On July 13 I posted “4 ‘Being together’ in Plato’s Protagoras (with a glance at his Lesser Hippias and his Phaedo)”, which open with the words “Socrates describes what he and his friend saw when they entered Callias’ house: ‘When we came in we found Protagoras walking in the colonnade.’ When he says whom he saw next, he speaks in the singular: “And after him I recognized”, as Homer says, Hippias of Elis.”
It was at that point that I realized I had to read the passage in the Odyssey to which Socrates referred, if I were to understand the scene.
On July 23 I posted “1 Bertrand Russell on ‘The Theory of Ideas’ and Plato’s Republic” which open with the words ‘In the last few days I felt like Odysseus – roaming through centuries of thought. Plato’s Protagoras took me to Book XI of Homer’s Odyssey, and reading Homer aloud, just for myself, is always a treat. Odysseus’ encounter with the dead in that Book made me go back to see how Odysseus got there, and start at the beginning.’
On July 29 I posted ‘A few days with the 3rd Book of Homer’s Odyssey’ which open with the words ‘I left the Odyssey at the beginning of the 3rd Book when I turned to Russel’s History of Western Philosophy. After a day with Russell I turned back to the Odyssey.’ I found the 3rd book particularly enjoyable, and since I wanted to share my enjoyment with those who follow my blog, I had to translate passages I particularly liked, for I did not have any translation at hand. What prompted/challenged me to do so was Stanford’s note on Odyssey XI. 96: ‘Teiresias, being specially privileged, does not have to drink the blood before he can speak, but he desires to drink it as a strengthening tonic (cp. stories of vampires). The greatest classical scholar of recent years, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff of Berlin, found a parable here for modern students of the Classics: the ancient authors cannot speak fully to us till they have drunk our heart’s blood – that is till they have entered into our feelings and emotions as well as our hearts.’
Doing classics in those days meant translating from Ancient Greek into German, from German into Ancient Greek. I have been firmly opposed to that practice; it is very laborious, and it leaves even its best practitioners unable to understand Greek directly in Greek; they must translate the Greek into the German/English/Czech, in order to understand it. But when one understands the Greek without translating it in one’s head, one can translate, if need be.
And so I did translate considerable amount of the 3rd book, and to my surprise I enjoyed every minute of it. But I did not feel like Homer drinking my blood, I felt like drinking Homer’s verses as a strengthening tonic.
The last book of the Odyssey opens with Hermes rousing up the souls of Penelope’s Suitors – killed by Odysseus and his son Telemachus – and marshalling them into the Hades. Here they found the souls of Achilles and Agamemnon. The latter was surrounded by the souls of those who died with him, slaughtered in Aegisthus’ house. The soul of Achilles spoke first: ‘Agamemnon, we used to think of you, among all our princes, as the life-long favourite of Zeus the Thunderer (Atreidȇ, peri men s’ ephamen Dii terpikeraunȏi andrȏn hȇrȏȏn philon emmenai ȇmata panta), because of the great and gallant army you commanded in Troyland when we Achaeans fought those hard campaigns (houneka polloisin te kai iphthimoisin anasses dȇmȏi eni Trȏȏn, hothi paschomen alge Achaioi). But you too were to be visited in your prime by the fell power whom no man born can evade (ȇ t’ ara kai soi prȏї parastȇsesthai emelle moir’ oloȇ, tȇn ou tis aleuetai hos ke genȇtai). How I wish you could have met your fate and died at Troy in the full enjoyment of your royal state (hȏs opheles timȇs aponȇmenos, hȇs per anasses, dȇmȏi eni Trȏȏn thanaton kai potmon epispein). For then the whole nation would have joined in building you a mound (tȏi ken toi tumbon men epoiȇsan Pananachaioi) and you would have left a great name for your son to inherit (ȇde ke kai sȏi paidi mega kleos ȇra opissȏ). But as things were, you were doomed to die a most appalling death (nun d’ ara s’ oiktistȏi thanatȏi heimarto halȏnai).’ (Odyssey XXIV, 24-34, tr. E. V. Rieu in Penguin Classics)
Reading a good translation is like having at hand a good commentary, or having a discussion with someone who spent years with Homer. I hope that those who have some Greek will enjoy the Greek original in brackets, for I believe that reading the text in English followed by the original, one meaningful phrase after another, and ending by reading the whole paragraph just in Greek, is the easiest and most pleasurable way of getting on the way of learning to understand Greek directly in Greek. Since the translation is not a laborious produce of your own mind, it will fall off and leave you in the end with just the Greek.
