But when, as they went along the rugged path,
they were near the city, and had come to a well-wrought, fair-flowing fountain, wherefrom the townsfolk drew water—this Ithacus had made, and Neritus, and Polyctor, and around was a grove of poplars, that grow by the waters, circling it on all sides, and down the cold water flowed
from the rock above, and on the top was built an altar to the nymphs where all passers-by made offerings—there Melantheus, son of Dolius, met them as he was driving his she-goats, the best that were in all the herds, to make a feast for the wooers; and two herdsmen followed with him.
As he saw them, he spoke and addressed them, and reviled them in terrible and unseemly words, and stirred the heart of Odysseus:
“Lo, now, in very truth the vile leads the vile. As ever, the god is bringing like and like together. Whither, pray, art thou leading this filthy wretch,1
thou miserable swineherd,
this nuisance of a beggar to mar our feasts? He is a man to stand and rub his shoulders on many doorposts, begging for scraps, not for swords or cauldrons.2
If thou wouldest give me this fellow to keep my farmstead, to sweep out the pens and to carry young shoots to the kids,
then by drinking whey he might get himself a sturdy thigh. But since he has learned only deeds of evil, he will not care to busy himself with work, but is minded rather to go skulking through the land, that by begging he may feed his insatiate belly. But I will speak out to thee, and this word shall verily be brought to pass.
If he comes to the palace of divine Odysseus, many a footstool, hurled about his head by the hands of those that are men, shall be broken on his ribs3
as he is pelted through the house.”
So he spoke, and as he passed he kicked Odysseus on the hip in his folly, yet he did not drive him from the path,
but he stood steadfast. And Odysseus pondered whether he should leap upon him and take his life with his staff, or seize him round about,4
and lift him up, and dash his head upon the ground. Yet he endured, and stayed him from his purpose. And the swineherd looked the man in the face, and rebuked him, and lifted up his hands, and prayed aloud:
“Nymphs of the fountain, daughters of Zeus, if ever Odysseus burned upon your altars pieces of the thighs of lambs or kids, wrapped in rich fat, fulfil for me this prayer; grant that he, my master, may come back, and that some god may guide him. Then would he scatter all the proud airs
which now thou puttest on in thy insolence,ever roaming about the city, while evil herdsmen destroy the flock.”