep lamb down three times a year. Every one in that
country, whether master or man, has plenty of cheese, meat, and good
milk, for the ewes yield all the year round. But while I was
travelling and getting great riches among these people, my brother was
secretly and shockingly murdered through the perfidy of his wicked
wife, so that I have no pleasure in being lord of all this wealth.
Whoever your parents may be they must have told you about all this,
and of my heavy loss in the ruin of a stately mansion fully and
magnificently furnished. Would that I had only a third of what I now
have so that I had stayed at home, and all those were living who
perished on the plain of Troy, far from Argos. I of grieve, as I sit
here in my house, for one and all of them. At times I cry aloud for
sorrow, but presently I leave off again, for crying is cold comfort
and one soon tires of it. Yet grieve for these as I may, I do so for
one man more than for them all. I cannot even think of him without
loathing both food and sleep, so miserable does he make me, for no one
of all the Achaeans worked so hard or risked so much as he did. He
took nothing by it, and has left a legacy of sorrow to myself, for
he has been gone a long time, and we know not whether he is alive or
dead. His old father, his long-suffering wife Penelope, and his son
Telemachus, whom he left behind him an infant in arms, are plunged
in grief on his account.”
Thus spoke Menelaus, and the heart of Telemachus yearned as he
bethought him of his father. Tears fell from his eyes as he heard
him thus mentioned, so that he held his cloak before his face with
both hands. When Menelaus saw this he doubted whether to let him
choose his own time for speaking, or to ask him at once and find
what it was all about.
While he was thus in two minds Helen came down from her high vaulted
and perfumed room, looking as lovely as Diana herself. Adraste brought
her a seat, Alcippe a soft woollen rug while Phylo fetched her the
silver work-box which Alcandra wife of Polybus had given her.
Polybus lived in Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in the
whole world; he gave Menelaus two baths, both of pure silver, two
tripods, and ten talents of gold; besides all this, his wife gave
Helen some beautiful presents, to wit, a golden distaff, and a
silver work-box that ran on wheels, with a gold band round the top
of it. Phylo now placed this by her side, full of fine spun yarn,
and a distaff charged with violet coloured wool was laid upon the
top of it. Then Helen took her seat, put her feet upon the
footstool, and began to question her husband.
“Do we know, Menelaus,” said she, “the names of these strangers
who have come to visit us? Shall I guess right or wrong?-but I
cannot help saying what I think. Never yet have I seen either man or
woman so like somebody else (indeed when I look at him I hardly know
what to think) as this young man is like Telemachus, whom Ulysses left
as a baby behind him, when you Achaeans went to Troy with battle in
your hearts, on account of my most shameless self.”
“My dear wife,” replied Menelaus, “I see the likeness just as you
do. His hands and feet are just like Ulysses’; so is his hair, with
the shape of his head and the expression of his eyes. Moreover, when I
was talking about Ulysses, and saying how much he had suffered on my
account, tears fell from his eyes, and he hid his face in his mantle.”
Then Pisistratus said, “Menelaus, son of Atreus, you are right in
thinking that this young man is Telemachus, but he is very modest, and
is ashamed to come here and begin opening up discourse with one
whose conversation is so divinely interesting as your own. My
father, Nestor, sent me to escort him hither, for he wanted to know
whether you could give him any counsel or suggestion. A son has always
trouble at home when his father has gone away leaving him without
supporters; and this is how Telemachus is now placed, for his father
is absent, and there is no one among his own people to stand by him.”
“Bless my heart,” replied Menelaus, “then I am receiving a visit
from the son of a very dear friend, who suffered much hardship for
my sake. I had always hoped to entertain him with most marked
distinction when heaven had granted us a safe return from beyond the
seas. I should have founded a city for him in Argos, and built him a
house. I should have made him leave Ithaca with his goods, his son,
and all his people, and should have sacked for them some one of the
neighbouring cities that are subject to me. We should thus have seen
one another continually, and nothing but death could have
interrupted so close and happy an intercourse. I suppose, however,
that heaven grudged us such great good fortune, for it has prevented
the poor fellow from ever getting home at all.”
Thus did he speak, and his words set them all a weeping. Helen wept,
Telemachus wept, and so did Menelaus, nor could Pisistratus keep his
eyes from filling, when he remembered his dear brother Antilochus whom
the son of bright Dawn had killed. Thereon he said to Menelaus,
“Sir, my father Nestor, when we used to talk about you at home, told
me you were a person of rare and excellent understanding. If, then, it
be possible, do as I would urge you. I am not fond of crying while I
am getting my supper. Morning will come in due course, and in the
forenoon I care not how much I cry for those that are dead and gone.
This is all we can do for the poor things. We can only shave our heads
for them and wring the tears from our cheeks. I had a brother who died
at Troy; he was by no means the worst man there; you are sure to
have known him- his name was Antilochus; I never set eyes upon him
myself, but they say that he was singularly fleet of foot and in fight
valiant.”
“Your discretion, my friend,” answered Menelaus, “is beyond your
years. It is plain you take after your father. One can soon see when a
man is son to one whom heaven has blessed both as regards wife and
offspring- and it has blessed Nestor from first to last all his
days, giving him a green old age in his own house, with sons about him
who are both we disposed and valiant. We will put an end therefore
to all this weeping, and attend to our supper again. Let water be
poured over our hands. Telemachus and I can talk with one another
fully in the morning.”
On this Asphalion, one of the servants, poured water over their
hands and they laid their hands on the good things that were before
them.
Then Jove’s daughter Helen bethought her of another matter. She
drugged the wine with an herb that banishes all care, sorrow, and
ill humour. Whoever drinks wine thus drugged cannot shed a single tear
all the rest of the day, not even though his father and mother both of
them drop down dead, or he sees a brother or a son hewn in pieces
before his very eyes. This drug, of such sovereign power and virtue,
had been given to Helen by Polydamna wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt,
where there grow all sorts of herbs, some good to put into the
mixing-bowl and others poisonous. Moreover, every one in the whole
country is a skilled physician, for they are of the race of Paeeon.
