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TELEMACHUS, in the assembly of the lords of Ithaca, complains of the injustice done him by the suitors, and insists upon their departure from his palace; appealing to the princes, and exciting the people to declare against them. The suitors endeavour to justify their stay, at least till he shall send the queen to the court of Icarius her father; which he refuses. There appears a prodigy of two eagles in the sky, which an augur expounds to the ruin of the suitors. Telemachus then demands a vessel to carry him to Pylos and Sparta, there to inquire of his father's fortunes. Pallas in the shape of Mentor (an ancient friend of Ulysses) helps him to a ship, assists him in preparing necessaries for the voyage, and embarks with him that night; which concludes the second day from the opening of the poem.
The scene continues in the palace of Ulysses in Ithaca.
Now reddening from the dawn the morning ray
Glow'd in the front of heaven, and gave the day.
The youthful hero, with returning light,
Rose anxious from the' inquietudes of night.
A royal robe he wore with graceful pride,
A two-edg'd falchion threaten'd by his side,
Embroider'd sandals glitter'd as he trod,
And forth he mov'd majestic as a god.
Then by his heralds, restless of delay,
To council calls the peers: the peers obey.
Soon as in solemn form the' assembly sat,
From his high dome himself descends in state.
Bright in his hand a ponderous javelin shin'd;
Two dogs, a faithful guard, attend behind;
Pallas with grace divine his form improves,
And gazing crowds admire him as he moves.
His father's throne he fill'd: while distant stood The hoary peers, and aged wisdom bow'd.
"Twas silence all. At last Egyptius spoke: Ægyptius, by his age and sorrows broke:
A length of days his soul with prudence crown'd, A length of days had bent him to the ground.
His eldest hope' in arms to Ilion came,
By great Ulysses taught the path to fame;
But (hapless youth!) the hideous Cyclops tore
His quivering limbs, and quaff'd his spouting gore.
Three sons remain'd: to climb with haughty fires
The royal bed, Eurynomus aspires;
The rest with duteous love his griefs assuage,
And ease the sire of half the cares of age.
Yet still his Antiphus he loves, he mourns,
And as he stood, he spoke and wept by turns:
'Since great Ulysses sought the Phrygian plains,
Within these walls inglorious silence reigns.
Say then, ye peers! by whose commands we meet?
Why here once more in solemn council sit?
Ye young, ye old, the weighty cause disclose:
Arrives some message of invading foes?
Or say, does high necessity of state
Inspire some patriot, and demand debate:
The present synod speaks its author wise;
Assist him, Jove, thou regent of the skies!'
He spoke. Telemachus with transport glows, Embrac'd the omen, and majestic rose;
(His royal hand the' imperial sceptre sway'd) Then thus, addressing to Ægyptius, said:
'Reverend old man! lo here confess'd he stands By whom ye meet; my grief your care demands. No story I unfold of public woes,
Nor bear advices of impending foes:
Peace the bless'd land, and joys incessant crown;
Of all this happy realm, I grieve alone.
For my lost sire continual sorrows spring,
The great, the good: your father, and your king!
Yet more; our house from its foundation bows,
Our foes are powerful, and your sons the foes:
Hither, unwelcome to the queen, they come ;
Why seek they not the rich Icarian dome?
If she must wed, from other hands require
The dowry: is Telemachus her sire;
Yet through my court the noise of revel rings,
And wastes the wise frugality of kings.
Scarce all my herds their luxury suffice;
Scarce all my wine their midnight hours supplies.
Safe in my youth, in riot still they grow,
Nor in the helpless orphan dread a foe.
But come it will, the time when manhood grants
More powerful advocates than vain complaints.
Approach that hour! unsufferable wrong
Cries to the gods, and vengeance sleeps too long.
Rise then, ye peers! with virtuous anger rise;
Your fame revere, but most the' avenging skies.
By all the deathless powers that reign above,
By righteous Themis and by thundering Jove,
(Themis, who gives to councils, or denies
Success; and humbles, or confirms the wise)
Rise in my aid! suffice the tears that flow
For my lost sire, nor add new woe to woe.
If e'er he bore the sword to strengthen ill,
Or having power to wrong, betray'd the will,
On me, on me your kindled wrath assuage,
And bid the voice of lawless riot rage.
If ruin, to our royal race ye doom,
Be you the spoilers, and our wealth consume.
Then might we hope redress from juster laws,
And raise all Ithaca to aid our cause :
But while your sons commit the' unpunish'd wrong,
You make the arm of violence too strong.'
While thus he spoke, with rage and grief he frown'd, And dash'd the' imperial sceptre to the ground.
The big round tear hung trembling in his
The synod griev'd, and gave a pitying sigh,
Then silent sat-at length Antinous burns
With haughty rage, and sternly thus returns:
'O insolence of youth! whose tongue affords
Such railing eloquence, and war of words.
Studious thy country's worthies to defame,
Thy erring voice displays thy Mother's shame.
Elusive of the bridal day, she gives
Fond hopes to all, and all with hopes deceives.
Did not the sun, through heaven's wide azure roll'd,
For three long years the royal fraud behold!
While she, laborious in delusion spread
The spacious loom, and mix'd the various thread;
Where as to life the wondrous figures rise,
Thus spoke the' inventive queen, with artful sighs:
"Tho' cold in death Ulysses breathes no more,
Cease yet a while to urge the bridal hour;
Cease, till to great Laërtes I bequeath
A task of grief, his ornaments of death:
Lest when the fates his royal ashes claim,
The Grecian matrons taint my spotless fame;
When he, whom living mighty realms obey'd,
Shall want in death a shroud to grace his shade.'
Thus she at once the generous train complies,
Nor fraud mistrusts in virtue's fair disguise.
The work she plied; but studious of delay,
By night revers'd the labours of the day.
While thrice the sun his annual journey made,
The conscious lamp the midnight fraud survey'd ;
Unheard, unseen, three years her arts prevail;
The fourth, her maid unfolds the' amazing tale.
We saw, as unperceiv'd we took our stand,
The backward labours of her faithless hand.