Translation by Ian Johnston

Book Fourteen
Odysseus Meets Eumaeus

[Odysseus leaves the harbour and moves inland to the farm of Eumaeus, the swineherd; Eumaeus welcomes Odysseus and prepares a meal for him; Eumaeus talks about his absent master; Odysseus assures Eumaeus that his master will return, but Eumaeus does not believe him; Odysseus tells Eumaeus a long made-up story about his identity and his adventures in Egypt and elsewhere, telling him he heard news of Odysseus' return; Eumaeus still does not believe him; the other swineherds arrive; Eumaeus prepares a sacrifice and another meal; Odysseus tells another story about an incident in the Trojan War; Eumaeus prepares a bed for Odysseus, then goes outside to guard the boars.]

Odysseus left the harbour, taking the rough path
into the woods and across the hills, to the place
where Athena told him he would meet the swineherd,
who was, of all the servants lord Odysseus had,
the one who took best care of his possessions.
He found him sitting in the front part of his house,
a built-up courtyard with a panoramic view,
a large, fine place with cleared land all around.
The swineherd built it by himself to house the pigs,
property belonging to his absent master.                                                10
He hadn't told his mistress or old man Laertes.    
He'd made it from huge stones, with a thorn hedge on top                         [10]
and surrounded on the outside with close-set stakes
facing both ways, made by splitting oaks apart
to leave the dark heart of the wood.  Inside the yard,
to house the pigs, he'd packed twelve sties together.
In each one fifty wallowing swine were penned,
sows for breeding.  The boars, far fewer of them,
stayed outside.  The feasting of the noble suitors
kept their numbers low, for the swineherd always sent                          20
the finest of all fattened hogs for them to eat.
Three hundred and sixty boars were there—four dogs,                                [20]
fierce as wild animals, always lay beside them.
These the swineherd, a splendid man, had raised himself.
He was trimming off a piece of coloured ox-hide,
shaping sandals for his feet.  Three of his fellows
had gone off, herding pigs in different directions.
He'd had to send a fourth man to the city
with a boar to be butchered for the suitors,
so they could eat meat to their heart's content.                                      30

All of a sudden the dogs observed Odysseus. 
They howled and ran at him, barking furiously.                                          [30]
Odysseus was smart enough to drop his staff
and sit.  Still, he'd have been severely mauled
in his own farmyard, but the swineherd ran up fast
behind them, dropping the leather in his hands.
Charging through the gate and shouting at his dogs,
he scattered them in a hail of stones here and there.
Then he spoke out to his master:

                                                                 "Old man,
those dogs would've ripped at you in no time,                             40
and then you'd have heaped the blame on me.
Well, I've got other troubles from the gods,
things to grieve about. For as I stay here,
raising fat pigs for other men to eat,
I'm full of sorrow for my noble master,                                             [40]
who's probably going hungry somewhere,
as he wanders through the lands and cities
where men speak a foreign tongue, if, in fact,
he's still alive and looking at the sunlight.
But follow me, old man.  Come in the hut.                                  50
When you've had enough to eat and drink
and your heart's satisfied, you can tell me
where you're from, what troubles you've endured."

With these words, the loyal swineherd went inside the hut,
brought Odysseus in, and invited him to sit,
after piling up some leafy twigs and, over them,
spreading out the shaggy skin of a wild goat,                                              [50]
the large and hairy hide which covered his own bed.
Odysseus was glad to get this hospitality,
so he addressed him, saying:

                                                       "Stranger,                              60
may Zeus and other gods who live forever
give you what you truly want
—you've welcomed me
with such a open heart."

