HOMER
ODYSSEY

 

Translated by Ian Johnston, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.
Revised Edition 2019

 

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BOOK SIXTEEN
ODYSSEUS REVEALS HIMSELF TO TELEMACHUS

[Telemachus arrives at Eumaeus’s farm; Eumaeus is overjoyed to see Telemachus back from his voyage; Telemachus, Eumaeus, and Odysseus (in disguise) talk together; Telemachus sends Eumaeus off to tell Penelope of his safe return; Athena tells Odysseus to reveal himself to his son and transforms his appearance; Telemachus and Odysseus are reunited; Telemachus and Odysseus discuss strategies for dealing with the suitors; Odysseus gives Telemachus instructions about hiding weapons and behaving in front of the suitors; a herald from Telemachus’s crew announces to Penelope and others the news of his return from Pylos; the suitors are upset and discuss what to do; Penelope appears before the suitors and upbraids Antinous for his behaviour; Antinous replies; Eumaeus returns to Odysseus and Telemachus in the hut; Athena transforms Odysseus into an old beggar once again; Odysseus, Eumaeus, and Telemachus eat a meal and go to sleep.]

Meanwhile at dawn Odysseus and the loyal swineherd,
once they had sent the herdsmen out with droves of pigs,
lit a fire in the hut and prepared their breakfast.
As Telemachus approached the hut, the yelping dogs
stopped barking and fawned around him. Lord Odysseus
noticed what the dogs were doing and heard footsteps.
He quickly shouted to the swineherd—his words had wings:

“Eumaeus, some friend of yours is coming,
or someone you know. The dogs aren’t barking
and are acting friendly. I hear footsteps.”                                    10

He hardly finished speaking when his own dear son
stood in the doorway. The swineherd, amazed, jumped up—
the bowls he was using to mix the gleaming wine
fell from his hands. He went up to greet his master,
kissed his head, both his handsome eyes, and his two hands,
then through his tears he spoke. Just as a loving father
welcomes his dear son after a nine-year absence,
returning from a foreign land, an only son,
his favourite, for whom he’s undergone much grief,
that’s how the loyal swineherd hugged Telemachus                            20     [20]
and kissed him often, as if he’d escaped his death.
And through his tears he spoke to him—his words had wings:

“You’ve come back, Telemachus, you sweet light.
I thought I’d never see you any more,
once you went off to Pylos in that ship.
Come in here now, dear boy, so that my heart
can feel the joy of seeing you in my home,
now that you’ve returned from distant places.
You don’t often visit farms and herdsmen—
your life is in the town. Your heart, I think,                                 30
must enjoy the sight of those vile suitors.”

Prudent Telemachus then answered him and said:                                     [30]

“If you say so, old friend. I’ve come here now
on your account, to see you face to face
and to hear you talk about my mother.
Is she still living in the palace halls,
or has some other man now married her?
Is no one sleeping in Odysseus’s bed?
Is it covered in disgusting cobwebs?”

The swineherd, that outstanding man, then answered him:                40

“Yes indeed, she still lives in your palace,
with a faithful heart, but always grieving,
wasting days and nights away with weeping.”

He said this, took the bronze spear from Telemachus,                                [40]
and let him in, crossing the threshold made of stone.
As he approached, Odysseus, his father, got up
to offer him his seat, but from across the room
Telemachus stopped him and said:

                                                     “Stay put, stranger.
We’ll find a seat somewhere inside this hut.
Here’s a man who will arrange that for us.”                                 50

He spoke. Odysseus went back and sat down again.
Eumaeus made a pile of green brushwood on the floor
and spread a fleece on top. Odysseus’s dear son
sat down there. Then the swineherd set out before them
platters of roast meat, left over from the dinner                                          [50]
they had made the day before, and quickly heaped up
baskets full of bread. In a wooden bowl he mixed
wine as sweet as honey and then sat down himself,
opposite godlike Odysseus. Their hands reached out
to the welcome meal prepared and spread before them.                      60
When they had satisfied their hearts with food and drink,
Telemachus spoke out to the trusty swineherd:

“Old friend, where does this stranger come from?
How did sailors bring him to Ithaca?
Who do they claim to be? For I don’t think
there’s any way he could get here on foot.”

