No; but one must always have a care for divine decorum. There
are certain words the use of which debases this sublime quality, and
it is meet that these should be left to men, because they are unworthy.
You speak at your ease, fair lady, from a swiftly rolling
chariot, in which, like a dame free from care; you are drawn by two
fine horses wherever you like. But it is not the same with me. Such
is my miserable fate that I cannot bear the poets too great a grudge
for their gross impertinence in having, by an unjust law, which they
wish to retain in force, given a separate conveyance to each God,
for his own use, and left me to go on foot: me, like a village
messenger, though, as everyone knows, I am the famous messenger of
the sovereign of the Gods, on the earth and in the heavens. Without
any exaggeration, I need more than any one else the means of being
carried about, because of all the duties he puts upon me.
What can one do? The poets do what pleases them. It is not
the only stupidity we have detected in these gentlemen. But surely
your irritation against them is wrong, for the wings at your feet
are a friendly gift of theirs.
Yes; but does going more quickly tire oneself less?
Let us leave the matter, Seigneur Mercury, and learn what is wanted.
Jupiter, as I have told you, wishes the dark aid of your cloak
for a certain gallant adventure, which a new love affair has
furnished him. His custom is not new to you, I believe: often does
he neglect the heavens for the earth; and you are not ignorant that
this master of the Gods loves to take upon himself the guise of man
to woo earthly beauties. He knows a hundred ingenious tricks to
entrap the most obdurate. He has felt the darts of Alcmene's eyes;
and, whilst Amphitryon, her husband, commands the Theban troops on
the plains of Boeotia, Jupiter has taken his form, and assuaged his
pains, in the possession of the sweetest of pleasures. The condition
of the couple is propitious to his desire: Hymen joined them only a
few days ago; and the young warmth of their tender love suggested to
Jupiter to have recourse to this fine artifice. His stratagem proved
successful in this case; but with many a cherished object a similar
disguise would not be of any use: it is not always a sure means of
pleasing, to adopt the form, of a husband.
I admire Jupiter, and I cannot imagine all the disguises
which come into his head.
By these means he wishes to taste all sorts of conditions:
that is the act of a God who is not a fool. However mortals may
regard him, I should think very meanly of him if he never quitted
his redoubtable mien, and were always in the heavens, standing upon
his dignity. In my opinion, there is nothing more idiotic than
always to be imprisoned in one's grandeur; above all, a lofty rank
becomes very inconvenient in the transports of amorous ardour.
Jupiter, no doubt, is a connoisseur in pleasure, and he knows how to
descend from the height of his supreme glory. So that he can enter
into everything that pleases him, he entirely casts aside himself,
and then it is no longer Jupiter who appears.
I could overlook seeing him step down from his sublime stage
to that of men, since he wishes to enter into all the transports
which their natures can supply, and join in their jests, if, in the
changes which take his fancy, he would confine himself to nature.
But I do not think it fitting to see Jupiter as a bull, a serpent, a
swan, or what not, and it does not astonish me that it is sometimes
Let all the busybodies talk; such changes have their own
charms and surpass people's understanding. The God knows what he
does in this affair as in everything else: in the movements of their
tender passions, animals are not so loutish as one might think.
Let us return to the lady whose favours he enjoys. If, by his
stratagem, his pursuit is successful, what more can he wish? What can I do?
He wishes that you would slacken the pace of your horses, to
satisfy the passion of his amorous heart, and so make of a
delightful night the longest night of all; that you would give him
more time for his transports, and retard the birth of day since it
will hasten the return of him whose place he occupies.
Really the employment which the great Jupiter reserves for me
is a worthy one! The service he requires of me passes under a very
You are somewhat old-fashioned for a young goddess! Such an
employment is not debasing except among people of mean birth. When
one has the happiness of belonging to lofty rank, whatever one does
is always right and good; things change their names to suit what one may be.
You know more about such matters than I do; I will trust to
your enlightened views and accept this employment.
Come, come, now, Madam Night, a little gently, I beseech you.
The world gives you the reputation of not being so scrupulous. In a
hundred different climes you are made the confidant of many gallant
adventures; and, if I may speak candidly, we do not owe each other anything.
Let us cease these reproaches and remain what we are. Let us
not give men cause to laugh by telling each other the truth.
Adieu. I am going there to play my part in this business,
promptly to strip myself of the form of Mercury and to take in its
place the figure of Amphitryon's valet.
I am going to keep station in this hemisphere with my sombre train.