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The Odyssey: Book 16 Analysis

Author: Poetry of Homer Type: Poetry Views: 172

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The Odyssey850 B.C.Meanwhile Ulysses and the swineherd had lit a fire in the hut and

were were getting breakfast ready at daybreak for they had sent the

men out with the pigs. When Telemachus came up, the dogs did not bark,

but fawned upon him, so Ulysses, hearing the sound of feet and

noticing that the dogs did not bark, said to Eumaeus:"Eumaeus, I hear footsteps; I suppose one of your men or some one of

your acquaintance is coming here, for the dogs are fawning urn him and

not barking."The words were hardly out of his mouth before his son stood at the

door. Eumaeus sprang to his feet, and the bowls in which he was mixing

wine fell from his hands, as he made towards his master. He kissed his

head and both his beautiful eyes, and wept for joy. A father could not

be more delighted at the return of an only son, the child of his old

age, after ten years' absence in a foreign country and after having

gone through much hardship. He embraced him, kissed him all over as

though he had come back from the dead, and spoke fondly to him saying:"So you are come, Telemachus, light of my eyes that you are. When

I heard you had gone to Pylos I made sure I was never going to see you

any more. Come in, my dear child, and sit down, that I may have a good

look at you now you are home again; it is not very often you come into

the country to see us herdsmen; you stick pretty close to the town

generally. I suppose you think it better to keep an eye on what the

suitors are doing.""So be it, old friend," answered Telemachus, "but I am come now

because I want to see you, and to learn whether my mother is still

at her old home or whether some one else has married her, so that

the bed of Ulysses is without bedding and covered with cobwebs.""She is still at the house," replied Eumaeus, "grieving and breaking

her heart, and doing nothing but weep, both night and day

continually."As spoke he took Telemachus' spear, whereon he crossed the stone

threshold and came inside. Ulysses rose from his seat to give him

place as he entered, but Telemachus checked him; "Sit down, stranger."

said he, "I can easily find another seat, and there is one here who

will lay it for me."Ulysses went back to his own place, and Eumaeus strewed some green

brushwood on the floor and threw a sheepskin on top of it for

Telemachus to sit upon. Then the swineherd brought them platters of

cold meat, the remains from what they had eaten the day before, and he

filled the bread baskets with bread as fast as he could. He mixed wine

also in bowls of ivy-wood, and took his seat facing Ulysses. Then they

laid their hands on the good things that were before them, and as soon

as they had had enough to eat and drink Telemachus said to Eumaeus,

"Old friend, where does this stranger come from? How did his crew

bring him to Ithaca, and who were they?-for assuredly he did not

come here by land"'To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "My son, I will tell

you the real truth. He says he is a Cretan, and that he has been a

great traveller. At this moment he is running away from a

Thesprotian ship, and has refuge at my station, so I will put him into

your hands. Do whatever you like with him, only remember that he is

your suppliant.""I am very much distressed," said Telemachus, "by what you have just

told me. How can I take this stranger into my house? I am as yet

young, and am not strong enough to hold my own if any man attacks

me. My mother cannot make up her mind whether to stay where she is and

look after the house out of respect for public opinion and the

memory of her husband, or whether the time is now come for her to take

the best man of those who are wooing her, and the one who will make

her the most advantageous offer; still, as the stranger has come to

your station I will find him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a

sword and sandals, and will send him wherever he wants to go. Or if

you like you can keep him here at the station, and I will send him

clothes and food that he may be no burden on you and on your men;

but I will not have him go near the suitors, for they are very

insolent, and are sure to ill-treat him in a way that would greatly

grieve me; no matter how valiant a man may be he can do nothing

against numbers, for they will be too strong for him."Then Ulysses said, "Sir, it is right that I should say something

myself. I am much shocked about what you have said about the

insolent way in which the suitors are behaving in despite of such a

man as you are. Tell me, do you submit to such treatment tamely, or

has some god set your people against you? May you not complain of your

brothers- for it is to these that a man may look for support,

however great his quarrel may be? I wish I were as young as you are

and in my present mind; if I were son to Ulysses, or, indeed,

Ulysses himself, I would rather some one came and cut my head off, but

I would go to the house and be the bane of every one of these men.

