The Odyssey

Book IV


Telemachus, with Pisistratus, arrives at the palace of Menelaus, from whom he receives some fresh information concerning the return of the Greecians, and is in particular told on the authority of Proteus, that his father is detained by Calypso. The suitors, plotting against the life of Telemachus, lie in wait to intercept him in his return to Ithaca. Penelope being informed of his departure, and of their designs to slay him, becomes inconsolable, but is relieved by a dream sent to her from Minerva.

In hollow Lacedæmon’s spacious vale
Arriving, to the house they drove direct
Of royal Menelaus; him they found
In his own palace, all his num’rous friends
Regaling at a nuptial banquet giv’n
Both for his daughter and the prince his son.
His daughter to renown’d Achilles’ heir
He sent, to whom he had at Troy engaged
To give her, and the Gods now made her his.
With chariots and with steeds he sent her forth
To the illustrious city where the prince,
Achilles’ offspring, ruled the Myrmidons.
But to his son he gave a Spartan fair,
Alector’s daughter; from an handmaid sprang
That son to Menelaus in his age,
Brave Megapenthes; for the Gods no child
To Helen gave, made mother, once, of her
Who vied in perfect loveliness of form
With golden Venus’ self, Hermione.
Thus all the neighbour princes and the friends
Of noble Menelaus, feasting sat
Within his spacious palace, among whom
A sacred bard sang sweetly to his harp,
While, in the midst, two dancers smote the ground
With measur’d steps responsive to his song.
And now the Heroes, Nestor’s noble son
And young Telemachus arrived within
The vestibule, whom, issuing from the hall,
The noble Eteoneus of the train
Of Menelaus, saw; at once he ran
Across the palace to report the news
To his Lord’s ear, and, standing at his side,
In accents wing’d with haste thus greeted him.
Oh Menelaus! Heav’n descended Chief!
Two guests arrive, both strangers, but the race
Of Jove supreme resembling each in form.
Say, shall we loose, ourselves, their rapid steeds,
Or hence dismiss them to some other host?
But Menelaus, Hero golden-hair’d,
Indignant answer’d him. Boethe’s son!
Thou wast not, Eteoneus, heretofore,
A babbler, who now pratest as a child.
We have ourselves arrived indebted much
To hospitality of other men,
If Jove shall, even here, some pause at last
Of woe afford us. Therefore loose, at once,
Their steeds, and introduce them to the feast.
He said, and, issuing, Eteoneus call’d
The brisk attendants to his aid, with whom
He loos’d their foaming coursers from the yoke.
Them first they bound to mangers, which with oats
And mingled barley they supplied, then thrust
The chariot sidelong to the splendid wall.[1]
Themselves he, next, into the royal house
Conducted, who survey’d, wond’ring, the abode
Of the heav’n-favour’d King; for on all sides
As with the splendour of the sun or moon
The lofty dome of Menelaus blazed.
Satiate, at length, with wonder at that sight,
They enter’d each a bath, and by the hands
Of maidens laved, and oil’d, and cloath’d again
With shaggy mantles and resplendent vests,
Sat both enthroned at Menelaus’ side.
And now a maiden charged with golden ew’r,
And with an argent laver, pouring first
Pure water on their hands, supplied them next
With a bright table, which the maiden, chief
In office, furnish’d plenteously with bread
And dainties, remnants of the last regale.
Then came the sew’r, who with delicious meats
Dish after dish, served them, and placed beside
The chargers cups magnificent of gold,
When Menelaus grasp’d their hands, and said.
Eat and rejoice, and when ye shall have shared
Our nuptial banquet, we will then inquire
Who are ye both, for, certain, not from those
Whose generation perishes are ye,
But rather of some race of sceptred Chiefs
Heav’n-born; the base have never sons like you.
So saying, he from the board lifted his own
Distinguish’d portion, and the fatted chine
Gave to his guests; the sav’ry viands they
With outstretch’d hands assail’d, and when the force
No longer now of appetite they felt,
Telemachus, inclining close his head
To Nestor’s son, lest others should his speech
Witness, in whisper’d words him thus address’d.
Dearest Pisistratus, observe, my friend!
How all the echoing palace with the light
Of beaming brass, of gold and amber shines
Silver and ivory! for radiance such
Th’ interior mansion of Olympian Jove
I deem. What wealth, how various, how immense
Is here! astonish’d I survey the sight!
But Menelaus, golden-hair’d, his speech
O’erhearing, thus in accents wing’d replied
My children! let no mortal man pretend
Comparison with Jove; for Jove’s abode
And all his stores are incorruptible.
But whether mortal man with me may vie
In the display of wealth, or whether not,
This know, that after many toils endured,
And perilous wand’rings wide, in the eighth year
I brought my treasures home. Remote I roved
To Cyprus, to Phœnice, to the shores
Of Ægypt; Æthiopia’s land I reach’d,
Th’ Erembi, the Sidonians, and the coasts
Of Lybia, where the lambs their foreheads shew
At once with horns defended, soon as yean’d.
There, thrice within the year the flocks produce,
Nor master, there, nor shepherd ever feels
A dearth of cheese, of flesh, or of sweet milk
Delicious, drawn from udders never dry.
While, thus, commodities on various coasts
Gath’ring I roam’d, another, by the arts
Of his pernicious spouse aided, of life
Bereav’d my brother privily, and when least
He fear’d to lose it. Therefore little joy
To me results from all that I possess.
