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The Revenge of Hephaistos The Revenge of Hephaistos
by Dr. Lawrence Nannery
2018-03-20 09:36:48
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Homer tells the story while telling of it:
How the God of War and the Goddess of Love dared
To break the lock of propriety, join blood to desire,
Careless of consequence, or the eyes of others' envy.

Dear Muse; let us peek,
With eye and ear and the mind
Into this train of actions divine.

No need to recount the delectations encountered by Ares.
A bright and perfect pinkness, a surprise to even a god;
Smooth and soft infoldings, covered with the corn-silk hair
Of the sweet-smelling Princess, who rouses mortals' laughter
Wherever she alights, her gossamer tresses so fine that
He could not even feel them one on one, twirl them as he might
With his rough fingers.  With audacious caresses, and
Outspoken appreciations, she delighted her brother-lover.
His desire expanded when the swell of her soft breasts
Pressed with urgency against his own.
The girl from the foam of the sea surpasses all, even Hebe
Of the slim ankles, and even perfect Hera, fecund mother,
With her soft liquid brown kine-eyes.
She made the skilled killer sigh in love's completion. 

From Ares Aphrodite required no promises or presents, or even supplications.
Ever present in her mind was the bondage imposed by her father,
Her ridiculous marriage to that detestable buffoon Hephaistos.
Her husband was a cripple, and ignoble, and worked in metals.
His ready respectfulness was an insult, his macarisms a joke.
She would never be reconciled to his absurd physique,
Those spindly legs, those hulky, round and hairy shoulders…
And then there was the sulphurous musk of him, coming from
The forbidden innards of Mother Earth!
She always turned her head to one side, wordless,
Whenever he strained to work his marital rights upon her, …

Here now, however, in bronzen Ares, there was lust and strength enough
To singe her heart.  She shimmered and lustered under his lion-like stare,
Was beatified through and through, as she fell —
As when the woodcutter and his son, after long looking
Find the perfect beauty of a tree, reaching tall, on the top of a hill,
And they begin to hit at it with hatchets, then more and more,
So that, after much sweat and hours, at last the tree, ever green,
Lists and lists, until it falls downside on the slope, and the lushness
Of the needles on the branches muffles the fall, so that only
A gasping sound resounds in the blue air all around, flushing
A rush of squalling birds out from their nests, flapping in confusion,
So now did the effulgent Aphrodite, at Ares' touch,
Suck in her breath and collapse onto her marriage bed, so soft,
Her hands and fingers fluttering in involuntary demand. …

Ares' stinging shaft drove deep down, a bolt of lightning to her.
Filled to bursting, she growled and groaned. …  Then it was
That the feet of the mistress of Love stamped in fervent palpitations.
She felt as wet as a field under a summer storm
That rushes over the land with gusts of wind and heavenly grumblings,
Sending wondering creatures scurrying before it, out of breath.
Just so, now from the Princess proceeded breathless cries,
Broken now and again by lightening stabs of pleasure.
Sobbing in joy, she hummed her sterterous song of intercourse;
Tears coursed down her temples and coiled in her delicate ears;
Curled into a crescent, she buried her teeth in the hairy chest
Moving above her, and kissing it she scoured her lips to a rosepetal red.
With a squawk she used her teeth like little knives,
Biting his neck and shoulders, bringing to the act of love
Its first friendly wounds.

hipheastus01_400Thus evolved Eros, when Love was pierced to her center by angry War.
And thus too, evolved the frenzy of Love, who was the first born,
And who has power over even father Zeus.  (Thenceforth Aphrodite knew
That it was best to keep Love in a box, tied on her girdle, and why.)
And thus also came into being Harmonia, mother of some mortals,
Who reconciles those who would live in peace.
But also discord and a clamant household, and
A sulphuric fury in a husband's heart. …

For among the gods there is no forgetfulness, and
All is limned from the first, as when the moon,
At the entry into each new month, a sliver of silver
On the horizon, pursues down the setting Sun —
And sometimes a traveler upon the darkling high way,
As he turns off the road to a hospitable Inn,
Looking up through the clear dry air of the early eve,
May see the slim rim of its sphere, divine and limpid,
The inside wool-grey, hanging silent in the blue-purple sky,
Serene Selene, fellow sojourner, and searchlight
For the eternal virgin Artemis, on the hunt once more,
Impregnable in her coldmetal mail, moving in the gathering night
With such slow majesty as to strike the pious man to silence,
And, in her wake, the seven sparkling sisters, the Pleiades,
Unexampled companions, dimpling the middle of the sky —
So too, what was to come to pass was set from the first,
In the interloper's lust and the wife's whispers and tears. …
Then no power could quell the bile of the husband
In his hunger for revenge.

