A Roman mosaic depicting a maritime scene with Odysseus (Latin: Ulysses) and the Sirens, from Carthage, 2nd century AD
The Gods in council sit, to call
Ulysses from Calypso’s thrall,
And order their high pleasures thus:
Grey Pallas to Telemachus
(In Ithaca) her way addrest;
And did her heav’nly limbs invest
In Mentas’ likeness, that did reign
King of the Taphians, in the main
Whose rough waves near Leucadia run.
Advising wise Ulysses’ son
To seek his father, and address
His course to young Tantalides,
That govern’d Sparta. Thus much said,
She shew’d she was Heav’n’s martial Maid,
And vanish’d from him. Next to this,
The Banquet of the Wooers is.
The Deities sit;
The Man retired;
Th’ Ulyssean wit
By Pallas fired.
The man, O Muse, inform, that many a way
Wound with his wisdom to his wished stay;
That wander’d wondrous far, when he the town
Of sacred Troy had sack’d and shiver’d down;
The cities of a world of nations,
With all their manners, minds, and fashions,
He saw and knew; at sea felt many woes,
Much care sustain’d, to save from overthrows
Himself and friends in their retreat for home;
But so their fates he could not overcome,
Though much he thirsted it. O men unwise,
They perish’d by their own impieties!
That in their hunger’s rapine would not shun
The oxen of the lofty-going Sun,
Who therefore from their eyes the day bereft
Of safe return. These acts, in some part left,
Tell us, as others, deified Seed of Jove.
Now all the rest that austere death outstrove
At Troy’s long siege at home safe anchor’d are,
Free from the malice both of sea and war;
Only Ulysses is denied access
To wife and home. The grace of Goddesses,
The rev’rend nymph Calypso, did detain
Him in her caves, past all the race of men
Enflam’d to make him her lov’d lord and spouse.
And when the Gods had destin’d that his house,
Which Ithaca on her rough bosom bears,
(The point of time wrought out by ambient years)
Should be his haven, Contention still extends
Her envy to him, ev’n amongst his friends.
All Gods took pity on him; only he,
That girds earth in the cincture of the sea,
Divine Ulysses ever did envy,
And made the fix’d port of his birth to fly.
But he himself solemniz’d a retreat
To th’ Æthiops, far dissunder’d in their seat,
(In two parts parted, at the sun’s descent,
And underneath his golden orient,
The first and last of men) t’ enjoy their feast
Of bulls and lambs, in hecatombs addrest;
At which he sat, giv’n over to delight.
The other Gods in heav’n’s supremest height
Were all in council met; to whom began
The mighty Father both of God and man
Discourse, inducing matter that inclin’d
To wise Ulysses, calling to his mind
Faultful Ægisthus, who to death was done
By young Orestes, Agamemnon’s son.
His memory to the Immortals then
Mov’d Jove thus deeply: “O how falsely men
Accuse us Gods as authors of their ill!
When, by the bane their own bad lives instill,
They suffer all the mis’ries of their states,
Past our inflictions, and beyond their fates.
As now Ægisthus, past his fate, did wed
The wife of Agamemnon, and (in dread
To suffer death himself) to shun his ill,
Incurr’d it by the loose bent of his will,
In slaughtering Atrides in retreat.
Which we foretold him would so hardly set
To his murd’rous purpose, sending Mercury
That slaughter’d Argus, our consid’rate spy,
To give him this charge: ‘Do not wed his wife,
Nor murder him; for thou shalt buy his life
With ransom of thine own, impos’d on thee
By his Orestes, when in him shall be
Atrides’-self renew’d, and but the prime
Of youth’s spring put abroad, in thirst to climb
His haughty father’s throne by his high acts.’
These words of Hermes wrought not into facts
Ægisthus’ powers; good counsel he despis’d,
And to that good his ill is sacrific’d.”
Pallas, whose eyes did sparkle like the skies,
Answer’d: “O Sire! Supreme of Deities,
Ægisthus pass’d his fate, and had desert
To warrant our infliction; and convert
May all the pains such impious men inflict
On innocent suff’rers to revenge as strict,
Their own hearts eating. But, that Ithacus,
Thus never meriting, should suffer thus,
I deeply suffer. His more pious mind
Divides him from these fortunes. Though unkind
Is piety to him, giving him a fate
More suff’ring than the most unfortunate,
So long kept friendless in a sea-girt soil,
Where the sea’s navel is a sylvan isle,
In which the Goddess dwells that doth derive
Her birth from Atlas, who of all alive
The motion and the fashion doth command
With his wise mind, whose forces understand
The inmost deeps and gulfs of all the seas,
Who (for his skill of things superior) stays
The two steep columns that prop earth and heav’n.