                                              Then, swineherd Eumaeus,
you answered him and said:*

                                      "It would be wrong,
stranger, for me to disrespect a guest,
even if one worse off than you arrived,
for all guests and beggars come from Zeus,
and any gift from people like ourselves,
though small, is welcome.  It's the fate of slaves
always to fear young masters who control them.                          70   [60]
The gods are holding up the journey home
of the man who would've loved me kindly
and given me possessions of my own,
a home, a plot of land, a wedded wife
worthy of being wooed by many suitors,
the sorts of things a generous master gives
a servant who has toiled so hard for him,
whose work the gods have helped to thrive and grow,
the way the tasks I put my mind to here
have prospered.  If my master was at home                                  80
and growing old, he would've given me
so many things.  But he has perished
How I wish all of Helen's relatives 
had died, brought to their knees, since she 
loosed the knees of so many warriors.
He went to Troy, famous for its horses,                                            [70]
to carry out revenge for Agamemnon
by fighting Trojans."

                                                 After saying this,
he quickly cinched a belt around his tunic,      
went out to the pig pens where the swine were held,                             90
picked out two from there, brought them in, and killed them.
He singed and cut them up, then skewered them on spits.
Once he'd roasted them completely, he picked them up
and, without taking out the spits, carried them still hot
over to Odysseus.  Then he sprinkled over them
white barley meal.  In a bowl carved out of ivy wood 
he mixed wine sweet as honey.  Then he sat down
opposite Odysseus, inviting him to dine:

"Eat now, stranger, what a servant offers,                                        [80]
meat from a young pig, for the suitors take                                 100
the fatted hogs.  Their hearts have no pity
and don't ever think about gods' anger.
The truth is this
—the blessed gods don't love
men's reckless acts.  No.  They honour justice
and men's righteousness.  Even enemies
with cruel intentions can invade the lands
of someone else, and Zeus awards them spoils.
They fill their ships and then sail off for home.
And even in the hearts of men like these
falls a great fear of vengeance from the gods.                             110
But these suitors here, I think, know something

they've heard a voice from one of the gods
about my master's painful death.  That why                                      [90]
they don't want to have a righteous courtship
or go back to their own homes.  No. Instead,
without a care they waste our property
in all their insolence, sparing nothing.
Every day and night Zeus sends, they kill
our animals, and not just one or two,
and, with their arrogance, they draw our wine,                           120
taking what they want and even more.
My master used to be a man of substance,
beyond all measure.  No warrior hero
on the dark mainland or Ithaca itself
possessed as much.  Twenty men combined
did not have so much wealth.  I'll tell you this

on the mainland he's got twelve cattle herds,                                    [100]
as many flocks of sheep and droves of pigs
and wide-ranging herds of goats, all of these
tended by foreign herdsmen or his own.                                     130
And here, on the edges of this island,
graze wandering herds of goats, eleven in all,
with loyal servants keeping watch on them.
To serve the suitors, every one of them
keeps driving in a creature from his flock
the fattest one which seems to him the best.
That always happens, each and every day.
As for me, I guard and raise these pigs.
I choose with care and then deliver them
the finest of the boars."

                                                          Eumaeus finished.                      140
Meanwhile Odysseus eagerly devoured the meat
and drank the wine in silence.  He was ravenous.                                        [110]
He was also sowing troubles for the suitors.
Once he'd eaten his heart's fill and had enough,
Eumaeus filled the bowl from which he drank himself
and gave it to him full of wine.  Odysseus took it,
happy in his heart, and spoke winged words to him:

"My friend, who was the man who used his wealth
to purchase you?  Was he powerful and rich,
as you've just said?  You claim he was destroyed                       150
helping Agamemnon take out his revenge.
Tell me.  I may know him, a man like that.
Zeus and the rest of the immortal gods
know if I've seen him or heard any news.
For I've been travelling a lot."                                                           [120]

                                                  Then Eumaeus,
a worthy man, answered him and said:

