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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Rhapsody 14

Translated by S. Butcher and A. Lang

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 Odysseus, in the form of a beggar, goes to Eumaeus, the master of his swine, where he is well used and tells a feigned story, and informs himself of the behaviour of the wooers.

 But Odysseus fared forth from the haven by the rough track, up the wooded country and through the heights, where Athene had showed him that he should find the goodly swineherd, who cared most for his substance of all the thralls that goodly Odysseus had gotten.

 Now he found him sitting at the vestibule of the house, where his courtyard was builded high, in a place with wide prospect; a great court it was and a fair, with free range round it. This the swineherd had builded by himself for the swine of his lord who was afar, and his mistress and the old man Laertes knew not of it. With stones from the quarry had he builded it, and coped it with a fence of white thorn, and he had split an oak to the dark core, and without he had driven stakes the whole length thereof on either side, set thick and close; and within the courtyard he made twelve styes hard by one another to be beds for the swine, and in each stye fifty grovelling swine were penned, brood swine; but the boars slept without. Now these were far fewer in number, the godlike wooers minishing them at their feasts, for the swineherd ever sent in the best of all the fatted hogs. And their tale was three hundred and three-score. And by them always slept four dogs, as fierce as wild beasts, which the swineherd had bred, a master of men. Now he was fitting sandals to his feet, cutting a good brown oxhide, while the rest of his fellows, three in all, were abroad this way and that, with the droves of swine; while the fourth he had sent to the city to take a boar to the proud wooers, as needs he must, that they might sacrifice it and satisfy their soul with flesh.

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