Agamemnon’s soul replied: ‘Illustrious Prince Achilles (olbie Pȇleos huie, theois epieikel’ Achilleu), yours was the happy death, in Troyland far away from Argos (hos thanes en Troiȇi hekas Argeos), with the flower of the Trojan and Achaean forces falling round you (amphi de s’ alloi kteinonto Trȏȏn kai Achaiȏn huies aristoi) in the battle for your corpse (marnamenoi peri seio). There in a whirl of dust you lay, great even in your fall (su d’ en strophalingi koniȇs keiso megas megalȏsti), thinking no longer of a charioteer’s delights (lelasmenos hipposunaȏn). And the whole day long we fought (hȇmeis de propan ȇmar emarnameth’). Indeed we never would have ceased (oude ke pampan pausametha ptolemou) had Zeus not stopped us with a storm (ei mȇ Zeus lailapi pausen). Then we carried you off from the battlefield to the ships (autar epei s’ epi nȇas eneikamen ek polemoio), cleaned your fair flesh with warm water and unguents, and lay you on a bed (katthemen en lecheessi, kathȇrantes chroa kalon hudati te liarȏi kai aleiphati). Your countrymen gathered around you (polla de s’ amphi); hot tears were shed (dakrua therma cheon Danaoi), and many locks of hair were cut (keiranto te chaitas). Your mother, when she heard the news, came up from the sea with the deathless Sea-Nymphs (mȇtȇr d’ ex halos ȇlthe sun athanatȇis haliȇisin angeliȇs aїousa), and a mysterious wailing rose from the waters (boȇ d’ epi ponton orȏrei thespesiȇ). The whole army was seized by the panic (hupo de tromos ellabe pantas Achaious) and would have fled on board the ships (kai nu k’ anaїxantes eban kolias epi nȇas), if one man, Nestor, had not used his knowledge of our ancient lore (ei mȇ anȇr kateruke palaia te polla te eidȏs, Nestȏr). And it was not the first time that his wisdom triumphed (hou kai prosthen aristȇ phaineto boulȇ). He came forward and checked them in his friendly way (ho sphin eüphroneȏn agorȇsato kai meteeipen). “Halt (ischest’), Argives (Argeioi)!” he shouted. “Achaeans, stand your ground (mȇ pheugete, kouroi Achaiȏn)! This is Achilles’ mother who has come out of the sea with her immortal Nymphs (mȇtȇr ex halos hȇde sun athanatȇis haliȇisin erchetai) to see her dead son’s face (hou paidos tethnȇotos antioȏsa).” He stopped the panic, and the troops plucked up their hearts (hȏs ephat’, hoi d’ eschonto phobou megathumoi Achaioi). They saw the Daughters of the Old Sea-god, dressed in the robes of immortality and shedding bitter tears, take up their stand around your corpse (amphi de s’ estȇsan kourai halioio gerontos oiktr’ olophuromenai, peri d’ ambrota heimata hessan). The Nine Muses too were there, chanting your dirge in sweet antiphony (Mousai d’ ennea pasai ameibomenai opi kalȇi thrȇneon), till not a dry eye was to be seen in all the Argive force (entha ken ou tin’ adakruton g’ enoȇsas Argeiȏn), so poignant was the Muse’s song (toion gar hupȏrore Mousa ligeia) (34-62) … Thus even death, Achilles, did not destroy your glory (hȏs su men oude thanȏn onom’ ȏlesas) and the whole world will honour you for ever (alla toi aiei pantas ep’ anthrȏpous kleos essetai esthlon). But what satisfaction is there now for me (autar emoi ti tod’ ȇdos) in having brought the war to a successful close (epei polemon tolupeusa)? For on my very journey home Zeus planned a miserable end for me (en nostȏi gar moi Zeus mȇsato lugron olethron), at the hands of Aegisthus (Aigisthou hupo chersi) and my unconscionable wife (kai oulomenȇs alochoio).’ (93-97)