When Helen had put this drug in the bowl, and had told the servants to
serve the wine round, she said:
“Menelaus, son of Atreus, and you my good friends, sons of
honourable men (which is as Jove wills, for he is the giver both of
good and evil, and can do what he chooses), feast here as you will,
and listen while I tell you a tale in season. I cannot indeed name
every single one of the exploits of Ulysses, but I can say what he did
when he was before Troy, and you Achaeans were in all sorts of
difficulties. He covered himself with wounds and bruises, dressed
himself all in rags, and entered the enemy’s city looking like a
menial or a beggar. and quite different from what he did when he was
among his own people. In this disguise he entered the city of Troy,
and no one said anything to him. I alone recognized him and began to
question him, but he was too cunning for me. When, however, I had
washed and anointed him and had given him clothes, and after I had
sworn a solemn oath not to betray him to the Trojans till he had got
safely back to his own camp and to the ships, he told me all that
the Achaeans meant to do. He killed many Trojans and got much
information before he reached the Argive camp, for all which things
the Trojan women made lamentation, but for my own part I was glad, for
my heart was beginning to oam after my home, and I was unhappy about
wrong that Venus had done me in taking me over there, away from my
country, my girl, and my lawful wedded husband, who is indeed by no
means deficient either in person or understanding.”
Then Menelaus said, “All that you have been saying, my dear wife, is
true. I have travelled much, and have had much to do with heroes,
but I have never seen such another man as Ulysses. What endurance too,
and what courage he displayed within the wooden horse, wherein all the
bravest of the Argives were lying in wait to bring death and
destruction upon the Trojans. At that moment you came up to us; some
god who wished well to the Trojans must have set you on to it and
you had Deiphobus with you. Three times did you go all round our
hiding place and pat it; you called our chiefs each by his own name,
and mimicked all our wives -Diomed, Ulysses, and I from our seats
inside heard what a noise you made. Diomed and I could not make up our
minds whether to spring out then and there, or to answer you from
inside, but Ulysses held us all in check, so we sat quite still, all
except Anticlus, who was beginning to answer you, when Ulysses clapped
his two brawny hands over his mouth, and kept them there. It was
this that saved us all, for he muzzled Anticlus till Minerva took
you away again.”
“How sad,” exclaimed Telemachus, “that all this was of no avail to
save him, nor yet his own iron courage. But now, sir, be pleased to
send us all to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy the blessed boon of
sleep.”
On this Helen told the maid servants to set beds in the room that
was in the gatehouse, and to make them with good red rugs, and
spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for the guests
to wear. So the maids went out, carrying a torch, and made the beds,
to which a man-servant presently conducted the strangers. Thus,
then, did Telemachus and Pisistratus sleep there in the forecourt,
while the son of Atreus lay in an inner room with lovely Helen by
his side.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Menelaus
rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely
feet, girded his sword about his shoulders, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. Then, taking a seat near Telemachus he
said:
“And what, Telemachus, has led you to take this long sea voyage to
Lacedaemon? Are you on public or private business? Tell me all about
it.”
“I have come, sir replied Telemachus, “to see if you can tell me
anything about my father. I am being eaten out of house and home; my
fair estate is being wasted, and my house is full of miscreants who
keep killing great numbers of my sheep and oxen, on the pretence of
paying their addresses to my mother. Therefore, I am suppliant at your
knees if haply you may tell me about my father’s melancholy end,
whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other
traveller; for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things
out of any pity for myself, but tell me in all plainness exactly
what you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service
either by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed by the
Trojans, bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all.”
Menelaus on hearing this was very much shocked. “So,” he
exclaimed, “these cowards would usurp a brave man’s bed? A hind
might as well lay her new born young in the lair of a lion, and then
go off to feed in the forest or in some grassy dell: the lion when
he comes back to his lair will make short work with the pair of
them- and so will Ulysses with these suitors. By father Jove, Minerva,
and Apollo, if Ulysses is still the man that he was when he wrestled
with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and threw him so heavily that all the
Achaeans cheered him- if he is still such and were to come near
these suitors, they would have a short shrift and a sorry wedding.
As regards your questions, however, I will not prevaricate nor deceive
you, but will tell you without concealment all that the old man of the
sea told me.
“I was trying to come on here, but the gods detained me in Egypt,
for my hecatombs had not given them full satisfaction, and the gods
are very strict about having their dues. Now off Egypt, about as far
as a ship can sail in a day with a good stiff breeze behind her, there
is an island called Pharos- it has a good harbour from which vessels
can get out into open sea when they have taken in water- and the
gods becalmed me twenty days without so much as a breath of fair
wind to help me forward. We should have run clean out of provisions
and my men would have starved, if a goddess had not taken pity upon me
and saved me in the person of Idothea, daughter to Proteus, the old
man of the sea, for she had taken a great fancy to me.
“She came to me one day when I was by myself, as I often was, for
the men used to go with their barbed hooks, all over the island in the
hope of catching a fish or two to save them from the pangs of
hunger. ‘Stranger,’ said she, ‘it seems to me that you like starving
in this way- at any rate it does not greatly trouble you, for you
stick here day after day, without even trying to get away though
your men are dying by inches.’
“‘Let me tell you,’ said I, ‘whichever of the goddesses you may
happen to be, that I am not staying here of my own accord, but must
have offended the gods that live in heaven. Tell me, therefore, for
the gods know everything. which of the immortals it is that is
hindering me in this way, and tell me also how I may sail the sea so
as to reach my home.’
“‘Stranger,’ replied she, ‘I will make it all quite clear to you.
There is an old immortal who lives under the sea hereabouts and
whose name is Proteus. He is an Egyptian, and people say he is my
father; he is Neptune’s head man and knows every inch of ground all
over the bottom of the sea. If you can snare him and hold him tight,
he will tell you about your voyage, what courses you are to take,
and how you are to sail the sea so as to reach your home. He will also
tell you, if you so will, all that has been going on at your house
both good and bad, while you have been away on your long and dangerous
journey.’
“‘Can you show me,’ said I, ‘some stratagem by means of which I
may catch this old god without his suspecting it and finding me out?
For a god is not easily caught- not by a mortal man.’
