Proserpine and Midas : two unpublished Mythological Dramas, by Mary Shelley


A Drama in Two Acts.

Dramatis Personae

INO, EUNOE. Nymphs attendant upon Proserpine.
ARETHUSA, Naiad of a Spring.

Shades from Hell, among which Ascalaphus.

Scene; the plain of Enna, in Sicily.

Act I.

Scene; a beautiful plain, shadowed on one side by an
overhanging rock, on the other a chesnut wood. Etna
at a distance.

Enter Ceres, Proserpine, Ino and Eunoe.

Pros. Dear Mother, leave me not! I love to rest
Under the shadow of that hanging cave
And listen to your tales. Your Proserpine
Entreats you stay; sit on this shady bank,
And as I twine a wreathe tell once again
The combat of the Titans and the Gods;
Or how the Python fell beneath the dart
Of dread Apollo; or of Daphne’s change,—
That coyest Grecian maid, whose pointed leaves
Now shade her lover’s brow. And I the while
Gathering the starry flowers of this fair plain
Will weave a chaplet, Mother, for thy hair.
But without thee, the plain I think is vacant,
Its 37 blossoms fade,— its tall fresh grasses droop,
Nodding their heads like dull things half asleep;—
Go not, dear Mother, from your Proserpine.

Cer. My lovely child, it is high Jove’s command:— [2]
The golden self-moved seats surround his throne,
The nectar is poured out by Ganymede,
And the ambrosia fills the golden baskets;
They drink, for Bacchus is already there,
But none will eat till I dispense the food.
I must away — dear Proserpine, farewel!—
Eunoe can tell thee how the giants fell;
Or dark-eyed Ino sing the saddest change
Of Syrinx or of Daphne, or the doom
Of impious Prometheus, and the boy
Of fair Pandora, Mother of mankind.
This only charge I leave thee and thy nymphs,—
Depart not from each other; be thou circled
By that fair guard, and then no earth-born Power
Would tempt my wrath, and steal thee from their sight[.]
But wandering alone, by feint or force,
You might be lost, and I might never know
Thy hapless fate. Farewel, sweet daughter mine,
Remember my commands.

Pros. — Mother, farewel!
Climb the bright sky with rapid wings; and swift
As a beam shot from great Apollo’s bow
Rebounds from the calm mirror of the sea
Back to his quiver in the Sun, do thou
Return again to thy loved Proserpine.

(Exit Ceres. )

And now, dear Nymphs, while the hot sun is high [3]
Darting his influence right upon the plain,
Let us all sit beneath the narrow shade
That noontide Etna casts.— And, Ino, sweet,
Come hither; and while idling thus we rest,
Repeat in verses sweet the tale which says
How great Prometheus from Apollo’s car
Stole heaven’s fire — a God-like gift for Man!
Or the more pleasing tale of Aphrodite;
How she arose from the salt Ocean’s foam,
And sailing in her pearly shell, arrived
On Cyprus sunny shore, where myrtles 38 bloomed
And sweetest flowers, to welcome Beauty’s Queen;
And ready harnessed on the golden sands
Stood milk-white doves linked to a sea-shell car,
With which she scaled the heavens, and took her seat
Among the admiring Gods.

Eun. Proserpine’s tale
Is sweeter far than Ino’s sweetest aong.

Pros. Ino, you knew erewhile a River-God,
Who loved you well and did you oft entice
To his transparent waves and flower-strewn banks.
He loved high poesy and wove sweet sounds,
And would sing to you as you sat reclined
On the fresh grass beside his shady cave,
From which clear waters bubbled, dancing forth,
And spreading freshness in the noontide air. [4]
When you returned you would enchant our ears
With tales and songs which did entice the fauns, 39
With Pan their King from their green haunts, to hear.
Tell me one now, for like the God himself,
Tender they were and fanciful, and wrapt
The hearer in sweet dreams of shady groves,
Blue skies, and clearest, pebble-paved streams.