                                                      "Old man,
no wanderer who came with news of him
could convince his wife or his dear son.
Men who roam about, when they need a meal,
have no desire to speak the truth
—they lie.                               160
Whoever moves around and reaches here,
this land of Ithaca, goes to my mistress
with some made-up tale.  She receives him well,
with hospitality and questions him
about each detail.  Then she starts to grieve,
and tears fall from her eyes, as is fitting
when a woman's husband dies far away.                                           [130]
You too, old man, would make up a story
quickly enough, if someone offered you
a cloak and tunic and some clothes to wear.                              170
But by this time swift birds and dogs have ripped
the flesh from off his bones, and his spirit's
slipped away.  Or else in the sea the fish
have eaten him, and his bones now lie
on shore somewhere, buried in deep sand.
Anyway, he died out there.  From now on,
it's the fate of all his friends to grieve,
especially me
—however far I travel,
I'll never come across another man
who'd match him as a gentle master,                                          180
not even if I went back home again
to where my mother and my father live,                                           [140]
where I was born, where they reared me themselves.
I don't mourn for them so much, though I yearn
to see them once again with my own eyes
and be in my own native land again.
What grips me is a longing for Odysseus,
who is gone.  Even though he is not here,
stranger, I speak his name with full respect.
His love for me was great, and in his heart                                 190
he cared.  So although he may be absent,
I call him my dear master."

                                        Resourceful lord Odysseus 
then answered him and said:

                                                   "My friend,
since you're so resolved in your denials,
when you declare he'll not come home again,
and your heart always clings to this belief,                                        [150]
I won't just tell you Odysseus will be back

no, I'll take an oath on it.  When he comes,
when he gets back home, give me my reward
for my good news
—let me have fine clothing,                           200
a cloak and tunic.  Until that moment,
there's nothing I'll accept, despite my need.
For just as I despise the gates of Hades,
I hate the man who, in his poverty,
tells stories which are lies.  Now let Zeus,
the first of gods, this welcoming table,
and the hearth of excellent Odysseus,
which I have reached, let them bear witness

all these things will happen the way I say
—                                     [160]
Odysseus will come here within a month,                                  210
between the waning and the rising moons.
He'll get back home and take out his revenge
on anyone here who has not honoured
his wife and noble son."

                                              Then, swineherd Eumaeus,
you answered him and said:

                                                        "Old man,
I won't be rewarding you for that good news.
Odysseus won't be coming back.  Drink up.
Relax.  Now, let's talk of something else.
I don't want to remember all those things.
The heart here in my chest gets full of grief,                               220
when someone mentions my good master.                                        [170]
So let's forget about your oath.  I wish
Odysseus would come home
—that's what I want,
so does Penelope, Laertes, too,
the old man, and noble Telemachus.
Right now I'm always grieving for the boy,
the child Odysseus had, Telemachus.
The gods brought him up just like a sapling,
and, as a man, I thought he'd be a match
for his dear father, with a splendid shape                                   230
and handsome.  But one of the immortals
warped his better judgment
—perhaps it was
some human being.  For he's gone on a trip
to sacred Pylos to find out some news
about his father.  Now noble suitors                                                 [180]
lie in wait for him as he comes home,
and so the race of noble Arceisius
will die without a name in Ithaca.*
But let's just let him be—they may get him,
or he may escape, if the son of Cronos                                       240
holds out his hand to guard him.  But come now,
old man, tell me about your troubles.
Give me the truth, so I clearly understand—
Who are you among men?  Where are you from?
Where are your city and your parents?
On what kind of ship did you get here?
How did sailors bring you to Ithaca?
Who did they claim they were?  For I don't think                              [190]
you reached this place on foot."

                                                         Resourceful Odysseus 
then answered him and said:

                                                      "All right, then,                    250
I'll tell you the truth of what you've asked me.
I wish we two had food and honey wine
to last a while, so we could feast in peace
inside your hut, while others did the work.
I could easily go on for one whole year
and never finish talking of those things
my heart has suffered, all those torments
I've endured, thanks to what the gods have willed.
I claim my family comes from spacious Crete.
I'm a rich man's child, and in his house                                      260
many other sons were born and raised,                                              [200]
his legal children from his lawful wife.
My mother was a purchased concubine.
Still, Castor, son of Hylax, the man
I claim as my own father, honoured me,
just as he did his true-born sons.  Back then,
since he had wealth and land and worthy sons,
the Cretans in the country looked on him
as if he were a god.  But lethal Fates
took him to Hades' home, and his proud sons                            270
divided up his goods by drawing lots.
They gave me a really tiny portion                                                    [210]
and assigned a house.  But I won a wife
from people who had many rich estates,
thanks to my courage—for I was no fool,
nor did I act the coward.  Now all that strength
has gone.  A host of troubles wears me down.
But by examining the husk, I think,
you can assess the plant.  Back then, Ares
and Athena  gave me strength and courage,                                280
the power to break ranks of men apart.
When I picked the finest troops for ambush
devising perils for my enemies,
my proud spirit never gave me any sense
that I might die. I always jumped out first,                                        [220]
and my spear killed whatever enemy
ran off in front of me.  That's what I was like
when it came to war.  But I got no joy
from working on the land or household chores,
like raising lovely children.  No.  Instead,                                  290
I was always fond of ships with oars
and wars with polished shields and arrows,
deadly things, so horrible to others.
I guess I loved those things because a god
somehow set them in my heart.  Different men
find their delight in different kinds of work.
Before Achaea's sons set foot in Troy,
I'd led warriors and fast ships nine times                                           [230]
against troops from foreign lands and won
enormous quantities of loot.  I'd pick out                                   300
what pleased me, and then later get much more,
when we drew lots.  Soon my house grew rich,
and Cretans honoured and respected me.
But when far-seeing Zeus planned that fatal trip
which loosed the knees of many warriors,
they asked me and famous Idomeneus
to lead their ships to Troy.  There was no way
one could refuse—the people's voice insisted.
So we Achaean sons fought there nine years,                                    [240]
and ransacked Priam's city in the tenth.                                     310
We set out for home, but then some god
scattered the Achaeans.  And counselor Zeus
devised some difficulties just for me,
to make me miserable.  I stayed at home,
enjoying my children, the wife I'd married,
and my wealth only for a single month.
Then my heart urged me to outfit some ships
and sail to Egypt with my noble comrades.
I manned nine ships.  The fleet was soon prepared.
My loyal companions feasted for six days—                               320
I gave them many beasts to sacrifice,                                                 [250]
as offerings to the gods, and to prepare 
a banquet for themselves.  On the seventh day,
we left wide Crete. North Wind provided us
a stiff and welcome breeze, so we sailed on
quite easily, as if drifting downstream.
None of my ships was harmed, no one got sick
or injured, and we stayed in our seats,
while wind and helmsman held us on our course.  
The fifth day we reached Egypt's mighty river,                          330
where I moored my curving ships.  Then I told
my loyal comrades to stay there with the ships,                                  [260]
keeping watch on them, while I sent out scouts
to find some places we could use as lookouts. 
But my crew, overcome with arrogance, 
and trusting their own might, at once began
to plunder the Egyptians' finest fields.
They took their women and small children, too,
and killed the men.  Shouts soon reached the city,
and, once they heard the noise, Egyptians came,                       340
as daylight first appeared.  The entire plain
filled up with chariots and infantry,
all flashing bronze.  Zeus, who hurls the lightning,
threw a nasty panic in my comrades,
so no one dared to stay and face the fight.
We were badly threatened from all quarters.                                     [270]
They killed many of our men with their sharp bronze,
and took some alive, so they could force men
to do their work for them.  Then Zeus himself
put an idea in my heart—but still,                                              350
I wish I'd died and met my fate right there,
in Egypt, since all sorts of troubles still
lay waiting for me—I at once removed
the finely crafted helmet from my head
and the shield slung round my shoulders.  My hand
let go my spear.  I ran out straight ahead,
