Odyssey (Rapsodies 7 to 12)
spread for them, and could neither get up nor stir hand or foot, but
found too late that they were in a trap. Then Vulcan came up to
them, for he had turned back before reaching Lemnos, when his scout
the sun told him what was going on. He was in a furious passion, and
stood in the vestibule making a dreadful noise as he shouted to all
"Father Jove," he cried, "and all you other blessed gods who live
for ever, come here and see the ridiculous and disgraceful sight
that I will show you. Jove's daughter Venus is always dishonouring
me because I am lame. She is in love with Mars, who is handsome and
clean built, whereas I am a cripple- but my parents are to blame for
that, not I; they ought never to have begotten me. Come and see the
pair together asleep on my bed. It makes me furious to look at them.
They are very fond of one another, but I do not think they will lie
there longer than they can help, nor do I think that they will sleep
much; there, however, they shall stay till her father has repaid me
the sum I gave him for his baggage of a daughter, who is fair but
On this the gods gathered to the house of Vulcan. Earth-encircling
Neptune came, and Mercury the bringer of luck, and King Apollo, but
the goddesses stayed at home all of them for shame. Then the givers of
all good things stood in the doorway, and the blessed gods roared with
inextinguishable laughter, as they saw how cunning Vulcan had been,
whereon one would turn towards his neighbour saying:
"Ill deeds do not prosper, and the weak confound the strong. See how
limping Vulcan, lame as he is, has caught Mars who is the fleetest god
in heaven; and now Mars will be cast in heavy damages."
Thus did they converse, but King Apollo said to Mercury,
"Messenger Mercury, giver of good things, you would not care how
strong the chains were, would you, if you could sleep with Venus?"
"King Apollo," answered Mercury, "I only wish I might get the
chance, though there were three times as many chains- and you might
look on, all of you, gods and goddesses, but would sleep with her if I
The immortal gods burst out laughing as they heard him, but
Neptune took it all seriously, and kept on imploring Vulcan to set
Mars free again. "Let him go," he cried, "and I will undertake, as you
require, that he shall pay you all the damages that are held
reasonable among the immortal gods."
"Do not," replied Vulcan, "ask me to do this; a bad man's bond is
bad security; what remedy could I enforce against you if Mars should
go away and leave his debts behind him along with his chains?"
"Vulcan," said Neptune, "if Mars goes away without paying his
damages, I will pay you myself." So Vulcan answered, "In this case I
cannot and must not refuse you."
Thereon he loosed the bonds that bound them, and as soon as they
were free they scampered off, Mars to Thrace and laughter-loving Venus
to Cyprus and to Paphos, where is her grove and her altar fragrant
with burnt offerings. Here the Graces hathed her, and anointed her
with oil of ambrosia such as the immortal gods make use of, and they
clothed her in raiment of the most enchanting beauty.
Thus sang the bard, and both Ulysses and the seafaring Phaeacians
were charmed as they heard him.
Then Alcinous told Laodamas and Halius to dance alone, for there was
no one to compete with them. So they took a red ball which Polybus had
made for them, and one of them bent himself backwards and threw it
up towards the clouds, while the other jumped from off the ground
and caught it with ease before it came down again. When they had
done throwing the ball straight up into the air they began to dance,
and at the same time kept on throwing it backwards and forwards to one
another, while all the young men in the ring applauded and made a
great stamping with their feet. Then Ulysses said:
"King Alcinous, you said your people were the nimblest dancers in
the world, and indeed they have proved themselves to be so. I was