Ino. I will repeat the tale which most I loved;
Which tells how lily-crowned Arethusa,
Your favourite Nymph, quitted her native Greece,
Flying the liquid God Alpheus, who followed,
Cleaving the desarts of the pathless deep,
And rose in Sicily, where now she flows
The clearest spring of Enna’s gifted plain.

Arethusa arose By Shelley 40
From her couch of snows,
In the Acroceraunian mountains,—
From cloud, and from crag,
With many a jag,
Shepherding her bright fountains.
She leapt down the rocks
With her rainbow locks,
Streaming among the streams,—
Her steps paved with green [5]
The downward ravine,
Which slopes to the Western gleams:—
And gliding and springing,
She went, ever singing
In murmurs as soft as sleep;
The Earth seemed to love her
And Heaven smiled above her,
As she lingered towards the deep.

Then Alpheus bold
On his glacier cold,
With his trident the mountains strook;
And opened a chasm
In the rocks;— with the spasm
All Erymanthus shook.
And the black south wind
It unsealed behind
The urns of the silent snow,
And earthquake and thunder
Did rend in sunder
The bars of the springs below:—
And the beard and the hair
Of the river God were
Seen through the torrent’s sweep
As he followed the light [6]
Of the fleet nymph’s flight
To the brink of the Dorian deep.

Oh, save me! oh, guide me!
And bid the deep hide me,
For he grasps me now by the hair!
The loud ocean heard,
To its blue depth stirred,
And divided at her prayer[,]
And under the water
The Earth’s white daughter
Fled like a sunny beam,
Behind her descended
Her billows unblended
With the brackish Dorian stream:—
Like a gloomy stain
On the Emerald main
Alpheus rushed behind,
As an eagle pursueing
A dove to its ruin,
Down the streams of the cloudy wind.

Under the bowers [7]
Where the Ocean Powers
Sit on their pearled thrones,
Through the coral woods
Of the weltering floods,
Over heaps of unvalued stones;
Through the dim beams,
Which amid the streams
Weave a network of coloured light,
And under the caves,
Where the shadowy waves
Are as green as the forest’s 41 night:—
Outspeeding the shark,
And the sword fish dark,
Under the Ocean foam, 42
And up through the rifts
Of the mountain clifts,
They passed to their Dorian Home.

And now from their fountains
In Enna’s mountains,
Down one vale where the morning basks,
Like friends once parted,
Grown single hearted
They ply their watery tasks.
At sunrise they leap [8]
From their cradles steep
In the cave of the shelving hill[,—]
At noontide they flow
Through the woods below
And the meadows of asphodel,—
And at night they sleep
In the rocking deep
Beneath the Ortygian shore;—
Like spirits that lie
In the azure sky,
When they love, but live no more.

Pros. Thanks, Ino dear, you have beguiled an hour
With poesy that might make pause to list
The nightingale in her sweet evening song.
But now no more of ease and idleness,
The sun stoops to the west, and Enna’s plain
Is overshadowed by the growing form
Of giant Etna:— Nymphs, let us arise,
And cull the sweetest flowers of the field,
And with swift fingers twine a blooming wreathe
For my dear Mother’s rich and waving hair.

Eunoe. Violets blue and white anemonies
Bloom on the plain,— but I will climb the brow [9]
Of that o’erhanging hill, to gather thence
That loveliest rose, it will adorn thy crown;
Ino, guard Proserpine till my return.

(Exit. )

Ino. How lovely is this plain!— Nor Grecian vale,
Nor bright Ausonia’s ilex bearing shores,
The myrtle bowers of Aphrodite’s sweet isle,
Or Naxos burthened with the luscious vine,
Can boast such fertile or such verdant fields
As these, which young Spring sprinkles with her stars;—
Nor Crete which boasts fair Amalthea’s horn
Can be compared with the bright golden 43 fields
Of Ceres, Queen of plenteous Sicily.

Pros. Sweet Ino, well I know the love you bear
My dearest Mother prompts your partial voice,
And that love makes you doubly dear to me.
But you are idling,— look[,] my lap is full
Of sweetest flowers;— haste to gather more,
That before sunset we may make our crown.
Last night as we strayed through that glade, methought
The wind that swept my cheek bore on its wings
The scent of fragrant violets, hid
Beneath the straggling underwood; Haste, sweet,
To gather them; fear not — I will not stray.

