But we must return back to the banquet, in which Homer very ingeniously devises a subject for conversation, by comparing the acquisition of riches with that of a friend. For he does not put it forward as a grave proposition for discussion, but Menelaus inserts it in his conversation very gracefully, after he has heard them praise himself and his good fortune; not denying that he is rich, but from that very circumstance deprecating envy, for he says that he has acquired those riches so that,
When my woes are weigh'd,He does not indeed think it right to compare himself with the gods—
Envy will own the purchase dearly paid.1
The monarch took the word, and grave replied—But then, after displaying his affectionate disposition as a brother, and saying that he is compelled to live and to be rich, he opposes to this the consideration of friendship—
Presumptuous are the vaunts, and vain the pride
Of man who dares in pomp with Jove contest,
Unchanged, immortal, and supremely blest.
Oh, had the gods so large a boon denied,Who could there be then of the descendants of those men who had died in his cause, who would not think his grief for the death of his father as fair a compensation as could be given by grateful recollection? But still, that he may not appear to look upon them all in the same light, though they had all equally shown their good-will to him, he adds—
And life, the just equivalent, supplied
To those brave warriors who, with glory fired,
Far from their country in my cause expired.
But oh! Ulysses,—deeper than the rest,And that he may not seem to disregard any one of his family he names them all separately—
That sad idea wounds my anxious breast;
My heart bleeds fresh with agonising pain,
The bowl and tasteful viands tempt in vain.
Doubtful of his doom,And while he is weeping at the recollection of his father, Menelaus observes him; and, in the interim, Helen had come in, and she also conjectured who Telemachus was from his likeness to Ulysses, (for women, because of their habit of observing one another's modesty, are wonderfully clever at detecting the likeness of children to their parents,) and after Pisistratus had interfered with some observation, (for it was not fitting for him to stand by like a mute on the stage,) and said something appropriate and elegant about the modesty of Telemachus; again Menelaus made mention of his affection for Ulysses, that of all men in the world he was the one in whose companionship he wished to grow old.
His good old sire with sorrow to the tomb
[p. 304] Declines his trembling steps; untimely care
Withers the blooming vigour of his heir;
And the chaste partner of his bed and throne
Wastes all her widow'd hours in tender moan.