Then, swineherd Eumaeus, you answered him and said:                            [60]

“My child, I’ll tell you nothing but the truth.
He claims that he was born in spacious Crete
and says he has been roaming all around,                                   70
wandering through many human cities.
That how some god has spun a fate for him.
He’s just fled a ship of Thesprotians
and come here to my farm. You can have him.
Do as you wish. He’s a suppliant, he says.”

Prudent Telemachus then answered him and said:

“Eumaeus, I’m truly distressed at heart
by those words you said. How can I welcome                                     [70]
this guest into my home? I am too young—
I don’t believe my hands are strong enough                                80
to fight a man who acts with violence
against me first. And, as for my mother,
in her chest the heart is quite divided,
whether to stay with me and tend the house,
out of respect for what the people say
and for her husband’s bed, or to go now
with the finest man of those Achaeans
who have been courting her within the halls,
the one who offers the most marriage gifts.
But anyway, now this stranger’s come here,                                90
to your home, I’ll dress him in fine clothing,
cloak and tunic, and give a two-edged sword                                     [80]
and sandals for his feet. I’ll send him off
wherever his heart and spirit prompt him.
If you wish, you can keep him at this farm
and care for him. I’ll send some clothing here
and the food he’ll eat, so he won’t ruin
you and your friends. But I will not let him
go to my home and mingle with the suitors—
they are far too full of insolent pride                                            100
They might mock him, and I would die of shame.
It’s difficult for one man on his own
even if he’s very strong, to do much
against so many—they are far stronger.”

Then lord Odysseus, who had endured so much,                                        [90]
said to Telemachus:

                            “Friend, surely it’s all right
for me to answer, and my heart is torn
as I hear you talk—these suitors think up
such presumptuous actions in your home
and flout your will, though you’re a decent man.                        110
Tell me, do you agree with this oppression?
Do the people of the country hate you
and follow what some god is telling them?
Do you think the blame rests with your kinsmen,
whom a man relies on in a quarrel,
even when it’s a serious dispute?
With my heart the way it is, how I wish
I were either as young as you, the son                                                [100]
of brave Odysseus, or the man himself
returning from his travels—there’s still room                              120
for us to hope for that—then, if I came
to Odysseus’ home, son of Laertes,
and did not bring destruction on them all,
I’d let a stranger’s sword slice off my head.
If I, acting alone, was overwhelmed
by their great number, I would rather die,
killed in my own home, than keep on watching
such disgraceful acts—guests treated badly,
women servants shamelessly being dragged
through the fine palace, wine drawn and wasted,                       130    [110]
and all the time food eaten needlessly,
acts which go on and on, without an end.”

Prudent Telemachus then answered him and said:

“Well, stranger, I’ll speak candidly to you.
The people are not all angry with me,
nor do they bear a grudge. And I don’t blame
my kinsmen, the ones a man relies on
in a fight, even a serious dispute.
The son of Cronos made our family
follow a single line. It goes like this—                                          140
Arceisius fathered a single son,
Laertes, and he, too, was the father
of only a single son, Odysseus,
and he, in turn, fathered me, just one son,
then left me by myself in his own hall.                                                [120]
He got no joy of me. That’s the reason
so many hostile men are in our home.
All those lords with power in the islands—
Dulichium, Same, wooded Zacynthus—
and those who rule in rocky Ithaca,                                            150
all of them trying to court my mother
and destroy my home.(1) She does not turn down
the hateful marriage, but cannot decide
how to bring these matters to an end.
With their feasting they consume my household,
and they’ll soon be the ruin of me, too.
But all this lies in the lap of the gods.
Old friend, you must go quickly and report                                       [130]
to wise Penelope that I’ve come back,
I’m safely home from Pylos. I’ll stay here,                                    160
until you’ve told the news to her alone
and have returned. No other Achaean
must learn about it, for many of them
are hatching dangerous plans against me.”

