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Pages of Odyssey (Rapsodies 7 to 12)



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Odyssey (Rapsodies 7 to 12)   


"My mother answered, 'Your wife still remains in your house, but she
is in great distress of mind and spends her whole time in tears both
night and day. No one as yet has got possession of your fine property,
and Telemachus still holds your lands undisturbed. He has to entertain
largely, as of course he must, considering his position as a
magistrate, and how every one invites him; your father remains at
his old place in the country and never goes near the town. He has no
comfortable bed nor bedding; in the winter he sleeps on the floor in
front of the fire with the men and goes about all in rags, but in
summer, when the warm weather comes on again, he lies out in the
vineyard on a bed of vine leaves thrown anyhow upon the ground. He
grieves continually about your never having come home, and suffers
more and more as he grows older. As for my own end it was in this
wise: heaven did not take me swiftly and painlessly in my own house,
nor was I attacked by any illness such as those that generally wear
people out and kill them, but my longing to know what you were doing
and the force of my affection for you- this it was that was the
death of me.'
"Then I tried to find some way of embracing my mother's ghost.
Thrice I sprang towards her and tried to clasp her in my arms, but
each time she flitted from my embrace as it were a dream or phantom,
and being touched to the quick I said to her, 'Mother, why do you
not stay still when I would embrace you? If we could throw our arms
around one another we might find sad comfort in the sharing of our
sorrows even in the house of Hades; does Proserpine want to lay a
still further load of grief upon me by mocking me with a phantom
only?'
"'My son,' she answered, 'most ill-fated of all mankind, it is not
Proserpine that is beguiling you, but all people are like this when
they are dead. The sinews no longer hold the flesh and bones together;
these perish in the fierceness of consuming fire as soon as life has
left the body, and the soul flits away as though it were a dream. Now,
however, go back to the light of day as soon as you can, and note
all these things that you may tell them to your wife hereafter.'
"Thus did we converse, and anon Proserpine sent up the ghosts of the
wives and daughters of all the most famous men. They gathered in
crowds about the blood, and I considered how I might question them
severally. In the end I deemed that it would be best to draw the
keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh, and keep them from all
drinking the blood at once. So they came up one after the other, and
each one as I questioned her told me her race and lineage.
"The first I saw was Tyro. She was daughter of Salmoneus and wife of
Cretheus the son of Aeolus. She fell in love with the river Enipeus
who is much the most beautiful river in the whole world. Once when she
was taking a walk by his side as usual, Neptune, disguised as her
lover, lay with her at the mouth of the river, and a huge blue wave
arched itself like a mountain over them to hide both woman and god,
whereon he loosed her virgin girdle and laid her in a deep slumber.
When the god had accomplished the deed of love, he took her hand in
his own and said, 'Tyro, rejoice in all good will; the embraces of the
gods are not fruitless, and you will have fine twins about this time
twelve months. Take great care of them. I am Neptune, so now go
home, but hold your tongue and do not tell any one.'
"Then he dived under the sea, and she in due course bore Pelias
and Neleus, who both of them served Jove with all their might.
Pelias was a great breeder of sheep and lived in Iolcus, but the other
lived in Pylos. The rest of her children were by Cretheus, namely,
Aeson, Pheres, and Amythaon, who was a mighty warrior and charioteer.
"Next to her I saw Antiope, daughter to Asopus, who could boast of
having slept in the arms of even Jove himself, and who bore him two
sons Amphion and Zethus. These founded Thebes with its seven gates,
and built a wall all round it; for strong though they were they
could not hold Thebes till they had walled it.
"Then I saw Alcmena, the wife of Amphitryon, who also bore to Jove

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