Book 18

The beggar Irus arrives at the palace; a combat takes place between him and Ulysses, in which Irus is by one blow vanquished. Penelope appears to the suitors, and having reminded them of the presents which she had a right to expect from them, receives a gift from each. Eurymachus, provoked by a speech of Ulysses, flings a foot-stool at him, which knocks down the cup-bearer; a general tumult is the consequence, which continues, till by the advice of Telemachus, seconded by Amphinomus, the suitors retire to their respective homes.

   Now came a public mendicant, a man
Accustom’d, seeking alms, to roam the streets
Of Ithaca; one never sated yet
With food or drink; yet muscle had he none,
Or strength of limb, though giant-built in show.
Arnæus was the name which at his birth
His mother gave him, but the youthful band
Of suitors, whom as messenger he served,
All named him Irus. He, arriving, sought
To drive Ulysses forth from his own home,
And in rough accents rude him thus rebuked.

   Forth from the porch, old man! lest by the foot
I drag thee quickly forth. Seest not how all
Wink on me, and by signs give me command
To drag thee hence? nor is it aught but shame
That checks me. Yet arise, lest soon with fists
Thou force me to adjust our diff’rence.

   To whom Ulysses, low’ring dark, replied.
Peace, fellow! neither word nor deed of mine
Wrongs thee, nor feel I envy at the boon,
However plentiful, which thou receiv’st.
The sill may hold us both; thou dost not well
To envy others; thou appear’st like me
A vagrant; plenty is the gift of heav’n.
But urge me not to trial of our fists,
Lest thou provoke me, and I stain with blood
Thy bosom and thy lips, old as I am.
So, my attendance should to-morrow prove
More tranquil here; for thou should’st leave, I judge,
Ulysses’ mansion, never to return.

   Then answer’d Irus, kindling with disdain.
Gods! with what volubility of speech
The table-hunter prates, like an old hag
Collied with chimney-smutch! but ah beware!
For I intend thee mischief, and to dash
With both hands ev’ry grinder from thy gums,
As men untooth a pig pilf’ring the corn.
Come—gird thee, that all here may view the strife—
But how will thou oppose one young as I?

   Thus on the threshold of the lofty gate
They, wrangling, chafed each other, whose dispute
The high-born youth Antinoüs mark’d; he laugh’d
Delighted, and the suitors thus address’d.

   Oh friends! no pastime ever yet occurr’d
Pleasant as this which, now, the Gods themselves
Afford us. Irus and the stranger brawl
As they would box. Haste—let us urge them on.

   He said; at once loud-laughing all arose;
The ill-clad disputants they round about
Encompass’d, and Antinoüs thus began.

   Attend ye noble suitors to my voice.
Two paunches lie of goats here on the fire,
Which fill’d with fat and blood we set apart
For supper; he who conquers, and in force
Superior proves, shall freely take the paunch
Which he prefers, and shall with us thenceforth
Feast always; neither will we here admit
Poor man beside to beg at our repasts.

   He spake, whom all approved; next, artful Chief
Ulysses thus, dissembling, them address’d.

   Princes! unequal is the strife between
A young man and an old with mis’ry worn;
But hunger, always counsellor of ill,
Me moves to fight, that many a bruise received,
I may be foil’d at last. Now swear ye all
A solemn oath, that none, for Irus; sake
Shall, interposing, smite me with his fist
Clandestine, forcing me to yield the prize.

   He ceas’d, and, as he bade, all present swore
A solemn oath; then thus, amid them all
Standing, Telemachus majestic spake.


  By PanEris using Melati.

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