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The Odyssey: Book 14 Analysis

Author: Poetry of Homer Type: Poetry Views: 96

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The Odyssey850 B.C.Ulysses now left the haven, and took the rough track up through

the wooded country and over the crest of the mountain till he

reached the place where Minerva had said that he would find the

swineherd, who was the most thrifty servant he had. He found him

sitting in front of his hut, which was by the yards that he had

built on a site which could be seen from far. He had made them

spacious and fair to see, with a free ran for the pigs all round them;

he had built them during his master's absence, of stones which he

had gathered out of the ground, without saying anything to Penelope or

Laertes, and he had fenced them on top with thorn bushes. Outside

the yard he had run a strong fence of oaken posts, split, and set

pretty close together, while inside lie had built twelve sties near

one another for the sows to lie in. There were fifty pigs wallowing in

each sty, all of them breeding sows; but the boars slept outside and

were much fewer in number, for the suitors kept on eating them, and

die swineherd had to send them the best he had continually. There were

three hundred and sixty boar pigs, and the herdsman's four hounds,

which were as fierce as wolves, slept always with them. The

swineherd was at that moment cutting out a pair of sandals from a good

stout ox hide. Three of his men were out herding the pigs in one place

or another, and he had sent the fourth to town with a boar that he had

been forced to send the suitors that they might sacrifice it and

have their fill of meat.When the hounds saw Ulysses they set up a furious barking and flew

at him, but Ulysses was cunning enough to sit down and loose his

hold of the stick that he had in his hand: still, he would have been

torn by them in his own homestead had not the swineherd dropped his ox

hide, rushed full speed through the gate of the yard and driven the

dogs off by shouting and throwing stones at them. Then he said to

Ulysses, "Old man, the dogs were likely to have made short work of

you, and then you would have got me into trouble. The gods have

given me quite enough worries without that, for I have lost the best

of masters, and am in continual grief on his account. I have to attend

swine for other people to eat, while he, if he yet lives to see the

light of day, is starving in some distant land. But come inside, and

when you have had your fill of bread and wine, tell me where you

come from, and all about your misfortunes."On this the swineherd led the way into the hut and bade him sit

down. He strewed a good thick bed of rushes upon the floor, and on the

top of this he threw the shaggy chamois skin- a great thick one- on

which he used to sleep by night. Ulysses was pleased at being made

thus welcome, and said "May Jove, sir, and the rest of the gods

grant you your heart's desire in return for the kind way in which

you have received me."To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Stranger, though a still

poorer man should come here, it would not be right for me to insult

him, for all strangers and beggars are from Jove. You must take what

you can get and be thankful, for servants live in fear when they

have young lords for their masters; and this is my misfortune now, for

heaven has hindered the return of him who would have been always

good to me and given me something of my own- a house, a piece of land,

a good looking wife, and all else that a liberal master allows a

servant who has worked hard for him, and whose labour the gods have

prospered as they have mine in the situation which I hold. If my

master had grown old here he would have done great things by me, but

he is gone, and I wish that Helen's whole race were utterly destroyed,

for she has been the death of many a good man. It was this matter that

took my master to Ilius, the land of noble steeds, to fight the

Trojans in the cause of kin Agamemnon."As he spoke he bound his girdle round him and went to the sties

where the young sucking pigs were penned. He picked out two which he

brought back with him and sacrificed. He singed them, cut them up, and

spitted on them; when the meat was cooked he brought it all in and set

it before Ulysses, hot and still on the spit, whereon Ulysses

sprinkled it over with white barley meal. The swineherd then mixed

wine in a bowl of ivy-wood, and taking a seat opposite Ulysses told

him to begin."Fall to, stranger," said he, "on a dish of servant's pork. The

fat pigs have to go to the suitors, who eat them up without shame or

scruple; but the blessed gods love not such shameful doings, and

respect those who do what is lawful and right. Even the fierce

free-booters who go raiding on other people's land, and Jove gives

them their spoil- even they, when they have filled their ships and got

home again live conscience-stricken, and look fearfully for judgement;

but some god seems to have told these people that Ulysses is dead

and gone; they will not, therefore, go back to their own homes and

make their offers of marriage in the usual way, but waste his estate

by force, without fear or stint. Not a day or night comes out of

heaven, but they sacrifice not one victim nor two only, and they

take the run of his wine, for he was exceedingly rich. No other

great man either in Ithaca or on the mainland is as rich as he was; he

had as much as twenty men put together. I will tell you what he had.

