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BOOK XVII I.

ARGUMENT.

The Fight of Ulysses and Irus.

The beggar Irus insults Ulysses; the suitors promote the quar.

rel, in which Irus is worsted, and miserably handled - Penelope descends, and receives the presents of the suitorsThe dialogue of Ulysses with Eurymachus.

WHILE fix'd in thought the pensive hero sat,
A mendicant approach'd the royal gate;
A surly vagrant of the giant kind,
The stain of manhood, of a coward mind :
From feast to feast, insatiate to devour

5
He flew, attendant on the genial hour.
Him on his mother's knees, when babe he lay,
She named Arnæus on his natal day;
But Irus his associates call'd the boy,
Practised the common messenger to fly;

10 Irus, a name expressive of the employ.

Fron his own roof with meditated blows, He strove to drive the man of mighty woes. “ Hence, dotard ! hence, and timely speed thy way, Lest dragg’d in vengeance thou repent thy stay; 15 See how with nods assent yon princely train ! But honouring age, in mercy I refrain; In peace away ! lest if persuasions fail, This arm with blows more eloquent prevail.”

To whom with stern regard : “ Oh insolence, 20 Indecently to rail without offence! What bounty gives without a rival share ; I ask, what harms not thee, to breathe this air :

Alike on alms we both precarious live:
And canst thou envy when the great relieve! 25
Know from the bounteous heavens all riches flow,
And what man gives, the gods by man bestow;
Proud as thou art, henceforth no more be proud,
Lest I imprint my vengeance in thy blood;
Old as I am, should once my sury burn,

30 How wouldst thou fly, nor ev'n in thought return !"

“Mere woman-glutton !” thus the churl replied: “ A tongue so flippant, with a throat so wide! Why cease I, gods! to dash those teeth away, Like some wild boar's, that greedy of his prey

35 Uproots the bearded corn? Rise, try the fight, Gird well thy loins, approach, and feel my might: Sure of defeat, before the peers engage; Unequal fight, when youth contends with age !"

Thus in a wordy war their tongues display 40 More fierce intents, preluding to the fray ; Antinous hears, and in a jovial vein, Thus with loud laughter to the suitor train :

“ This happy day in mirih, my friends, employ, And lo! the gods conspire to crown our joy. 45 See ready for the fight, and hand to hand, Yon surly mendicants contentious stand: Why urge we not to blows ?" Well pleased they

spring Swift from their seats, and thickening form a ring.

To whom Antinous : “ Lo! enrich'd with blood, A kid's well-fatted entrails, (tasteful food) 51 On glowing embers lie; on him bestow The choicest portion who subdues his foe; Grant him unrivall'd in these walls to stay, The sole attendant on the genial day.”

55 The lords applaud : Ulysses then with art, And fears well feign'd, disguised his dauntless heart:

Worn as I am with age, decay'd with wo? Say, is it baseness to decline the foe? Hard conflict! when calamity and age

60 With vigorous youth, unknown to cares, engage !

Yet, fearful of disgrace, to try the day
Imperious hunger bids, and I obey;
But swear, impartial arbiters of right,
Swear to stand neutral while we cope in fight.” 65

The peers assent: when straight his sacred head Telemachus upraised, and sternly said :

“Stranger, if prompted to chastise the wrong Of this bold insolent, confide, be strong! The injurious Greek that dares attempt a blow, 70 That instant makes Telemachus his foe; And these my friends shall guard the sacred ties Of hospitality, for they are wise.”

Then, girding his strong loins, the king prepares To close in combat, and his body bares ;

75 Broad spread his shoulders, and his nervous thighs By just degrees, like well turn'd columns, rise : Ample his chest, his arms are round and long, And each strong joint Minerva knits more strong(Attendant on her chief :) the suitor crowd 80 With wonder gaze, and gazing speak aloud :

“ Irus! alas ! shall Irus be no more ? Black fate impends, and this the avenging hour! Gods ! how his nerves a matchless strength pro

claim, Swell o'er his well-strung limbs, and brace his frame !"

