folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 571B
and other stories about illicit lovers
who are magically stuck together
D. L. Ashliman
The blacksmith saw that he was doomed, and in despair wandered into the woods.
At last he came to an old woman who asked what was troubling him. He told her of the kings hardheartedness and asked for advise. Then the old woman taught him the magic that he would need to finish the castle.
When the king saw the castle, he was amazed and angry, and now he commanded the blacksmith to dig a great moat around the new castle and to build four bridges over the moat, with a gate for each one, and all that within three days. The blacksmith, using the old woman's magic, completed this task in three days as well.
The king was even more amazed and more angry, because now he did not know what kind of a difficult and impossible task he would be able to give the blacksmith in order to find an excuse to take his life. Finally the king, quite beside himself, declared, "If you dont want to lose your life, you must make a himphamp for me in three days!" The smith did not even know what a himphamp was, so more desperate than ever, he walked away.
Once again he found the old woman, who said to him, "Make a chamber pot of iron and place it under your bed. Then hide, and when you see anyone touch it, just say hold fast quietly to yourself, and you will soon see a himphamp!"
The blacksmith did what the old woman said.
One evening the king came, as usual, to visit the blacksmiths wife, and the smith hid himself where he could watch. The lovers got undressed, and the wife got into bed. Before following her, the king had to use the pot. As soon as he touched the iron pot, the smith whispered, "Hold fast," and the king, wearing only his nightshirt, stuck to the pot. The wife jumped out of bed and tried to tear the pot loose, but as soon as she touched it, the smith whispered "hold fast," and she too became stuck.
The king was enraged at this tomfoolery, and the smith's wife began to cry. Her maid heard the commotion and, half asleep and stark naked, came running to help them. But she too became stuck, just like the others.
Then the smith stepped forward and drove all three from the house with an iron club. It was almost daytime, and the embarrassed maid picked up a bundle of hay and tried to cover her shame with it. A cow came by and wanted to get at the hay, but the smith said "hold fast!" and it also became attached. Then a bull came by and mounted the cow, and the smith called out once more, "Hold fast!"
He drove them -- all stuck to the iron pot -- up one street and down another. The people were just beginning to stir, and they all laughed and jeered. A small boy looked out from his window and shouted, "What a himphamp!" The townspeople joined the smith, and together they drove the entire himphamp into the deep moat at the castle. Then they made the clever blacksmith their new king.
Thus one day the priest went to the nobleman and said, "In your village there is a very talented smith who can make anything that he wants to. His skill is so great that within one night he could build a palace in your courtyard. However, you will have to threaten him with body and soul, otherwise he will refuse."
The nobleman summoned the smith and said, "I have heard so much about your skill that I want to put it to the test. Build a palace for me in my courtyard, and it must be finished in one night."
"Oh God," said the smith, "that is not possible. I cannot do that."
"I am telling you," cried the nobleman, "if the palace is not finished by tomorrow morning I shall have you hanged without mercy."
The smith sadly returned home to his wife. "Wife," he said, "I am supposed to build a palace for the nobleman tonight, and if I do not succeed I am to die."
The wife said, "The only thing that you can do is to go away this very evening."
"Yes," he said, "I'd sooner go away as far as my feet can carry me than to lose my life."
So he tied together a bundle, sadly took leave of his wife, and went on his way, thinking that he would never return. And that is just what his wife and the priest wanted.
At nightfall the smith came into a forest where he was met by a gray man who greeted him and asked, "Where to, my dear smith?"
"Oh," said the smith, "I was supposed to build a palace for the nobleman tonight. He commanded me to do this under the threat of death, and because I am unable to do so I am running away as far as my feet can carry me."
"Just go back home," said the gray man. "I shall take care of things for you. The palace will be finished tomorrow morning in due time."
So the smith returned home to his wife. She was just about to fetch the priest when she saw her husband approaching, and she cried out with surprise, "Oh God, you have come back home. What will happen when the palace is not finished in the morning?"
"Let happen what will happen," said the smith. "I cannot stand being away from you and from home for so long." With that he went to bed and fell asleep.
The next morning the nobleman arose very early and looked out his window. He could scarcely believe his eyes, for a magnificent palace was standing there, glistening in the first rays of morning sunshine.
When the priest learned what had happened and saw that his plan had failed, he went back to the nobleman and said, "Now you know how skilled the smith is. This time tell him to bring a himphamp to the palace before tomorrow morning. You have to command him under the threat of body and soul, or he will not do it."
Then the nobleman summoned the smith to appear before him a second time, saying, "You built the palace entirely to my satisfaction; now you must bring a himphamp to the palace by tomorrow morning. With your skill that should be an easy task for you."
"My lord," said the smith, "how can I bring you a himphamp when I don't even know what one is? I cannot do it."
"That makes no difference," said the nobleman. "If there is no himphamp before my palace tomorrow morning I shall have you hanged without mercy."
Then the smith sadly went back home to his wife. "Oh God, wife," he said, "now the nobleman wants me to get a himphamp by tomorrow morning, and if I cannot do so he will have me hanged without mercy."
The wife said, "The only thing that you can do is to go away this very evening."
"Yes," he said, "I'd sooner go away as far as my feet can carry me than to lose my life."
So he tied together a bundle, sadly took leave of his wife, and went on his way, thinking that he would never return. That is just what his unfaithful wife and the priest wanted, and the smith had scarcely left when the priest sneaked into his house to be with the wife.
Meanwhile the smith once again came into the woods and was again was met by the gray man, who asked, "Where to, my dear smith?"
"Oh," said the smith, "now that the nobleman has the palace he also wants a himphamp, and because I cannot get one for him I am going as far as my feet can carry me."
"No one other than the priest has put him up to this," said the gray man. "He wants your wife and is trying to get you out of the way. Just go back home. The two of them are there together, and when you see the priest giving your wife a kiss, just say 'Hold fast!' Then take your whip and drive the two of them out of your house along the street to the nobleman's palace. Whenever anyone comes and tries to pull them apart, just say 'Hold fast!" and they will all be stuck together until you say 'Let go!' That will turn into a wonderful himphamp."
The smith thanked the gray man and returned home. It was early morning when he arrived at his village, and he sneaked into his house just as the priest was giving his wife a kiss.
"Hold fast!" cried the smith.
Hearing the smith's voice, the priest tried to run away, but -- oh dear! -- it was as if he were glued to the woman. Then the smith took his whip from the wall and drove the two of them out of the house and along the street. They came to the priest's house just as his servant girl with her apron full of hay was about to feed the cow. Seeing her master in a bad situation she quickly ran up and took hold of him in order to get him into his own house, so that no one would see his shame.
"Hold fast!" cried the smith, and the priest's servant girl stuck to the others and had to go along with them.
At the same time a herder boy came by, playing his pipe and driving his herd along before him. An old cow wanted to eat the hay that the priest's servant girl was carrying in her apron.
"Hold fast!" cried the smith, and the old cow also stuck to the others and had to go along with them.
All this was seen by a baker who had just heated his oven and was about to rake out the coals. He quickly ran up and hit the cow with his long oven-rake.
