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



Ulysses tore off his rags, and sprang on the broad pavement, * with his bow and his quiver full of arrows. He shed the arrows on to the ground at his feet and said, "The contest is at an end. I will now see whether Apollo will vouchsafe me to hit another mark which no man has yet aimed at."

8 He took aim at Antinous as he spoke. The arrow struck him in the throat, so that he fell over and a thick stream of blood gushed from his nostrils. He kicked his table from him and upset the things on it, whereby the bread and meats were

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all soiled as they fell over on to the ground. The suitors were instantly in an uproar, and looked towards the walls for armour, but there was none. "Stranger," they cried, "you shall pay dearly for shooting people down in this way. You are a doomed man." But they did not yet understand that Ulysses had killed Antinous on purpose.

Ulysses glared at them and said, "Dogs, did you think that 34 I should not return from Troy? You have wasted my substance, you have violated the women of my house, you have wooed my wife while I was still alive, you have feared neither god nor man, and now you shall die."

Eurymachus alone answered. "If you are Ulysses," said 44 he, "we have done you great wrong. It was all Antinous's doing. He never really wanted to marry Penelope: he wanted to kill your son and to be chief man in Ithaca. He is no more; then spare the lives of your people and we will pay you all."

Ulysses again glared at him and said, "I will not stay my 60 hand till I have slain one and all of you. You must fight, or fly as you can, or die—and fly you neither can nor shall."

Eurymachus then said, "My friends, this man will give us 68 no quarter. Let us show fight. Draw your swords and hold the tables up in front of you as shields. Have at him with a rush, and drive him from the pavement and from the door. We could then get through into the town and call for help."

While he spoke and was springing forward, Ulysses sent an 79 arrow into his heart and he fell doubled up over his table. The cup and all the meats went over on to the ground as he smote the earth with his forehead in the agonies of death.

Amphinomus then made for Ulysses to try and dislodge 89 him from the door, but Telemachus got behind him, and struck him through. He left his spear in the body and flew back to his father's side; "Father," said he, "let me bring armour for you and me, as well as for Eumæus and Philœtius." "Run and fetch it," answered Ulysses, "while my arrows hold out; be quick, or they may get me away from the door when I am single-handed."

Telemachus went to the store-room and brought four 108 shields, eight spears, and four helmets. He armed himself, as

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did also Eumæus and Philœtius, who then placed themselves beside Ulysses. As long as his arrows held out Ulysses shot the suitors down thick and threefold, but when they failed him he stood the bow against the end wall of the house hard by the door way, and armed himself.

126 Now there was a trap-door (see plan, and f on ) on the wall, while at one end of the pavement there was an exit, closed by a good strong door and leading out into a narrow passage; Ulysses told Philœtius to stand by this door and keep it, for only one person could attack it at a time. Then Agelaus shouted out, "Go up, somebody, to the trap-door and tell the people what is going on; they would come in and help us."

135 "This may not be," answered Melanthius, "the mouth of the narrow passage is dangerously near the entrance from the street into the outer court. One brave man could prevent any number from getting in, but I will bring you arms from the store-room, for I am sure it is there that they have put them."

143 As he spoke he went back by passages to the store-room, and brought the suitors twelve shields and the same number of helmets; when Ulysses saw the suitors arming his heart began to fail him, and he said to Telemachus, "Some of the women inside are helping the suitors—or else it is Melanthius."

153 Telemachus said that it was his fault, for he had left the store-room door open. "Go, Eumæus," he added, "and close it; see whether it is one of the women, or Melanthius, son .of Dolius."

160 Melanthius was now going back for more armour when Eumæus saw him and told Ulysses, who said, "Follow him, you and Philœtius; bind his hands and feet behind him, and throw him into the store-room; then string him up to a bearing-post till he is close to the rafters, that he may linger on in agony."

178 The men went to the store-room and caught Melanthius. They bound him in a painful bond and strung him up as Ulysses had told them. Eumæus wished him a good night and the two men returned to the side of Ulysses. Minerva 205 also joined them, having assumed the form of Mentor; but

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[paragraph continues] Ulysses felt sure it was Minerva. The suitors were very angry when they saw her; "Mentor," they cried, "you shall pay for this with your life, and we will confiscate all you have in the world."

This made Minerva furious, and she rated Ulysses roundly. 224 "Your prowess," said she, "is no longer what it was at Troy. How comes it that you are less valiant now that you are on your own ground? Come on, my good fellow, and see how Mentor will fight for you and requite you for your many kindnesses." But she did not mean to give him the victory just yet, so she flew up to one of the rafters and sat there in the form of a swallow. *

The struggle still continued. "My friends," said Agelaus, 241 "he will soon have to leave off. See how Mentor has left him after doing nothing for him except brag. Do not aim at him all at once, but six of you throw your spears first."

They did so, but Minerva made all their spears take no 265 effect. Ulysses and the other three then threw, and each killed his man. The suitors drew back in fear into a corner, whereon the four sprang forward and regained their weapons. The suitors again threw, and this time Amphimedon really did take a piece of the top skin from Telemachus's wrist, and Ctesippus just grazed Eumæus's shoulder above his shield. It was now the turn of Ulysses and his men, and each of their spears killed a man.