His daughter ‘tis, who holds this homeless-driv’n
Still mourning with her; evermore profuse
Of soft and winning speeches, that abuse
And make so languishingly, and possest
With so remiss a mind her loved guest,
Manage the action of his way for home.
Where he, though in affection overcome,
In judgment yet more longs to show his hopes
His country’s smoke leap from her chimney tops,
And death asks in her arms. Yet never shall
Thy lov’d heart be converted on his thrall,
Austere Olympius. Did not ever he,
In ample Troy, thy altars gratify,
And Grecians’ fleet make in thy off’rings swim?
Jove, why still then burns thy wrath to him?”
The Cloud-assembler answer’d: “What words fly,
Bold daughter, from thy pale of ivory?
As if I ever could cast from my care
Divine Ulysses, who exceeds so far
All men in wisdom, and so oft hath giv’n
To all th’ Immortals thron’d in ample heav’n
So great and sacred gifts? But his decrees,
That holds the earth in with his nimble knees,
Stand to Ulysses’ longings so extreme,
For taking from the God-foe Polypheme
His only eye; a Cyclop, that excell’d
All other Cyclops, with whose burden swell’d
The nymph Thoosa, the divine increase
Of Phorcys’ seed, a great God of the seas.
She mix’d with Neptune in his hollow caves,
And bore this Cyclop to that God of waves.
For whose lost eye, th’ Earth-shaker did not kill
Erring Ulysses, but reserves him still
In life for more death. But use we our pow’rs,
And round about us cast these cares of ours,
All to discover how we may prefer
His wish’d retreat, and Neptune make forbear
His stern eye to him, since no one God can,
In spite of all, prevail, but ’gainst a man.”
To this, this answer made the grey-eyed Maid:
“Supreme of rulers, since so well apaid
The blesséd Gods are all then, now, in thee,
To limit wise Ulysses’ misery,
And that you speak as you referr’d to me
Prescription for the means, in this sort be
Their sacred order: Let us now address
With utmost speed our swift Argicides,
To tell the nymph that bears the golden tress
In th’ isle Ogygia, that ’tis our will
She should not stay our lov’d Ulysses still,
But suffer his return; and then will I
To Ithaca, to make his son apply
His sire’s inquest the more; infusing force
Into his soul, to summon the concourse
Of curl’d-head Greeks to council, and deter
Each wooer, that hath been the slaughterer
Of his fat sheep and crooked-headed beeves.
From more wrong to his mother, and their leaves
Take in such terms as fit deserts so great.
To Sparta then, and Pylos, where doth beat
Bright Amathus, the flood, and epithet
To all that kingdom, my advice shall send
The spirit-advanc’d Prince, to the pious end
Of seeking his lost father, if he may
Receive report from Fame where rests his stay;
And make, besides, his own successive worth
Known to the world, and set in action forth.”
This said, her wing’d shoes to her feet she tied,
Form’d all of gold, and all eternified,
That on the round earth or the sea sustain’d
Her ravish’d substance swift as gusts of wind.
Then took she her strong lance with steel made keen,
Great, massy, active, that whole hosts of men,
Though all heroës, conquers, if her ire
Their wrongs inflame, back’d by so great a Sire.
Down from Olympus’ tops she headlong div’d,
And swift as thought in Ithaca arriv’d,
Close at Ulysses’ gates; in whose first court
She made her stand, and, for her breast’s support,
Lean’d on her iron lance; her form imprest
With Mentas’ likeness, come as being a guest.
There found she those proud wooers, that were then
Set on those ox-hides that themselves had slain,
Before the gates, and all at dice were playing.
To them the heralds, and the rest obeying,
Fill’d wine and water; some, still as they play’d,
And some, for solemn supper’s state, purvey’d,
With porous sponges cleansing tables, serv’d
With much rich feast; of which to all they kerv’d.
