Now that it is early autumn, we tend to stay inside more and even read more (at least that’s my experience). Someone recently asked me if I would do the audio recording for some of my mythology poems on this blog. I had done one already, so it does seem natural to now do the others. I hope you like them. My style of reading isn’t dramatic, and I do try hard to avoid “poet voice,” something I dislike very much. Hopefully my readings are pretty natural, maybe too natural for those who do like more drama. I guess it’s all a matter of taste.
By clicking on each link, you will be directed to the original posting for the poem but with the audio now included. I hope you like them.
Persephone’s abduction by Hades is swift, violent and over so quickly that no one hears her scream except for Hecate, a goddess who helps Demeter find out where she has gone. Could there be anything worse for a mother than to lose a child? Demeter’s grief is profound. This is the Second Lamentation of Demeter.
The Abduction of Persephone, Hans Von Aachen, 1587
To hear me read this poem, please click on the link below and wait a few seconds for it to begin.
The Second Lamentation of Demeter
The earth groaned, then opened briefly.
That’s all it took.
He appeared out of nowhere
Like a wild flume of fire,
The flickering golden chariot with
Four black stallions at full gallop.
He sprang upon her so quickly
That when the earth closed back
Upon itself like a wound healed over,
All that was left was a circlet of flowers
That she and the daughters of Oceanus
Had been stringing together. Irises, roses,
Violets, hyacinths, and the faded blossoms
Of sweet narcissus plucked by her hand.
The scar in the earth and grasses torn apart
Were all that told the story.
I always knew he watched her…
I sensed when he was around.
Clouds gathered overhead,
Shadows clothing him in darkness,
To whom sunlight is a stranger.
My sweet Persephone is gone now,
Gone with him.
My sweet child is his.
Persephone’s abduction is well represented in art. It is my personal opinion that one need look no further than the magnificent sculpture done by Bernini in 1622. The details of the hands and arms as well as the force and resistance between their two bodies is powerful. Persephone’s tear stained cheek tells us more than any words can.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Abduction of Persephone, 1622, Galleria Borghese in Rome
British Museum GR 1885.3-16.1 (Terracotta C 529), AN34724001
I’ve been looking over my writing notebooks written a while back but unread by anyone other than myself or my husband. The myths of Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, fascinate many including me. For a number of reasons these myths seem to appeal especially to women. Many of the great living women poets have written brilliant poems about Persephone (e.g., Louise Glück and Eavan Boland). The story is timeless.
In today’s poem I’ve written a Lamentation of Demeter. Demeter, the goddess of the harvest and grains, is often referred to as the mother-goddess since she represents fertility on earth. Her importance is indisputable. When she mourns for her missing daughter, Persephone (who has been abducted by Hades and taken down into the underworld by force) the seasons stop. Things stop growing and the earth begins to die before Persephone’s father, Zeus, intervenes. You know the story, but it is worth re-reading if you haven’t read any mythology for a while.
Demeter statue in front of my gym in Hillsborough, North Carolina
So what is a lamentation? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it simply: “The passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.” Anyone who has grieved knows instinctively what it is to lament the loss of someone who is dearly loved. The feeling is painful and deep, and I think this resonates within us all. Demeter mourned her daughter’s abduction to a point where the earth nearly perished. This poem begins with her not yet knowing all that has happened. I picture her as a mother desperate to know what has happened to her child.
This is one of two lamentations of Demeter I’ve written. The second will follow at some point.
To listen to an audio recording of me reading this poem, click on the link below and wait a few seconds for it to begin:
The First Lamentation of Demeter
How is it that I don’t know where she has gone?
I warned her.
I told her time and time again not to trust them,
that there were those who so longed for her
they would stop at nothing.
And who was right?
Like all girls her age, she could be headstrong,
believing her own mother too old
to understand those yearnings.
I warned her.
Last night I watched the dog star rise up.
Its magnificent beams were like beacons
that might lead me to my lost child.
Why is it the stars are silent?
O, Sirius, your brilliant rays reach down
to us and yet your silence is puzzling.
Surely you saw where she went, my only child.