Then, swineherd Eumaeus, you answered him and said:

“I know what you’re saying—I understand.
You’re speaking to a man who thinks things through.
But come, tell me this, and be frank with me.
On this trip should I go to see Laertes
with the news? The poor man is miserable.                                 170
For a while, though suffering great distress
about Odysseus, he’d supervise the fields                                          [140]
and in his home eat and drink with servants,
as the heart inside his chest would urge him.
But now, since the time you left for Pylos,
people say he no longer eats and drinks
the way he used to or inspects the fields,
but sits there, groaning and wailing, in tears,
with his flesh shrivelling around his bones.”

Prudent Telemachus then answered him and said:                              180

“That’s more distressing, but nevertheless,
though it makes us sad, we’ll leave him alone.
If mortal men could somehow get all things
simply by wishing, we would first of all
select the day my father gets back home.
After you have informed her of the news,                                          [150]
get back here right away. Don’t go roaming
around the fields looking for Laertes.
Instead, tell my mother to send her maid,
the housekeeper, quickly and in secret.                                       190
She can report the news to the old man.”

His words spurred on the swineherd. He took his sandals,
tied them on his feet, and set off for the city.

It did not escape the notice of Athena
that swineherd Eumaeus was going from the farm.
She approached the hut, appearing like a woman,
beautiful, tall, and skilled in making lovely things.
She stood there, just outside the entrance to the farm
and was visible to no one but Odysseus.
Telemachus could not observe her shape or face                                  200     [160]
or notice she was there. For when the gods appear,
they do not let all men perceive the form they take.
But Odysseus saw her. So did the dogs, as well.
But there was no barking. Instead, they slunk away,
whimpering in fear, to the far side of the hut.
She gave a signal with her eyebrows—Odysseus
noticed and went out of the hut, past the large wall
that ran around the yard, and stood in front of her.
Then Athena spoke to him:

                                               “Son of Laertes,
adventurous Odysseus, sprung from Zeus,                                  210
Now is the time to speak to your own son—
make yourself known and don’t conceal the facts,
so you can plan the suitors’ lethal fate,
then go together to your famous city.                                                 [170]
I won’t be absent from you very long—
I’m eager for the fight.”

                                                                  As she said this, Athena
touched Odysseus with her golden wand. To start with,
she placed a new unblemished cloak around his body,
then made him taller and restored his youthful looks.
His skin grew dark once more, his countenance filled out,                   220
and the beard covering his chin turned black again.
Once she’d done this, Athena left, and Odysseus
went back into the hut. His dear son was amazed.
He turned his eyes away, afraid it was a god,
and spoke to him—his words had wings:                                                     [180]

                                                                             “Stranger,
now you look different than you did before—
you’re wearing different clothes, your skin has changed.
You’re one of the gods who hold wide heaven.
If so, be gracious, so we can give you
pleasing offerings, well-crafted gifts of gold.                               230
But spare us.”

                                           Long-suffering lord Odysseus
then answered him and said:

                                  “I’m not one of the gods.
Why do you compare me to immortals?
But I am your father, on whose account
you are grieving and suffer such distress,
having to bear men’s acts of insolence.”

