As they spoke, a dog who was lying there lifted his head
and pricked up his ears. It was Argos, Odysseus’ dog;
he had trained him and brought him up as a puppy, but never
hunted with him before he sailed off to Troy.
In earlier times the young men had taken him out
with them to hunt for wild goats and deer and hares,
but he had grown old in his master’s absence, and now
he lay abandoned on one of the heaps of mule
and cattle dung that piled up outside the front gates
until the farmhands could come by and cart it off
to manure the fields. And so the dog Argos lay there,
covered with ticks. As soon as he was aware
of Odysseus, he wagged his tail and flattened his ears,
but he lacked the strength to get up and go to his master.
Odysseus wiped a tear away, turning aside
to keep the swineherd from seeing it, and he said,
“Eumaeus, it is surprising that such a dog,
of such quality, should be lying here on a dunghill.
He is a beauty, but I can’t tell if his looks
were matched by his speed or if he was one of those pampered
table dogs, which are kept around just for show.”
Then, in response to his words, Eumaeus, you said,
“This is the dog of a man who died far away.
If he were now what he used to be when Odysseus
left and sailed off to Troy, you would be astonished
at his power and speed. No animal could escape him
in the deep forest once he began to track it.
What an amazing nose he had! But misfortune
has fallen upon him now that his master is dead
in some far-distant land, and the women are all too thoughtless
to take any care of him. Servants are always like that:
when their masters aren’t right there to give them their orders,
they slack off, get lazy, and no longer do an honest
day’s work, for Zeus almighty takes half the good
out of a man on the day he becomes a slave.”
With these words he entered the palace and went to the hall
where the suitors were assembled at one of their banquets.
And just then death came and darkened the eyes of Argos,
who had seen Odysseus again after twenty years.