Hephaistos the husband was crafty above all else.  Though
Of divine lineage, and also deathless, he was no match for Ares.
The strength of his knees had been broken forever
For his famous deed of filial piety, when he alone took
His mother's beating upon himself, and from his father's hands
Flew down and down, crashing on hard Earth in Lemnos below.
His hobble was occasion for the derisive laughter of the gods,
Each continuing note turning daggers in his heart.
When he was told by the Sun who sees all
That in his one most secret and sacred place
What he feared the most had come to pass,
He beat back heartpoundings, and, whetting his skills,
Devised a proper means of retribution, clever and cruel:
A supple snare of steel unbreakable, wrought so fine
It was invisible even to the eye of a god.
Not clumsy now, bending every part of his sly intelligence to the task,
He worked away through secret nights and days, glowering with resentment,
Attended by his smooth automatic golden girls,
Forging the trap that would catch the faithless wife
And hold and humiliate insensate War.
Artfully, ever so subtly, he strung the net from the ceiling
Down under the platform of his marital joys.

On a day soon after, the fearsome god of bloodlust,
Foxy-sharp, trembling in extreme excitement,
Watched from a covert as the husband locked up his treasure, leaving his abode
For the company of the folk of Lemnos, dear to his heart,
A people raucous and rude, squat and square,
Who revel in displays of ignoble mechanical pursuits,
Masters as they are of every art and craft ignoble.
The wargod, whimpering with lust, snuck in at a window,
Armorless, found the laughter-loving goddess waiting
Among her maidens, and rushed to get to her, dog-direct.
He was shaking with a palsy sent by Eros, zipping flashes hot and cold
Made now his hand shake, now his leg.  Only her skin on his skin,
Only sinking in to the warmth of her hollows could cure his ague.

What a choice garland came then into the hand of Eris, who loves to hiss and bite,
When smiling Love spread so wide her beautiful arms to enfold
The leathern strength of War!
After a first extended kiss, and happy as willful children,
They marshalled up to the marriage bed,
Lightly holding hands as they advanced,
The handmaidens tittering in their train,
Holding shy hands over their mouths.
Then they joined in, bow-backed, sweat on sweat, low and rocking —
Picture, O listeners! The magnitude of it,
As he covered her with his seven-acre body,
Aphrodite I mean, her bright and wonder-bearing head upon a cloud…
See her toes punctuating the ether with urgency!
Think of the size of those sighs, of the organs in play,
And the rumblings of pleasure in the sky!
His harsh hands held her shivering shoulders
As each precious bolt of pleasure struck, and struck again,
Always new, always a surprise.
Cloudwisps covered her countenance
To hide her beautiful frowns
Benevolent Zephers blew above their happy groans
Sounding like the verge of tragedy and comedy.

Now the invisible reins did their magical work:
The fancy fare tripped the invisible snare, and,
Suddenly, up went the hoist!  They were weightless and blinking;
Efforts to break out brought bruter imprisonment:
Ares' flopping and founderings, his bulging wrath,
Pinioned him deeper and deeper in Love.

The husband hurried homeward, fumbled
With the lock in surprise and shock,
Very like the dog that, crossing straight across the high way,
Is struck by a cart, a cart with wheels of solid wood, trundling with effort,
Though the dog saw the cart from afar, grinding along slowly,
As from the top of a hill the bullocks bore it down,
And the dog darted speedily between their slowly tramping legs.
Then came the sudden crack of the bone, and the high squeal,
Shooting like an arrow out over the low groanings of the cart, filled with hay,
And the dog's breath comes shallow and fast, and, faint,
He skips with pain, fears further pain,
At a loss, facing this way and that way —
So now Hephaistos, facing his catch from beneath and behind,
Let out a sudden piercing shout, in fury and frustration,
Calling like a fishmonger to all the gods to come and see
This picture, not a pretty sight, wife and wife's dishonor
Bound up in ball, a singular package.