If they were too many for me- I being single-handed- I would rather

die fighting in my own house than see such disgraceful sights day

after day, strangers grossly maltreated, and men dragging the women

servants about the house in an unseemly way, wine drawn recklessly,

and bread wasted all to no purpose for an end that shall never be

accomplished."And Telemachus answered, "I will tell you truly everything. There is

no emnity between me and my people, nor can I complain of brothers, to

whom a man may look for support however great his quarrel may be. Jove

has made us a race of only sons. Laertes was the only son of

Arceisius, and Ulysses only son of Laertes. I am myself the only son

of Ulysses who left me behind him when he went away, so that I have

never been of any use to him. Hence it comes that my house is in the

hands of numberless marauders; for the chiefs from all the

neighbouring islands, Dulichium, Same, Zacynthus, as also all the

principal men of Ithaca itself, are eating up my house under the

pretext of paying court to my mother, who will neither say point blank

that she will not marry, nor yet bring matters to an end, so they

are making havoc of my estate, and before long will do so with

myself into the bargain. The issue, however, rests with heaven. But do

you, old friend Eumaeus, go at once and tell Penelope that I am safe

and have returned from Pylos. Tell it to herself alone, and then

come back here without letting any one else know, for there are many

who are plotting mischief against me.""I understand and heed you," replied Eumaeus; "you need instruct

me no further, only I am going that way say whether I had not better

let poor Laertes know that you are returned. He used to superintend

the work on his farm in spite of his bitter sorrow about Ulysses,

and he would eat and drink at will along with his servants; but they

tell me that from the day on which you set out for Pylos he has

neither eaten nor drunk as he ought to do, nor does he look after

his farm, but sits weeping and wasting the flesh from off his bones.""More's the pity," answered Telemachus, "I am sorry for him, but

we must leave him to himself just now. If people could have everything

their own way, the first thing I should choose would be the return

of my father; but go, and give your message; then make haste back

again, and do not turn out of your way to tell Laertes. Tell my mother

to send one of her women secretly with the news at once, and let him

hear it from her."Thus did he urge the swineherd; Eumaeus, therefore, took his

sandals, bound them to his feet, and started for the town. Minerva

watched him well off the station, and then came up to it in the form

of a woman- fair, stately, and wise. She stood against the side of the

entry, and revealed herself to Ulysses, but Telemachus could not see

her, and knew not that she was there, for the gods do not let

themselves be seen by everybody. Ulysses saw her, and so did the dogs,

for they did not bark, but went scared and whining off to the other

side of the yards. She nodded her head and motioned to Ulysses with

her eyebrows; whereon he left the hut and stood before her outside the

main wall of the yards. Then she said to him:"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it is now time for you to tell

your son: do not keep him in the dark any longer, but lay your plans

for the destruction of the suitors, and then make for the town. I will

not be long in joining you, for I too am eager for the fray."As she spoke she touched him with her golden wand. First she threw a

fair clean shirt and cloak about his shoulders; then she made him

younger and of more imposing presence; she gave him back his colour,

filled out his cheeks, and let his beard become dark again. Then she

went away and Ulysses came back inside the hut. His son was

astounded when he saw him, and turned his eyes away for fear he

might be looking upon a god."Stranger," said he, "how suddenly you have changed from what you

were a moment or two ago. You are dressed differently and your

colour is not the same. Are you some one or other of the gods that

live in heaven? If so, be propitious to me till I can make you due

sacrifice and offerings of wrought gold. Have mercy upon me."And Ulysses said, "I am no god, why should you take me for one? I am

your father, on whose account you grieve and suffer so much at the

hands of lawless men."As he spoke he kissed his son, and a tear fell from his cheek on

to the ground, for he had restrained all tears till now. but

Telemachus could not yet believe that it was his father, and said:"You are not my father, but some god is flattering me with vain

hopes that I may grieve the more hereafter; no mortal man could of

himself contrive to do as you have been doing, and make yourself old

and young at a moment's notice, unless a god were with him. A second

ago you were old and all in rags, and now you are like some god come

down from heaven."Ulysses answered, "Telemachus, you ought not to be so immeasurably

astonished at my being really here. There is no other Ulysses who will

come hereafter. Such as I am, it is I, who after long wandering and

much hardship have got home in the twentieth year to my own country.

What you wonder at is the work of the redoubtable goddess Minerva, who

does with me whatever she will, for she can do what she pleases. At

one moment she makes me like a beggar, and the next I am a young man

with good clothes on my back; it is an easy matter for the gods who

live in heaven to make any man look either rich or poor."As he spoke he sat down, and Telemachus threw his arms about his

father and wept. They were both so much moved that they cried aloud

like eagles or vultures with crooked talons that have been robbed of

their half fledged young by peasants. Thus piteously did they weep,

and the sun would have gone down upon their mourning if Telemachus had

not suddenly said, "In what ship, my dear father, did your crew

bring you to Ithaca? Of what nation did they declare themselves to be-

for you cannot have come by land?""I will tell you the truth, my son," replied Ulysses. "It was the

