“All, all are foes, and mischief is their end;
Antinous most to gloomy death a friend
(Replies the queen): the stranger begg’d their grace,
And melting pity soften’d every face;
From every other hand redress he found,
But fell Antinous answer’d with a wound.”
Amidst her maids thus spoke the prudent queen,
Then bade Eumaeus call the pilgrim in.
“Much of the experienced man I long to hear,
If or his certain eye, or listening ear,
Have learn’d the fortunes of my wandering lord?”
Thus she, and good Eumaeus took the word:
“A private audience if thy grace impart,
The stranger’s words may ease the royal heart.
His sacred eloquence in balm distils,
And the soothed heart with secret pleasure fills.
Three days have spent their beams, three nights have run
Their silent journey, since his tale begun,
Unfinish’d yet; and yet I thirst to hear!
As when some heaven-taught poet charms the ear
(Suspending sorrow with celestial strain
Breathed from the gods to soften human pain)
Time steals away with unregarded wing,
And the soul hears him, though he cease to sing
“Ulysses late he saw, on Cretan ground
(His fathers guest), for Minos’ birth renown’d.
He now but waits the wind to waft him o’er,
With boundless treasure, from Thesprotia’s shore.”
To this the queen: “The wanderer let me
While yon luxurious race indulge their cheer,
Devour the grazing ox, and browsing goat,
And turn my generous vintage down their throat.
For where’s an arm, like thine, Ulysses! strong,
To curb wild riot, and to punish wrong?”
She spoke. Telemachus then sneezed aloud;
Constrain’d, his nostril echoed through the crowd.
The smiling queen the happy omen bless’d:
“So may these impious fall, by Fate oppress’d!”
Then to Eumaeus: “Bring the stranger, fly!
And if my questions meet a true reply,
Graced with a decent robe he shall retire,
A gift in season which his wants require.”
Thus spoke Penelope. Eumaeus flies
In duteous haste, and to Ulysses cries:
“The queen invites thee, venerable guest!
A secret instinct moves her troubled breast,
Of her long absent lord from thee to gain
Some light, and soothe her soul’s eternal pain.
If true, if faithful thou, her grateful mind
Of decent robes a present has design’d:
So finding favour in the royal eye,
Thy other wants her subjects shall supply.”
“Fair truth alone (the patient man replied)
My words shall dictate, and my lips shall guide.
To him, to me, one common lot was given,
In equal woes, alas! involved by Heaven.
Much of his fates I know; but check’d by fear
I stand; the hand of violence is here:
Here boundless wrongs the starry skies invade,
And injured suppliants seek in vain for aid.
Let for a space the pensive queen attend,
Nor claim my story till the sun descend;
Then in such robes as suppliants may require,
Composed and cheerful by the genial fire,
When loud uproar and lawless riot cease,
Shall her pleased ear receive my words in peace.”