The Authoress of the Odyssey, by Samuel Butler, , at sacred-texts.com
Now there came a common tramp to Ulysses’ house, begging—a great hulking fellow with no stay in him—whose name was Arnæus; but people called him Irus, because he would run errands for any one who would send him on them. This man began to threaten Ulysses, and said the suitors had urged him to turn him away from the house.
Ulysses said there was room enough for both of them, and 14 that it should be a case of live-and-let-live between them. "If, however," he continued, "it comes to blows, I will deluge your mouth and chest with blood, and I shall have the place to myself, for you will not come back again."
Irus retorted angrily, and Antinous, hearing them wrangle, 34 told the other suitors that Irus and the stranger were about to have a fight. "It is the finest piece of sport," he said, "that heaven ever sent into this house. We are to have goat's paunches stuffed with blood and fat for supper; whichever of the two beats in this fight shall have his pick of the lot of them."
The preliminaries being arranged, and fair play bargained 58 for by Ulysses, he began to strip. When Irus saw his muscles his heart misgave him; but Antinous kept him up to it, and the fight began. * Ulysses forthwith nearly killed Irus and dragged him by the heels into the outer court, where he put his staff in his hand and propped him up against the wall more dead than alive. Antinous then gave Ulysses a great goat's paunch, and Amphinomus drank his health.
124 Ulysses made Amphinomus a very grave and impressive speech, warning him to leave the house, inasmuch as Ulysses would return shortly. "You seem," said he, "to be a man of good understanding, as indeed you may well be, seeing whose son you are. I have heard your father well spoken of; he is Nisus of Dulichium, a man both brave and wealthy. They tell me you are his son and you seem to be a considerable person; listen, therefore, and take heed to what I am saying. Man is the vainest of all creatures that live and move upon the earth: as long as heaven vouchsafes him health and strength he thinks that he shall come to no harm hereafter, and even when the blessed gods bring sorrow upon him, he bears it as he needs must and makes the best of it, for God Almighty gives men their daily minds day by day. I know all about it, for I was a rich man once, and did much wrong in the stubbornness of my pride and in the confidence that my father and my brothers would support me; therefore let a man fear God in all things always, and take the good that heaven may see fit to send him without vainglory." But Amphinomus, though his heart boded ill, would not be persuaded.
158 Minerva then put it in Penelope's mind to get some presents out of the suitors. "I hate them," said she to Eurynome, "but still for once in a way I will see them; I want to warn my son against them."
169 "Certainly, my dear child," answered Eurynome, "but you must wash your face first. You cannot be seen with the stain of tears upon your cheeks."
177 "Eurynome," replied her mistress, "do not try to persuade me. Heaven robbed me of all my beauty on the day when my husband sailed for Troy; but send Autonoë and Hippodamia to attend me, for I cannot think of seeing the suitors unattended." The old woman then went through the house to fetch the women; and as soon as she was gone, Minerva sent Penelope into a deep sleep during which she endowed her with the most dazzling beauty, washing her face with the ambrosial loveliness which Venus wears when she goes out dancing with the Graces, and giving her a statelier and more imposing presence. When the two maids came, the noise of their
coming woke her. "What a delicious sleep," she exclaimed, "has overshadowed me. Would that it had been the sleep of death, which had thus ended all my sorrows."
She then went down stairs, and the suitors were dazzled 206 with her beauty. She began by upbraiding Telemachus for having allowed the fight to take place. Telemachus admitted his fault, but pleaded the extreme difficulty of his situation and the fact that after all Ulysses had thrashed Irus.
Eurymachus broke in upon their conversation by telling 243 Penelope how very beautiful she was; and Penelope answered that heaven had robbed her of all her beauty on the day when her husband sailed for Troy. "Moreover," she added, "I have another great sorrow—you suitors are not wooing me in the 275 usual way. When men are suing for the hand of one who they think will make them a good wife, they generally bring oxen and sheep for her relations to feast upon, and make rich presents to the lady herself, instead of sponging upon other people's property."
When Ulysses heard her say this, he was delighted at 281 to his wife trying to get presents out of the suitors, and hoodwinking them.
Then Antinous said, "Penelope, take all the presents you 284 can get, but we will not go till you have married the best man among us." On this they all made Penelope magnificent presents, and she went back to her own room, followed by the women, who carried the presents for her.
The suitors now turned to singing and dancing, lighted by 304 large braziers that were placed in the court, * and also by 307 torches, which the maids held up by turns. Ulysses after a while told them to go inside, saying that he would hold the 317 torches himself. The maids laughed at this, and Melantho, who was one of them, began to gibe at him. She was daughter to Dolius but Penelope had brought her up from childhood, and used to give her toys; she showed no consideration, however, for Penelope's sorrows, but misconducted herself with Eurymachus. "Are you drunk?" she said to Ulysses, "or are you always like this?"
337 Ulysses scowled at her, and said he would tell Telemachus, who would have her cut up into mincemeat. The women, therefore, were frightened and went away, so Ulysses was left holding up the flaming torches—looking upon all the suitors and brooding over his revenge.
346 Presently Eurymachus began to jeer at him, and taunt him by saying he preferred begging to working. Ulysses answered, "If you and I, Eurymachus, were matched one against the other in early summer, when the days are at their longest—give us each a good scythe, and see whether you or I will mow the stronger or fast the longer, from dawn till dark when the mowing grass is about. Or let us be in a four acre field with a couple of tawny full fed oxen each, and see which of us can drive the straighter furrow. Again, let war break out this day—give me armour and you will find me fighting among the foremost. You are insolent and cruel, and think yourself a great man because you live in a little world, and that a bad one."
394 Eurymachus was furious, and seized a stool; but Ulysses sat down by the knees of Amphinomus of Dulichium, for he was afraid; the stool hit the cupbearer and knocked him down, whereon there was a general uproar, amid which Telemachus said that he would compel no man, but he thought it would be better if they would all go home to bed. To this they assented, and shortly afterwards left the house.
75:* They might very well fight in the middle of an open court, but hardly in a covered hall. They would go outside.
77:* ἐν μεγάροισιν, but not ἐν μεγάροισι σκιόεσσι.