Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Odyssey by Homer

Part 1 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Jim Tinsley jtinsley@pobox.com

The Odyssey

rendered into English prose
for the use of those who
cannot read the original

By Samuel Butler

Preface to First Edition

This translation is intended to supplement a work entitled "The
Authoress of the Odyssey", which I published in 1897. I could
not give the whole "Odyssey" in that book without making it
unwieldy, I therefore epitomised my translation, which was
already completed and which I now publish in full.

I shall not here argue the two main points dealt with in the work
just mentioned; I have nothing either to add to, or to withdraw from,
what I have there written. The points in question are:

(1) that the "Odyssey" was written entirely at, and drawn
entirely from, the place now called Trapani on the West Coast of
Sicily, alike as regards the Phaeacian and the Ithaca scenes;
while the voyages of Ulysses, when once he is within easy reach
of Sicily, solve themselves into a periplus of the island,
practically from Trapani back to Trapani, via the Lipari islands,
the Straits of Messina, and the island of Pantellaria;

(2) That the poem was entirely written by a very young woman,
who lived at the place now called Trapani, and introduced
herself into her work under the name of Nausicaa.

The main arguments on which I base the first of these somewhat
startling contentions, have been prominently and repeatedly
before the English and Italian public ever since they appeared
(without rejoinder) in the "Athenaeum" for January 30 and
February 20, 1892. Both contentions were urged (also without
rejoinder) in the Johnian "Eagle" for the Lent and October terms
of the same year. Nothing to which I should reply has reached me
from any quarter, and knowing how anxiously I have endeavoured
to learn the existence of any flaws in my argument, I begin to
feel some confidence that, did such flaws exist, I should have
heard, at any rate about some of them, before now. Without,
therefore, for a moment pretending to think that scholars
generally acquiesce in my conclusions, I shall act as thinking
them little likely so to gainsay me as that it will be incumbent
upon me to reply, and shall confine myself to translating the
"Odyssey" for English readers, with such notes as I think will
be found useful. Among these I would especially call attention
to one on xxii. 465-473 which Lord Grimthorpe has kindly allowed
me to make public.

I have repeated several of the illustrations used in "The
Authoress of the Odyssey", and have added two which I hope may
bring the outer court of Ulysses' house more vividly before the
reader. I should like to explain that the presence of a man and
a dog in one illustration is accidental, and was not observed by
me till I developed the negative. In an appendix I have also
reprinted the paragraphs explanatory of the plan of Ulysses'
house, together with the plan itself. The reader is recommended
to study this plan with some attention.

In the preface to my translation of the "Iliad" I have given my
views as to the main principles by which a translator should be
guided, and need not repeat them here, beyond pointing out that
the initial liberty of translating poetry into prose involves
the continual taking of more or less liberty throughout the
translation; for much that is right in poetry is wrong in prose,
and the exigencies of readable prose are the first things to be
considered in a prose translation. That the reader, however, may
see how far I have departed from strict construe, I will print
here Messrs. Butcher and Lang's translation of the sixty lines
or so of the "Odyssey." Their translation runs:

Tell me, Muse, of that man, so ready at need, who wandered
far and wide, after he had sacked the sacred citadel of
Troy, and many were the men whose towns he saw and whose
mind he learnt, yea, and many the woes he suffered in his
heart on the deep, striving to win his own life and the
return of his company. Nay, but even so he saved not his
company, though he desired it sore. For through the
blindness of their own hearts they perished, fools, who
devoured the oxen of Helios Hyperion: but the god took from
them their day of returning. Of these things, goddess,
daughter of Zeus, whencesoever thou hast heard thereof,
declare thou even unto us.

Now all the rest, as many as fled from sheer destruction,
were at home, and had escaped both war and sea, but
Odysseus only, craving for his wife and for his homeward
path, the lady nymph Calypso held, that fair goddess, in her
hollow caves, longing to have him for her lord. But when
now the year had come in the courses of the seasons,
wherein the gods had ordained that he should return home to
Ithaca, not even there was he quit of labours, not even
among his own; but all the gods had pity on him save
Poseidon, who raged continually against godlike Odysseus,
till he came to his own country. Howbeit Poseidon had now
departed for the distant Ethiopians, the Ethiopians that are
sundered in twain, the uttermost of men, abiding some where
Hyperion sinks and some where he rises. There he looked to
receive his hecatomb of bulls and rams, there he made merry
sitting at the feast, but the other gods were gathered in
the halls of Olympian Zeus. Then among them the father of
men and gods began to speak, for he bethought him in his
heart of noble Aegisthus, whom the son of Agamemnon,
far-famed Orestes, slew. Thinking upon him he spake out among
the Immortals:

'Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For of
us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves,
through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows
beyond that which is ordained. Even as of late Aegisthus,
beyond that which was ordained, took to him the wedded wife
of the son of Atreus, and killed her lord on his return,
and that with sheer doom before his eyes, since we had
warned him by the embassy of Hermes the keen-sighted, the
slayer of Argos, that he should neither kill the man, nor
woo his wife. For the son of Atreus shall be avenged at the
hand of Orestes, so soon as he shall come to man's estate
and long for his own country. So spake Hermes, yet he
prevailed not on the heart of Aegisthus, for all his good
will; but now hath he paid one price for all.'

