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Pages of Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)



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Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)   


enemies make an end of you on the mainland when you were
cattle-lifting or sheep-stealing, or while fighting in defence of
their wives and city? Answer my question, for I have been your
guest. Do you not remember how I came to your house with Menelaus,
to persuade Ulysses to join us with his ships against Troy? It was a
whole month ere we could resume our voyage, for we had hard work to
persuade Ulysses to come with us."
And the ghost of Amphimedon answered, "Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
king of men, I remember everything that you have said, and will tell
you fully and accurately about the way in which our end was brought
about. Ulysses had been long gone, and we were courting his wife,
who did not say point blank that she would not marry, nor yet bring
matters to an end, for she meant to compass our destruction: this,
then, was the trick she played us. She set up a great tambour frame in
her room and began to work on an enormous piece of fine needlework.
'Sweethearts,' said she, '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 completed a pall
for the hero Laertes, 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 is what she said, and we assented; whereupon
we could see her working upon her great web all day long, but at night
she would unpick the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in
this way for three years without our finding it out, but as time
wore on and she was now in her fourth year, in the waning of moons and
many days had been accomplished, one of her maids who knew what she
was doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work,
so she had to finish it whether she would or no; and when she showed
us the robe she had made, after she had had it washed, its splendour
was as that of the sun or moon.
"Then some malicious god conveyed Ulysses to the upland farm where
his swineherd lives. Thither presently came also his son, returning
from a voyage to Pylos, and the two came to the town when they had
hatched their plot for our destruction. Telemachus came first, and
then after him, accompanied by the swineherd, came Ulysses, clad in
rags and leaning on a staff as though he were some miserable old
beggar. He came so unexpectedly that none of us knew him, not even the
older ones among us, and we reviled him and threw things at him. He
endured both being struck and insulted without a word, though he was
in his own house; but when the will of Aegis-bearing Jove inspired
him, he and Telemachus took the armour and hid it in an inner chamber,
bolting the doors behind them. Then he cunningly made his wife offer
his bow and a quantity of iron to be contended for by us ill-fated
suitors; and this was the beginning of our end, for not one of us
could string the bow- nor nearly do so. When it was about to reach the
hands of Ulysses, we all of us shouted out that it should not be given
him, no matter what he might say, but Telemachus insisted on his
having it. When he had got it in his hands he strung it with ease
and sent his arrow through the iron. Then he stood on the floor of the
cloister and poured his arrows on the ground, glaring fiercely about
him. First he killed Antinous, and then, aiming straight before him,
he let fly his deadly darts and they fell thick on one another. It was
plain that some one of the gods was helping them, for they fell upon
us with might and main throughout the cloisters, and there was a
hideous sound of groaning as our brains were being battered in, and
the ground seethed with our blood. This, Agamemnon, is how we came
by our end, and our bodies are lying still un-cared for in the house
of Ulysses, for our friends at home do not yet know what has happened,
so that they cannot lay us out and wash the black blood from our
wounds, making moan over us according to the offices due to the
departed."
"Happy Ulysses, son of Laertes," replied the ghost of Agamemnon,
"you are indeed blessed in the possession of a wife endowed with
such rare excellence of understanding, and so faithful to her wedded

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