View Full Version : Book II

October 25th, 2007, 08:30 AM

Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared
Telemachus rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to
his comely feet, girded his sword about his shoulder, and left
his room looking like an immortal god. He at once sent the
criers round to call the people in assembly, so they called them
and the people gathered thereon; then, when they were got
together, he went to the place of assembly spear in hand--not
alone, for his two hounds went with him. Minerva endowed him
with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marvelled at
him as he went by, and when he took his place in his father's
seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.

Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite
experience, was the first to speak. His son Antiphus had gone
with Ulysses to Ilius, land of noble steeds, but the savage
Cyclops had killed him when they were all shut up in the cave,
and had cooked his last dinner for him. {17} He had three sons
left, of whom two still worked on their father's land, while the
third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors; nevertheless their
father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and was still
weeping for him when he began his speech.

"Men of Ithaca," he said, "hear my words. From the day Ulysses
left us there has been no meeting of our councillors until now;
who then can it be, whether old or young, that finds it so
necessary to convene us? Has he got wind of some host
approaching, and does he wish to warn us, or would he speak upon
some other matter of public moment? I am sure he is an
excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him his heart's

Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once,
for he was bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the
middle of the assembly and the good herald Pisenor brought him
his staff. Then, turning to Aegyptius, "Sir," said he, "it is I,
as you will shortly learn, who have convened you, for it is I
who am the most aggrieved. I have not got wind of any host
approaching about which I would warn you, nor is there any
matter of public moment on which I would speak. My grievance
is purely personal, and turns on two great misfortunes which
have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the loss of my
excellent father, who was chief among all you here present, and
was like a father to every one of you; the second is much more
serious, and ere long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The
sons of all the chief men among you are pestering my mother to
marry them against her will. They are afraid to go to her father
Icarius, asking him to choose the one he likes best, and to
provide marriage gifts for his daughter, but day by day they
keep hanging about my father's house, sacrificing our oxen,
sheep, and fat goats for their banquets, and never giving so
much as a thought to the quantity of wine they drink. No estate
can stand such recklessness; we have now no Ulysses to ward off
harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own against them. I
shall never all my days be as good a man as he was, still I
would indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I cannot
stand such treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced and
ruined. Have respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to
public opinion. Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods
should be displeased and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and
Themis, who is the beginning and the end of councils, [do not]
hold back, my friends, and leave me singlehanded {18}--unless it
be that my brave father Ulysses did some wrong to the Achaeans
which you would now avenge on me, by aiding and abetting these
suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out of house and home at
all, I had rather you did the eating yourselves, for I could
then take action against you to some purpose, and serve you with
notices from house to house till I got paid in full, whereas now
I have no remedy." {19}

With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst
into tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat
still and no one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only
Antinous, who spoke thus:

"Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to
throw the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother's fault not
ours, for she is a very artful woman. This three years past,
and close on four, she had been driving us out of our minds, by
encouraging each one of us, and sending him messages without
meaning one word of what she says. And then there was that other
trick she played us. She set up a great tambour frame in her
room, and began to work on an enormous piece of fine needlework.
'Sweet hearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed dead, still do not
press me to marry again immediately, wait--for I would not have
skill in needlework perish unrecorded--till I have completed a
pall for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against the time
when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women of the
place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.'

"This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see
her working on her great web all day long, but at night she
would unpick the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in
this way for three years and we never found her out, but as time
wore on and she was now in her fourth year, one of her maids who
knew what she was doing told us, and we caught her in the act of
undoing her work, so she had to finish it whether she would or
no. The suitors, therefore, make you this answer, that both you
and the Achaeans may understand-'Send your mother away, and bid
her marry the man of her own and of her father's choice'; for I
do not know what will happen if she goes on plaguing us much
longer with the airs she gives herself on the score of the
accomplishments Minerva has taught her, and because she is so
clever. We never yet heard of such a woman; we know all about
Tyro, Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, but they
were nothing to your mother any one of them. It was not fair of
her to treat us in that way, and as long as she continues in the
mind with which heaven has now endowed her, so long shall we go
on eating up your estate; and I do not see why she should
change, for she gets all the honour and glory, and it is you who
pay for it, not she. Understand, then, that we will not go back
to our lands, neither here nor elsewhere, till she has made her
choice and married some one or other of us."