Your fathers (be those fathers who they may)
These things have doubtless told you; for immense
Have been my suff’rings, and I have destroy’d
A palace well inhabited and stored
With precious furniture in ev’ry kind;
Such, that I would to heav’n! I own’d at home
Though but the third of it, and that the Greeks
Who perish’d then, beneath the walls of Troy
Far from steed-pastured Argos, still survived.
Yet while, sequester’d here, I frequent mourn
My slaughter’d friends, by turns I sooth my soul
With tears shed for them, and by turns again
I cease; for grief soon satiates free indulged.
But of them all, although I all bewail,
None mourn I so as one, whom calling back
To memory, I both sleep and food abhor.
For, of Achaia’s sons none ever toiled
Strenuous as Ulysses; but his lot
Was woe, and unremitting sorrow mine
For his long absence, who, if still he live,
We know not aught, or be already dead.
Him doubtless, old Laertes mourns, and him
Discrete Penelope, nor less his son
Telemachus, born newly when he sail’d.
So saying, he kindled in him strong desire
To mourn his father; at his father’s name
Fast fell his tears to ground, and with both hands
He spread his purple cloak before his eyes;
Which Menelaus marking, doubtful sat
If he should leave him leisure for his tears,
Or question him, and tell him all at large.
While thus he doubted, Helen (as it chanced)
Leaving her fragrant chamber, came, august
As Dian, goddess of the golden bow.
Adrasta, for her use, set forth a throne,
Alcippe with soft arras cover’d it,
And Philo brought her silver basket, gift
Of fair Alcandra, wife of Polybus,
Whose mansion in Ægyptian Thebes is rich
In untold treasure, and who gave, himself,
Ten golden talents, and two silver baths
To Menelaus, with two splendid tripods
Beside the noble gifts which, at the hand
Of his illustrious spouse, Helen receiv’d;
A golden spindle, and a basket wheel’d,
Itself of silver, and its lip of gold.
That basket Philo, her own handmaid, placed
At beauteous Helen’s side, charged to the brim
With slender threads, on which the spindle lay
With wool of purple lustre wrapp’d around.
Approaching, on her foot-stool’d throne she sat,
And, instant, of her royal spouse enquired.
Know we, my Menelaus, dear to Jove!
These guests of ours, and whence they have arrived?
Erroneous I may speak, yet speak I must;
In man or woman never have I seen
Such likeness to another (wonder-fixt
I gaze) as in this stranger to the son
Of brave Ulysses, whom that Hero left
New-born at home, when (shameless as I was)
For my unworthy sake the Greecians sailed
To Ilium, with fierce rage of battle fir’d.
Then Menelaus, thus, the golden-hair’d.
I also such resemblance find in him
As thou; such feet, such hands, the cast of eye[2]
Similar, and the head and flowing locks.
And even now, when I Ulysses named,
And his great sufferings mention’d, in my cause,
The bitter tear dropp’d from his lids, while broad
Before his eyes his purple cloak he spread.
To whom the son of Nestor thus replied.
Atrides! Menelaus! Chief renown’d!
He is in truth his son, as thou hast said,
But he is modest, and would much himself
Condemn, if, at his first arrival here,
He should loquacious seem and bold to thee,
To whom we listen, captived by thy voice,
As if some God had spoken. As for me,
Nestor, my father, the Gerenian Chief
Bade me conduct him hither, for he wish’d
To see thee, promising himself from thee
The benefit of some kind word or deed.
For, destitute of other aid, he much
His father’s tedious absence mourns at home.
So fares Telemachus; his father strays
Remote, and, in his stead, no friend hath he
Who might avert the mischiefs that he feels.
To whom the Hero amber-hair’d replied.
Ye Gods! the offspring of indeed a friend
Hath reach’d my house, of one who hath endured
Arduous conflicts num’rous for my sake;
And much I purpos’d, had Olympian Jove
Vouchsaf’d us prosp’rous passage o’er the Deep,
To have receiv’d him with such friendship here
As none beside. In Argos I had then
Founded a city for him, and had rais’d
A palace for himself; I would have brought
The Hero hither, and his son, with all
His people, and with all his wealth, some town
Evacuating for his sake, of those
Ruled by myself, and neighb’ring close my own.
Thus situate, we had often interchanged
Sweet converse, nor had other cause at last
Our friendship terminated or our joys,
Than death’s black cloud o’ershadowing him or me.
But such delights could only envy move
Ev’n in the Gods, who have, of all the Greeks,
Amerc’d him only of his wish’d return.
So saying, he kindled the desire to weep
In ev’ry bosom. Argive Helen wept
Abundant, Jove’s own daughter; wept as fast
Telemachus and Menelaus both;
Nor Nestor’s son with tearless eyes remain’d,
Calling to mind Antilochus[3] by the son[4]
Illustrious of the bright Aurora slain,
Rememb’ring whom, in accents wing’d he said.
Atrides! antient Nestor, when of late
Conversing with him, we remember’d thee,
Pronounced thee wise beyond all human-kind.
Now therefore, let not even my advice
Displease thee. It affords me no delight
To intermingle tears with my repast,
And soon, Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
Will tinge the orient. Not that I account
Due lamentation of a friend deceased
Blameworthy, since, to shear the locks and weep,
Is all we can for the unhappy dead.
I also have my grief, call’d to lament
One, not the meanest of Achaia’s sons,
My brother; him I cannot but suppose
To thee well-known, although unknown to me
Who saw him never;[5] but report proclaims
Antilochus superior to the most,
In speed superior, and in feats of arms.
To whom, the Hero of the yellow locks.