There are twelve herds of cattle upon the mainland, and as many flocks

of sheep, there are also twelve droves of pigs, while his own men

and hired strangers feed him twelve widely spreading herds of goats.

Here in Ithaca he runs even large flocks of goats on the far end of

the island, and they are in the charge of excellent goatherds. Each

one of these sends the suitors the best goat in the flock every day.

As for myself, I am in charge of the pigs that you see here, and I

have to keep picking out the best I have and sending it to them."This was his story, but Ulysses went on eating and drinking

ravenously without a word, brooding his revenge. When he had eaten

enough and was satisfied, the swineherd took the bowl from which he

usually drank, filled it with wine, and gave it to Ulysses, who was

pleased, and said as he took it in his hands, "My friend, who was this

master of yours that bought you and paid for you, so rich and so

powerful as you tell me? You say he perished in the cause of King

Agamemnon; tell me who he was, in case I may have met with such a

person. Jove and the other gods know, but I may be able to give you

news of him, for I have travelled much."Eumaeus answered, "Old man, no traveller who comes here with news

will get Ulysses' wife and son to believe his story. Nevertheless,

tramps in want of a lodging keep coming with their mouths full of

lies, and not a word of truth; every one who finds his way to Ithaca

goes to my mistress and tells her falsehoods, whereon she takes them

in, makes much of them, and asks them all manner of questions,

crying all the time as women will when they have lost their

husbands. And you too, old man, for a shirt and a cloak would

doubtless make up a very pretty story. But the wolves and birds of

prey have long since torn Ulysses to pieces, or the fishes of the

sea have eaten him, and his bones are lying buried deep in sand upon

some foreign shore; he is dead and gone, and a bad business it is

for all his friends- for me especially; go where I may I shall never

find so good a master, not even if I were to go home to my mother

and father where I was bred and born. I do not so much care,

however, about my parents now, though I should dearly like to see them

again in my own country; it is the loss of Ulysses that grieves me

most; I cannot speak of him without reverence though he is here no

longer, for he was very fond of me, and took such care of me that

whereever he may be I shall always honour his memory.""My friend," replied Ulysses, "you are very positive, and very

hard of belief about your master's coming home again, nevertheless I

will not merely say, but will swear, that he is coming. Do not give me

anything for my news till he has actually come, you may then give me a

shirt and cloak of good wear if you will. I am in great want, but I

will not take anything at all till then, for I hate a man, even as I

hate hell fire, who lets his poverty tempt him into lying. I swear

by king Jove, by the rites of hospitality, and by that hearth of

Ulysses to which I have now come, that all will surely happen as I

have said it will. Ulysses will return in this self same year; with

the end of this moon and the beginning of the next he will be here

to do vengeance on all those who are ill treating his wife and son."To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Old man, you will

neither get paid for bringing good news, nor will Ulysses ever come

home; drink you wine in peace, and let us talk about something else.