Hephaistos stood and appealed to his peers, angry, almost ululant.
His words to the assembled gods were wingéd,
Sent to his hearers' hearts with hatred of the connected pair,
Who swung together, skewered in a slow undulant motion.
The gods smiled in their beards against the cuckold,
But stayed silent, amazed to themselves
By mixed feelings of pity and disdain. …
The husband scorned Ares, so full of love of destruction.
He railed against Love, bound to break every bond, threaten every vow.
He called her "little tits," "dogface," and "a baboon
With her rump ever red and ready."
To think that she, his lawful wife, could prefer that other one,
The lord of putrefaction, who incites all things to destroy one another,
To hew and grind one another into meat,
Who stinks of the steam that rises from such slaughters, and of blood,
Who leaves in his wake the thousand varieties of pain, plague and hunger,
And whose minions clog the ever-hungry maws of maggots,
Who stalks through the world, a vulture on one shoulder,
Hyenas at his heels, chittering for morsels of charred or rotting flesh. …

Hephaistos stood in the circle of the gods, suffused with ruth,
Loudly, plangently pleading for death as revenge.
But no battle above the clouds concludes with such an end.
Honey-colored ichor, blood of the gods, can never fatally flow.
Not even Ares, not even Zeus, can put to death a deathless one.
So the wrath of Hephaistos could only turn inward,
To burn without remission, an eternal fire in the forge,
White hot and brooding, ever ready to flare.
Poseidon the uncle discussed with the husband petty details
In merchant fashion, turning retribution into monetary terms,
In repayment of the brideprice and the like. …
Thus did the demand for death, a just desire,
Move from a furious flood to a slow delta of details,
Split up into several shallow waters that run slowly,
Quietly directing it to the safer waters of the sea.
Poseidon could see that nothing could cure the hurt to the husband's heart,
And, in low tones, his arms around his nephew's shoulders,
Counseled that it was the divine condition: the rancor would be endless:
No word, no vote, no action of his could cure it or consign it to oblivion.

Hanging there silently, swaying in their little sack,
The netted hostages heard out the parley below,
Over the pulse of the strophes and counterstrophes
Of their hearts, sounding their unfinished lust.
When Poseidon's generous offers to end the general shame
Were at last accepted, the net was pulled down,
The embracers untwined, unembarrassed, and off they stole,
He to stark Thrace, a manic land, and she to Cytherea,
Where her shrines are ever well-tended and decked with flowers,
No thought to cost, for the madness she confers,
Without which mortals would not want to live. …
In those regions Love is given every privilege, all signs of honor,
No matter what follies he may cause gods or men to do.

And it is told…
That certain fishermen, out on the sea off Cos, saw,
At the edge of day, a strange and beautiful bird,
Large and with a throat of white, bearing East. …
The bird was no fisher, no glutinous cormorant…
Never did it look downward, but, calling sonorously,
Gazed only upward, to the high-flown clouds,
Where Dawn was filtering steadily, with pink fingers
Raising yawning Day up from the couch of Night.
So low did the marvelous bird glide that its long grey wings,
Pink at their edges with first light, now and again
Would tip the ribs of the waters below,
Flecking the grey waters with lively white touches…
And with this as its trail, made its passage to Cypress,
Its home and haven.

The goddesses above, looking down, throbbed with anger
As they watched their sister skip like a watersprite
On to her refuge, released from her bonds and her vows
Simply because she had dared break them.
(They had not come to see her in the net for shame.)
And they knew this too: that Hermes the thief had told the Sun
That he would gladly have paid twice the price that Ares had had to
For the same chance with alluring Aphrodite,
And the joy of working like a bee upon that flower…
To this the immortal goddesses had to assent in their immortal minds
And the dark bile of hatred boiled around their hearts
Against the wanton wife with the delicious inviting almond eyes,
Well reckoning the power of the beauty of those white-golden thighs.
Their velvet voices recounted the scale of the scandal, such a bad example
For low-living mortals, filled as they are with lust.

About Ares, and Hermes, and all males they sneered: they are all the same!
But they never mentioned the husband; his troubles never touched their hearts.
And, secretly, even from one another, each vain goddess dropped a tear of envy
And moaned in silence over the brazen child of the sperm on the sea,
Wishing to be as willful and thoughtless as she,
She who refuses to be unhappy, or to suffer any shame.

*****************************************

Check Dr. Lawrence Nannery's Poetry Collection:
"Translations from the Cinema"
You can download them for FREE HERE!
 
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