Sacred Texts  Classics  Homer  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Authoress of the Odyssey, by Samuel Butler, [1922], at



Then Mercury took the fair golden wand with which he seals men's eyes in sleep or wakes them just as he pleases, and

p. 100

led the ghosts of the suitors to the house of Hades whining and gibbering as they followed. As bats fly squealing about the hollow of a great cave when one of them has fallen from the cluster in which they hang—even so did they whine and squeal as Mercury the healer of sorrow led them down into the dark abode of death. When they had passed the waters of Oceanus and the rock Leucas, they came to the gates of the Sun and the land of dreams, whereon they reached the meadow of asphodel where dwell the souls and shadows of men that can labour no more.

15 Here they came upon the ghosts of Achilles, Patroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax, and that of Agamemnon joined them. As these were conversing, Mercury came up with the ghosts of the suitors, and Agamemnon's ghost recognised that of Amphimedon who had been his host when he was in Ithaca; so he asked him what this sudden arrival of fine young men—all of an age too—might mean, and Amphimedon told him the whole story from first to last.

203 Thus did they converse in the house of Hades deep within the bowels of the earth. Meanwhile Ulysses and the others passed out of the city and soon reached the farm of Laertes, which he had reclaimed with infinite labour. Here was his house with a lean-to running all round it, where the slaves who worked for him ate and slept, while inside the house there was an old Sicel woman, who looked after him in this his country farm.

214 "Go," said Ulysses to the others, "to the house, and kill the best pig you have for dinner; I wish to make trial of my father and see whether he will know me."

219 So saying he gave his armour to Eumæus and Philœtius, and turned off into the vineyard, where he found his father alone, hoeing a vine. He had on a dirty old shirt, patched and very shabby; his legs were bound round with thongs of oxhide to keep out the brambles, and he wore sleeves of leather against the thorns. He had a goatskin cap on his head and was looking very woebegone.

232 When Ulysses saw him so worn, so old and full of sorrow, he stood still under a tall pear tree and began to weep. He

p. 101

doubted whether to embrace him, kiss him, and tell him all about his having come home, or whether he should first question him and see what he would say. On the whole he decided that he would be crafty with him, so he went up to his father who was bending down and digging about a plant.

"I see, Sir," said Ulysses, "that you are an excellent 244 gardener—what pains you take with it to be sure. There is not a single plant, not a fig-tree, vine, olive, pear, nor flower-bed, but bears the traces of your attention. I trust, however, that you will not be offended if I say that you take better care of your garden than of yourself. You are old, unsavoury, and very meanly clad. It cannot be because you are idle that your master takes such poor care of you; indeed, your face and figure have nothing of the slave about them, but proclaim you of noble birth. I should have said you were one of those who should wash well, eat well, and lie soft at night as old men have a right to do. But tell me, and tell me true, whose bondsman are you, and in whose garden are you working? Tell me also about another matter—is this place that I have come to really Ithaca? I met a man just now who said so, but he was a dull fellow, and had not the patience to hear my story out when I was asking whether an old friend of mine who used to live here was still alive. My friend said he was the son of Laertes son of Arceisius, and I made him large presents on his leaving me."

Laertes wept and answered that in this case he would never 280 see his presents back again, though he would have been amply requited if Ulysses had been alive. "But tell me," he said, "who and whence are you? Where is your ship? or did you come as passenger on some other man's vessel?"

"I will tell you every thing," answered Ulysses, "quite 302 truly. I come from Alybas, and am son to king Apheides. My name is Eperitus; heaven drove me off my course as I was leaving Sicania, and I have been carried here against my will. 307 As for my ship, it is lying over yonder off the open country outside the town. It is five years since Ulysses left me—308 Poor fellow! we had every hope that we should meet again and exchange presents"

p. 102

315 Laertes was overcome with grief, and Ulysses was so much touched that he revealed himself. When his father asked for proof, he shewed him the scar on his leg. "Furthermore," he added, "I will point out to you the trees in the vineyard which you gave me, and I asked you all about them as I followed you round the garden. We went over them all, and you told me their names and what they all were. You gave me thirteen pear trees, ten apple trees, and forty fig trees, and you also said you would give me fifty rows of vines; there was corn planted between each row, and the vines yield grapes of every kind when the heat of heaven has beaten upon them." He also told his father that he had killed the suitors.