At that point their talk was interrupted by the arrival of Hermes marshalling in the souls of the Suitors killed by Odysseus. The soul of Agamemnon recognized one of them, the son of Melaneus, who entertained him in his home in Ithaca: ‘Amphimedon, what catastrophe has brought you down into the bowels of the earth (Amphimedon, ti pathontes eremnȇn gaian edute) with this chosen band of men of your own age (pantes kekrimenoi kai homȇlikes, 105-6) … Or have you forgotten the time when (ȇ ou memnȇi hote) I came over to your house in Ithaca (keise katȇluthon humeteron dȏ) with King Menelaus to persuade Odysseus (otruneȏn Odusȇa sun antitheȏi Menelaȏi) to join forces with me in the naval expedition against Ilium (Ilion eis ham’ hepesthai eüsselmȏn epi nȇȏn)? It was a full month after that (mȇni d’ar oulȏi) before we had made the long sea passage (panta perȇsamen eurea ponton), so hard did we find it to win the man who is now styled the Sacker of Cities (spoudȇi parpepithontes Odyssȇa ptoliporthon).’
Homer thus opens the last book of the Odyssey by taking us into Hades, where the two main heroes of the Trojan war discuss their deaths. The soul of Achilles deplores Agamemnon’s abominable death, Agamemnon describes what happened when Achilles died, the battle between the Trojans and the Achaeans around his body, and then the glorious funeral. The arrival of the souls of the Suitors of Penelope provides Agamemnon with an opportunity to remember the days when he and his brother Menelaus came to Ithaca to persuade Odysseus to join their expedition against Troy. In Ithaka it all began, in Ithaka it all ends. The audience (the reader) is invited to embrace the whole Trojan war in one concentrated act of thought.
‘August and imperial Agamemnon (Atreidȇ kudiste, anax andrȏn Agamemnon),’ the soul of Amphimedon replied, ‘I well remember all that your majesty has referred to (memnȇmai tade panta, diotrephes, hȏs agoreueis), and will give you a full and honest account of the events (soi d’ egȏ eu mala panta kai atrekeȏs katalexȏ) that culminated in our tragic death (hȇmeterou thanatoio kakon telos, hoion etuchthȇ). In the prolonged absence of Odysseus we began to pay our addresses to his wife (mnȏmeth’ Odussȇos dȇn oichomenoio damarta). These proved distasteful to her, but instead of refusing us outright, she schemed to bring about our downfall and our death (hȇ d’ out’ ȇrneito stugeron gamon out’ eteleuta, hȇmin phrazomenȇ thanaton kai kȇra melainan).’ (121-127)
And so we get the culminating story of the Odyssey re-narrated in Hades by the soul of one of Penelope’s Suitors, the victims of their own folly and criminal behaviour – Amphimedon omits informing Agamemnon of the Suitors’ designs against Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, whom they wanted to kill, and to distribute his property among themselves.