And the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, answered him, saying: 'O
father, our father Cronides, throned in the highest; that
man assuredly lies in a death that is his due; so perish
likewise all who work such deeds! But my heart is rent for
wise Odysseus, the hapless one, who far from his friends
this long while suffereth affliction in a sea-girt isle,
where is the navel of the sea, a woodland isle, and
therein a goddess hath her habitation, the daughter of the
wizard Atlas, who knows the depths of every sea, and
himself upholds the tall pillars which keep earth and sky
asunder. His daughter it is that holds the hapless man in
sorrow: and ever with soft and guileful tales she is
wooing him to forgetfulness of Ithaca. But Odysseus
yearning to see if it were but the smoke leap upwards from
his own land, hath a desire to die. As for thee, thine
heart regardeth it not at all, Olympian! What! Did not
Odysseus by the ships of the Argives make thee free
offering of sacrifice in the wide Trojan land? Wherefore
wast thou then so wroth with him, O Zeus?'

The "Odyssey" (as every one knows) abounds in passages borrowed
from the "Iliad"; I had wished to print these in a slightly
different type, with marginal references to the "Iliad," and had
marked them to this end in my MS. I found, however, that the
translation would be thus hopelessly scholasticised, and
abandoned my intention. I would nevertheless urge on those who
have the management of our University presses, that they would
render a great service to students if they would publish a Greek
text of the "Odyssey" with the Iliadic passages printed in a
different type, and with marginal references. I have given the
British Museum a copy of the "Odyssey" with the Iliadic passages
underlined and referred to in MS.; I have also given an "Iliad"
marked with all the Odyssean passages, and their references; but
copies of both the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" so marked ought to be
within easy reach of all students.

Any one who at the present day discusses the questions that have
arisen round the "Iliad" since Wolf's time, without keeping it
well before his reader's mind that the "Odyssey" was
demonstrably written from one single neighbourhood, and hence
(even though nothing else pointed to this conclusion) presumably
by one person only--that it was written certainly before 750,
and in all probability before 1000 B.C.--that the writer of this
very early poem was demonstrably familiar with the "Iliad" as we
now have it, borrowing as freely from those books whose
genuineness has been most impugned, as from those which are
admitted to be by Homer--any one who fails to keep these
points before his readers, is hardly dealing equitably by
them. Any one on the other hand, who will mark his "Iliad" and
his "Odyssey" from the copies in the British Museum above
referred to, and who will draw the only inference that common
sense can draw from the presence of so many identical passages
in both poems, will, I believe, find no difficulty in assigning
their proper value to a large number of books here and on the
Continent that at present enjoy considerable reputations.
Furthermore, and this perhaps is an advantage better worth
securing, he will find that many puzzles of the "Odyssey" cease
to puzzle him on the discovery that they arise from
over-saturation with the "Iliad."

Other difficulties will also disappear as soon as the
development of the poem in the writer's mind is understood. I
have dealt with this at some length in pp. 251-261 of "The
Authoress of the Odyssey". Briefly, the "Odyssey" consists of
two distinct poems: (1) The Return of Ulysses, which alone the
Muse is asked to sing in the opening lines of the poem. This
poem includes the Phaeacian episode, and the account of Ulysses'
adventures as told by himself in Books ix.-xii. It consists of
lines 1-79 (roughly) of Book i., of line 28 of Book v., and
thence without intermission to the middle of line 187 of Book
xiii., at which point the original scheme was abandoned.

(2) The story of Penelope and the suitors, with the episode of
Telemachus' voyage to Pylos. This poem begins with line 80
(roughly) of Book i., is continued to the end of Book iv., and
not resumed till Ulysses wakes in the middle of line 187, Book
xiii., from whence it continues to the end of Book xxiv.

In "The Authoress of the Odyssey", I wrote:

the introduction of lines xi., 115-137 and of line ix.,
535, with the writing a new council of the gods at the
beginning of Book v., to take the place of the one that was
removed to Book i., 1-79, were the only things that were
done to give even a semblance of unity to the old scheme
and the new, and to conceal the fact that the Muse, after
being asked to sing of one subject, spend two-thirds of her
time in singing a very different one, with a climax for
which no-one has asked her. For roughly the Return occupies
eight Books, and Penelope and the Suitors sixteen.

I believe this to be substantially correct.

Lastly, to deal with a very unimportant point, I observe that
the Leipsic Teubner edition of 894 makes Books ii. and iii. end
with a comma. Stops are things of such far more recent date
than the "Odyssey," that there does not seem much use in
adhering to the text in so small a matter; still, from a spirit
of mere conservatism, I have preferred to do so. Why [Greek] at
the beginnings of Books ii. and viii., and [Greek], at the
beginning of Book vii. should have initial capitals in an
edition far too careful to admit a supposition of inadvertence,
when [Greek] at the beginning of Books vi. and xiii., and
[Greek] at the beginning of Book xvii. have no initial
capitals, I cannot determine. No other Books of the "Odyssey"
have initial capitals except the three mentioned unless the
first word of the Book is a proper name.