Ino. Nor fear that I shall loiter in my task.

(Exit. )

Pros. (sings as she gathers her flowers. ) [10] (By Shelley.)
Sacred Goddess, Mother Earth,
Thou from whose immortal bosom
Gods, and men, and beasts have birth,
Leaf, and blade, and bud, and blossom,
Breathe thine influence most divine
On thine own child Proserpine.

If with mists of evening dew
Thou dost nourish these young flowers
Till they grow in scent and hue
Fairest children of the hours[,]
Breathe thine influence most divine
On thine own child Proserpine.

(she looks around. )

My nymphs have left me, neglecting the commands
Of my dear Mother. Where can they have strayed?
Her caution makes me fear to be alone;—
I’ll pass that yawning cave and seek the spring
Of Arethuse, where water-lilies bloom
Perhaps the nymph now wakes tending her waves,
She loves me well and oft desires my stay,—
The lilies shall adorn my mother’s crown. [11]

(Exit. )

(After a pause enter Eunoe. )

Eun. I’ve won my prize! look at this fragrant rose!
But where is Proserpine? Ino has strayed
Too far I fear, and she will be fatigued,
As I am now, by my long toilsome search.

Enter Ino.

Oh! you here, Wanderer! Where is Proserpine?

Ino. My lap’s heaped up with sweets; dear Proserpine,
You will not chide me now for idleness;—
Look here are all the treasures of the field,—
First these fresh violets, which crouched beneath
A mossy rock, playing at hide and seek
With both the sight and sense through the high fern;
Star-eyed narcissi & the drooping bells
Of hyacinths; and purple polianthus,
Delightful flowers are these; but where is she,
The loveliest of them all, our Mistress dear?

Eun. I know not, even now I left her here,
Guarded by you, oh Ino, while I climbed
Up yonder steep for this most worthless rose:—
Know you not where she is? Did you forget
Ceres’ behest, and thus forsake her child?

Ino. Chide not, unkind Eunoe, I but went
Down that dark glade, where underneath the shade 12 44
Of those high trees the sweetest violets grow,—
I went at her command. Alas! Alas!
My heart sinks down; I dread she may be lost;—
Eunoe, climb the hill, search that ravine,
Whose close, dark sides may hide her from our view:—
Oh, dearest, haste! Is that her snow-white robe?

Eun. No;—’tis a faun 45 beside its sleeping Mother,
Browsing the grass;— what will thy Mother say,
Dear Proserpine, what will bright Ceres feel,
If her return be welcomed not by thee?

Ino. These are wild thoughts,—& we are wrong to fear
That any ill can touch the child of heaven;
She is not lost,— trust me, she has but strayed
Up some steep mountain path, or in yon dell,
Or to the rock where yellow wall-flowers grow,
Scaling with venturous step the narrow path
Which the goats fear to tread;— she will return
And mock our fears.

Eun. The sun now dips his beams
In the bright sea; Ceres descends at eve
From Jove’s high conclave; if her much-loved child
Should meet her not in yonder golden field,
Where to the evening wind the ripe grain waves
Its yellow head, how will her heart misgive. [13]
Let us adjure the Naiad of yon brook[,]
She may perchance have seen our Proserpine,
And tell us to what distant field she’s strayed:—
Wait thou, dear Ino, here, while I repair
To the tree-shaded source of her swift stream.

(Exit Eunoe. )

Ino. Why does my heart misgive? & scalding tears,
That should but mourn, now prophecy her loss?
Oh, Proserpine! Where’er your luckless fate
Has hurried you,— to wastes of desart sand,
Or black Cymmerian cave, or dread Hell,
Yet Ino still will follow! Look where Eunoe
Comes, with down cast eyes and faltering steps,
I fear the worst;—

Re-enter Eunoe.

Has she not then been seen?

Eun. Alas, all hope is vanished! Hymera says
She slept the livelong day while the hot beams
Of Phoebus drank her waves;— nor did she wake
Until her reed-crowned head was wet with dew;—
If she had passed her grot she slept the while.

