Cupid’s Dart (ii)

Detail from Bronzino’s Venus & Cupid – Wiki
Public Domain

‘Was Blake right? What do you think, dear?’
I was a bit nonplussed by this, since we’d been talking about how ever more pricey things had been becoming lately.
‘Yes, dear: “Milton was of the Devil’s party…”, you know. Or is that just a bit of early Romanticism…?
‘Golly’, I paused mental gear-wheels adjusting belatedly to this change of gear. ‘I hadn’t really thought about it for ages, decades, really.’
‘You have read ‘Paradise Lost’, though. Then there’s Butler – and, of course, Byron…’
‘Sorry, but you’ve lost me…’
She swept on.
‘I’m just worrying a tiny bit, about these Mock-Heroic lines I’ve been working on – because, being unrhymed, they do not suggest the light-heartedness of ‘Don Juan’ – still less the flippancy of Hudibras.
Desperately attempting a recovery, I faltered, ‘Flippancy?  “Compound for sins they are inclined to, By damning those they have no mind to.” That’s hardly flippant is it? And, in the Seventeenth Century, no one had ever heard of ‘virtue-signalling’.
We were both quiet for a while, until I began to think I’d upset her.
‘…lines you’ve been working on?’ I almost whispered.
She nodded.

‘Apparently one of the Monks of Glasney who was pensioned at the Dissolution, smuggled out verses that would have been thought most unbecoming to the Reformed, who would, no doubt, have formed a picket-line shouting ‘Down with this sort of thing!’ given the opportunity, so little William in his retirement began the business of translating the Cornish into English, and I’ve been trying to carry on where he left off.

I sat back, an anticipatory smile on my face, as I saw her bringing forth a sheaf of papers.

Cupid’s Arrow

She rather spoiled his present (bow and quiver –
Full) – by wagging a frowning forefinger
‘Neath his button nose, enjoining him NOT
Ever to point it at a human – even in jest! So he,
Dutiful son, ‘though imp, nodding wide eyes,
Had sworn compliance. ‘Now, off and play! But mind,

What I’ve said!’ The little lad’s young pinions
Scarcely bore him up to near Olympian
‘Mind where you’re going, oaf!’ ‘Oh, sorry
Gany!’,’That’s all right – Cupe, isn’t it ?
The Thunderer’s ire I’ve earned, it seems…’, rolling his eyes.
They fluttered alongside for a while, one
Drawing breath, the other, damping down his
Anger. ‘Not your fault, Lad, you’re new to here –
‘The Empyrian’ it’s called! Fiery
Indeed, when Hera stamps her foot! The Moon
Knows why!’ Cupid’s nodding smile hid, he hoped,
How all this was beyond him. ‘Bow and flights?
And…’ they unisoned: ‘Never point an arrow
At a human, never point a weapon – in
Play, or ever, unless you mean to kill!’

Cupid winged on, one finger strumming at
His bow-string, as at a lyre. Dizzyingly
He looked down, then swooped – or stouped, falc’ners would
Say – the clearer to see, One fairer than Venus,
His Mother, foam-born, shell-upborne, Copper-
Isle beloved, swan-drawn, Aphrodite.

The dark-tressed damsel, blithely unaware
Of all the Empyrian turmoil that she caused,
Softly went on.
The foam-born imp, a-daze,
Retrieved bow and arrows, dropped earlier in
Amazement, the bow-string-calling finger,
Longing to test both his weapon and his
So, when he saw, an undistinguished,
Old man, dry of heart, he drew his bow. ‘He’s
Due to die: let me upset his slumbrous
Serenity. No more ‘calm of mind, all
Passion spent’! From now ‘til Doomsday, let
Him know all the anguish of forbidden,
Unrequited love!’ and loosed the shaft.

Returning, giggling now no longer, he
Greeted his Mother with straightened face;
She, kissing him coolly, questioned with
Expectant eyebrow and quizzical head,
More coolly now seeing his bow and quiver.
The lad sighed: ‘I saw a mortal, such as
Has not before been seen, for loveliness!’
And sighed again. Bridling, the Goddess said:
‘Am I then not the loveliest? Did not Paris
So adjudge?’ The imp broke in, ‘Mama, pray
Do not be cross…’ ‘Am I so transparent?
Would I were more so, that thou mightest see,
I am not ‘cross’: furious, irate, maddened,
Incandescent, yes!’ Tossing her famed fair
Hair, she turned away the little hand that
She was wont to let wander, wond’ringly
Among those silken tresses. As great, warm
Tears formed and fell, she clasped him, glaring, ‘And
My caref’ly chosen present, what of it?’
After much sobbing, distraught, her imp wailed
‘Thou? When you ‘thou’d’ me anon, I hoped ‘twas
Mere temper – the lame one’s forge – but now, I
Fear, I dare not…’ sobbing, he sobbed again.

Tears, like blood let, grief somewhat abated,
The Goddess asked, ‘My present – the one I gave
You just a few hours agone…? -Quiver full?’
In horrid silence, she left some mortal
Minutes expire, to rack him more. Then, ‘False
Child! Forsworn as soon as oathed!’ Her wailing
Infant’s cries all unavailing, more Fury
Than Goddess, she outstretched an arm, to
Scruff him, he ducked, she caught him by the ear;
Squeezing and pulling the lobe, the ireful
Goddess drew her little son, painfully
Back up, up to Empyrean heights, back to…
Her hope had been, ‘The Crime Scene’, but, alas,
Red mist of wrath and fog of th’imp’s huge tears,
Misled them both.

‘Cupe? My Lady Venus.’
Here Ganymede, at once tried and failed, to show
Both Pious deference, and condescension as
Each due. Meanwhile, the Foam-born, Swan-borne she
(Mindful that cup-bearers, couch-sharers, can
Also tale-bearers be) smiled loftily
As, waving him away, she commended
Herself to Jove.
‘We’re lost!’, ‘No, Mama! Here
Is where I saw her… him, rather!’
The Gods,
It needs be said, perhaps, are blessed, and cursed
By, and with, the means to shuttle through Time
And Place, while mere mortals have only this
In dreams, where both dissolve…
Coaxingly now
Venus, anger outspent, embraced her son
Fondly enquiring, ‘The man you shot… No!
The one who, so carelessly walked into
The path of your – ooh… ‘ negligent-discharge’…?