"Hold fast!" cried the smith, and the baker with his long oven-rake also stuck to the others and had to go along with them.
That morning the nobleman got up early; he looked out the window into the courtyard just as the smith came up with his himphamp.
When he saw it the nobleman began to laugh, and said, "You have done well, my dear smith. That is a wonderful himphamp that you have brought to me, but turn them loose now, so they can go back home."
Then the smith said, "Let go!" and with that they all ran back where they had come from: the priest, the wife, the servant girl, the cow, and the baker with his long oven-rake. However, the priest was so shamed that he never again returned to the smith's house.
The smith was normally a kind-hearted man, but did not like how the sexton was behaving, so one day he made it clear to him that he was not to come to eat at the smith's house any more often than he did so at the other villagers, warning him that if he showed up out of turn the smith would throw him out the door.
"Is that how you are going to treat me?" said the sexton to himself. "I'll show you!"
He then went straight to the manor house and told the nobleman why the latter should be getting more out of his people. For example, he said that there was a smith in the village who could do more than just eat bread. It would be easy for him in one night to thresh and clean all the grain in the nobleman's barn.
The nobleman held the sexton to be an intelligent and experienced man, so he believed his malicious claim. He immediately sent for the smith, who had no choice but to appear before him.
"My dear craftsman," said the lord, "I have learned that you are more skillful than others. Here is a threshing flail. If you haven't threshed and cleaned all the grain in my barn before sunrise tomorrow, I'll have you driven out of the village with shame and curses. Then just try to find another position somewhere else.
The smith swore by heaven and earth that the nobleman had been wrongly informed, but nothing he could say was of any help. He was led into the barn, the threshing flail was handed to him, and the barn door was locked behind him.
He stood there cursing his fate while the sexton was at the smith's house feasting on roasted chicken and drinking strong beer with the smith's young wife, laughing about his cunning until he almost burst.
At nightfall a small gray man suddenly approached the smith and said, "Why are you just standing here and not beginning your work? Climb up into the loft and throw the sheaves down to me. I'll help you."
The smith did what he was asked to. The little gray man struck each sheaf once with the flail, and the grain and the chaff flew into separate piles on the threshing floor. It all went so fast that the smith could not throw down the sheaves quickly enough. Then the little man helped to throw down the sheaves, and all so terribly fast that long before sunrise all the grain had been threshed and cleaned, just as the nobleman had ordered. Finally the little man produced a huge sack, filled it with the grain, then stood it in front of the manor house so that the lord would see it in the morning as soon as he got out of bed.
At sunrise the sexton himself came to the manor house to be present when the smith was driven from the village. When he saw the huge sack filled with threshed grain he at first did not believe his eyes; but then he turned green and yellow with anger, got ahold of himself, wished the smith a good morning, and rushed to the nobleman's room.
"Now, honorable sir, you can see for yourself," said the malicious man, "if the peasants in the village are doing enough for you. The smith did what you commanded him to do. Not a single kernel from the threshed grain is missing in the sack. How would it be if you were to give him an even more difficult task for the coming night? Have him carry away the large pile of stones that is in front of the manor house and replace it with a pond filled with the most beautiful goldfish."
This made the nobleman's mouth water, because the pile of stones had annoyed him for a long time, and he would love to have a goldfish pond in front of his house. Therefore he went out and praised the smith for having fulfilled the first task, but then ordered him during the following night to replace the pile of stones with a goldfish pond. If he did not do so he would be driven away with shame and curses.
The sexton laughed quietly, because the smith would never be able to fulfill this task. Happily he went to the smith's house and let the young wife serve him a delicious meal.
At the same time the smith himself was sadly hammering away at the stones with a sledgehammer, but however hard he tried he could not break off even a single chip.
As it grew dark the little gray man appeared again and said, "Smith, you are not getting anywhere! Stand aside, or a flying stone might hit you in the head!"
The smith had scarcely stepped back when the little man struck in the middle of the stones with the hammer, and they flew apart like the wind blows through a pile of chaff, and the smith was happy that he escaped injury. The gray man's blows also dug out a deep hole in the earth. Before long clouds descended over the hole. Alder and birch trees sprouted forth on the banks, as did all kinds of beautiful flowers. Before the smith knew what was happening the pond was finished, and the greatest miracle of all was that it was teeming with the most beautiful shimmering, glistening goldfish.
"Show that to his honorable lordship tomorrow morning," said the gray man, "and ask him if he is satisfied." With that he disappeared.
The lord of the manor was indeed satisfied, and he openly praised the smith. The sexton looked on grimly, for his wicked proposals had come to nothing. But he put on a happy face, and with the most honest appearance in the world said to the nobleman, "Yes, indeed, the smith did was he was supposed to do. But your lordship should require one more task from him. Have this skillful man forge a himphamp, without iron and steel, without fire and anvil, and -- of course -- in one night. That is the greatest masterpiece that the smith knows how to create. If he refuses to forge a himphamp, it is only because of his wickedness -- willfully denying your lordship the right to see such a masterpiece."
The sexton's speech made the nobleman curious, and he said to the smith, "Your skill has brought me great pleasure. Now I want to know how you forge a himphamp without steel and iron and without fire and anvil."
"Oh, your honor," cried the smith, "I will do anything for you, but as long as I live I cannot possible forge a himphamp without steel and iron and without fire and anvil."
"Silence!" said the lord. "If you can thresh all of my grain in one night and create a magnificent goldfish pond in place of a pile of stones, then you can also forge a himphamp for me without steel and iron, without fire and anvil. Get busy now. Tomorrow morning I want to see your work."
The poor man stood there not knowing what to do. At midnight the little gray man came to him and said, "Idiot, a himphamp is the easiest thing to make. Go home and get your large bullwhip, then hide under your bed without letting your wife know that you are there. Keep your eyes and ears open. As soon as you see something that you don't like just call out 'Himp, hamp, stick together!' and you will soon have a himphamp without steel and iron, without fire and anvil. But don't forget to use your whip."
The smith promised the little gray man faithfully to follow his instructions. On tiptoes he sneaked into his house, took the large bullwhip down from its nail, then crept under the bed. Scarcely a quarter of an hour had passed when his wife set the table, loading it with a fine pork roast, white bread, and good strong beer. A little later the sexton came in, sat down next to the smith's wife, and began to feast. Then he put his arm around the young woman, drank to her health, and described with laughter the task that he tricked the nobleman into giving her husband. Finishing his story, he gave her a kiss. This was too much for the smith hiding under the bed, and he called out "Himp, hamp, stick together!"
And behold, although the two of them, upon hearing the smith's voice, wanted more than anything else to jump out the window, they had to stay where they were. It was as though they had grown together. Then the smith stepped forth from his hiding place -- you saw that coming, didn't you -- and went after the godless couple with his bullwhip. They howled and cried and begged for forgiveness, but to no avail.
The next morning, just at sunrise, he drove them out of the house toward the manor house. Underway they came to some oxen from the estate; these turned wild and wanted to gore them.
"Himp, hamp, stick together!" cried the smith angrily, and the oxen stuck to the sexton and the woman, and they had to go along too.