O friend belov’d! since nought which thou hast said
Or recommended now, would have disgraced
A man of years maturer far than thine,
(For wise thy father is, and such art thou,
And easy is it to discern the son
Of such a father, whom Saturnian Jove
In marriage both and at his birth ordain’d
To great felicity; for he hath giv’n
To Nestor gradually to sink at home
Into old age, and, while he lives, to see
His sons past others wise, and skill’d in arms)
The sorrow into which we sudden fell
Shall pause. Come—now remember we the feast;
Pour water on our hands, for we shall find,
(Telemachus and I) no dearth of themes
For mutual converse when the day shall dawn.
He ended; then, Asphalion, at his word,
Servant of glorious Menelaus, poured
Pure water on their hands, and they the feast
Before them with keen appetite assail’d.
But Jove-born Helen otherwise, meantime,
Employ’d, into the wine of which they drank
A drug infused, antidote to the pains
Of grief and anger, a most potent charm
For ills of ev’ry name. Whoe’er his wine
So medicated drinks, he shall not pour
All day the tears down his wan cheek, although
His father and his mother both were dead,
Nor even though his brother or his son
Had fall’n in battle, and before his eyes.
Such drugs Jove’s daughter own’d, with skill prepar’d,
And of prime virtue, by the wife of Thone,
Ægyptian Polydamna, giv’n her.
For Ægypt teems with drugs, yielding no few
Which, mingled with the drink, are good, and many
Of baneful juice, and enemies to life.
There ev’ry man in skill medicinal
Excels, for they are sons of Pæon all.
That drug infused, she bade her servant pour
The bev’rage forth, and thus her speech resumed.
Atrides! Menelaus! dear to Jove!
These also are the sons of Chiefs renown’d,
(For Jove, as pleases him, to each assigns
Or good or evil, whom all things obey)
Now therefore, feasting at your ease reclin’d,
Listen with pleasure, for myself, the while,
Will matter seasonable interpose.
I cannot all rehearse, nor even name,
(Omitting none) the conflicts and exploits
Of brave Ulysses; but with what address
Successful, one atchievement he perform’d
At Ilium, where Achaia’s sons endured
Such hardship, will I speak. Inflicting wounds
Dishonourable on himself, he took
A tatter’d garb, and like a serving-man
Enter’d the spacious city of your foes.
So veil’d, some mendicant he seem’d, although
No Greecian less deserved that name than he.
In such disguise he enter’d; all alike
Misdeem’d him; me alone he not deceived
Who challeng’d him, but, shrewd, he turn’d away.
At length, however, when I had myself
Bathed him, anointed, cloath’d him, and had sworn
Not to declare him openly in Troy
Till he should reach again the camp and fleet,
He told me the whole purpose of the Greeks.
Then, (many a Trojan slaughter’d,) he regain’d
The camp, and much intelligence he bore
To the Achaians. Oh what wailing then
Was heard of Trojan women! but my heart
Exulted, alter’d now, and wishing home;
For now my crime committed under force
Of Venus’ influence I deplored, what time
She led me to a country far remote,
A wand’rer from the matrimonial bed,
From my own child, and from my rightful Lord
Alike unblemish’d both in form and mind.
Her answer’d then the Hero golden-hair’d.
Helen! thou hast well spoken. All is true.
I have the talents fathom’d and the minds
Of num’rous Heroes, and have travell’d far
Yet never saw I with these eyes in man
Such firmness as the calm Ulysses own’d;
None such as in the wooden horse he proved,
Where all our bravest sat, designing woe
And bloody havoc for the sons of Troy.
Thou thither cam’st, impell’d, as it should seem,
By some divinity inclin’d to give
Victory to our foes, and with thee came
Godlike Deiphobus. Thrice round about
The hollow ambush, striking with thy hand
Its sides thou went’st, and by his name didst call
Each prince of Greece feigning his consort’s voice.
Myself with Diomede, and with divine
Ulysses, seated in the midst, the call
Heard plain and loud; we (Diomede and I)
With ardour burn’d either to quit the horse
So summon’d, or to answer from within.
But, all impatient as we were, Ulysses
Controul’d the rash design; so there the sons
Of the Achaians silent sat and mute,
And of us all Anticlus would alone
Have answer’d; but Ulysses with both hands
Compressing close his lips, saved us, nor ceased
Till Pallas thence conducted thee again.
Then thus, discrete, Telemachus replied.
Atrides! Menelaus! prince renown’d!
Hard was his lot whom these rare qualities
Preserved not, neither had his dauntless heart
Been iron, had he scaped his cruel doom.
But haste, dismiss us hence, that on our beds
Reposed, we may enjoy sleep, needful now.
He ceas’d; then Argive Helen gave command
To her attendant maidens to prepare
Beds in the portico with purple rugs
Resplendent, and with arras, overspread,
And cover’d warm with cloaks of shaggy pile.
Forth went the maidens, bearing each a torch,
And spread the couches; next, the herald them
Led forth, and in the vestibule the son
Of Nestor and the youthful Hero slept,
Telemachus; but in the interior house
Atrides, with the loveliest of her sex
Beside him, Helen of the sweeping stole.
But when Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
Glow’d in the East, then from his couch arose
The warlike Menelaus, fresh attir’d;
His faulchion o’er his shoulders slung, he bound
His sandals fair to his unsullied feet,
And like a God issuing, at the side
Sat of Telemachus, to whom he spake.
Hero! Telemachus! what urgent cause
Hath hither led thee, to the land far-famed
Of Lacedæmon o’er the spacious Deep?
Public concern or private? Tell me true.
To whom Telemachus discrete replied.
Atrides! Menelaus! prince renown’d!