Ino. Alas! Alas! I see the golden car,
And hear the flapping of the dragons wings,
Ceres descends to Earth. I dare not stay,
I dare not meet the sorrow of her look[,]
The angry glance of her severest eyes. [14]

Eun. Quick up the mountain! I will search the dell,
She must return, or I will never more.

(Exit. )

Ino. And yet I will not fly, though I fear much
Her angry frown and just reproach, yet shame
Shall quell this childish fear, all hope of safety
For her lost child rests but in her high power,
And yet I tremble as I see her come.

Enter Ceres.

Cer. Where is my daughter? have I aught to dread?
Where does she stray? Ino, you answer not;—
She was aye wont to meet me in yon field,—
Your looks bode ill;— I fear my child is lost.

Ino. Eunoe now seeks her track among the woods;
Fear not, great Ceres, she has only strayed.

Cer. Alas! My boding heart,— I dread the worst.
Oh, careless nymphs! oh, heedless Proserpine!
And did you leave her wandering by herself?
She is immortal,— yet unusual fear
Runs through my veins. Let all the woods be sought,
Let every dryad, every gamesome faun 46
Tell where they last beheld her snowy feet
Tread the soft, mossy paths of the wild wood.
But that I see the base of Etna firm
I well might fear that she had fallen a prey
To Earth-born Typheus, who might have arisen [15]
And seized her as the fairest child of heaven,
That in his dreary caverns she lies bound;
It is not so: all is as safe and calm
As when I left my child. Oh, fatal day!
Eunoe does not return: in vain she seeks
Through the black woods and down the darksome glades,
And night is hiding all things from our view.
I will away, and on the highest top
Of snowy Etna, kindle two clear flames.
Night shall not hide her from my anxious search,
No moment will I rest, or sleep, or pause
Till she returns, until I clasp again
My only loved one, my lost Proserpine.

37 There is an apostrophe on the s.

38 MS. mytles.

39 MS. fawns

40 Inserted in a later hand,
here as p. 18.

41 The intended place of the apostrophe is not clear.

42 MS. Ocean’ foam as if a genitive was meant;
but cf. Ocean foam in the Song of Apollo
(Midas ).

43 MS. the bright gold fields.

44 MS. pages numbered 11, 12, &c., to the end
instead of 12, 13, &c.

45 MS. fawn.

46 MS. fawn.

Act II

The Plain of Enna as before.
Enter Ino & Eunoe.

Eun. How weary am I! and the hot sun flushes
My cheeks that else were white with fear and grief[.]
E’er since that fatal day, dear sister nymph,
On which we lost our lovely Proserpine,
I have but wept and watched the livelong night
And all the day have wandered through the woods[.]

Ino. How all is changed since that unhappy eve!
Ceres forever weeps, seeking her child,
And in her rage has struck the land with blight;
Trinacria mourns with her;— its fertile fields
Are dry and barren, and all little brooks
Struggling scarce creep within their altered banks;
The flowers that erst were wont with bended heads,
To gaze within the clear and glassy wave,
Have died, unwatered by the failing stream.—
And yet their hue but mocks the deeper grief
Which is the fountain of these bitter tears.
But who is this, that with such eager looks
Hastens this way?— [17]

Eun. ’Tis fairest Arethuse,
A stranger naiad, yet you know her well.

Ino. My eyes were blind with tears.

Enter Arethusa.

Dear Arethuse,
Methinks I read glad tidings in your eyes,
Your smiles are the swift messengers that bear
A tale of coming joy, which we, alas!
Can answer but with tears, unless you bring
To our grief solace, Hope to our Despair.
Have you found Proserpine? or know you where
The loved nymph wanders, hidden from our search?

Areth. Where is corn-crowned Ceres? I have hastened
To ease her anxious heart.

Eun. Oh! dearest Naiad,
Herald of joy! Now will great Ceres bless
Thy welcome coming & more welcome tale.

