Demeter and Persephone

What sadness seen, what mourning on the Earth,
Descent to darkness, time of death and dearth!
Persephone, who gave so many fruits
Goes down to dwell with the Titanic brutes;
For there her husband, god of all the deep,
The dead, in season, does as riches reap.
And only what he sends to Earth again
Makes rich the valley, mountain, and the plain.
Demeter, mourning, does withhold the grain,
And all men would by hunger soon be slain,
Unless her daughter from the depths returned:
Life’s cycle in an image is discerned.
To all their food, the dead comes back and gives;
Then flowers bloom and man yet joyful lives.
So autumn sadness turns to joy in spring,
And birds return and with sweet voices sing.


Boötes, farmer, driver of the ox,
Who tilled the Earth instead of keeping flocks;
He was Demeter’s child, a demigod,
But mortals raised him to work and till the sod,
To turn a field of wild grass into such
As would when planted with wheat bring forth much.
But not Boötes only Demeter had,
For she bore twins and birthed another lad;
These two, they worked a farm, and then they went
To hunt and fish each day till they were spent.
Now, Plutus was Boötes’ brother’s name,
He had great wealth, but would not share the same;
And so Boötes tilled the land to feed
Himself; in season planted he the seed;
And though each year, it sprang forth and grew,
The work was heavy and exhausting too:
But then Boötes’ ingenuity,
Devised a way that with facility
The work could be performed; with a device
But little labour from him would then suffice:
This thing was called the plow, and bread was earned
When oxen were yoked, and the land was turned.
Demeter learned of this deed of her son,
Of the fame among men that he had won;
And so she stretched her hand down from on high,
And plucked her son and placed him in the sky.
A constellation, he now hunts the Bear,
Pursuing it all year, through the nightly air;
When he has struck Ursula, in the fall,
When Persephone first hears Hades’ call,
Then turn the leaves of trees to red with blood,
Which fall from Ursula as a gory flood:
But when in spring the Bear rises again,
Boötes chases him across heaven’s main;
Demeter’s son enjoys his greatest love,
To hunt a starry foe in the dome above.