News seeking of my Sire, I have arrived.
My household is devour’d, my fruitful fields
Are desolated, and my palace fill’d
With enemies, who while they mutual wage
Proud competition for my mother’s love,
My flocks continual slaughter, and my beeves.
For this cause, at thy knees suppliant, I beg
That thou wouldst tell me his disastrous end,
If either thou beheld’st with thine own eyes
His death, or from some wand’rer of the Greeks
Hast heard it; for no common woes, alas!
Was he ordain’d to share ev’n from the womb.
Neither through pity or o’erstrain’d respect
Flatter me, but explicit all relate
Which thou hast witness’d. If my noble Sire
E’er gratified thee by performance just
Of word or deed at Ilium, where ye fell
So num’rous slain in fight, oh recollect
Now his fidelity, and tell me true!
Then Menelaus, sighing deep, replied.
Gods! their ambition is to reach the bed
Of a brave man, however base themselves.
But as it chances, when the hart hath lay’d
Her fawns new-yean’d and sucklings yet, to rest
Within some dreadful lion’s gloomy den,
She roams the hills, and in the grassy vales
Feeds heedless, till the lion, to his lair
Return’d, destroys her and her little-ones,
So them thy Sire shall terribly destroy.
Jove, Pallas and Apollo! oh that such
As erst in well-built Lesbos, where he strove
With Philomelides, and threw him flat,
A sight at which Achaia’s sons rejoic’d,
Such, now, Ulysses might assail them all!
Short life and bitter nuptials should be theirs.
But thy enquiries neither indirect
Will I evade, nor give thee false reply,
But all that from the Antient of the Deep[6]
I have receiv’d will utter, hiding nought.
As yet the Gods on Ægypt’s shore detained
Me wishing home, angry at my neglect
To heap their altars with slain hecatombs.
For they exacted from us evermore
Strict rev’rence of their laws. There is an isle
Amid the billowy flood, Pharos by name,
In front of Ægypt, distant from her shore
Far as a vessel by a sprightly gale
Impell’d, may push her voyage in a day.
The haven there is good, and many a ship
Finds wat’ring there from riv’lets on the coast.
There me the Gods kept twenty days, no breeze
Propitious granting, that might sweep the waves,
And usher to her home the flying bark.
And now had our provision, all consumed,
Left us exhausted, but a certain nymph
Pitying saved me. Daughter fair was she
Of mighty Proteus, Antient of the Deep,
Idothea named; her most my sorrows moved;
She found me from my followers all apart
Wand’ring (for they around the isle, with hooks
The fishes snaring roamed, by famine urged)
And standing at my side, me thus bespake.
Stranger! thou must be ideot born, or weak
At least in intellect, or thy delight
Is in distress and mis’ry, who delay’st
To leave this island, and no egress hence
Canst find, although thy famish’d people faint.
So spake the Goddess, and I thus replied.
I tell thee, whosoever of the Pow’rs
Divine thou art, that I am prison’d here
Not willingly, but must have, doubtless, sinn’d
Against the deathless tenants of the skies.
Yet say (for the Immortals all things know)
What God detains me, and my course forbids
Hence to my country o’er the fishy Deep?
So I; to whom the Goddess all-divine.
Stranger! I will inform thee true. A seer
Oracular, the Antient of the Deep,
Immortal Proteus, the Ægyptian, haunts
These shores, familiar with all Ocean’s gulphs,
And Neptune’s subject. He is by report
My father; him if thou art able once
To seize and bind, he will prescribe the course
With all its measured distances, by which
Thou shalt regain secure thy native shores.
He will, moreover, at thy suit declare,
Thou favour’d of the skies! what good, what ill
Hath in thine house befall’n, while absent thou
Thy voyage difficult perform’st and long.
She spake, and I replied—Thyself reveal
By what effectual bands I may secure
The antient Deity marine, lest, warn’d
Of my approach, he shun me and escape.
Hard task for mortal hands to bind a God!
Then thus Idothea answer’d all-divine.
I will inform thee true. Soon as the sun
Hath climb’d the middle heav’ns, the prophet old,
Emerging while the breezy zephyr blows,
And cover’d with the scum of ocean, seeks
His spacious cove, in which outstretch’d he lies.
The phocæ[7] also, rising from the waves,
Offspring of beauteous Halosydna, sleep
Around him, num’rous, and the fishy scent
Exhaling rank of the unfathom’d flood.
Thither conducting thee at peep of day
I will dispose thee in some safe recess,
But from among thy followers thou shalt chuse
The bravest three in all thy gallant fleet.
And now the artifices understand
Of the old prophet of the sea. The sum
Of all his phocæ numb’ring duly first,
He will pass through them, and when all by fives
He counted hath, will in the midst repose
Content, as sleeps the shepherd with his flock.
When ye shall see him stretch’d, then call to mind
That moment all your prowess, and prevent,
Howe’er he strive impatient, his escape.
All changes trying, he will take the form
Of ev’ry reptile on the earth, will seem
A river now, and now devouring fire;
But hold him ye, and grasp him still the more.
And when himself shall question you, restored
To his own form in which ye found him first
Reposing, then from farther force abstain;
Then, Hero! loose the Antient of the Deep,
And ask him, of the Gods who checks thy course
Hence to thy country o’er the fishy flood.
So saying, she plunged into the billowy waste.
I then, in various musings lost, my ships
Along the sea-beach station’d sought again,
And when I reach’d my galley on the shore
We supp’d, and sacred night falling from heav’n,
Slept all extended on the ocean-side.
