How we cite our quotes:
Unsheathed the narrow sword,
I sat to keep off the impetuous impotent dead, (39-40)
Odysseus really doesn't want to deal with the souls of a bunch of dead people, especially considering how he might be responsible for a lot of their deaths. Let's not forget that Odysseus was the dude who came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse, which eventually caused the deaths of pretty much everyone living in the city of Troy. Nice work, Odysseus.
But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,
Unburied, cast on the wide earth,/ Limbs that we left in the house of Circe, (42-44)
Mortality is a funny thing, insofar as pretty much all of us have the ability to die at any moment. Odysseus' friend Elpenor definitely found this out the hard way. Dude was just minding his own business and getting drunk on wine, then he decides to climb up on a rooftop and fall to his death. And it's not like that sort of thing doesn't happen anymore. Apart from traffic accidents, falling from a height is actually one of the most common forms of dying from alcohol. Think about it.
"But thou, O King, I bid remember me, unwept, unburied," (54)
Poor Elpenor. Now that he's dead, he needs to rely on Odysseus to come back to Circe's island and give him a proper burial, even though Odysseus wants nothing to do with that. The last time he was on Circe's island, he nearly lost his entire crew. But it's not easy to say no to a guy who's stuck in the underworld for all eternity.