Phaeacians who brought me here. They are great sailors, and are in the

habit of giving escorts to any one who reaches their coasts. They took

me over the sea while I was fast asleep, and landed me in Ithaca,

after giving me many presents in bronze, gold, and raiment. These

things by heaven's mercy are lying concealed in a cave, and I am now

come here on the suggestion of Minerva that we may consult about

killing our enemies. First, therefore, give me a list of the

suitors, with their number, that I may learn who, and how many, they

are. I can then turn the matter over in my mind, and see whether we

two can fight the whole body of them ourselves, or whether we must

find others to help us."To this Telemachus answered, "Father, I have always heard of your

renown both in the field and in council, but the task you talk of is a

very great one: I am awed at the mere thought of it; two men cannot

stand against many and brave ones. There are not ten suitors only, nor

twice ten, but ten many times over; you shall learn their number at

once. There are fifty-two chosen youths from Dulichium, and they

have six servants; from Same there are twenty-four; twenty young

Achaeans from Zacynthus, and twelve from Ithaca itself, all of them

well born. They have with them a servant Medon, a bard, and two men

who can carve at table. If we face such numbers as this, you may

have bitter cause to rue your coming, and your revenge. See whether

you cannot think of some one who would be willing to come and help

us.""Listen to me," replied Ulysses, "and think whether Minerva and

her father Jove may seem sufficient, or whether I am to try and find

some one else as well.""Those whom you have named," answered Telemachus, "are a couple of

good allies, for though they dwell high up among the clouds they

have power over both gods and men.""These two," continued Ulysses, "will not keep long out of the fray,

when the suitors and we join fight in my house. Now, therefore, return

home early to-morrow morning, and go about among the suitors as

before. Later on the swineherd will bring me to the city disguised

as a miserable old beggar. If you see them ill-treating me, steel your

heart against my sufferings; even though they drag me feet foremost

out of the house, or throw things at me, look on and do nothing beyond

gently trying to make them behave more reasonably; but they will not

listen to you, for the day of their reckoning is at hand.

Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart, when Minerva shall

put it in my mind, I will nod my head to you, and on seeing me do this

you must collect all the armour that is in the house and hide it in

the strong store room. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why

you are removing it; say that you have taken it to be out of the way

of the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses

went away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this

more particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to

quarrel over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm

which may disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms

sometimes tempts people to use them. But leave a sword and a spear

apiece for yourself and me, and a couple oxhide shields so that we can

snatch them up at any moment; Jove and Minerva will then soon quiet

these people. There is also another matter; if you are indeed my son

and my blood runs in your veins, let no one know that Ulysses is

within the house- neither Laertes, nor yet the swineherd, nor any of

the servants, nor even Penelope herself. Let you and me exploit the

women alone, and let us also make trial of some other of the men

servants, to see who is on our side and whose hand is against us.""Father," replied Telemachus, "you will come to know me by and by,

and when you do you will find that I can keep your counsel. I do not

think, however, the plan you propose will turn out well for either

of us. Think it over. It will take us a long time to go the round of

the farms and exploit the men, and all the time the suitors will be

wasting your estate with impunity and without compunction. Prove the

women by all means, to see who are disloyal and who guiltless, but I

am not in favour of going round and trying the men. We can attend to

that later on, if you really have some sign from Jove that he will

support you."Thus did they converse, and meanwhile the ship which had brought

Telemachus and his crew from Pylos had reached the town of Ithaca.

When they had come inside the harbour they drew the ship on to the

land; their servants came and took their armour from them, and they

left all the presents at the house of Clytius. Then they sent a

servant to tell Penelope that Telemachus had gone into the country,

but had sent the ship to the town to prevent her from being alarmed

and made unhappy. This servant and Eumaeus happened to meet when

they were both on the same errand of going to tell Penelope. When they

reached the House, the servant stood up and said to the queen in the

presence of the waiting women, "Your son, Madam, is now returned

from Pylos"; but Eumaeus went close up to Penelope, and said privately

that her son had given bidden him tell her. When he had given his

message he left the house with its outbuildings and went back to his

pigs again.The suitors were surprised and angry at what had happened, so they

went outside the great wall that ran round the outer court, and held a

council near the main entrance. Eurymachus, son of Polybus, was the

first to speak."My friends," said he, "this voyage of Telemachus's is a very

serious matter; we had made sure that it would come to nothing. Now,

however, let us draw a ship into the water, and get a crew together to

send after the others and tell them to come back as fast as they can."He had hardly done speaking when Amphinomus turned in his place

and saw the ship inside the harbour, with the crew lowering her sails,

and putting by their oars; so he laughed, and said to the others,

"We need not send them any message, for they are here. Some god must

have told them, or else they saw the ship go by, and could not

overtake her.On this they rose and went to the water side. The crew then drew the

ship on shore; their servants took their armour from them, and they

went up in a body to the place of assembly, but they would not let any

one old or young sit along with them, and Antinous, son of

Eupeithes, spoke first."Good heavens," said he, "see how the gods have saved this man

