View Full Version : Book XX

October 25th, 2007, 08:14 AM

Ulysses slept in the cloister upon an undressed bullock's hide,
on the top of which he threw several skins of the sheep the
suitors had eaten, and Eurynome {156} threw a cloak over him
after he had laid himself down. There, then, Ulysses lay
wakefully brooding upon the way in which he should kill the
suitors; and by and by, the women who had been in the habit of
misconducting themselves with them, left the house giggling and
laughing with one another. This made Ulysses very angry, and he
doubted whether to get up and kill every single one of them then
and there, or to let them sleep one more and last time with the
suitors. His heart growled within him, and as a bitch with
puppies growls and shows her teeth when she sees a stranger, so
did his heart growl with anger at the evil deeds that were being
done: but he beat his breast and said, "Heart, be still, you had
worse than this to bear on the day when the terrible Cyclops ate
your brave companions; yet you bore it in silence till your
cunning got you safe out of the cave, though you made sure of
being killed."

Thus he chided with his heart, and checked it into endurance,
but he tossed about as one who turns a paunch full of blood and
fat in front of a hot fire, doing it first on one side and then
on the other, that he may get it cooked as soon as possible,
even so did he turn himself about from side to side, thinking
all the time how, single handed as he was, he should contrive to
kill so large a body of men as the wicked suitors. But by and by
Minerva came down from heaven in the likeness of a woman, and
hovered over his head saying, "My poor unhappy man, why do you
lie awake in this way? This is your house: your wife is safe
inside it, and so is your son who is just such a young man as
any father may be proud of."

"Goddess," answered Ulysses, "all that you have said is true,
but I am in some doubt as to how I shall be able to kill these
wicked suitors single handed, seeing what a number of them there
always are. And there is this further difficulty, which is still
more considerable. Supposing that with Jove's and your
assistance I succeed in killing them, I must ask you to consider
where I am to escape to from their avengers when it is all

"For shame," replied Minerva, "why, any one else would trust a
worse ally than myself, even though that ally were only a mortal
and less wise than I am. Am I not a goddess, and have I not
protected you throughout in all your troubles? I tell you
plainly that even though there were fifty bands of men
surrounding us and eager to kill us, you should take all their
sheep and cattle, and drive them away with you. But go to sleep;
it is a very bad thing to lie awake all night, and you shall be
out of your troubles before long."

As she spoke she shed sleep over his eyes, and then went back to

While Ulysses was thus yielding himself to a very deep slumber
that eased the burden of his sorrows, his admirable wife awoke,
and sitting up in her bed began to cry. When she had relieved
herself by weeping she prayed to Diana saying, "Great Goddess
Diana, daughter of Jove, drive an arrow into my heart and slay
me; or let some whirlwind snatch me up and bear me through paths
of darkness till it drop me into the mouths of over-flowing
Oceanus, as it did the daughters of Pandareus. The daughters of
Pandareus lost their father and mother, for the gods killed
them, so they were left orphans. But Venus took care of them,
and fed them on cheese, honey, and sweet wine. Juno taught them
to excel all women in beauty of form and understanding; Diana
gave them an imposing presence, and Minerva endowed them with
every kind of accomplishment; but one day when Venus had gone up
to Olympus to see Jove about getting them married (for well does
he know both what shall happen and what not happen to every one)
the storm winds came and spirited them away to become handmaids
to the dread Erinyes. Even so I wish that the gods who live in
heaven would hide me from mortal sight, or that fair Diana might
strike me, for I would fain go even beneath the sad earth if I
might do so still looking towards Ulysses only, and without
having to yield myself to a worse man than he was. Besides, no
matter how much people may grieve by day, they can put up with
it so long as they can sleep at night, for when the eyes are
closed in slumber people forget good and ill alike; whereas my
misery haunts me even in my dreams. This very night methought
there was one lying by my side who was like Ulysses as he was
when he went away with his host, and I rejoiced, for I believed
that it was no dream, but the very truth itself."

On this the day broke, but Ulysses heard the sound of her
weeping, and it puzzled him, for it seemed as though she already
knew him and was by his side. Then he gathered up the cloak and
the fleeces on which he had lain, and set them on a seat in the
cloister, but he took the bullock's hide out into the open. He
lifted up his hands to heaven, and prayed, saying "Father Jove,
since you have seen fit to bring me over land and sea to my own
home after all the afflictions you have laid upon me, give me a
sign out of the mouth of some one or other of those who are now
waking within the house, and let me have another sign of some
kind from outside."