85 Then pale with fears, and sickening at the sight, They dragg’d the unwilling Irus to the fight; From his blank visage fled the coward blood, And his flesh trembled as aghast he stood.

“Oh that such baseness should disgrace the light! Oh hide it, death, in everlasting night!"

91 Exclaims Antinous; “can a vigorous foe Meanly decline to combat age and wo? But hear me, wretch ! if recreant in the fray That huge bulk yield this ill-contested day, 95 Instant thou sail'st, to Echetus resign'd; A tyrant, fiercest of the tyrant kind,

72 Antinous and Eurymachus.

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Who casts thy mangled ears and nose a prey 'To hungry dogs, and lops the man away.

While with indignant scorn he sternly spoke, 100 In every joint the trembling Irus shook. Now front to front each frowning champion stands, And poises high in air his adverse hands. The chief yet doubts, or to the shades below To fell the giant at one vengeful blow,

105 Or save his life ; and soon his life to save The king resolves, for mercy sways the brave. That instant Irus his huge arm extends, Full on his shoulder the rude weight descends : The sage Ulysses, fearful to disclose

110 The hero latent in the man of woes, Check'd half his might; yet rising to the stroke, His jaw bone dash'd, the crashing jaw bone broke: Down dropp'd he stupid from the stunning wound; His feet extended, quivering, beat the ground: 115 His mouth and nostrils spout a purple flood; His teeth all shatter'd, rush immix'd with blood.

The peers transported, as outstretch'd he lies, With bursts of laughter rend the vaulted skies; Then dragg'd along, all bleeding from the wound: His length of carcass trailing prints the ground : 121 Raised on his feet, again he reels, he falls, Till propp?d, reclining on the palace walls : Then to his hand a staff the victor gave, And thus with just reproach address'd the slave : 125

“ There terrible, affright the dogs, and reign A dreaded tyrant o'er the bestial train! But mercy to the poor and stranger show, Lest Heaven in vengeance send some mightier wo."

Scornful he spoke, and o'er his shoulder flung 130 The broad patch'd scrip; the scrip in tatters hung Ill join'd, and knotted to a twisted thong. Then, turning short, disdain'd a further stay; But to the palace measured back the way. There as he rested, gathering in a ring,

135 The peers with smiles address'd their unknown king:

“Stranger, may Jove and all the aerial powers
With every blessing crown thy happy hours!
Our freedom to thy prowess'd arm we owe
From bold intrusion of thy coward foe;

140 Instant the flying sail the slave shall wing To Echelus, the monster of a king."

While pleased he hears, Antinous bears the food, A kid's well fatted entrails, rich with blood : The bread from canisters of shining mould 145 Amphinomus; and wines that laugh in gold: " And oh!” he mildly cries, “may Heaven display A beam of glory o'er thy future day! Alas, the brave too oft is doom'd to bear The gripes of poverty, and stings of care." 150

To whom with thought mature the king replies ; “ The tongue speaks wisely, when the soul is wise; Such was thy father! in imperial state, Great without vice, that oft attends the great : Nor from the sire art thou, the son, declined; 155 Then hear my words, and grave them in thy mind ! Of all that breathes, or grovelling creeps on earth, Most inan is vain! calamitous by birth: To-day, with power elate, in strength he blooms; The haughty creature on that power presumes: 160 Anon from Heaven a sad reverse he feels ; Untaught to bear, 'gainst Heaven the wretch rebels. For man is changeful, as his bliss or wo; Too high when prosperous, when distress'd too low. There was a day, when with the scornful great 165 I swell'd in pomp and arrogance of state; Proud of the power that to high birth belongs; And used that power to justify my wrongs. Then let not man be proud ; but firm of mind, Bear the best humbly, and the worst resign'd; 170 Be dumb when Heaven afflicts! unlike yon train Of haughty spoilers, insolently vain ; Who make their queen and all her wealth a prey : But vengeance and Ulysses wing their way,

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