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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Alexander Pope (1688–1744).  Complete Poetical Works.  1903.
 
Translations from Homer
The Odyssey (partial)
Book XXII. The Death of the Suitors
 
        
The Argument
  Ulysses begins the slaughter of the suitors by the death of Antinoüs. He declares himself, and lets fly his arrows at the rest. Telemachus assists, and brings arms for his father, himself, Eumæus, and Philætius. Melanthius does the same for the wooers. Minerva encourages Ulysses in the shape of Mentor. The suitors are all slain, only Medon and Phemius are spared. Melanthius and the unfaithful servants are executed. The rest acknowledge their master with all demonstrations of joy.

  THEN fierce the Hero o’er the threshold strode;
Stripp’d of his rags, he blazed out like a God.
Full in their face the lifted bow he bore,
And quiver’d deaths, a formidable store;
Before his feet the rattling shower he threw,        5
And thus, terrific, to the suitor-crew:
  ‘One venturous game this hand hath won to-day,
Another, Princes! yet remains to play;
Another mark our arrow must attain.
Phœbus, assist! nor be the labour vain.’        10
Swift as the word the parting arrow sings,
And bears thy fate, Antinoüs, on its wings:
Wretch that he was, of unprophetic soul!
High in his hands he rear’d the golden bowl!
Ev’n then to drain it lengthen’d out his breath;        15
Changed to the deep, the bitter draught of death:
For Fate who fear’d amidst a feastful band?
And Fate to numbers, by a single hand?
Full thro’ his throat Ulysses’ weapon pass’d,
And pierc’d his neck. He falls, and breathes his last.        20
The tumbling goblet the wide floor o’erflows,
A stream of gore burst spouting from his nose;
Grim in convulsive agonies he sprawls:
Before him spurn’d the loaded table falls,
And spreads the pavement with a mingled flood        25
Of floating meats, and wine, and human blood.
Amazed, confounded, as they saw him fall,
Up rose the throngs tumultuous round the hall:
O’er all the dome they cast a haggard eye,
Each look’d for arms: in vain; no arms were nigh:        30
‘Aim’st thou at Princes?’ (all amazed they said)
‘Thy last of games unhappy hast thou play’d;
Thy erring shaft has made our bravest bleed,
And Death, unlucky guest, attends thy deed.
Vultures shall tear thee.’ Thus incens’d they spoke,        35
While each to chance ascribed the wondrous stroke,
Blind as they were; for Death even now invades
His destin’d prey, and wraps them all in shades.
Then, grimly frowning, with a dreadful look,
That wither’d all their hearts, Ulysses spoke:        40
  ‘Dogs, ye have had your day! ye fear’d no more
Ulysses vengeful from the Trojan shore;
While, to your lust and spoil a guardless prey,
Our house, our wealth, our helpless handmaids lay:
Not so content, with bolder frenzy fired,        45
Ev’n to our bed presumptuous you aspired:
Laws or divine or human fail’d to move,
Or shame of men, or dread of Gods above;
Heedless alike of infamy or praise,
Or Fame’s eternal voice in future days,        50
The hour of vengeance, wretches, now is come;
Impending fate is yours, and instant doom.’
  Thus dreadful he. Confused the suitors stood;
From their pale cheeks recedes the flying blood:
Trembling they sought their guilty heads to hide;        55
Alone the bold Eurymachus replied:
  ‘If, as thy words import’ (he thus began),
‘Ulysses lives, and thou the mighty man,
Great are thy wrongs, and much hast thou sustain’d
In thy spoil’d palace, and exhausted land;        60
The cause and author of those guilty deeds,
Lo! at thy feet unjust Antinoüs bleeds.
Not love, but wild ambition was his guide;
To slay thy son, thy kingdoms to divide,
These were his aims; but juster Jove denied.        65
Since cold in death th’ offender lies, oh spare
Thy suppliant people, and receive their prayer!
Brass, gold, and treasures, shall the spoil defray,
Two hundred oxen ev’ry Prince shall pay
The waste of years refunded in a day.        70
Till then thy wrath is just.’ Ulysses burn’d
With high disdain, and sternly thus return’d:
  ‘All, all the treasures that enrich’d our throne
Before your rapines, join’d with all your own,
If offer’d, vainly should for mercy call;        75
’T is you that offer, and I scorn them all:
Your blood is my demand, your lives the prize,
Till pale as yonder wretch each suitor lies.