God-like Telemachus amongst them sat,
Griev’d much in mind; and in his heart begat
All representment of his absent sire,
How, come from far-off parts, his spirits would fire
With those proud wooers’ sight, with slaughter parting
Their bold concourse, and to himself converting
The honours they usurp’d, his own commanding.
In this discourse, he first saw Pallas standing,
Unbidden entry; up rose, and addrest
His pace right to her, angry that a guest
Should stand so long at gate; and, coming near,
Her right hand took, took in his own her spear,
And thus saluted: “Grace to your repair,
Fair guest, your welcome shall be likewise fair.
Enter, and, cheer’d with feast, disclose th’ intent
That caus’d your coming.” This said, first he went,
And Pallas follow’d. To a room they came,
Steep, and of state; the jav’lin of the Dame
He set against a pillar vast and high,
Amidst a large and bright-kept armory,
Which was, besides, with woods of lances grac’d
Of his grave father’s. In a throne he plac’d
The man-turn’d Goddess, under which was spread
A carpet, rich and of deviceful thread;
A footstool staying her feet; and by her chair
Another seat (all garnish’d wondrous fair,
To rest or sleep on in the day) he set,
Far from the prease of wooers, lest at meat
The noise they still made might offend his guest,
Disturbing him at banquet or at rest,
Ev’n to his combat with that pride of theirs,
That kept no noble form in their affairs.
And these he set far from them, much the rather
To question freely of his absent father.
A table fairly-polish’d then was spread,
On which a rev’rend officer set bread,
And other servitors all sorts of meat
(Salads, and flesh, such as their haste could get)
Serv’d with observance in. And then the sewer
Pour’d water from a great and golden ewer,
That from their hands t’ a silver caldron ran.
Both wash’d, and seated close, the voiceful man
Fetch’d cups of gold, and set by them, and round
Those cups with wine with all endeavour crown’d.
Then rush’d in the rude wooers, themselves plac’d;
The heralds water gave; the maids in haste
Serv’d bread from baskets. When, of all prepar’d
And set before them, the bold wooers shar’d,
Their pages plying their cups past the rest.
But lusty wooers must do more than feast;
For now, their hungers and their thirsts allay’d,
They call’d for songs and dances; those, they said,
Were th’ ornaments of feast. The herald straight
A harp, carv’d full of artificial sleight,
Thrust into Phemius’, a learn’d singer’s, hand,
Who, till he much was urg’d, on terms did stand,
But, after, play’d and sung with all his art.
Telemachus to Pallas then (apart,
His ear inclining close, that none might hear)
In this sort said: “My guest, exceeding dear,
Will you not sit incens’d with what I say?
These are the cares these men take; feast and play.
Which eas’ly they may use, because they eat,
Free and unpunish’d, of another’s meat;
And of a man’s, whose white bones wasting lie
In some far region; with th’ incessancy
Of show’rs pour’d down upon them, lying ashore,
Or in the seas wash’d nak’d. Who, if he wore
Those bones with flesh and life and industry,
And these might here in Ithaca set eye
On him return’d, they all would wish to be
Either past other in celerity
Of feet and knees, and not contend t’ exceed
In golden garments. But his virtues feed
The fate of ill death; nor is left to me
The least hope of his life’s recovery,
No, not if any of the mortal race
Should tell me his return; the cheerful face
Of his return’d day never will appear.
But tell me, and let Truth your witness bear,
Who, and from whence you are? What city’s birth?
What parents? In what vessel set you forth?
And with what mariners arriv’d you here?
I cannot think you a foot passenger.
Recount then to me all, to teach me well
Fit usage for your worth. And if it fell
In chance now first that you thus see us here,
Or that in former passages you were
My father’s guest? For many men have been
Guests to my father. Studious of men
His sociable nature ever was.”
On him again the grey-eyed Maid did pass
This kind reply: “I’ll answer passing true
All thou hast ask’d: My birth his honour drew
From wise Anchialus. The name I bear
Is Mentas, the commanding islander
Of all the Taphians studious in the art
Of navigation; having touch’d this part
With ship and men, of purpose to maintain
Course through the dark seas t’ other-languag’d men;
And Temesis sustains the city’s name
For which my ship is bound, made known by fame
For rich in brass, which my occasions need,
And therefore bring I shining steel in stead,
Which their use wants, yet makes my vessel’s freight,
That near a plough’d field rides at anchor’s weight,
Apart this city, in the harbour call’d
Rhethrus, whose waves with Neius’ woods are wall’d.