July 25, 1900.

Preface to Second Edition

Butler's Translation of the "Odyssey" appeared originally in
1900, and The Authoress of the Odyssey in 1897. In the preface
to the new edition of "The Authoress", which is published
simultaneously with this new edition of the Translation, I have
given some account of the genesis of the two books.

The size of the original page has been reduced so as to make
both books uniform with Butler's other works; and, fortunately,
it has been possible, by using a smaller type, to get the
same number of words into each page, so that the references
remain good, and, with the exception of a few minor alterations
and rearrangements now to be enumerated so far as they affect
the Translation, the new editions are faithful reprints of the
original editions, with misprints and obvious errors corrected--
no attempt having been made to edit them or to bring them up
to date.

(a) The Index has been revised.

(b) Owing to the reduction in the size of the page it has been
necessary to shorten some of the headlines, and here advantage
has been taken of various corrections of and additions to the
headlines and shoulder-notes made by Butler in his own copies
of the two books.

(c) For the most part each of the illustrations now occupies
a page, whereas in the original editions they generally appeared
two on the page. It has been necessary to reduce the plan of
the House of Ulysses.

On page 153 of "The Authoress" Butler says: "No great poet
would compare his hero to a paunch full of blood and fat,
cooking before the fire (xx, 24-28)." This passage is not given
in the abridged Story of the "Odyssey" at the beginning of the
book, but in the Translation it occurs in these words:

"Thus he chided with his heart, and checked it into endurance,
but he tossed about as one who turns a paunch full of blood and fat
in front of a hot fire, doing it first on one side then on the other,
that he may get it cooked as soon as possible; even so did he turn
himself about from side to side, thinking all the time how, single-
handed as he was, he should contrive to kill so large a body of men
as the wicked suitors."

It looks as though in the interval between the publication of
"The Authoress" (1897) and of the Translation (1900) Butler had
changed his mind; for in the first case the comparison is between
Ulysses and a paunch full, etc., and in the second it is between
Ulysses and a man who turns a paunch full, etc. The second
comparison is perhaps one which a great poet might make.

In seeing the works through the press I have had the invaluable
assistance of Mr. A. T. Bartholomew of the University Library,
Cambridge, and of Mr. Donald S. Robertson, Fellow of Trinity
College, Cambridge. To both these friends I give my most
cordial thanks for the care and skill exercised by them. Mr.
Robertson has found time for the labour of checking and
correcting all the quotations from and references to the "Iliad"
and "Odyssey," and I believe that it could not have been
better performed. It was, I know, a pleasure for him; and it
would have been a pleasure also for Butler if he could have
known that his work was being shepherded by the son of his old
friend, Mr. H. R. Robertson, who more than half a century ago
was a fellow-student with him at Cary's School of Art in
Streatham Street, Bloomsbury.

120 MAIDA VALE, W.9.
4th December, 1921.

The Odyssey

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, oh 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. {1} 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,{2} 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
manservant brought them wine and poured it out for them.

Then the suitors came in and took their places on the benches
and seats. {3} 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

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 {4}
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 {5} under the wooded mountain
Neritum. {6} 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 whither; 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, {7} 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 of
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 morning--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 {8} 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." {9}

"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 {10}--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 {11}, 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

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. {12} Telemachus's room was
high up in a tower {13} 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.
{14} 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
{15} 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. {16} But Telemachus as he lay
covered with a woollen fleece kept thinking all night through of
his intended voyage and of the counsel that Minerva had given

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, was 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. {17} 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

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 grievance
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 {18}--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." {19}

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 had 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 call 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

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 all 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 then 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

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 {20} 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

Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time
in doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily home, 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, {21} 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

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

"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

"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

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, {22} that whistled
over the deep blue waves {23} 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 {24} into the
firmament of heaven to shed light 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 {25} 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 {26} 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 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; {27} 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 ship 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, {28} 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, {29} 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 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

"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

"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; {30} 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
carried 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

"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 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 after 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, {31} 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 twelve-month, 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
for going 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 I 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 to also 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 shewed 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' 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
accept 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 {32}
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, {33} 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 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 sweet meats 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. {34}
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. {35}

Now when the sun had set and darkness was over the land,

Book IV


they reached the low lying city of Lacedaemon, where they drove
straight to the abode of Menelaus {36} [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, {37} the 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.] {38}

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 staid 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 the other servants come with
him. They took their sweating steeds 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 maid-servant 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 {39} 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, {40} 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 {41} 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 often 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. {42}

"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 well 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 recognised 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 yearn after my
home, and I was unhappy about the 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. {43} 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 here 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

"'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.
{44} 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 {45}--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. {46}

"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

Book of the day: