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Pages of Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)



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Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)   


people have who live well and are accounted wealthy, but it pleased
Jove to take all away from me; therefore, woman, beware lest you too
come to lose that pride and place in which you now wanton above your
fellows; have a care lest you get out of favour with your mistress,
and lest Ulysses should come home, for there is still a chance that he
may do so. Moreover, though he be dead as you think he is, yet by
Apollo's will he has left a son behind him, Telemachus, who will
note anything done amiss by the maids in the house, for he is now no
longer in his boyhood."
Penelope heard what he was saying and scolded the maid, "Impudent
baggage, said she, "I see how abominably you are behaving, and you
shall smart for it. You knew perfectly well, for I told you myself,
that I was going to see the stranger and ask him about my husband, for
whose sake I am in such continual sorrow."
Then she said to her head waiting woman Eurynome, "Bring a seat with
a fleece upon it, for the stranger to sit upon while he tells his
story, and listens to what I have to say. I wish to ask him some
questions."
Eurynome brought the seat at once and set a fleece upon it, and as
soon as Ulysses had sat down Penelope began by saying, "Stranger, I
shall first ask you who and whence are you? Tell me of your town and
parents."
"Madam;" answered Ulysses, "who on the face of the whole earth can
dare to chide with you? Your fame reaches the firmament of heaven
itself; you are like some blameless king, who upholds righteousness,
as the monarch over a great and valiant nation: the earth yields its
wheat and barley, the trees are loaded with fruit, the ewes bring
forth lambs, and the sea abounds with fish by reason of his virtues,
and his people do good deeds under him. Nevertheless, as I sit here in
your house, ask me some other question and do not seek to know my race
and family, or you will recall memories that will yet more increase my
sorrow. I am full of heaviness, but I ought not to sit weeping and
wailing in another person's house, nor is it well to be thus
grieving continually. I shall have one of the servants or even
yourself complaining of me, and saying that my eyes swim with tears
because I am heavy with wine."
Then Penelope answered, "Stranger, heaven robbed me of all beauty,
whether of face or figure, when the Argives set sail for Troy and my
dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after my affairs
I should be both more respected and should show a better presence to
the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the
afflictions which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. The chiefs from
all our islands- Dulichium, Same, and Zacynthus, as also from Ithaca
itself, are wooing me against my will and are wasting my estate. I can
therefore show no attention to strangers, nor suppliants, nor to
people who say that they are skilled artisans, but am all the time
brokenhearted about Ulysses. They want me to marry again at once,
and I have to invent stratagems in order to deceive them. In the first
place heaven put it in my mind to set up a great tambour-frame in my
room, and to begin working upon an enormous piece of fine
needlework. Then I said to them, 'Sweethearts, Ulysses is indeed dead,
still, do not press me to marry again immediately; wait- for I would
not have my skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
finished making a pall for the hero Laertes, to be ready 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 I
said, and they assented; whereon I used to keep working at my great
web all day long, but at night I would unpick the stitches again by
torch light. I fooled them in this way for three years without their
finding it out, but as time wore on and I was now in my fourth year,
in the waning of moons, and many days had been accomplished, those
good-for-nothing hussies my maids betrayed me to the suitors, who
broke in upon me and caught me; they were very angry with me, so I was
forced to finish my work whether I would or no. And now I do not see

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