from destruction. We kept a succession of scouts upon the headlands

all day long, and when the sun was down we never went on shore to

sleep, but waited in the ship all night till morning in the hope of

capturing and killing him; but some god has conveyed him home in spite

of us. Let us consider how we can make an end of him. He must not

escape us; our affair is never likely to come off while is alive,

for he is very shrewd, and public feeling is by no means all on our

side. We must make haste before he can call the Achaeans in

assembly; he will lose no time in doing so, for he will be furious

with us, and will tell all the world how we plotted to kill him, but

failed to take him. The people will not like this when they come to

know of it; we must see that they do us no hurt, nor drive us from our

own country into exile. Let us try and lay hold of him either on his

farm away from the town, or on the road hither. Then we can divide

up his property amongst us, and let his mother and the man who marries

her have the house. If this does not please you, and you wish

Telemachus to live on and hold his father's property, then we must not

gather here and eat up his goods in this way, but must make our offers

to Penelope each from his own house, and she can marry the man who

will give the most for her, and whose lot it is to win her."They all held their peace until Amphinomus rose to speak. He was the

son of Nisus, who was son to king Aretias, and he was foremost among

all the suitors from the wheat-growing and well grassed island of

Dulichium; his conversation, moreover, was more agreeable to

Penelope than that of any of the other for he was a man of good

natural disposition. "My friends," said he, speaking to them plainly

and in all honestly, "I am not in favour of killing Telemachus. It

is a heinous thing to kill one who is of noble blood. Let us first

take counsel of the gods, and if the oracles of Jove advise it, I will

both help to kill him myself, and will urge everyone else to do so;

but if they dissuade us, I would have you hold your hands."Thus did he speak, and his words pleased them well, so they rose

forthwith and went to the house of Ulysses where they took their

accustomed seats.Then Penelope resolved that she would show herself to the suitors.

She knew of the plot against Telemachus, for the servant Medon had

overheard their counsels and had told her; she went down therefore

to the court attended by her maidens, and when she reached the suitors

she stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the

cloister holding a veil before her face, and rebuked Antinous saying:"Antinous, insolent and wicked schemer, they say you are the best

speaker and counsellor of any man your own age in Ithaca, but you

are nothing of the kind. Madman, why should you try to compass the

death of Telemachus, and take no heed of suppliants, whose witness

is Jove himself? It is not right for you to plot thus against one

another. Do you not remember how your father fled to this house in

fear of the people, who were enraged against him for having gone

with some Taphian pirates and plundered the Thesprotians who were at

peace with us? They wanted to tear him in pieces and eat up everything

he had, but Ulysses stayed their hands although they were

infuriated, and now you devour his property without paying for it, and

break my heart by his wooing his wife and trying to kill his son.

Leave off doing so, and stop the others also."To this Eurymachus son of Polybus answered, "Take heart, Queen

Penelope daughter of Icarius, and do not trouble yourself about

these matters. The man is not yet born, nor never will be, who shall

lay hands upon your son Telemachus, while I yet live to look upon

the face of the earth. I say- and it shall surely be- that my spear

shall be reddened with his blood; for many a time has Ulysses taken me

on his knees, held wine up to my lips to drink, and put pieces of meat

into my hands. Therefore Telemachus is much the dearest friend I have,

and has nothing to fear from the hands of us suitors. Of course, if

death comes to him from the gods, he cannot escape it." He said this

to quiet her, but in reality he was plotting against Telemachus.Then Penelope went upstairs again and mourned her husband till

Minerva shed sleep over her eyes. In the evening Eumaeus got back to

Ulysses and his son, who had just sacrificed a young pig of a year old

and were ready; helping one another to get supper ready; Minerva

therefore came up to Ulysses, turned him into an old man with a stroke

of her wand, and clad him in his old clothes again, for fear that

the swineherd might recognize him and not keep the secret, but go

and tell Penelope.Telemachus was the first to speak. "So you have got back,

Eumaeus," said he. "What is the news of the town? Have the suitors

returned, or are they still waiting over yonder, to take me on my

way home?""I did not think of asking about that," replied Eumaeus, "when I was

in the town. I thought I would give my message and come back as soon

as I could. I met a man sent by those who had gone with you to

Pylos, and he was the first to tell the new your mother, but I can say

what I saw with my own eyes; I had just got on to the crest of the

hill of Mercury above the town when I saw a ship coming into harbour

with a number of men in her. They had many shields and spears, and I

thought it was the suitors, but I cannot be sure."On hearing this Telemachus smiled to his father, but so that Eumaeus

could not see him.Then, when they had finished their work and the meal was ready, they

ate it, and every man had his full share so that all were satisfied.

As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, they laid down to

rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.


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