‘I will tell you who it is,’ he said, ’who has called the men of Ithaka together in council, and for what purpose. Revered lord AEgyptus, I have called you together, but not because I have had tidings of the return of my father, the renowned Odysseus, nor because I would speak to you about some affair of our country. No. I would speak to you all because I suffer and because I am at a loss—I, whose father was King over you, praised by you all. Odysseus is long away from Ithaka, and I deem that he will never return. You have lost your King. But you can put another King to rule over you. I have lost my father, and I can have no other father in all my days. And that is not all my loss, as I will show you now, men of Ithaka.
’For three years now my mother has been beset by men who come to woo her to be wife for one of them. Day after day they come to our house and kill and devour our beasts and waste the wine that was laid up against my father’s return. They waste our goods and our wealth. If I were nearer manhood I would defend my house against them. But as yet I am not able to do it, and so I have to stand by and see our house and substance being destroyed.’
So Telemachus spoke, and when his speech was ended Antinous, who was one of the wooers, rose up.
‘Telemachus,’ said he, ’why do you try to put us to shame in this way? I tell all here that it is not we but your mother who is to blame. We, knowing her husband Odysseus is no longer in life, have asked her to become the wife of one of us. She gives us no honest answer. Instead she has given her mind to a device to keep us still waiting.
’I will tell you of the council what this device is. The lady Penelope set up a great loom in her house and began to weave a wide web of cloth. To each of us she sent a message saying that when the web she was working at was woven, she would choose a husband from amongst us. “Laertes, the father of Odysseus, is alone with none to care for him living or dead,” said she to us. “I must weave a shroud for him against the time which cannot now be far off when old Laertes dies. Trouble me not while I do this. For if he should die and there be no winding-sheet to wrap him round all the women of the land would blame me greatly.”
’We were not oppressive and we left the lady Penelope to weave the web, and the months have gone by and still the web is not woven. But even now we have heard from one of her maids how Penelope tries to finish her task. What she weaves in the daytime she unravels at night. Never, then, can the web be finished and so does she try to cheat us.
’She has gained praise from the people for doing this. “How wise is Penelope,” they say, “with her devices.” Let her be satisfied with their praise then, and leave us alone. We too have our devices. We will live at her house and eat and drink there and give orders to her servants and we shall see which will satisfy her best—to give an answer or to let the wealth of her house be wasted.