Ino. Since that unhappy day when Ceres lost
Her much-loved child, she wanders through the isle;
Dark blight is showered from her looks of sorrow;—
And where tall corn and all seed-bearing grass
Rose from beneath her step, they wither now
Fading under the frown of her bent brows: [18]
The springs decrease;— the fields whose delicate green
Was late her chief delight, now please alone,
Because they, withered, seem to share her grief.

Areth. Unhappy Goddess! how I pity thee!

Ino. At night upon high Etna’s topmost peak
She lights two flames, that shining through the isle
Leave dark no wood, or cave, or mountain path,
Their sunlike splendour makes the moon-beams dim,
And the bright stars are lost within their day.
She’s in yon field,— she comes towards this plain,
Her loosened hair has fallen on her neck,
Uncircled by the coronal of grain:—
Her cheeks are wan,— her step is faint & slow.

Enter Ceres.

Cer. I faint with weariness: a dreadful thirst
Possesses me! Must I give up the search?
Oh! never, dearest Proserpine, until
I once more clasp thee in my vacant arms!
Help me, dear Arethuse! fill some deep shell
With the clear waters of thine ice-cold spring,
And bring it me;— I faint with heat and thirst.

Areth. My words are better than my freshest waves[:]
I saw your Proserpine — [19]

Cer. Arethusa, where?
Tell me! my heart beats quick, & hope and fear
Cause my weak limbs to fail me.—

Areth. Sit, Goddess,
Upon this mossy bank, beneath the shade
Of this tall rock, and I will tell my tale.
The day you lost your child, I left my source.
With my Alpheus I had wandered down
The sloping shore into the sunbright sea;
And at the coast we paused, watching the waves
Of our mixed waters dance into the main:—
When suddenly I heard the thundering tread
Of iron hoofed steeds trampling the ground,
And a faint shriek that made my blood run cold.
I saw the King of Hell in his black car,
And in his arms he bore your fairest child,
Fair as the moon encircled by the night,—
But that she strove, and cast her arms aloft,
And cried, “My Mother!”— When she saw me near
She would have sprung from his detested arms,
And with a tone of deepest grief, she cried,
“Oh, Arethuse!” I hastened at her call —
But Pluto when he saw that aid was nigh,
Struck furiously the green earth with his spear,
Which yawned,— and down the deep Tartarian gulph [20]
His black car rolled — the green earth closed above.

Cer. (starting up )
Is this thy doom, great Jove? & shall Hell’s king
Quitting dark Tartarus, spread grief and tears
Among the dwellers of your bright abodes?
Then let him seize the earth itself, the stars,—
And all your wide dominion be his prey!—
Your sister calls upon your love, great King!
As you are God I do demand your help!—
Restore my child, or let all heaven sink,
And the fair world be chaos once again!

Ino. Look[!] in the East that loveliest bow is formed[;]
Heaven’s single-arched bridge, it touches now
The Earth, and ‘mid the pathless wastes of heaven
It paves a way for Jove’s fair Messenger;—
Iris descends, and towards this field she comes.

Areth. Sovereign of Harvests, ’tis the Messenger
That will bring joy to thee. Thine eyes light up
With sparkling hope, thy cheeks are pale with dread.

Enter Iris.

Cer. Speak, heavenly Iris! let thy words be poured
Into my drooping soul, like dews of eve
On a too long parched field.— Where is my Proserpine?

Iris. Sister of Heaven, as by Joves throne I stood [21]
The voice of thy deep prayer arose,— it filled
The heavenly courts with sorrow and dismay:
The Thunderer frowned, & heaven shook with dread
I bear his will to thee, ’tis fixed by fate,
Nor prayer nor murmur e’er can alter it.
If Proserpine while she has lived in hell
Has not polluted by Tartarian food
Her heavenly essence, then she may return,
And wander without fear on Enna’s plain,
Or take her seat among the Gods above.
If she has touched the fruits of Erebus,
She never may return to upper air,
But doomed to dwell amidst the shades of death,
The wife of Pluto and the Queen of Hell.

Cer. Joy treads upon the sluggish heels of care!
The child of heaven disdains Tartarian food.
Pluto[,] give up thy prey! restore my child!

