Homer And Laertes

Laertes: Gods help thee! and restore to thee thy sight!
My good old guest, I am more old than thou,
Yet have outlived by many years my son
Odysseus and the chaste Penelope.

Homer: Hither I come to visit thee and sing
His wanderings and his wisdom, tho my voice
Be not the voice it was.

Laertes: First let us taste
My old sound wine, and break my bread less old,
But old enough for teeth like thine and mine.

Homer: So be it! I sing best when such good cheer
Refreshes me, and such a friend as thou.

Laertes: Far hast thou wandered since we met, and told
Strange stories. Wert thou not afraid some God
Or Goddess should have siez'd upon thy ear
For talking what thou toldest of their pranks.

Homer: They often came about me while I slept
And brought me dreams, none painful, none profane;
They loved thy son, and for his sake loved me.

Laertes: Apollo, I well know, was much thy friend.

Homer: He did not treat me quite as Marsyas
Was treated by him: lest he should, I sang
His praise in my best chaunt: for Gods love praise.

Laertes: Have they enricht thee? for I see thy cloak is ragged.

Homer: Ragged cloak is poet's garb.

Laertes: I have two better; one of them for thee.
Penelope, who died five years ago,
Spun it; her husband wore it only once
And but one year, the anniversary
Of their espousal.

Homer: Wear it will I not,
But I will hang it on the brightest nail
Of the first temple where Apollo sits,
Golden-hair'd, in his glory.

Laertes: So thou shalt
If so it please thee: yet we first will quaff
The gift of Bakkos, for methinks his gifts
Are quite as welcome to the sons of song
And cheer them oftener.

(Girl enters.)

Maiden! come thou nigh
And sit thee down, and thou shalt hear a song
After a while which Gods may listen to;
But place the flask upon the board and wait
Until the stranger hath allaid his thirst,
For poets, grasshoppers, and nightingales
Sing cheerily but when the throat is moist.

Homer: I sang to maidens in my prime; again
(But not before the morrow) will I sing:
Let me repose this noontide, since in sooth
Wine, a sweet remedy for weariness,
Helps to uplift its burden.

Laertes: Lie then down
Along you mat bestrown with rosemary.
And, Agatha, do thou bring speedily
The two large ewers, and fill brimfull the bath
Capacious; that of brass; Penelope's
Own bath, wherein she laught to see her boy
Paddle, like cygnet with its broad black oars,
Nor shunn'd the chilly water he threw up
Against her face . . he who grew soon so sage!
Then do thou, maiden, from hot cauldron pour
Enough to make it soothing to the feet;
After, bring store of rushes, and long leaves
Of cane sweet-smelling, from the inland bank
Of that famed river far across the sea
Opposite, to our eyes invisible.
Be sure thou smoothen with both hands his couch
Who has the power to make both young and old
Live throughout ages.

Agatha: And look well throughout?

Laertes: Aye, aye, and better than they lookt before.
May thou rest well, old wanderer! Even the Gods
Repose, the Sun himself sinks down to rest.

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