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The Odyssey: Book 3 Analysis



Author: poem of Homer Type: poem Views: 3

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  But as the sun was rising from the fair sea into the firmament of

heaven to shed Blight 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 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 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 he handed 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; 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 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, 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, 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 him, 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 him."

  "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 Agamemnon?"

  "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; 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 thus 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 expectations.

  "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 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 arter

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, 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 twelvemonth, 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 forgoing 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 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 also to

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 showed 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's 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 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

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, 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

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 sweetmeats 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. 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.

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





Translated by Samuel Butler






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