Finally, they came to two servants who were blocking their way with a load of hay. "Himp, hamp, stick together!" was again the cry, and they too had to go along toward the manor house.
When they appeared before the nobleman the smith said, "Look here, my lord, I have forged a himphamp for you, without steel and iron, without fire and anvil." And with that he beat at the godless couple so fiercely that they both fell down dead.
Now the nobleman know for sure why the sexton had praised the smith's abilities so highly.
The landowner's added wealth swelled him with pride, although he owed it almost entirely to his faithful servant Hans, and he soon forgot his promise. At the conclusion of seven years he arranged for his daughter to marry a neighboring wealthy landowner. This breach of promise angered Hans greatly, but he said nothing, waiting instead for the wedding day when he would avenge himself.
It happened that he had come into possession of a magic charm in the following manner: Once when he was hauling wood from the forest his wagon-shaft had broken. He fashioned a new one but was unable to attach it to the wagon. After numerous unsuccessful attempts he was about to give up when he heard a small voice behind him saying, "Hold fast, hold fast!" and the shaft immediately attached itself to the wagon. Hans looked about with amazement, but no one was to be seen.
Afterward Hans experimented often with this magical charm, and he now planned to use it for his revenge. The wedding day arrived with a great celebration. The father of the bride spared no expense to make himself look important to his neighbors. In the evening the young couple slipped away from the festivities and retired to their bedroom. Hans followed them without being seen. The young bridegroom, suspecting nothing, embraced his blushing bride, when Hans softly spoke out, "Hold fast, hold fast!" The young couple could not separate themselves from his embrace. Hans retired quietly to his own bed in the stall.
The parents did not discover the young couple's plight until the next morning. They cried out miserably, then sent Hans to the pastor, thinking that through prayer the pastor could cast out the devil who held the poor ones captive.
It was a rainy day, and Hans was walking behind the pastor, who lifted his robe whenever he had to wade through a puddle. At such a moment Hans whispered a mighty "Hold fast, hold fast!" and the pastor was unable to release his robe, but had to continue holding it high. At the house he said a number of prayers, but they did not help, so Hans was sent to fetch a cunning-woman.
Their way back led them through a broad ditch filled with water. When the cunning-woman approached it she lifted up her skirts in order to walk across. Hans murmured softly, "Hold fast, hold fast!" and the cunning-woman was forced to continue on her way while holding her skirts high.
The news of the young couple's enchantment brought many neighbors to the scene, and everyone felt sorry for them. When the cunning-woman, weirdly holding up her skirts, approached the wedding house, a brash peasant touched her naked thigh with his tobacco pipe. Hans quickly said, "Hold fast, hold fast!" and the peasant had to follow her.
When the bride's father saw that Hans was laughing mockingly while everyone else was sadly standing by, he cried out, "This evil was caused by no one other than Hans. It is his revenge. Come, let's beat the daylight out of him!"
All hands immediately grabbed him and threw him over a bundle of straw, but when they raised their sticks Hans shouted, "Hold fast, hold fast!" and not a one of them could move an arm.
Recognizing the power of his magic charm, they begged Hans to free them. They promised him a rich land holding and many other valuables. Hans made them swear to this and then called out, "Let go, let go!" Suddenly they were all free: the young couple, the pastor, the cunning woman, the brash peasant, and the angry neighbors.
They all begged Hans never again to make use of the magic charm, which he promised. He received the property and the other valuables as agreed, and he died a wealthy and respected landowner.
Questioned by the pastor as to the conditions in their household, the husband admitted that a priest, known by the name Sir John, was often a guest in their home.
"I suspect that this Sir John may be up to no good," warned the pastor, then outlined a plan to his gullible brother to reveal the true purpose of the priest's visits.
Accordingly, the husband took the chamber pot from his own bedroom to the pastor, who spoke a charm over it; and the pot was then returned to its normal place beside the married couple's bed.
Announcing that he would be away for some time, the husband took leave of his wife. No sooner had he disappeared from view than the wife sent for Sir John and began to prepare a feast for the two of them. Then having eaten their fill, they retired to the bedroom.
In the middle of the night the priest arose to make water and picked up the chamber pot with his two hands, but to his alarm he discovered that some mysterious power held him fast to the basin.
"Woman, help me!" he cried to his bed partner. She jumped to his aid, but immediately found herself stuck to him and to the pot as well.
Their combined cries awakened the servant girl who ran, stark-naked, to help her mistress, but she too stuck to the pot.
What followed was quite a dance: The three of them spilled onto the street just at daybreak, and one after another different villagers tried to pull them apart, only to become stuck to the procession themselves.
Finally they were approached by the husband and his brother the parson. The cuckolded husband demanded payment of one hundred pounds from Sir John, threatening to cut of the latter's "equipment," unless he complied. Sir John, valuing his private parts, agreed to pay the proposed fine.
Hearing these vows, the pastor spoke a charm over the basin, and its prisoners found themselves freed. The shamed priest left forthwith for a different country, and as for the husband and wife, from that time onward they lived together without strife.
An honest man an inkeeper,
And friend to honest Jack,
Who was alas, in debt so far,
That he was like to crack.
This man he had a handsome wife,
Sweet fair and youthful too,
A Quaker lov'd her as his life,
An this Jack Horner knew.
This Quaker was a 'Squire born,
Who did in wealth abound,
Thought Jack I'll catch him in the corn,
Then put him in the pound.
First to the inn-keeper I'll go,
And whe I do him find,
He soon shall understand and know,
I will be truly kind:
He met me in a narrow lane,
And said, My Friend, good-morrow,
The Inn-keeper replied again,
My heart is full of sorrow,
Two hundred pounds I am in debt,
Which I should pay next week,
It makes me sigh, lament and fret
Having the coin to seek.
Quoth Jack if you'll be rul'd by me,
I'll put you in a way,
How you yourself from debt may free,
And all that money pay.
Nay, this is joyful news, he cry'd
Thou art a friend indeed,
Thy wit whall be my rule and guide,
For never was more need.
Go tell thy loving wife said he,
Thy joy and heart's delight,
That thou must ride mildes forty three,
And shan't be home to night.
Then mind the council which I give,
And be no ways afraid,
For why I tell you as I live,
Your debts shall soon be paid.
Mount your bay nag and take your cloak
With your warm morning-gown,
And lodge within a hollow oak,
A mile out of the town:
There may you sleep in sweet content
All night and take your rest,
And leave it to my management,
Then Sir, a pleasant jest,
Next morning you shall there behold,
The like ne'er seen before,
Which shall produce a sum of Gold,
Nay likewise silver store:
The Inn-keeper said, Honest John
Since you this promise make,
Believe me, as I am a man,
I will thy council take.
Unto his Wife in haste he went
And told her he must go
A journey, saying be content,
For why it must be so.
She seemingly began to weep,
And with sad sighs reply'd,
You know alas! I cannot sleep
Without you by my side.
Said he kind Wife, do not repine,
Why should You sigh and grieve?
I go out to a friend jof mine,
Some money to receive.
This said, with woman's fond deceit,
She straitway ceas'd to mourn,
And gave him twenty kisses sweet,
Wishing his safe return.