Hence with those coward terms; or fight or fly;
This choice is left you to resist or die;        80
And die I trust ye shall.’ He sternly spoke:
With guilty fears the pale assembly shook.
Alone Eurymachus exhorts the train:
‘Yon archer, comrades, will not shoot in vain;
But from the threshold shall his darts be sped        85
(Whoe’er he be), till ev’ry Prince lie dead?
Be mindful of yourselves, draw forth your swords,
And to his shafts obtend these ample boards
(So need compels). Then, all united, strive
The bold invader from his post to drive;        90
The city rous’d shall to our rescue haste,
And this mad archer soon have shot his last.’
  Swift as he spoke, he drew his traitor sword,
And like a lion rush’d against his lord:
The wary Chief the rushing foe repress’d,        95
Who met the point and forc’d it in his breast:
His falling hand deserts the lifted sword,
And prone he falls extended o’er the board!
Before him wide, in mix’d effusion, roll
Th’ untasted viands, and the jovial bowl.        100
Full thro’ his liver pass’d the mortal wound,
With dying rage his forehead beats the ground;
He spurn’d the seat with fury as he fell,
And the fierce soul to darkness dived, and Hell.
Next bold Amphinomus his arms extends        105
To force the pass; the godlike man defends.
Thy spear, Telemachus, prevents th’ attack;
The brazen weapon, driving thro’ his back,
Thence thro’ his breast its bloody passage tore;
Flat falls he thund’ring on the marble floor,        110
And his crush’d forehead marks the stone with gore.
He left his jav’lin in the dead, for fear
The long encumbrance of the weighty spear
To the fierce foe advantage might afford,
To rush between, and use the shorten’d sword.        115
With speedy ardour to his sire he flies,
And, ‘Arm, great Father! arm’ (in haste he cries):
‘Lo! hence I run for other arms to wield,
For missive jav’lins, and for helm and shield;
Fast by our side, let either faithful swain        120
In arms attend us, and their part sustain.’
  ‘Haste, and return’ (Ulysses made reply),
‘While yet th’ auxiliar shafts this hand supply;
Lest thou alone, encounter’d by an host,
Driv’n from the gate, th’ important pass be lost.’        125
  With speed Telemachus obeys, and flies
Where piled in heaps the royal armour lies;
Four brazen helmets, eight refulgent spears,
And four broad bucklers to his sire he bears:
At once in brazen panoply they shone,        130
At once each servant braced his armour on;
Around their King a faithful guard they stand,
While yet each shaft flew deathful from his hand:
Chief after chief expired at ev’ry wound,
And swell’d the bleeding mountain on the ground.        135
Soon as his store of flying fates was spent,
Against the wall he set the bow unbent;
And now his shoulders bear the massy shield,
And now his hands two beamy jav’lins wield:
He frowns beneath his nodding plume, that play’d        140
O’er the high crest, and cast a dreadful shade.
  There stood a window near, whence, looking down
From o’er the porch, appear’d the subject town.
A double strength of valves secured the place,
A high and narrow, but the only pass:        145
The cautious King, with all preventing care,
To guard that outlet, placed Eumæus there:
When Agelaüs thus: ‘Has none the sense
To mount yon window, and alarm from thence
The neighbour-town? the town shall force the door,        150
And this bold archer soon shall shoot no more.’
  Melanthius then: ‘That outlet to the gate
So near adjoins that one may guard the strait.
But other methods of defence remain;
Myself with arms can furnish all the train;        155
Stores from the royal magazine I bring,
And their own darts shall pierce the Prince and King.’
  He said: and mounting up the lofty stairs,
Twelve shields, twelve lances, and twelve helmets bears:
All arm, and sudden round the hall appears        160
A blaze of bucklers, and a wood of spears.
  The Hero stands oppress’d with mighty woe,
On ev’ry side he sees the labour grow:
‘Oh curs’d event! and oh unlook’d-for aid!
