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The Odyssey – Book I The Odyssey

reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.


So now all who escaped death in battle or by shipwreck had got safely home except Ulysses, and he, Homer

though he was longing to return to his wife and country, was detained by the goddess Calypso, who Translated by Samuel Butler

had got him into a large cave and wanted to marry him. But as years went by, there came a time when BOOK I

the gods settled that he should go back to Ithaca; even then, however, when he was among his own TELL ME, O MUSE, of that ingenious hero who trav-people, his troubles were not yet over; nevertheless elled far and wide after he had sacked the famous all the gods had now begun to pity him except Nep-town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many tune, who still persecuted him without ceasing and were the nations with whose manners and customs would not let him get home.

he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by Now Neptune had gone off to the Ethiopians, sea while trying to save his own life and bring his who are at the world’s end, and lie in two halves, men safely home; but do what he might he could the one looking West and the other East. He had not save his men, for they perished through their gone there to accept a hecatomb of sheep and oxen, own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god and was enjoying himself at his festival; but the Hyperion; so the god prevented them from ever other gods met in the house of Olympian Jove, and 3

The Odyssey – Book I the sire of gods and men spoke first. At that mo-friends. It is an island covered with forest, in the ment he was thinking of Aegisthus, who had been very middle of the sea, and a goddess lives there, killed by Agamemnon’s son Orestes; so he said to daughter of the magician Atlas, who looks after the the other gods:

bottom of the ocean, and carries the great columns

“See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for that keep heaven and earth asunder. This daughter what is after all nothing but their own folly. Look of Atlas has got hold of poor unhappy Ulysses, and at Aegisthus; he must needs make love to keeps trying by every kind of blandishment to make Agamemnon’s wife unrighteously and then kill him forget his home, so that he is tired of life, and Agamemnon, though he knew it would be the death thinks of nothing but how he may once more see of him; for I sent Mercury to warn him not to do the smoke of his own chimneys. You, sir, take no either of these things, inasmuch as Orestes would heed of this, and yet when Ulysses was before Troy be sure to take his revenge when he grew up and did he not propitiate you with many a burnt sacri-wanted to return home. Mercury told him this in fice? Why then should you keep on being so angry all good will but he would not listen, and now he with him?”

has paid for everything in full.” And Jove said, “My child, what are you talking Then Minerva said, “Father, son of Saturn, King about? How can I forget Ulysses than whom there of kings, it served Aegisthus right, and so it would is no more capable man on earth, nor more liberal any one else who does as he did; but Aegisthus is in his offerings to the immortal gods that live in neither here nor there; it is for Ulysses that my heart heaven? Bear in mind, however, that Neptune is bleeds, when I think of his sufferings in that lonely still furious with Ulysses for having blinded an eye sea-girt island, far away, poor man, from all his of Polyphemus king of the Cyclopes. Polyphemus 4

The Odyssey – Book I is son to Neptune by the nymph Thoosa, daughter dals, imperishable, with which she can fly like the to the sea-king Phorcys; therefore though he will wind over land or sea; she grasped the redoubtable not kill Ulysses outright, he torments him by pre-bronze-shod spear, so stout and sturdy and strong, venting him from getting home. Still, let us lay our wherewith she quells the ranks of heroes who have heads together and see how we can help him to displeased her, and down she darted from the top-return; Neptune will then be pacified, for if we are most summits of Olympus, whereon forthwith she all of a mind he can hardly stand out against us.” was in Ithaca, at the gateway of Ulysses’ house, dis-And Minerva said, “Father, son of Saturn, King guised as a visitor, Mentes, chief of the Taphians, of kings, if, then, the gods now mean that Ulysses and she held a bronze spear in her hand. There she should get home, we should first send Mercury to found the lordly suitors seated on hides of the oxen the Ogygian island to tell Calypso that we have which they had killed and eaten, and playing made up our minds and that he is to return. In the draughts in front of the house. Men-servants and meantime I will go to Ithaca, to put heart into pages were bustling about to wait upon them, some Ulysses’ son Telemachus; I will embolden him to mixing wine with water in the mixing-bowls, some call the Achaeans in assembly, and speak out to the cleaning down the tables with wet sponges and lay-suitors of his mother Penelope, who persist in eating them out again, and some cutting up great quan-ing up any number of his sheep and oxen; I will tities of meat.

also conduct him to Sparta and to Pylos, to see if Telemachus saw her long before any one else did.