Thus did he pray. Jove heard his prayer and forthwith thundered
high up among the clouds from the splendour of Olympus, and
Ulysses was glad when he heard it. At the same time within the
house, a miller-woman from hard by in the mill room lifted up
her voice and gave him another sign. There were twelve
miller-women whose business it was to grind wheat and barley
which are the staff of life. The others had ground their task
and had gone to take their rest, but this one had not yet
finished, for she was not so strong as they were, and when she
heard the thunder she stopped grinding and gave the sign to her
master. "Father Jove," said she, "you, who rule over heaven and
earth, you have thundered from a clear sky without so much as a
cloud in it, and this means something for somebody; grant the
prayer, then, of me your poor servant who calls upon you, and
let this be the very last day that the suitors dine in the house
of Ulysses. They have worn me out with labour of grinding meal
for them, and I hope they may never have another dinner anywhere
at all."

Ulysses was glad when he heard the omens conveyed to him by the
woman's speech, and by the thunder, for he knew they meant that
he should avenge himself on the suitors.

Then the other maids in the house rose and lit the fire on the
hearth; Telemachus also rose and put on his clothes. He girded
his sword about his shoulder, bound his sandals on to his comely
feet, and took a doughty spear with a point of sharpened bronze;
then he went to the threshold of the cloister and said to
Euryclea, "Nurse, did you make the stranger comfortable both as
regards bed and board, or did you let him shift for
himself?--for my mother, good woman though she is, has a way of
paying great attention to second-rate people, and of neglecting
others who are in reality much better men."

"Do not find fault child," said Euryclea, "when there is no one
to find fault with. The stranger sat and drank his wine as long
as he liked: your mother did ask him if he would take any more
bread and he said he would not. When he wanted to go to bed she
told the servants to make one for him, but he said he was such a
wretched outcast that he would not sleep on a bed and under
blankets; he insisted on having an undressed bullock's hide and
some sheepskins put for him in the cloister and I threw a cloak
over him myself." {157}

Then Telemachus went out of the court to the place where the
Achaeans were meeting in assembly; he had his spear in his hand,
and he was not alone, for his two dogs went with him. But
Euryclea called the maids and said, "Come, wake up; set about
sweeping the cloisters and sprinkling them with water to lay the
dust; put the covers on the seats; wipe down the tables, some of
you, with a wet sponge; clean out the mixing-jugs and the cups,
and go for water from the fountain at once; the suitors will be
here directly; they will be here early, for it is a feast day."

Thus did she speak, and they did even as she had said: twenty
of them went to the fountain for water, and the others set
themselves busily to work about the house. The men who were in
attendance on the suitors also came up and began chopping
firewood. By and by the women returned from the fountain, and
the swineherd came after them with the three best pigs he could
pick out. These he let feed about the premises, and then he said
good-humouredly to Ulysses, "Stranger, are the suitors treating
you any better now, or are they as insolent as ever?"

"May heaven," answered Ulysses, "requite to them the wickedness
with which they deal high-handedly in another man's house
without any sense of shame."

Thus did they converse; meanwhile Melanthius the goatherd came
up, for he too was bringing in his best goats for the suitors'
dinner; and he had two shepherds with him. They tied the goats
up under the gatehouse, and then Melanthius began gibing at
Ulysses. "Are you still here, stranger," said he, "to pester
people by begging about the house? Why can you not go
elsewhere? You and I shall not come to an understanding before
we have given each other a taste of our fists. You beg without
any sense of decency: are there not feasts elsewhere among the
Achaeans, as well as here?"