He spoke, then kissed his son. He kept his self-control,                            [190]
until a tear slid down his cheek, falling in the dirt.
But Telemachus, who could not yet believe
it was his father, spoke to him again, saying:                                        240

“You cannot be Odysseus, my father.
No. Some spirit has cast a spell on me,
to make me lament and grieve even more.
There’s no way a mortal man could plan this
with his own wits, unless some god himself
were present, who could, if he so desired,
make him look young or old quite easily.
Not long ago you wore filthy clothing
and were an older man. But now you’re like
the immortal gods who hold wide heaven.”                                 250    [200]

Then resourceful Odysseus answered him and said:

“Telemachus, it’s not appropriate
to be overly surprised your father
is back home or to be too astonished.
You can rest assured—no other Odysseus
will ever be arriving. I am here.
I’ve borne a lot in many wanderings,
and now, in the twentieth year, I’m back
on my native soil. This present business,
you should know, is forager Athena’s work.                                260
She’s made me look like this—it’s what she wants,
and she has that power—in one moment,
like a beggar, and in another one,
a younger man dressed in much finer clothes.                                     [210]
It’s easy for the gods who hold wide heaven
to glorify or else debase a man.”

Once he’d said this, he sat down, and Telemachus
embraced his noble father, cried out, and shed tears.
A desire to lament arose in both of them—
they both wailed aloud, as insistently as birds,                                     270
like two sea eagles or hawks with curving talons
whose young chicks have been carried off by country folk
before being fully fledged. That’s how those two men
let tears of sorrow fall from underneath their eyes.
And now light from the sun would have gone down on them,                     [220]
as they wept, if Telemachus had not spoken.
He suddenly addressed his father:

                                     “In what kind of ship,
dear father, did sailors carry you here,
to Ithaca? Who did they say they were?
For I don’t think you made it back on foot.”                                280

Noble long-suffering Odysseus answered him:

“All right, my child, I will tell you the truth.
Phaeacians, those famous sailors, brought me.
They escort other men, as well, all those
who visit them as guests. I stayed asleep
as they transported me across the sea
in their swift ship and left me on the shore.
They gave me splendid gifts of bronze and gold                                [230]
and woven clothing. Now, thanks to the gods,
these things are stored away in caves. I’ve come                         290
at Athena’s bidding, so we may plan
destruction for our foes. But now it’s time
to tell me the number of the suitors,
so I may know how many men there are
and what they’re like. Then, once my noble heart
has thought it over, I’ll make up my mind,
whether we two are powerful enough
to take them on alone, without assistance,
or whether we should seek out other men.”

Shrewd Telemachus then answered him and said:                                300    [240]

                                                             “Father,
I’ve always heard about your great renown,
a mighty warrior—your hands are strong,
your plans intelligent. But what you say
is far too big a task. I’m astonished.
Two men cannot fight against so many—
and they are powerful. In an exact count,
there are not just ten of them or twice ten,
but many more. Here, you can soon add up
their numbers—from Dulichium there are
fifty-two hand-picked young men, six servants                           310
in their retinue, from Same twenty-four,
from Zacynthus twenty young Achaeans,                                           [250]
and from Ithaca itself twelve young men,
all nobility. Medon, the herald,
is with them, as is the godlike minstrel,
and two attendants skilled in carving meat.
If we move against all these men inside,
I fear revenge may bring a bitter fate,
now you’ve come home. So you should consider
if you can think of anyone who’ll help,                                         320
someone prepared to stand by both of us
and fight with all his heart.”

                                                          Then lord Odysseus,
who had endured so much, replied to him and said:

“All right, I’ll tell you. Pay attention now,
and listen. Do you believe Athena,                                                      [260]
along with Father Zeus, will be enough
for two of us, or should I think about
who else might help us?”

                                       Prudent Telemachus
answered with these words:

                    “Those two allies you mention
are excellent. They sit high in the clouds,                                    330
ruling others, men and immortal gods.”

