Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)
altar of Jove that was in the outer court, and on which both Laertes
and Ulysses had offered up the thigh bones of many an ox, or whether
to go straight up to Ulysses and embrace his knees, but in the end
he deemed it best to embrace Ulysses' knees. So he laid his lyre on
the ground the ground between the mixing-bowl and the silver-studded
seat; then going up to Ulysses he caught hold of his knees and said,
"Ulysses, I beseech you have mercy on me and spare me. You will be
sorry for it afterwards if you kill a bard who can sing both for
gods and men as I can. I make all my lays myself, and heaven visits me
with every kind of inspiration. I would sing to you as though you were
a god, do not therefore be in such a hurry to cut my head off. Your
own son Telemachus will tell you that I did not want to frequent
your house and sing to the suitors after their meals, but they were
too many and too strong for me, so they made me."
Telemachus heard him, and at once went up to his father. "Hold!"
he cried, "the man is guiltless, do him no hurt; and we will Medon
too, who was always good to me when I was a boy, unless Philoetius
or Eumaeus has already killed him, or he has fallen in your way when
you were raging about the court."
Medon caught these words of Telemachus, for he was crouching under a
seat beneath which he had hidden by covering himself up with a freshly
flayed heifer's hide, so he threw off the hide, went up to Telemachus,
and laid hold of his knees.
"Here I am, my dear sir," said he, "stay your hand therefore, and
tell your father, or he will kill me in his rage against the suitors
for having wasted his substance and been so foolishly disrespectful to
Ulysses smiled at him and answered, "Fear not; Telemachus has
saved your life, that you may know in future, and tell other people,
how greatly better good deeds prosper than evil ones. Go, therefore,
outside the cloisters into the outer court, and be out of the way of
the slaughter- you and the bard- while I finish my work here inside."
The pair went into the outer court as fast as they could, and sat
down by Jove's great altar, looking fearfully round, and still
expecting that they would be killed. Then Ulysses searched the whole
court carefully over, to see if anyone had managed to hide himself and
was still living, but he found them all lying in the dust and
weltering in their blood. They were like fishes which fishermen have
netted out of the sea, and thrown upon the beach to lie gasping for
water till the heat of the sun makes an end of them. Even so were
the suitors lying all huddled up one against the other.
Then Ulysses said to Telemachus, "Call nurse Euryclea; I have
something to say to her."
Telemachus went and knocked at the door of the women's room. "Make
haste," said he, "you old woman who have been set over all the other
women in the house. Come outside; my father wishes to speak to you."
When Euryclea heard this she unfastened the door of the women's room
and came out, following Telemachus. She found Ulysses among the
corpses bespattered with blood and filth like a lion that has just
been devouring an ox, and his breast and both his cheeks are all
bloody, so that he is a fearful sight; even so was Ulysses
besmirched from head to foot with gore. When she saw all the corpses
and such a quantity of blood, she was beginning to cry out for joy,
for she saw that a great deed had been done; but Ulysses checked
her, "Old woman," said he, "rejoice in silence; restrain yourself, and
do not make any noise about it; it is an unholy thing to vaunt over
dead men. Heaven's doom and their own evil deeds have brought these
men to destruction, for they respected no man in the whole world,
neither rich nor poor, who came near them, and they have come to a bad
end as a punishment for their wickedness and folly. Now, however, tell
me which of the women in the house have misconducted themselves, and
who are innocent."
"I will tell you the truth, my son," answered Euryclea. "There are
fifty women in the house whom we teach to do things, such as carding