Homer’s Odyssey Book II

Telemachus and Penelope

Telemachus and Penelope

When child of morn appeared, rosy-fingered dawn,
The beloved son of Odysseus rose from his bed,
And putting on his clothes, he placed his sharp sword by his shoulder,
And he tied fine sandals beneath his shining feet,
He got up and went from the inner chamber, to face him he resembled a god.
Immediately he ordered clear-voiced heralds
To herald the long-haired Achaean heads agora-ward.
They heralded and they were very quickly gathered.
And when they gathered and were assembled,
He got up and went to the agora, and he held a copper lance in his palm.
Not alone, but with him white dogs followed his steps.
And upon him surely Athene poured out inhuman grace.
And all the warriors gazed upon him when he came to them;
He sat in the chair of his father, and the old men gave way.

These men, then, the hero Aegyptius began to address,
Who was bent with old age and knew countless things.
And furthermore, his beloved son with godlike Odysseus
Went to foal-rich Ilios in a hollow ship:
The spearman, Antiphus; but the savage Cyclops killed him
In a deep cave, and he was made the beast’s last supper.
He had three others, one who consorted with the suitors,
Eurynomus, and two ever had charge of their ancestral toils;
But even so he did not forget the one, grieving and sorrowing.
Shedding tears for him, he sat in assembly and spoke among them:
“Hear me now, men of Ithaca, that I may speak:
Not once has there been an assembly or a council
Since noble Odysseus went in his hollow ship.
Who now gathers us here? To whom has such need come,
Whether of young men or to those who are earlier-born?
Has he heard some message of an approaching army,
Which he might clearly tell us, as soon as he learned of it?
Or does he disclose or declare some other public concern?
He seems noble to me, advantageous. For the man himself, may
Zeus accomplish whatever good he should set his mind to design.”

Thus he spoke and the beloved son of Odysseus rejoiced in his speech,
And he did not sit any longer; he was eager to address them.
He stood in the middle of the agora; and the herald Peisenor
Put the staff in his hand, knowing that his schemes were astute.
Then he spoke to the old man first, addressing him:
“Old man, this man is not far off, you will soon know,
It is I who gathered the host; and grief comes often to me.
But I have not heard any message of an approaching army,
Which I would clearly tell you, as soon as I learned of it,
Nor do I disclose any other public concern, and announce it,
But I there is a debt of my own, an evil which has fallen upon my house,
Twofold: one, that my noble father has perished, who once among you
Here was king, and he was like a kind father;
And now in turn, and greater by far, that soon my entire house
Will be completely shattered, my livelihood thoroughly destroyed.
Suitors assail my mother, though she does not wish it,
The very sons of men who are nobles in this place,
Who have shrunk away from going to the house of her father,
Icarius, so that he himself might dower his daughter,
And give her to whom he might wish and comes to him favoured.
But rather, coming to our household every day,
Sacrificing cattle, and sheep, and fatted goats,
They revel in great company and drink fiery wine
Recklessly; much is wasted. For there is no man in charge
Of the sort Odysseus was, to fend curse off from the house.
We are not at all the sort to fend them off; and then surely
We will be wretched, and inexperienced in might.
Certainly I would defend myself, if the might were with me;
For deeds no longer endurable have been wrought, and no longer nobly
Is my house brought to naught. And you yourselves: feel some righteous anger!
And have some respect for other people dwelling around you,
Who inhabit your neighborhood; and shrink from the wrath of the gods,
Lest, feeling anger at the wicked deeds, they turn to punishment.
I pray both by Olympian Zeus and by Themis,
Who both dissolves and convenes the assemblies of men;
Hold off, my friends, and permit me, alone and by painful sorrow,
To be worn away. Unless somehow, in some way, my noble father Odysseus
Bearing ill-will did the well-greaved Achaeans harm,
For which, to take revenge, bearing ill-will, you do me harm
By spurring on these men. Indeed it would be more profitable to me
Were you to consume my stores of wealth and cattle.
If you were to eat it, there would also someday soon be payback.
For I would repeat my claim throughout the town,
Demanding back our wealth, until it was all repaid.
But as it is you cast unprofitable pains upon my spirit.”

