Antinous alone answered him, and said:
“Telemachus, thou braggart, unrestrained in daring, what a thing hast thou said, putting us to shame, and wouldest fain fasten reproach upon us! Nay, I tell thee, it is not the Achaean wooers who are anywise at fault, but thine own mother, for she is crafty above all women. For it is now the third year and the fourth will soon pass,1
since she has been deceiving the hearts of the Achaeans in their breasts. To all she offers hopes, and has promises for each man, sending them messages, but her mind is set on other things. And she devised in her heart this guileful thing also: she set up in her halls a great web, and fell to weaving—
fine of thread was the web and very wide; and straightway she spoke among us:
“‘Young men, my wooers, since goodly Odysseus is dead, be patient, though eager for my marriage, until I finish this robe—I would not that my spinning should come to naught—a shroud for the lord Laertes, against the time when
the fell fate of grievous2
death shall strike him down; lest any of the Achaean women in the land should be wroth with me, if he, who had won great possessions, were to lie without a shroud.’
“So she spoke, and our proud hearts consented. Then day by day she would weave at the great web,
but by night would unravel it, when she had let place torches by her. Thus for three years she by her craft kept the Achaeans from knowing, and beguiled them; but when the fourth year came as the seasons rolled on, even then one of her women who knew all told us, and we caught her unravelling the splendid web.
So she finished it against her will, perforce. Therefore to thee the wooers make answer thus, that thou mayest thyself know it in thine heart, and that all the Achaeans may know. Send away thy mother, and command her to wed whomsoever her father bids, and whoso is pleasing to her.
But if she shall continue long time to vex the sons of the Achaeans, mindful in her heart of this, that Athena has endowed her above other women with knowledge of fair handiwork and an understanding heart, and wiles, such as we have never yet heard that any even of the women of old knew, of those who long ago were fair-tressed Achaean women—
Tyro and Alcmene and Mycene of the fair crown—of whom not one was like Penelope in shrewd device; yet this at least she devised not aright. For so long shall men devour thy livelihood and thy possessions, even as long as she shall keep the counsel which
the gods now put in her heart. Great fame she brings on herself, but on thee regret for thy much substance. For us, we will go neither to our lands nor else whither, until she marries that one of the Achaeans whom she will.”