Thy sire and I were ever mutual guests,
At either’s house still interchanging feasts.
I glory in it. Ask, when thou shalt see
Laertes, th’ old heroë, these of me,
From the beginning. He, men say, no more
Visits the city, but will needs deplore
His son’s believ’d loss in a private field;
One old maid only at his hands to yield
Food to his life, as oft as labour makes
His old limbs faint; which, though he creeps, he takes
Along a fruitful plain, set all with vines,
Which husbandman-like, though a king, he proins.
But now I come to be thy father’s guest;
I hear he wanders, while these wooers feast.
And (as th’ Immortals prompt me at this hour)
I’ll tell thee, out of a prophetic pow’r,
(Not as profess’d a prophet, nor clear seen
At all times what shall after chance to men)
What I conceive, for this time, will be true:
The Gods’ inflictions keep your sire from you.
Divine Ulysses, yet, abides not dead
Above earth, nor beneath, nor buried
In any seas, as you did late conceive,
But, with the broad sea sieg’d, is kept alive
Within an isle by rude and upland men,
That in his spite his passage home detain.
Yet long it shall not be before he tread
His country’s dear earth, though solicited,
And held from his return, with iron chains;
For he hath wit to forge a world of trains,
And will, of all, be sure to make good one
For his return, so much relied upon.
But tell me, and be true: Art thou indeed
So much a son, as to be said the seed
Of Ithacus himself? Exceeding much
Thy forehead and fair eyes at his form touch;
For oftentimes we met, as you and I
Meet at this hour, before he did apply
His pow’rs for Troy, when other Grecian states
In hollow ships were his associates.
But, since that time, mine eyes could never see
Renown’d Ulysses, nor met his with me.”
The wise Telemachus again replied:
“You shall with all I know be satisfied.
My mother certain says I am his son;
I know not; nor was ever simply known
By any child the sure truth of his sire.
But would my veins had took in living fire
From some man happy, rather than one wise,
Whom age might see seis’d of what youth made prise.
But he whoever of the mortal race
Is most unblest, he holds my father’s place.
This, since you ask, I answer.” She, again:
“The Gods sure did not make the future strain
Both of thy race and days obscure to thee,
Since thou wert born so of Penelope.
The style may by thy after acts be won,
Of so great sire the high undoubted son.
Say truth in this then: What’s this feasting here?
What all this rout? Is all this nuptial cheer?
Or else some friendly banquet made by thee?
For here no shots are, where all sharers be.
Past measure contumeliously this crew
Fare through thy house; which should th’ ingenuous view
Of any good or wise man come and find,
(Impiety seeing play’d in ev’ry kind)
He could not but through ev’ry vein be mov’d.”
Again Telemachus: “My guest much lov’d.
Since you demand and sift these sights so far,
I grant ’twere fit a house so regular,
Rich, and so faultless once in government,
Should still at all parts the same form present
That gave it glory while her lord was here.
But now the Gods, that us displeasure bear,
Have otherwise appointed, and disgrace
My father most of all the mortal race.
For whom I could not mourn so were he dead,
Amongst his fellow-captains slaughteréd
By common enemies, or in the hands
Of his kind friends had ended his commands,
After he had egregiously bestow’d
His pow’r and order in a war so vow’d,
And to his tomb all Greeks their grace had done,
That to all ages he might leave his son
Immortal honour; but now Harpies have
Digg’d in their gorges his abhorréd grave.
Obscure, inglorious, death hath made his end,
And me, for glories, to all griefs contend.
Nor shall I any more mourn him alone,
The Gods have giv’n me other cause of moan.
For look how many optimates remain
In Samos, or the shores Dulichian,
Shady Zacynthus, or how many bear
Rule in the rough brows of this island here;
So many now my mother and this house
At all parts make defam’d and ruinous;
And she her hateful nuptials nor denies,
Nor will despatch their importunities,
Though she beholds them spoil still as they feast
All my free house yields, and the little rest
Of my dead sire in me perhaps intend
To bring ere long to some untimely end.”