Melanthius or the women have betray’d—        165
Oh my dear son!’—The father with a sigh
Then ceas’d; the filial virtue made reply:
  ‘Falsehood is folly, and ’t is just to own
The fault committed: this was mine alone;
My haste neglected yonder door to bar,        170
And hence the villain has supplied their war.
Run, good Eumæus, then, and (what before
I thoughtless err’d in) well secure that door:
Learn, if by female fraud this deed were done,
Or (as my thought misgives) by Dolius’ son.’        175
  While yet they spoke, in quest of arms again
To the high chamber stole the faithless swain,
Not unobserv’d. Eumæus watchful eyed,
And thus address’d Ulysses near his side:
  ‘The miscreant we suspected takes that way,        180
Him, if this arm be powerful, shall I slay?
Or drive him hither, to receive the meed
From thy own hand, of this detested deed?’
  ‘Not so’ (replied Ulysses); ‘leave him there,
For us sufficient is another care:        185
Within the structure of this palace wall
To keep enclosed his masters till they fall.
Go you, and seize the felon; backward bind
His arms and legs, and fix a plank behind;
On this his body by strong cords extend,        190
And on a column near the roof suspend:
So studied tortures his vile days shall end.’
  The ready swains obey’d with joyful haste;
Behind the felon unperceiv’d they pass’d,
As round the room in quest of arms he goes        195
(The half-shut door conceals his lurking foes)
One hand sustain’d a helm, and one the shield
Which old Laërtes wont in youth to wield,
Cover’d with dust, with dryness chapp’d and worn,
The brass corroded, and the leather torn.        200
Thus laden, o’er the threshold as he stepp’d,
Fierce on the villain from each side they leap’d,
Back by the hair the trembling dastard drew
And down reluctant on the pavement threw.
Active and pleas’d the zealous swains fulfil        205
At every point their master’s rigid will:
First, fast behind, his hands and feet they bound,
Then straiten’d cords involv’d his body round;
So drawn aloft, athwart the column tied,
The howling felon swung from side to side.        210
  Eumæus scoffing then with keen disdain:
‘There pass thy pleasing night, O gentle swain!
On that soft pillow, from that envied height,
First may’st thou see the springing dawn of light;
So timely rise when morning streaks the east,        215
To drive thy victims to the suitors’ feast.’
  This said, they left him, tortured as he lay,
Secured the door, and hasty strode away:
Each, breathing death, resumed his dangerous post
Near great Ulysses; four against an host.        220
When lo! descending to her hero’s aid,
Jove’s daughter Pallas, War’s triumphant Maid;
In Mentor’s friendly form she join’d his side:
Ulysses saw, and thus with transport cried:
  ‘Come, ever welcome, and thy succour lend;        225
O ev’ry sacred name in one! my Friend!
Early we lov’d, and long our loves have grown;
Whate’er thro’ life’s whole series I have done,
Or good, or grateful, now to mind recall,
And, aiding this one hour, repay it all.’        230
  Thus he; but pleasing hopes his bosom warm
Of Pallas latent in the friendly form.
The adverse host the phantom-warrior ey’d,
And first, loud-threat’ning, Agelaüs cried:
  ‘Mentor, beware, nor let that tongue persuade        235
Thy frantic arm to lend Ulysses aid;
Our force successful shall our threat make good,
And with the sire and son’s commix thy blood.
What hopest thou here? Thee first the sword shall slay,
Then lop thy whole posterity away;        240
Far hence thy banish’d consort shall we send;
With his thy forfeit lands and treasures blend;
Thus, and thus only, shalt thou join thy friend.’
  His barb’rous insult ev’n the Goddess fires,
Who thus the warrior to revenge inspires:        245
  ‘Art thou Ulysses? where then shall we find
The patient body and the constant mind?
That courage, once the Trojans’ daily dread,
Known nine long years, and felt by heroes dead?
And where that conduct, which revenged the lust        250
Of Priam’s race, and laid proud Troy in dust?
If this, when Helen was the cause, were done;
What for thy country now, thy Queen, thy son?
Rise then in combat, at my side attend;
Observe what vigour gratitude can lend,        255
And foes how weak, opposed against a friend!’
  She spoke; but willing longer to survey
The sire and son’s great acts, withheld the day;
By farther toils decreed the brave to try,
And level pois’d the wings of victory;        260
Then with a change of form eludes their sight,
Perch’d like a swallow on a rafter’s height,
And unperceiv’d enjoys the rising fight.