“‘Stranger,’ said she, ‘I will make it all quite clear to you. About
the time when the sun shall have reached mid heaven, the old man of
the sea comes up from under the waves, heralded by the West wind
that furs the water over his head. As soon as he has come up he lies
down, and goes to sleep in a great sea cave, where the seals-
Halosydne’s chickens as they call them- come up also from the grey
sea, and go to sleep in shoals all round him; and a very strong and
fish-like smell do they bring with them. Early to-morrow morning I
will take you to this place and will lay you in ambush. Pick out,
therefore, the three best men you have in your fleet, and I will
tell you all the tricks that the old man will play you.
“‘First he will look over all his seals, and count them; then,
when he has seen them and tallied them on his five fingers, he will go
to sleep among them, as a shepherd among his sheep. The moment you see
that he is asleep seize him; put forth all your strength and hold
him fast, for he will do his very utmost to get away from you. He will
turn himself into every kind of creature that goes upon the earth, and
will become also both fire and water; but you must hold him fast and
grip him tighter and tighter, till he begins to talk to you and
comes back to what he was when you saw him go to sleep; then you may
slacken your hold and let him go; and you can ask him which of the
gods it is that is angry with you, and what you must do to reach
your home over the seas.’
“Having so said she dived under the waves, whereon I turned back
to the place where my ships were ranged upon the shore; and my heart
was clouded with care as I went along. When I reached my ship we got
supper ready, for night was falling, and camped down upon the beach.
“When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I took the
three men on whose prowess of all kinds I could most rely, and went
along by the sea-side, praying heartily to heaven. Meanwhile the
goddess fetched me up four seal skins from the bottom of the sea,
all of them just skinned, for she meant playing a trick upon her
father. Then she dug four pits for us to lie in, and sat down to
wait till we should come up. When we were close to her, she made us
lie down in the pits one after the other, and threw a seal skin over
each of us. Our ambuscade would have been intolerable, for the
stench of the fishy seals was most distressing- who would go to bed
with a sea monster if he could help it?-but here, too, the goddess
helped us, and thought of something that gave us great relief, for she
put some ambrosia under each man’s nostrils, which was so fragrant
that it killed the smell of the seals.
“We waited the whole morning and made the best of it, watching the
seals come up in hundreds to bask upon the sea shore, till at noon the
old man of the sea came up too, and when he had found his fat seals he
went over them and counted them. We were among the first he counted,
and he never suspected any guile, but laid himself down to sleep as
soon as he had done counting. Then we rushed upon him with a shout and
seized him; on which he began at once with his old tricks, and changed
himself first into a lion with a great mane; then all of a sudden he
became a dragon, a leopard, a wild boar; the next moment he was
running water, and then again directly he was a tree, but we stuck
to him and never lost hold, till at last the cunning old creature
became distressed, and said, Which of the gods was it, Son of
Atreus, that hatched this plot with you for snaring me and seizing
me against my will? What do you want?’
“‘You know that yourself, old man,’ I answered, ‘you will gain
nothing by trying to put me off. It is because I have been kept so
long in this island, and see no sign of my being able to get away. I
am losing all heart; tell me, then, for you gods know everything,
which of the immortals it is that is hindering me, and tell me also
how I may sail the sea so as to reach my home?’
“Then,’ he said, ‘if you would finish your voyage and get home
quickly, you must offer sacrifices to Jove and to the rest of the gods
before embarking; for it is decreed that you shall not get back to
your friends, and to your own house, till you have returned to the
heaven fed stream of Egypt, and offered holy hecatombs to the immortal
gods that reign in heaven. When you have done this they will let you
finish your voyage.’
“I was broken hearted when I heard that I must go back all that long
and terrible voyage to Egypt; nevertheless, I answered, ‘I will do
all, old man, that you have laid upon me; but now tell me, and tell me
true, whether all the Achaeans whom Nestor and I left behind us when
we set sail from Troy have got home safely, or whether any one of them
came to a bad end either on board his own ship or among his friends
when the days of his fighting were done.’
“‘Son of Atreus,’ he answered, ‘why ask me? You had better not
know what I can tell you, for your eyes will surely fill when you have
heard my story. Many of those about whom you ask are dead and gone,
but many still remain, and only two of the chief men among the
Achaeans perished during their return home. As for what happened on
the field of battle- you were there yourself. A third Achaean leader
is still at sea, alive, but hindered from returning. Ajax was wrecked,
for Neptune drove him on to the great rocks of Gyrae; nevertheless, he
let him get safe out of the water, and in spite of all Minerva’s
hatred he would have escaped death, if he had not ruined himself by
boasting. He said the gods could not drown him even though they had
tried to do so, and when Neptune heard this large talk, he seized
his trident in his two brawny hands, and split the rock of Gyrae in
two pieces. The base remained where it was, but the part on which Ajax
was sitting fell headlong into the sea and carried Ajax with it; so he
drank salt water and was drowned.
“‘Your brother and his ships escaped, for Juno protected him, but
when he was just about to reach the high promontory of Malea, he was
caught by a heavy gale which carried him out to sea again sorely
against his will, and drove him to the foreland where Thyestes used to
dwell, but where Aegisthus was then living. By and by, however, it
seemed as though he was to return safely after all, for the gods
backed the wind into its old quarter and they reached home; whereon
Agamemnon kissed his native soil, and shed tears of joy at finding
himself in his own country.
“‘Now there was a watchman whom Aegisthus kept always on the
watch, and to whom he had promised two talents of gold. This man had
been looking out for a whole year to make sure that Agamemnon did
not give him the slip and prepare war; when, therefore, this man saw
Agamemnon go by, he went and told Aegisthus who at once began to lay a
plot for him. He picked twenty of his bravest warriors and placed them
in ambuscade on one side the cloister, while on the opposite side he
prepared a banquet. Then he sent his chariots and horsemen to
Agamemnon, and invited him to the feast, but he meant foul play. He
got him there, all unsuspicious of the doom that was awaiting him, and
killed him when the banquet was over as though he were butchering an
ox in the shambles; not one of Agamemnon’s followers was left alive,
nor yet one of Aegisthus’, but they were all killed there in the
cloisters.’
