Metamorphoses

By Ovid

From Book 2

Mercury Falls in Love with Herse

The Story of    This done, the God flew up on high, and pass'd
Aglauros,       O'er lofty Athens, by Minerva grac'd,
transform'd     And wide Munichia, whilst his eyes survey
into a Statue   All the vast region that beneath him lay. 

Hermes          'Twas now the feast, when each Athenian maid
Falls in love   Her yearly homage to Minerva paid;
With Herse      In canisters, with garlands cover'd o'er,
                High on their heads, their mystick gifts they bore:
And now, returning in a solemn train,
The troop of shining virgins fill'd the plain. 

The God well pleas'd beheld the pompous show,
And saw the bright procession pass below;
Then veer'd about, and took a wheeling flight,
And hover'd o'er them: as the spreading kite,
That smells the slaughter'd victim from on high,
Flies at a distance, if the priests are nigh,
And sails around, and keeps it in her eye:
So kept the God the virgin quire in view,
And in slow winding circles round them flew. 

As Lucifer excells the meanest star,
Or, as the full-orb'd Phoebe, Lucifer;
So much did Herse all the rest outvy,
And gave a grace to the solemnity.
Hermes was fir'd, as in the clouds he hung:
So the cold bullet, that with fury slung
From Balearick engines mounts on high,
Glows in the whirl, and burns along the sky.
At length he pitch'd upon the ground, and show'd
The form divine, the features of a God.
He knew their vertue o'er a female heart,
And yet he strives to better them by art.
He hangs his mantle loose, and sets to show
The golden edging on the seam below;
Adjusts his flowing curls, and in his hand
Waves, with an air, the sleep-procuring wand;
The glitt'ring sandals to his feet applies,
And to each heel the well-trim'd pinion ties. 

His ornaments with nicest art display'd,
He seeks th' apartment of the royal maid.
The roof was all with polish'd iv'ry lin'd,
That richly mix'd, in clouds of tortoise shin'd.
Three rooms, contiguous, in a range were plac'd,
The midmost by the beauteous Herse grac'd;
Her virgin sisters lodg'd on either side.
Aglauros first th' approaching God descry'd,
And, as he cross'd her chamber, ask'd his name,
And what his business was, and whence he came.
"I come," reply'd the God, "from Heav'n, to woo
Your sister, and to make an aunt of you;
I am the son and messenger of Jove;
My name is Mercury, my bus'ness love;
Do you, kind damsel, take a lover's part,
And gain admittance to your sister's heart." 

Translated under the direction of Sir Samuaul Garth by John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, William Congreve and others.