But reckless greed carried them all away
to plunder the rich bottomlands; they bore off
wives and children, killed what men they found.
When this news reached the city, all who heard it
came at dawn. On foot they came, and horsemen,
filling the river plain with dazzle of bronze;
and Zeus lord of lightning
threw my men into blind panic: no one dared
stand against that host closing around us.
Their scything weapons left our dead in piles,
but some they took alive, into forced labor.
And I—ah, how I wish that I had died
in Egypt, on that field! So many blows
awaited me!—Well, Zeus himself inspired me;
I wrenched my dogskin helmet off my head,
dropped my spear, dodged out of my long shield,
ran for the king’s chariot and swung on
to embrace and kiss his knees. He pulled me up,
took pity on me, placed me on the footboards,
and drove home with me crouching there in tears.
Aye—for the troops, in battle fury still,
made one pass at me after another, pricking me
with spears, hoping to kill me. But he saved me,
for fear of the great wrath of Zeus that comes
when men who ask asylum are given death.
Seven years, then, my sojourn lasted there,
and I amassed a fortune, going about
among the openhanded Egyptians.
But when the eighth came round, a certain
Phoinikian adventurer came too,
a plausible rat, who had already done
plenty of devilry in the world.
took me in completely with his schemes,
and led me with him to Phoinikia,
where he had land and houses. One full year
I stayed there with him, to the month and day,
and when fair weather came around again
he took me in a deepsea ship for Libya,
pretending I could help in the cargo trade;
he meant, in fact, to trade me off, and get
a high price for me. I could guess the game
but had to follow him aboard. One day
on course due west, off central Krete, the ship
caught a fresh norther, and we ran southward
before the wind while Zeus piled ruin ahead.
When Krete was out of sight astern, no land
/ The Odyssey, Book Fourteen
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anywhere to be seen, but sky and ocean,
Kroníon put a dark cloud in the zenith
over the ship, and gloom spread on the sea.
With crack on crack of thunder, he let fly
a bolt against the ship, a direct hit,
so that she bucked, in sacred fumes of sulphur,
and all the men were flung into the water.
They came up round the wreck, bobbing a while
like petrels on the waves. No homecoming
for these, from whom the god had turned his face!
Stunned in the smother as I was, yet Zeus
put into my hands the great mast of the ship—
a way to keep from drowning. So I twined
my arms and legs around it in the gale
and stayed afloat nine days. On the tenth night,
a big surf cast me up in Thesprotia.8
Pheidon the king there gave me refuge, nobly,
with no talk of reward. His son discovered me
exhausted and half dead with cold, and gave me
a hand to bear me up till he reached home
where he could clothe me in a shirt and cloak.
In that king’s house I heard news of Odysseus,
who lately was a guest there, passing by
on his way home, the king said; and he showed me
the treasure that Odysseus had brought:
bronze, gold, and iron wrought with heavy labor—
in that great room I saw enough to last
Odysseus’ heirs for ten long generations.
The man himself had gone up to Dodona
to ask the spelling leaves of the old oak
the will of God: how to return, that is,
to the rich realm of Ithaka, after so long
an absence—openly, or on the quiet.
And, tipping wine out, Pheidon swore to me
the ship was launched, the seamen standing by
to take Odysseus to his land at last.
But he had passage first for me: Thesprotians
were sailing, as luck had it, for Doulíkhion,
the grain-growing island; there, he said,
they were to bring me to the king, Akastos.
Instead, that company saw fit to plot
foul play against me; in my wretched life
there was to be more suffering.
In Epirus, on the northwest shore of Greece, somewhat north of Ithaka along the main-
Site of the oldest oracle of Zeus, where the god’s utterances were interpreted from the
rustling of oak leaves.
An island near Ithaka.
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At sea, then,
when land lay far astern, they sprang their trap.
They’d make a slave of me that day, stripping
cloak and tunic off me, throwing around me
the dirty rags you see before you now.
At evening, off the fields of Ithaka,
they bound me, lashed me down under the decking
with stout ship’s rope, while they all went ashore
in haste to make their supper on the beach.
The gods helped me to pry the lashing loose
until it fell away. I wound my rags
in a bundle round my head and eased myself
down the smooth lading plank into the water,
up to the chin, then swam an easy breast stroke
out and around, putting that crew behind,
and went ashore in underbrush, a thicket,
where I lay still, making myself small.