But when Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
Look’d rosy forth, pensive beside the shore
I walk’d of Ocean, frequent to the Gods
Praying devout, then chose the fittest three
For bold assault, and worthiest of my trust.
Meantime the Goddess from the bosom wide
Of Ocean rising, brought us thence four skins
Of phocæ, and all newly stript, a snare
Contriving subtle to deceive her Sire.
Four cradles in the sand she scoop’d, then sat
Expecting us, who in due time approach’d;
She lodg’d us side by side, and over each
A raw skin cast. Horrible to ourselves
Proved that disguise whom the pernicious scent
Of the sea-nourish’d phocæ sore annoy’d;
For who would lay him down at a whale’s side?
But she a potent remedy devised
Herself to save us, who the nostrils sooth’d
Of each with pure ambrosia thither brought
Odorous, which the fishy scent subdued.
All morning, patient watchers, there we lay;
And now the num’rous phocæ from the Deep
Emerging, slept along the shore, and he
At noon came also, and perceiving there
His fatted monsters, through the flock his course
Took regular, and summ’d them; with the first
He number’d us, suspicion none of fraud
Conceiving, then couch’d also. We, at once,
Loud-shouting flew on him, and in our arms
Constrain’d him fast; nor the sea-prophet old
Call’d not incontinent his shifts to mind.
First he became a long-maned lion grim,
Then dragon, panther then, a savage boar,
A limpid stream, and an o’ershadowing tree.
We persevering held him, till at length
The Antient of the Deep, skill’d as he is
In wiles, yet weary, question’d me, and said.
Oh Atreus’ son, by what confed’rate God
Instructed liest thou in wait for me,
To seize and hold me? what is thy desire?
So He; to whom thus answer I return’d.
Old Seer! thou know’st; why, fraudful, should’st thou ask?
It is because I have been prison’d long
Within this isle, whence I have sought in vain
Deliv’rance, till my wonted courage fails.
Yet say (for the Immortals all things know)
What God detains me, and my course forbids
Hence to my country o’er the fishy Deep?
So I; when thus the old one of the waves.
But thy plain duty[8] was to have adored
Jove, first, in sacrifice, and all the Gods,
That then embarking, by propitious gales
Impell’d, thou might’st have reach’d thy country soon.
For thou art doom’d ne’er to behold again
Thy friends, thy palace, or thy native shores,
Till thou have seen once more the hallow’d flood
Of Ægypt, and with hecatombs adored
Devout, the deathless tenants of the skies.
Then will they speed thee whither thou desir’st.
He ended, and my heart broke at his words,
Which bade me pass again the gloomy gulph
To Ægypt; tedious course, and hard to atchieve!
Yet, though in sorrow whelm’d, I thus replied.
Old prophet! I will all thy will perform.
But tell me, and the truth simply reveal;
Have the Achaians with their ships arrived
All safe, whom Nestor left and I, at Troy?
Or of the Chiefs have any in their barks,
Or in their followers’ arms found a dire death
Unlook’d for, since that city’s siege we closed?
I spake, when answer thus the God return’d.
Atrides, why these questions? Need is none
That thou should’st all my secrets learn, which once
Reveal’d, thou would’st not long dry-eyed remain.
Of those no few have died, and many live;
But leaders, two alone, in their return
Have died (thou also hast had war to wage)
And one, still living, roams the boundless sea.
Ajax,[9] surrounded by his galleys, died.
Him Neptune, first, against the bulky rocks
The Gyræ drove, but saved him from the Deep;
Nor had he perish’d, hated as he was
By Pallas, but for his own impious boast
In frenzy utter’d that he would escape
The billows, even in the Gods’ despight.
Neptune that speech vain-glorious hearing, grasp’d
His trident, and the huge Gyræan rock
Smiting indignant, dash’d it half away;
Part stood, and part, on which the boaster sat
When, first, the brainsick fury seiz’d him, fell,
Bearing him with it down into the gulphs
Of Ocean, where he drank the brine, and died.
But thy own brother in his barks escaped
That fate, by Juno saved; yet when, at length,
He should have gain’d Malea’s craggy shore,
Then, by a sudden tempest caught, he flew
With many a groan far o’er the fishy Deep
To the land’s utmost point, where once his home
Thyestes had, but where Thyestes’ son
Dwelt then, Ægisthus. Easy lay his course
And open thence, and, as it pleased the Gods,
The shifted wind soon bore them to their home.
He, high in exultation, trod the shore
That gave him birth, kiss’d it, and, at the sight,
The welcome sight of Greece, shed many a tear.
Yet not unseen he landed; for a spy,
One whom the shrewd Ægisthus had seduced
By promise of two golden talents, mark’d
His coming from a rock where he had watch’d
The year complete, lest, passing unperceived,
The King should reassert his right in arms.
Swift flew the spy with tidings to this Lord,
And He, incontinent, this project framed
Insidious. Twenty men, the boldest hearts
Of all the people, from the rest he chose,
Whom he in ambush placed, and others charged
Diligent to prepare the festal board.
With horses, then, and chariots forth he drove
Full-fraught with mischief, and conducting home
The unsuspicious King, amid the feast
Slew him, as at his crib men slay an ox.
Nor of thy brother’s train, nor of his train
Who slew thy brother, one survived, but all,
Welt’ring in blood together, there expired.
He ended, and his words beat on my heart
As they would break it. On the sands I sat
Weeping, nor life nor light desiring more.
But when I had in dust roll’d me, and wept
To full satiety, mine ear again
The oracle of Ocean thus address’d.
Sit not, O son of Atreus! weeping here
Longer, for remedy can none be found;
But quick arising, trial make, how best
Thou shalt, and soonest, reach thy home again.
