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.


The king of Tartarus, lord of the dead,
Who over the shades and Typhon is head;
And also, the Titans holds he in chains,
Delighting at Kronos, gripped in his pains,
Is Hades, brother to Zeus; for he got
The realm of the dead to rule for his lot.
Content he was not, but wanted a wife,
To bring him beauty and joy in his life;
He took Persephone by force below,
And then, a gift on his bride did bestow,
The seeds of a pomegranate, and her fate
Was sealed the moment that she took and ate:
As fruit, by its seed, winters below ground,
Then shoots forth in spring, when flowers abound,
He holds her safe in the season of frost,
But during summer, to him she is lost.
As man in labour needs comfort of friends,
Like this on Cerberus, Hades depends;
The mirrors of gods are men in their deeds;
The deities teach what every man needs.
Cerberus watches, as guard at the gates,
On prison-breakers, his hunger he sates.
Three-headed, black, a serpent for a tail,
Whose courage when faced with this wouldn’t fail?
But Heracles faced him, courage perfected,
And rose from Tartarus, man resurrected.
So Hades keeps the monsters and the shades
Imprisoned; Typhon cannot make his raids
On Earth: this duty that Hades performs
Keeps everyone safe from trouble and storms.
For what if the dead rose up and rebelled,
And all the living from Earth were expelled?
Should Typhon rise up, and spew forth his fire?
Should men in the grip of Python expire?
Should Kronos devour whatever he lists,
Till nothing remains, till nothing exists?
But these are restrained, and Earth is at peace:
The monsters and Titans held fast in decease.
Such are the gifts of the Underworld’s king,
And the gifts of his wife that come in spring.