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

The Beggar at the Palace - Book XVII

At the start of book XVII, Telemachus decides to return to the palace to see his mother.  He then asked Eumaeus to accompany Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, to town where he could beg for his meals.  Arriving at the palace, the prince was greeted first by Eurycleia, his old nurse, and then Penelope’s attendants joined in greeting him.  Penelope was last to greet the prince, embracing him amid tears of joy and inquiring about his journey.   Discreetly, she asked if he’d heard news of his father.  Telemachus, made circumspect by the advice of his father, asked Penelope to retire to her chambers and there pray to the gods that they would both be delivered from the suitors. Telemachus then entered the courtyard of the palace where the suitors were all gathered, looking for all the world like they were happy to see him, but plotting against him in their hearts.  Telemachus made his way to where his friends were gathered, and they discussed when and how to bring the gifts the prince received on his journey, to the palace.  But Telemachus, now on his guard, advised his friends to bring the gifts to the house of Piraeus, one of his most trusted companions. Making their way back into the palace, Telemachus and his friends bathed and then ate a meal.  After the meal was done, Penelope approached the prince and once again asked for news of Odysseus.  Telemachus began with his journey to Pylos, and the welcome he received from King Nestor, who treated him as a son.  Unfortunately, the old Geranian heard no news of great Odysseus.  Next, he told Penelope of his journey to Sparta, where he met Menelaus of the loud war cry, and Penelope’s cousin, Helen:  “And there I saw her, Helen of Argos-all for her/Achaeans and Trojans suffered so much hardship,/thanks to the god’s decree” (XVII 126- 128). Here at last, the prince heard news of Odysseus; for Menelaus learned of Odysseus’ fate from Proteus, the old man of the sea:  “He said he’d seen Odysseus on an island,/ground down in misery, off in a goddess’ house,/the nymph Calypso, who holds him there by force./He has no way to voyage home to his own native land. . .”  (XVII 152-155).  Theoclymenus, the seer brought to Ithaca by Telemachus, added his own voice to lend credence to the words of Telemachus:  “I sear by Zeus, the first of all the gods,/by this table of hospitality here, my host,/by Odysseus’ hearth where I have come for help-/I swear Odysseus is on native soil, here and now!” (XVII 168- 171).  Penelope, hoping against hope, could only answer “if only.” Odysseus, the beggar, and Eumaeus In the meantime, Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, made his way to the town, following Eumaeus, the loyal swineherd.  As they reached the fountain outside the town, Odysseus and Eumaeus stopped to make an offering to the gods of the fountain, and Melanthius, a goatherd, crossed their path.  As he approached the two companions, Melanthius berated them saying: Look. . . one scum nosing another scum along, dirt finds dirt by the will of god-it never fails! Wretched pig-boy, where do you take your filthy swine, this sickening beggar who licks the pots at feasts? Hanging round the doorposts, rubbing his back, scavenging after scraps, no hero’s swords and cauldrons, not for him.  (XVII 236-242)