They raised a bitter yelling, and passed by
several times. When further groping seemed
useless to them, back to the ship they went
and out to sea again. The gods were with me,
keeping me hid; and with me when they brought me
here to the door of one who knows the world.
My destiny is yet to live awhile.”
The swineherd bowed and said:
“Ah well, poor drifter,
you’ve made me sad for you, going back over it,
all your hard life and wandering. That tale
about Odysseus, though, you might have spared me;
you will not make me believe that.
Why must you lie, being the man you are,
and all for nothing?
I can see so well
what happened to my master, sailing home!
Surely the gods turned on him, to refuse him
death in the field, or in his friends’ arms
after he wound up the great war at Troy.
They would have made a tomb for him, the Akhaians,
and paid all honor to his son thereafter. No,
stormwinds made off with him. No glory came to him.
I moved here to the mountain with my swine.
Never, now, do I go down to town
unless I am sent for by Penélopê
when news of some sort comes. But those who sit
around her go on asking the old questions—
a few who miss their master still,
and those who eat his house up, and go free.
/ The Odyssey, Book Fourteen
05_273-611_Homer 2/Aesop 7/10/00 1:25 PM Page 455
For my part, I have had no heart for inquiry
since one year an Aitolian
made a fool of me.
Exiled from land to land after some killing,
he turned up at my door; I took him in.
My master he had seen in Krete, he said,
lodged with Idómeneus, while the long ships,
leaky from gales, were laid up for repairs.
But they were all to sail, he said, that summer,
or the first days of fall—hulls laden deep
with treasure, manned by crews of heroes.
you are the derelict the Powers bring.
Well, give up trying to win me with false news
or flattery. If I receive and shelter you,
it is not for your tales but for your trouble,
and with an eye to Zeus, who guards a guest.”
Then said that sly and guileful man, Odysseus:
“A black suspicious heart beats in you surely;
the man you are, not even an oath could change you.
Come then, we’ll make a compact; let the gods
witness it from Olympos, where they dwell.
Upon your lord’s homecoming, if he comes
here to this very hut, and soon—
then give me a new outfit, shirt and cloak,
and ship me to Doulíkhion—I thought it
a pleasant island. But if Odysseus
fails to appear as I predict, then Swish!
let the slaves pitch me down from some high rock,
so the next poor man who comes will watch his tongue.”
The forester gave a snort and answered:
if I agreed to that, a great name
I should acquire in the world for goodness—
at one stroke and forever: your kind host
who gave you shelter and the hand of friendship,
only to take your life next day!
How confidently, after that, should I
address my prayers to Zeus, the son of Kronos!
It is time now for supper. My young herdsmen
should be arriving soon to set about it.
We’ll make a quiet feast here at our hearth.”
At this point in their talk the swine had come
up to the clearing, and the drovers followed
to pen them for the night—the porkers squealing
Aitolia (or Aetolia) was part of the western Greek mainland, east of Ithaka.
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to high heaven, milling around the yard.
The swineherd then gave orders to his men:
“Bring in our best pig for a stranger’s dinner.
A feast will do our hearts good, too; we know
grief and pain, hard scrabbling with our swine,
while the outsiders live on our labor.”
axe in hand, he turned to split up kindling,
while they drove in a tall boar, prime and fat,
planting him square before the fire. The gods,
as ever, had their due in the swineherd’s thought,
for he it was who tossed the forehead bristles
as a first offering on the flames, calling
upon the immortal gods to let Odysseus
reach his home once more.
Then he stood up
and brained the boar with split oak from the woodpile.
Life ebbed from the beast; they slaughtered him,
singed the carcass, and cut out the joints.
Eumaios, taking flesh from every quarter,
put lean strips on the fat of sacrifice,
floured each one with barley meal, and cast it
into the blaze. The rest they sliced and skewered,
roasted with care, then took it off the fire
and heaped it up on platters. Now their chief,
who knew best the amenities, rose to serve,
dividing all that meat in seven portions—
one to be set aside, with proper prayers,
for the wood nymphs and Hermês, Maia’s son;
the others for the company. Odysseus
he honored with long slices from the chine—
warming the master’s heart. Odysseus looked at him
“May you be dear to Zeus
as you are dear to me for this, Eumaios,
favoring with choice cuts a man like me.”