to the chariot of the king, clutched his knee, 
and kissed it.  Because he pitied me,
he saved my life.  He set me in his chariot
and, as I wept, took me to his home.                                          360   [280]
Many of his men, armed with their ash spears,
charged at me—their anger was so great,
they were keen to slaughter me.  But the king
restrained them—he wanted to respect
the rage of Zeus, the god of strangers,  
who is especially irked at wicked deeds.
I stayed there seven years and gathered up
a great deal of wealth from those Egyptians,
for they all gave me gifts.  When the eighth year
came wheeling in, a Phoenician man arrived,                             370
a greedy rat who understood deceit.
He'd already brought men lots of trouble.
Well, he won me over with his cunning                                             [290]
and took me with him, until we reached
his house and his possessions in Phoenicia.
I stayed there with him an entire year.
But as the days and months kept passing by
and yearly seasons rolled around once more,
he put me on a sea-going ship to Libya,
making up a story for me of some scheme                                  380
that I'd be carrying a cargo with him,
whereas, in fact, once we were there, he meant
to sell me off for an enormous profit.
Though I suspected something, I had to go
aboard the ship with him.  North Wind blew
a fresh and welcome breeze, and we sailed off,
a mid-sea course on the windward side of Crete.*                        [300]
Then Zeus planned the destruction of his men.
When we'd sailed past Crete, we saw land no more,
only sky and sea. Then the son of Cronos                                  390
sent a black cloud above our hollow ship.
Underneath the sea grew dark. All at once,
Zeus thundered and then hurled a lightning flash
down on our ship, which shook from stem to stern
and filled with sulphurous smoke, as Zeus' bolt
came crashing down.  All the crew fell overboard
and floated on the waves, like cormorants,
by our black shipthe god then took away
the day of their return.  As for me,                                                   [310]
though anguish filled my heart, Zeus himself                             400
set my hands on the colossal main mast
from our black-prowed ship, so once again
I could escape destruction.  I hung on,
and was carried off by dreadful winds
for nine full days.  On the tenth dark night,
a huge rolling wave threw me up on shore
in Thesprotian land, and there the king,
Pheidon, ruler of the Thesprotians, 
welcomed me, without demanding ransom.*
When I'd been overcome with weariness                                    410
and freezing wind, his dear son had met me,
helped me stand again, and brought me home,
to his father's palace.  He gave me clothes—                                    [320]
a tunic and a cloak.  There I heard reports
about Odysseus.  For king Pheidon said 
he'd welcomed him with entertainments,
as he was returning to his native land.
He showed me what Odysseus had gathered,
all the bronze and gold and well-worked iron,
so many riches stored in Pheidon's home,                                   420
they'd feed ten generations after him.
Odysseus, he said, had gone to Dodona,
to hear from the massive towering oak tree,
sacred to the god, what Zeus had willed
about his own return to that rich land
of Ithaca, after being away so long—                                                [330]
whether he should do so openly or not.*
As he poured libations in his house,
he swore to me a ship had been hauled down
and a crew prepared to take Odysseus                                        430
to his native land.  However, before that,
he sent me off, since, as it so happened,
a ship with a crew of Thesprotians,
loaded with corn, was going to Dulichium.
He told them to take me there, treating me
with all due kindness, and deliver me
to king Acastus.  But those sailors' hearts
were more attracted to a nasty scheme
concerning me—so I would be reduced
to utter wretchedness.  Thus, when the ship                               440
had sailed some distance from the land, they tried
from that day forward to make me their slave.                                  [340]
They ripped away my clothes, cloak and tunic,
and dressed me differently, a ragged cloak
and filthy tunic ripped to bits, these here—
the ones you see before your very eyes.
They reached the fields of sunny Ithaca
that evening. Inside that well-decked ship
they tied me up with tightly twisted rope,
and went ashore, in a rush to eat a meal                                     450
beside the sea.  But the gods themselves 
with ease untied my bonds, and so I wrapped
my rags around my head and slipped away
down a smooth plank, chest first into the sea.                                   [350]
Then with both arms I paddled and swam off.
I left the water far away from them
and moved inland, where leafy bushes grew,
and lay crouching down.  They began to shout
and wandered here and there.  But then they thought
there was no point in searching any more.                                  460
So they went back on board their hollow ship.
The gods themselves concealed me easily
and led me on my way.  They brought me here,
to the farmyard of a man who understands.
My fate, I think, is to continue living."