Thus he spoke, angered, and he cast the staff to the earth,
Letting tears burst forth, and compassion seized the entire host.
Thereafter all others were silent, no one dared
To answer Telemachus with bitter words;
Antinous alone, answered him, saying:
“Telemachus, braggart, unrestrained brute, how you speak,
Shaming us, perhaps you wish to lay blame.
But as for you, the Achaean suitors are not in any way culpable,
But rather your beloved mother is, who knows well the cunning arts.
For already it is the third year, and soon to be the fourth,
In which she maltreats the heart in the breasts of Achaean men.
She feeds the hopes of all, and promises each man,
Sending out tidings; but her thoughts eagerly desire something else.
Here is another trick she devises in her mind:
Having set up a great loom in the hall, she weaves,
Delicate and very large; and straightaway she speaks among us:

‘Boys, my suitors, since good Odysseus died,
Tarry from urging on my wedding until I finish
A length of cloth, lest my work be destroyed, woven in vain,
For the burial of the hero, Laertes, for when
The deletorious lot of death, bringing long sorrow, should put him down,
So that no one  throughout the public of Achaean lands may resent me,
Should he lie without a shroud, though he won much.’

“Thus she spoke, and our heroic spirit complied.
Thereupon during the day she weaved on the great loom,
But at night she unwove it, with a torch set beside her.
Thus for three years she escaped notice by trickery, and persuaded the Achaeans;
But when the fourth year came and the seasons came on,
Then indeed one of the women spoke, who knew with certainty,
And we discovered her undoing the work on the splendid loom.
Thus she finished it under compulsion, though she was not willing.
This is how the suitors answer you, so that you may know
Yourself, in your own heart, and all the Achaeans may know.
So send away your mother, and order her to be married
To whomever her father bids and is pleasing to her.
And if she much longer yet grieves the sons of Achaean men,
Understanding the things in her heart that Athene granted her in abundance,
To have expertise in very beautiful works and the noble faculties,
And the cunning arts, of a sort we have not anywhere heard of, not even of the ancients,
Of those who were formerly the fair-haired Achaeans,
Tyro, and Alcmene and also well-crowned Mycene;
Not one of whom had perception alike to Penelope;
But she did not perceive that this, at least, was ominous.—
For, really, so long as they consume your livelihood and wealth,
That’s how long she keeps this intent, this which presently
The gods have placed in her breast; for herself, she creates a great
Reputation, but for you, a want of much of your livelihood.
And we shall not in any way go to our former toils,
At least not until she is married to whomever of the Achaeans she might wish.”

And in turn astute Telemachus addressed him in reply:
“Antinous, it is not in any way permitted to drive out unwilling from her home
She who gave birth, who raised me, and my father is on strange soils,
Whether he lives or he is dead; it would be a misfortune for me to repay so much
To Icarius, if I were willingly to send my mother away.
For I would suffer misfortunes at the hands of her father, and others that the divinities
Will grant, since my mother will invoke the loathsome Erinys,1
If she leaves her house; and the righteous anger of mankind
Will be mine. Thus I shall not ever say this thing.
If, then, your own hearts are righteously angered,
Then depart from my halls, prepare other feasts,
Consuming your own wealth, alternating between each of your houses.
But if it seems to you to be better and more agreeable,
That you destroy the livelihood of a single man, without compensation,
Then lay waste; and I shall call upon the gods, the eternal beings,
And may Zeus, wherever he is, grant that works be done in requital;
Since, unavenged, you would destroy my home from within.”

1. For more on the Erinys, read my translation of Aeschylus’ Eumenides! ( https://metaphrastes.wordpress.com/category/aeschylus-eumenides/ )

Thus spoke Telemachus, and to him thundering Zeus sent forth
Two eagles to fly from the lofty heights of his mountain summit.
And for a time they flew with blasts of wind,
Close to each other, stretching their wings;
But then they reached the middle of the many-voiced agora,
Thereupon they wheeled about, flapping their fast-beating wings,
They looked down on the heads of all, and they saw destruction in their eyes,
Tearing with their claws about the cheek and throat
They shot out the right-hand side, through their home and city.
The men were astonished by the birds when their eyes looked upon them;
They anxiously pondered in their hearts just what they intended to accomplish.
And the aged hero spoke among these men, Halitherses
Son of Mastor. For he alone surpassed his generation
In understanding birds of omen and explaining what was fitting;
Since he had a good understanding, he spoke among them and addressed the assembly:

“Hear me now, men of Ithaca, so that I may speak:
And I speak particularly to the suitors, to explain these things.
For a great disaster is rolling toward them; for Odysseus shall not
For long be far off from his loved ones, but is doubtless already
Near and for these men he begets slaughter and doom,
For them all; and for many others there will be misfortune,
We who inhabit far-seen Ithaca. But long before that
Let us ponder how we may put a stop to this; and these men here,
Let them cease; for this too is very much more agreeable to them.
For I do not prophesy inexperienced, but rather understanding quite well;
Yes indeed, I say that everything came to pass for that man,
Just as I was saying, when the Argives to Ilios
Embarked, and with them went Odysseus, he of many counsels.
I said that after he suffered many misfortunes, and all his companions perished,
That unknown to all, on the twentieth anniversary
He would come homeward; and indeed these things are now accomplished.”

