How the Story is Presented
What Really Happened
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Excerpt from Chapter IX
Odysseus came before him. ‘They say that thou art the noblest of all the wooers,’ he said, ‘and for that reason thou shouldst give me a better thing than any of the others have given me. Look upon me. I too had a house of mine own, and was accounted wealthy amongst men, and I had servants to wait upon me. And many a time would I make welcome the wanderer and give him something from my store.’
‘Stand far away from my table, thou wretched fellow,’ said Antinous.
Then said Odysseus, ‘Thou hast beauty, lord Antinous, but thou hast not wisdom. Out of thine own house thou wouldst not give a grain of salt to a suppliant. And even whilst thou dost sit at another man’s table thou dost not find it in thy heart to give something out of the plenty that is before thee.’
So Odysseus spoke and Antinous became terribly angered. He caught up a footstool, and with it he struck Odysseus in the back, at the base of the right shoulder. Such a blow would have knocked another man over, but Odysseus stood steadfast under it. He gave one look at Antinous, and then without a word he went over and sat down again upon the threshold.
Telemachus had in his heart a mighty rage for the stroke that had been given his father. But he let no tear fall from his eyes and he sat very still, brooding in his heart evil for the wooers. Odysseus, after a while, lifted his head and spoke:
‘Wooers of the renowned queen,’ he said, ‘hear what the spirit within me bids me say to you. There is neither pain nor shame in the blow that a man may get in battle. But in the blow that Antinous has given me — a blow aimed at a beggar — there is pain and there is shame. And now I call upon that god who is the avenger of the insult to the poor, to bring, not a wedding to Antinous, but the issue of death.’
‘Sit there and eat thy meat in quiet,’ Antinous called out, ‘or else thou wilt be dragged through the house by thy heels, and the flesh will be stripped off thy bones.’
And now the lady Penelope had come into the hall. Hearing that a stranger was there, she sent for Eumæus and bade the swineherd bring him to her, that she might question him as to what he had heard about Odysseus, Eumæus came and told him of Penelope’s request, But Odysseus said, Eumæus, right willing am I to tell the truth about Odysseus to the fair and wise Penelope. But now I may not speak to her. Go to her and tell her that when the wooers have gone I will speak to her. And ask her to give me a seat near the fire, that I may sit and warm myself as I speak, for the clothes I wear are comfortless.’
As Eumæus gave the message to the lady Penelope, one who was there, Theoclymenus, the guest who had come in Telemachus’ ship, said, O wife of the renowned Odysseus, be sure that thy lord will return to his house. As I came here on the ship of Telemachus, thy son, I saw a happening that is an omen of the return of Odysseus. A bird flew out on the right, a hawk. In his talons he held a dove, and plucked her and shed the feathers down on the ship, By that omen I know that the lord of this high house will return, and strike here in his anger.’
Penelope left the hall and went back to her own chamber, Next Eumæus went away to look after his swine, But still the wooers continued to feast, and still Odysseus sat in the guise of a beggar on the threshold of his own house.