This Pallas sigh’d and answer’d: “O,” said she,
“Absent Ulysses is much miss’d by thee,
That on these shameless suitors he might lay
His wreakful hands. Should he now come, and stay
In thy court’s first gates, arm’d with helm and shield,
And two such darts as I have seen him wield,
When first I saw him in our Taphian court,
Feasting, and doing his desert’s disport;
When from Ephyrus he return’d by us
From Ilus, son to Centaur Mermerus,
To whom he travell’d through the wat’ry dreads,
For bane to poison his sharp arrows’ heads,
That death, but touch’d, caus’d; which he would not give,
Because he fear’d the Gods that ever live
Would plague such death with death; and yet their fear
Was to my father’s bosom not so dear
As was thy father’s love; (for what he sought
My loving father found him to a thought.)
If such as then Ulysses might but meet
With these proud wooers, all were at his feet
But instant dead men, and their nuptialls
Would prove as bitter as their dying galls.
But these things in the Gods’ knees are repos’d,
If his return shall see with wreak inclos’d,
These in his house, or he return no more;
And therefore I advise thee to explore
All ways thyself, to set these wooers gone;
To which end give me fit attentión:
To-morrow into solemn council call
The Greek heroës, and declare to all
(The Gods being witness) what thy pleasure is.
Command to towns of their nativity
These frontless wooers. If thy mother’s mind
Stands to her second nuptials so inclin’d,
Return she to her royal father’s tow’rs,
Where th’ one of these may wed her, and her dow’rs
Make rich, and such as may consort with grace
So dear a daughter of so great a race
And thee I warn as well (if thou as well
Wilt hear and follow) take thy best-built sail,
With twenty oars mann’d, and haste t’ inquire
Where the abode is of thy absent sire,
If any can inform thee, or thine ear
From Jove the fame of his retreat may hear,
For chiefly Jove gives all that honours men.
To Pylos first be thy addression then,
To god-like Nestor; thence to Sparta haste,
To gold-lock’d Menelaus, who was last
Of all the brass-arm’d Greeks that sail’d from Troy;
And try from both these, if thou canst enjoy
News of thy sire’s return’d life anywhere,
Though sad thou suffer’st in his search a year.
If of his death thou hear’st, return thou home,
And to his memory erect a tomb,
Performing parent-rites, of feast and game,
Pompous, and such as best may fit his fame;
And then thy mother a fit husband give.
These past, consider how thou mayst deprive
Of worthless life these wooers in thy house,
By open force, or projects enginous.
Things childish fit not thee; th’ art so no more.
Hast thou not heard, how all men did adore
Divine Orestes, after he had slain
Ægisthus murd’ring by a treach’rous train
His famous father? Be then, my most lov’d,
Valiant and manly, ev’ry way approv’d
As great as he. I see thy person fit,
Noble thy mind, and excellent thy wit,
All giv’n thee so to use and manage here
That ev’n past death they may their memories bear.
In meantime I’ll descend to ship and men,
That much expect me. Be observant then
Of my advice, and careful to maintain
In equal acts thy royal father’s reign.”
Telemachus replied: “You ope, fair guest,
A friend’s heart in your speech, as well exprest
As might a father serve t’ inform his son;
All which sure place have in my memory won.
Abide yet, though your voyage calls away,
That, having bath’d, and dignified your stay
With some more honour, you may yet beside
Delight your mind by being gratified
With some rich present taken in your way,
That, as a jewel, your respect may lay
Up in your treasury, bestow’d by me,
As free friends use to guests of such degree.”
“Detain me not,” said she, “so much inclin’d
To haste my voyage. What thy loved mind
Commands to give, at my return this way,
Bestow on me, that I directly may
Convey it home; which more of price to me
The more it asks my recompense to thee.”
This said, away grey-eyed Minerva flew,
Like to a mounting lark; and did endue
His mind with strength and boldness, and much more
Made him his father long for than before;
And weighing better who his guest might be,
He stood amaz’d, and thought a Deity
Was there descended; to whose will he fram’d
His pow’rs at all parts, and went so inflam’d
Amongst the wooers, who were silent set,
To hear a poet sing the sad retreat
The Greeks perform’d from Troy; which was from thence
Proclaim’d by Pallas, pain of her offence.
