When Hermes’ subpœna was served on the Muses,
They commenced with one voice all to frame their excuses,
But finding at last, when they came to reflect,
That every denial the court would reject,
They began to debate for which god they should vote,
And to doubt on which side each should put on her coat.
Thus Polymnia exclaimed, and declared her opinion,
In favour of Mercury’s right to dominion.
No more let discord vex each Attic Friend,
But our accordant voice the contest end;
No more let Mars exert his baleful power,
But eloquence and friendship rule the hour.
Let sprightly Hermes, whose inventive mind,
E’en to our songs may add a grace refined,
Whose genius borne on fancy’s eagle wing,
Thro’ pathless Æther’s azure realms can spring,
To where the Sylphids urge their mimic war
Or thro’ th’ expanse pursue some fleeting star.
Nay even to adventurous bards might shew,
The hidden wonders of the world below,
When all the sprites in dreadful fight engage
And trembling mortals feel the central rage.
Cease, sister, cease, Euterpe cried,
Nor thus extol your favourite minion,
For Scythia’s god all must decide,
There sure can be but one opinion.
How pleasing when she moves to war,
To hear the martial trumpets sounding,
While shrill voiced fifes attend his car,
Cymbals and hollow drums resounding.
Stop cries Thalia, what’s the matter;
What means this strife and deaf’ning clatter,
Is Mars, that dear seducing fellow,
In coat of red turned up with yellow,
Is he just come to town recruiting,
For forces that may bring his suit in.
(For if he keeps his Attic Night
’Twill be by force, and not by right.)
If so indeed it is no wonder
Your speech, my dear, I took for thunder.
Oh sure his epaulette so smart,
Must captivate each female heart
And when the ladies are his friend,
Success must sure his cause attend.
Yet do not be too bold, for know,
All are not caught by noise and shew,
Against his cymbals, and his ladies,
We’ll raise the posse comitatis.
And if he try to breed a riot,
Our constables will keep him quiet.
No more, Calliope exclaims, contend,
In wordy war, shall Mars to Hermes yield,
Mars, e’er the poet’s and the Muses’ friend,
Who greet his coming from the conquered field.
To honour him we strike our noblest string,
From Lethe’s flood his wondrous deeds we save,
Explore the mists of time with steady wing,
And snatch expiring virtue from the grave.
True, cries Terpsichore, ’tis true,
Let not Hermes’ artful wiles,
Winning speech, seducing smiles
Impose, my friend, on you.
Mars with equal skill can wield
Radiant arms in warlike field,
Or when sprightlier trains advance,
Graceful weaves the Pyrrhic dance.
Nay when Cupid rules the hour,
Bows his head to beauty's power,
Then to him your suffrage give
Valour, dancing, love, shall live.
But Hermes from the realms below,
Gold and glittering treasure brings,
These adorn his painted wings,
And make his sandals glow.
Sweet as Hybla’s honied store,
His lips mellifluous accents pour
His Cadeuceus lulls to rest,
Reason, in the maiden’s breast,
Then no wonder that his art,
Should ensnare my sister’s heart,
Chase him thence, and with me cry,
Mars, shall live, and Hermes die.
Remember that in days of old,
When great Timotheus praise he sung,
Our favoured servant Dryden told,
While loud the vaulted chambers rung.
Hush, hush, bright Clio cries, nor thus prolong
So far Terpsichore, your useless song
Between you all let envious discord cease
And give your votes to Hermes and to peace.
I will, Urania cried, tho’ not the friend,
Of Hermes, since the memorable hour,
He bade each Muse Apollos’ call attend,
When at the Chest we knew the hidden power.
But now the public good demands my choice,
I plunge resentment in oblivion’s stream,
To Hermes now Urania gives her voice,
And makes his talents and his worth her theme.
Nay, Erato quick replied,
Pause awhile, e’er you decide,
Think, oh think, a word once spoken,
Ne’er can be recalled or broken,
If with Hermes we write,
He will mar our festive night,
When our soul’s attuned to joys,
Sprightly mirth each thought employs
When our numbers, sadly slow,
Melt in elegies of woe.
Or in sprightlier measures move,
Thro’ the varied realm of love,
He at once our eyes will close,
Linking in a general doze,
Then for sleep and Hermes never,
Love and valour live for ever.
Melpomene’s with me, I know,
She’ll surely vote for Mars,
Thalia cried that cannot be,
She’ll go with Hermes, and with me.
Nay, cries Melpomene, on either part
Such various arguments appear, and urged
With so much seeming weight of truth and justice
The more I hear the less can I decide.
Oh, Thalia cried, and kissed her
Sure you'll not desert your sister.
Nay leave off you coaxing, Euterpe did say,
And tore the fair maid from her sister away,
While Thalia enraged at this treatment severe,
With her masque gave Euterpe a box on the ear,
Then in aid of Euterpe Erato began
In support of Thalia Polyrania next ran
Calliope then, and Urania engage;
And Clio unmoved braves Terpsichore’s rage.
Melpomene wishing to countenance neither,
In turn was abused, and was courted by either,
While peruque’s and bonnets confusedly fly,
And socks, masques, and buskins, are tossed to the sky
Till Iris descending to make them all quiet,
Without more ado, put an end to the riot,
She bade all this noise and this discord to cease,
Or they’d all be indited for breaking the peace,
And more t’was Jove’s fiat, that every Muse,
To attend at the Attic assembly refuse,
For he willed that unbiased should still be their voice,
And the fate of the clients, should rest on their choice.
She ended, the Muses are instantly friends,
And return to their studies, while Iris ascends.