In turn, Eurymachus, child of Polybus, spoke against him:
“Old man, come now and prophesy for your own young
When you go home, lest they somehow suffer some misfortune in the future;
These things, I am much better than you to prophesy.
Many birds beneath the rays of the sun
Come and go, and they are not all ominous; and Odysseus
Has perished far away, as with him you too ought
To waste away; then you would not harangue us so much with your prophesy,
Nor would you permit Telemachus to be enraged in this way,
In expectation of a gift for your house, which he would furnish.
But I shall speak out to you, and it will be accomplished;
Since you’ve seen many things long past, if you stir up
The younger man, coaxing him with arguments to be severe,
It will be more grievous, first of all, the man himself,
And, in any case, he will not be able to do anything for the sake of these things;
And as for you, old man, we shall impose a penalty, paying which
Would grieve your heart; it will be grievous and painful.
And I myself shall put it before him among everyone:
Let him advise his mother to depart to her father’s;
And they shall prepare a wedding and make ready wedding gifts,
A great many, as many as befitting to accompany one’s own child.
For until then I do not think that the sons of the Achaeans shall cease
From their troublesome courtship, since we do not fear anything in any case,
And especially not Telemachus, although he is very well spoken of,
Nor shall we heed prophecy, old man, that which you
mouth is futile, and you are hated even more.
Your wealth, in turn, will have been wickedly devoured, nor shall it ever
Be equaled, so long as she thwarts the Achaeans
Their wedding; And we in turn, in expectation every day,
Compete for the sake of her virtue, and after no other woman
Do we go, whom it is suitable for each man to marry.”

And Telemachus in turn addressed him in reply:
“Eurymachus and others, too, as many illustrious suitors as there are,
I no longer entreat you for these things, nor do I address you;
For the gods already know these things, and so do all the Achaeans.
But come, give me a swift ship and twenty companions,
Who would make a journey with me, hither and thither.
For I will go to Sparta and to sandy Pylos,
Enquiring after the homecoming of my long-departed father,
Whether someone of mortals tells me, or I hear a rumour
From Zeus, which often brings news to mankind.
If, then, I hear of the life and homecoming of my Father,
Though I may weary, I shall endure for a year;
But if I hear that he has died and he is no more,
After I come home to the beloved soil of my homeland
I shall construct a burial mound for his body, and bury him with due honours, with funeral gifts,
A great many, as many as is befitting, and I shall give my mother to a husband.”

And so you see, having spoken thus he sat right down, and among them stood
Mentor, who had been a companion of blameless Odysseus,
And to him, when he went in his ship, he entrusted the entire house,
To be obedient to the old man and steadfastedly to guard everything;
And he spoke among them and addressed them with good sense:
“Hear me now, men of Ithaca, so that I may speak;
Let no longer any gracious, kind, and gentle man be
The sceptered king, nor one knowing in his mind what is meet with the gods,
But rather may he ever be grievous and do what is ungodly,
Since no one remembers saintly Odysseus,
Not one of the peoples over whom he ruled, like a gentle father.
But I certainly do not in any way begrudge the arrogant suitors
To do violent deeds by the ill contrivances of their minds;
For having risked their own heads, they violently consumed
The house of Odysseus, whom they say is no longer to come home.
But presently I am indignant at another group, how you all
Sit silently, not in any way accosting them with words,
Do you restrain the suitors, small in numbers, though you are many.”

And the son of Euenor, Leocritus, addressed him in reply:
“Mentor troublemaker, crazy-hearted, how you speak
To us, urging us to desist. It is vexsome
To fight against men, and a greater number, about a feast.
For if indeed Odysseus himself, coming to Ithaca,
Eagerly desires in his heart to drive out from his halls
The illustrious suitors, feasting throughout his home,
His wife would not rejoice, though craving dearly
For him to come, but shamefully, he would meet his fate,
Should he do battle with so many men; but you do not speak by what is right.
But come, the people should disperse, each to his toils,
And for him, Mentor and Halitherses will urge on the journey,
Who, from the beginning, were companions of his father.
Otherwise, I think, by sitting so long he will learn
Of tidings in Ithaca, and he will never complete this journey.”

Thus he gave utterance, and they dissolved the assembly in haste.
And they dispersed, each to their own homes,
And the suitors went to the house of noble Odysseus.

