Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Greece
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX.  1876–79.
 
Greece: Ithaca
Ulysses and Laertes
Homer (fl. 850 B.C.)
 
(From The Odyssey, Book XXIV)
Translated by W. C. Bryant

                        ULYSSES passed
Into the fruitful orchard, there to prove
His father. Going down and far within
The garden-plot, he found not Dolius there,
Nor any of the servants, nor his sons.        5
All were abroad, old Dolius leading them.
They gathered thorns to fence the garden-grounds.
There, delving in that fertile spot, around
A newly planted tree, Ulysses saw
His father only, sordidly arrayed        10
In a coarse tunic, patched and soiled. He wore
Patched greaves of bullock’s hide upon his thighs,
A fence against the thorn; and on his hands
Gloves, to protect them from the prickly stems
Of bramble; and upon his head a cap        15
Of goatskin. There he brooded o’er his grief.
Him when the much-enduring chief beheld,
Wasted with age and sorrow-worn, he stopped
Beside a lofty pear-tree’s stem and wept,
And pondered whether he should kiss and clasp        20
His father in his arms, and tell him all,
How he had reached his native land and home,
Or question first and prove him. Musing thus
It pleased him to begin with sportive words:
And thus resolved, divine Ulysses drew        25
Near to his father stooping at his task,
And loosening the hard earth about a tree,
And thus the illustrious son accosted him:—
  “O aged man! there is no lack of skill
In tending this fair orchard, which thy care        30
Keeps flourishing; no growth is there of fig,
Vine, pear, or olive, or of plants that grow
In borders, that has missed thy friendly hand.
Yet let me say, and be thou not displeased,
Thou art ill cared for, burdened as thou art        35
With years, and squalid, and in mean attire.
It cannot be that for thy idleness
Thy master treats thee thus; nor is there seen
Aught servile in thy aspect,—in thy face
Or stature; thou art rather like a king;        40
Thou seemest one who should enjoy the bath
And banquet, and lie soft,—for this befits
Old men like thee. Now say, and tell me true,
Who may thy master be? whose orchard this
Which thou dost tend? And, more than this, declare,        45
For much I long to know, if I am come
To Ithaca, as I just now was told
By one who met me as I came,—a man
Not overwise, who would not stop to tell
What I desired to learn, nor bear to hear        50
My questions, when I asked him if a guest
Of mine were living yet in health, or dead
And in the realm of Pluto. Let me speak
Of him, and mark me well, I pray; I lodged
Once, in my native land, a man who came        55
Into my house, and never stranger yet
More welcome was than he. He was by birth
Of Ithaca, he said, Laertes’ son,
And grandson of Arcesias. Him I led
Beneath my roof, and hospitably lodged,        60
And feasted in the plenty of my home,
And gave such gifts as might become a host,—
Seven talents of wrought gold, a silver cup
All over rough with flowers, twelve single cloaks,
Twelve mats, twelve mantles passing beautiful,        65
And tunics twelve, and, chosen by himself,
Twelve graceful damsels, skilled in household arts.”
  And then his father answered, shedding tears:
“Thou art indeed, O stranger, in the land
Of which thou dost inquire, but wicked men        70
And lawless now possess it. Thou hast given
Thy generous gifts in vain; yet hadst thou found
Ulysses living yet in Ithaca,
Then would he have dismissed thee recompensed
With gifts and liberal cheer, as is the due        75
Of him who once has been our host. Yet say,
And truly say, how many years have passed
Since thou didst lodge my son, if he it was,
Thy hapless guest, whom, far, away from home
And all his friends, the creatures of the deep,        80
And the foul birds of air, and beasts of prey,
Already have devoured. No mother mourned
His death and wrapped him in his shroud, nor I,
His father; nor did chaste Penelope,
His consort nobly dowered, bewail the man        85
She loved upon his bier with eyes dissolved
In tears, as fitting was,—an honor due
To those who die. Now, further, truly tell,
For I would learn, what is thy name, and whence
Thou comest, from what tribe, thy city where,        90
And who thy parents. Where is the good ship
At anchor which has brought thee and thy friends?
Or hast thou landed from another’s bark,
Which put thee on the shore and left the isle?”
  Ulysses, the sagacious, answered thus:        95
“I will tell all and truly. I am come
From Alybas; a stately dwelling there
Is mine, Apheidas is my father, son
Of royal Polypemon, and my name
Eperitus. Some deity has warped        100
My course astray from the Sicanian coast,
And brought me hitherward against my will.
My bark lies yonder, stationed by the field
Far from the city. This is the fifth year
Since parting with me thy Ulysses left        105
My native land for his, ill-fated man!
Yet there were flights of birds upon the right
Of happy presage as he sailed, and I
Dismissed him cheerfully, and cheerfully
He went. We hoped that we might yet become        110
Each other’s guests, exchanging princely gifts.”
  He spake, and a dark cloud of sorrow came
Over Laertes. With both hands he grasped
The yellow dust, and over his white head
Shed it with piteous groans. Ulysses felt        115
His heart within him melted; the hot breath
Rushed through his nostrils as he looked upon
His well-beloved father, and he sprang
And kissed and clasped him in his arms, and said:—
  “Nay, I am he, my father; I myself        120
Am he of whom thou askest. I am come
To mine own country in the twentieth year.
But calm thyself, refrain from tears, and grieve
No more, and let me tell thee, in a word,
I have slain all the suitors in my halls,        125
And so avenged their insolence and crimes.”
  And then Laertes spake again, and said:
“If now thou be Ulysses, my lost son,
Give some plain token, that I may believe.”
  Ulysses, the sagacious, answered thus:        130
“First, then, behold with thine own eyes the scar
Which once the white tusk of a forest boar
Inflicted on Parnassus, when I made
The journey thither, by thy own command,
And by my gracious mother’s, to receive        135
Gifts which her father, King Autolycus,
Once promised, when he came to Ithaca.
And listen to me further; let me name
The trees which in thy well-tilled orchard ground
Thou gavest me; I asked them all of thee,        140
When by thy side I trod the garden walks,
A little boy. We went among the trees,
And thou didst name them. Of the pear thirteen,
And of the apple ten thou gavest me,
And forty fig-trees; and thou didst engage        145
To give me fifty rows of vines, each row
Of growth to feed the winepress. Grapes are there
Of every flavor when the hours of Jove
Shall nurse them into ripeness from on high.”
  He spake; a trembling seized the old man’s heart        150
And knees, as he perceived how true were all
The tokens which Ulysses gave. He threw
Round his dear son his arms. The hardy chief,
Ulysses, drew him fainting to his heart.
 
 
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