For either him still living thou shalt find,
Or ere thou come, Orestes shall have slain
The traytor, and thine eyes shall see his tomb.
He ceas’d, and I, afflicted as I was,
Yet felt my spirit at that word refresh’d,
And in wing’d accents answer thus return’d.
Of these I am inform’d; but name the third
Who, dead or living, on the boundless Deep
Is still detain’d; I dread, yet wish to hear.
So I; to whom thus Proteus in return.
Laertes’ son, the Lord of Ithaca—
Him in an island weeping I beheld,
Guest of the nymph Calypso, by constraint
Her guest, and from his native land withheld
By sad necessity; for ships well-oar’d,
Or faithful followers hath he none, whose aid
Might speed him safely o’er the spacious flood.
But, Menelaus dear to Jove! thy fate
Ordains not thee the stroke of death to meet
In steed-fam’d Argos, but far hence the Gods
Will send thee to Elysium, and the earth’s
Extremest bounds; (there Rhadamanthus dwells,
The golden-hair’d, and there the human kind
Enjoy the easiest life; no snow is there,
No biting winter, and no drenching show’r,
But zephyr always gently from the sea
Breathes on them to refresh the happy race)
For that fair Helen is by nuptial bands
Thy own, and thou art son-in-law of Jove.
So saying, he plunged into the billowy waste,
I then, with my brave comrades to the fleet
Return’d, deep-musing as I went, and sad.
No sooner had I reach’d my ship beside
The ocean, and we all had supp’d, than night
From heav’n fell on us, and, at ease reposed
Along the margin of the sea, we slept.
But when Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
Look’d rosy forth, drawing our galleys down
Into the sacred Deep, we rear’d again
The mast, unfurl’d the sail, and to our seats
On board returning, thresh’d the foamy flood.
Once more, at length, within the hallow’d stream
Of Ægypt mooring, on the shore I slew
Whole hecatombs, and (the displeasure thus
Of the immortal Gods appeased) I reared
To Agamemnon’s never-dying fame
A tomb, and finishing it, sail’d again
With such a gale from heaven vouchsafed, as sent
My ships swift-scudding to the shores of Greece.
But come—eleven days wait here, or twelve
A guest with me, when I will send thee hence
Nobly, and honour’d with illustrious gifts,
With polish’d chariot, with three princely steeds,
And with a gorgeous cup, that to the Gods
Libation pouring ever while thou liv’st
From that same cup, thou may’st remember me.
Him, prudent, then answer’d Telemachus.
Atrides, seek not to detain me here
Long time; for though contented I could sit
The year beside thee, nor regret my home
Or parents, (so delightful thy discourse
Sounds in my ear) yet, even now, I know,
That my attendants to the Pylian shore
Wish my return, whom thou thus long detain’st.
What boon soe’er thou giv’st me, be it such
As I may treasur’d keep; but horses none
Take I to Ithaca; them rather far
Keep thou, for thy own glory. Thou art Lord
Of an extended plain, where copious springs
The lotus, herbage of all savours, wheat,
Pulse, and white barley of luxuriant growth.
But Ithaca no level champaign owns,
A nursery of goats, and yet a land
Fairer than even pastures to the eye.
No sea-encircled isle of ours affords
Smooth course commodious and expanse of meads,
But my own Ithaca transcends them all!
He said; the Hero Menelaus smiled,
And stroaking tenderly his cheek, replied.
Dear youth! thy speech proclaims thy noble blood.
I can with ease supply thee from within
With what shall suit thee better, and the gift
Of all that I possess which most excels
In beauty, and the noblest shall be thine.
I give thee, wrought elaborate, a cup
Itself all silver, bound with lip of gold.
It is the work of Vulcan, which to me
The Hero Phædimus imparted, King
Of the Sidonians, when on my return
His house received me. That shall be thy own.
Thus they conferr’d; and now the busy train
Of menials culinary,[10] at the gate
Enter’d of Menelaus, Chief renown’d;
They brought him sheep, with heart-ennobling wine,
While all their wives, their brows with frontlets bound,
Came charg’d with bread. Thus busy they prepared
A banquet in the mansion of the King.
Meantime, before Ulysses’ palace gate
The suitors sported with the quoit and spear
On the smooth area, customary scene
Of all their strife and angry clamour loud.
There sat Antinoüs, and the godlike youth
Eurymachus, superior to the rest
And Chiefs among them, to whom Phronius’ son
Noëmon drawing nigh, with anxious mien
Question’d Antinoüs, and thus began.
Know we, Antinoüs! or know we not,
When to expect Telemachus at home
Again from Pylus? in my ship he went,
Which now I need, that I may cross the sea
To Elis, on whose spacious plain I feed
Twelve mares, each suckling a mule-colt as yet
Unbroken, but of which I purpose one
To ferry thence, and break him into use.
He spake, whom they astonish’d heard; for him
They deem’d not to Nelëian Pylus gone,
But haply into his own fields, his flocks
To visit, or the steward of his swine.
Then thus, Eupithes’ son, Antinoüs, spake.
Say true. When sail’d he forth? of all our youth,
Whom chose he for his followers? his own train
Of slaves and hirelings? hath he pow’r to effect
This also? Tell me too, for I would learn—
Took he perforce thy sable bark away,
Or gav’st it to him at his first demand?
To whom Noëmon, Phronius’ son, replied.
I gave it voluntary; what could’st thou,
Should such a prince petition for thy bark
In such distress? Hard were it to refuse.