The soul of Amphimedon continues: ‘Here is a sample of the woman’s guile (alla dolon tond’ allon eni phresi mermȇrixe). On her loom at home she set up a great web and began weaving a large and delicate piece of work (stȇsamenȇ megan histon eni megaroisin huphaine, lepton kai perimetron). And she said to us (aphar d’ hȇmin meteeipe): “I should be grateful to you young lords who are courting me now that King Odysseus is dead (kouroi, emoi mnȇstȇres, epei thane dios Odusseus), if you could restrain your ardour for my hand (mimnet’ epeigomenoi ton emon gamon) till I have done this work (eis ho ke pharos ektelesȏ), so that the threads I have spun may not be utterly wasted (mȇ moi metamȏnia nȇmat’ olȇtai). It is a winding sheet for Lord Laerteus [the father of Odysseus] (Laertȇi hȇrȏї taphȇїon). When he succumbs to the dread hand of Death, which stretches all men out at last (eis hote ken min moir’ oloȇ kathelȇisi tanȇlegeos thanatoio), I must not risk the scandal there would be among my countrywomen here (mȇ tis moi kata dȇmon Achaiїadȏn nemesȇsȇi), if one who had amassed such wealth were put to rest without a shroud (ai ken ater speirou kȇtai polla kteatissas).” That is how she talked (hȏs ephat’), and we, like gentlemen, let her persuade us (hȇmin d’ aut’ epepeitheto thumos agȇnȏr), with the result that by day she wove at the great web (entha kai ȇmatiȇ men huphainesken megan histon), but every night had torches set beside it and undid the work (nuktas d’ alluesken, epei daidas paratheito). For three years she fooled us with this trick (hȏs trietes men elȇthe dolȏi kai epeithen Achaious). A fourth began (all’ hote tetraton ȇlthen etos), and the seasons were already slipping by (kai epȇluthon hȏrai, mȇnȏn phthinontȏn, peri d’ ȇmata poll’ etelesthȇ), when one of her women, who knew all about it, gave her mistress away (kai tote dȇ tis eeipe gunaikȏn, hȇ sapha ȇidȇ). We caught her unravelling her beautiful work (kai tȇn g’ alluousan epheuromen aglaon histon), and she was forced reluctantly to complete it (hȏs to men exetelesse kai ouk ethelous’, hup’ anankȇs). But no sooner had she woven the great web, laundered the robe and shown it to us gleaming like the sun or moon (euth’ hȇ pharos edeixen, huphȇnasa mega histon, plunas’, ȇeliȏi enalinkion ȇe selȇnȇi), than the powers of evil landed Odysseus out of the blue (kai tote dȇ r’ Odussȇa kakos pothen ȇgage daimȏn) in a distant corner of his estate where the swineherd had his cabin (agrou ep’ eschatiȇn, hothi dȏmata naie subȏtȇs). His son, Prince Telemachus, just back from sandy Pylos in his ship, made for the same spot too (enth’ ȇlthen philos huios Odussȇos theioio, ek Pulou ȇmathoentos iȏn sun nȇi melainȇi). They put their heads together, planned our assassination (tȏ de mnȇstȇrsin thanaton kakon artunante), and made their way to the city of Ithaca (hikonto proti astu perikluton), or rather, Telemachus served as vanguard and Odysseus followed later (ȇ toi Odusseus husteros, autar Tȇlemachos prosth’ hȇgemoneue). The swineherd brought him down disguised in rags (ton de subȏtȇs ȇge kaka chroї eimat’ echonta), and looking like a wretched old beggar (ptȏchȏi leugaleȏi enalinkion ȇde geronti) as he hobbled along with his staff (skȇptomenon). He was so disreputably dressed (ta de lugra peri chroї heimata hesto) that not a man in our party, not even the older members, could realize that this was Odysseus when he suddenly appeared among us (oude tis hȇmeiȏn dunato gnȏnai ton eonta exapinȇs prophanent’, oud hoi progenesteroi ȇsan). In fact we gave him the rough side of our tongues and threw things at his head (all’ epesin te kakoisin enissomen ȇde bolȇisin). For a while he had the self-control to put up patiently with this man-handling and abuse in his own palace (autar ho tȇos etolma eni megaroisin heoisi ballomenos kai enissomenos tetlȇoti thumȏi). But presently the spirit stirred within him (all’ hote dȇ min egeire Dios noos aigiochoio). With Telemachus’ help he removed the excellent weapons they possessed (sun men Tȇlemachȏi perikallea teuche’ aeiras) and stowed them in the arsenal behind locked doors (es thalamon katethȇke kai eklȇїse ochȇas). Then, for his own cunning purposes he prevailed on his wife (autar ho hȇn alochon polukerdeiȇisin anȏge) to challenge our skill with a bow and some grey iron axes (toxon mnȇstȇressi themen polion te sidȇron), toys that were to play a leading part in the slaughter of my unhappy company (hȇmin ainomoroisin aethlia kai phonou archȇn). Not one of us could string the mighty weapon (oude tis hȇmeiȏn dunato krateroio bioio neurȇn entanusai); indeed we were too weak by far (pollon d’ epideuees ȇmen). But when it came to handing the great bow to Odysseus (all’ hote cheiras hikanen Odussȇos mega toxon), we all protested loudly that he shouldn’t have it (enth’ hȇmeis men pantes homokleomenn epeessi toxon mȇ domenai), however much he argued (mȇd’ ei mala poll’ agoreuoi). Telemachus was the only one who encouraged him to take it (Tȇlemachos de min oios epotrunȏn ekeleusen). And so that great and reckless man got his hands on the bow (autar ho dexato cheiri polutlas dios Odusseus), which he strung without effort (rȇїdiȏs d’ etanusse bion), and shot through the iron marks (dia d’ hȇke sidȇrou). Then he leapt onto the threshold (stȇ d’ ar’ ep’ oudon iȏn) and with murder in his eyes poured out arrows (tacheas d’ ekcheuat’ oїstous deinon paptainȏn), and shot prince Antinous down (bale d’ Antinoon basilȇa); after which, aiming straight in every case, he let fly at the rest of us with his deadly shafts (autar epeit’ allois ephiei belea stonoenta, anta tituskomenos). We fell thick and fast (toi d’ anchistinoi epipton); and it was obvious that some god was on their side (gnȏton d’ ȇn ho ra tis sphi theȏn epitarrothos ȇen). For presently their fury gave them the confidence to charge through the hall (autika gar kata dȏmat’ epispomenoi meneї sphȏi) and they hacked us down right and left (kteinon epistrophadȇn). Skulls cracked, the hideous groans of dying men were heard (tȏn de stonos ornut’ aeikȇs kratȏn tuptomenȏn), and the whole floor ran with blood (dapedon d’ hapan haimati thuen). That, Agamemnon, is how we were destroyed (hȏs hȇmeis, Agamemnon, apȏlometh’). And our corpses still lie uncared for in Odysseus’ house (hȏn eti kai nun sȏmat’ akȇdea keitai eni megarois Odusȇos), since the news has not yet reached our several homes and brought our friends to wash the dark blood from our wounds, to lay our bodies out and mourn for us (ou gar pȏ isasi philoi kata dȏmat’ hekastou, hoi k’ aponipsantes melana broton ex ȏteilȏn katthemenoi goaoien), as is a dead man’s right (ho gar geras esti thanontȏn).’ (128-190)
‘Unconquerable Odysseus!’ the soul of Agamemnon cried. ‘Ah happy prince, blessed in Icarius’ daughter with a wife in whom all virtues meet, flawless Penelope, who has proved herself so good and wise (Ton d’ aute psuchȇ prosephȏneen Atreidao: ‘olbie Laertao paї, polumȇchan’ Odusseu, ȇ ara sun megalȇi aretȇi ektȇsȏ akoitin, hȏs agathai phrenes ȇsan amumoni Pȇnelopeiȇi, kourȇi Ikariou), so faithful to her wedded love (hȏs eu memnȇt’ Odusȇos, Andros kouridiou)! Her glory will not fade with the years (tȏi hoi kleos ou pot’ oleitai hȇs aretȇs), but the deathless gods themselves will make a song for mortal ears, to grace Penelope the constant queen (teuxousi d’ epichthonioisi aoidȇn athanatoi chariessan echephroni Pȇnelopeiȇi). What a contrast with Clytaemnestra and the infamy she sank to when she killed her wedded lord (ouch hȏs Tundareou kourȇ kaka mȇsato erga, kouridion kteinasa posin)! Her name will be cursed wherever she is sung (stugerȇ de t’ aoidȇ esset’ ep’ anthrȏpous). She has branded all her sex, with every honest woman in it (chalepȇn de te phȇmin opassei thȇluterȇisi gunaixi, kai hȇ k’ euergos eȇisin).’ (191-202)
