Illustrious grandson of Atlas, be with me, you whom one of the
Pleiades once bore to Iuppiter in the mountains of Arcadia.
Umpire of war and peace for the gods above and below,
you who make your way on winged feet,
delighted by the lyre’s strum and the sweat of the wrestling ring,
you tutored tongues to talk with style,
for you the senators founded a temple facing the Circus,
so today – the Ides – is a holiday for you.
Everyone whose line is selling merchandise offers incense
to you and asks you for profits in return.
Close by the Capena Gate is Mercurius’ spring. It pays
to believe those who’ve tried it: it works.
Look – here comes a merchant with his clean sleeves rolled up to draw water
in a fumigated pitcher to take along with him.
With this he wets a laurel spray, with the laurel he sprinkles
all the stuff that’s going to have new owners.
He even sprinkles his hair with the dripping laurel, and presents
his prayer in a voice that’s used to fraud:
“Wash away the duplicities of times gone by,” he says,
“wash away the deceits of the day gone by.
Whether I invoked you or took in vain the name of Iuppiter
when I knew he wouldn’t be listening,
or intentionally defrauded any other god or goddess, let the wind
make swiftly off with the shameless things I’ve said.
Let me resort to duplicities on the day to come,
and let the gods disregard whatever I say.
Just give me profits, give me joy in profit taken,
and make it pay to have swindled the buyer.”
Mercurius smiles from on high at demands like that, remembering
his theft of brother Apollo’s cattle.
-Ovid’s Fasti, Book 5, lines 663-692