  Damastor’s son, bold Agelaüs, leads
The guilty war, Eurynomus succeeds;        265
With these Pisander, great Polyctor’s son,
Sage Polybus, and stern Amphimedon,
With Demoptolemus: these six survive;
The best of all the shafts had left alive.
Amidst the carnage, desp’rate as they stand,        270
Thus Agelaüs rous’d the lagging band:
  ‘The hour is come, when you fierce man no more
With bleeding Princes shall bestrew the floor;
Lo! Mentor leaves him with an empty boast;
The four remain, but four against an host.        275
Let each at once discharge the deadly dart,
One sure of six shall reach Ulysses’ heart;
Thus shall one stroke the glory lost regain:
The rest must perish, their great leader slain.’
  Then all at once their mingled lances threw,        280
And thirsty all of one man’s blood they flew;
In vain! Minerva turn’d them with her breath,
And scatter’d short, or wide, the points of death!
With deaden’d sound one on the threshold falls,
One strikes the gate, one rings against the walls:        285
The storm pass’d innocent. The godlike man
Now loftier trod, and dreadful thus began:
‘’T is now (brave friends) our turn, at once to throw
(So speed them Heav’n) our jav’lins at the foe.
That impious race to all their past misdeeds        290
Would add our blood. Injustice still proceeds.’
  He spoke: at once their fiery lances flew:
Great Demoptolemus Ulysses slew;
Euryades receiv’d the Prince’s dart;
The goatherd’s quiver’d in Pisander’s heart;        295
Fierce Elatus, by thine, Eumæus, falls;
Their fall in thunder echoes round the walls.
The rest retreat: the victors now advance,
Each from the dead resumes his bloody lance.
Again the foe discharge the steely shower;        300
Again made frustrate by the Virgin-Power.
Some, turn’d by Pallas, on the threshold fall,
Some wound the gate, some ring against the wall;
Some weak, or pond’rous with the brazen head,
Drop harmless, on the pavement sounding dead.        305
  Then bold Amphimedon his jav’lin cast;
Thy hand, Telemachus, it lightly razed:
And from Ctesippus’ arm the spear elanc’d
On good Eumæus’ shield and shoulder glane’d:
Not lessen’d of their force (so slight the wound)        310
Each sung along, and dropp’d upon the ground.
Fate doom’d thee next, Eurydamas, to bear
Thy death, ennobled by Ulysses’ spear.
By the bold son Amphimedon was slain,
And Polybus renown’d, the faithful swain.        315
Pierc’d thro’ the breast the rude Ctesippus bled,
And thus Philætius gloried o’er the dead:
  ‘There end thy pompous vaunts, and high disdain;
O sharp in scandal, voluble, and vain!
How weak is mortal pride! To Heav’n alone        320
Th’ event of actions and our fates are known:
Scoffer, behold what gratitude we bear:
The victim’s heel is answer’d with this spear.’
  Ulysses brandish’d high his vengeful steel,
And Damastorides that instant fell;        325
Fast by, Leocritus expiring lay;
The Prince’s jav’lin tore its bloody way
Thro’ all his bowels: down he tumbles prone,
His batter’d front and brains besmear the stone.
  Now Pallas shines confess’d; aloft she spreads        330
The arm of vengeance o’er their guilty heads;
The dreadful ægis blazes in their eye:
Amazed they see, they tremble, and they fly:
Confused, distracted, thro’ the rooms they fling:
Like oxen madden’d by the breeze’s sting,        335
When sultry days, and long, succeed the gentle spring.
Not half so keen fierce vultures of the chase
Stoop from the mountains on the feather’d race,
When the wide field extended snares beset;
With conscious dread they shun the quiv’ring net:        340
No help, no flight; but, wounded ev’ry way,
Headlong they drop; the fowlers seize the prey.
On all sides thus they double wound on wound,
In prostrate heaps the wretches beat the ground,
Unmanly shrieks precede each dying groan,        345
And a red deluge floats the reeking stone.
