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“For this the Nymph, Alpheian, raised her head
above Elean waves; and having first
pushed back her dripping tresses from her brows,
back to her ears, she thus began to speak;
‘O mother of the virgin, sought throughout
the globe! O mother of nutritious fruits!
Let these tremendous labours have an end;
do not increase the violence of thy wrath
against the Earth, devoted to thy sway,
and not deserving blame; for only force
compelled the Earth to open for that wrong.
Think not my supplication is to aid
my native country; hither I am come
an alien: Pisa is my native land,
and Elis gave me birth. Though I sojourn
a stranger in this isle of Sicily
it yet delights me more than all the world.

‘I, Arethusa, claim this isle my home,
and do implore thee keep my throne secure,
O greatest of the Gods! A better hour,
when thou art lightened of thy cares, will come,
and when thy countenance again is kind;
and then may I declare what cause removed
me from my native place—and through the waves
of such a mighty ocean guided me
to find Ortygia.

‘Through the porous earth
by deepest caverns, I uplift my head
and see unwonted stars. Now it befell,
as I was gliding far beneath the world,
where flow dark Stygian streams, I saw
thy Proserpine. Although her countenance
betrayed anxiety and grief, a queen She reigned
supremely great in that opacous world
queen consort mighty to the King of Hell.’
“Astonished and amazed, as thunderstruck,
when Proserpina's mother heard these words,
long while she stood till great bewilderment
gave way to heavy grief. Then to the skies,
ethereal, she mounted in her car
and with beclouded face and streaming hair
stood fronting Jove, opprobrious. ‘I have come
O Jupiter, a suppliant to thee,
both for my own offspring as well as thine.
If thy hard heart deny a mother grace,
yet haply as a father thou canst feel
some pity for thy daughter; and I pray
thy care for her may not be valued less
because my groaning travail brought her forth.—
My long-sought daughter has at last been found,
if one can call it, found, when certain loss
more certain has been proved; or so may deem
the knowledge of her state.—But I may bear
his rude ways, if again he bring her back.

‘Thy worthy child should not be forced to wed
a bandit-chief, nor should my daughter's charms
reward his crime.’ She spoke;—and Jupiter
took up the word; ‘This daughter is a care,
a sacred pledge to me as well as thee;
but if it please us to acknowledge truth,
this is a deed of love and injures not.
And if, O goddess, thou wilt not oppose,
such law-son cannot compass our disgrace:
for though all else were wanting, naught can need
Jove's brother, who in fortune yields to none
save me. But if thy fixed desire compel
dissent, let Proserpine return to Heaven;
however, subject to the binding law,
if there her tongue have never tasted food—
a sure condition, by the Fates decreed.’
he spoke; but Ceres was no less resolved
to lead her daughter thence.

“Not so the Fates
permit.—The virgin, thoughtless while she strayed
among the cultivated Stygian fields,
had broken fast. While there she plucked the fruit
by bending a pomegranate tree, and plucked,
and chewed seven grains, picked from the pallid rind;
and none had seen except Ascalaphus—
him Orphne, famed of all Avernian Nymphs,
had brought to birth in some infernal cave,
days long ago, from Acheron's embrace—
he saw it, and with cruel lips debarred
young Proserpine's return. Heaving a sigh,
the Queen of Erebus, indignant changed
that witness to an evil bird: she turned
his head, with sprinkled Phlegethonian lymph,
into a beak, and feathers, and great eyes;
his head grew larger and his shape, deformed,
was cased in tawny wings; his lengthened nails
bent inward;—and his sluggish arms
as wings can hardly move. So he became
the vilest bird; a messenger of grief;
the lazy owl; sad omen to mankind.

“The telltale's punishment was only just;
O Siren Maids, but wherefore thus have ye
the feet and plumes of birds, although remain
your virgin features? Is it from the day
when Proserpina gathered vernal flowers;
because ye mingled with her chosen friends?
And after she was lost, in vain ye sought
through all the world; and wished for wings to waft
you over the great deep, that soon the sea
might feel your great concern.—The Gods were kind:
ye saw your limbs grow yellow, with a growth
of sudden-sprouting feathers; but because
your melodies that gently charm the ear,
besides the glory of your speech, might lose
the blessing, of a tongue, your virgin face
and human voice remained.

“But Jupiter,
the mediator of these rival claims,
urged by his brother and his grieving sister,
divided the long year in equal parts.
Now Proserpina, as a Deity,
of equal merit, in two kingdoms reigns:—
for six months with her mother she abides,
and six months with her husband.—Both her mind
and her appearance quickly were transformed;
for she who seemed so sad in Pluto's eyes,
now as a goddess beams in joyful smiles;
so, when the sun obscured by watery mist
conquers the clouds, it shines in splendour forth.

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