Books 19–24

In this epic poem, clever Odysseus attempts to find his way home after the end of the Trojan War. Learn these words from the translation by Robert Fitzgerald.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. chattel
    personal as opposed to real property
    I wish you’d put your mind on all your house and chattels.
  2. brazen
    unrestrained by convention or propriety
    And now a second time Melantho’s voice rang brazen in Odysseus’ ears
  3. equity
    conformity with rules or standards
    Your name has gone out under heaven like the sweet honor of some god-fearing king, who rules in equity over the strong: his black lands bear both wheat and barley, fruit trees laden bright, new lambs at lambing time—and the deep sea gives great hauls of fish by his good strategy, so that his folk fare well.
  4. stripling
    a juvenile between the onset of puberty and maturity
    Two sons Deukalion had: Idomeneus, who went to join the Atreidai before Troy in the beaked ships of war; and then myself, Aithon by name—a stripling next my brother.
  5. bounty
    generosity evidenced by a willingness to give freely
    You would soon know our love! Our bounty, too: men would turn after you to call you blessed.
  6. wry
    humorously sarcastic or mocking
    Dear guest, no foreign man so sympathetic ever came to my house, no guest more likeable, so wry and humble are the things you say.
  7. odium
    hate coupled with disgust
    Well you know, my hand has been against the world of men and women; odium and distrust I’ve won.
  8. impervious
    not admitting of passage or capable of being affected
    Before them a great boar lay hid in undergrowth, in a green thicket proof against the wind or sun’s blaze, fine soever the needling sunlight, impervious too to any rain, so dense that cover was, heaped up with fallen leaves.
  9. anguish
    extreme distress of body or mind
    Then joy and anguish seized her heart; her eyes filled up with tears; her throat closed, and she whispered, with hand held out to touch his chin: “Oh yes! You are Odysseus!
  10. chide
    scold or reprimand severely or angrily
    And out of the night sky Athena came to him; out of the nearby dark in body like a woman; came and stood over his head to chide him: “Why so wakeful, most forlorn of men? Here is your home, there lies your lady; and your son is here, as fine as one could wish a son to be.”
  11. vigil
    a period of sleeplessness
    Now you, too, go to sleep. This all night vigil wearies the flesh.
  12. reign
    rule or have supreme power
    Evil may be endured when our days pass in mourning, heavy-hearted, hard beset, if only sleep reign over nighttime, blanketing the world’s good and evil from our eyes.
  13. adversity
    a state of misfortune or affliction
    “O Father Zeus, if over land and water, after adversity, you willed to bring me home, let someone in the waking house give me good augury, and a sign be shown, too, in the outer world.”
  14. loiter
    linger, remain, or wait around for no apparent reason
    You others go fetch water from the spring; no loitering; come straight back.
  15. tether
    restraint consisting of a rope or chain
    My own feelings keep going round and round upon this tether: can I desert the boy by moving, herds and all, to another country, a new life among strangers?
  16. hector
    be bossy towards
    “It goes against the grain, my lords, but still I say we take this hectoring by Telemakhos. You know Zeus balked at it, or else we might have shut his mouth a long time past, the silvery speaker.”
  17. humiliation
    state of disgrace or loss of self-respect
    Granted you mean at last to cut me down: I welcome that—better to die than have humiliation always before my eyes, the stranger buffeted, and the serving women dragged about, abused in a noble house.
  18. reproach
    express criticism towards
    as long as hope remained in you to see Odysseus, that great gifted man, again, you could not be reproached for obstinacy, tying the suitors down here
  19. commandeer
    take arbitrarily or by force
    My lords, hear me: suitors indeed, you commandeered this house to feast and drink in, day and night, my husband being long gone, long out of mind.
  20. plunder
    steal goods; take as spoils
    he, Antmoos, destined to be the first of all to savor blood from a biting arrow at his throat, a shaft drawn by the fingers of Odysseus whom he had mocked and plundered, leading on the rest, his boon companions.
  21. postpone
    hold back to a later time
    Today the islanders held holiday, a holy day, no day to sweat over a bowstring. Keep your head. Postpone the bow.
  22. prospect
    belief about the future
    Suppose this exile put his back into it and drew the great bow of Odysseus—could he then take me home to be his bride? You know he does not imagine that! No one need let that prospect weigh upon his dinner! How very, very improbable it seems.
  23. contempt
    open disrespect for a person or thing
    Contempt was all you had for the gods who rule wide heaven, contempt for what men say of you hereafter.
  24. glower
    look angry or sullen as if to signal disapproval
    Odysseus glowered under his black brows and said: “Not for the whole treasure of your fathers, all you enjoy, lands, flocks, or any gold put up by others, would I hold my hand. There will be killing till the score is paid.
  25. gird
    prepare oneself for action or a confrontation
    Odysseus, when he saw his adversaries girded and capped and long spears in their hands shaken at him, felt his knees go slack, his heart sink, for the fight was turning grim.
  26. superficial
    of, affecting, or being on or near the surface
    Amphi'medon’s point bloodied Telemakhos’ wrist, a superficial wound, and Ktesippos’ long spear passing over Eumaios’ shield grazed his shoulder, hurtled on and fell.
  27. scruples
    motivation deriving from ethical or moral principles
    I had no part in what they did: my part was visionary—reading the smoke of sacrifice. Scruples go unrewarded if I die.
  28. throes
    violent pangs of suffering
    Think of a catch that fishermen haul in to a halfmoon bay in a fine-meshed net from the white-caps of the sea: how all are poured out on the sand, in throes for the salt sea, twitching their cold lives away in Helios’ fiery air: so lay the suitors heaped on one another.
  29. vanquish
    defeat in a competition, race, or conflict
    To glory over slain men is no piety. Destiny and the gods’ will vanquished these, and their own hardness.
  30. pell-mell
    in a wild or reckless manner
    When the great room was cleaned up once again, at swordpoint they forced them out, between the roundhouse and the palisade, pell-mell to huddle in that dead end without exit.
  31. abyss
    a bottomless gulf or pit
    Few men can keep alive through a big surf to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind: and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband, her white arms round him pressed as though forever.
  32. prophecy
    knowledge of the future, as from a divine source
    The moment of revelation he foretold was this, for you may share the prophecy
  33. replenish
    fill something that had previously been emptied
    Take care of what is left me in our house; as to the flocks that pack of wolves laid waste they’ll be replenished: scores I’ll get on raids and other scores our island friends will give me till all the folds are full again.
  34. venerable
    profoundly honored
    They would have boarded ship that night and fled except for one man’s wisdom— venerable Nestor, proven counselor in the past.
  35. squalor
    sordid dirtiness
    But I might add—don’t take offense—your own appearance could be tidier. Old age yes—but why the squalor, and rags to boot?
  36. bewail
    regret strongly
    His mother at his bier never bewailed him, nor did I, his father, nor did his admirable wife, Penelope, who should have closed her husband’s eyes in death and cried aloud upon him as he lay.
  37. swoon
    pass out from weakness or physical or emotional distress
    Odysseus held him swooning until he got his breath back and his spirit and spoke again
  38. query
    pose a question
    At this point, querying Zeus, Athena said: “O Father of us all and king of kings, enlighten me. What is your secret will?
  39. yield
    give in, as to influence or pressure
    He yielded to her, and his heart was glad.
  40. arbiter
    someone chosen to judge and decide a disputed issue
    Both parties later swore to terms of peace set by their arbiter, Athena, daughter of Zeus who bears the stormcloud as a shield—though still she kept the form and voice of Mentor.
Created on September 15, 2014 (updated April 8, 2019)

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