Do not keep on reminding me of all this; it always pains me when any

one speaks about my honoured master. As for your oath we will let it

alone, but I only wish he may come, as do Penelope, his old father

Laertes, and his son Telemachus. I am terribly unhappy too about

this same boy of his; he was running up fast into manhood, and bade

fare to be no worse man, face and figure, than his father, but some

one, either god or man, has been unsettling his mind, so he has gone

off to Pylos to try and get news of his father, and the suitors are

lying in wait for him as he is coming home, in the hope of leaving the

house of Arceisius without a name in Ithaca. But let us say no more

about him, and leave him to be taken, or else to escape if the son

of Saturn holds his hand over him to protect him. And now, old man,

tell me your own story; tell me also, for I want to know, who you

are and where you come from. Tell me of your town and parents, what

manner of ship you came in, how crew brought you to Ithaca, and from

what country they professed to come- for you cannot have come by

land."And Ulysses answered, "I will tell you all about it. If there were

meat and wine enough, and we could stay here in the hut with nothing

to do but to eat and drink while the others go to their work, I

could easily talk on for a whole twelve months without ever

finishing the story of the sorrows with which it has pleased heaven to

visit me."I am by birth a Cretan; my father was a well-to-do man, who had

many sons born in marriage, whereas I was the son of a slave whom he

had purchased for a concubine; nevertheless, my father Castor son of

Hylax (whose lineage I claim, and who was held in the highest honour

among the Cretans for his wealth, prosperity, and the valour of his

sons) put me on the same level with my brothers who had been born in

wedlock. When, however, death took him to the house of Hades, his sons

divided his estate and cast lots for their shares, but to me they gave

a holding and little else; nevertheless, my valour enabled me to marry

into a rich family, for I was not given to bragging, or shirking on

the field of battle. It is all over now; still, if you look at the

straw you can see what the ear was, for I have had trouble enough

and to spare. Mars and Minerva made me doughty in war; when I had

picked my men to surprise the enemy with an ambuscade I never gave

death so much as a thought, but was the first to leap forward and

spear all whom I could overtake. Such was I in battle, but I did not

care about farm work, nor the frugal home life of those who would

bring up children. My delight was in ships, fighting, javelins, and

arrows- things that most men shudder to think of; but one man likes

one thing and another another, and this was what I was most

naturally inclined to. Before the Achaeans went to Troy, nine times

was I in command of men and ships on foreign service, and I amassed

much wealth. I had my pick of the spoil in the first instance, and

much more was allotted to me later on."My house grew apace and I became a great man among the Cretans, but

when Jove counselled that terrible expedition, in which so many

perished, the people required me and Idomeneus to lead their ships

to Troy, and there was no way out of it, for they insisted on our

doing so. There we fought for nine whole years, but in the tenth we

sacked the city of Priam and sailed home again as heaven dispersed us.

Then it was that Jove devised evil against me. I spent but one month

happily with my children, wife, and property, and then I conceived the

idea of making a descent on Egypt, so I fitted out a fine fleet and

manned it. I had nine ships, and the people flocked to fill them.

For six days I and my men made feast, and I found them many victims

both for sacrifice to the gods and for themselves, but on the

seventh day we went on board and set sail from Crete with a fair North

wind behind us though we were going down a river. Nothing went ill

with any of our ships, and we had no sickness on board, but sat

where we were and let the ships go as the wind and steersmen took

them. On the fifth day we reached the river Aegyptus; there I

stationed my ships in the river, bidding my men stay by them and

keep guard over them while I sent out scouts to reconnoitre from every

point of vantage."But the men disobeyed my orders, took to their own devices, and

ravaged the land of the Egyptians, killing the men, and taking their

wives and children captive. The alarm was soon carried to the city,

and when they heard the war cry, the people came out at daybreak

till the plain was filled with horsemen and foot soldiers and with the

gleam of armour. Then Jove spread panic among my men, and they would

no longer face the enemy, for they found themselves surrounded. The

Egyptians killed many of us, and took the rest alive to do forced

labour for them. Jove, however, put it in my mind to do thus- and I

wish I had died then and there in Egypt instead, for there was much

sorrow in store for me- I took off my helmet and shield and dropped my

spear from my hand; then I went straight up to the king's chariot,

clasped his knees and kissed them, whereon he spared my life, bade

me get into his chariot, and took me weeping to his own home. Many

made at me with their ashen spears and tried to kil me in their

fury, but the king protected me, for he feared the wrath of Jove the

protector of strangers, who punishes those who do evil."I stayed there for seven years and got together much money among

the Egyptians, for they all gave me something; but when it was now

going on for eight years there came a certain Phoenician, a cunning

rascal, who had already committed all sorts of villainy, and this

man talked me over into going with him to Phoenicia, where his house

and his possessions lay. I stayed there for a whole twelve months, but

at the end of that time when months and days had gone by till the same

season had come round again, he set me on board a ship bound for

Libya, on a pretence that I was to take a cargo along with him to that

place, but really that he might sell me as a slave and take the

money I fetched. I suspected his intention, but went on board with

him, for I could not help it."The ship ran before a fresh North wind till we had reached the