Long-suffering lord Odysseus then said to him:

“The two of them won’t stand apart for long
from the great fight—we can be sure of that—
when Ares’s warlike spirit in my halls
is put to the test between these suitors
and ourselves. But for now, when Dawn arrives,                                [270]
go to the house, join those haughty suitors.
The swineherd will bring me to the city
later on. I’ll be looking like a beggar,                                           340
old and wretched. If they’re abusive to me,
let that dear heart in your chest endure it,
while I’m being badly treated, even if
they drag me by my feet all through the house
and out the door or start hurling things at me.
Keep looking on, and hold yourself in check.
You can tell them to stop their foolishness,
but seek to win them over with nice words,
even though you’ll surely not convince them,
because the day they meet their fate has come.                          350    [280]
I’ll tell you something else—keep it in mind.
When wise Athena puts it in my mind,
I’ll nod my head to you. Once you see that,
take all the weapons of war lying there,
inside the hall. Stow them in a safe place,
all of them, in the lofty storage room.
When the suitors notice they’ve gone missing
and ask about it, you must deceive them
with reassuring words:

                                                     ‘I’ve placed them
well beyond the smoke, since they’re no longer                360
like the weapons Odysseus left behind
when he went off to Troy. They’re all tarnished—
the fire has breathed on them too many times.                        [290]
Beyond that, the son of Cronos has put
a greater worry in my heart that you,
after too much wine, may start up a fight
amongst yourselves and then hurt each other,
dishonouring your courtship and the feast.
Iron attracts a man all on its own.’

But leave behind a pair of swords, two spears,                            370
and two ox-hide shields, for the two of us
to grab up when we make a rush at them—
Pallas Athena and Counsellor Zeus
will keep the suitors’ minds preoccupied.
I’ll tell you something else—keep it in mind.
If you are my son—truly of our blood—                                              [300]
let no one hear Odysseus is back home.
Don’t let Laertes know or the swineherd,
or the slaves, or Penelope herself.
You and I alone will investigate                                                    380
how the women feel, and we will check out
some of the serving men, to discover
if any of them fears and honours us
in his heart—and the ones with no respect,
who malign you for being who you are.”

Then his splendid son answered him and said:

                                                   “Father,
I think you’ll later come to recognize
my spirit, for no timidity of mind                                                        [310]
possesses me. But still, I do not think
your plan will benefit the two of us.                                            390
I’d ask you to consider this—you’ll spend
a long time simply testing every man,
as you visit the farms, while those others,
in their proud way, relax inside your halls
and use your property without restraint.
I’d suggest you learn about the women,
those disgracing you and the guiltless ones.
As for men on the estates, I’d prefer
we did not test them. There’ll be time enough
to do that later, if you recognize                                                   400
signs sent from Zeus, who bears the aegis.”                                             [320]

So the two men talked about these things together.

Meanwhile, the well-built ship which brought Telemachus
from Pylos with his comrades had reached Ithaca.
Once the crew had rowed the boat inside the harbour,
they hauled the black ship up on shore. Eager servants
carried away their weapons and without delay
took the lavish gifts to the home of Clytius.
They also sent a herald to the royal home,
to report to wise Penelope, telling her                                                   410
Telemachus had gone to visit the estates                                                     [330]
and had told the ship to sail off for the city,
in case the noble lady might get sick at heart
and start to weep. This herald and the swineherd met
because they’d both been sent off with the same report
to tell the queen. When they reached the royal palace,
the herald spoke out in front of female servants:

“My queen, your much-loved son has just returned.”

But the swineherd walked up, straight to Penelope,
and informed her of all the details her dear son                                     420
had instructed him to say. Once he had mentioned                                          [340]
in his account what he had been ordered to report,
he went away, leaving the courtyard and the hall,
to get back to his pigs. The suitors were unhappy,
their hearts dismayed, and they departed from the hall,
moving past the courtyard wall. There, before the gates,
they sat down. The first one of them to speak a word
was Eurymachus, son of Polybus:

                                                “My friends,
to tell the truth, in his great arrogance
Telemachus has carried out his trip,                                            430
and has had great success. We never thought
he would complete it. So let’s do something.
Let’s launch a ship, the very best we have,
collect some sailors, a crew of rowers,
so they can quickly carry a report
to those other men to come home at once.”(2)                                          [350]

No sooner had he said this, than Amphinomus,
turning in his place, saw a ship in the deep harbour.
Men were bringing down the sail, others holding oars.
With a hearty laugh, he then addressed his comrades:                        440

“Don’t bother with a message any more.
They have arrived back home. Either some god
gave them news, or they saw his ship themselves,
as it sailed past, but could not attack it.”

