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“Midway between the streams of Cyane
and Arethusa lies a moon-like pool,
of silvered narrow horns. There stood the Nymph,
revered above all others in that land,
whose name was Cyane. From her that pond
was always called. And as she stood, concealed
in middle waves that circled her white thighs,
she recognized the God, and said; ‘O thou
shalt go no further, Pluto, thou shalt not
by force alone become the son-in-law
of Ceres. It is better to beseech
a mother's aid than drag her child away!
And this sustains my word, if I may thus
compare great things with small, Anapis loved
me also; but he wooed and married me
by kind endearments; not by fear, as thou
hast terrified this girl.’ So did she speak;
and stretching out her arms on either side
opposed his way.

“The son of Saturn blazed
with uncontrolled rage; and urged his steeds,
and hurled his royal scepter in the pool.
Cast with a mighty arm it pierced the deeps.
The smitten earth made way to Tartarus;—
it opened a wide basin and received
the plunging chariot in the midst.—But now
the mournful Cyane began to grieve,
because from her against her fountain-rights
the goddess had been torn. The deepening wound
still rankled in her breast, and she dissolved
in many tears, and wasted in those waves
which lately were submissive to her rule.

“So you could see her members waste away:
her hones begin to bend; her nails get soft;
her azure hair, her fingers, legs and feet,
and every slender part melt in the pool:
so brief the time in which her tender limbs
were changed to flowing waves; and after them
her back and shoulders, and her sides and breasts
dissolved and vanished into rivulets:
and while she changed, the water slowly filled
her faulty veins instead of living blood—
and nothing that a hand could hold remained.

“Now it befell when Proserpine was lost,
her anxious mother sought through every land
and every sea in vain. She rested not.
Aurora, when she came with ruddy locks,
might never know, nor even Hesperus,
if she might deign to rest.—She lit two pines
from Aetna's flames and held one in each hand,
and restless bore them through the frosty glooms:
and when serene the day had dimmed the stars
she sought her daughter by the rising sun;
and when the sun declined she rested not.

“Wearied with labour she began to thirst,
for all this while no streams had cooled her lips;
when, as by chance, a cottage thatched with straw
gladdened her sight. Thither the goddess went,
and, after knocking at the humble door,
waited until an ancient woman came;
who, when she saw the goddess and had heard
her plea for water, gave her a sweet drink,
but lately brewed of parched barley-meal;
and while the goddess quaffed this drink a boy,
of bold and hard appearance, stood before
and laughed and called her greedy. While he spoke
the angry goddess sprinkled him with meal,
mixed with the liquid which had not been drunk.

“His face grew spotted where the mixture struck,
and legs appeared where he had arms before,
a tail was added to his changing trunk;
and lest his former strength might cause great harm,
all parts contracted till he measured less
than common lizards. While the ancient dame
wondered and wept and strove for one caress,
the reptile fled and sought a lurking place.—
His very name describes him to the eye,
a body starred with many coloured spots.

“What lands, what oceans Ceres wandered then,
would weary to relate. The bounded world
was narrow for the search. Again she passed
through Sicily; again observed all signs;
and as she wandered came to Cyane,
who strove to tell where Proserpine had gone,
but since her change, had neither mouth nor tongue,
and so was mute. And yet the Nymph made plain
by certain signs what she desired to say:
for on the surface of the waves she showed
a well-known girdle Proserpine had lost,
by chance had dropped it in that sacred pool;
which when the goddess recognized, at last,
convinced her daughter had been forced from her,
she tore her streaming locks, and frenzied struck
her bosom with her palms. And in her rage,
although she wist not where her daughter was,
she blamed all countries and cried out against
their base ingratitude; and she declared
the world unworthy of the gift of corn:
but Sicily before all other lands,
for there was found the token of her loss.

“For that she broke with savage hand the plows,
which there had turned the soil, and full of wrath
leveled in equal death the peasant and his ox—
both tillers of the soil—and made decree
that land should prove deceptive to the seed,
and rot all planted germs.—That fertile isle,
so noted through the world, becomes a waste;
the corn is blighted in the early blade;
excessive heat, excessive rain destroys;
the winds destroy, the constellations harm;
the greedy birds devour the scattered seeds;
thistles and tares and tough weeds choke the wheat.

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load focus English (Arthur Golding, 1567)
load focus Latin (Hugo Magnus, 1892)
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Sicily (Italy) (2)
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  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CYANE
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