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The Wine Red Sea:  Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 - 2018 by Peter J Ponzio

Interview with the Queen - Book XIX

Autoclytus was Odysseus’ maternal grandfather, and gave the boy his name, telling his daughter Anticleia: . . .give the boy the name I tell you now.  Just as I have come from afar, creating pain for many- men and women across the good green earth- so let his name by Odysseus. . . the Son of Pain, a name he’ll earn in full.  (XIX 459-464) And so, Eurycleia, along with Penelope, recognizes the man, and the reader is finally made aware of the origins of the name of the hero.  The poem then makes a diversion to relate the hunt for the boar.   The slight diversion creates a tension just before the formal recognition scene is played out between Odysseus and Eurycleia: That scar - as the old nurse cradled his leg and her hands passed down she felt it, knew it, suddenly let his foot fall- down it dropped in the basin-the bronze clanged, tipping over, spilling water across the floor. Joy and torment gripped her heart at once, tears rushed to her eyes-voice choked in her throat she reached for Odysseus’ chin and whispered quickly, ‘Yes, yes! you are Odysseus - oh dear boy- I couldn’t know you before. . . not till I touched the body of my king! (XIX 528-538) Odysseus, mindful of his tenuous position at the palace, replies to Eurycleia as follows: Nurse, you want to kill me?  You suckled me yourself Eurycleia washes Odysseus’ feet at your own breast-and now I’m home, at last, after bearing twenty years of brutal hardship, home on native ground.  But now you know, now that a god has flashed it in your mind, quiet!  not a word to anyone in the house.  (XIX 545 - 550) The old nurse vowed to keep his identity a secret and vowed to provide assistance if she could.  After Eurycleia completed her task, Penelope asked the stranger for advice, wanting to know if she should remain true to Odysseus, or marry the best of the suitors.  She then related a dream to the stranger, telling him about a great eagle that swooped down from the mountains and killed twenty geese that she kept in the courtyard.  Then the eagle called to her in a human voice, saying:  Courage, daughter of famous King Icarius! This is no dream but a happy waking vision, real as day, that will come true for you. The geese were your suitors-I was once the eagle but now I am your husband, back again at last, about to launch a terrible fate against them all!  (XIX 615-620)