The Odyssey

by: Homer

Books 21–22

1
Reaching, tiptoe, lifting the bow down off its peg,
still secure in the burnished case that held it,
down she sank, laying the case across her knees,
and dissolved in tears with a high thin wail
as she drew her husband’s weapon from its sheath . . .
2
So they mocked, but Odysseus, mastermind in action,
once he’d handled the great bow and scanned every inch,
then, like an expert singer skilled at lyre and song—
who strains a string to a new peg with ease,
making the pliant sheep-gut fast at either end—
so with his virtuoso ease Odysseus strung his mighty bow.
Quickly his right hand plucked the string to test its pitch
and under his touch it sang out clear and sharp as a swallow’s cry.
3
Where’s it gone, Odysseus—your power, your fighting heart?
The great soldier who fought for famous white-armed Helen,
battling Trojans nine long years—nonstop, no mercy,
mowing their armies down in grueling battle—
you who seized the broad streets of Troy
with your fine strategic stroke! How can you—
now you’ve returned to your own house, your own wealth—
bewail the loss of your combat strength in a war with suitors?