Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Hymn to Demeter
By The Homeric Hymns
Translation of William Cranston Lawton

FIRST Demeter I sing, that fair-tressed reverend goddess,
Her, and her daughter the slender-ankled, whom once Aïdoneus
Stole,—for wide-eyed Zeus, who is lord of the thunder, permitted.
Quite unaware was the mother, Fruitgiver, the Bringer of Springtime.
She, Persephone, played with Oceanos’s deep-bosomed daughters,        5
Plucking the blossoms,—the beautiful violets, roses, and crocus,
Iris, and hyacinth too, that grew in the flowery meadow.
Earth, by command of Zeus, and to please All-welcoming Pluto,
Caused narcissus to grow, as a lure for the lily-faced maiden.
Wonderful was it in beauty. Amazement on all who beheld it        10
Fell, both mortal men and gods whose life is eternal.
Out of a single root it had grown with clusters an hundred.
All wide Heaven above was filled with delight at the fragrance;
Earth was laughing as well, and the briny swell of the waters.
  She, in her wonder, to pluck that beautiful plaything extended        15
Both her hands;—but that moment the wide-wayed earth underneath her
Yawned, in the Nysian plain; and the monarch, Receiver of all men,
Many-named son of Kronos, arose, with his horses immortal,—
Seized her against her will, and upon his chariot golden
Bore her lamenting away;—and the hills re-echoed her outcry.        20
Kronos’s son she invoked, most mighty and noble, her father.
None among mortal men, nor the gods whose life is eternal,
Heard her voice,—not even the fruitful Nymphs of the marshland.
Only Perses’s daughter, the tender-hearted, had heard her,
Hecaté, she of the gleaming coronet, out of her cavern;        25
Heard her on Kronides calling, her father: he from immortals
Far was sitting aloof, in a fane where many petitions
Came to him, mingled with sacrifices abundant of mortals.
  So, at the bidding of Zeus was reluctant Persephone stolen,
Forced by her father’s brother, the Many-named, offspring of Kronos,        30
Lord and Receiver of all mankind,—with his horses immortal.
While Persephone yet could look upon star-studded heaven,
Gaze on the earth underneath, and the swarming waters unresting,
Seeing the light, so long she had hope that her glorious mother
Yet would descry her,—or some from the race of the gods ever-living.        35
So long hope consoled her courageous spirit in trouble.
Loudly the crests of the mountains and depths of the water resounded
Unto her deathless voice; and her royal mother did hear her.
Keen was the pain at Demeter’s heart, and about her ambrosial
Tresses her tender hands were rending her beautiful wimple.        40
Dusky the garment was that she cast upon both her shoulders.
Like to a bird she darted, and over the lands and the waters
Sped as if frenzied: but yet there was no one willing to tell her
Truthfully, neither of gods nor of human folk who are mortal;
None of the birds would come unto her as a messenger faithful.        45
So throughout nine days over earth imperial Deo,
Holding in both her hands her flaming torches, was roaming.
Never ambrosia, nor ever delightsome nectar she tasted;
Never she bathed with water her body,—so bitter her sorrow.
Yet when upon her there came for the tenth time glimmering morning,        50
Hecaté met her, a shining light in her hands, and addrest her,
Speaking unto her thus, and bringing her news of her daughter:—
  “Royal Demeter, our Bountiful Lady, the Giver of Springtime,
Who among mortal men, or who of the gods ever-living,
Brought this grief to your heart by stealing Persephone from you?        55
Truly her voice did I hear, but yet with my eyes I beheld not
Who committed the deed. Thus all have I truthfully told you.”
  So did Hecaté speak; and in words replied not the other,
Fair-tressed Rheia’s daughter, but hastily with her she darted,
Hurrying forward, and still in her hands were the glimmering torches.        60
So they to Helios came, who is watcher of gods and of mortals.
Standing in front of his steeds, she, divine among goddesses, asked him:—
  “Helios, you as a goddess should hold me in honor, if ever
Either by word or deed I have cheered your heart and your spirit.
I thro’ boundless ether have heard the lament of a maiden,        65
Even of her that I bore, fair blossom, of glorious beauty;
Heard her cry of distress, tho’ not with my eyes I beheld her.
Yet do you, who descry all earth and the billowy waters,
Out of the ether resplendent with keen glance watchfully downward
Gazing, report to me truly my child, if perchance you behold her.        70
Tell me who among men, or of gods, whose life is unending,
Seized, and away from her mother has carried, the maiden unwilling.”
  So did she speak; and the son of Hyperion answered her saying:—
“Fair-tressed Rheia’s daughter, our royal lady Demeter,
You shall know: for indeed I pity and greatly revere you,        75
Seeing you grieved for your child, for the graceful Persephone. No one
Else, save cloud-wrapt Zeus, is to blame among all the immortals.
He as a blooming bride has given your daughter to Hades,
Brother to him and to you; so down to the shadowy darkness
Hades, spite of her cries, has dragged her away with his horses.        80
Yet, O goddess, abate your grief: it befits you in no wise
Thus insatiate anger to cherish. Nor yet an unworthy
Husband among the immortals is Hades, monarch of all men,
Child of the selfsame father and mother with you; and his honors
Fell to his share, when first amid three was the universe parted.        85
Still amid those he reigns whose rule unto him was allotted.”
Speaking thus he aroused his steeds; and they at his bidding
Nimbly as long-winged birds with the rushing chariot hastened.
Over Demeter’s heart grief fiercer and keener descended.
Then in her anger at Kronos’s son, who is lord of the storm-cloud,        90
Leaving the gathering-place of the gods and spacious Olympus,
Unto the cities of men and the fertile fields she departed.

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