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Greek Literature

Now all this time Telemachus tarried in Sparta with King Menelaus, and the son of Nestor was with him. To him, therefore, Athene went. Nestor's son she found overcome with slumber, but Telemachus could not sleep for thoughts of his father. And Athene stood near him, and spake:—

Three thousand years ago the world was still young. The western continent was a huge wilderness, and the greater part of Europe was inhabited by savage and wandering tribes. Only a few nations at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and in the neighbouring parts of Asia had learned to dwell in cities, to use a written language, to make laws for themselves, and to live in a more orderly fashion.

Telemachus in his ship came safe to the island of Ithaca, at the place that was nearest to the swineherd's house. There they beached the ship, and made it fast with anchors at the fore part and hawsers at the stern, and they landed, and made ready a meal.

When they had had enough of meat and drink, Telemachus said: “Take now the ship to the city. I will come thither in the evening, having first seen my farm; and then I will pay you your wages.”

Now the herdsman and Ulysses had kindled a fire, and were making ready breakfast.

 [Footnote: counsel, advice.] [Footnote: A-the'-ne.]

When the great city of Troy had been taken, all the chiefs who had fought against it set sail for their homes. But there was wrath in heaven against them, so that they did not find a safe and happy return. For one was shipwrecked, and another was shamefully slain by his false wife in his palace, and others found all things at home troubled and changed, and were driven to seek new dwellings elsewhere; and some were driven far and wide about the world before they saw their native land again.

When the morning came, Telemachus said to the swineherd: “I go to the city, for my mother will not be satisfied till she see my very face. And do thou lead this stranger to the city, that he may there beg his bread from any that may have the mind to give.”

Thereupon Ulysses spake, saying, “I too, my friend, like not to be left here. It is better for a man to beg his bread in the town than in the fields. Go thou, and I will follow, so soon as the sun shall wax hot, for my garments are exceeding poor, and I fear lest the cold overcome me.”

When the morning came, Telemachus bade the heralds call the people to the assembly. So the heralds called them, and they came in haste. And when they were gathered together, he went his way to the place of meeting, holding in his hand a spear, and two dogs followed him. Then did Athene shed a marvellous grace upon him, so that all men wondered at him, as he sat him down in his father's place.

Greek literature is more modern in its tone than Latin or Medieval or Elizabethan. It is the expression of a society living in an environment singularly like our own, mainly democratic, filled with a spirit of free inquiry, troubled by obstinate feuds and still more obstinate problems. Militarism, nationalism, socialism and communism were well known, the preachers of some of these doctrines being loud, ignorant and popular.

I count it an honour to have been asked to write a short introduction to this book. My only claim to do so is a profound belief in the doctrine which it advocates, that Greek literature can never die and that it has a clear and obvious message for us to-day. Those who sat, as I did, on the recent Committee appointed by Mr.

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