So soon as he was out of sight,
She to the Quaker sent,
And order'd him to come at night,
That to their heart's content
They might be merry sport and play,
Her husband being from home,
The Quaker said, by Yea and Nay,
I sill not fail to come.
A sucking pib and capon too,
For him she did prepare,
For why alas, full well she knew
He lov'd such dainty fare.
Now just about the close of day,
They both to supper fall;
Now Jack was there as well as they
And walk'd about the hall.
He did her fond behaviour note,
She on her friend did lean;
Jack having his inchanted coat,
He was not to be seen.
He perfectly did hear and see
How they did toy and play,
Thought he I will revenged be
Before the morning day.
Her servant-maid she sent to bed
When it grew somewhat late;
This done, her Friend she likewise led
Up to her chamber straight,
Where he did soon strip off his cloaths,
Stark-naked to his shirt,
And into bed with her he goes,
Concluding this not hurt.
Jack in the chamber did abide
'Till it was almost day,
Where coming to the curtains' side,
He heard the Quaker say,
That he had now a need to piss,
And to the pot must go,
Thought Jack I do rejoice at this,
A pleasant joke I'll show.
The Quaker thinking little harm,
Unto the pot he came,
While Jack having a cunning charm,
He locks him to the same.
The good wife often to him cries,
Whe sits thou in the cold,
Quoth he, I sticks between my thighs,
I cannot loose my hold.
Quoth she, What is the man a fool,
And strait to he she got
Then laid one hand upon his tool,
And t'other on the pot.
There did she tug and pull amain,
In hopes to set him free,
Yet all their labour prov'd in vain,
She stuck as fast as he.
They being both in sad distress,
Strait for the maid did knock,
Who never stood herself to dress,
But came up in her smock:
The sight she saw was a surprize,
So see such noble swingers,
She clapt her hands before her eyes,
Yet peep'd between her fingers.
You saucy slut, then said her dame,
Come help us from the pot,
The damsel said, I blush for shame
To see what he has got:
What has he got you saucy sow,
Whey do you stand to prate?
Come hither soon and help us now,
Or 'faith I'll break your pate.
Because her mistress should be pleas'd
She strove to set them free,
But strait the charm the damsel seiz'd,
And there they stuck all three.
It being now just break of day,
And they all linked fast,
Jack on his Pipe began to play,
And down the stairs he pass'd.
The Quaker, Mistress, and her Maid,
When they the Pipe did hear,
All caper'd to the tune he play'd,
And eke their course did steer
Into the street, where they advanc'd
Naked, save smock and shirt,
Like morris-dancers did they prance
Up to the knees in dirt:
They caper'd high, the piss did fly,
Over their heads and ears,
And then did run violently
Like drops of brinish tears.
The Quaker said, by Yea and Nay,
We are bewitch'd all three,
I hear a pair of bag-pipes play,
Yet no one can I see.
He brought them to the very oak
Where the Inn-keeper lay,
Jack for a while he never spoke,
But on his pipe did play.
The good Man in the hollow tree,
Immediately peep'd out,
His Neighbour, Wife, and Maid he see
All dance and jump about.
Who's hear, my kind and loving wife,
Likewise my maid young Sue,
My Quaking neighbour too ads'life,
A jovial whoring crew.
Jack broke the Charm, and then the pot
Soon loosen'd from their hands,
And they were made quite reeking hot
With skipping o'er the lands.
The Inn-keeper said, Note it well,
I'll geld you e'er you go;
The Quaker on his knees he fell,
And cried some pity show.
My precious nutmegs do not wound,
For fear I should not live,
I'll pay you down one hundred pounds
If you will me forgive.
No no, quoth Jack we will have two,
In lawful ready gold,
Or else we will not pardon you,
We have you fast in hold.
I'll freely give they they demand,
But yet take care I pray,
The wicked does not understand,
That I have walk'd astray.
No, no, he dry'd, and home they went,
Where they the gold receive;
The Inn-keeper is well content,
He has no cause to grieve.
Then did he lead a happy life,
He neither toils nor frets,
Thanks to Jack Horner and his Wife,
Their wits have paid the debts.
So he up and said to Nancy: "What a pity it is for such a fine-looking woman as you to be bothered with that ould, complainin', good-for-nothing crony of a man that's as full of pains and aches as an egg's full of meat. If you were free of him the morrow, the finest and handsomest young man in the parish would be proud to have you for a wife."
At first Nancy used to laugh at this; but at last, when he kept on at it, it began to prey on Nancy's mind, and she said to young Rory one day: "I don't believe a word of what you say. Who would take me if Shamus was buried the morra?"
"Why," says Rory, "you'd have the pick of the parish. I'd take you myself."
"Is that true?" says Nancy.
"I pledge you my word," says Rory, "I would."
"Oh, well, even if you would yourself," says Nancy, "Shamus won't be buried tomorrow, or maybe, God help me, for ten years to come yet."
"You've all that in your own hands," says Rory.
"How's that?" says Nancy.
"Why, you can kill him off," says Rory.
"I wouldn't have the ould crature's blood on my head," says Nancy.
"Neither you need," says Rory.
And then he sat down and began to tell Nancy how she could do away with Shamus and still not have his blood on her head.
Now there was a prince called Connal, who lived in a wee sod house close by Nancy and Shamus, but whose fathers before him, ere their money was wasted, used to live in a grand castle. So, next day, over Nancy goes to this prince, and to him says: "Why, Prince Connal, isn't it a shame to see the likes of you livin' in the likes of that house?"
"I know it is," said he, "but I cannot do any better."
"Botheration," says Nancy, "you easily can."
"I wish you would tell me how," says Prince Connal.
"Why," says Nancy, "there's my Shamus has little or nothing to do, an' why don't you make him build you a castle?"
"Ah," says the prince, laughing, "sure, Shamus couldn't build me a castle."
Says Nancy: "You don't know Shamus, for there's not a thing in the wide world he couldn't do if he likes to; but he's that lazy, that if you don't break every bone in his body to make him do it, he won't do it."
"Is that so?" says Prince Connal.
"That's so," says Nancy. "So if you order Shamus to build you a castle an' have it up in three week, or that you'll take his life if he doesn't, you'll soon have a grand castle to live in," says she.
"Well, if that's so," says Prince Connal, "I'll not be long wanting a castle."
So on the very next morning, over he steps to Shamus's, calls Shamus out, and takes him with him to the place he had marked out for the site of his castle, and shows it to Shamus, and tells him he wants him to have a grand castle built and finished on that spot in three weeks' time.
"But," says Shamus, says he, "I never built a castle in my life. I know nothing about it, an' I couldn't have you a castle there in thirty-three years, let alone three weeks."
"O!" says the prince, says he, "I'm toul' there's no man in Ireland can build a castle better nor faster than you, if you only like to; and if you haven't that castle built on that ground in three weeks," says he, "I'll have your life. So now choose for yourself." And he walked away, and left Shamus standing there.
When Shamus heard this, he was a down-hearted man, for he knew that Prince Connal was a man of his word and would not stop at taking any man's life any more than he would from putting the breath out of a beetle. So down he sits and begins to cry; and while Shamus was crying there, up to him comes a Wee Red Man, and says to Shamus: "What are you crying about?"