he can hear anything about the return of his dear He was sitting moodily among the suitors thinking father- for this will make people speak well of him.” about his brave father, and how he would send them So saying she bound on her glittering golden san-flying out of the house, if he were to come to his 5

The Odyssey – Book I own again and be honoured as in days gone by. Thus basin for them to wash their hands, and she drew a brooding as he sat among them, he caught sight of clean table beside them. An upper servant brought Minerva and went straight to the gate, for he was them bread, and offered them many good things of vexed that a stranger should be kept waiting for what there was in the house, the carver fetched them admittance. He took her right hand in his own, and plates of all manner of meats and set cups of gold bade her give him her spear. “Welcome,” said he, by their side, and a man-servant brought them wine

“to our house, and when you have partaken of food and poured it out for them.

you shall tell us what you have come for.” Then the suitors came in and took their places He led the way as he spoke, and Minerva fol-on the benches and seats. Forthwith men servants lowed him. When they were within he took her poured water over their hands, maids went round spear and set it in the spear- stand against a strong with the bread-baskets, pages filled the mixing-bowls bearing-post along with the many other spears of with wine and water, and they laid their hands upon his unhappy father, and he conducted her to a richly the good things that were before them. As soon as decorated seat under which he threw a cloth of dam-they had had enough to eat and drink they wanted ask. There was a footstool also for her feet, and he music and dancing, which are the crowning embel-set another seat near her for himself, away from the lishments of a banquet, so a servant brought a lyre suitors, that she might not be annoyed while eating to Phemius, whom they compelled perforce to sing by their noise and insolence, and that he might ask to them. As soon as he touched his lyre and began her more freely about his father.

to sing Telemachus spoke low to Minerva, with his A maid servant then brought them water in a head close to hers that no man might hear.

beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a silver

“I hope, sir,” said he, “that you will not be of-6

The Odyssey – Book I fended with what I am going to say. Singing comes particularly all about it. I am Mentes, son of cheap to those who do not pay for it, and all this is Anchialus, and I am King of the Taphians. I have done at the cost of one whose bones lie rotting in come here with my ship and crew, on a voyage to some wilderness or grinding to powder in the surf.

men of a foreign tongue being bound for Temesa If these men were to see my father come back to with a cargo of iron, and I shall bring back copper.

Ithaca they would pray for longer legs rather than a As for my ship, it lies over yonder off the open coun-longer purse, for money would not serve them; but try away from the town, in the harbour Rheithron he, alas, has fallen on an ill fate, and even when under the wooded mountain Neritum. Our fathers people do sometimes say that he is coming, we no were friends before us, as old Laertes will tell you, longer heed them; we shall never see him again.

if you will go and ask him. They say, however, that And now, sir, tell me and tell me true, who you are he never comes to town now, and lives by himself and where you come from. Tell me of your town in the country, faring hardly, with an old woman to and parents, what manner of ship you came in, how look after him and get his dinner for him, when he your crew brought you to Ithaca, and of what na-comes in tired from pottering about his vineyard.

tion they declared themselves to be- for you cannot They told me your father was at home again, and have come by land. Tell me also truly, for I want to that was why I came, but it seems the gods are still know, are you a stranger to this house, or have you keeping him back, for he is not dead yet not on the been here in my father’s time? In the old days we mainland. It is more likely he is on some sea-girt had many visitors for my father went about much island in mid ocean, or a prisoner among savages himself.”

who are detaining him against his will I am no And Minerva answered, “I will tell you truly and prophet, and know very little about omens, but I 7

The Odyssey – Book I speak as it is borne in upon me from heaven, and people? What is it all about? Have you some ban-assure you that he will not be away much longer; quet, or is there a wedding in the family- for no one for he is a man of such resource that even though seems to be bringing any provisions of his own?

he were in chains of iron he would find some means And the guests- how atrociously they are behaving; of getting home again. But tell me, and tell me true, what riot they make over the whole house; it is can Ulysses really have such a fine looking fellow enough to disgust any respectable person who comes for a son? You are indeed wonderfully like him about near them.”

the head and eyes, for we were close friends before

“Sir,” said Telemachus, “as regards your question, he set sail for Troy where the flower of all the Argives so long as my father was here it was well with us went also. Since that time we have never either of and with the house, but the gods in their displea-us seen the other.”