And Telemachus, going off a ways to the shore of the sea,
And washing his hands in the salty grey, he prayed to Athene:
“Hear me, god who yesterday came to my house
And you bid me in a ship upon the cloudy sea,
For inquiry after the homecoming of my long departed father,
To go. The Achaeans waste everything,
The suitors most of all, being wickedly overbearing.”

Thus he spoke, praying, and Athene came to him from nearby,
Seeming like Mentor both in form and voice,
And speaking to him, she addressed him with winged words:
“Telemachus, hereafter you shall neither be weak nor ignorant;
If indeed the noble passion of your father has been instilled in you,
That man who was able to accomplish both word and deed,
For you, then, neither fruitless shall the journey be, nor unaccomplished.
But if you are not the issue of that man and Penelope,
Then I have no cause to hope that you will accomplish what you eagerly desire.
For few children become like their father,
Most are worse, few are braver than the father.
But since you will hereafter be neither ignorant nor weak,
And the cunning of Odysseus has not abandoned you, at least not altogether,
There is certainly hope, then, that you will accomplish these deeds.
For now, therefore, permit the plan and intent of the suitors,
Insensate men, although they are not in any way thoughtful nor righteous.
Nor do they in any way understand death and black doom,
Though it draws near to them to be destroyed, all on the same day.
The path you so eagerly desire is no longer long away;
Such a hereditary companion am I for you,
Who will rig a swift ship for you and will follow you myself.
But go now to your home and consort with the suitors,
Make provisions, and give everyone drink with vessels,
Wine in amphorae and barley, the marrow of men,
In watertight skins; and I from throughout your house shall gather
Companions, volunteers. There are ships,
Many of them, in sea-girt Ithaca, both new ones and old;
Of those I shall inspect for you which one is best,
Swiftly preparing, we shall plunge into the vast sea.”

Thus spoke Athenaia, daughter of Zeus; nor any longer did
Telemachus tarry, when he heard the voice of the god.
He got up and went to his house, sorrowing in his very heart,
And he found the suitors in his halls
Skinning goats and singeing fat hogs in the courtyard.
And Antinous came straightaway, making mockery of Telemachus;
He put a hand in his, and spoke a word, and called him out by name:
“Telemachus, braggart, unrestrained brute, let not any other
Evil be cared for in your heart, neither word nor deed,
But rather more to eating and drinking, like it was before.
The Achaeans will bring to pass all these things especially,
A ship and chosen rowers, so that you may quickly reach
Most holy Pylos after report of your illustrious father.”

And in turn astute Telemachus addressed him in reply:
“Antinous, it is not in any way possible among you arrogant men
For me to be feasted silently and to make merry at my ease.
Is it not enough that you formerly ravaged my possessions,
Abundant and good, and I was yet an infant?
And now when I am mighty, and listening to the words of other men,
I am learning, and indeed my spirit increases within me,
I will endeavour that I might cast you to terrible doom,
Whether after I have gone to Pylos, or here among my own people,
I shall go—and the journey which I propose will not be fruitless—
As a passenger; for in possession of neither a ship nor rowers
Am I; thus, then, this somehow seemed to be more profitable for you.”

So he was, and he pulled his hand from the hand of Antinous,
Easily; and the suitors throughout the house toiled at the feast.
And they mocked and taunted him with words;
Thus did one of the overbearing young men say:
“Telemachus much mulls over our slaughter, doesn’t he!
Maybe he will bring some defenders from sandy Pylos,
Or even from Sparta, since he is so terribly eager;
Or perhaps he wishes to Ephyra, with its fertile fields,
To go, so that he might inject some life-destroying drug,
Put it in our cups and kill us all.”

And in turn another of the arrogant young men spoke:
“Does anyone know if he himself, also going by hollow ship,
Will perish far from his family while wandering, just like Odysseus?
For he would thus be especially indebted to us for toil;
For we would divide up all his goods amongst ourselves, and his house in turn
We would give to his mother to have and whoever might marry her.”

