Invocation In The Odyssey
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The Odyssey by Homer - Book 5 Summary and Analysis
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He led Athene herself to a handsome, richly carved chair, spread a linen cloth over it, and seated her there with a footstool for her feet. He drew up on ornate stool for himself, as well, away from the Suitors , lest the stranger should shun the food, annoyed by the din, finding himself in a crowd of insolent men: and so he might ask news of his absent father.
Next a maid brought water in a fine gold jug, and poured it over a silver basin, so they could rinse their hands: then drew up a polished table. The housekeeper silently brought them bread, and various delicacies, drawing liberally on her store. And a carver lifted plates of different meats, and set them down with gold cups beside them, while a steward, constantly walking by, poured the wine. The insolent Suitors entered and sat in rows on stools and chairs. Squires poured water over their hands, while maids piled bread in baskets beside them, and pages filled bowls with wine: and they reached for the good things spread before them.
Then when the Suitors had satisfied hunger and thirst, their thoughts turned elsewhere, to song and dance, since these things crown a feast. A herald placed a fine lyre in the hands of Phemius , whom the Suitors had forced to sing for them: and he struck the chords to begin his pleasant song. If they saw him here in Ithaca they would pray for swifter feet, rather than rich clothes and gold. But now he is dead of an evil fate, and we have no comfort, even if someone on Earth were to claim he would return, the day he could is past.
But tell me this, and speak truly: who are you and where do you come from? What city is yours, who are your parents? What kind of vessel brought you, and whom did the sailors say they were, and how did they land you on Ithaca , for I doubt you came on foot? Many are those who entered our house as guests, for he too travelled widely among men. Now, as you see, with my ship and crew I beach here, in my journey over the wine-dark sea to foreign-speaking Temese , trading for copper and carrying glittering iron.
My ship lies over there, away from the city, next to open land, in Rheithron Harbour, and below wooded Neion. Let us call each other friend, as our fathers did, friends of old. Go and ask that old hero, Laertes , if you like, who no longer comes to the palace they say, but endures his sorrows far off in the fields with an aged woman for servant, who serves his food and drink when weariness grips his limbs, as he toils among the slopes of his vineyard. I came, because men said that Odysseus was here among his people, but the gods seem to have prevented his returning, since he has not vanished from the earth yet. Though I am no seer, nor trained in augury, I will prophesy to you what the immortal gods put in my mind, and what I believe will be.
Though iron shackles hold him, he will not be kept from his own land much longer. A man of many resources, he will find a way to return. Your head and your fine eyes are amazingly like him, for we were often together before he set out for Troy , where the bravest of the Argives sailed in their hollow ships. But I have never seen Odysseus since that day, nor he me. My mother says I am his son, but I do not know, for none can be certain of his own parentage. If only I had been the son of some lucky man who spent old age among his own possessions!
As it is, they say, since you ask, that I am born of the unluckiest of mortal men. But tell me, in truth, what is this feast, these folk? Why is this needed? Is it a banquet or a wedding celebration? Any man of sense who mixed with them would be angered at the sight of these shameful actions. But the gods have willed otherwise since then, with their dark designs, for unlike other men they have made him vanish. If he had been killed among his friends at Troy , or died in the arms of friends with the war ended, his death itself would grieve me less.
Then the Achaean host would have built his tomb, and he would have won a fine name for his son to inherit. In fact the Harpies have snatched him, without trace: he is beyond sight and hearing, and leaves me in sorrow and tears: nor do I sigh and groan for him alone, for the gods have granted me other painful troubles. All the princes who rule the islands, Dulichium , Same , and wooded Zacynthus , and all the lords of rocky Ithaca court my mother and consume my wealth with their feasts: soon they will destroy me, too.
Odysseus went there as well, in his swift ship, in search of a deadly poison to smear on the tips of his bronze-headed arrows. Ilus was in awe of the deathless gods and refused him, but my father who loved him dearly did not. If only Odysseus, I say, as he was, could confront the Suitors: they would meet death swiftly, and a dark wedding. But, indeed, it lies in the lap of the gods whether he will return and take vengeance in his palace, or not: but I urge you yourself to plan how to drive these Suitors from the house. Come, listen, and note my words. Call the Achaean lords together tomorrow: speak to them all, with the gods for witness. And I will give you good advice, if you will hear me. Man the best ship you have with twenty oarsmen, go and seek news of your absent father.
Some mortal may tell you, or perhaps a rumour sent by Zeus to bring news to men. Go to Pylos first, and question the noble Nestor : then to Sparta to yellow-haired Menelaus , last of the bronze-clad Achaeans to reach home. If you hear your father is living, and sailing home, then however troubled you are, endure for another year. But if you hear he is dead, return to your own land, build a mound, with all the funeral rites, generous ones as is fitting, and give your mother away to a new husband. When you have settled and done all this, use heart and mind to plan how to kill the Suitors in your palace, openly or by guile: since it is not right for you to follow childish ways, being no more a child.
You too take courage, my friend, since I see you are tall and fine, so that many a man unborn will praise you. But now I must go to my swift ship, and my crew who will be weary of waiting. Take note yourself of my words, and consider them. But stay a while, though you are eager to be gone, so that when you have bathed and eased your heart, you can go to your ship in good spirits, taking a rich and beautiful gift from me as a keepsake, such as stranger gives to stranger in friendship. So the goddess, bright-eyed Athene, spoke, and vanished, soaring upwards like a bird. In his heart she had stirred fortitude and daring, and made him think of his father even more.
He felt what had passed in his spirit, and was awed, realising a god had been with him, and godlike himself he at once rejoined the Suitors. As she neared the Suitors she drew her shining veil across her face, and stopped by the doorpost of the well-made hall, a loyal handmaid on either side. Then, with tear-filled eyes, she spoke to the divine bard:. Sing one of those while you sit here, as they drink their wine in silence, but end this sad song that always troubles the heart in my breast, since above all women I bear a sadness not to be forgotten. Bards are not to blame, surely: it is Zeus we must blame, who deals with each eater of bread as he wishes.
Suffer your heart and mind to listen, for Odysseus was not alone in failing to return from Troy, many another perished too. So go to your quarters now, and attend to your own duties at loom and spindle, and order your maids about their tasks: let men worry about such things, and I especially, since I hold the authority in this house. Up to her high chamber she went, accompanied by her maids, and there she wept for Odysseus, her dear husband, till bright-eyed Athene veiled her eyelids with sweet sleep.
But throughout the shadowy hall the Suitors created uproar, with each man praying he might bed her. Then, in the morning, let us take our seats in the assembly, so I can declare to you all you must leave the palace. Feast elsewhere, move from house to house, and eat your own provisions. After an opening invocation of Zeus and the Muses, the first portion of the poem is an ethical enforcement of honest labour and dissuasion from strife and idleness. The second section consists of hints and rules on agricultural husbandry.
The third part is a religious calendar of the months, with remarks on the days most lucky or the contrary for rural or nautical employments. The poem revolves around two general truths : that labour is the universal lot of Man, but that he who is willing to work will always get by. Hesiod prescribes a life of honest labour which he regards as the source of all good and attacks idleness, suggesting that both the gods and men hate the idle.