sea that lies between Crete and Libya; there, however, Jove counselled

their destruction, for as soon as we were well out from Crete and

could see nothing but sea and sky, he raised a black cloud over our

ship and the sea grew dark beneath it. Then Jove let fly with his

thunderbolts and the ship went round and round and was filled with

fire and brimstone as the lightning struck it. The men fell all into

the sea; they were carried about in the water round the ship looking

like so many sea-gulls, but the god presently deprived them of all

chance of getting home again. I was all dismayed; Jove, however,

sent the ship's mast within my reach, which saved my life, for I clung

to it, and drifted before the fury of the gale. Nine days did I

drift but in the darkness of the tenth night a great wave bore me on

to the Thesprotian coast. There Pheidon king of the Thesprotians

entertained me hospitably without charging me anything at all for

his son found me when I was nearly dead with cold and fatigue, whereon

he raised me by the hand, took me to his father's house and gave me

clothes to wear."There it was that I heard news of Ulysses, for the king told me

he had entertained him, and shown him much hospitality while he was on

his homeward journey. He showed me also the treasure of gold, and

wrought iron that Ulysses had got together. There was enough to keep

his family for ten generations, so much had he left in the house of

king Pheidon. But the king said Ulysses had gone to Dodona that he

might learn Jove's mind from the god's high oak tree, and know whether

after so long an absence he should return to Ithaca openly, or in

secret. Moreover the king swore in my presence, making drink-offerings

in his own house as he did so, that the ship was by the water side,

and the crew found, that should take him to his own country. He sent

me off however before Ulysses returned, for there happened to be a

Thesprotian ship sailing for the wheat-growing island of Dulichium,

and he told those in charge of her to be sure and take me safely to

King Acastus."These men hatched a plot against me that would have reduced me to

the very extreme of misery, for when the ship had got some way out

from land they resolved on selling me as a slave. They stripped me

of the shirt and cloak that I was wearing, and gave me instead the

tattered old clouts in which you now see me; then, towards

nightfall, they reached the tilled lands of Ithaca, and there they

bound me with a strong rope fast in the ship, while they went on shore

to get supper by the sea side. But the gods soon undid my bonds for

me, and having drawn my rags over my head I slid down the rudder

into the sea, where I struck out and swam till I was well clear of

them, and came ashore near a thick wood in which I lay concealed. They

were very angry at my having escaped and went searching about for

me, till at last they thought it was no further use and went back to

their ship. The gods, having hidden me thus easily, then took me to

a good man's door- for it seems that I am not to die yet awhile."To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Poor unhappy stranger, I

have found the story of your misfortunes extremely interesting, but

that part about Ulysses is not right; and you will never get me to

believe it. Why should a man like you go about telling lies in this

way? I know all about the return of my master. The gods one and all of

them detest him, or they would have taken him before Troy, or let

him die 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 his son would have been heir to his renown, but now the storm

winds have spirited him away we know not whither."As for me I live out of the way here with the pigs, and never go to

the town unless when Penelope sends for me on the arrival of some news

about Ulysses. Then they all sit round and ask questions, both those

who grieve over the king's absence, and those who rejoice at it

because they can eat up his property without paying for it. For my own

part I have never cared about asking anyone else since the time when I

was taken in by an Aetolian, who had killed a man and come a long

way till at last he reached my station, and I was very kind to him. He

said he had seen Ulysses with Idomeneus among the Cretans, refitting

his ships which had been damaged in a gale. He said Ulysses would

return in the following summer or autumn with his men, and that he

would bring back much wealth. And now you, you unfortunate old man,

since fate has brought you to my door, do not try to flatter me in

this way with vain hopes. It is not for any such reason that I shall

treat you kindly, but only out of respect for Jove the god of

hospitality, as fearing him and pitying you."Ulysses answered, "I see that you are of an unbelieving mind; I have

given you my oath, and yet you will not credit me; let us then make

a bargain, and call all the gods in heaven to witness it. If your

master comes home, give me a cloak and shirt of good wear, and send me

to Dulichium where I want to go; but if he does not come as I say he

will, set your men on to me, and tell them to throw me from yonder

precepice, as a warning to tramps not to go about the country

telling lies.""And a pretty figure I should cut then," replied Eumaeus, both now

and hereafter, if I were to kill you after receiving you into my hut

and showing you hospitality. I should have to say my prayers in good

earnest if I did; but it is just supper time and I hope my men will

come in directly, that we may cook something savoury for supper."Thus did they converse, and presently the swineherds came up with

the pigs, which were then shut up for the night in their sties, and

a tremendous squealing they made as they were being driven into

them. But Eumaeus called to his men and said, "Bring in the best pig

you have, that I may sacrifice for this stranger, and we will take

toll of him ourselves. We have had trouble enough this long time

feeding pigs, while others reap the fruit of our labour."On this he began chopping firewood, while the others brought in a

fine fat five year old boar pig, and set it at the altar. Eumaeus

did not forget the gods, for he was a man of good principles, so the

first thing he did was to cut bristles from the pig's face and throw

them into the fire, praying to all the gods as he did so that

Ulysses might return home again. Then he clubbed the pig with a billet

of oak which he had kept back when he was chopping the firewood, and

stunned it, while the others slaughtered and singed it. Then they

cut it up, and Eumaeus began by putting raw pieces from each joint

on to some of the fat; these he sprinkled with barley meal, and laid

upon the embers; they cut the rest of the meat up small, put the

pieces upon the spits and roasted them till they were done; when

they had taken them off the spits they threw them on to the dresser in

a heap. The swineherd, who was a most equitable man, then stood up

to give every one his share. He made seven portions; one of these he

set apart for Mercury the son of Maia and the nymphs, praying to

them as he did so; the others he dealt out to the men man by man. He

gave Ulysses some slices cut lengthways down the loin as a mark of

especial honour, and Ulysses was much pleased. "I hope, Eumaeus," said

he, "that Jove will be as well disposed towards you as I am, for the

respect you are showing to an outcast like myself."To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Eat, my good fellow, and