  Leiodes first before the victor falls:
The wretched augur thus for mercy calls:
‘Oh Gracious! hear, nor let thy suppliant bleed:
Still undishonour’d, or by word or deed,        350
Thy house, for me, remains; by me repress’d
Full oft was check’d th’ injustice of the rest:
Averse they heard me when I counsell’d well,
Their hearts were harden’d, and they justly fell.
Oh, spare an augur’s consecrated head,        355
Nor add the blameless to the guilty dead.’
  ‘Priest as thou art! for that detested band
Thy lying prophecies deceiv’d the land:
Against Ulysses have thy vows been made;
For them thy daily orisons were paid:        360
Yet more, even to our bed thy pride aspires:
One common crime one common fate requires.’
  Thus speaking, from the ground the sword he took
Which Agelaüs’ dying hand forsook:
Full thro’ his neck the weighty falchion sped:        365
Along the pavement roll’d the mutt’ring head.
  Phemius alone the hand of vengeance spared,
Phemius the sweet, the Heav’n-instructed bard.
Beside the gate the rev’rend minstrel stands;
The lyre, now silent, trembling in his hands;        370
Dubious to supplicate the Chief, or fly
To Jove’s inviolable altar nigh,
Where oft Laërtes holy vows had paid,
And oft Ulysses smoking victims laid.
His honour’d harp with care he first set down,        375
Between the laver and the silver throne;
Then, prostrate stretch’d before the dreadful man,
Persuasive thus, with accent soft began:
  ‘O King! to mercy be thy soul inclin’d,
And spare the poet’s ever-gentle kind.        380
A deed like this thy future fame would wrong,
For dear to Gods and man is sacred song.
Self-taught I sing; by Heav’n, and Heav’n alone,
The genuine seeds of poesy are sown:
And (what the Gods bestow) the lofty lay        385
To Gods alone and godlike worth we pay.
Save then the poet, and thyself reward;
’T is thine to merit, mine is to record.
That here I sung, was force, and not desire:
This hand reluctant touch’d the warbling wire;        390
And, let thy son attest, nor sordid pay,
Nor servile flattery, stain’d the moral lay.’
  The moving words Telemachus attends,
His sire approaches, and the bard defends.
  ‘O mix not, Father, with those impious dead        395
The man divine; forbear that sacred head;
Medon, the herald, too, our arms may spare,
Medon, who made my infancy his care;
If yet he breathes, permit thy son to give
Thus much to gratitude, and bid him live.’        400
  Beneath a table, trembling with dismay,
Couch’d close to earth, unhappy Medon lay,
Wrapp’d in a new-slain ox’s ample hide;
Swift at the word he cast his screen aside,
Sprung to the Prince, embraced his knee with tears,        405
And thus with grateful voice address’d his ears:
  ‘O Prince! O Friend! lo! here thy Medon stands:
Ah! stop the hero’s unresisted hands,
Incens’d too justly by that impious brood,
Whose guilty glories now are set in blood.’        410
  To whom Ulysses with a pleasing eye:
‘Be bold, on friendship and my son rely;
Live, an example for the world to read,
How much more safe the good than evil deed:
Thou, with the Heav’n-taught bard, in peace resort        415
From blood and carnage to yon open court:
Me other work requires.’—With tim’rous awe
From the dire scene th’ exempted two withdraw,
Scarce sure of life, look round, and trembling move
To the bright altars of Protector Jove.        420
  Meanwhile Ulysses search’d the dome, to find
If yet there live of all th’ offending kind.
Not one! complete the bloody tale he found,
All steep’d in blood, all gasping on the ground.
So, when by hollow shores the fisher-train        425
Sweep with their arching nets the hoary main,
And scarce the meshy toils the copious draught contain,
All naked of their element, and bare,
The fishes pant, and gasp in thinner air;
Wide o’er the sands are spread the stiff’ning prey,        430
Till the warm sun exhales their soul away.
  And now the King commands his son to call
Old Euryclea to the deathful hall:
The son observant not a moment stays;
The aged governess with speed obeys;        435
The sounding portals instant they display;
The matron moves, the Prince directs the way.
On heaps of death the stern Ulysses stood,
All black with dust, and cover’d thick with blood.
So the grim lion from the slaughter comes,        440
Dreadful he glares, and terribly he foams,
His breast with marks of carnage painted o’er,
His jaws all dropping with the bull’s black gore.