He spoke. They all got up and went to the sea shore,
then quickly dragged the ship up onto drier ground,
while eager attendants carried off the weapons.                                           [360]
Then in a large group they went to their meeting place.
No others were permitted to sit there with them,
no old or younger men. Antinous addressed them,                               450
son of Eupeithes:

                                 “Well, this is bad news—
the gods made sure Telemachus was safe.
Our lookouts sat each day on windy heights,
always in successive shifts. At sunset,
we never spent the night on shore, but sailed
over the sea in our swift ship, waiting
for sacred Dawn, as we set our ambush
for Telemachus, so we could capture
and then do away with him. But some god                                         [370]
has brought him home again. So let’s devise                               460
a sad end for Telemachus right here—
ensure he does not get away from us.
For as long as he’s alive, I don’t think
what we’re doing will bring us much success.
He himself is clever, shrewd in counsel,
and people don’t regard us well at all.
So come now, before he calls Achaeans
to assembly. I don’t think he will concede.
He’ll get angry and stand up to proclaim
to everyone how we planned to kill him                                       470
and how our ambush failed. Then the people
will turn against us, once they learn about                                         [380]
what we have done. Take care. They may harm us
and force us out, away from our own homes,
then send us off into a foreign land.
Let’s move first—capture him out in the fields,
far from the city, or else on the road.
We suitors will retain his property
and his wealth, with each of us receiving
an appropriate share. As for his home,                                        480
that’s something we should let his mother keep—
together with the man who marries her.
If what I’ve been saying displeases you,
and you prefer he still remain alive,
retaining all the riches of his fathers,
let’s not keep on gathering in this place,
consuming his supply of pleasant things.
Instead, let each man carry on his courtship                                      [390]
from his home, seeking to prevail with gifts.
She can marry the one who offers most,                                      490
the husband her own fate has set for her.”

He finished. They all sat quiet, saying nothing.
Then Amphinomus spoke out and addressed them,
a son of noble Nisus, Areteias’s son,
the leader of the suitors from Dulichium,
land rich in grass and wheat. Penelope found him
especially pleasant because of the way he talked,
for he understood things well. With good intentions,
he spoke to them and said:

                                             “My friends,                                              [400]
I would not want to slay Telemachus.                                          500
It’s reprehensible to kill someone
of royal blood. But first let’s ask the gods
for their advice. If Zeus’s oracles
approve the act, I myself will kill him
and tell all other men to do so, too.
But if the gods decline, I say we stop.”

Amphinomus finished. They agreed with what he’d said.
So they immediately got up and went away
to Odysseus’s house. Once they reached the palace,
they sat on polished chairs in the great hall. By then,                           510
wise queen Penelope had thought of something else—
to put in an appearance before the suitors,                                                  [410]
despite their arrogance, because she heard about
their plot to kill Telemachus in his own home.
The herald Medon, who heard their plans, had told her.
So Penelope set out, moving to the hall,
escorted by her attendant servant women.
As soon as the noble lady reached the suitors,
she stood beside the doorpost of the well-built room
and, holding a bright veil across her lovely face,                                    520
she spoke to Antinous, reprimanding him:

“Antinous, though you’re an arrogant man
and come up with crafty schemes, people say
you are the best among those men your age
at offering advice and making speeches.
But you don’t seem to be a man like that.                                           [420]
You madman, why devise a fatal plan
to kill Telemachus and disregard
the things involved with being a suppliant,
who has Zeus as witness? It’s impiety                                          530
to plot evil things against each other.
Do you not know how your father came here
a fugitive, afraid of his own people?
They had grown extremely angry at him,
because he’d joined with Taphian pirates
to cause trouble for the Thesprotians,
who were allied with us, and those men wished
to kill him, rip out his heart, and devour
his huge and pleasant livelihood. But then,
Odysseus held them back, kept them in check,                          540    [430]
for all their fury. And now you eat up
that man’s home without paying anything—
you court his wife, attempt to kill his son,
and cause me much distress. So stop all this,
I tell you, and order other suitors
to do the same.”

                                                Then Eurymachus,
son of Polybus, answered her and said:

                                    “Wise Penelope,
child of Icarius, cheer up. Don’t let
these things concern your heart. No man living,
no man born and no one yet to be,                                                    550
will lay hands on your son Telemachus,
not while I’m alive, gazing on the earth.
I tell you—and this will truly happen—                                              [440]
that man’s black blood will quickly saturate
my spear, for Odysseus, sacker of cities,
also set me on his knees many times
and put roast meat into my hands and held
red wine up for me. Thus, Telemachus
is far the dearest of all men to me.
I say to him—don’t be afraid of death,                                            560
not from the suitors, but there’s no way out,
when our death comes from the immortal gods.”

He said these words to ease her mood, while he himself
was planning how her son would die. Penelope
climbed the stairs to her bright upper room and wept there                       [450]
for Odysseus, her dear husband, until sweet sleep
from gleaming-eyed Athena spread across her eyes.

At evening the fine swineherd came to Odysseus
and to his son, both busy preparing dinner.
They killed and singed a boar, a yearling. Athena                                 570
went up to Odysseus and touched him with her wand,
transforming him into an old man once again.
She put shabby clothing on his body, in case
the swineherd, by looking up, would recognize him
and then go off to tell faithful Penelope,
unable to keep secret what was in his heart.
Telemachus addressed the swineherd first and said:                                     [460]

“Eumaeus, you’ve come back from the city.
Is there some news? Are those haughty suitors
already in the house, after their trip,                                             580
or are they still out there watching for me,
as I travel on my journey homeward?”

Then, swineherd Eumaeus, you answered him and said:

“I did not bother to find out such things
or ask any questions on my travels
through the town. Once I’d given my report,
my heart told me to get myself back here
as quickly as I could. A swift messenger,
who was sent by your companions, met me,
a herald. Your mother got the first report                                      590
from him. But I discovered something else,                                        [470]
which I saw with my own eyes. As I walked
above the city, by the hill of Hermes,
I saw a fast ship coming into harbour,
with lots of men aboard and loaded down
with weapons—shields and two-edged spears. I thought
it could be the suitors, but I’m not sure.”

Eumaeus finished. Telemachus, with a smile
full of fresh confidence and strength, allowed his eyes
to glance over at his father, avoiding contact                                          600
with the swineherd. Then, once they had finished working
and dinner was prepared, they ate a meal. Their hearts
did not lack a thing—they shared the food as equals.
When they had satisfied their hearts with food and drink,                          [480]
they thought of rest, and so they took the gift of sleep.

ENDNOTES

(1) As a number of commentators have observed, the exact political status of the suitors is ambiguous and in places confusing. Sometimes, as here, they are called the chief leaders or rulers of the islands or those with ruling power in Ithaca. They all appear to live in Ithaca and visit the palace during the day. However, the islands listed here are sometimes described as under Odysseus’s control. What does seem clear is that the suitors have political importance as noblemen, as the most important leaders (or sons of leading figures), whatever the precise arrangements between them and the royal family of Odysseus in Ithaca. [Back to Text]

(2) The “other men” are the ones waiting in the islands to ambush Telemachus on his voyage home. They may be still unaware that he has slipped past them. [Back to Text]

 

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