"Ah, my poor man," says Shamus, says he, "don't be asking me, for there's no use in telling you, you could do nothing to help me."
"You don't know that," says the Wee Red Man, says he. "It's no harm to tell me anyhow."
So Shamus, to relieve his mind, ups and tells the Wee Red Man what Prince Connal had threatened to do to him if he had not a grand castle finished on that spot in three weeks.
Says the little man, says he: "Go to the Fairies' Glen at moonrise the night, and under the rockin' stone at the head of the glen you'll find a white rod. Take that rod with you, and mark out the plan of the castle on this ground with it; then go back and leave the rod where you got it, and by the time you get back again your castle will be finished."
At moonrise that night Shamus, as you may be well assured, was at the rockin' stone at the head of the Glen of the Fairies, and from under it he got a little white rod. He went to the hill where the Prince's castle was to be built, and with the point of the rod he marked out the plan of the castle, and then he went back and left the rod where he got it.
The next morning, when Prince Connal got up out of bed and went out of his little sod hut to take the air, his eyes were opened, I tell you, to see the magnificent castle that was standing finished and with the coping-stones on it on the hill above. He lost no time till he went over to thank Shamus for building him such a beautiful castle; and when Nancy heard that the castle was finished, it was she that was the angry woman.
She went out and looked at the castle, and she wondered and wondered, too, but she said nothing. She had a long chat with Rory that day again, and from Rory she went off to Prince Connal, and says she: "Now, didn't I tell you right well what Shamus could do?"
"I see you did," says Prince Connal, "and it is very thankful to you I am. I'm contented now for life," says he, "and I'll never forget yourself and Shamus."
"Contented!" says she; "why, that place isn't half finished yet."
"How's that?" says Prince Connal.
"Why," says she, "you need a beautiful river flowing past that castle, with lovely trees, and birds singing in the branches, and you should have the ocean roaring up beside it."
"But still," says Prince Connal, says he, "one can't have everything. This is a hundred miles from a river and a hundred miles from an ocean, and no trees ever grew on this hill, nor ever could grow on it, and no bird ever sang on it for the last three hundred years."
"Then all the more reason," says she, "why you should have all them things."
"But I can't have them," says Prince Connal.
"Can't you?" says she. "Yes, you can. If you promise to have Shamus's life unless he has you all those things by your castle in three days, you'll soon have all you want," says Nancy.
"Well, well, that's wonderful," says Prince Connal, says he, "and I'll do it."
So he sets out, and goes to Shamus's house, and calls Shamus out to him to tell him that his castle was very bare-looking without something about it. Says he: "Shamus, I want you to put a beautiful river flowing past it, with plenty of trees and bushes along the banks, and also birds singing in them; and I want you to have the ocean roaring up by it also."
"But, Prince Connal," says Shamus, says he, "you know very well that I couldn't get you them things."
"Right well I know you can," says Prince Connal, "and I'll give you three days to have all them things done; and if you haven't them done at the end of three days, then I'll have your life" And away goes Prince Connal.
Poor Shamus, he sat down and began to cry at this, because he knew that he could not do one of these things. And as he was crying and crying he heard a voice in his ear, and looking up he saw the Wee Red Man.
"Shamus, Shamus," says he, "what's the matter with you?"
"O," says Shamus, says he, "there's no use in telling you what's the matter with me this time. Although you helped me before, there's not a man in all the world could do what I've got to do now."
"Well, anyhow," says the Wee Red Man, "if I can't do you any good, I'll do you no harm."
So Shamus, to relieve his mind, ups and tells the Wee Red Man what's the matter with him.
"Shamus," says the Wee Red Man, says he, "I'll tell you what you'll do. When the moon's rising tonight, be at the head of the Glen of the Fairies, and at the spring well there you'll find a cup and a leaf and a feather. Take the leaf and the feather with you, and a cup of water, and go back to the castle. Throw the water from you as far as you can throw it, and then blow the leaf off your right hand, and the feather off your left hand, and see what you'll see."
Shamus promised to do this. And when the moon rose that night, Shamus was at the spring well of the Glen of the Fairies, and he found there a cup, a leaf, and a feather. He lifted a cup of water and took it with him, and the leaf and the feather, and started for the castle. When he came there, he pitched the cup of water from him as far as he could pitch it, and at once the ocean, that was a hundred miles away, came roaring up beside the castle, and a beautiful river that had been flowing a hundred miles on the other side of the castle came flowing down past it into the ocean. Then he blew the leaf off his right hand, and all sorts of lovely trees and bushes sprang up along the river banks. Then he blew the feather off his left hand, and the trees and the bushes were filled with all sorts and varieties of lovely singing birds, that made the most beautiful music he ever had heard.
And maybe that was not a surprise to Prince Connal when he got up in the morning and went out. Off he tramped to Shamus's to thank Shamus and Nancy, and when Nancy heard this she was the angry woman.
That day she had another long confab with Rory, and from him she went off again to Prince Connal, and asked him how he liked his castle and all its surroundings.
He said he was a pleased and proud man, that he was thankful to her and her man, Shamus, and that he would never forget it to them the longest day of his life.
"O, but," says she, "you're not content. This night you'll have a great gathering of princes and lords and gentlemen feasting in your castle, and you'll surely want something to amuse them with. You must get a plaisham."
"What's a plaisham?" said Prince Connal.
"O," says Nancy, "it's the most wonderful and most amusing thing in the world; it will keep your guests in good humor for nine days and nine nights after they have seen it."
"Well," says Prince Connal, "that must be a fine thing entirely, and I'm sure I would be might anxious to have it. But," says he, "where would I get it or how would I get it?"
"Well," says Nancy, "that's easy. If you order Shamus to bring a plaisham to your castle by supper time this night, and promise to have his life if he hasn't it there, he'll soon get it for you."
"Well, if that's so," says Prince Connal, "I'll not be long wanting a plaisham."
So home went Nancy rejoicing this time, for she said to herself that poor old Shamus would not be long living now, because there was no such thing known in the whole wide world as a plaisham; and though Shamus might build castles, and bring oceans and rivers and trees and birds to them, all in one night, he could not get a thing that did not exist and was only invented by Rory.
Well, off to Shamus went Prince Connal without much loss of time, and called Shamus out of his little cabin. He told him he was heartily well pleased with all he had done for him. "But there's one thing more I want you to do, Shamus, and then I'll be content," says he. "This night I give a grand supper to the lords, ladies, and gentry of the country, and I want something to amuse them with; so at supper time you must bring me a plaisham."
"A plaisham! What's that?" says Shamus.
"I don't know," says Prince Connal.
"No more do I," says Shamus, "an' how do you expect me to fetch it to you then?"
"Well," says Prince Connal, says he, "this is all there is to be said about it -- if you haven't a plaisham at my castle door at supper time the night, you'll be a dead man."
"O, O," says Shamus, says he, and sat down on the ditch and began to cry, while Prince Connal went off home.
"Shamus, Shamus," says a voice in his ears, "what are you cryin' about now?"