Telemachus answered, "Antinous, how can I drive the mother who
bore me from my father's house? My father is abroad and we do
not know whether he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I
have to pay Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I
insist on sending his daughter back to him. Not only will he
deal rigorously with me, but heaven will also punish me; for my
mother when she leaves the house will call on the Erinyes to
avenge her; besides, it would not be a creditable thing to do,
and I will have nothing to say to it. If you choose to take
offence at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere at one
another's houses at your own cost turn and turn about. If, on
the other hand, you elect to persist in spunging upon one man,
heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full, and when
you fall in my father's house there shall be no man to avenge

As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain,
and they flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in
their own lordly flight. When they were right over the middle of
the assembly they wheeled and circled about, beating the air
with their wings and glaring death into the eyes of them that
were below; then, fighting fiercely and tearing at one another,
they flew off towards the right over the town. The people
wondered as they saw them, and asked each other what all this
might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best prophet and
reader of omens among them, spoke to them plainly and in all
honesty, saying:

"Hear me, men of Ithaca, and I speak more particularly to the
suitors, for I see mischief brewing for them. Ulysses is not
going to be away much longer; indeed he is close at hand to deal
out death and destruction, not on them alone, but on many
another of us who live in Ithaca. Let us then be wise in time,
and put a stop to this wickedness before he comes. Let the
suitors do so of their own accord; it will be better for them,
for I am not prophesying without due knowledge; everything has
happened to Ulysses as I foretold when the Argives set out for
Troy, and he with them. I said that after going through much
hardship and losing all his men he should come home again in the
twentieth year and that no one would know him; and now all this
is coming true."

Eurymachus son of Polybus then said, "Go home, old man, and
prophesy to your own children, or it may be worse for them. I
can read these omens myself much better than you can; birds are
always flying about in the sunshine somewhere or other, but they
seldom mean anything. Ulysses has died in a far country, and it
is a pity you are not dead along with him, instead of prating
here about omens and adding fuel to the anger of Telemachus
which is fierce enough as it is. I suppose you think he will
give you something for your family, but I tell you--and it shall
surely be--when an old man like you, who should know better,
talks a young one over till he becomes troublesome, in the first
place his young friend will only fare so much the worse--he will
take nothing by it, for the suitors will prevent this--and in
the next, we will lay a heavier fine, sir, upon yourself than
you will at all like paying, for it will bear hardly upon you.
As for Telemachus, I warn him in the presence of you all to send
his mother back to her father, who will find her a husband and
provide her with all the marriage gifts so dear a daughter may
expect. Till then we shall go on harassing him with our suit;
for we fear no man, and care neither for him, with all his fine
speeches, nor for any fortune-telling of yours. You may preach
as much as you please, but we shall only hate you the more. We
shall go back and continue to eat up Telemachus's estate without
paying him, till such time as his mother leaves off tormenting
us by keeping us day after day on the tiptoe of expectation,
each vying with the other in his suit for a prize of such rare
perfection. Besides we cannot go after the other women whom we
should marry in due course, but for the way in which she treats

Then Telemachus said, "Eurymachus, and you other suitors, I
shall say no more, and entreat you no further, for the gods and
the people of Ithaca now know my story. Give me, then, a ship
and a crew of twenty men to take me hither and thither, and I
will go to Sparta and to Pylos in quest of my father who has so
long been missing. Some one may tell me something, or (and
people often hear things in this way) some heaven-sent message
may direct me. If I can hear of him as alive and on his way home
I will put up with the waste you suitors will make for yet
another twelve months. If on the other hand I hear of his
death, I will return at once, celebrate his funeral rites with
all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make my mother
marry again."