Then, swineherd Eumaeus, you answered him and said:                             [360]

"Stranger, you're unlucky.  The tale you tell
has really touched my heart, all those things
you've suffered, all the places where you roamed.
But I don't think it's all just as you said,                                     470
and what you mentioned of Odysseus
does not convince me. Given who you are,
why must you tell such pointless falsehoods?
I know well that in my master's journey home
he was totally despised by all the gods.
That's why they didn't kill him over there,
among the Trojans or in his comrades' arms,
when he was done with war.  All Achaeans then
would have made him a tomb—and for his son
he would've won great fame in days to come.                             480   [370]
Now, the spirits of the storm have snatched him,
and there's no glory.  And as for me, I live
here among the pigs, far away from men.
I don't go to the city, unless I'm called
to travel there by wise Penelope,
when a message reaches her from somewhere.
Then people sit around the man who's come
and ask him questions about everything,
both those who are grieving for their ruler,
who's been away so long, and other men                                    490
who're happy to consume his livelihood 
without paying anything.  I don't like
to investigate it or ask questions,
not since the day a man from Aetolia 
deceived me with his story.  He'd killed a man,                                [380]
and after traveling around in many lands,
he reached my home.  I gave him a fine welcome.
He said he'd seen Odysseus with the Cretans
in Idomeneus' home, mending his ships,
which had been damaged in some storms.  He claimed              500
he'd return by summer or at harvest time,
with many treasures and his noble comrades.
And so you, you long-suffering old man, 
since a spirit led you to me, shouldn't try
to cheer me up or secure my favour
by telling lies.  That's not the reason
I show you respect and give you welcome,
but because I pity you and fear Zeus,
god of strangers."

                                                          Then resourceful Odysseus               [390]
answered Eumaeus with these words:                                         

                                        "The heart in your chest                     510
is really hard to sway.  That oath I swore,
even that gesture didn't influence you
or win you over.  But come now, let's make
this promise—the gods who hold Olympus
will stand as witnesses for both of us
in days to come—if your master does get back
to his own home, you'll give me some clothing,
a cloak and tunic, and then send me off
to Dulichium, as my heart desires,
and if your master doesn't come the way                                    520
I say he will, then set your men on me
and have them throw me off a towering cliff,
so some other beggar will be careful                                                  [400]
to avoid deception."

                                                The splendid swineherd
then said in reply:

                        "Yes, stranger, what a way for me
to gather fame and fortune among men,
both now and in the future, to kill you,
steal your precious life, after bringing you
to my own hut and entertaining you!
I could later pray to Zeus, Cronos' son,                                      530
with a sincere heart.  Now it's time to eat.
I hope my comrades get here quickly,
so we can make a tasty meal here in the hut."

As these two were talking like this to each other,
the other herdsmen came in with their swine.                                             [410]
They shut the sows up in their customary pens,
so they could sleep.  The pigs gave out amazing squeals,
as they were herded in.  Then the trusty swineherd
called out to his companions:

                                "Bring a boar in here,
the best there is, so I can butcher it                                            540
for this stranger from another country.
We too will get some benefit from it,
seeing that we've worked hard for such a long time
and gone through troubles for these white-tusked pigs,
while others gorge themselves on our hard work
without paying anything."

                                                            Once he'd said this, 
with his sharp bronze axe he chopped up wood for kindling,
while others led in a big fat boar, five years old,
and stood him by the hearth.  The swineherd's heart was sound,               [420]
so he did not forget the gods.  So he began                                          550
by throwing in the fire some bristles from the head
of the white-tusked boar and praying to all the gods
that wise Odysseus would come back to his own home.
Then he raised his arm, and with a club made out of oak,
which he'd left lying beside him, he struck the boar.
Life left the beast.  Then the others slit its throat, 
singed its bristles, and quickly carved it up.
At first, the swineherd offered pieces of the meat
from all the limbs, set in layers of rich fat.
After sprinkling barley meal all over these,                                           560
he threw them in the fire.  They sliced up the rest,                                     [430]
put it on spits, cooked it with care, drew it all off,
and set heaps of meat on platters.  The swineherd,
whose heart always concerned itself with what was fair,
stood up to carve, and as he served up all the meat,
he split it into seven portions.  Saying a prayer,
he set one aside for Hermes, Maia's son,
and for the nymphs.  The rest he gave to each of them,
honouring Odysseus with a long cut from the back
of the white-tusked boar.  That pleased his master's heart.                  570
So resourceful Odysseus spoke to him and said: 