enjoy your supper, such as it is. God grants this, and withholds that,

just as he thinks right, for he can do whatever he chooses."As he spoke he cut off the first piece and offered it as a burnt

sacrifice to the immortal gods; then he made them a drink-offering,

put the cup in the hands of Ulysses, and sat down to his own

portion. Mesaulius brought them their bread; the swineherd had

bought this man on his own account from among the Taphians during

his master's absence, and had paid for him with his own money

without saying anything either to his mistress or Laertes. They then

laid their hands upon the good things that were before them, and

when they had had enough to eat and drink, Mesaulius took away what

was left of the bread, and they all went to bed after having made a

hearty supper.Now the night came on stormy and very dark, for there was no moon.

It poured without ceasing, and the wind blew strong from the West,

which is a wet quarter, so Ulysses thought he would see whether

Eumaeus, in the excellent care he took of him, would take off his

own cloak and give it him, or make one of his men give him one.

"Listen to me," said he, "Eumaeus and the rest of you; when I have

said a prayer I will tell you something. It is the wine that makes

me talk in this way; wine will make even a wise man fall to singing;

it will make him chuckle and dance and say many a word that he had

better leave unspoken; still, as I have begun, I will go on. Would

that I were still young and strong as when we got up an ambuscade

before Troy. Menelaus and Ulysses were the leaders, but I was in

command also, for the other two would have it so. When we had come

up to the wall of the city we crouched down beneath our armour and lay

there under cover of the reeds and thick brush-wood that grew about

the swamp. It came on to freeze with a North wind blowing; the snow

fell small and fine like hoar frost, and our shields were coated thick

with rime. The others had all got cloaks and shirts, and slept

comfortably enough with their shields about their shoulders, but I had

carelessly left my cloak behind me, not thinking that I should be

too cold, and had gone off in nothing but my shirt and shield. When

the night was two-thirds through and the stars had shifted their their

places, I nudged Ulysses who was close to me with my elbow, and he

at once gave me his ear."'Ulysses,' said I, 'this cold will be the death of me, for I have

no cloak; some god fooled me into setting off with nothing on but my

shirt, and I do not know what to do.'"Ulysses, who was as crafty as he was valiant, hit upon the

following plan:"'Keep still,' said he in a low voice, 'or the others will hear

you.' Then he raised his head on his elbow."'My friends,' said he, 'I have had a dream from heaven in my sleep.

We are a long way from the ships; I wish some one would go down and

tell Agamemnon to send us up more men at once.'"On this Thoas son of Andraemon threw off his cloak and set out

running to the ships, whereon I took the cloak and lay in it

comfortably enough till morning. Would that I were still young and

strong as I was in those days, for then some one of you swineherds

would give me a cloak both out of good will and for the respect due to

a brave soldier; but now people look down upon me because my clothes

are shabby."And Eumaeus answered, "Old man, you have told us an excellent story,

and have said nothing so far but what is quite satisfactory; for the

present, therefore, you shall want neither clothing nor anything

else that a stranger in distress may reasonably expect, but

to-morrow morning you have to shake your own old rags about your

body again, for we have not many spare cloaks nor shirts up here,

but every man has only one. When Ulysses' son comes home again he will

give you both cloak and shirt, and send you wherever you may want to

go."With this he got up and made a bed for Ulysses by throwing some

goatskins and sheepskins on the ground in front of the fire. Here

Ulysses lay down, and Eumaeus covered him over with a great heavy

cloak that he kept for a change in case of extraordinarily bad

weather.Thus did Ulysses sleep, and the young men slept beside him. But

the swineherd did not like sleeping away from his pigs, so he got

ready to go and Ulysses was glad to see that he looked after his

property during his master's absence. First he slung his sword over

his brawny shoulders and put on a thick cloak to keep out the wind. He

also took the skin of a large and well fed goat, and a javelin in case

of attack from men or dogs. Thus equipped he went to his rest where

the pigs were camping under an overhanging rock that gave them shelter

from the North wind.


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