Poor Shamus lifted his head and looked around, and there beside him stood the Wee Red Man.
"O!" says Shamus, says he, "don't mind asking me," he says, "for it's no use in telling you what's the matter with me now. You may build a castle for me" says he, "and you may bring oceans and rivers to it, and trees and birds; but you couldn't do anything to help me now."
"How do you know that?" said the Wee Red Man.
"Oh, I know it well," says Shamus, says he, "you couldn't give me the thing that never was an' never will be!"
"Well," says the Wee Red Man, says he, "tell me what it is anyhow. If I can't do you any good, sure I can't do you any harm."
So, to relieve his mind, Shamus ups and tells him that Prince Connal had ordered him, within twenty-four hours, to have at his castle door a plaisham. "But," says Shamus, says he, "there never was such a thing as that."
"Sure enough," says the Wee Red Man, "there never was. But still, if Prince Connal wants it, we must try to get it for him. This night, Shamus," says the Wee Red Man, says he, "go to the head of the Glen of the Fairies, to the sciog bush [Fairy thorn], where you'll find a bone ring hanging on a branch of the thorn. Take it with you back home. When you get home, young Rory will be chatting with your wife in the kitchen. Don't you go in there, but go into the byre [cowshed], and put the ring in the cow's nose; then lie quiet, and you'll soon have a plaisham to drive to Prince Connal's castle door."
Shamus thanked the Wee Red Man, and that night he went to the head of the Glen of the Fairies, and sure enough, he found the ring hanging from one of the branches of the sciog bush. He took it with him, and started for home. When he looked in through the kitchen window, there he saw Nancy and Rory sitting over the fire, chatting and confabbing about how they would get rid of him; but he said nothing, only went into the byre. He put the ring into the brannet cow's nose, and as soon as the ring went into it, the cow began to kick and rear and create a great tenherary of a noise entirely. Then Shamus got in under some hay in the corner.
It was no time at all until Nancy was out to find what was wrong with the brannet cow. She struck the cow with her fist to quiet her, but when she hit her, her fist stuck to the cow, and she could not get away.
Rory had come running out after Nancy to help her, and Nancy called: "Rory, Rory, pull me away from the cow."
Rory got hold of her to pull her away, but as he did so his hands stuck to Nancy, and he could not get away himself.
Up then jumped Shamus from under the hay in the corner. "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
And out of the byre starts the cow with Nancy stuck to her, and Rory stuck to that, and heads toward the castle, with the cow rearing and rowting, and Nancy and Rory yelling and bawling. They made a terrible din entirely, and roused the whole countryside, who flocked out to see what was the matter.
Down past Rory's house the cow went, and Rory's mother, seeing him sticking to Nancy, ran out to pull him away; but when she laid her hand on Rory, she stuck to him; and "Hup, Hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
So on they went. And Rory's father ran after them to pull the mother away; but when he laid his hand on the mother, he stuck to her; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, "drive on the plaisham."
On again they went, and next they passed where a man was cleaning out his byre. When the man saw the ridiculous string of them, he flung a graip [fork] and a graipful of manure at them, and it stuck to Rory's father; and "Hup, Hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
But the man ran after to save his graip, and when he god hold of the graip, he stuck to it; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
On they went; and a tailor came flying out of his house with his lap-board in his hand. He struck the string of them with the lap-board, the lap-board stuck to the last man, and the tailor stuck to it; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
Then they passed a cobbler's. He ran out with his heel-stick, and struck the tailor; but the heel-stick stuck to the tailor, and the cobbler stuck to the heel-stick; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
Then on they went, and they next passed a blacksmith's forge. The blacksmith ran out, and struck the cobbler with his sledge. The sledge stuck to the cobbler, and the blacksmith stuck to the sledge; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
When they came near the castle, they passed a great gentleman's house entirely, and the gentleman came running out, and got hold of the blacksmith to pull him away; but the gentleman stuck to the blacksmith, and could not get away himself; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
The gentleman's wife, seeing him stuck, ran after her man to pull him away; but the wife stuck to the gentleman; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
Then their children ran after them to pull the mother away, and they stuck to the mother; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
Then the butler ran to get hold of the children, and he stuck to them; and the footman ran to get hold of the butler, and tuck to him; and the cook ran to get hold of the footman, and stuck to him; and the servants all ran to get hold of the cook, and they stuck to her; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
And on they went; and when they came up to the castle, the plaisham was a mile long, and the yelling and bawling and noise that they made could be heard anywhere within the four seas of Ireland. The racket was so terrible that Prince Connal and all his guests and all his servants and all in his house came running to the windows to see what was the matter, at all, at all; and when Prince Connal saw what was coming to his house, and heard the racket they were raising, he yelled to his Prime Minister to go and drive them off with a whip.
The Prime Minister ran meeting them, and took the whip to them; but the whip stuck to them, and he stuck to the whip; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
Then Prince Connal ordered out all his other ministers and all of his servants to head it off and turn it away from his castle; but every one of the servants that got hold of it stuck to it; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
And the plaisham moved on still for the castle. Then Prince Connal himself, with all his guests, ran out to turn it away; but when Prince Connal laid hands on the plaisham, he stuck to it; and when his guests laid hand on him, they stuck one by one to him; and "Hup, hup!" says Shamus, says he, "drive on the plaisham."
And with all the racket and all the noise of the ranting, roaring, rearing, and rawting, in through the castle hall-door drove the plaisham, through and through and out at the other side. The castle itself fell down and disappeared, the bone ring rolled away from the cow's nose, and the plaisham all at once broke up, and when Prince Connal looked around, there was no castle at all, only the sod hut, and he went into it a sorry man.
And all the others slunk off home, right heartily ashamed of themselves, for the whole world was laughing at them. Nancy, she went east; and Rory, he went west; and neither one of them was ever heard of more. As for Shamus, he went home to his own little cabin, and lived all alone, happy and contented, for the rest of his life, and may you and I do the same.
One day, the kotwal's son said to the prince, "Come, Brother Prince, let us go and visit our fathers-in-law."
The other replied, "Most willingly."
Then the kotwal's son said again, ''Let us both go to the house of each of our fathers-in-law, and introduce one another."
"Very well," replied the prince.
"Let us start at once, then," said the kotwal's son, "and, first, let us go to my father-in-law's."
"Certainly, there's no harm in that," answered the prince. Forthwith they took leave of their parents, and started to pay their visits. As agreed, they went first to the house of the father-in-law of the kotwal's son. When they arrived there, the kotwal's son went straight into the house, while the prince stood waiting outside. His father-in-law was overjoyed at seeing the kotwal's son, and welcomed him most heartily.
Then the young man said to the people of the house, "Outside there I have a servant; let some little attention be paid to him."
The prince was near enough to hear what he said. Thereupon he said, "I'm rightly served for my folly in doing as I have done. However, I'll wait and see what more is fated to befall me."
Some time after, it happened that there was no grass for the kotwal's son's horse. When this was told him, the kotwal's son said: "Put a sickle into the hands of that man of mine there, and let him cut some grass and fetch it to the horse."
