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

The Beggar at the Palace - Book XVII

As if his taunts weren’t enough, Melanthius attempted to trip Odysseus as he walked.  The man of sorrows debated whether to beat the goat herder senseless or upbraid him; reminding himself of his peril lest he be discovered, Odysseus said nothing.  Eumaeus, however, could not keep quiet and invoked the aid of the fountain- gods, saying: O nymphs of the fountain, daughters of Zeus- if Odysseus ever burned you the long thighs of lambs or kids, covered with rich fat, now bring my prayer to pass! Let that man come back-some god guide him now! He’d toss to the winds the flashy show you make, Melanthius, so cocksure-always strutting round the town while worthless fieldhands leave your flocks a shambles! (XVII 263-270) Melanthius, hearing the harsh words of Eumaeus defied him, and vowed that he would personally assist the suitors in selling him to a foreign master.  He also hinted that the suitors planned to dispatch Telemachus at their earliest opportunity.  Melanthius departed to make himself comfortable among the suitors, while Odysseus and the swineherd made their way toward the palace.  After consulting, they determined that Eumaeus should enter the palace first, followed by Odysseus. As they walked into the palace, an old dog, Argos by name, lifted up his muzzle and recognized his master.  Homer describes this touching passage as follows:  “But the moment he sensed Odysseus standing by/he thumped his tail, nuzzling low, and his ears dropped,/though he had no strength to drag himself an inch/toward his master, Odysseus glanced to the side/and flicked away a tear, hiding it from Eumaeus. . .But the dark shadow of death closed down on Argos’ eyes/ the instant he saw Odysseus, twenty years away” (XVII 330-334; 359-360).   Ulysses and his Dog Eumaeus walked into the palace, with Odysseus, still in disguise, following him.  He entered looking like a beggar, and sat down against a post.  Telemachus motioned to Eumaeus and instructed him to give the beggar a fine portion of food and drink.  Odysseus accepted the meal from the prince, saying:  “Powerful Zeus. . . grant that your prince be blest among mankind-/and all his heart’s desires come to pass!” (XVII 387-390).