“Thus spoke Proteus, and I was broken hearted as I heard him. I
sat down upon the sands and wept; I felt as though I could no longer
bear to live nor look upon the light of the sun. Presently, when I had
had my fill of weeping and writhing upon the ground, the old man of
the sea said, ‘Son of Atreus, do not waste any more time in crying
so bitterly; it can do no manner of good; find your way home as fast
as ever you can, for Aegisthus be still alive, and even though Orestes
has beforehand with you in kilting him, you may yet come in for his
funeral.’
“On this I took comfort in spite of all my sorrow, and said, ‘I
know, then, about these two; tell me, therefore, about the third man
of whom you spoke; is he still alive, but at sea, and unable to get
home? or is he dead? Tell me, no matter how much it may grieve me.’
“‘The third man,’ he answered, ‘is Ulysses who dwells in Ithaca. I
can see him in an island sorrowing bitterly in the house of the
nymph Calypso, who is keeping him prisoner, and he cannot reach his
home for he has no ships nor sailors to take him over the sea. As
for your own end, Menelaus, you shall not die in Argos, but the gods
will take you to the Elysian plain, which is at the ends of the world.
There fair-haired Rhadamanthus reigns, and men lead an easier life
than any where else in the world, for in Elysium there falls not rain,
nor hail, nor snow, but Oceanus breathes ever with a West wind that
sings softly from the sea, and gives fresh life to all men. This
will happen to you because you have married Helen, and are Jove’s
son-in-law.’
“As he spoke he dived under the waves, whereon I turned back to
the ships with my companions, and my heart was clouded with care as
I went along. When we reached the ships we got supper ready, for night
was falling, and camped down upon the beach. When the child of
morning, rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we drew our ships into the
water, and put our masts and sails within them; then we went on
board ourselves, took our seats on the benches, and smote the grey sea
with our oars. I again stationed my ships in the heaven-fed stream
of Egypt, and offered hecatombs that were full and sufficient. When
I had thus appeased heaven’s anger, I raised a barrow to the memory of
Agamemnon that his name might live for ever, after which I had a quick
passage home, for the gods sent me a fair wind.
“And now for yourself- stay here some ten or twelve days longer, and
I will then speed you on your way. I will make you a noble present
of a chariot and three horses. I will also give you a beautiful
chalice that so long as you live you may think of me whenever you make
a drink-offering to the immortal gods.”
“Son of Atreus,” replied Telemachus, “do not press me to stay
longer; I should be contented to remain with you for another twelve
months; I find your conversation so delightful that I should never
once wish myself at home with my parents; but my crew whom I have left
at Pylos are already impatient, and you are detaining me from them. As
for any present you may be disposed to make me, I had rather that it
should he a piece of plate. I will take no horses back with me to
Ithaca, but will leave them to adorn your own stables, for you have
much flat ground in your kingdom where lotus thrives, as also
meadowsweet and wheat and barley, and oats with their white and
spreading ears; whereas in Ithaca we have neither open fields nor
racecourses, and the country is more fit for goats than horses, and
I like it the better for that. None of our islands have much level
ground, suitable for horses, and Ithaca least of all.”
Menelaus smiled and took Telemachus’s hand within his own. “What you
say,” said he, “shows that you come of good family. I both can, and
will, make this exchange for you, by giving you the finest and most
precious piece of plate in all my house. It is a mixing-bowl by
Vulcan’s own hand, of pure silver, except the rim, which is inlaid
with gold. Phaedimus, king of the Sidonians, gave it me in the
course of a visit which I paid him when I returned thither on my
homeward journey. I will make you a present of it.”
Thus did they converse [and guests kept coming to the king's
house. They brought sheep and wine, while their wives had put up bread
for them to take with them; so they were busy cooking their dinners in
the courts].
Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs or aiming with spears at a
mark on the levelled ground in front of Ulysses’ house, and were
behaving with all their old insolence. Antinous and Eurymachus, who
were their ringleaders and much the foremost among them all, were
sitting together when Noemon son of Phronius came up and said to
Antinous,
“Have we any idea, Antinous, on what day Telemachus returns from
Pylos? He has a ship of mine, and I want it, to cross over to Elis:
I have twelve brood mares there with yearling mule foals by their side
not yet broken in, and I want to bring one of them over here and break
him.”
They were astounded when they heard this, for they had made sure
that Telemachus had not gone to the city of Neleus. They thought he
was only away somewhere on the farms, and was with the sheep, or
with the swineherd; so Antinous said, “When did he go? Tell me
truly, and what young men did he take with him? Were they freemen or
his own bondsmen- for he might manage that too? Tell me also, did
you let him have the ship of your own free will because he asked
you, or did he take it without yourleave?”
“I lent it him,” answered Noemon, “what else could I do when a man
of his position said he was in a difficulty, and asked me to oblige
him? I could not possibly refuse. As for those who went with him
they were the best young men we have, and I saw Mentor go on board
as captain- or some god who was exactly like him. I cannot
understand it, for I saw Mentor here myself yesterday morning, and yet
he was then setting out for Pylos.”
Noemon then went back to his father’s house, but Antinous and
Eurymachus were very angry. They told the others to leave off playing,
and to come and sit down along with themselves. When they came,
Antinous son of Eupeithes spoke in anger. His heart was black with
rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he said:
“Good heavens, this voyage of Telemachus is a very serious matter;
we had made sure that it would come to nothing, but the young fellow
has got away in spite of us, and with a picked crew too. He will be
giving us trouble presently; may Jove take him before he is full
grown. Find me a ship, therefore, with a crew of twenty men, and I
will lie in wait for him in the straits between Ithaca and Samos; he
will then rue the day that he set out to try and get news of his
father.”
Thus did he speak, and the others applauded his saying; they then
all of them went inside the buildings.
It was not long ere Penelope came to know what the suitors were
plotting; for a man servant, Medon, overheard them from outside the
outer court as they were laying their schemes within, and went to tell
his mistress. As he crossed the threshold of her room Penelope said:
“Medon, what have the suitors sent you here for? Is it to tell the
maids to leave their master’s business and cook dinner for them? I
wish they may neither woo nor dine henceforward, neither here nor
anywhere else, but let this be the very last time, for the waste you
all make of my son’s estate. Did not your fathers tell you when you
were children how good Ulysses had been to them- never doing
anything high-handed, nor speaking harshly to anybody? Kings may say
things sometimes, and they may take a fancy to one man and dislike
another, but Ulysses never did an unjust thing by anybody- which shows
what bad hearts you have, and that there is no such thing as gratitude
left in this world.”