As when, in the Games, men seek to re-run
The Race, re-fight the Match, so now the twain
Replayed the tape…
‘You chose him? To be
Her lover? ‘By no means, Mama: it seemed
Mere complementarity, that one unlovable
Should be conjoined with one so opposite.
Besides, an accidental arrow could
Surely not…’ ‘Let’s… see…’, The Cytherean
Measuredly replied.
As on a clouded
Day, the fretting fisherman, ere setting
Sail, considers tide, wind, sun, state of his
Barque, so she, ‘this way and that dividing
The swift mind’, refusing impetuousness,
More anxious made by the Lad’s doubt, at last
Decided: ‘I’ll seek counsel among my
Fellow Immortals. Come, away!’
As Snow,
Driven by Arcturus’ winds, floats eddyingly
Upwards, or as swans’ down, preened from Pen’s
Wing or breast, lying a while on the lake’s
Still surface rises, at Aeolus’ least
Waft, as Thistles seeds are borne both high
And wide, on gossamer threads, so Goddess
And Imp ascended to Aethereal heights,
Where limpid vapours caressed th’whole Being.
‘I’ll seek the counsel of my peers: but, first,
Dear Child, deeply inhale and hold your breath –
Now! For we must pass, Stercutius’s Realm, ere
We draw breath again!
Cupid’s small lungs proved
Insufficient for the distance, thus forced
To inhale of the baleful, foetid, rank
Miasma, before reaching the purer air
Which he drank in, shaking his head ‘mid coughs,
As do pearl-fishers, clearing, noses, eyes
Ears, or drowning men, clutching some spar
Or plank, breathing and relishing relief,
If only momentary, so Cupid looked
Accusingly at his Dam, only for
Her, to say (dread words for child to hear!),
‘I told you so! Another time heed what
Your Mother says!’
But now, a grateful warm,
Fresh fragrance wafted to their nostrils. As
Valorous steeds turn eagerly from battle
When bottles of Hay – sweet and grassy – are
Unloaded by their Charioteers; as Fowl,
Knowing the sound their Mistress makes, bringing
Corn, cluck dementedly; as kennelled Hounds
Slaver in delight, yelping high and low
Anticipating the meat their Master
Brings in fragrant, high-piled buckets, so, if
So it may be said of Gods, the twain, moist
Mouths already devouring pleasant food,
Came to Hestia’s hearth, oven-shaped, kitchen
Fitted, table-proximate… ‘Domestic
Goddess – may we two join you? We’re on our
Way to Artemis. Ohh! Such relief to be
Off one’s pinions.’ ‘You’ll have to wait awhile:
This cake needs must be turned, and then these Curds…’
‘Cupid thought, for a moment, – he’d misheard!’
Both Goddesses laughing, Cupid laughed too.
‘But, Mama, why that awful stench…?’. Again, she
Laughed. ‘Dear Child, unlike us Immortals, who
Entirely digest all we consume, they,
Like all the brutes, expel the residue
One way or another. See, how the Kine
Lift their tails, how steeds, near break their pace to
Relieve themselves…’ Far be it from a mere
Auditor to break in, but Decency
Requires that even Goddesses’ talk be
Censored, or, at least, some supervening
Incident curtain provide. The Goddess
Set down dishes – hot and cold – whose fragrance
Nor whose taste may be described.
‘So: next, to
Diana; why she, though?’ Hestia asked,
As, servant-like, the clattering plates she cleared
‘Oh, bowmanship!’ ‘Too late: now will Diana
Have gone forth. Why not stay? So, someone’s been
Injured? I find that invalids relish
And are helped in their healing by… Custard
Proper egg-custard! Mine -apart from eggs
(New-laid, of course)- possess this secret thing –
No, not the herb Moly! Nor the fragrant
Pod of Madagascar, but the leaf of
Heroes, and, (this is important), Myrtle-berry… ’

What else she said,
Cupid nor Aphrodite heard, being now
Dolichoi away, seeking the Snake-twined
Whose healing rod once brought Glaucus back to
Life, whose sacred pool, Bethesda, Saint John
Knew. The Swan-borne, glad to’ve left Hestia’s
Realm, where she was dispowered, aghast, read:
‘No healing now: the plague has struck. Begone!
And take thy foul contagion with thee’ (signed)
Hygieia, Panacea, Iaso, Aceso, Aegle.
[p.p. self-isolating Asclepius]
Oimoi! Ye Gods and little fishes! Dis!’
A grim form materialised and said, ‘You
Called?’ ‘Oh, Hades! You quite startled me, I…’
‘Meant nothing by it? Casually took in vain
My Name?’ … ‘Oh no, Dear Pluto, I am vexed b’yond
Measure with my fellow-deities, who’re
All ‘awol’, missing-presumed-dead, ‘Away’,
When most I need their counsel!’
‘Most, I find
Are ‘startled’ when I appear …’ the ghoulish
Spectre, maleficently grinned.
‘Where are they?’
‘Dear Goddess, foam-born, swan-borne, copper-isle…’
‘Oh, swyve off, infernal one!’
With tart tongue,
Aphrodite, the Cytherean… [‘AARGH!’
Epithets are so yesterday – dull, stale!’]
A silence fell among th’Immortals, which-
If silence can be heard, echoed among those
At last, with quiet warble, spoke
Athena: ‘I think, Dear Venus, that your
Imp, has stirred – unwittingly, I doubt not –
Heaven and Earth with one unguided arrow.
Now, our duty, Gods and Goddesses,
Is plain: each in his rightful sphere, stability
To seek, lest Chaos and old Night devour
Us all!
Cupid!’ (he paled) ‘You’re young and
Folly is forgiveable in youth. So,
Jove willing, young you shall remain; Venus,
Your sphere is love, so try t’ensure Love is
The outcome of your work, not War (think Troy!)’
Thus spake the wise Goddess, Owl-faced (I’ve warned you…!)
Spare-spoken Athena, and th’Empyrian
Fell silent once more.
‘… I was surprised’, owned she         ,
‘My ‘Gloaming Warble’, so soothing-quiet,
Yet disquieted…’ The Fair one broke in:
‘Dis Himself’s appearing less alarmed me,
Than the hollow, ghostly, sound you made, Coz:
I saw my Imp’s hair stand on end as mine
Did, a cold Dew ‘neath his wings as under
My…’ Once more, the lowly Scribe his Office
Fills, by setting aside tablet and Stile,
His comely reticence, more voluble
Than splashes of ink, scratches on bees-wax,
Scrapes on slate, knowing his readers’ prurience
Will be rewarded…by Apophasis!