The people of the house did as he said; a sickle was put into the prince's hands, and he was bidden go and cut grass. The prince took the sickle, thinking, "What am I to do now?"
But he could not help himself, so he set off to cut the grass. He had not been long at work before he cut his finger so badly that it streamed with blood. The prince began to weep bitterly.
Just at this moment, Bhagavati and Siva happened to pass along that road. Bhagavati said, "Thakur, let us see who that is that's weeping there."
Mahadeva answered, "This is always the way with you. You can't walk along a road without asking questions without end. Who is weeping? Why is he weeping? and so forth -- all such things have continually to be explained to you. Come on, never mind that just now."
"No, no," said Bhagavati, "you must tell me."
What could Mahadeva do? There was nothing for it but to tell her the whole story. Then she said, "Let us go to the prince."
"Very well," answered Mahadeva, "come along."
With these words, they both walked up to the prince, and Bhagavati asked him, "Who are you?"
The prince at once told her all about himself.
Thcn the goddess said, "Don't be afraid. Touch with your hand the finger that has been cut and say:
'Tis Siv and Durga's order. QuickThe prince did so, and, forthwith, his finger was completely healed. He then sang praises to the god and goddess, while they, after granting him the boon, departed on their way. Having finished cutting, the prince lifted up the bundle of grass upon his head and returned to the house.
And firmly, both together stick.
Many days passed, and still the toils and sufferings of the prince were as great and painful as ever.
Accordingly, he said to himself one day, "I'll teach these people a lesson."
The night following, when the kotwal's son and his wife went to their own room, he took his stand in a secret place so as to be able to watch them. The kotwal's son took up his hookah, and was just beginning to smoke. At that very moment, the prince said:
'Tis Siv and Durga's order. QuickImmediately, the kotwal's son's mouth became inseparably joined to the mouthpiece of the hookah. Then his wife went to take the hookah from him, but, just as her fingers clasped the wooden stem, the prince again repeated the spell:
And firmly, both together stick.
'Tis Siv and Durga's order. QuickIn an instant, her fingers and the hookah stem were securely fastened together. She now called for help to the whole household, and everybody came running to the room. They all began to make great efforts to pull the hookah away. But, as soon as anybody touched it, the prince recited the charm, and hands and hookah were at once glued together. They were all now in a terrible fix. They didn't know what to do.
And firmly, both together stick.
At length the master of the house said, "Let somebody go and tell the family priest what has happened."
But almost everyone but the prince was fastened to the hookah; so he had to be sent with the message. He was not long in reaching the priest, and told him that the master of the house wished him to come as quick as ever he could. The priest started up in a great hurry.
His wife said, "I will come too."
"How in the world can you come at this time of night?" he answered.
But she said, "I'm sure that some merriment must be going on at the master's house. That's why you have been sent for; so I'll not stay here alone, let me tell you."
In this way, his wife kept urging the priest for leave to accompany him, until, at length, he said, "Well, come along, then."
They dismissed the messenger, and, forthwith, started, themselves. It chanced that, at one place, a little stream flowed across the road. When they came to this stream, the priest's wife said to him, "At this time of night, it's quite impossible for me to cross on foot."
Now the prince had waited for them there, and was sitting by the side of the stream. Hearing the woman speak, he said to the priest, "Venerable sir, take up my venerable mother on your shoulders and so carry her over. The water here is very shallow."
"That is a very good idea," said the priest's wife to her husband. "I'll get upon your back, and you'll take me across to the other side and set me down there."
What could the poor Brahman do? Seeing no help for it, he took his wife upon his back, and waded with her through the stream to the other side. But, while he was doing so, before he had got across, the prince took care to repeat the spell again:
'Tis Siv and Durga's order. QuickThe Brahman, having reached the bank, told his wife to get down, but she couldn't. As often as he said, "Get down, get down," she answered, "I can't get down; I tell you, I can't get down."
And firmly, both together stick.
Here was another terrible fix. At last the Brahman, with his wife on his back, had to trudge on to his master's house. When he arrived there, the people of the house, seeing the plight he was in, all began to laugh.
They asked him, "Venerable sir, why have you our venerable mother on your back?"
The Brahman answered angrily, "How should I know? I never saw such a disobedient and unmanageable woman."
Then they said, "Venerable mother, come down."
She answered, "I can't come down."
Hearing this, they said, "You're in the very same plight as ourselves. What was the good of our sending for you? The exorcist we sent for to drive out the devils, turns out to be possessed, himself. Where can we go for help now?"
Hereupon they all began to ask, "Where is that servant?"
The priest said, "It was he who came to call me."
Hearing this, the master of the house ordered him to be brought at once. He soon appeared, and the master said to him, "Tell us what you know about this affair."
He answered, "I'm only a servant, what should I know?"
But the master continued to urge and entreat him, till, at length, he said, "It is by your own son-in-law's fault that all this has happened. This is what has come of his making me cut grass for his horse."
Then, taking pity upon them, the prince recited this charm:
'Tis Siv and Durga's order, yeAs soon as he had spoken, they were all set free in a moment. And, now that the master of the house knew who the prince was, he showed him all possible respect and attention, and begged him to pardon his having neglected him before. Soon after, the prince returned home to his parents.
That fast were bound, now loosened be.
Now when Hephaestus heard the bitter tidings, he went his way to the forge, devising evil in the deep of his heart, and set the great anvil on the stithy, and wrought fetters that none might snap or loosen, that the lovers might there unmovably remain.
Now when he had forged the crafty net in his anger against Ares, he went on his way to the chamber where his marriage bed was set out, and strewed his snares all about the posts of the bed, and many too were hung aloft from the main beam, subtle as spiders' webs, so that none might see them, even of the blessed gods: so cunningly were they forged. Now after he had done winding the snare about the bed, he made as though he would go to Lemnos, that stablished castle, and this was far the dearest of all lands in his sight.
But Ares of the golden rein kept no blind watch, what time he saw Hephaestus, the famed craftsman, depart afar. So he went on his way to the house of renowned Hephaestus, eager for the love of crowned Cytherea.
Now she was but newly come from her sire, the mighty Cronion, and as it chanced had sat her down; and Ares entered the house, and clasped her hand, and spake, and hailed her: "Come, my beloved, let us to bed, and take our pleasure of love, for Hephaestus is no longer among his own people; methinks he is already gone to Lemnos, to the Sintians, men of savage speech."
So spake he, and a glad thing it seemed to her to lie with him. So they twain went to the couch, and laid them to sleep, and around them clung the cunning bonds of skilled Hephaestus, so that they could not move nor raise a limb. Then at the last they knew it, when there was no way to flee. Now the famous god of the strong arms drew near to them, having turned him back ere he reached the land of Lemnos. For Helios had kept watch, and told him all.
