From Book 5 of The Metamorphoses, by Publius Ovidius Naso(Ovid)

Hard by the town of Enna was a lake,

Pergus its name; nor even Cayster's waters

Held in their echoes sweeter sounds of swans.

A forest crowned the hills on every side

Where even at sunstruck noonday the cool shores

Were green beneath a canopy of leaves,

The lawns, the purling grasses bright with flowers,

And spring the only season of the year.

This was the place were Proserpina played;

She plucked white lily and the violet

Which held her mind as in a childish game

To outmatch all the girls who played with her,

Filled her basket, then the hollow of small breasts

With new picked flowers. As if at one glance, Pluto

Had caught her up, delighted at his choice

Had ravished her, so quick was his desire,

While she in terror called to friends and mother,

A prayer to mother echoing through her cries.

Where she had ripped the neckline of her dress,

Her flowers had slipped away--and in her childish, pure

Simplicity she wept her new loss now

With bitter, deeper sorrow than her tears

For the brief loss of spent virginity.

He who had raped her lashed his horses on

To greater speed, crying the names of each,

Shaking black reins across their backs and shoulders;

He stormed his way through waterfalls and canyons

Past the Palici, where fiery thick sulfur bubbled

From split earth to the narrows where men came

(Corinthians who lived between two seas

And followed Bacchus) to set up a city

That rose between two jagged rocky harbors.

Between Cyane and the spring of Arethusa

There is a bay, a horn-shaped stretch of water

Contained by narrowing peninsulas.

Here lived Cyane, nymph of Sicily

Who gave the place a legend with her name;

Waist-high she raised herself above the waves

And at the sight of childlike Proserpina

She called to Pluto, "Sir, you shall go no farther,

Nor can you be the son-in-law of Ceres

By right of conquest and the use of force;

The child deserves a gentle courtly marriage.

If I compare a humble situation

With one of highest birth, then let me say

I once was courted by my lord Anapis,

And gave in to his prayers, but not through terror."

With this she spread her arms and barred his way--

Yet Saturn's son lashed at his furious horses

And swung his sceptre overhead, then struck

Through waves and earth as his dark chariot

Roared down that road to deepest Tartarus.

Cyane grieved at Proserpina's fate

Her own loss of prestige, her waters tainted

By the wild capture of the youthful goddess,

Nor was consoled; she held her wounds at heart.

Speechless, she flowed in tears, into those waves

Where she was known as goddess. There one saw

Her limbs grow flaccid and her bones, her nails

Turn fluid; and her slender gliding features,

Her green hair and her fingers, legs, and feet

Were first to go, nor did her graceful limbs

Seem to show change as they slipped in cool waters;

Then shoulders, breasts and sides and back were tears

Flowing in streams and then her living blood

In pale veins ran to clearest, yielding spray--

And nothing there for anyone to hold.

In all this time the anxious, frightened mother

Looked for her daughter up and down the world;

Neither Aurora with dew-wet raining hair

Nor evening Hesperus saw her stop for rest.

She lit two torches at the fires of Etna

And through the frost-cloaked night she walked abroad

Then, when good-natured day had veiled the stars,

Kept at her rounds from dawn to setting sun.

Spent with her travels and throat dry with thirst

(Nor had her lips touched either brook or fountain),

She saw a cottage roofed with straw and knocked

On its frail gate at which an ancient woman

Ambled forward, who when she learned the goddess

Wanted drink brought her a draught of sweetest

Barley water. And as the goddess drank

An impudent small boy stared up at her,

Made fun of her, and said she drank too much,

At which she took offense and threw the dregs

Of barley in his face. The boy grew spotted;

His arms were legs; between them dropped a tail;

He dwindled to a harmless size, a lizard,

And yet a lesser creature. The old woman

Marvelled at what she saw, then wept, then tried

To capture it; it fluttered under stones.

It took a name that fitted to its crime,

Since it was covered with star-shining spots.

It would take long to list the many names

Of seas and distant lands that Ceres traveled,

But when she found no other place to go,

She turned her way again through Sicily

And on this route stood where Cyane flowed.

Though she had much to say and wished to tell it--

Would have told all--Cyane had no speech

But that of water, neither tongue nor lips,

Yet she could bring sign language to the surface,

And tossed the girdle Proserpina dropped

Before her mother's eyes. When Ceres saw it,

It was as if the child had disappeared

Today or yesterday; the goddess tore

Her hair and beat her breasts--nor did she know

Where the child was, but cursed all earthly places

For lack of pity and ingratitude,

Saying they had disowned the gift of grain,

And worst of these the land of Sicily

Where she had seen the water-drifting ribbon

That Proserpina wore. With savage hands

She smashed the crooked plows that turned the soil

And brought dark ruin down on men and cattle;

She then gave orders to tilled field and lawn

To blight the seed, betray their duties, and

Unmake their reputation for rich harvest.

Crops died almost at birth, from too much sun,

Or withering rain; even the stars and wind

Unfavored them; birds ate the fallen seed,

And weeds and brambles thrived in starving wheat.

Then Alpheus' daughter, Arethusa, rose

Lifting her face from the Elean waters.

She shook her streaming hair back from her eyes.

And cried, "O mother of that lost girl, the child

That you have looked for everywhere, mother

Of fruit and field, come rest awhile with me.

Forgive this pious land that worships you--

This countryside is innocent of wrong;

It had been forced to welcome rape--nor do I,

Pleading its cause, claim it my native land.

Pisa is mine, my ancestors from Elis,

And as a stranger came to Sicily--

Yet I have learned to love this countryside,

This island more than any place I know.

Here is my home--O gracious goddess, bless

The place I live; a proper time will come

To tell you why I came to Sicily,

Steering my course beneath uncharted seas--

A time when you are smiling down at me.

Earth opened to me down to deepest dark,

And floating through its underwater channels

I raised my head as if to turn my eyes

Toward stars almost forgotten to my sight,

And as I drifted through the Styx I saw

Persephone herself; she seemed in tears,

Even then her face still held its look of terror,

Yet she was like a queen, true wife, regina

Of that dictator who rules underground."

When the mother heard this news, she stood half-dazed

And stared as if she had been turned to stone,

But when her sorrow had turned to active grief,

She stepped aboard her chariot and flew

To heaven itself; there, with dark features

And wild hair, flushed, passionate, she stepped

To Jove. She said, "I come to speak aloud,

To plead a case for your child and my own.

If you disown the mother, allow the child

In her distress to move a father's soul,

Nor think the less of her because I gave

Her birth, the long-lost daughter who has now

Been found--if one calls finding her sure proof

That she is lost, or if to find is knowing

Where she's gone; I can endure the knowing

She was raped--if he who has her shall return

Her to me. Surely any child of yours

Should never take a thief for her true husband."

Then Jupiter exclaimed, "She is our daughter,

The token of our love and ours to cherish,

But we should give the proper names to facts:

She has received the gift of love, unhurt,

Nor will he harm us as a son-in-law.

And if has no other merits, then

It's no disgrace to marry Jove's own brother,

For all he needs is your good will, my dear.

His great fault is: he does not hold my place,

His lot is to rule over lower regions.

But if your will is fixed on her divorce,

The girl shall rise to heaven on one condition--

That is, if no food touched her lips in Hades,

For this is law commanded by the Fates."

He had his say, and Ceres was determined

To claim their daughter, yet the Fates said no.

But Proserpina, guileless, innocent,

Had taken refuge in Pluto's formal gardens

And, as she strolled there, plucked a dark pomegranate,

Unwrapped its yellow skin, and swallowed seven

Of its blood-purpled seeds. The one who saw

Her eat was Ascalaphus, said to have been

The son of Orphne--she not the least known

Among the pliant ladies of Avernus,

And by her lover, Acheron, conceived him

In the grey forest of the underworld.

The boy's malicious gossip worked its ill

Preventing Proserpina's step to earth:

Then the young queen of Erebus in rage

Changed her betrayer to an obscene bird:

She splashed his face with fires of Phlegethon

Which gave him beak and wings and great round eyes;

Unlike himself he walked in yellow feathers,

Half head, half body and long crooked claws,

Yet barely stirred his heavy wings that once

Were arms and hands: he was that hated creature,

Scritch-owl of fatal omen to all men.

Surely he earned his doom through evil talk.

But why are Achelous' daughters wearing

The claws, the feathers of peculiar birds--

And yet they have the faces of young girls?

Was this because, O Sirens of sweet song,

You were among the friends of Proserpina

Who joined her in the game of plucking flowers?

However far they traveled, land or sea,

They could not find her; then they begged the gods

To give them wings to skim the waves of the ocean,

Renew the search again. The gods were kind,

And quickly Siren limbs took golden feathers,

But human, girlish faces did not change,

Nor did their voices cease to charm the air.

But Jove (with equal justice to his brother

And to her stricken sister) cut the cycle

Of the revolving year; and for their claims

Six months to each, with Proserpina goddess

For half the year on earth, the other half

Queen with her husband; then at once her face

And spirit changed, for even dark Pluto noticed

A weary sadness spreading through her veins,

Now changed to joy; who, like the sun when held

Behind gray mist and rain, now showers down

His light through clouds and shows his golden face.

(8 CE[AD])

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