From Ovid’s Metamorphoses 2.725 – Mercury flying over Attica falls for Herse, daughter of Cecrops.
The son of Jove was astounded at her beauty, and hanging in mid-air he caught the flames of love; as when a leaden bullet is thrown by a Balearic sling, it flies along, is heated by its motion, and finds heat in the clouds which it had not before. Mercury now turns his course, leaves the air and flies to earth, nor seeks to disguise himself; such is the confidence of beauty. Yet though that trust be lawful, he assists it none the less with pains; he smooths his hair, arranges his robe so that it may hang neatly and so that all the golden border will show. He takes care to have in his right hand his smooth wand with which he brings on sleep or drives it away, and to have his winged sandals glittering on his trim feet. In a retired part of the house were three chambers, richly adorned with ivory and tortoise-shell. The right-hand room of these Pandrosos occupied, Aglauros the left, and Herse the room between. Aglauros first saw the approaching god and made so bold as to ask his name and the cause of his visit. He, grandson of Atlas and Pleione, replied: “I am he who carry my father’s messages through the air. My father is Jove himself. Nor will I conceal why I am here. Only do you consent to be true to your sister, and to be called the aunt of my offspring. I have come here for Herse’s sake. I pray you favour a lover’s suit.” Aglauros looked at him with the same covetous eyes with which she had lately peeped at the secret of the golden-haired Minerva, and demanded a mighty weight of gold as the price of her service; meantime, she compelled him to leave the palace.
obstipuit forma Iove natus et aethere pendens
non secus exarsit, quam cum Balearica plumbum
funda iacit: volat illud et incandescit eundo
et, quos non habuit, sub nubibus invenit ignes.
vertit iter caeloque petit terrena relicto
nec se dissimulat: tanta est fiducia formae.
quae quamquam iusta est, cura tamen adiuvat illam
permulcetque comas chlamydemque, ut pendeat apte,
collocat, ut limbus totumque adpareat aurum,
ut teres in dextra, qua somnos ducit et arcet,
virga sit, ut tersis niteant talaria plantis.
Pars secreta domus ebore et testudine cultos
tres habuit thalamos, quorum tu, Pandrose, dextrum,
Aglauros laevum, medium possederat Herse.
quae tenuit laevum, venientem prima notavit
Mercurium nomenque dei scitarier ausa est
et causam adventus; cui sic respondit Atlantis
Pleïonesque nepos “ego sum, qui iussa per auras
verba patris porto; pater est mihi Iuppiter ipse.
nec fingam causas, tu tantum fida sorori
esse velis prolisque meae matertera dici:
Herse causa viae; faveas oramus amanti.”
adspicit hunc oculis isdem, quibus abdita nuper
viderat Aglauros flavae secreta Minervae,
proque ministerio magni sibi ponderis aurum
postulat: interea tectis excedere cogit.
Jokes are of course less funny when you have to explain them but I feel the charm here is worth it.
Premise: Mercury does not “seek to disguise himself; such is the confidence of beauty“
Refutations of this principle:
1) He nevertheless smooths his hair, positions his robe (I can’t help but think of Porthos with his baldric), gathers his wand, and shines his sandals
2) His introduction of himself amounts to ‘my dad’s a big deal’
3) His suit is met with a demand for gold.
4) He’s forced to leave until he pays.