Ulysses made no answer, but bowed his head and brooded. Then a
third man, Philoetius, joined them, who was bringing in a barren
heifer and some goats. These were brought over by the boatmen
who are there to take people over when any one comes to them. So
Philoetius made his heifer and his goats secure under the
gatehouse, and then went up to the swineherd. "Who, Swineherd,"
said he, "is this stranger that is lately come here? Is he one
of your men? What is his family? Where does he come from? Poor
fellow, he looks as if he had been some great man, but the gods
give sorrow to whom they will--even to kings if it so pleases

As he spoke he went up to Ulysses and saluted him with his right
hand; "Good day to you, father stranger," said he, "you seem to
be very poorly off now, but I hope you will have better times by
and by. Father Jove, of all gods you are the most malicious. We
are your own children, yet you show us no mercy in all our
misery and afflictions. A sweat came over me when I saw this
man, and my eyes filled with tears, for he reminds me of
Ulysses, who I fear is going about in just such rags as this
man's are, if indeed he is still among the living. If he is
already dead and in the house of Hades, then, alas! for my good
master, who made me his stockman when I was quite young among
the Cephallenians, and now his cattle are countless; no one
could have done better with them than I have, for they have bred
like ears of corn; nevertheless I have to keep bringing them in
for others to eat, who take no heed to his son though he is in
the house, and fear not the wrath of heaven, but are already
eager to divide Ulysses' property among them because he has been
away so long. I have often thought--only it would not be right
while his son is living--of going off with the cattle to some
foreign country; bad as this would be, it is still harder to
stay here and be ill-treated about other people's herds. My
position is intolerable, and I should long since have run away
and put myself under the protection of some other chief, only
that I believe my poor master will yet return, and send all
these suitors flying out of the house."

"Stockman," answered Ulysses, "you seem to be a very
well-disposed person, and I can see that you are a man of sense.
Therefore I will tell you, and will confirm my words with an
oath. By Jove, the chief of all gods, and by that hearth of
Ulysses to which I am now come, Ulysses shall return before you
leave this place, and if you are so minded you shall see him
killing the suitors who are now masters here."

"If Jove were to bring this to pass," replied the stockman, "you
should see how I would do my very utmost to help him."

And in like manner Eumaeus prayed that Ulysses might return

Thus did they converse. Meanwhile the suitors were hatching a
plot to murder Telemachus: but a bird flew near them on their
left hand--an eagle with a dove in its talons. On this
Amphinomus said, "My friends, this plot of ours to murder
Telemachus will not succeed; let us go to dinner instead."

The others assented, so they went inside and laid their cloaks
on the benches and seats. They sacrificed the sheep, goats,
pigs, and the heifer, and when the inward meats were cooked they
served them round. They mixed the wine in the mixing-bowls, and
the swineherd gave every man his cup, while Philoetius handed
round the bread in the bread baskets, and Melanthius poured them
out their wine. Then they laid their hands upon the good things
that were before them.

Telemachus purposely made Ulysses sit in the part of the
cloister that was paved with stone; {158} he gave him a shabby
looking seat at a little table to himself, and had his portion
of the inward meats brought to him, with his wine in a gold cup.
"Sit there," said he, "and drink your wine among the great
people. I will put a stop to the gibes and blows of the suitors,
for this is no public house, but belongs to Ulysses, and has
passed from him to me. Therefore, suitors, keep your hands and
your tongues to yourselves, or there will be mischief."

The suitors bit their lips, and marvelled at the boldness of his
speech; then Antinous said, "We do not like such language but we
will put up with it, for Telemachus is threatening us in good
earnest. If Jove had let us we should have put a stop to his
brave talk ere now."

Thus spoke Antinous, but Telemachus heeded him not. Meanwhile
the heralds were bringing the holy hecatomb through the city,
and the Achaeans gathered under the shady grove of Apollo.

Then they roasted the outer meat, drew it off the spits, gave
every man his portion, and feasted to their heart's content;
those who waited at table gave Ulysses exactly the same portion
as the others had, for Telemachus had told them to do so.

But Minerva would not let the suitors for one moment drop their
insolence, for she wanted Ulysses to become still more bitter
against them. Now there happened to be among them a ribald
fellow, whose name was Ctesippus, and who came from Same. This
man, confident in his great wealth, was paying court to the wife
of Ulysses, and said to the suitors, "Hear what I have to say.
The stranger has already had as large a portion as any one else;
this is well, for it is not right nor reasonable to ill-treat
any guest of Telemachus who comes here. I will, however, make
him a present on my own account, that he may have something to
give to the bath-woman, or to some other of Ulysses' servants."