When which divine song was perceiv’d to bear
That mournful subject by the list’ning ear
Of wise Penelope, Icarius’ seed,
Who from an upper room had giv’n it heed,
Down she descended by a winding stair,
Not solely, but the state in her repair
Two maids of honour made. And when this queen
Of women stoop’d so low, she might be seen
By all her wooers. In the door, aloof,
Ent’ring the hall grac’d with a goodly roof,
She stood, in shade of graceful veils, implied
About her beauties; on her either side,
Her honour’d women. When, to tears mov’d, thus
She chid the sacred singer: “Phemiüs,
You know a number more of these great deeds
Of Gods and men, that are the sacred seeds,
And proper subjects, of a poet’s song,
And those due pleasures that to men belong,
Besides these facts that furnish Troy’s retreat,
Sing one of those to these, that round your seat
They may with silence sit, and taste their wine;
But cease this song, that through these ears of mine
Conveys deserv’d occasion to my heart
Of endless sorrows, of which the desert
In me unmeasur’d is past all these men,
So endless is the memory I retain,
And so desertful is that memory,
Of such a man as hath a dignity
So broad it spreads itself through all the pride
Of Greece and Argos.” To the queen replied
Inspir’d Telemachus: “Why thus envies
My mother him that fits societies
With so much harmony, to let him please
His own mind in his will to honour these?
For these ingenious and first sort of men,
That do immediately from Jove retain
Their singing raptures, are by Jove as well
Inspir’d with choice of what their songs impell,
Jove’s will is free in it, and therefore theirs.
Nor is this man to blame, that the repairs
The Greeks make homeward sings; for his fresh muse
Men still most celebrate that sings most news.
And therefore in his note your ears employ:
For not Ulysses only lost in Troy
The day of his return, but numbers more
The deadly ruins of his fortunes bore.
Go you then in, and take your work in hand,
Your web, and distaff; and your maids command
To ply their fit work. Words to men are due,
And those reproving counsels you pursue,
And most to me of all men, since I bear
The rule of all things that are manag’d here.”
She went amaz’d away, and in her heart
Laid up the wisdom Pallas did impart
To her lov’d son so lately, turn’d again
Up to her chamber, and no more would reign
In manly counsels. To her women she
Applied her sway; and to the wooers he
Began new orders, other spirits bewray’d
Than those in spite of which the wooers sway’d.
And (whiles his mother’s tears still wash’d her eyes,
Till grey Minerva did those tears surprise
With timely sleep, and that her wooers did rouse
Rude tumult up through all the shady house,
Dispos’d to sleep because their widow was)
Telemachus this new-giv’n spirit did pass
On their old insolence: “Ho! you that are,
My mother’s wooers! much too high ye bear
Your petulant spirits; sit; and, while ye may
Enjoy me in your banquets, see ye lay
These loud notes down, nor do this man the wrong,
Because my mother hath disliked his song,
To grace her interruption. ’Tis a thing
Honest, and honour’d too, to hear one sing
Numbers so like the Gods in elegance,
As this man flows in. By the morn’s first light,
I’ll call ye all before me in a Court,
That I may clearly banish your resort,
With all your rudeness, from these roofs of mine.
Away; and elsewhere in your feasts combine.
Consume your own goods, and make mutual feast
At either’s house. Or if ye still hold best,
And for your humours’ more sufficéd fill,
To feed, to spoil, because unpunish’d still,
On other findings, spoil; but here I call
Th’ Eternal Gods to witness, if it fall
In my wish’d reach once to be dealing wreaks,
By Jove’s high bounty, these your present checks
To what I give in charge shall add more reins
To my revenge hereafter; and the pains
Ye then must suffer shall pass all your pride
Ever to see redress’d, or qualified.”
At this all bit their lips, and did admire
His words sent from him with such phrase and fire;
Which so much mov’d them that Antinous,
Eupitheus’ son, cried out: “Telemachus!
The Gods, I think, have rapt thee to this height
Of elocution, and this great conceit
Of self-ability. We all may pray,
That Jove invest not in this kingdom’s sway
Thy forward forces, which I see put forth
A hot ambition in thee for thy birth.”
“Be not offended,” he replied, “if I
Shall say, I would assume this empery,
If Jove gave leave. You are not he that sings:
The rule of kingdoms is the worst of things.
Nor is it ill, at all, to sway a throne;
A man may quickly gain possession
Of mighty riches, make a wondrous prize
Set of his virtues; but the dignities
That deck a king, there are enough beside
In this circumfluous isle that want no pride
To think them worthy of, as young as I,
And old as you are. An ascent so high
My thoughts affect not. Dead is he that held
Desert of virtue to have so excell’d.
