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Pages of Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)



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Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)   


am minded. I appeal more especially to Eurymachus, and to Antinous who
has just spoken with so much reason. Cease shooting for the present
and leave the matter to the gods, but in the morning let heaven give
victory to whom it will. For the moment, however, give me the bow that
I may prove the power of my hands among you all, and see whether I
still have as much strength as I used to have, or whether travel and
neglect have made an end of it."
This made them all very angry, for they feared he might string the
bow; Antinous therefore rebuked him fiercely saying, "Wretched
creature, you have not so much as a grain of sense in your whole body;
you ought to think yourself lucky in being allowed to dine unharmed
among your betters, without having any smaller portion served you than
we others have had, and in being allowed to hear our conversation.
No other beggar or stranger has been allowed to hear what we say among
ourselves; the wine must have been doing you a mischief, as it does
with all those drink immoderately. It was wine that inflamed the
Centaur Eurytion when he was staying with Peirithous among the
Lapithae. When the wine had got into his head he went mad and did
ill deeds about the house of Peirithous; this angered the heroes who
were there assembled, so they rushed at him and cut off his ears and
nostrils; then they dragged him through the doorway out of the
house, so he went away crazed, and bore the burden of his crime,
bereft of understanding. Henceforth, therefore, there was war
between mankind and the centaurs, but he brought it upon himself
through his own drunkenness. In like manner I can tell you that it
will go hardly with you if you string the bow: you will find no
mercy from any one here, for we shall at once ship you off to king
Echetus, who kills every one that comes near him: you will never get
away alive, so drink and keep quiet without getting into a quarrel
with men younger than yourself."
Penelope then spoke to him. "Antinous," said she, "it is not right
that you should ill-treat any guest of Telemachus who comes to this
house. If the stranger should prove strong enough to string the mighty
bow of Ulysses, can you suppose that he would take me home with him
and make me his wife? Even the man himself can have no such idea in
his mind: none of you need let that disturb his feasting; it would
be out of all reason."
"Queen Penelope," answered Eurymachus, "we do not suppose that
this man will take you away with him; it is impossible; but we are
afraid lest some of the baser sort, men or women among the Achaeans,
should go gossiping about and say, 'These suitors are a feeble folk;
they are paying court to the wife of a brave man whose bow not one
of them was able to string, and yet a beggarly tramp who came to the
house strung it at once and sent an arrow through the iron.' This is
what will be said, and it will be a scandal against us."
"Eurymachus," Penelope answered, "people who persist in eating up
the estate of a great chieftain and dishonouring his house must not
expect others to think well of them. Why then should you mind if men
talk as you think they will? This stranger is strong and well-built,
he says moreover that he is of noble birth. Give him the bow, and
let us see whether he can string it or no. I say- and it shall
surely be- that if Apollo vouchsafes him the glory of stringing it,
I will give him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a javelin to keep
off dogs and robbers, and a sharp sword. I will also give him sandals,
and will see him sent safely whereever he wants to go."
Then Telemachus said, "Mother, I am the only man either in Ithaca or
in the islands that are over against Elis who has the right to let any
one have the bow or to refuse it. No one shall force me one way or the
other, not even though I choose to make the stranger a present of
the bow outright, and let him take it away with him. Go, then,
within the house and busy yourself with your daily duties, your
loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants. This bow is a
man's matter, and mine above all others, for it is I who am master
here."

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