While this was happening in the underworld, Odysseus with his son Telemachus and his two trusty servants reached the farmland of Laertes, the father of Odysseus. Odysseus sent his company to the house to kill the best pig and prepare the meal; he himself went searching for his father in the fields: ‘I shall try an experiment with my father (autar egȏ patros peirȇsomai hȇmeteroio), to find out whether he will remember me and realize who it is when he sees me (ai ke m’ epignȏȇi kai phrassetai ophthalmoisi), or fail to know me after so long an absence (ȇe ken agnoiȇisi polun chronon amphis eonta, 216-218)’ … Laertes was still hoeing round his plant with his head down (ȇ toi ho men katechȏn kephalȇn phuton amphelachaine), as his famous son came up and accosted him (ton de paristamenos prosephȏnee phaidimos huios). ‘Old man’, said Odysseus, (ȏ geron) ‘you have everything so tidy here that I can see there is little about gardening that you do not know (ouk adaȇmoniȇ s’ echei amphipoleuein orchaton, all’ eu toi komidȇ echei). There is nothing (oude ti pampan), not a green thing in the whole enclosure, not a fig, olive, vine, pear, or vegetable bed that does not show signs of your care (ou phuton, ou sukeȇ, ouk ampelos, ou men elaiȇ, oud’ onchnȇ, ou prasiȇ toi aneu komidȇs kata kȇpon). On the other hand I cannot help remarking (allo de toi ereȏ), I hope without offence (su de mȇ cholon entheo thumȏi), that you don’t look after yourself very well (auton s’ ouk agathȇ komidȇ echei); in fact, what with your squalor and your wretched clothes, old age has hit you very hard (all’ hama gȇras lugron echeis auchmeis te kakȏs kai aeikea hessai). (242-250)
It may seem preposterous to do all this work in the hope that someone may find it an easy way of improving their Greek. But in fact, I enjoy every minute of it, for it allows me to observe the differences between the translator’s view of the narrative and the original. Sometimes the difference is insubstantial; thus Rieu translates Odysseus’ allo de toi ereȏ, which means ‘but I shall tell you something else’, with a more urbane ‘On the other hand I cannot help remarking’. Sometimes the difference lies in the different ways the Greeks and the English interact with each other; thus Rieu translates Odysseus’ su de mȇ cholon entheo thumȏi, which means literally ‘but don’t put anger into your mind’, ‘I hope without offence’. But there are points where the translator misrepresents the original. Thus Rieu translates Odysseus’ auton s’ ouk agathȇ komidȇ echei, which means ‘you are not well cared for’, ‘you don’t look after yourself very well’. Odysseus next words show plainly that Rieu got this point wrong: ‘Yet it can’t be on account of any laziness that your master neglects you (ou men aergiȇs ge anax henek ou se komizei, 251).’
One more remark. I follow the English with the original in brackets as closely as possible, sometimes the text allows me to follow single words, short phrases, yet sometimes I must take recourse to the whole sentences. Thus in the sentence ‘There is nothing (oude ti pampan), not a green thing in the whole enclosure, not a fig, olive, vine, pear, or vegetable bed that does not show signs of your care (ou phuton, ou sukeȇ, ouk ampelos, ou men elaiȇ, oud’ onchnȇ, ou prasiȇ toi aneu komidȇs kata kȇpon)’, ‘There is nothing’ is followed by (oude ti pampan), which gives its meaning. But in the following I must take the whole rest of the sentence as it stands in English, because Rieu’s ‘in the whole enclosure’ is in the middle of it, whereas its counterpart kata kȇpon closes the sentence in the original. At this point it is particularly deplorable, for Rieu does not follow the sequence of plants as it stands in the original: ‘not a green thing (ou phuton), not a fig tree (ou sukeȇ), not a vine (ouk ampelos), not an olive tree (ou men elaiȇ), not a pear tree (oud’ onchnȇ), or vegetable bed (ou prasiȇ)’.