Then Medon said, “I wish, Madam, that this were all; but they are
plotting something much more dreadful now- may heaven frustrate
their design. They are going to try and murder Telemachus as he is
coming home from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to get news
of his father.”
Then Penelope’s heart sank within her, and for a long time she was
speechless; her eyes filled with tears, and she could find no
utterance. At last, however, she said, “Why did my son leave me?
What business had he to go sailing off in ships that make long voyages
over the ocean like sea-horses? Does he want to die without leaving
any one behind him to keep up his name?”
“I do not know,” answered Medon, “whether some god set him on to it,
or whether he went on his own impulse to see if he could find out if
his father was dead, or alive and on his way home.”
Then he went downstairs again, leaving Penelope in an agony of
grief. There were plenty of seats in the house, but she. had no
heart for sitting on any one of them; she could only fling herself
on the floor of her own room and cry; whereon all the maids in the
house, both old and young, gathered round her and began to cry too,
till at last in a transport of sorrow she exclaimed,
“My dears, heaven has been pleased to try me with more affliction
than any other woman of my age and country. First I lost my brave
and lion-hearted husband, who had every good quality under heaven, and
whose name was great over all Hellas and middle Argos, and now my
darling son is at the mercy of the winds and waves, without my
having heard one word about his leaving home. You hussies, there was
not one of you would so much as think of giving me a call out of my
bed, though you all of you very well knew when he was starting. If I
had known he meant taking this voyage, he would have had to give it
up, no matter how much he was bent upon it, or leave me a corpse
behind him- one or other. Now, however, go some of you and call old
Dolius, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and who is my
gardener. Bid him go at once and tell everything to Laertes, who may
be able to hit on some plan for enlisting public sympathy on our side,
as against those who are trying to exterminate his own race and that
of Ulysses.”
Then the dear old nurse Euryclea said, “You may kill me, Madam, or
let me live on in your house, whichever you please, but I will tell
you the real truth. I knew all about it, and gave him everything he
wanted in the way of bread and wine, but he made me take my solemn
oath that I would not tell you anything for some ten or twelve days,
unless you asked or happened to hear of his having gone, for he did
not want you to spoil your beauty by crying. And now, Madam, wash your
face, change your dress, and go upstairs with your maids to offer
prayers to Minerva, daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, for she can save
him even though he be in the jaws of death. Do not trouble Laertes: he
has trouble enough already. Besides, I cannot think that the gods hate
die race of the race of the son of Arceisius so much, but there will
be a son left to come up after him, and inherit both the house and the
fair fields that lie far all round it.”
With these words she made her mistress leave off crying, and dried
the tears from her eyes. Penelope washed her face, changed her
dress, and went upstairs with her maids. She then put some bruised
barley into a basket and began praying to Minerva.
“Hear me,” she cried, “Daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove,
unweariable. If ever Ulysses while he was here burned you fat thigh
bones of sheep or heifer, bear it in mind now as in my favour, and
save my darling son from the villainy of the suitors.”
She cried aloud as she spoke, and the goddess heard her prayer;
meanwhile the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered
cloister, and one of them said:
“The queen is preparing for her marriage with one or other of us.
Little does she dream that her son has now been doomed to die.”
This was what they said, but they did not know what was going to
happen. Then Antinous said, “Comrades, let there be no loud talking,
lest some of it get carried inside. Let us be up and do that in
silence, about which we are all of a mind.”
He then chose twenty men, and they went down to their. ship and to
the sea side; they drew the vessel into the water and got her mast and
sails inside her; they bound the oars to the thole-pins with twisted
thongs of leather, all in due course, and spread the white sails
aloft, while their fine servants brought them their armour. Then
they made the ship fast a little way out, came on shore again, got
their suppers, and waited till night should fall.
But Penelope lay in her own room upstairs unable to eat or drink,
and wondering whether her brave son would escape, or be overpowered by
the wicked suitors. Like a lioness caught in the toils with huntsmen
hemming her in on every side she thought and thought till she sank
into a slumber, and lay on her bed bereft of thought and motion.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter, and made a vision in
the likeness of Penelope’s sister Iphthime daughter of Icarius who had
married Eumelus and lived in Pherae. She told the vision to go to
the house of Ulysses, and to make Penelope leave off crying, so it
came into her room by the hole through which the thong went for
pulling the door to, and hovered over her head, saying,
“You are asleep, Penelope: the gods who live at ease will not suffer
you to weep and be so sad. Your son has done them no wrong, so he will
yet come back to you.”
Penelope, who was sleeping sweetly at the gates of dreamland,
answered, “Sister, why have you come here? You do not come very often,
but I suppose that is because you live such a long way off. Am I,
then, to leave off crying and refrain from all the sad thoughts that
torture me? I, who have lost my brave and lion-hearted husband, who
had every good quality under heaven, and whose name was great over all
Hellas and middle Argos; and now my darling son has gone off on
board of a ship- a foolish fellow who has never been used to
roughing it, nor to going about among gatherings of men. I am even
more anxious about him than about my husband; I am all in a tremble
when I think of him, lest something should happen to him, either
from the people among whom he has gone, or by sea, for he has many
enemies who are plotting against him, and are bent on killing him
before he can return home.”
Then the vision said, “Take heart, and be not so much dismayed.
There is one gone with him whom many a man would be glad enough to
have stand by his side, I mean Minerva; it is she who has compassion
upon you, and who has sent me to bear you this message.”
“Then,” said Penelope, “if you are a god or have been sent here by
divine commission, tell me also about that other unhappy one- is he
still alive, or is he already dead and in the house of Hades?”
And the vision said, “I shall not tell you for certain whether he is
alive or dead, and there is no use in idle conversation.”
Then it vanished through the thong-hole of the door and was
dissipated into thin air; but Penelope rose from her sleep refreshed
and comforted, so vivid had been her dream.
Meantime the suitors went on board and sailed their ways over the
sea, intent on murdering Telemachus. Now there is a rocky islet called
Asteris, of no great size, in mid channel between Ithaca and Samos,
and there is a harbour on either side of it where a ship can lie. Here
then the Achaeans placed themselves in ambush.

