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

Book II


Next morning, as soon as he was up and dressed, Telemachus sent the criers round the town to call the people in assembly. When they came together he told them of his misfortune in the death of his father, and of the still greater one that the suitors were making havoc of his estate. "If 46 anybody," he concluded, "is to eat me out of house and home I had rather you did it yourselves; for you are men of substance, so that if I sued you household by household I should recover from you; whereas there is nothing to be got by suing a number of young men who have no means of their own." 85

To this Antinous rejoined that it was Penelope's own fault. She had been encouraging the suitors all the time by sending flattering messages to every single one of them. He explained how for nearly four years she had tricked them about the web, which she said was to be a pall for Laertes. "The answer, therefore," said he, "that we make you is this: 'Send your mother away, and let her marry the man of her own and of her father's choice;' for we shall not go till she has married some one or other of us."

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129 Telemachus answered that he could not force his mother to leave against her will. If he did so he should have to refund to his grandfather Icarius the dowry that Ulysses had received on marrying Penelope, and this would bear hardly on him. Besides it would not be a creditable thing to do.

146 On this Jove sent two eagles from the top of a mountain, * who flew and flew in their own lordly flight till they reached the assembly, over which they screamed and fought, glaring death into the faces of those who were below. The people wondered what it might all mean, till the old Soothsayer Halitherses told them that it foreshadowed the immediate return of Ulysses to take his revenge upon the suitors.

177 Eurymachus made him an angry answer. "As long," he concluded, "as Penelope delays her choice, we can marry no one else, and shall continue to waste Telemachus's estate."

208 Telemachus replied that there was nothing more to be said, and asked the suitors to let him have a ship with a crew of twenty men, that he might follow the advice given him by Minerva.

224 Mentor now upbraided his countrymen for standing idly by when they could easily coerce the suitors into good behaviour, and after a few insolent words from Leocritus the meeting dispersed. The suitors then returned to the house of Ulysses.

260 But Telemachus went away all alone by the sea side to pray. He washed his hands in the grey waves, and implored Minerva to assist him; whereon the goddess came up to him in the form of Mentor. She discoursed to him about his conduct generally, and wound up by saying that she would not only find him a ship, but would come with him herself. He was therefore to go home and get the necessary provisions ready.

296 He did as she directed him and went home, where, after an angry scene with the suitors, in which he again published his intention of going on his voyage, he went down into the store

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room and told Euryclea to get the provisions ready; at the same time he made her take a solemn oath of secrecy for ten or twelve days, so as not to alarm Penelope. Meanwhile Minerva, still disguised as Mentor, borrowed a ship from a neighbour, Noëmon, and at nightfall, after the suitors had left as usual, she and Telemachus with his crew of twenty volunteers got the provisions on board and set sail, with a fair wind that whistled over the waters.


22:* The mountain is singular, as though it were an isolated mountain rather than a range that was in the mind of the writer. It is also singular, not plural, in the parallel cases of xv. 175 and xix 538.

Next: Book III. Telemachus at the House of Nestor