Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 65

Among these ingenious contrivances were two golden handmaidens gifted with motion, who attended the god wherever he went, and supported his halting footsteps.

“Two golden statues, like in form and look
To living maidens, aided with firm gait
The monarch’s steps.”
Homer (Bryant’s tr.).
The golden throne.

Vulcan also devised a golden throne with countless hidden springs, which, when unoccupied, did not present an extraordinary appearance; but as soon as any one ventured to make use of it, the springs moved, and, the chair closing around the person seated upon it, frustrated all attempts to rise and escape from its treacherous embrace.

Vulcan dispatched this throne, when completed, to his mother, who, delighted with its beauty and delicate workmanship, proudly seated herself upon it, and found herself a prisoner. In vain she strove to escape, in vain the gods all gallantly rushed to her assistance. Their united strength and skill proved useless against the cunning springs.

Refer to caption

FORGE OF VULCAN.—Velasquez. (Museum, Madrid.)

Finally Mercury was sent to Vulcan, primed with a most diplomatic request to honor high Olympus with his presence; but all Mercury’s eloquence and persuasions failed to induce the god of the forge to leave his sooty abode, and the messenger god was forced to return alone and report the failure of his attempt. [147] Then the gods deliberated anew, and decided to send Bacchus, god of wine, hoping his powers of persuasion would prove more effective.

Armed with a flask of his choicest vintage, Bacchus presented himself before Vulcan, and offered him a refreshing draught. Vulcan, predisposed to thirst, and incited to drink by the very nature of his labor, accepted the offered cup, and allowed himself to be beguiled into renewing his potations, until he was quite intoxicated. In this condition, Bacchus led him passive to Olympus, made him release the Queen of Heaven, and urged him to embrace his father and crave forgiveness.

Although restored to favor, Vulcan would not remain permanently in Olympus, but preferred to return to his forge and continue his labors. He undertook, however, the construction of magnificent golden palaces for each of the gods upon the Olympian heights, fashioned their sumptuous furniture from precious metals, and further embellished his work by a rich ornamentation of precious stones.

“Then to their starry domes the gods depart,
The shining monuments of Vulcan’s art:
Jove on his couch reclin’d his awful head,
And Juno slumber’d on the golden bed.”
Homer (Pope’s tr.).

Aided by the Cyclopes, Vulcan manufactured Jupiter’s weapons, the dread thunderbolts, whose frightful power none could withstand, and Cupid’s love-inspiring darts.

Vulcan’s loves.

Vulcan, in spite of his deformity, extreme ugliness, and well-known aversion to any home but his sooty forge, was none the less prone to fall in love with the various goddesses. He first wooed Minerva, who, having sworn never to marry, contemptuously dismissed his suit. To console Vulcan for this rebuff, and at the same time punish the Goddess of Beauty, who, according to some mythologists, had refused even his addresses, Jupiter bestowed upon him the fair [148] hand of Venus, and sent her and her mischievous train of Loves and Graces to reside in the dark caves of Mount Ætna.