BOOK V

AND NOW, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus- harbinger of
light alike to mortals and immortals- the gods met in council and with
them, Jove the lord of thunder, who is their king. Thereon Minerva
began to tell them of the many sufferings of Ulysses, for she pitied
him away there in the house of the nymph Calypso.
“Father Jove,” said she, “and all you other gods that live in
everlasting bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a kind
and well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern equitably. I
hope they will be all henceforth cruel and unjust, for there is not
one of his subjects but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled them as
though he were their father. There he is, lying in great pain in an
island where dwells the nymph Calypso, who will not let him go; and he
cannot get back to his own country, for he can find neither ships
nor sailors to take him over the sea. Furthermore, wicked people are
now trying to murder his only son Telemachus, who is coming home
from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to see if he can get news
of his father.”
“What, my dear, are you talking about?” replied her father, “did you
not send him there yourself, because you thought it would help Ulysses
to get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you are perfectly able to
protect Telemachus, and to see him safely home again, while the
suitors have to come hurry-skurrying back without having killed him.”
When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Mercury, “Mercury, you
are our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have decreed
that poor Ulysses is to return home. He is to be convoyed neither by
gods nor men, but after a perilous voyage of twenty days upon a raft
he is to reach fertile Scheria, the land of the Phaeacians, who are
near of kin to the gods, and will honour him as though he were one
of ourselves. They will send him in a ship to his own country, and
will give him more bronze and gold and raiment than he would have
brought back from Troy, if he had had had all his prize money and
had got home without disaster. This is how we have settled that he
shall return to his country and his friends.”
Thus he spoke, and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus, did
as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden sandals
with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea. He took the
wand with which he seals men’s eyes in sleep or wakes them just as
he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand over Pieria; then he
swooped down through the firmament till he reached the level of the
sea, whose waves he skimmed like a cormorant that flies fishing
every hole and corner of the ocean, and drenching its thick plumage in
the spray. He flew and flew over many a weary wave, but when at last
he got to the island which was his journey’s end, he left the sea
and went on by land till he came to the cave where the nymph Calypso
lived.
He found her at home. There was a large fire burning on the
hearth, and one could smell from far the fragrant reek of burning
cedar and sandal wood. As for herself, she was busy at her loom,
shooting her golden shuttle through the warp and singing
beautifully. Round her cave there was a thick wood of alder, poplar,
and sweet smelling cypress trees, wherein all kinds of great birds had
built their nests- owls, hawks, and chattering sea-crows that occupy
their business in the waters. A vine loaded with grapes was trained
and grew luxuriantly about the mouth of the cave; there were also four
running rills of water in channels cut pretty close together, and
turned hither and thither so as to irrigate the beds of violets and
luscious herbage over which they flowed. Even a god could not help
being charmed with such a lovely spot, so Mercury stood still and
looked at it; but when he had admired it sufficiently he went inside
the cave.
Calypso knew him at once- for the gods all know each other, no
matter how far they live from one another- but Ulysses was not within;
he was on the sea-shore as usual, looking out upon the barren ocean
with tears in his eyes, groaning and breaking his heart for sorrow.
Calypso gave Mercury a seat and said: “Why have you come to see me,
Mercury- honoured, and ever welcome- for you do not visit me often?
Say what you want; I will do it for be you at once if I can, and if it
can be done at all; but come inside, and let me set refreshment before
you.
As she spoke she drew a table loaded with ambrosia beside him and
mixed him some red nectar, so Mercury ate and drank till he had had
enough, and then said:
“We are speaking god and goddess to one another, one another, and
you ask me why I have come here, and I will tell you truly as you
would have me do. Jove sent me; it was no doing of mine; who could
possibly want to come all this way over the sea where there are no
cities full of people to offer me sacrifices or choice hecatombs?
Nevertheless I had to come, for none of us other gods can cross
Jove, nor transgress his orders. He says that you have here the most
ill-starred of alf those who fought nine years before the city of King
Priam and sailed home in the tenth year after having sacked it. On
their way home they sinned against Minerva, who raised both wind and
waves against them, so that all his brave companions perished, and
he alone was carried hither by wind and tide. Jove says that you are
to let this by man go at once, for it is decreed that he shall not
perish here, far from his own people, but shall return to his house
and country and see his friends again.”
Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, “You gods,” she
exclaimed, to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous and
hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with
him in open matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to
Orion, you precious gods were all of you furious till Diana went and
killed him in Ortygia. So again when Ceres fell in love with Iasion,
and yielded to him in a thrice ploughed fallow field, Jove came to
hear of it before so long and killed Iasion with his thunder-bolts.
And now you are angry with me too because I have a man here. I found
the poor creature sitting all alone astride of a keel, for Jove had
struck his ship with lightning and sunk it in mid ocean, so that all
his crew were drowned, while he himself was driven by wind and waves
on to my island. I got fond of him and cherished him, and had set my
heart on making him immortal, so that he should never grow old all his
days; still I cannot cross Jove, nor bring his counsels to nothing;
therefore, if he insists upon it, let the man go beyond the seas
again; but I cannot send him anywhere myself for I have neither
ships nor men who can take him. Nevertheless I will readily give him
such advice, in all good faith, as will be likely to bring him
safely to his own country.”
“Then send him away,” said Mercury, “or Jove will be angry with
you and punish you”‘
On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for Ulysses,
for she had heard Jove’s message. She found him sitting upon the beach
with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer
home-sickness; for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was
forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he,
that would have it so. As for the day time, he spent it on the rocks
and on the sea-shore, weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and
always looking out upon the sea. Calypso then went close up to him
said:
“My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting
your life out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own free
will; so go, cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a large raft
with an upper deck that it may carry you safely over the sea. I will
put bread, wine, and water on board to save you from starving. I
will also give you clothes, and will send you a fair wind to take
you home, if the gods in heaven so will it- for they know more about
these things, and can settle them better than I can.”
Ulysses shuddered as he heard her. “Now goddess,” he answered,
“there is something behind all this; you cannot be really meaning to
help me home when you bid me do such a dreadful thing as put to sea on
a raft. Not even a well-found ship with a fair wind could venture on
such a distant voyage: nothing that you can say or do shall mage me go
on board a raft unless you first solemnly swear that you mean me no
mischief.”
Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: “You know a
great deal,” said she, “but you are quite wrong here. May heaven above
and earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx-
and this is the most solemn oath which a blessed god can take- that
I mean you no sort of harm, and am only advising you to do exactly
what I should do myself in your place. I am dealing with you quite
straightforwardly; my heart is not made of iron, and I am very sorry
for you.”
When she had thus spoken she led the way rapidly before him, and
Ulysses followed in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man, went on
and on till they came to Calypso’s cave, where Ulysses took the seat
that Mercury had just left. Calypso set meat and drink before him of
the food that mortals eat; but her maids brought ambrosia and nectar
for herself, and they laid their hands on the good things that were
before them. When they had satisfied themselves with meat and drink,
Calypso spoke, saying:
“Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your
own land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only know
how much suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own
country, you would stay where you are, keep house along with me, and
let me make you immortal, no matter how anxious you may be to see this
wife of yours, of whom you are thinking all the time day after day;
yet I flatter myself that at am no whit less tall or well-looking than
she is, for it is not to be expected that a mortal woman should
compare in beauty with an immortal.”
“Goddess,” replied Ulysses, “do not be angry with me about this. I
am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall or so
beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an
immortal. Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing
else. If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I will bear it and
make the best of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and
sea already, so let this go with the rest.”
Presently the sun set and it became dark, whereon the pair retired
into the inner part of the cave and went to bed.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Ulysses put
on his shirt and cloak, while the goddess wore a dress of a light
gossamer fabric, very fine and graceful, with a beautiful golden
girdle about her waist and a veil to cover her head. She at once set
herself to think how she could speed Ulysses on his way. So she gave
him a great bronze axe that suited his hands; it was sharpened on both
sides, and had a beautiful olive-wood handle fitted firmly on to it.
She also gave him a sharp adze, and then led the way to the far end of
the island where the largest trees grew- alder, poplar and pine,
that reached the sky- very dry and well seasoned, so as to sail
light for him in the water. Then, when she had shown him where the
best trees grew, Calypso went home, leaving him to cut them, which
he soon finished doing. He cut down twenty trees in all and adzed them
smooth, squaring them by rule in good workmanlike fashion. Meanwhile
Calypso came back with some augers, so he bored holes with them and
fitted the timbers together with bolts and rivets. He made the raft as
broad as a skilled shipwright makes the beam of a large vessel, and he
filed a deck on top of the ribs, and ran a gunwale all round it. He
also made a mast with a yard arm, and a rudder to steer with. He
fenced the raft all round with wicker hurdles as a protection
against the waves, and then he threw on a quantity of wood. By and
by Calypso brought him some linen to make the sails, and he made these
too, excellently, making them fast with braces and sheets. Last of
all, with the help of levers, he drew the raft down into the water.
In four days he had completed the whole work, and on the fifth
Calypso sent him from the island after washing him and giving him some
clean clothes. She gave him a goat skin full of black wine, and
another larger one of water; she also gave him a wallet full of
provisions, and found him in much good meat. Moreover, she made the
wind fair and warm for him, and gladly did Ulysses spread his sail
before it, while he sat and guided the raft skilfully by means of
the rudder. He never closed his eyes, but kept them fixed on the
Pleiads, on late-setting Bootes, and on the Bear- which men also
call the wain, and which turns round and round where it is, facing
Orion, and alone never dipping into the stream of Oceanus- for Calypso
had told him to keep this to his left. Days seven and ten did he
sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth the dim outlines of the
mountains on the nearest part of the Phaeacian coast appeared,
rising like a shield on the horizon.
But King Neptune, who was returning from the Ethiopians, caught
sight of Ulysses a long way off, from the mountains of the Solymi.
He could see him sailing upon the sea, and it made him very angry,
so he wagged his head and muttered to himself, saying, heavens, so the
gods have been changing their minds about Ulysses while I was away
in Ethiopia, and now he is close to the land of the Phaeacians,
where it is decreed that he shall escape from the calamities that have
befallen him. Still, he shall have plenty of hardship yet before he
has done with it.”
Thereon he gathered his clouds together, grasped his trident,
stirred it round in the sea, and roused the rage of every wind that
blows till earth, sea, and sky were hidden in cloud, and night
sprang forth out of the heavens. Winds from East, South, North, and
West fell upon him all at the same time, and a tremendous sea got
up, so that Ulysses’ heart began to fail him. “Alas,” he said to
himself in his dismay, “what ever will become of me? I am afraid
Calypso was right when she said I should have trouble by sea before
I got back home. It is all coming true. How black is Jove making
heaven with his clouds, and what a sea the winds are raising from
every quarter at once. I am now safe to perish. Blest and thrice blest
were those Danaans who fell before Troy in the cause of the sons of
Atreus. Would that had been killed on the day when the Trojans were
pressing me so sorely about the dead body of Achilles, for then I
should have had due burial and the Achaeans would have honoured my
name; but now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end.”
As he spoke a sea broke over him with such terrific fury that the
raft reeled again, and he was carried overboard a long way off. He let
go the helm, and the force of the hurricane was so great that it broke
the mast half way up, and both sail and yard went over into the sea.
For a long time Ulysses was under water, and it was all he could do to
rise to the surface again, for the clothes Calypso had given him
weighed him down; but at last he got his head above water and spat out
the bitter brine that was running down his face in streams. In spite
of all this, however, he did not lose sight of his raft, but swam as
fast as he could towards it, got hold of it, and climbed on board
again so as to escape drowning. The sea took the raft and tossed it
about as Autumn winds whirl thistledown round and round upon a road.
It was as though the South, North, East, and West winds were all
playing battledore and shuttlecock with it at once.
When he was in this plight, Ino daughter of Cadmus, also called
Leucothea, saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had
been since raised to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in what
great distress Ulysses now was, she had compassion upon him, and,
rising like a sea-gull from the waves, took her seat upon the raft.