sure have willed it otherwise, and have hidden him

“My mother,” answered Telemachus, tells me I away more closely than mortal man was ever yet am son to Ulysses, but it is a wise child that knows hidden. I could have borne it better even though his own father. Would that I were son to one who he were dead, if he had fallen with his men before had grown old upon his own estates, for, since you Troy, or had died with friends around him when ask me, there is no more ill-starred man under the days of his fighting were done; for then the heaven than he who they tell me is my father.” Achaeans would have built a mound over his ashes, And Minerva said, “There is no fear of your race and I should myself have been heir to his renown; dying out yet, while Penelope has such a fine son as but now the storm-winds have spirited him away you are. But tell me, and tell me true, what is the we know not wither; he is gone without leaving so meaning of all this feasting, and who are these much as a trace behind him, and I inherit nothing 8

The Odyssey – Book I but dismay. Nor does the matter end simply with him any, but my father let him have some, for he grief for the loss of my father; heaven has laid sor-was very fond of him. If Ulysses is the man he then rows upon me of yet another kind; for the chiefs was these suitors will have a short shrift and a sorry from all our islands, Dulichium, Same, and the wedding.

woodland island of Zacynthus, as also all the prin-

“But there! It rests with heaven to determine cipal men of Ithaca itself, are eating up my house whether he is to return, and take his revenge in his under the pretext of paying their court to my own house or no; I would, however, urge you to set mother, who will neither point blank say that she about trying to get rid of these suitors at once. Take will not marry, nor yet bring matters to an end; so my advice, call the Achaean heroes in assembly to-they are making havoc of my estate, and before long morrow -lay your case before them, and call heaven will do so also with myself.” to bear you witness. Bid the suitors take themselves

“Is that so?” exclaimed Minerva, “then you do off, each to his own place, and if your mother’s mind indeed want Ulysses home again. Give him his hel-is set on marrying again, let her go back to her fa-met, shield, and a couple lances, and if he is the ther, who will find her a husband and provide her man he was when I first knew him in our house, with all the marriage gifts that so dear a daughter drinking and making merry, he would soon lay his may expect. As for yourself, let me prevail upon hands about these rascally suitors, were he to stand you to take the best ship you can get, with a crew once more upon his own threshold. He was then of twenty men, and go in quest of your father who coming from Ephyra, where he had been to beg has so long been missing. Some one may tell you poison for his arrows from Ilus, son of Mermerus.

something, or (and people often hear things in this Ilus feared the ever-living gods and would not give way) some heaven-sent message may direct you.


The Odyssey – Book I First go to Pylos and ask Nestor; thence go on to of you to talk to me in this way, as though I were Sparta and visit Menelaus, for he got home last of your own son, and I will do all you tell me; I know all the Achaeans; if you hear that your father is you want to be getting on with your voyage, but alive and on his way home, you can put up with stay a little longer till you have taken a bath and the waste these suitors will make for yet another refreshed yourself. I will then give you a present, twelve months. If on the other hand you hear of his and you shall go on your way rejoicing; I will give death, come home at once, celebrate his funeral rites you one of great beauty and value- a keepsake such with all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, as only dear friends give to one another.” and make your mother marry again. Then, having Minerva answered, “Do not try to keep me, for I done all this, think it well over in your mind how, would be on my way at once. As for any present by fair means or foul, you may kill these suitors in you may be disposed to make me, keep it till I come your own house. You are too old to plead infancy again, and I will take it home with me. You shall any longer; have you not heard how people are sing-give me a very good one, and I will give you one of ing Orestes’ praises for having killed his father’s no less value in return.”

murderer Aegisthus? You are a fine, smart looking With these words she flew away like a bird into fellow; show your mettle, then, and make yourself the air, but she had given Telemachus courage, and a name in story. Now, however, I must go back to had made him think more than ever about his fa-my ship and to my crew, who will be impatient if I ther. He felt the change, wondered at it, and knew keep them waiting longer; think the matter over for that the stranger had been a god, so he went straight yourself, and remember what I have said to you.” to where the suitors were sitting.

