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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 161

All things being prepared for the trial, the first thing to be done was to bend the bow in order to attach the string. Telemachus endeavored to do it, but found all his efforts fruitless; and modestly confessing that he had attempted a task beyond his strength, he yielded the bow to another. HE tried it with no better success, and, amidst the laughter and jeers of his companions, gave it up. Another tried it and another; they rubbed the bow with tallow, but all to no purpose; it would not bend. Then spoke Ulysses, humbly suggesting that he should be permitted to try; for, said he, "beggar as I am, I was once a soldier, and there is still some strength in these old limbs of mine." The suitors hooted with derision, and commanded to turn him out of the hall for his insolence. But Telemachus spoke up for him, and merely to gratify the old man, bade him try. Ulysses took the bow, and handled it with the hand of a master. With ease he adjusted the cord to its notch, then fitting an arrow to the bow he drew the string and sped the arrow unerring through the rings.

Without allowing them time to express their astonishment, he said, "Now for another mark!" and aimed direct at the most insolent one of the suitors. The arrow pierced through his throat and he fell dead. Telemachus, Eumaeus, and another faithful follower, well armed, now sprang to the side of Ulysses. The suitors, in amazement, looked round for arms but found none, neither was there any way of escape, for Eumaeus had secured the door. Ulysses left them not long in uncertainty; he announced himself as the long-lost chief, whose house they had invaded, whose substance they had squandered, whose wife and son they had persecuted for ten long years; and told them he meant to have ample vengeance. All the suitors were slain, except Phemius the bard and Medon the herald, and Ulysses was left master of his own palace and possessor of his kingdom and his wife.

Among Schiller's works is the following epigram on Ulysses:

  "To gain his home all oceans he explored;
  Here Scylla frowned, and there Charybdis roared;
  Horror on sea, and horror on the land,
  In hell's dark boat he sought the spectre land,
  Till borne a slumberer to his native spot,
  He woke, and sorrowing, knew his country not."
  Sir Edward Bulwer"s translation

Tennyson's poem of Ulysses represents the old hero, after his dangers past and nothing left but to stay at home and be happy, growing tired of inaction and resolving to set forth again in quest of new adventures.

  "Come my friends,
  'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
  Push off, and sitting well in order smite
  The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
  To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
  Of all the western stars, until I die.
  It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
  It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
  And see the great Achilles whom we knew,
  Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
  We are not now that strength which in old days
  Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
  One equal temper of heroic hearts,
  Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
  To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."


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