“My poor good man,” said she, “why is Neptune so furiously angry
with you? He is giving you a great deal of trouble, but for all his
bluster he will not kill you. You seem to be a sensible person, do
then as I bid you; strip, leave your raft to drive before the wind,
and swim to the Phaecian coast where better luck awaits you. And here,
take my veil and put it round your chest; it is enchanted, and you can
come to no harm so long as you wear it. As soon as you touch land take
it off, throw it back as far as you can into the sea, and then go away
again.” With these words she took off her veil and gave it him. Then
she dived down again like a sea-gull and vanished beneath the dark
blue waters.
But Ulysses did not know what to think. “Alas,” he said to himself
in his dismay, “this is only some one or other of the gods who is
luring me to ruin by advising me to will quit my raft. At any rate I
will not do so at present, for the land where she said I should be
quit of all troubles seemed to be still a good way off. I know what
I will do- I am sure it will be best- no matter what happens I will
stick to the raft as long as her timbers hold together, but when the
sea breaks her up I will swim for it; I do not see how I can do any
better than this.”
While he was thus in two minds, Neptune sent a terrible great wave
that seemed to rear itself above his head till it broke right over the
raft, which then went to pieces as though it were a heap of dry
chaff tossed about by a whirlwind. Ulysses got astride of one plank
and rode upon it as if he were on horseback; he then took off the
clothes Calypso had given him, bound Ino’s veil under his arms, and
plunged into the sea- meaning to swim on shore. King Neptune watched
him as he did so, and wagged his head, muttering to himself and
saying, “‘There now, swim up and down as you best can till you fall in
with well-to-do people. I do not think you will be able to say that
I have let you off too lightly.” On this he lashed his horses and
drove to Aegae where his palace is.
But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of all
the winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she roused
a good stiff breeze from the North that should lay the waters till
Ulysses reached the land of the Phaeacians where he would be safe.
Thereon he floated about for two nights and two days in the water,
with a heavy swell on the sea and death staring him in the face; but
when the third day broke, the wind fell and there was a dead calm
without so much as a breath of air stirring. As he rose on the swell
he looked eagerly ahead, and could see land quite near. Then, as
children rejoice when their dear father begins to get better after
having for a long time borne sore affliction sent him by some angry
spirit, but the gods deliver him from evil, so was Ulysses thankful
when he again saw land and trees, and swam on with all his strength
that he might once more set foot upon dry ground. When, however, he
got within earshot, he began to hear the surf thundering up against
the rocks, for the swell still broke against them with a terrific
roar. Everything was enveloped in spray; there were no harbours
where a ship might ride, nor shelter of any kind, but only
headlands, low-lying rocks, and mountain tops.
Ulysses’ heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly to
himself, “Alas, Jove has let me see land after swimming so far that
I had given up all hope, but I can find no landing place, for the
coast is rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are smooth and rise sheer
from the sea, with deep water close under them so that I cannot
climb out for want of foothold. I am afraid some great wave will
lift me off my legs and dash me against the rocks as I leave the
water- which would give me a sorry landing. If, on the other hand, I
swim further in search of some shelving beach or harbour, a
hurricane may carry me out to sea again sorely against my will, or
heaven may send some great monster of the deep to attack me; for
Amphitrite breeds many such, and I know that Neptune is very angry
with me.”
While he was thus in two minds a wave caught him and took him with
such force against the rocks that he would have been smashed and
torn to pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to do. He caught hold
of the rock with both hands and clung to it groaning with pain till
the wave retired, so he was saved that time; but presently the wave
came on again and carried him back with it far into the sea-tearing
his hands as the suckers of a polypus are torn when some one plucks it
from its bed, and the stones come up along with it even so did the
rocks tear the skin from his strong hands, and then the wave drew
him deep down under the water.
Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of his
own destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits about him.
He swam seaward again, beyond reach of the surf that was beating
against the land, and at the same time he kept looking towards the
shore to see if he could find some haven, or a spit that should take
the waves aslant. By and by, as he swam on, he came to the mouth of
a river, and here he thought would be the best place, for there were
no rocks, and it afforded shelter from the wind. He felt that there
was a current, so he prayed inwardly and said:
“Hear me, O King, whoever you may be, and save me from the anger
of the sea-god Neptune, for I approach you prayerfully. Any one who
has lost his way has at all times a claim even upon the gods,
wherefore in my distress I draw near to your stream, and cling to
the knees of your riverhood. Have mercy upon me, O king, for I declare
myself your suppliant.”
Then the god stayed his stream and stilled the waves, making all
calm before him, and bringing him safely into the mouth of the
river. Here at last Ulysses’ knees and strong hands failed him, for
the sea had completely broken him. His body was all swollen, and his
mouth and nostrils ran down like a river with sea-water, so that he
could neither breathe nor speak, and lay swooning from sheer
exhaustion; presently, when he had got his breath and came to
himself again, he took off the scarf that Ino had given him and
threw it back into the salt stream of the river, whereon Ino
received it into her hands from the wave that bore it towards her.
Then he left the river, laid himself down among the rushes, and kissed
the bounteous earth.
“Alas,” he cried to himself in his dismay, “what ever will become of
me, and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the river bed
through the long watches of the night, I am so exhausted that the
bitter cold and damp may make an end of me- for towards sunrise
there will be a keen wind blowing from off the river. If, on the other
hand, I climb the hill side, find shelter in the woods, and sleep in
some thicket, I may escape the cold and have a good night’s rest,
but some savage beast may take advantage of me and devour me.”
In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found
one upon some high ground not far from the water. There he crept
beneath two shoots of olive that grew from a single stock- the one
an ungrafted sucker, while the other had been grafted. No wind,
however squally, could break through the cover they afforded, nor
could the sun’s rays pierce them, nor the rain get through them, so
closely did they grow into one another. Ulysses crept under these
and began to make himself a bed to lie on, for there was a great
litter of dead leaves lying about- enough to make a covering for two
or three men even in hard winter weather. He was glad enough to see
this, so he laid himself down and heaped the leaves all round him.
Then, as one who lives alone in the country, far from any neighbor,
hides a brand as fire-seed in the ashes to save himself from having to
get a light elsewhere, even so did Ulysses cover himself up with
leaves; and Minerva shed a sweet sleep upon his eyes, closed his
eyelids, and made him lose all memories of his sorrows.