So saying, he led the way, and Pallas Athena followed. And when they were within the lofty house, he bore the spear and set it against a tall pillar in a polished spear-rack, where were set many spears besides, even those of Odysseus of the steadfast heart.
Athena herself he led and seated on a chair, spreading a linen cloth beneath—a beautiful chair, richly-wrought,1
and below was a footstool for the feet. Beside it he placed for himself an inlaid seat, apart from the others, the wooers, lest the stranger, vexed by their din, should loathe the meal, seeing that he was in the company of overweening men;
and also that he might ask him about his father that was gone. Then a handmaid brought water for the hands in a fair pitcher of gold, and poured it over a silver basin for them to wash, and beside them drew up a polished table. And the grave housewife brought and set before them bread,
and therewith dainties in abundance, giving freely of her store. And a carver lifted up and placed before them platters of all manner of meats, and set by them golden goblets, while a herald ever walked to and fro pouring them wine.
Then in came the proud wooers, and thereafter
sat them down in rows on chairs and high seats. Heralds poured water over their hands, and maid-servants heaped by them bread in baskets, and youths filled the bowls brim full of drink; and they put forth their hands to the good cheer lying ready before them.
Now after the wooers had put from them the desire of food and drink, their hearts turned to other things, to song and to dance; for these things are the crown of a feast. And a herald put the beautiful lyre in the hands of Phemius, who sang perforce among the wooers;
and he struck the chords in prelude2
to his sweet lay.
But Telemachus spoke to flashing-eyed Athena, holding his head close, that the others might not hear: “Dear stranger, wilt thou be wroth with me for the word that I shall say? These men care for things like these, the lyre and song,
full easily, seeing that without atonement they devour the livelihood of another, of a man whose white bones, it may be, rot in the rain as they lie upon the mainland, or the wave rolls them in the sea. Were they to see him returned to Ithaca
, they would all pray to be swifter of foot,
rather than richer in gold and in raiment. But now he has thus perished by an evil doom, nor for us is there any comfort, no, not though any one of men upon the earth should say that he will come; gone is the day of his returning. But come, tell me this, and declare it truly.
Who art thou among men, and from whence? Where is thy city and where thy parents? On what manner of ship didst thou come, and how did sailors bring thee to Ithaca
? Who did they declare themselves to be? For nowise, methinks, didst thou come hither on foot. And tell me this also truly, that I may know full well,
whether this is thy first coming hither, or whether thou art indeed a friend of my father's house. For many were the men who came to our house as strangers, since he, too, had gone to and fro3