So heavy at heart he went his way to his house, and stood at the entering in of the gate, and wild rage gat hold of him, and he cried terribly, and shouted to all the god: "Father Zeus, and ye other blessed gods, that live for ever, come hither, that ye may see a mirthful thing and a cruel, for that Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, ever dishonors me by reason of my lameness, and sets her heart on Ares the destroyer, because he is fair and straight of limb, but as for me, feeble was I born. Howbeit, there is none to blame but my father and mother, -- would they had never begotten me! But now shall ye see where these have gone up into my bed, and sleep together in love; and I am troubled at the sight. Yet, methinks, they will not care to lie thus even for a little while longer, despite their great love. Soon will they have no desire to sleep together, but the snare and the bond shall hold them, till her sire give back to me the gifts of wooing, one and all, those that I bestowed upon him for the hand of his shameless girl; for that his daughter is fair, but without discretion."
So spake he; and lo, the gods gathered together to the house of the brazen floor. Poseidon came, the girdler of the earth, and Hermes came, the bringer of luck, and prince Apollo came, the archer. But the lady goddesses abode each within her house for shame. So the gods, the givers of good things, stood in the porch: and laughter unquenchable arose among the blessed gods, as they beheld the sleight of cunning Hephaestus.
And thus would one speak, looking to his neighbor: "Ill deed, ill speed! The slow catcheth the swift! Lo, how Hephaestus, slow as he is, hath overtaken Ares, albeit he is the swiftest of the gods that hold Olympus, by his craft hath he taken him despite his lameness; wherefore surely Ares oweth the fine of the adulterer."
Thus they spake one to the other. But the lord Apollo, son of Zeus, spake to Hermes: "Hermes, son of Zeus, messenger and giver of good things, wouldst thou be fain, aye, pressed by bonds though it might be, to lie on the couch by golden Aphrodite?"
Then the messenger, the slayer of Argos, answered him: "I would that this might be, Apollo, my prince of archery! So might thrice as many bonds innumerable encompass me about, and all ye gods be looking on and all the goddesses, yet would I lie by golden Aphrodite."
So spake he, and laughter rose among the deathless gods. Howbeit Poseidon laughed not, but was instant with Hephaestus, the renowned artificer, to loose the bonds of Ares: and he uttered his voice, and spake to him winged words: "Loose him, I pray thee, and I promise even as thou biddest me, that he shall himself pay all fair forfeit in the presence of the deathless gods."
Then the famous god of the strong arms answered him: "Require not this of me, Poseidon, girdler of the earth. Evil are evil folk's pledges to hold. How could I keep thee bound among the deathless gods, if Ares were to depart, avoiding the debt and the bond ?"
Then Poseidon answered him, shaker of the earth: "Hephaestus, even if Ares avoid the debt and flee away, I myself will pay thee all."
Then the famous god of the strong arms answered him: "It may not be that I should say thee nay, neither is it meet."
Therewith the mighty Hephaestus loosed the bonds, and the twain, when they were freed from that strong bond, sprang up straightway, and departed, he to Thrace, but laughter-loving Aphrodite went to Paphos of Cyprus, where is her precinct and fragrant altar. There the Graces bathed and anointed her with oil imperishable, such as is laid upon the everlasting gods. And they clad her in lovely raiment, a wonder to see.
This was the song the famous minstrel sang.
Immediately he files out some slender chains of brass, and nets, and meshes, which can escape the eye. The finest threads cannot surpass that work, nor yet the cobweb that hangs from the top of the beam. He makes it so, too, as to yield to a slight touch, and a gentle movement, and skillfully arranges it drawn around the bed.
When the wife and the gallant come into the same bed, being both caught through the artifice of the husband, and chains prepared by this new contrivance, they are held fast in the very midst of their embraces.
The Lemnian God immediately threw open the folding doors of ivory, and admitted the Deities. There they lay disgracefully bound. And yet many a one of the Gods, not the serious ones, could fain wish thus to become disgraced. The Gods of heaven laughed, and for a long time was this the most noted story in all heaven.
How Vulcan once espied his wife Engaged with Mars in amorous strife. When cunningly he threw a snare Around the fond but guilty pair.
Whene'er Dan Vulcan, dunderhead,
Had spied the amorous twain in bed,
Around the couch a net he threw
(Which was an foolish thing to do;
For little wotteth he of life
Who thinks he only hath his wife),
And then the gods did he convoke,
Who crowded round with gibe and joke,
Beholding how the pair were ta'en.
But many 'mong the host, with pain,
Beheld dame Venus' sore distress,
While marveling at her loveliness;
Nor heard unmoved her bitter cries
At suffering such indignities
Before her peers in open day.
Yet 'twas no marvel, one would say,
That Venus unto Mars should give men
Herself -- for could she care to live
With Vulcan, black from head to foot,
Hands, face, and throat begrimed with soot?
Such things in Venus' breast must rouse
Disgust, though Vulcan were her spouse.
Nay, even though she had been paired
With Absalom the golden-haired,
Or lovely Paris, Priam's son,
She scarce had been content with one,
For ever would that beauteous queen
Do what all women love I ween.
Women as free as men are born;
It is the law alone hath torn
Their charter, and that freedom riven
From out their hands by Nature given.
For Nature is not such a fool
As order, by unbending rule,
Margot to keep to Robichon,
Nor yet for him the only one
To be Marie or fair Perrette,
Jane, Agnes, or sweet Mariette,
But as, dear son, I scarce need teach,
Made each for all and all for each,
And every one for all alike,
E'en as the taste and fancy strike.
So that (although by marriage law
They are assigned like things of straw),
To satisfy Dame Nature's call,
To which they hearken one and all,
And strifes and murders to avoid,
Whereto they well might be decoyed,
Ever have women, foul or fair,
Whether the name of maid they bear,
Or wife, done all within their power
To win back freedom as their dower;
Though at great hazards they maintain
Their rights, and evils thick as rain
Have happed both now and formerly.
Ten, nay, a hundred easily,
Could I of instances set forth;
But let them pass as nowise worth
My pains to tell or yours to hear,
You'd weary ere the end came near.
Therefore, dear son, should we be slow
Venus and Mars to blame, I trow.
And though the Gods in mockery laughed
To see the pair by Vulcan's craft
Ensnared, yet many a one full fain
Had been, could he the place have ta'en
Of Mars, in Venus' fond embrace,
While Vulcan, mad with his disgrace,
Two thousand marks had rather given
Than cuckold stand before high heaven.
The pair he thus exposed to shame,
Reckless of scorn henceforth became,
And boldly practiced that which they
Strove erst to hide from light of day,
Shame and decorum cast aside.
And then the Gods told far and wide
The tale, till all through heaven 'twas known,
From mouth to mouth mid laughter thrown.
And Vulcan stormed with rage to think
The draught he brewed he needs must drink,
Since for his folly naught could he
Find balsam, salve, or remedy.
Rather than trap the twain, indeed,
'Twere wiser to have given no heed,
But silently resolve in mind
To be to Venus' failings blind,
So long as she towards him behaved
With kindness, granting all he craved.
From this, let no man e'er forget
That grievous folly 'tis to set
A trap whereby a wife may be
Convicted of inconstancy;
For if she find her thus exposed,
The door of virtue feels she closed
Behind her, and the unhappy wretch,
Whom evil-eyed suspicions stretch
Upon the rack, when he hath caught
His wife, shall ne'er again know aught
Of peace or happiness, but die
The prey of cruel Jealousy.
Revised December 14, 2014.