Then Minerva from high on the roof held up her deadly 297 ægis, and struck the suitors with panic, whereon Ulysses and his men fell upon them and smote them on every side. They made a horrible groaning as their brains were being battered in, and the ground seethed with their blood. Leiodes implored Ulysses to spare his life, but Ulysses would give him no quarter.

The minstrel Phemius now begged for mercy. He was 330

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standing near towards the trap-door, and resolving to embrace Ulysses’ knees, he laid his lyre on the ground between the mixing-bowl and the high silver-studded seat. "Spare me," he cried, "you will be sorry for it afterwards if you kill such a bard as I am. I am an original composer, and heaven visits me with every kind of inspiration. Do not be in such a hurry to cut my head off. Telemachus will tell you that I only sang to the suitors because they forced me."

354 "Hold," cried Telemachus to his father, "do him no hurt, he is guiltless; and we will spare Medon, too, who was always good to me when I was a boy, unless Eumæus or Philœtius has already killed him, or you happened to fall in with him yourself."

361 "Here I am, my dear Sir," said Medon, coming out from under a freshly flayed heifer's hide * which had concealed him; "tell your father, or he will kill me in his rage against the suitors for having wasted his substance and been so disrespectful to yourself." Ulysses smiled, and told them to go outside into the outer court till the killing should be over. So they went, but they were still very much frightened. Ulysses then went all over the court to see if there were any who had concealed themselves, or were not yet killed, but there was no one; they were all as dead as fish lying in a hot sun upon the beach.

390 Then he told Telemachus to call Euryclea, who came at once, and found him all covered with blood. When she saw the corpses she was beginning to raise a shout of triumph, but 411 Ulysses checked her: "Old woman," said he, "rejoice in silence; it is an unholy thing to vaunt over dead men. And now tell me which of the women of the house are innocent and which guilty."

419 "There are fifty women in the house," said Euryclea; "twelve of these have misbehaved, and have been wanting in respect to me and to Penelope. They showed no disrespect to Telemachus, for he has only lately grown up, and his mother

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never permitted him to give orders to the female servants. And now let me go upstairs and tell your wife."

"Do not wake her yet," answered Ulysses, "but send the 430 guilty women to me."

Then he called Telemachus, Eumæus, and Philœtius. 435 "Begin," he said, "to remove the dead bodies, and make the women help you. Also get sponges and clean water to swill down the tables and the seats. When you have thoroughly cleansed the cloisters take the women outside and run them through with your swords."

The women came down weeping and wailing bitterly. 446 First they carried the dead bodies out, and propped them against one another in the gatehouse of the outer court. Ulysses ordered them about and saw that they lost no time. When they had carried the bodies out they cleaned all the tables and seats with sponges and water, while Telemachus and the two others shovelled up the blood and dirt from the ground and the women carried it all outside. When they had thus thoroughly cleaned the whole court, they took the women out and hemmed them up in the narrow space between the vaulted room and the wall of the outer yard. Here Telemachus determined to hang them, as a more dishonourable death than 462 stabbing. He therefore made a ship's rope fast to a strong bearing-post supporting the roof of the vaulted room, and threw it round, making the women put their heads in. the nooses one after another. He then drew the rope high up, so that none of their feet might touch the ground. They kicked convulsively for a while, but not for very long.

As for Melanthius they took him through the cloisters into 474 the outer court. There they cut off his nose and ears; they drew out his vitals and gave them to the dogs, raw; then they cut off his hands and feet. When they had done this they washed their hands and feet, and went back into the house. "Go," said Ulysses, to Euryclea, "and bring me sulphur that I may burn it and purify the cloisters. Go, moreover, and bid Penelope come here with her gentlewomen and the women of the house."

"Let me first bring you a clean shirt and cloak," said 485

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[paragraph continues] Euryclea, "do not keep those rags on any longer, it is not right."

490 "Light me a fire," answered Ulysses, and she obeyed and brought him sulphur, wherewith he thoroughly purified both the inner and outer court, as well as the cloisters. Then Euryclea brought the women from their apartment, and they pressed round Ulysses, kissing his head and shoulders, and taking hold of his hands. It made him feel as if he should like to weep, for he remembered every one of them.


90:* It is not expressly stated that the "stone pavement" is here intended. The Greek has simply ἆλτο δ᾽ ἐπὶ μέγαν οὐδόν, but I do not doubt that the stone pavement is intended.

93:* This again suggests, though it does not prove, that we are in an open court surrounded by a cloister, on the rafters of which swallows would often perch. Line 297 suggests this even more strongly, "the roof" being, no doubt, the roof of the cloister, on to which Minerva flew from the rafter, that her ægis might better command the whole court.

94:* Probably the hide of the heifer that Philœtius had brought in that morning (xx. 186).

Next: Book XXIII. Penelope Recognizes Ulysses