"Eumaeus, may father Zeus treat you as well                                   [440]
as you are treating me with this boar's chine,
the very finest cut of meat, even though
I'm just a beggar."

                                       Then, swineherd Eumaeus,
you replied by saying:

                              "Eat up, god-guided stranger,
and enjoy the kind of food we offer.
A god gives some things and holds others back,
as his heart prompts, for he can do all things."

Eumaeus spoke and offered to eternal gods                                         580
the first pieces he had cut.  He poured gleaming wine
as a libation, passed it over to Odysseus,
sacker of cities, then sat to eat his portion.
Mesaulius served the bread.  He was a man
Eumaeus purchased on his own, when his master                                      [450]
was away.  He'd not informed his mistress
or old man Laertes.  He'd acquired the slave
from Taphians, using resources of his own.*  
So they stretched out their hands to the generous meal
set out in front of them.  Once they'd had their fill                              590
of food and drink, and their hearts were quite content,
Mesaulius took away their food.  They'd eaten
so much bread and meat, they were keen to get some rest.

Night came on, bringing storms.  There was no moon.
And Zeus sent blustery West Wind blowing in with rain,
a steady downpour all night long.  Odysseus
spoke to them, trying to test Eumaeus, to see if,
given all the hospitality he'd shown,  
he'd take off his cloak and give it to Odysseus,                                           [460]
or would urge one of his comrades to give up his.                                600

"Eumaeus and the rest of you, his work mates,
hear me now—I wish to tell a story, 
prompted by this wine, which can confuse our wits.
Wine can make a man, even though he's wise,
sing out loud, or giggle softly to himself,
or leap up and dance.  It can bring out words
which were better left unsaid.  But still, 
since I've begun to speak, I'll hide nothing.
I wish I were as young, my strength as firm,
as when we were setting up an ambush                                       610
and guiding men to it below Troy's walls.
Our leaders were Odysseus and Menelaus,                                       [470]
son of Atreus—and along with them,
I was third in command, on their orders.
When we reached the steep walls of the city,
we lay down in thick bushes round the place,
swampy reeds, crouched down behind our weapons.
A nasty night came on.  North Wind dropped off,
and it was freezing cold. Snow fell on us,
like frost from high above, bitterly cold.                                     620
Our shields were caked with ice.  Now, the others
all wore cloaks and tunics, and could rest there,
quite easily, their shields across their shoulders.
But when I'd set out, like a fool I'd left                                             [480]
my cloak behind with my companions.
I didn't think I'd feel the cold without it.
So I'd just brought my shield and shining doublet.
Well, when it was the third watch of the night  
and the stars had shifted their positions,
I spoke to Odysseus, who was close by.                                     630
When my elbow nudged him, he was all ears,
instantly prepared to listen:

'Resourceful Odysseus, Laertes' son,
and child of Zeus, I won't be here for long,
not among the living.  Instead, this cold
will kill me off.  I don't have a cloak.
Some spirit deluded me, made me come
with just a tunic.  Now there's no way out.'

"That what I said.  In his heart he had a plan—                                 [490]
that's the kind of man he was for scheming                                640
or for fighting war.  With a quiet whisper,
he spoke to me:

                         'Keep silent for the moment,
in case one of our Achaeans hears you.'