With these words he sat down, and Mentor {20} who had been a
friend of Ulysses, and had been left in charge of everything
with full authority over the servants, rose to speak. He, then,
plainly and in all honesty addressed them thus:

"Hear me, men of Ithaca, I hope that you may never have a kind
and well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern you
equitably; I hope that all your chiefs henceforward may be cruel
and unjust, for there is not one of you but has forgotten
Ulysses, who ruled you as though he were your father. I am not
half so angry with the suitors, for if they choose to do
violence in the naughtiness of their hearts, and wager their
heads that Ulysses will not return, they can take the high hand
and eat up his estate, but as for you others I am shocked at the
way in which you all sit still without even trying to stop such
scandalous goings on--which you could do if you chose, for you
are many and they are few."

Leiocritus, son of Evenor, answered him saying, "Mentor, what
folly is all this, that you should set the people to stay us? It
is a hard thing for one man to fight with many about his
victuals. Even though Ulysses himself were to set upon us while
we are feasting in his house, and do his best to oust us, his
wife, who wants him back so very badly, would have small cause
for rejoicing, and his blood would be upon his own head if he
fought against such great odds. There is no sense in what you
have been saying. Now, therefore, do you people go about your
business, and let his father's old friends, Mentor and
Halitherses, speed this boy on his journey, if he goes at
all--which I do not think he will, for he is more likely to stay
where he is till some one comes and tells him something."

On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his
own abode, while the suitors returned to the house of Ulysses.

Then Telemachus went all alone by the sea side, washed his hands
in the grey waves, and prayed to Minerva.

"Hear me," he cried, "you god who visited me yesterday, and bade
me sail the seas in search of my father who has so long been
missing. I would obey you, but the Achaeans, and more
particularly the wicked suitors, are hindering me that I cannot
do so."

As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness
and with the voice of Mentor. "Telemachus," said she, "if you
are made of the same stuff as your father you will be neither
fool nor coward henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word
nor left his work half done. If, then, you take after him, your
voyage will not be fruitless, but unless you have the blood of
Ulysses and of Penelope in your veins I see no likelihood of
your succeeding. Sons are seldom as good men as their fathers;
they are generally worse, not better; still, as you are not
going to be either fool or coward henceforward, and are not
entirely without some share of your father's wise discernment, I
look with hope upon your undertaking. But mind you never make
common cause with any of those foolish suitors, for they have
neither sense nor virtue, and give no thought to death and to
the doom that will shortly fall on one and all of them, so that
they shall perish on the same day. As for your voyage, it shall
not be long delayed; your father was such an old friend of mine
that I will find you a ship, and will come with you myself. Now,
however, return home, and go about among the suitors; begin
getting provisions ready for your voyage; see everything well
stowed, the wine in jars, and the barley meal, which is the
staff of life, in leathern bags, while I go round the town and
beat up volunteers at once. There are many ships in Ithaca both
old and new; I will run my eye over them for you and will choose
the best; we will get her ready and will put out to sea without

Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time
in doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily home, and
found the suitors flaying goats and singeing pigs in the outer
court. Antinous came up to him at once and laughed as he took
his hand in his own, saying, "Telemachus, my fine fire-eater,
bear no more ill blood neither in word nor deed, but eat and
drink with us as you used to do. The Achaeans will find you in
everything--a ship and a picked crew to boot--so that you can
set sail for Pylos at once and get news of your noble father."

"Antinous," answered Telemachus, "I cannot eat in peace, nor
take pleasure of any kind with such men as you are. Was it not
enough that you should waste so much good property of mine while
I was yet a boy? Now that I am older and know more about it, I
am also stronger, and whether here among this people, or by
going to Pylos, I will do you all the harm I can. I shall go,
and my going will not be in vain--though, thanks to you suitors,
I have neither ship nor crew of my own, and must be passenger
not captain."

As he spoke he snatched his hand from that of Antinous.
Meanwhile the others went on getting dinner ready about the
buildings, {21} jeering at him tauntingly as they did so.

"Telemachus," said one youngster, "means to be the death of us;
I suppose he thinks he can bring friends to help him from Pylos,
or again from Sparta, where he seems bent on going. Or will he
go to Ephyra as well, for poison to put in our wine and kill

Another said, "Perhaps if Telemachus goes on board ship, he will
be like his father and perish far from his friends. In this
case we should have plenty to do, for we could then divide up
his property amongst us: as for the house we can let his mother
and the man who marries her have that."