Thus they spoke; and he went down to his father’s high-ceilinged room,
A large room, where heaped up  gold and copper lay,
And clothing in coffers, and fragrant olive oil in abundance.
And in large jugs of aged, sweet-tasting wine,
They stood, holding the divine, unmixed drink within,
All in a row against the wall, closely packed, if ever Odysseus
Returned homeward, though he suffered many hardships.
Closeable planks sat upon them, stoutly-fitted,
Double-folding; a woman, a housekeeper day and night
Was there, who guarded all of it with great keen-ness of mind,
Eurycleia, daughter of Ops, son of Peisenor.
To her, then, Telemachus spoke, after he summoned her to the room:

“Old mother, come, draw me wine into amphorae,
The sweet one, which is the most pleasant to taste after that which you guard,
You, thinking about that ill-fated man, whether he might come from somewhere,
Odysseus, sprung from Zeus, having avoided death and doom.
Fill up twelve and fasten them all with lids.
Pour barley for me into well-stitched leather sacks;
Let there be twenty measures of mill-ground corn barley.
Let you alone know of this; let everything be prepared in a pile.
In the evening I will take it, whenever
Mother goes to the upper rooms, with her mind on her bed.
For I am going to Sparta and to sandy Pylos
To learn of the homecoming of my beloved father, if I can somehow hear of it.”

Thus he spoke, and his beloved nurse Eurycleia wailed,
And lamenting she spoke winged words:
“Why oh why, my dear child, has this thought in your head
Come to be? Why do you wish to go to a distant soil
When you are an only child, and loved? Odysseus, sprung from Zeus,
Has perished far from his homeland, in an unknown country.
And the men, when you go, will contrive misfortunes for you hereafter,
So that you may decline by their treachery, and they may divide all this amongst themselves.
Instead, seated here in your own hall: there is no need for you
To suffer misfortunes on the barren sea, nor to roam.”

Astute Telemachus in turn addressed her in reply:
“Have courage, old mother, since I am not without god or at least counsel.
But swear that you will not recount this to my beloved mother,
At least not until the eleventh or twelfth day has passed,
Or she herself yearns for me and hears from me after I have gone,
So that she may not spoil her lovely skin by weeping.”

Thus he spoke, and the old woman swore the great oath of the gods.
And after she swore and completed the oath,
Immediately thereafter, she drew wine into amphorae,
And she poured barley into well-stitched leather sacks.
And going to his house, Telemachus consorted with the suitors.

Thereupon the goddess, shining-eyed Athene, conceived another plan:
She looked like Telemachus and she went through the entire city,
And standing beside each man, she said a word,
She bid them to come together that evening on a swift ship.
And furthermore, she asked Noemon, the resplendent son of Phronius,
For the swift ship; he eagerly acquiesced.

The sun sank and the all the streets darkened;
And she drew the swift ship seaward at that time, and into it she placed
All the weapons which well-oared ships always carried.
She put it at the furthest reach of the harbour, the excellent companions in a crowd
Gathered round; the goddess inspired each man.

Thereupon the goddess, shining-eyed Athene, conceived another plan:
She got up and went to the house of noble Odysseus;
There, upon the suitors, she poured out sweet sleep,
She smote the drinkers, striking out the goblets from their hands.
They stirred throughout the city to sleep, and no longer there
Sat still, since sleep fell upon their eyelids.
And shining-eyed Athene said to Telemachus,
After she summoned him from the well-situated hall,
Appearing like Mentor, in both form and voice:
“Telemachus, already well-greaved companions
Sit at the oars for you, awaiting your departure;
But let us go, and let us not put off the journey for long.”

Having spoken thus, Pallas Athene led
Swiftly; and he then went in the footsteps of the god.
And then he went down to the sea and upon the ship,
And he found there, on the beach, long-haired heads, companions.
And the sacred might of Telemachus spoke among them:
“Come, my friends, let us bring provisions, for already all
Are piled in my hall. And my mother has not learned in any way,
Nor any of the bondswoman, one alone has gotten word.”

Having spoken thus, he led and, truly, they followed with.
And bringing everything, in the well-decked ship
They laid it down, as the beloved son of Odysseus bid them.
Telemachus stepped on the ship, but Athene was first,
She sat down at the ship stern, and near her
Sat Telemachus. She loosed [the ties] from the stern,
And the rest, going aboard, sat at the rowing benches.
For them shining-eyed Athene sent a favourable, fair wind,
Strong-blowing Zephrus, sounding over the wine-dark sea.
And Telemachus ordered the companions, encouraging them
To fasten on their weapons, and they surely heard him encouraging them.
The pine-wood mast, from within the curved tie-beams,
Lifting it, they stood it up, and they tied it down with the forestays,
And they pulled the white sail with well-twisted ox-hide ropes.
Wind inflated the belly of the sail, and a wave around
The keel of the ship, heaving, resounded greatly as it moved;
It ran, making its path across the wave.
After they tied their weapons throughout the ship, swift and black,
They stood up mixing bowls filled with wine,
And they poured libations for the undying gods, everlasting,
But of them all, especially for the shining-eyed daughter of Zeus.
And all night long and also in the dawn, the ship ran through its course.

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