And now, through all the Heavens, thunder rang:
Thunder more raucous, daunting far than when
The Titans strove, when, Ossa piled on wooded
Pelion, Centaurs and Giants sought in vain
T’invade Jove’s rightful realm; or Cathay’s yet
To be invented powder dire in scruples fed
Into the brazen mouths of myriad guns.
Cupid? Mere Imp! Hast thou my Thunder Stol’n?
No, great Father, no a thousand times! My
                        Ma, gave me this bow and arrow…
Would’st seek to hide behind a Goddess’ skirts?
Yet some mortal has been thunder-struck: my Realm!’
Great Father, pray forgive…
Nay, Lad: true son
Of mine! But know, my bolts and flashes are
All numbered…’ Chuckling, the Father of the
Gods could be heard, amused by th’impudence
Of the Imp whose paternity he now


Not having been ‘feeling
His age’ ‘til now, this pinprick to his heart,
Drove him to see his Physician…
[Watching from above, the’Immortals saw him]
But, to his surprise, the Surgery was
‘CLOSED -due to the Pandemic’.[Watching from
above, th’Immortals shrugged in sympathy]
Ask your Pharmacist…” he remembered b’ing
Told, so went to the Chemist, who ushered
Him into a small room, where he began
T’outline his chest-pain; she sat him down and
Stethoscoped his chest, feeling awhile his
Pulse, looking intently at his face, then
Gently smiling, advised he ask his G.P.,
Assuring that no pain along the arm,
Nor blueness of the lips implied heart-burn
Not heart-attack.

As men, long darkness-inured, stagger and
Blunder in sudden light, so he came forth,
Uncertain stepping, wildly weaving… ‘til
A Lamp-post stopt his tracks, but failed to stop
His humming or occasional bursts of
Song: ‘… I did but see her Passing by… and
Yet…’(hum, hum hum hum hum hum-hum)… ‘til I die!’

Seeing that she was looking quite anxiously at me, I softly clapped, then murmured, ‘More! More!, before enquiring, ‘Passing By…? rings a faint bell’, then snapped my fingers as from the deepest recesses of my mind, I summoned some of Thomas Ford’s Catch, or Ayre, perhaps, to mind:

‘Cupid is wingéd, and doth range
Her country; so my love doth change.
But change she earth, or change she sky
Yet will I love her till I die!’ .

‘My turn to clap’, was her smiling rejoinder. ‘You know, dear, you have quite a pleasant voice, and not a bad ear. ’
‘No: not at all a bad ear… ‘

© Miss Pronter by way of Jethro 2022