This was how they talked. But Telemachus went down into the
lofty and spacious store-room where his father's treasure of
gold and bronze lay heaped up upon the floor, and where the
linen and spare clothes were kept in open chests. Here, too,
there was a store of fragrant olive oil, while casks of old,
well-ripened wine, unblended and fit for a god to drink, were
ranged against the wall in case Ulysses should come home again
after all. The room was closed with well-made doors opening in
the middle; moreover the faithful old house-keeper Euryclea,
daughter of Ops the son of Pisenor, was in charge of everything
both night and day. Telemachus called her to the store-room and

"Nurse, draw me off some of the best wine you have, after what
you are keeping for my father's own drinking, in case, poor man,
he should escape death, and find his way home again after all.
Let me have twelve jars, and see that they all have lids; also
fill me some well-sewn leathern bags with barley meal--about
twenty measures in all. Get these things put together at once,
and say nothing about it. I will take everything away this
evening as soon as my mother has gone upstairs for the night. I
am going to Sparta and to Pylos to see if I can hear anything
about the return of my dear father."

When Euryclea heard this she began to cry, and spoke fondly to
him, saying, "My dear child, what ever can have put such notion
as that into your head? Where in the world do you want to go
to--you, who are the one hope of the house? Your poor father is
dead and gone in some foreign country nobody knows where, and as
soon as your back is turned these wicked ones here will be
scheming to get you put out of the way, and will share all your
possessions among themselves; stay where you are among your own
people, and do not go wandering and worrying your life out on
the barren ocean."

"Fear not, nurse," answered Telemachus, "my scheme is not
without heaven's sanction; but swear that you will say nothing
about all this to my mother, till I have been away some ten or
twelve days, unless she hears of my having gone, and asks you;
for I do not want her to spoil her beauty by crying."

The old woman swore most solemnly that she would not, and when
she had completed her oath, she began drawing off the wine into
jars, and getting the barley meal into the bags, while
Telemachus went back to the suitors.

Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. She took his
shape, and went round the town to each one of the crew, telling
them to meet at the ship by sundown. She went also to Noemon son
of Phronius, and asked him to let her have a ship--which he was
very ready to do. When the sun had set and darkness was over all
the land, she got the ship into the water, put all the tackle on
board her that ships generally carry, and stationed her at the
end of the harbour. Presently the crew came up, and the goddess
spoke encouragingly to each of them.

Furthermore she went to the house of Ulysses, and threw the
suitors into a deep slumber. She caused their drink to fuddle
them, and made them drop their cups from their hands, so that
instead of sitting over their wine, they went back into the town
to sleep, with their eyes heavy and full of drowsiness. Then she
took the form and voice of Mentor, and called Telemachus to come

"Telemachus," said she, "the men are on board and at their oars,
waiting for you to give your orders, so make haste and let us be

On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps.
When they got to the ship they found the crew waiting by the
water side, and Telemachus said, "Now my men, help me to get the
stores on board; they are all put together in the cloister, and
my mother does not know anything about it, nor any of the maid
servants except one."

With these words he led the way and the others followed after.
When they had brought the things as he told them, Telemachus
went on board, Minerva going before him and taking her seat in
the stern of the vessel, while Telemachus sat beside her. Then
the men loosed the hawsers and took their places on the benches.
Minerva sent them a fair wind from the West, {22} that whistled
over the deep blue waves {23} whereon Telemachus told them to
catch hold of the ropes and hoist sail, and they did as he told
them. They set the mast in its socket in the cross plank, raised
it, and made it fast with the forestays; then they hoisted their
white sails aloft with ropes of twisted ox hide. As the sail
bellied out with the wind, the ship flew through the deep blue
water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward.
Then they made all fast throughout the ship, filled the mixing
bowls to the brim, and made drink offerings to the immortal gods
that are from everlasting, but more particularly to the
grey-eyed daughter of Jove.

Thus, then, the ship sped on her way through the watches of the
night from dark till dawn,