And—O my swineherd!—you replied, Eumaios:
“Bless you, stranger, fall to and enjoy it
for what it is. Zeus grants us this or that,
or else refrains from granting, as he wills;
all things are in his power.”
He cut and burnt
a morsel for the gods who are young forever,
tipped out some wine, then put it in the hands
of Odysseus, the old soldier, raider of cities,
/ The Odyssey, Book Fourteen
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who sat at ease now with his meat before him.
As for the loaves, Mesaúlios dealt them out,
a yard boy, bought by the swineherd on his own,
unaided by his mistress or Laërtês,
while Odysseus was away.
Now all hands reached for that array of supper,
until, when hunger and thirst were turned away
Mesaúlios removed the bread and, heavy
with food and drink, they settled back to rest.
Now night had come on, rough, with no moon,
but a nightlong downpour setting in, the rainwind
blowing hard from the west. Odysseus
began to talk, to test the swineherd, trying
to put it in his head to take his cloak off
and lend it, or else urge the others to.
He knew the man’s compassion.
“Listen,” he said,
“Eumaios, and you others, here’s a wishful
tale that I shall tell. The wine’s behind it,
vaporing wine, that makes a serious man
break down and sing, kick up his heels and clown,
or tell some story that were best untold.
But now I’m launched, I can’t stop now.
Would god I felt
the hot blood in me that I had at Troy!
Laying an ambush near the walls one time,
Odysseus and Meneláos were commanders
and I ranked third. I went at their request.
We worked in toward the bluffs and battlements
and, circling the town, got into canebrakes,13
thick and high, a marsh where we took cover,
hunched under arms.
The northwind dropped, and night
came black and wintry. A fine sleet descending
whitened the cane like hoarfrost, and clear ice
grew dense upon our shields. The other men,
all wrapt in blanket cloaks as well as tunics,
rested well, in shields up to their shoulders,
but I had left my cloak with friends in camp,
foolhardy as I was. No chance of freezing hard,
I thought, so I wore kilts and a shield only.
But in the small hours of the third watch, when stars
that rise at evening go down to their setting,
I nudged Odysseus, who lay close beside me;
he was alert then, listening, and I said:
Inhabitants of western Greece. That Eumaios the slave himself acquired a servant is another
sign that in Homeric times slavery was not always degrading serfdom.
Thick growths of cane.
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‘Son of Laërtês and the gods of old,
Odysseus, master mariner and soldier,
I cannot hold on long among the living.
The cold is making a corpse of me. Some god
inveigled me to come without a cloak.
No help for it now; too late.’
Next thing I knew
he had a scheme all ready in his mind—
and what a man he was for schemes and battles!
Speaking under his breath to me, he murmured:
‘Quiet; none of the rest should hear you.’
propping his head on his forearm, he said:
‘Listen, lads, I had an ominous dream,
the point being how far forward from our ships
and lines we’ve come. Someone should volunteer
to tell the corps commander, Agamémnon;
he may reinforce us from the base.’
Thoas jumped up, the young son of Andraimon,
put down his crimson cloak and headed off,
Wrapped in that man’s cloak
how gratefully I lay in the bitter dark
until the dawn came stitched in gold! I wish
I had that sap and fiber in me now!”
Then—O my swineherd!—you replied, Eumaios:
“That was a fine story, and well told,
not a word out of place, not a pointless word.
No, you’ll not sleep cold for lack of cover,
or any other comfort one should give
to a needy guest. However, in the morning,
you must go flapping in the same old clothes.
Shirts and cloaks are few here; every man
has one change only. When our prince arrives,
the son of Odysseus, he will make you gifts—
cloak, tunic, everything—and grant you passage
wherever you care to go.”
On this he rose
and placed the bed of balsam near the fire,
strewing sheepskins on top, and skins of goats.
Odysseus lay down. His host threw over him
a heavy blanket cloak, his own reserve
against the winter wind when it came wild.
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So there Odysseus dropped off to sleep,
while herdsmen slept nearby. But not the swineherd:
not in the hut could he lie down in peace,
but now equipped himself for the night outside;
and this rejoiced Odysseus’ heart, to see him
care for the herd so, while his lord was gone.
He hung a sharp sword from his shoulder, gathered
a great cloak round him, close, to break the wind,
and pulled a shaggy goatskin on his head.
Then, to keep at a distance dogs or men,
he took a sharpened lance, and went to rest
under a hollow rock where swine were sleeping
out of the wind and rain.
