(I once took a class on Homeric Greek from a very distinguished professor by the name of Seth Benardette. Besides many other strange characteristics, he wore a seersucker suit every day to class that summer. I’ve always wondered if it was just one suit. Now, Bernardette very strongly believed that great human wisdom can be extracted from Homer’s Iliad. Not being a renowned hellenist nor any kind but a practical philosopher I suppose I should defer to his superior judgement. But I’ve always liked the Odyssey better. I think this scene where Odysseus meets up with his dog that hasn’t seen him in twenty years since it was just a pup is more interesting than Achilles and his offended pride.)
As they were thus talking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argos, whom Odysseus had bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any work out of him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come and draw it away to manure the great field; and he was full of fleas. As soon as he saw Odysseus standing there, he dropped his ears and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When Odysseus saw the dog on the other side of the yard, he dashed a tear from his eyes without Eumaios seeing it, and said:
“Eumaios, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap: his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept merely for show?”
“This hound,” answered Eumaios, “belonged to him who has died in a far country. If he were what he was when Odysseus left for Troy, he would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its tracks. But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their work when their master’s hand is no longer over them, for Zeus takes half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him.”
As he spoke he went inside the buildings to the room where the suitors were, but Argos died as soon as he had recognized his master.