But of these turrets I will take on me
To be the absolute king, and reign as free,
As did my father, over all his hand
Left here in this house slaves to my command.”
Eurymachus, the son of Polybus,
To this made this reply: “Telemachus!
The girlond of this kingdom let the knees
Of Deity run for; but the faculties
This house is seis’d of, and the turrets here,
Thou shalt be lord of, nor shall any bear
The least part off of all thou dost possess,
As long as this land is no wilderness.
Nor rul’d by out-laws. But give these their pass,
And tell me, best of princes, who he was
That guested here so late? From whence? And what
In any region boasted he his state?
His race? His country? Brought he any news
Of thy returning father? Or for dues
Of moneys to him made he fit repair?
How suddenly he rush’d into the air,
Nor would sustain to stay and make him known!
His port show’d no debauch’d companion.”
He answer’d: “The return of my lov’d sire
Is past all hope; and should rude Fame inspire
From any place a flatt’ring messenger
With news of his survival, he should bear
No least belief off from my desp’rate love.
Which if a sacred prophet should approve,
Call’d by my mother for her care’s unrest,
It should not move me. For my late fair guest,
He was of old my father’s, touching here
From sea-girt Taphos; and for name doth bear
Mentas, the son of wise Anchialus;
And governs all the Taphians studious
Of navigation.” This he said, but knew
It was a Goddess. These again withdrew
To dances and attraction of the song;
And while their pleasures did the time prolong,
The sable Even descended, and did steep
The lids of all men in desire of sleep.
Telemachus, into a room built high,
Of his illustrious court, and to the eye
Of circular prospect, to his bed ascended,
And in his mind much weighty thought contended
Before him Euryclea (that well knew
All the observance of a handmaid’s due,
Daughter to Opis Pisenorides)
Bore two bright torches; who did so much please
Laërtes in her prime, that, for the price
Of twenty oxen, he made merchandise
Of her rare beauties; and love’s equal flame,
To her he felt, as to his nuptial dame,
Yet never durst he mix with her in bed,
So much the anger of his wife he fled.
She, now grown old, to young Telemachus
Two torches bore, and was obsequious
Past all his other maids, and did apply
Her service to him from his infancy.
His well-built chamber reach’d, she op’d the door,
He on his bed sat, the soft weeds he wore
Put off, and to the diligent old maid
Gave all; who fitly all in thick folds laid,
And hung them on a beam-pin near the bed,
That round about was rich embroidered.
Then made she haste forth from him, and did bring
The door together with a silver ring,
And by a string a bar to it did pull.
He, laid, and cover’d well with curled wool
Wov’n in silk quilts, all night employ’d his mind
About the task that Pallas had design’d.
Telemachus to court doth call
The Wooers, and commands them all
To leave his house; and taking then
From wise Minerva ship and men,
And all things fit for him beside,
That Euryclea could provide
For sea-rites till he found his sire,
He hoists sail; when Heav’n stoops his fire.
The old Maid’s store
The voyage cheers.
The ship leaves shore,
Now when with rosy fingers, th’ early born
And thrown through all the air, appear’d the Morn,
Ulysses’ lov’d son from his bed appear’d,
His weeds put on, and did about him gird
His sword that thwart his shoulders hung, and tied
To his fair feet fair shoes, and all parts plied
For speedy readiness: who, when he trod
The open earth, to men show’d like a God.
The heralds then he straight charg’d to consort
The curl’d-head Greeks, with loud calls, to a Court.
They summon’d; th’ other came in utmost haste.
Who all assembled, and in one heap plac’d
He likewise came to council, and did bear
In his fair hand his iron-headed spear.
Nor came alone, nor with men-troops prepar’d,
But two fleet dogs made both his train and guard.
Pallas supplied with her high wisdom’s grace,
That all men’s wants supplies, State’s painted face.
His ent’ring presence all men did admire;
Who took seat in the high throne of his sire,
To which the grave peers gave him rev’rend way.
Amongst whom, an Egyptian heroë
(Crookéd with age, and full of skill) begun
The speech to all; who had a loved son
That with divine Ulysses did ascend
His hollow fleet to Troy; to serve which end,
He kept fair horse, and was a man-at-arms,
And in the cruel Cyclop’s stern alarms
His life lost by him in his hollow cave,
Whose entrails open’d his abhorréd grave,
And made of him, of all Ulysses’ train,
His latest supper, being latest slain;
His name was Antiphus, And this old man,
This crookéd-grown, this wise Egyptian,
Had three sons more; of which one riotous
A wooer was, and call’d Eurynomus;
The other two took both his own wish’d course.