"Then he propped his head up on his elbow,
and spoke out, saying:

                                'Listen to me, friends.
As I slept, a dream sent from the gods
came to me.  We've moved a long way forward,
too far from our ships.  I wish some man
would tell Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
shepherd of his people, in the hope                                  650
he'd tell more men to come out from the fleet.'*

"Once he'd said this, Thoas jumped up quickly,
Andraemon's son.  He threw off his purple cloak,                             [500]
and started running to the ships.  Well then,
I was happy to lie down in his cloak.
Then Dawn appeared on her golden throne.
I wish I were as young as I was then,
and my strength as firm.  Then in this farmyard,
some swineherd would give me a cloak to wear,
from kindness and respect for a brave man.                               660
But now, with filthy clothing on my skin,
I receive no honours."*

                                            Then, swineherd Eumaeus,
you answered him and said:

                                        "Old man, that story
you just told is all right
—you've spoken
to the point and made your wishes clear.
You won't lack clothes or any other thing                                         [510]
which a long-suffering suppliant should get
from those he meets, for tonight at least.
When morning comes you'll have to dance around
in those rags of yours. We don't have many cloaks                    670
or other tunics here.  We've each got only one.
But when Odysseus' dear son arrives,
he'll give you clothes himself, a cloak and tunic,
and send you where your heart desires to go."

After saying this, he jumped up and placed a bed
for Odysseus near the fire.  On the bed he threw
some skins from sheep and goats.  Odysseus lay down there.                     [520]
Eumaeus covered him with a huge thick cloak, 
which he kept in there as a change of clothing,
something to wear whenever a great storm blew.                                 680

So Odysseus went to sleep there, and the young men
slept around him.  But Eumaeus had no wish
to have his bed inside and sleep so far away
from all his boars.  So he prepared to go outside.
Odysseus was pleased he took so many troubles
with his master's goods while he was far away.
First, Eumaeus slung his sharp sword from his shoulder
and wrapped a really thick cloak all around him,
to keep out the wind.  Then he took a massive fleece                                 [530]
from a well-fed goat and grabbed a pointed spear                                690
to fight off dogs and men.  Then he left the hut,
going to lie down and rest where the white-tusked boars
slept beneath a hollow rock, sheltered from North Wind.

Notes to Book 14

* . . . you then answered him and said: Here the narrator makes an unexpected shift and addresses one of the characters in person ("you"), suggesting a certain closeness between the narrator and the character.  While this is not common in Homer, it does occur several times (e.g., with Menelaus in the Iliad).  [Back to Text]

*. . . without a name in Ithaca: Arcesius is the name of the father of Laertes and thus of Odysseus' paternal grandfather.  [Back to Text] 

* . . . windward side of Crete: This seems to mean that the ship passed along the northern coast of Crete, but the precise meaning is disputed.  [Back to Text]

* . . . without demanding ransom: The Thesprotians lived in southern Epirus, a coastal region in north-west Greece, nowadays on the border with Albania. [Back to Text]

* . . . openly or not: Dodona was a very ancient shrine in the interior of Epirus, sacred to Zeus and Dione.  The centre of the oracle was an oak tree where doves nested, and interpretations were made of the noises coming from the leaves of the tree, the doves, and brass ornaments hung in the branches. [Back to Text]

* . . . resources of his own: the Taphians lived on a cluster of islands in the Ionian Sea.  In Book 1 of the Odyssey, when Athena visits Telemachus in Ithaca (1.138), she takes on the form of Mentes, son of the king of the Taphians.  [Back to Text] 

* . . . from the fleet:  Something seems awry with this speech, since we are given no details of what the dream might have been, and the rest has no apparent connection to a dream.  [Back to Text]

* . . . receive no honours: The last lines of this speech (598-602) have long been rejected by many critics, since they obviously destroy the point of the story by making an explicit request at the end, rather than displaying a clever hint.  [Back to Text]

13 - 14 - 15

[This translation, which has been prepared by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC, Canada, is in the public domain and may be used by anyone, in whole or in part, for any purpose, without charge and without permission, provided the source is acknowledged.

Note that the numbers in square brackets refer to the lineation of the Greek text, the numbers without brackets refer to the lineation of the translated text.  Asterisks indicate links to explanatory endnotes provided by the translator.



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