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In heav'n this story's fam'd above the rest,
Amongst th' immortal drolls a standing jest.
How, Vulcan two transgressing lovers caught
And ev'ry god a pleas'd spectator brought.
Great Mars for Venus felt a guilty flame,
Neglected war, and own'd a lover's name,
To his desires the queen of love inclin'd;
No nymph in heav'n's so willing, none so kind.
Oft the lascivious fair, with scornful pride,
Would Vulcan's foot and sooty hands deride;
Yet both with decency their passion bore,
And modestly conceal'd the close amour,
But by the sun betray'd in their embrace,
(For what escapes the sun's observing rays?1
He told th' affronted god of his disgrace.
Ah foolish sun! and much unskill'd in love,
Thou hast an ill example set above!
Never a fair offending nymph betray,
She'll gratefully oblige you ev'ry way:
The crafty spouse around his bed prepares
Nets that deceive the eye, and secret snares:
A journey feigns, the impatient lovers met,
And naked were expos'd in Vulcan's net.
The gods deride the criminals in chains,
And scarce from tears the queen of love refrains;
Nor could her hands conceal her guilty face,
She wants that cover for another place.
To burly Mars a gay spectator said,
" Why so uneasy in that envied bed?
On me transfer your chains; I'll freely come
For your release, and suffer in your room."
At length, kind Neptune, freed by thy desires,
Mars goes for Crete, to Paphos she retires,
Their loves augmented with revengeful fires;
Now conversant with infamy and shame,
They set no bounds to their licentious flame.
But honest Vulcan, what was thy pretence,
To act so much unlike a god of sense?
They sin in public, you the shame repent,
Convinc'd that love increase with punishment.
Tho' in your pow'r, a rival ne'er expose,
Never his intercepted joys disclose:2
This I command, Venus commands the same,
Who hates the snares she once sustain'd with shame.

1 The sun sees all things, and nothing can avoid being seen by it, any more than it can dispense with being warmed by it.

2 He means intercepting a rival's letter, and discovering the contents. To intercept letters, and divulge a secret, was a crime punishable by the laws, by banishment, or interdiction of fire and water, by which was understood exile.

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