Yet both the best fates weigh’d not down the worse,
But left the old man mindful still of moan;
Who, weeping, thus bespake the Session:
“Hear, Ithacensians, all I fitly say:
Since our divine Ulysses’ parting day
Never was council call’d, nor session,
And now by whom is this thus undergone?
Whom did necessity so much compell,
Of young or old? Hath anyone heard tell
Of any coming army, that he thus now
May openly take boldness to avow,
First having heard it? Or will any here
Some motion for the public good prefer?
Some worth of note there is in this command;
And, methinks, it must be some good man’s hand
That’s put to it, that either hath direct
Means to assist, or, for his good affect,
Hopes to be happy in the proof he makes;
And that Jove grant, whate’er he undertakes.”
Telemachus (rejoicing much to hear
The good hope and opinion men did bear
Of his young actions) no longer sat,
But long’d t’ approve what this man pointed at,
And make his first proof in a cause so good;
And in the council’s chief place up he stood;
When straight Pisenor (herald to his sire,
And learn’d in counsels) felt his heart on fire
To hear him speak, and put into his hand
The sceptre that his father did command;
Then, to the old Egyptian turn’d, he spoke:
“Father, not far he is that undertook
To call this Council; whom you soon shall know.
Myself, whose wrongs my griefs will make me show,
Am he that author’d this assembly here.
Nor have I heard of any army near,
Of which, being first told, I might iterate,
Nor for the public good can aught relate,
Only mine own affairs all this procure,
That in my house a double ill endure;
One, having lost a father so renown’d,
Whose kind rule once with’ your command was crown’d;
The other is, what much more doth augment
His weighty loss, the ruin imminent
Of all my house by it, my goods all spent.
And of all this the wooers, that are sons
To our chief peers, are the confusións,
Importuning my mother’s marriáge
Against her will; nor dares their blood’s bold rage
Go to Icarius’, her father’s, court,
That, his will ask’d in kind and comely sort,
He may endow his daughter with a dow’r,
And, she consenting, at his pleasure’s pow’r
Dispose her to a man, that, thus behav’d,
May have fit grace, and see her honour sav’d.
But these, in none but my house, all their lives
Resolve to spend; slaught’ring my sheep and beeves,
And with my fattest goats lay feast on feast,
My gen’rous wine consuming as they list.
A world of things they spoil, here wanting one,
That, like Ulysses, quickly could set gone
These peace-plagues from his house, that spoil like war;
Whom my pow’rs are unfit to urge so far,
Myself immartial. But, had I the pow’r,
My will should serve me to exempt this hour
From out my life-time. For, past patience,
Base deeds are done here, that exceed defence
Of any honour. Falling is my house,
Which you should shame to see so ruinous.
Rev’rence the censures that all good men give,
That dwell about you; and for fear to live
Expos’d to heav’n’s wrath (that doth ever pay
Pains for joys forfeit) even by Jove I pray,
Or Themis, both which pow’rs have to restrain,
Or gather, councils, that ye will abstain
From further spoil, and let me only waste
In that most wretched grief I have embrac’d
For my lost father. And though I am free
From meriting your outrage, yet, if he,
Good man, hath ever with a hostile heart
Done ill to any Greek, on me convert
Your like hostility, and vengeance take
Of his ill on my life, and all these make
Join in that justice; but, to see abus’d
Those goods that do none ill but being ill-us’d,
Exceeds all right. Yet better ’tis for me,
My whole possessions and my rents to see
Consum’d by you, than lose my life and all;
For on your rapine a revenge may fall,
While I live; and so long I may complain
About the city, till my goods again,
Oft ask’d, may be with all amends repaid.
But in the mean space your misrule hath laid
Griefs on my bosom, that can only speak,
And are denied the instant pow’r of wreak.”
This said, his sceptre ’gainst the ground he threw,
And tears still’d from him; which mov’d all the crew,
The court struck silent, not a man did dare
To give a word that might offend his ear.
Antinous only in this sort replied:
“High spoken, and of spirit unpacified,
How have you sham’d us in this speech of yours!
Will you brand us for an offence not ours?
Your mother, first in craft, is first in cause.