Odysseus asks Laertes whether he is really in Ithaca, as he was told by a man he met. He wants to know, for ‘Some time ago in my own country I befriended a stranger (andra pot’ exeinissa philȇi en patridi gaiȇi) who turned up in our place (hȇmeterond’ elthonta) and proved most attractive visitor I have ever entertained from abroad (kai ou pȏ tis brotos allos xeinȏn tȇledapȏn philiȏn emon hiketo dȏma). He said he was an Ithacan (eucheto d’ ex Ithakȇs genos emmenai), and that Arceisius’ son Laertes was his father (autar ephaske Laertȇn Arkeisiadȇn pater’ emmenai autȏi). I took him in, made him thoroughly welcome and gave him every hospitality (ton men egȏ pros dȏmat’ agȏn eü exeinissa, endukeȏs phileȏn) that my rich house could afford (pollȏn kata oikon eontȏn), including presents worthy of his rank (kai hoi dȏra poron xeinȇїa, hoia eȏikei)’ (266-273) … ‘Sir,’ said his father to Odysseus, with tears in his cheeks (Ton d’ ȇmeibet’ epeita patȇr kata dakruon eibȏn), ‘I can assure you that you’re in the place you asked for (xein’, ȇ toi men gaian hikaneis hȇn ereeineis); but it’s in the hands of rogues and criminals (hubristai d’ autȇn kai atasthaloi andres echousi). The gifts you lavished on your friend were given in vain (dȏra d’ etȏsia tauta charizeo, muri’ opazȏn), though, had you found him alive in Ithaca (ei gar min zȏon g’ ekicheis Ithakȇs eni dȇmȏi), he would never have let you go before he had made you an ample return in presents and hospitality (tȏi ken s’ eu dȏroisin ameipsamenos apepempse kai xeniȇi agathȇi), as is right (hȏs gar themis) when such an example has been set (hos tis huparxȇi). But pray tell me exactly how long ago it was that you befriended the unfortunate man (all’ age moi tode eipe kai atrekeȏs katalexon, poston dȇ etos estin, hote xeinissas ekeinon son xeinon dustȇnon), for that guest of yours was my unhappy son – if I ever had one (emon paid’, ei pot’ eȇn ge, dusmoron) – my son, who far from friends and home (hon pou tȇle philȏn kai patridos aiȇs) has been devoured by fishes in the sea (ȇe pou en pontȏi phagon ichthues) or fallen a prey, may be, to the wild beasts and birds on land (ȇ epi chersou thȇrsi kai oiȏnoisin helȏr genet’). Dead people have their dues, but not Odysseus. We had no chance, we two that brought him into this world, to wrap his body up and wail for him, nor had his richly dowered wife, constant Penelope, the chance to close her husband’s eyes and give him on his bier the seemly tribute of a dirge (oude he mȇtȇr klause peristeilasa patȇr th’, hoi min tekomestha, oud’ alochos poludȏros, echephrȏn Pȇnelopeia, kȏkus’ en lecheessin heon posin, hȏs epeȏikei, ophthalmous kathelousa, to gar geras esti thanontȏn) (280-296) … ‘I am quite willing,’ said the resourceful Odysseus, ‘to tell you all you wish to know (Ton d’ apameibomenos prosephȇ polumȇtis Odusseus: ‘Toigar egȏ toi panta mal atreekeȏs katalexȏ) (302-3) … As for Odysseus, it is four years and more (autar Odussȇї tode dȇ pempton etos estin) since he bade me farewell and left my country (ex hou keithen ebȇ kai emȇs apelȇluthe patrȇs) – to fall on evil days, it seems (dusmoros). And yet the omens when he left were good (ȇ te hoi esthloi esan ornithes ionti), birds on the right (dexioi), which pleased me as I said goodbye (hois chairȏn men egȏn apepempon ekeinon), and cheered him as he started out (chaire de keinos iȏn). We both had every hope (thumos d’ eti nȏїn eȏlpei) that we should meet again as host and guest and give each other splendid gifts (mixesthai xeniȇi ȇd’ aglaa dȏra didȏsein).’ (309-314)
***Rieu’s ‘I … cheered him as he started out’ stands for chaire de keinos iȏn, which means ‘and he was glad to be going’ (313). If I had an opportunity to teach students, I would give them as homework chosen passages of translations of Homer (Plato etc.), ask them to do what I have been doing just now, and then in class discuss the given translation in its relation to the original.