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Odysseus/Ulysses

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Bianca
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« on: June 23, 2008, 05:52:15 pm »











II. THE IMPORTUNATE SUITORS



Now, one by one, the other heroes reached their homes, and the news of their coming was carried [159] to every part of Greece. But of Ulysses and his companions there came no word whether they were living or dead. Daily did Penelope and young Telemachus and feeble old Laertes stand by the shore and gaze with aching eyes far over the waves. No sign of sail or of glinting oars could they discern. Months passed by and then years, and still no word.

"His ships are wrecked, and he lies at the bottom of the sea," sighed old Laertes; and after that he shut himself up in his narrow room and went no more to the shore.

"Surely Ulysses has perished," said the men and women of Ithaca; "else some news would come to us of his whereabouts."

But Penelope still hoped and hoped and hoped. "He is not dead," she said; "and until he comes I will hold this fair kingdom for him."

Every day his seat was placed for him at the table; his house coat was hung by his chair; his chamber was aired and dusted; his great bow that hung in the hall was polished and kept supple.

Ten years passed thus with constant watching. Telemachus had become a young man, graceful and tall and gentle-mannered; and his mother's queenly beauty had not faded with the lapse of time, but grace and dignity were added to her girlish loveliness. Throughout all Greece fair [160] Penelope's fame was sounded. Men talked of nothing but the charms of her face and form, the sweetness of her manners, and the nobleness of her mind.

"But how foolish of her," said they, "to be forever looking for Ulysses. Everybody knows that he is dead. She ought to marry some one of the young chieftains of Greece and share with him the kingdom of Ithaca; for no woman in the world is more richly endowed than she."

The chieftains and princes who were looking for wives took the hint at once. One after another they sailed to Ithaca, hoping to win the love of Penelope and also the riches which were said to be hers. The first to arrive was Antinous, a young spendthrift, haughty, overbearing, and insolent. After him came Agelaus, a foppish fellow, proud of his slender figure and fine clothes and long, curling hair. The third was a rich old merchant, Leocritus, fat and pompous, and glorying in his wealth. Scarcely were these landed safely in Ithaca before many others arrived, whose names have been forgotten, as they deserved to be.

Straight to the palace they went, with their servants and belongings, not waiting for an invitation. For they knew that they would be treated as honored guests, whether they were welcome or not.

[161] "Penelope," they said, "it is not the custom in our country for a widow to live long unwedded. We have come as suitors for your hand, and you dare not turn us all away. Choose, now, the man among us who pleases you best, and the rest will forthwith depart." And then each one began to tell of his own good qualities, of his noble family, his powerful friends, his wealth, and his courage.

But Penelope answered sadly, "Princes and heroes, this cannot be; for I am quite sure that Ulysses still lives, and I must hold his kingdom for him till he returns."

"Return, he never will," answered the suitors. "So make your choice, as becomes your duty."

"Give me yet a week, a month, to wait for him," she pleaded. "In my loom I have a half-finished web of soft linen. I am weaving it for the shroud of our father, Laertes, who is very old and cannot live much longer. If Ulysses fails to return by the time this web is finished, then I will choose, although unwillingly."

"Will you work upon this web every day?" asked Antinous.

"Every day," she answered, "I will sit at my loom and weave the web. It would be a sin, indeed, if Laertes should go to the grave while the shroud is unfinished."

[162] "Let her delay her choice as she desires," said Agelaus. "In the meantime, we will enjoy ourselves."

Forthwith the suitors made themselves at home in the palace. They seized upon the best of everything. They feasted daily in the great dining hall, eating and wasting the provisions that had been stored away with greatest care against the homecoming of Ulysses. They helped themselves to the wine in the cellar and to the fruits and flowers in the garden. They were rude and uproarious in the once quiet and beautiful chambers of the palace. They were insolent and overbearing to the servants and friends of Penelope, and they kept the people of Ithaca in constant terror by reason of their lawless deeds.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 05:06:21 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.


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