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Ceres et Proserpina.


“First Ceres broke with crooked plow the glebe;
first gave to earth its fruit and wholesome food;
first gave the laws;—all things of Ceres came;
of her I sing; and oh, that I could tell
her worth in verse; in verse her worth is due.

“Because he dared to covet heavenly thrones
Typhoeus, giant limbs are weighted down
beneath Sicilia's Isle—vast in extent—
how often thence he strains and strives to rise?
But his right hand Pachynus holds; his legs are pressed
by Lilybaeus, Aetna weights his head.
Beneath that ponderous mass Typhoeus lies,
flat on his back; and spues the sands on high;
and vomits flames from his ferocious mouth.
He often strives to push the earth away,
the cities and the mountains from his limbs—
by which the lands are shaken. Even the king,
that rules the silent shades is made to quake,
for fear the earth may open and the ground,
cleft in wide chasms, letting in the day,
may terrify the trembling ghosts. Afraid
of this disaster, that dark despot left
his gloomy habitation; carried forth
by soot-black horses, in his gloomy car.

“He circumspectly viewed Sicilia's vast
foundations.—Having well explored and proved
no part was shattered; having laid aside
his careful fears, he wandered in those parts.

“Him, Venus, Erycina, in her mount
thus witnessed, and embraced her winged son,
and said, ‘O Cupid! thou who art my son—
my arms, my hand, my strength; take up those arms,
by which thou art victorious over all,
and aim thy keenest arrow at the heart
of that divinity whom fortune gave
the last award, what time the triple realm,
by lot was portioned out.

‘The Gods of Heaven
are overcome by thee; and Jupiter,
and all the Deities that swim the deep,
and the great ruler of the Water-Gods:
why, then, should Tartarus escape our sway—
the third part of the universe at stake—
by which thy mother's empire and thy own
may be enlarged according to great need.

‘How shameful is our present lot in Heaven,
the powers of love and I alike despised;
for, mark how Pallas has renounced my sway,
besides Diana, javelin-hurler—so
will Ceres' daughter choose virginity,
if we permit,—that way her hopes incline.
Do thou this goddess Proserpine, unite
in marriage to her uncle. Venus spoke;—

“Cupid then loosed his quiver, and of all
its many arrows, by his mother's aid,
selected one; the keenest of them all;
the least uncertain, surest from the string:
and having fixed his knee against the bow,
bent back the flexile horn.—The flying shaft
struck Pluto in the breast.

“There is a lake
of greatest depth, not far from Henna's walls,
long since called Pergus; and the songs of swans,
that wake Cayster, rival not the notes
of swans melodious on its gliding waves:
a fringe of trees, encircling as a wreath
its compassed waters, with a leafy veil
denies the heat of noon; cool breezes blow
beneath the boughs; the humid ground is sprent
with purpling flowers, and spring eternal reigns.

“While Proserpine once dallied in that grove,
plucking white lilies and sweet violets,
and while she heaped her basket, while she filled
her bosom, in a pretty zeal to strive
beyond all others; she was seen, beloved,
and carried off by Pluto—such the haste
of sudden love.
“The goddess, in great fear,
called on her mother and on all her friends;
and, in her frenzy, as her robe was rent,
down from the upper edge, her gathered flowers
fell from her loosened tunic.—This mishap,
so perfect was her childish innocence,
increased her virgin grief.—

“The ravisher
urged on his chariot, and inspired his steeds;
called each by name, and on their necks and manes
shook the black-rusted reins. They hastened through
deep lakes, and through the pools of Palici,
which boiling upward from the ruptured earth
smell of strong sulphur. And they bore him thence
to where the sons of Bacchus, who had sailed
from twin-sea Corinth, long ago had built
a city's walls between unequal ports.

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load focus English (Arthur Golding, 1567)
load focus Latin (Hugo Magnus, 1892)
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