Brave youths (our bravest youths except yourselves)
Attend him forth; and with them I observed
Mentor embarking, ruler o’er them all,
Or, if not him, a God; for such he seem’d.
But this much moves my wonder. Yester-morn
I saw, at day-break, noble Mentor here,
Whom shipp’d for Pylus I had seen before.
He ceas’d; and to his father’s house return’d;
They, hearing, sat aghast. Their games meantime
Finish’d, the suitors on their seats reposed,
To whom Eupithes’ son, Antinoüs, next,
Much troubled spake; a black storm overcharged
His bosom, and his vivid eyes flash’d fire.
Ye Gods, a proud exploit is here atchieved,
This voyage of Telemachus, by us
Pronounced impracticable; yet the boy
In downright opposition to us all,
Hath headlong launched a ship, and, with a band
Selected from our bravest youth, is gone.
He soon will prove more mischievous, whose pow’r
Jove wither, ere we suffer its effects!
But give me a swift bark with twenty rowers,
That, watching his return within the streights
Of rocky Samos and of Ithaca,
I may surprise him; so shall he have sail’d
To seek his Sire, fatally for himself.
He ceased and loud applause heard in reply,
With warm encouragement. Then, rising all,
Into Ulysses’ house at once they throng’d.
Nor was Penelope left uninformed
Long time of their clandestine plottings deep,
For herald Medon told her all, whose ear
Their councils caught while in the outer-court
He stood, and they that project framed within.
Swift to Penelope the tale he bore,
Who as he pass’d the gate, him thus address’d.
For what cause, herald! have the suitors sent
Thee foremost? Wou’d they that my maidens lay
Their tasks aside, and dress the board for them?
Here end their wooing! may they hence depart
Never, and may the banquet now prepared,
This banquet prove your last![11] who in such throngs
Here meeting, waste the patrimony fair
Of brave Telemachus; ye never, sure,
When children, heard how gracious and how good
Ulysses dwelt among your parents, none
Of all his people, or in word or deed
Injuring, as great princes oft are wont,
By favour influenc’d now, now by disgust.
He no man wrong’d at any time; but plain
Your wicked purpose in your deeds appears,
Who sense have none of benefits conferr’d.
Then Medon answer’d thus, prudent, return’d.
Oh Queen! may the Gods grant this prove the worst.
But greater far and heavier ills than this
The suitors plan, whose counsels Jove confound!
Their base desire and purpose are to slay
Telemachus on his return; for he,
To gather tidings of his Sire is gone
To Pylus, or to Sparta’s land divine.
He said; and where she stood, her trembling knees
Fail’d under her, and all her spirits went.
Speechless she long remain’d, tears filled her eyes,
And inarticulate in its passage died
Her utt’rance, till at last with pain she spake.
Herald! why went my son? he hath no need
On board swift ships to ride, which are to man
His steeds that bear him over seas remote.
Went he, that, with himself, his very name
Might perish from among mankind for ever?
Then answer, thus, Medon the wise return’d.
I know not whether him some God impell’d
Or his own heart to Pylus, there to hear
News of his Sire’s return, or by what fate
At least he died, if he return no more.
He said, and traversing Ulysses’ courts,
Departed; she with heart consuming woe
O’erwhelm’d, no longer could endure to take
Repose on any of her num’rous seats,
But on the threshold of her chamber-door
Lamenting sat, while all her female train
Around her moan’d, the antient and the young,
Whom, sobbing, thus Penelope bespake.
Hear me, ye maidens! for of women born
Coeval with me, none hath e’er received
Such plenteous sorrow from the Gods as I,
Who first my noble husband lost, endued
With courage lion-like, of all the Greeks
The Chief with ev’ry virtue most adorn’d,
A prince all-excellent, whose glorious praise
Through Hellas and all Argos flew diffused.
And now, my darling son,—him storms have snatch’d
Far hence inglorious, and I knew it not.
Ah treach’rous servants! conscious as ye were
Of his design, not one of you the thought
Conceived to wake me when he went on board.
For had but the report once reach’d my ear,
He either had not gone (how much soe’er
He wish’d to leave me) or had left me dead.
But haste ye,—bid my antient servant come,
Dolion, whom (when I left my father’s house
He gave me, and whose office is to attend
My num’rous garden-plants) that he may seek
At once Laertes, and may tell him all,
Who may contrive some remedy, perchance,
Or fit expedient, and shall come abroad
To weep before the men who wish to slay
Even the prince, godlike Ulysses’ son.
Then thus the gentle Euryclea spake,
Nurse of Telemachus. Alas! my Queen!
Slay me, or spare, deal with me as thou wilt,
I will confess the truth. I knew it all.
I gave him all that he required from me.
Both wine and bread, and, at his bidding, swore
To tell thee nought in twelve whole days to come,
Or till, enquiry made, thou should’st thyself
Learn his departure, lest thou should’st impair
Thy lovely features with excess of grief.
But lave thyself, and, fresh attired, ascend
To thy own chamber, there, with all thy train,
To worship Pallas, who shall save, thenceforth,
Thy son from death, what ills soe’er he meet.
Add not fresh sorrows to the present woes
Of the old King, for I believe not yet
Arcesias’ race entirely by the Gods
Renounced, but trust that there shall still be found
Among them, who shall dwell in royal state,
And reap the fruits of fertile fields remote.
So saying, she hush’d her sorrow, and her eyes
No longer stream’d. Then, bathed and fresh attired,
Penelope ascended with her train
The upper palace, and a basket stored
With hallow’d cakes off’ring, to Pallas pray’d.
Hear matchless daughter of Jove Ægis-arm’d!