Iris. Soon she will see again the sun of Heaven,
By gloomy shapes, inhabitants of Hell,
Attended, and again behold the field
Of Enna, the fair flowers & the streams,
Her late delight,—& more than all, her Mother.

Ino. Our much-loved, long-lost Mistress, do you come?
And shall once more your nymphs attend your steps? [22]
Will you again irradiate this isle —
That drooped when you were lost? 47 & once again
Trinacria smile beneath your Mother’s eye?

(Ceres and her companions are ranged on one side in eager
expectation; from, the cave on the other, enter Proserpine,
attended by various dark & gloomy shapes bearing
torches; among which Ascalaphus. Ceres & Proserpine
embrace;— her nymphs surround her.

Cer. Welcome, dear Proserpine! Welcome to light,
To this green earth and to your Mother’s arms.
You are too beautiful for Pluto’s Queen;
In the dark Stygian air your blooming cheeks
Have lost their roseate tint, and your bright form
Has faded in that night unfit for thee.

Pros. Then I again behold thee, Mother dear:—
Again I tread the flowery plain of Enna,
And clasp thee, Arethuse, & you, my nymphs;
I have escaped from hateful Tartarus,
The abode of furies and all loathed shapes
That thronged around me, making hell more black.
Oh! I could worship thee, light giving Sun,
Who spreadest warmth and radiance o’er the world.
Look at 48 the branches of those chesnut trees,
That wave to the soft breezes, while their stems
Are tinged with red by the sun’s slanting rays. [23]
And the soft clouds that float ‘twixt earth and sky.
How sweet are all these sights! There all is night!
No God like that (pointing to the sun )
smiles on the Elysian plains,
The air [is] windless, and all shapes are still.

Iris. And must I interpose in this deep joy,
And sternly cloud your hopes? Oh! answer me,
Art thou still, Proserpine, a child of light?
Or hast thou dimmed thy attributes of Heaven
By such Tartarian food as must for ever
Condemn thee to be Queen of Hell & Night?

Pros. No, Iris, no,— I still am pure as thee:
Offspring of light and air, I have no stain
Of Hell. I am for ever thine, oh, Mother!

Cer. (to the shades from Hell )
Begone, foul visitants to upper air!
Back to your dens! nor stain the sunny earth
By shadows thrown from forms so foul — Crouch in!
Proserpine, child of light, is not your Queen!

(to the nymphs )

Quick bring my car,— we will ascend to heaven,
Deserting Earth, till by decree of Jove,
Eternal laws shall bind the King of Hell
To leave in peace the offspring of the sky.

Ascal. Stay, Ceres! By the dread decree of Jove
Your child is doomed to be eternal Queen [24]
Of Tartarus,— nor may she dare ascend
The sunbright regions of Olympian Jove,
Or tread the green Earth ‘mid attendant nymphs.
Proserpine, call to mind your walk last eve,
When as you wandered in Elysian groves,
Through bowers for ever green, and mossy walks,
Where flowers never die, nor wind disturbs
The sacred calm, whose silence soothes the dead,
Nor interposing clouds, with dun wings, dim
Its mild and silver light, you plucked its fruit,
You ate of a pomegranate’s seeds —

Cer. Be silent,
Prophet of evil, hateful to the Gods!
Sweet Proserpine, my child, look upon me.
You shrink; your trembling form & pallid cheeks
Would make his words seem true which are most false[.]
Thou didst not taste the food of Erebus;—
Offspring of Gods art thou,— nor Hell, nor Jove
Shall tear thee from thy Mother’s clasping arms.

Pros. If fate decrees, can we resist? farewel!
Oh! Mother, dearer to your child than light,
Than all the forms of this sweet earth & sky, [25]
Though dear are these, and dear are my poor nymphs,
Whom I must leave;— oh! can immortals weep?
And can a Goddess die as mortals do,
Or live & reign where it is death to be?
Ino, dear Arethuse, again you lose
Your hapless Proserpine, lost to herself
When she quits you for gloomy Tartarus.