As he spoke he picked up a heifer's foot from the meat-basket in
which it lay, and threw it at Ulysses, but Ulysses turned his
head a little aside, and avoided it, smiling grimly Sardinian
fashion {159} as he did so, and it hit the wall, not him. On
this Telemachus spoke fiercely to Ctesippus, "It is a good thing
for you," said he, "that the stranger turned his head so that
you missed him. If you had hit him I should have run you through
with my spear, and your father would have had to see about
getting you buried rather than married in this house. So let me
have no more unseemly behaviour from any of you, for I am grown
up now to the knowledge of good and evil and understand what is
going on, instead of being the child that I have been
heretofore. I have long seen you killing my sheep and making
free with my corn and wine: I have put up with this, for one man
is no match for many, but do me no further violence. Still, if
you wish to kill me, kill me; I would far rather die than see
such disgraceful scenes day after day--guests insulted, and men
dragging the women servants about the house in an unseemly way."

They all held their peace till at last Agelaus son of Damastor
said, "No one should take offence at what has just been said,
nor gainsay it, for it is quite reasonable. Leave off,
therefore, ill-treating the stranger, or any one else of the
servants who are about the house; I would say, however, a
friendly word to Telemachus and his mother, which I trust may
commend itself to both. 'As long,' I would say, 'as you had
ground for hoping that Ulysses would one day come home, no one
could complain of your waiting and suffering {160} the suitors
to be in your house. It would have been better that he should
have returned, but it is now sufficiently clear that he will
never do so; therefore talk all this quietly over with your
mother, and tell her to marry the best man, and the one who
makes her the most advantageous offer. Thus you will yourself be
able to manage your own inheritance, and to eat and drink in
peace, while your mother will look after some other man's house,
not yours.'"

To this Telemachus answered, "By Jove, Agelaus, and by the
sorrows of my unhappy father, who has either perished far from
Ithaca, or is wandering in some distant land, I throw no
obstacles in the way of my mother's marriage; on the contrary I
urge her to choose whomsoever she will, and I will give her
numberless gifts into the bargain, but I dare not insist point
blank that she shall leave the house against her own wishes.
Heaven forbid that I should do this."

Minerva now made the suitors fall to laughing immoderately, and
set their wits wandering; but they were laughing with a forced
laughter. Their meat became smeared with blood; their eyes
filled with tears, and their hearts were heavy with forebodings.
Theoclymenus saw this and said, "Unhappy men, what is it that
ails you? There is a shroud of darkness drawn over you from head
to foot, your cheeks are wet with tears; the air is alive with
wailing voices; the walls and roof-beams drip blood; the gate of
the cloisters and the court beyond them are full of ghosts
trooping down into the night of hell; the sun is blotted out of
heaven, and a blighting gloom is over all the land."

Thus did he speak, and they all of them laughed heartily.
Eurymachus then said, "This stranger who has lately come here
has lost his senses. Servants, turn him out into the streets,
since he finds it so dark here."

But Theoclymenus said, "Eurymachus, you need not send any one
with me. I have eyes, ears, and a pair of feet of my own, to say
nothing of an understanding mind. I will take these out of the
house with me, for I see mischief overhanging you, from which
not one of you men who are insulting people and plotting ill
deeds in the house of Ulysses will be able to escape."

He left the house as he spoke, and went back to Piraeus who gave
him welcome, but the suitors kept looking at one another and
provoking Telemachus by laughing at the strangers. One insolent
fellow said to him, "Telemachus, you are not happy in your
guests; first you have this importunate tramp, who comes begging
bread and wine and has no skill for work or for hard fighting,
but is perfectly useless, and now here is another fellow who is
setting himself up as a prophet. Let me persuade you, for it
will be much better to put them on board ship and send them off
to the Sicels to sell for what they will bring."

Telemachus gave him no heed, but sate silently watching
his father, expecting every moment that he would begin his
attack upon the suitors.

Meanwhile the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, had had a rich
seat placed for her facing the court and cloisters, so that she
could hear what every one was saying. The dinner indeed had been
prepared amid much merriment; it had been both good and
abundant, for they had sacrificed many victims; but the supper
was yet to come, and nothing can be conceived more gruesome than
the meal which a goddess and a brave man were soon to lay before
them--for they had brought their doom upon themselves.