Tis now fifty or sixty years since,
(The date of a charming old boy of a Prince)
Since the feathered god Mercury happened to lose
A thing no less precious than one of his shoes:
I say no less precious, because in the mention
The artist has made of this very invention,
(Old Homer, who furnished the gods with such things)
He says, 'twas immortal, of gold, and had wings.
The latter indeed are as famous as Love's,
And they rivalled in hue even Venus's doves;
For at every fresh turn, and least touch into light,
Which the clear God of Eloquence took in his flight,
They varied their colours in fifty directions,
And perfectly dazzled with brilliant reflections.
'I wonder,' said Mercury, — putting his head
One rosy-faced morning from Venus's bed,—
'I wonder, my dear Cytherea, — don't you?—
What can have become of that rogue of a shoe.
I've searched every corner to make myself certain,
And lifted, I'm sure, ev'ry possible curtain,
And how I'm to manage, by Jove, I don't know,
For manage I must, and to earth I must go.
'Tis now a whole week since I lost it; and here,
Like a dove whom your urchin has crippled, my dear,
Have I loitered, and fluttered, and looked in those eyes,
While Juno keeps venting her crabbed surprise;
And Apollo, with all that fine faith in his air,
Asks me daily accounts of Rousseau and Voltaire,
And Jove (whom it's awkward to risk such a thing with)
Has not enough thunder to frighten a king with.
So — there then — now don't look so kind, I beseech you,
Or else I shall stay a week longer, you witch you—
I can't ask the gods; but I'll search once again
For this fugitive shoe, and if still it's in vain,
I must try to make something a while of sheer leather,
And match with a mortal my fair widowed feather.'
So saying, the God put a leg out of bed,
And summoned his winged cap on to his head;
And the widow in question flew smack round his foot,
And up he was getting to end his pursuit,
When Venus said softly (so softly, that he
Turned about on his elbow) — 'What! go without me?'
Now the fact was, that Venus, who always would please a
Fine wit, had been reading the New Eloisa,
And having prodigiously felt and admired it,
Couldn't but say so to him who inspired it.
Therefore, to take the due steps for expressing
Her sense of such very well-worded caressing,
She had sent down to earth this same Shoe with an errand
To get a new pair at Ashburton for her, and
Not think of returning without what it went for,
Unless by its master especially sent for.
The Shoe made a scrape; and concluding the thing
Had been settled 'twixt her and his master, took wing;
And never ceased beating through sunshine and rain,
Now clasped in a cloud, and now loosened again,
Till it came to Ashburton, where something so odd
Seemed to strike it, it could not help saying, 'My God!'
I know not precisely how much of this matter
Was mentioned, when Mercury sparkled round at her;
But Venus proposed, that as one Shoe was fled,
Her good easy virtue should help him instead
'You know, love,' said she, ''tis as light as a feather;
And so I'll be guide, and we'll go down together.'
I leave you to fancy how little he checked her:
They chalked out their journey, got up, took their nectar;
And then, with his arm round her waist, and his eyes
Looking thanks upon hers, came away from the skies.
I cannot, I own, say he came much the faster,
How earnest soever he looked and embraced her;
But never before, though a God of much grace,
Had he come with such fine overlooking of face;
And as she travelled seldom herself in this style,
With a lover beside her, and clasped all the while,
'Tis said that the earth was remarkably moved:
Even marriers for money imagined they loved:
Yes, inanimate things fell exchanging caresses,
Till Princes embraced their own legal Princesses:
Not one pair of birds or respectable brutes,
Nay, not one of gloves, but, they say, followed suits,
And the bishops but walked in the steps of their boots.
YOU ARE READING
Ultra-Crepidarius, by Leigh Hunt and William HazlittNon-Fiction
In the early part of the 19th Century feeling between radicals and conservatives was very bitter. This was as true of the literary world as in politics, and writers at all levels being divided. In the Radical camp were amongst others William Godwin...