“Sir,” answered Telemachus, “it has been very kind Phemius was still singing, and his hearers sat rapt 10

The Odyssey – Book I in silence as he told the sad tale of the return from and who sends weal or woe upon mankind accord-Troy, and the ills Minerva had laid upon the ing to his own good pleasure. This fellow means no Achaeans. Penelope, daughter of Icarius, heard his harm by singing the ill-fated return of the Danaans, song from her room upstairs, and came down by for people always applaud the latest songs most the great staircase, not alone, but attended by two warmly. Make up your mind to it and bear it; Ulysses of her handmaids. When she reached the suitors is not the only man who never came back from Troy, she stood by one of the bearing posts that supported but many another went down as well as he. Go, the roof of the cloisters with a staid maiden on ei-then, within the house and busy yourself with your ther side of her. She held a veil, moreover, before daily duties, your loom, your distaff, and the order-her face, and was weeping bitterly.

ing of your servants; for speech is man’s matter,

“Phemius,” she cried, “you know many another and mine above all others—for it is I who am mas-feat of gods and heroes, such as poets love to cel-ter here.”

ebrate. Sing the suitors some one of these, and let She went wondering back into the house, and laid them drink their wine in silence, but cease this sad her son’s saying in her heart. Then, going upstairs tale, for it breaks my sorrowful heart, and reminds with her handmaids into her room, she mourned me of my lost husband whom I mourn ever withher dear husband till Minerva shed sweet sleep over out ceasing, and whose name was great over all her eyes. But the suitors were clamorous through-Hellas and middle Argos.”

out the covered cloisters, and prayed each one that

“Mother,” answered Telemachus, “let the bard sing he might be her bed fellow.

what he has a mind to; bards do not make the ills Then Telemachus spoke, “Shameless,” he cried, they sing of; it is Jove, not they, who makes them,

“and insolent suitors, let us feast at our pleasure 11

The Odyssey – Book I now, and let there be no brawling, for it is a rare are many great men in Ithaca both old and young, thing to hear a man with such a divine voice as and some other may take the lead among them; Phemius has; but in the morning meet me in full nevertheless I will be chief in my own house, and assembly that I may give you formal notice to de-will rule those whom Ulysses has won for me.” part, and feast at one another’s houses, turn and Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered, “It turn about, at your own cost. If on the other hand rests with heaven to decide who shall be chief among you choose to persist in spunging upon one man, us, but you shall be master in your own house and heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in over your own possessions; no one while there is a full, and when you fall in my father’s house there man in Ithaca shall do you violence nor rob you.

shall be no man to avenge you.” And now, my good fellow, I want to know about The suitors bit their lips as they heard him, and this stranger. What country does he come from? Of marvelled at the boldness of his speech. Then, what family is he, and where is his estate? Has he Antinous, son of Eupeithes, said, “The gods seem brought you news about the return of your father, to have given you lessons in bluster and tall talk-or was he on business of his own? He seemed a ing; may Jove never grant you to be chief in Ithaca well-to-do man, but he hurried off so suddenly that as your father was before you.” he was gone in a moment before we could get to Telemachus answered, “Antinous, do not chide know him.”

with me, but, god willing, I will be chief too if I can.

“My father is dead and gone,” answered Is this the worst fate you can think of for me? It is Telemachus, “and even if some rumour reaches me no bad thing to be a chief, for it brings both riches I put no more faith in it now. My mother does in-and honour. Still, now that Ulysses is dead there deed sometimes send for a soothsayer and question 12

The Odyssey – Book II him, but I give his prophecyings no heed. As for the the door of his bed room and sat down upon the stranger, he was Mentes, son of Anchialus, chief of bed; as he took off his shirt he gave it to the good the Taphians, an old friend of my father’s.” But in old woman, who folded it tidily up, and hung it for his heart he knew that it had been the goddess.

him over a peg by his bed side, after which she went The suitors then returned to their singing and out, pulled the door to by a silver catch, and drew dancing until the evening; but when night fell upon the bolt home by means of the strap. But their pleasuring they went home to bed each in his Telemachus as he lay covered with a woollen fleece own abode. Telemachus’s room was high up in a kept thinking all night through of his intended voy-tower that looked on to the outer court; hither, then, age of the counsel that Minerva had given him.

he hied, brooding and full of thought. A good old woman, Euryclea, daughter of Ops, the son of BOOK II

Pisenor, went before him with a couple of blazing torches. Laertes had bought her with his own money NOW WHEN THE CHILD OF MORNING, rosy-fingered when she was quite young; he gave the worth of Dawn, appeared, Telemachus rose and dressed him-twenty oxen for her, and shewed as much respect to self. He bound his sandals on to his comely feet, her in his household as he did to his own wedded girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his wife, but he did not take her to his bed for he feared room looking like an immortal god. He at once sent his wife’s resentment. She it was who now lighted the criers round to call the people in assembly, so Telemachus to his room, and she loved him better they called them and the people gathered thereon; than any of the other women in the house did, for then, when they were got together, he went to the she had nursed him when he was a baby. He opened place of assembly spear in hand- not alone, for his 13

The Odyssey – Book II two hounds went with him. Minerva endowed him ing, and does he wish to warn us, or would he speak with a presence of such divine comeliness that all upon some other matter of public moment? I am marvelled at him as he went by, and when he took sure he is an excellent person, and I hope Jove will his place’ in his father’s seat even the oldest coun-grant him his heart’s desire.” cillors made way for him.

Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of rose at once, for he was bursting with what he had infinite experience, the first to speak His son to say. He stood in the middle of the assembly and Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius, land of the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then, noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him turning to Aegyptius, “Sir,” said he, “it is I, as you when they were all shut up in the cave, and had will shortly learn, who have convened you, for it is cooked his last dinner for him, He had three sons I who am the most aggrieved. I have not got wind left, of whom two still worked on their father’s land, of any host approaching about which I would warn while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors; you, nor is there any matter of public moment on nevertheless their father could not get over the loss which I would speak. My grieveance is purely per-of Antiphus, and was still weeping for him when he sonal, and turns on two great misfortunes which began his speech.

have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the

“Men of Ithaca,” he said, “hear my words. From loss of my excellent father, who was chief among all the day Ulysses left us there has been no meeting you here present, and was like a father to every one of our councillors until now; who then can it be, of you; the second is much more serious, and ere whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The sons of convene us? Has he got wind of some host approach-all the chief men among you are pestering my 14

The Odyssey – Book II mother to marry them against her will. They are Ulysses did some wrong to the Achaeans which you afraid to go to her father Icarius, asking him to would now avenge on me, by aiding and abetting choose the one he likes best, and to provide mar-these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out of riage gifts for his daughter, but day by day they house and home at all, I had rather you did the keep hanging about my father’s house, sacrificing eating yourselves, for I could then take action against our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their banquets, you to some purpose, and serve you with notices and never giving so much as a thought to the quan-from house to house till I got paid in full, whereas tity of wine they drink. No estate can stand such now I have no remedy.”

recklessness; we have now no Ulysses to ward off With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own ground and burst into tears. Every one was very against them. I shall never all my days be as good a sorry for him, but they all sat still and no one ven-man as he was, still I would indeed defend myself if tured to make him an angry answer, save only I had power to do so, for I cannot stand such treat-Antinous, who spoke thus:

ment any longer; my house is being disgraced and

“Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how ruined. Have respect, therefore, to your own con-dare you try to throw the blame upon us suitors? It sciences and to public opinion. Fear, too, the wrath is your mother’s fault not ours, for she is a very of heaven, lest the gods should be displeased and artful woman. This three years past, and close on turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, four, she has been driving us out of our minds, by who is the beginning and the end of councils, [do encouraging each one of us, and sending him mes-not] hold back, my friends, and leave me sages without meaning one word of what she says.

singlehanded- unless it be that my brave father And then there was that other trick she played us.


The Odyssey – Book II She set up a great tambour frame in her room, and

’Send your mother away, and bid her marry the began to work on an enormous piece of fine needle-man of her own and of her father’s choice’; for I do work. ‘Sweet hearts,’ said she, ‘Ulysses is indeed not know what will happen if she goes on plaguing dead, still do not press me to marry again immedi-us much longer with the airs she gives herself on ately, wait—for I would not have skill in needle-the score of the accomplishments Minerva has work perish unrecorded—till I have completed a pall taught her, and because she is so clever. We never for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against the yet heard of such a woman; we know all about Tyro, time when death shall take him. He is very rich, Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, and the women of the place will talk if he is laid but they were nothing to your mother, any one of out without a pall.’

them. It was not fair of her to treat us in that way,

“This was what she said, and we assented; and as long as she continues in the mind with which whereon we could see her working on her great web heaven has now endowed her, so long shall we go all day long, but at night she would unpick the on eating up your estate; and I do not see why she stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this should change, for she gets all the honour and glory, way for three years and we never found her out, and it is you who pay for it, not she. Understand, but as time wore on and she was now in her fourth then, that we will not go back to our lands, neither year, one of her maids who knew what she was do-here nor elsewhere, till she has made her choice and ing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing married some one or other of us.” her work, so she had to finish it whether she would Telemachus answered, “Antinous, how can I drive or no. The suitors, therefore, make you this answer, the mother who bore me from my father’s house?

that both you and the Achaeans may understand-My father is abroad and we do not know whether 16

The Odyssey – Book II he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to of them that were below; then, fighting fiercely and pay Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I tearing at one another, they flew off towards the insist