BOOK FIFTEEN: HOW THEY CAME TO ITHAKA
South into Lakedaimon
into the land where greens are wide for dancing
Athena went, to put in mind of home
her great-hearted hero’s honored son,
rousing him to return.
And there she found him
with Nestor’s lad in the late night at rest
under the portico of Meneláos,
the famous king. Stilled by the power of slumber
the son of Nestor lay, but honeyed sleep
had not yet taken in her arms Telémakhos.
All through the starlit night, with open eyes,
he pondered what he had heard about his father,
until at his bedside grey-eyed Athena
towered and said:
“The brave thing now, Telémakhos,
would be to end this journey far from home.
All that you own you left behind
with men so lost to honor in your house
they may devour it all, shared out among them.
How will your journey save you then?
to the lord of the great war cry, Meneláos;
press him to send you back. You may yet find
the queen your mother in her rooms alone.
It seems her father and her kinsmen say
Eur´ymakhos is the man for her to marry.
He has outdone the suitors, all the rest,
in gifts to her, and made her pledges double.
The story of Telémakhos, broken off after Book IV, is here resumed.
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Check him, or he will have your lands and chattels
in spite of you.
You know a woman’s pride
at bringing riches to the man she marries.
As to her girlhood husband, her first children,
he is forgotten, being dead—and they
no longer worry her.2
So act alone.
Go back; entrust your riches to the servant
worthiest in your eyes, until the gods
make known what beauty you yourself shall marry.
This too I have to tell you: now take heed:
the suitors’ ringleaders are hot for murder,
waiting in the channel between Ithaka
and Samê’s rocky side; they mean to kill you
before you can set foot ashore. I doubt
they’ll bring it off. Dark earth instead
may take to her cold bed a few brave suitors
who preyed upon your cattle.
Bear well out
in your good ship, to eastward of the islands,
and sail again by night. Someone immortal
who cares for you will make a fair wind blow.
Touch at the first beach, go ashore, and send
your ship and crew around to port by sea,
while you go inland to the forester,
your old friend, loyal keeper of the swine.
Remain that night with him; send him to town
to tell your watchful mother Penélopê
that you are back from Pylos safe and sound.”
With this Athena left him for Olympos.
He swung his foot across and gave a kick
and said to the son of Nestor:
“Open your eyes,
Peisístratos. Get our team into harness.
We have a long day’s journey.”
turned over and answered him:
“It is still night,
and no moon. Can we drive now? We can not,
itch as we may for the road home. Dawn is near.
Allow the captain of spearmen, Meneláos,
These last three lines are a comment on widows in general, not on Penélopê in particular.
Athena assumes this cynical view in order to hasten Telémakhos’ return.
/ The Odyssey, Book Fifteen
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time to pack our car with gifts and time
to speak a gracious word, sending us off.
A guest remembers all his days
that host who makes provision for him kindly.”
The Dawn soon took her throne of gold, and Lord
Meneláos, clarion in battle,
rose from where he lay beside the beauty
of Helen with her shining hair. He strode
into the hall nearby.
Hearing him come,
Odysseus’ son pulled on his snowy tunic
over the skin, gathered his long cape
about his breadth of shoulder like a captain,
the heir of King Odysseus. At the door
he stood and said:
“Lord Marshal, Meneláos,
send me home now to my own dear country:
longing has come upon me to go home.”
The lord of the great war cry said at once:
“If you are longing to go home, Telémakhos,
I would not keep you for the world, not I.
I’d think myself or any other host
as ill-mannered for over-friendliness
as for hostility.
Measure is best in everything
To send a guest packing, or cling to him
when he’s in haste—one sin equals the other.
‘Good entertaining ends with no detaining.’
Only let me load your car with gifts
and fine ones, you shall see.
I’ll bid the women
set out breakfast from the larder stores;
honor and appetite—we’ll attend to both
before a long day’s journey overland.
Or would you care to try the Argive midlands
and Hellas, in my company? I’ll harness
my own team, and take you through the towns.
Guests like ourselves no lord will turn away;
each one will make one gift, at least,
to carry home with us: tripod or cauldron
wrought in bronze, mule team, or golden cup.”
Clearheaded Telémakhos replied:
Meneláos, royal son of Atreus,
I must return to my own hearth. I left
no one behind as guardian of my property.
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Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested