Demeter's Search

FROM Enna, from Enna, once fair with the lily and daffodil’s bloom,
From Enna I drove through the sea-ways, rolling on tempest and gloom;
Crying, " Who saw her? Who saw the hot wheels glancing fire in their round?
Who saw the black steeds of the night leaping on without hoof-print or sound?”
Calling, “ Cora Persephone, hear me ! Send cry unto cry !
Lost as thou art, I will find thee, in earth, or the waters, or sky ! ”
Swift by the ice-springs of Tanais, seeking my daughter, I came ;
Swift on the mountains of Ethiope, swart with perpetual flame :
I trod out the oasis grass, the stream shrank away on its bed ;
The maddening shepherd looked up and cursed the fierce sun overhead.
I stooped from the pillars of Calpe to search through the gulfs of the west;
I troubled the peace of the heroes who dwell in the islands of rest.
I kindled a torch and descended, — I peered in the face of the dead:
Aghast and unnumbered they rose, afar in the darkness they fled,
Blown with the storm of my coming, scattered like autumn-wan leaves;
Shrill was their voice as the thin voice of insects that spring from the sheaves.
Brightening and glooming, I passed them; I brake through the portals of Dis :
Aha! I shed light on those turrets built up from the moaning abyss !
There the night hath no stars, but dim beacons that flare in the wind;
Black is the spray of the fountain ; many a river runs blind,
Pouring with hoarse lamentation through measureless chasms below;
Bitter the sorrowful fruitage in mouldering orchards arow;
Ill is the growth of the garden,—rank nettle and nightshade and yew;
Bristles the turf like stubble, thick-beaded with poisonous dew.
The portal is guarded by dragons, bred of the Stygian fen ;
Thronged are the lintels and rafters with all evil visions of men ;
Rich is the throne-chamber, vaulted and paven with thefts from the mine,
Pictured with mystic Saturnian story, forbidden, divine !
There, sole as a star, I beheld her, queen of the night and the dead,
Clothed in a veil of wan fire, with the asphodel flower on her head.
In her hands were the tributes of spirits new come from the ends of the world,
Garlands of bay-leaf and roses, and tresses the Loves themselves curled.
Me, weeping before her, she knew not, nor sprang with glad tears to my arms,
Dull, unremembering, guarded with crafty Plutonian charms.
Cora Persephone, hearken ! Till thou return with the year,
No fountain shall flow out of Enna, no flower in the meadows appear.
I have chidden thy sisters to silence ; their lips shall be voiceless as thine ;
They shall not be fed from the harvest, they shall not be gladdened with wine;
But slumber instead, heavy-lidded, on strait beds of rushes reclined :
None but thy voice shall awake them, none but thy hand shall unbind.
I have punished the earth that engulfed thee with heat and with torrents of rain,
With the worm at the core of the apple, and blight in the ear of the grain ;
Lo, I have withholden the morsel from many a famishing mouth,
And stricken the singing-bird on its flight over sea to the south.
I came to a feast of the sylvans : I smote them with coldness and fear;
I broke their sweet reeds and their timbrels, and touched their green garlands with sear.
I have blown out the flame on the altar; I will that all song shall be mute,—
Mute as thou art, O my daughter, unreached by the sound of the lute!
Edith Thomas.