345 Laertes was now convinced, but said he feared he should have all the people of Ithaca coming to attack them. Ulysses answered that he need not trouble about this, and that they had better go and get their dinner, which would be ready by the time they got to the house.

361 When they reached the house the old Sicel woman took Laertes inside, washed him, and anointed him. Minerva also gave him a more imposing presence and made him look taller and stronger than before. When he came back, Ulysses said, "My dear father, some god has been making you much taller and better looking." To which Laertes answered that if he was as young and hearty as when he took the stronghold Nericum on the foreland, he should have been a great help to him on the preceding day, and would have killed many suitors.

383 Dolius and his sons, who had been working hard by, now came up, for the old Sicel woman, who was Dolius's wife, had been to fetch them. When they were satisfied that Ulysses was really there, they were overjoyed and embraced him one after the other. "But tell me," said Dolius, "does Penelope know, or shall we send and tell her?" "Old man," answered Ulysses, "she knows already. What business is that of yours?" Then they all took their seats at table.

412 Meanwhile the news of the slaughter of the suitors had got noised abroad, and the people gathered hooting and groaning before the house of Ulysses. They took their dead, buried every man his own, and put the bodies of those who came

p. 103

from elsewhere on board the fishing vessels, for the fishermen to take them every man to his own place. Then they met in assembly and Eupeithes urged them to pursue Ulysses and the others before they could escape over to the main land.

Medon, however, and Phemius had now woke up, and came 439 to the assembly. Medon dissuaded the people from doing as Eupeithes advised, inasmuch as he had seen a god going about killing the suitors, and it would be dangerous to oppose the will of heaven. Halitherses also spoke in the same sense, and half the people were persuaded by him. The other half armed themselves and followed Eupeithes in pursuit of Ulysses.

Minerva then consulted Jove as to the course events should 472 take. Jove told her that she had had everything her own way so far, and might continue to do as she pleased. He should, however, advise that both sides should now be reconciled under the continued rule of Ulysses. Minerva approved of this and darted down to Ithaca.

Laertes and his household had now done dinner, and 489 Eupeithes with his band of men were seen to be near at hand. Ulysses and the others put on their armour, and Minerva joined them. "Telemachus," said Ulysses, "now that you are about to fight in a decisive engagement, see that you do no discredit to your ancestors, who were eminent all the world over for their strength and valour."

"You shall see, my dear father," replied Telemachus, "if 510 you choose, that I am in no mind, as you say, to disgrace your family."

"Good heavens," exclaimed Laertes, "what a day I am 513 enjoying. My son and grandson are vying with one another in the matter of valour." Minerva then came up to him, and bade him pray to her. She infused fresh vigour into him, and when he had prayed to her he aimed his spear at Eupeithes and killed him. Ulysses and his men fell upon the others, routed them, and would have killed one and all of them had not Minerva raised her voice and made every one pause. "Men of Ithaca," she cried, "cease this dreadful war, and settle the matter without further bloodshed."

On this they turned pale with fear, dropped their armour, 533

p. 104

and fled every man towards the city. Ulysses was swooping down upon them like an eagle, but Jove sent a thunderbolt of fire that fell just in front of Minerva. Whereon she said, "Ulysses, stay this strife, or Jove will be angry with you."

545 Ulysses obeyed her gladly. Minerva then assumed the voice and form of Mentor, and presently made a covenant of peace between the two contending parties.

Next: Chapter III. The Preponderance of Woman in the Odyssey