  Soon as her eyes the welcome object met,
The guilty fall’n, the mighty deed complete,        445
A scream of joy her feeble voice essay’d:
The hero check’d her, and composedly said:
  ‘Woman, experienc’d as thou art, control
Indecent joy, and feast thy secret soul.
T’ insult the dead is cruel and unjust;        450
Fate and their crime have sunk them to the dust.
Nor heeded these the censure of mankind,
The good and bad were equal in their mind.
Justly the price of worthlessness they paid,
And each now wails an unlamented shade.        455
But thou sincere, O Euryclea, say,
What maids dishonour us, and what obey?’
  Then she: ‘In these thy kingly walls remain
(My son) full fifty of the handmaid train,
Taught, by my care, to cull the fleece or weave,        460
And servitude with pleasing tasks deceive;
Of these, twice six pursue their wicked way,
Nor me, nor chaste Penelope obey;
Nor fits it that Telemachus command
(Young as he is) his mother’s female band.        465
Hence to the upper chambers let me fly,
Where slumbers soft now close the royal eye;
There wake her with the news’—the matron cried.
‘Not so’ (Ulysses, more sedate, replied),
‘Bring first the crew who wrought these guilty deeds.’        470
In haste the matron parts; the King proceeds:
  ‘Now to dispose the dead, the care remains
To you, my son, and you, my faithful swains;
Th’ offending females to that task we doom,
To wash, to scent, and purify the room:        475
These (ev’ry table cleans’d, and ev’ry throne,
And all the melancholy labour done),
Drive to yon court, without the palace-wall.
There the revenging sword shall smite them all;
So with the suitors let them mix in dust,        480
Stretch’d in a long oblivion of their lust.’
  He said: the lamentable train appear,
Each vents a groan, and drops a tender tear:
Each heav’d her mournful burden, and beneath
The porch deposed the ghastly heap of death.        485
The Chief severe, compelling each to move,
Urged the dire task imperious from above:
With thirsty sponge they rub the tables o’er
(The swains unite their toil); the walls, the floor
Wash’d with th’ effusive wave, are purged of gore.        490
Once more the palace set in fair array,
To the base court the females take their way:
There compass’d close between the dome and wall
(Their life’s last scene), they trembling wait their fall.
  Then thus the Prince: ‘To these shall we afford        495
A fate so pure, as by the martial sword?
To these, the nightly prostitutes to shame,
And base revilers of our house and name?’
  Thus speaking, on the circling wall he strung
A ship’s tough cable, from a column hung;        500
Near the high top he strain’d it strongly round,
Whence no contending foot could reach the ground.
Their heads above connected in a row,
They beat the air with quiv’ring feet below:
Thus on some tree hung struggling in the snare,        505
The doves or thrushes flap their wings in air.
Soon fled the soul impure, and left behind
The empty corse to waver with the wind.
  Then forth they led Melanthius, and began
Their bloody work; they lopp’d away the man,        510
Morsel for dogs! then trimm’d with brazen shears
The wretch, and shorten’d of his nose and ears;
His hands and feet last felt the cruel steel:
He roar’d, and torments gave his soul to Hell.
They wash, and to Ulysses take their way,        515
So ends the bloody business of the day.
  To Euryclea then address’d the King:
‘Bring hither fire, and hither sulphur bring,
To purge the palace: then the Queen attend,
And let her with her matron-train descend;        520
The matron-train, with all the virgin-band,
Assemble here, to learn their lord’s command.’
  Then Euryclea: ‘Joyful I obey,
But cast those mean dishonest rags away;
Permit me first the royal robes to bring:        525
Ill suits this garb the shoulders of a King.’
  ‘Bring sulphur straight, and fire’ (the Monarch cries).
She hears, and at the word obedient flies.
With fire and sulphur, cure of noxious fumes,
He purged the walls, and blood-polluted rooms.        530
Again the matron springs with eager pace,
And spreads her lord’s return from place to place.
They hear, rush forth, and instant round him stand,
A gazing throng, a torch in every hand.
They saw, they knew him, and with fond embrace        535
Each humbly kiss’d his knee, or hand, or face;
He knows them all; in all such truth appears,
Ev’n he indulges the sweet joy of tears.
 
 
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