If ever wise Ulysses offer’d here
The thighs of fatted kine or sheep to thee,
Now mindful of his piety, preserve
His darling son, and frustrate with a frown
The cruelty of these imperious guests!
She said, and wept aloud, whose earnest suit
Pallas received. And now the spacious hall
And gloomy passages with tumult rang
And clamour of that throng, when thus, a youth,
Insolent as his fellows, dared to speak.
Much woo’d and long, the Queen at length prepares
To chuse another mate,[12] and nought suspects
The bloody death to which her son is doom’d.
So he; but they, meantime, themselves remain’d
Untaught, what course the dread concern elsewhere
Had taken, whom Antinoüs thus address’d.
Sirs! one and all, I counsel you, beware
Of such bold boasting unadvised; lest one
O’erhearing you, report your words within.
No—rather thus, in silence, let us move
To an exploit so pleasant to us all.
He said, and twenty chose, the bravest there,
With whom he sought the galley on the shore,
Which drawing down into the deep, they placed
The mast and sails on board, and, sitting, next,
Each oar in order to its proper groove,
Unfurl’d and spread their canvas to the gale.
Their bold attendants, then, brought them their arms,
And soon as in deep water they had moor’d
The ship, themselves embarking, supp’d on board,
And watch’d impatient for the dusk of eve.
But when Penelope, the palace stairs
Remounting, had her upper chamber reach’d,
There, unrefresh’d with either food or wine,
She lay’d her down, her noble son the theme
Of all her thoughts, whether he should escape
His haughty foes, or perish by their hands.
Num’rous as are the lion’s thoughts, who sees,
Not without fear, a multitude with toils
Encircling him around, such num’rous thoughts
Her bosom occupied, till sleep at length
Invading her, she sank in soft repose.
Then Pallas, teeming with a new design,
Set forth an airy phantom in the form
Of fair Iphthima, daughter of the brave
Icarius, and Eumelus’ wedded wife
In Pheræ. Shaped like her the dream she sent
Into the mansion of the godlike Chief
Ulysses, with kind purpose to abate
The sighs and tears of sad Penelope.
Ent’ring the chamber-portal, where the bolt
Secured it, at her head the image stood,
And thus, in terms compassionate, began.
Sleep’st thou, distress’d Penelope? The Gods,
Happy in everlasting rest themselves,
Forbid thy sorrows. Thou shalt yet behold
Thy son again, who hath by no offence
Incurr’d at any time the wrath of heav’n.
To whom, sweet-slumb’ring in the shadowy gate
By which dreams pass, Penelope replied.
What cause, my sister, brings thee, who art seen
Unfrequent here, for that thou dwell’st remote?
And thou enjoin’st me a cessation too
From sorrows num’rous, and which, fretting, wear
My heart continual; first, my spouse I lost
With courage lion-like endow’d, a prince
All-excellent, whose never-dying praise
Through Hellas and all Argos flew diffused;
And now my only son, new to the toils
And hazards of the sea, nor less untaught
The arts of traffic, in a ship is gone
Far hence, for whose dear cause I sorrow more
Than for his Sire himself, and even shake
With terror, lest he perish by their hands
To whom he goes, or in the stormy Deep;
For num’rous are his foes, and all intent
To slay him, ere he reach his home again.
Then answer thus the shadowy form return’d.
Take courage; suffer not excessive dread
To overwhelm thee, such a guide he hath
And guardian, one whom many wish their friend,
And ever at their side, knowing her pow’r,
Minerva; she compassionates thy griefs,
And I am here her harbinger, who speak
As thou hast heard by her own kind command.
Then thus Penelope the wise replied.
Oh! if thou art a goddess, and hast heard
A Goddess’ voice, rehearse to me the lot
Of that unhappy one, if yet he live
Spectator of the cheerful beams of day,
Or if, already dead, he dwell below.
Whom answer’d thus the fleeting shadow vain.
I will not now inform thee if thy Lord
Live, or live not. Vain words are best unspoken.
So saying, her egress swift beside the bolt
She made, and melted into air. Upsprang
From sleep Icarius’ daughter, and her heart
Felt heal’d within her, by that dream distinct
Visited in the noiseless night serene.
Meantime the suitors urged their wat’ry way,
To instant death devoting in their hearts
Telemachus. There is a rocky isle
In the mid sea, Samos the rude between
And Ithaca, not large, named Asteris.
It hath commodious havens, into which
A passage clear opens on either side,
And there the ambush’d Greeks his coming watch’d.

  1. Hesychius tells us, that the Greecians ornamented with much attention the front wall of their courts for the admiration of passengers.
  2. Οφθαλμῶν τε βολαι.
  3. Antilochus was his brother.
  4. The son of Aurora, who slew Antilochus, was Memnon.
  5. Because Pisistratus was born after Antilochus had sailed to Troy.
  6. Proteus
  7. Seals, or sea-calves.
  8. From the abruptness of this beginning, Virgil, probably, who has copied the story, took the hint of his admired exordium.
    Nam quis te, juvenum confidentissime, nostras. Egit adire domos.
  9. Son of Oïleus.
  10. Δαιτυμων—generally signifies the founder of a feast; but we are taught by Eustathius to understand by it, in this place, the persons employed in preparing it.
  11. This transition from the third to the second person belongs to the original, and is considered as a fine stroke of art in the poet, who represents Penelope in the warmth of her resentment, forgetting where she is, and addressing the suitors as if present.
  12. Mistaking, perhaps, the sound of her voice, and imagining that she sang.—Vide Barnes in loco.


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