Sunday, September 14, 2008

Persephone, Falling

From Mother Love by Rita Dove.

One narcissus among the ordinary beautiful
flowers, one unlike all the others! She pulled,
stooped to pull harder—
when, sprung out of the earth
on his glittering terrible
carriage, he claimed his due.
It is finished. No one heard her.
No one! She had strayed from the herd.

(Remember: go straight to school.
This is important, stop fooling around!
Don't answer to strangers. Stick
with your playmates. Keep your eyes down.)
This is how easily the pit
opens. This is how one foot sinks into the ground.

Mother Love is a modern interpretation of the Greek myth of Demeter, Persephone and Hades. It is the story of Demeter's anguish at the loss of her daughter, Persephone, who is kidnaped by Hades, king of the underworld, and becomes his consort. According to the myth, the frantic and despairing Demeter spends her time searching in the earth and, overcome by sorrow, neglects her duties as the goddess of agriculture and the harvest. Crops and flowers wither and die, trees lose their leaves; there is no spring or summer, only winter.

Demeter refuses to return to her duties until Zeus promises to make his brother Hades give Persephone back to her mother. Hades agrees, but before Persephone leaves the underworld she eats six pomegranate seeds.