HYMN TO MERCURY Mercury! Oh, MOO, or MUD or MUSE help me to sing his song please! Mercury, cattle herder, god of spooks and spies, traveller, crosser of Styx on both sides, diplomat, conniver, confidant of graces, sympathizer-- truth teller, teller of tall tales, little voice of otherness, reveals! Mercury was little when this happened. Jove the Sky Father, thunder-weaponed, inseminator of nature's flushing spring, Electric Lord, ever ready, largely hung, had fallen in love again with a nymph, this time I/O (for input/output in case her glamorous name has glimmered a mystery, or a romance, till now unheard in its secret sense): I/O, a sweet girl, who loved to give and take. Problem was, as often, Juno disliked the joke. Juno, she must be praised in passing, glorious queen, something of the maternal element, state power, home, who wants everything safe and under control and well-behaved. Boy did she have trouble with her brother-consort, King Jove! (Reflect as you think of all these deities, they are less motivated characters in a plot, than motives themselves.) So Juno in her ire changed I/O into a cow. MOO! was all I/O could say to Jove's advances. This was bad enough, but when his glances suggested to Juno her honor still wasn't safe, but rather horny enough to hang up as a troph- y, much less have a cow, she had to install other guarantees of I/O's security as well, and set her good buddy, slave and admirer Argus on I/O to watch her. Argus, the luckless circus sideshow of an oaf Juno kept around, because he was always useful to her, being all eyes. Argus: let's add, a special patron demi-god of spies, those little surveillance guys with big eyes and ears who tap phones or keyboards or stools in bars--and so ally of our own subject, the speedy information-trader Mercury. Argus was eyes all up and down, proud like a preening bird. When he snored, still eyes along his elbows or shoulders shined. So he didn't miss much, and I/O where she moaned (or mooed, or whatever, --it was a nice pasture and she seemed to think it was okay, actually) poor I/O didn't have much choice but to dally. Dally with I/O was still what Jove wanted and the pasture was to be well-contented, Jove imagined (since as you may know deities are especially prone to pathetic fallacies), just as soon as he got his broad hands on I/O. But Jove being Jove, he couldn't go incognito. This is where Mercury comes in. Jove's youngest, just on the scene, the spoils of Jove's conquest of another fair nymph, this one Maia whose hair was long and fair as fire (since fire is among little Mercury's inventions, as it happens, along with gambling and scansion). In the Indies, Maia signifies the lovely illusion this world is, but this Maia is the Atlantic one. Maia had given birth to Mercury, and that very day the smart baby Had proven his godly mettle in some adventure involving Apollo's herds, too long to mention but which don't think I'll hesitate to refer to. So Jove figured Mercury knew how to catch a cow, and assigned him to get past Argus. Now Mercury, crafty and of course very young and harmless looking, in nifty duds of hat and wand and sandals and all, figured Argus had to be done in by guile. And since Mercury had been hanging with his newest best friend Apollo (okay, more on that: Apollo and Mercury had made amends after that latest fracas with Apollo's herds when Mercury rustled them off, ass-backwards and zigzagging so as to cover the tracks of their hooves; they traded secrets, even, as well as traded some stuff), Apollo, far-darter, god of light and measure, medicine, oracles, arts of ratio and closure, spectacular technologies, grand effects, and every kind of miracle insight enacts ...and since Apollo had been putting Mercury in mind of music it occurred to him that Argus was not likely much of a critic and might be remote and impatient if faced with art. The old story says that Mercury played on his flute, a sad shepherd's song to while a day along, but I don't see how it could be, since he'd given the flute away, in trade to Apollo, along with his turtle-shell guitar, as soon as they were done with the dull work of quarreling and put small hand in bigger hand. Apollo had offered a nice three-leaved herald's wand. Be that as may be I believe Mercury did Argus in by telling him a bed-time story. A long one, satirical, shaggy-sheep-dog hairy and charged up with heady references, aimed to get by Argus's eyes, and stun his brain. To care to follow was more than Argus could hope, of course, and one by one his eyes shut in sleep. I/O was there the whole time, tied to an olive tree. She watched Mercury cut Argus's head off with his steel knife, as sharp as his devices had been a moment before when he cut them from his mind, clean. Argus was dead. I/O was free. Jove was right as rain with his young son, but Juno was wry and resentful. Her Argus was dead, so she peeled his eyes from his body and fixed them onto the peacock's tail as a statement of pride in the gazing sex. After I/O, she sent a gadfly, to chase her around and keep her running, since Father Jove's moods are no more predictable than the weather. And I/O, on, then off, binary as only she, two-horned, can be, still runs around lunatic, mooey, chased around by Juno's fly. So deep-planning Jove still has trouble getting even the first, sweetest nibble of I/O's delectable rump. Not that he minds so much: Jove always gets what he wants, and Juno is all he really wants, although he'd have his way with just about anything that moves on a warm day. For if the truth be told, I/O the moo-goddess is only a side of cow-eyed Juno, in disguise! So the only one to win here was Mercury (and the peacock's tail). If this story pleases him, I'm a winner too. Hail Mercury, companion of muses and their mom, Mnemosyne!
copyright (c) 1994, 1999, 2008 by Wendell Piez