Cer. Is there no help, great Jove? If she depart
I will descend with her — the Earth shall lose
Its proud fertility, and Erebus
Shall bear my gifts throughout th’ unchanging year.
Valued till now by thee, tyrant of Gods!
My harvests ripening by Tartarian fires
Shall feed the dead with Heaven’s ambrosial food.
Wilt thou not then repent, brother unkind,
Viewing the barren earth with vain regret,
Thou didst not shew more mercy to my child?

Ino. We will all leave the light and go with thee,
In Hell thou shalt be girt by Heaven-born nymphs,
Elysium shall be Enna,— thou’lt not mourn
Thy natal plain, which will have lost its worth
Having lost thee, its nursling and its Queen.

Areth. I will sink down with thee;— my lily crown
Shall bloom in Erebus, portentous loss [26]
To Earth, which by degrees will fade & fall
In envy of our happier lot in Hell;—
And the bright sun and the fresh winds of heaven
Shall light its depths and fan its stagnant air.

(They cling round Proserpine; the Shades of Hell seperate
and stand between them.

Ascal. Depart! She is our Queen! Ye may not come!
Hark to Jove’s thunder! shrink away in fear
From unknown forms, whose tyranny ye’ll feel
In groans and tears if ye insult their power.

Iris. Behold Jove’s balance hung in upper sky;
There are ye weighed,— to that ye must submit.

Cer. Oh! Jove, have mercy on a Mother’s prayer!
Shall it be nought to be akin to thee?
And shall thy sister, Queen of fertile Earth,
Derided be by these foul shapes of Hell?
Look at the scales, they’re poized with equal weights!
What can this mean? Leave me not[,] Proserpine[,]
Cling to thy Mother’s side! He shall not dare
Divide the sucker from the parent stem.

(embraces her )

Ascal. He is almighty! who shall set the bounds [27]
To his high will? let him decide our plea!
Fate is with us, & Proserpine is ours!

(He endeavours to part Ceres & Proserpine, the nymphs
prevent him.

Cer. Peace, ominous bird of Hell & Night! Depart!
Nor with thy skriech disturb a Mother’s grief,
Avaunt! It is to Jove we pray, not thee.

Iris. Thy fate, sweet Proserpine, is sealed by Jove,
When Enna is starred by flowers, and the sun
Shoots his hot rays strait on the gladsome land,
When Summer reigns, then thou shalt live on Earth,
And tread these plains, or sporting with your nymphs,
Or at your Mother’s side, in peaceful joy.
But when hard frost congeals the bare, black ground,
The trees have lost their leaves, & painted birds
Wailing for food sail through the piercing air;
Then you descend to deepest night and reign
Great Queen of Tartarus, ’mid 49 shadows dire,
Offspring of Hell,— or in the silent groves
Of, fair Elysium through which Lethe runs,
The sleepy river; where the windless air
Is never struck by flight or song of bird,—
But all is calm and clear, bestowing rest, [28]
After the toil of life, to wretched men,
Whom thus the Gods reward for sufferings
Gods cannot know; a throng of empty shades!
The endless circle of the year will bring
Joy in its turn, and seperation sad;
Six months to light and Earth,— six months to Hell.

Pros. Dear Mother, let me kiss that tear which steals
Down your pale cheek altered by care and grief.
This is not misery; ’tis but a slight change
Prom our late happy lot. Six months with thee,
Each moment freighted with an age of love:
And the six short months in saddest Tartarus
Shall pass in dreams of swift returning joy.
Six months together we shall dwell on earth,
Six months in dreams we shall companions be,
Jove’s doom is void; we are forever joined.

Cer. Oh, fairest child! sweet summer visitor!
Thy looks cheer me, so shall they cheer this land
Which I will fly, thou gone. Nor seed of grass,
Or corn shall grow, thou absent from the earth;
But all shall lie beneath in hateful night
Until at thy return, the fresh green springs, [29]
The fields are covered o’er with summer plants.
And when thou goest the heavy grain will droop
And die under my frown, scattering the seeds,
That will not reappear till your return.
Farewel, sweet child, Queen of the nether world,
There shine as chaste Diana’s silver car
Islanded in the deep circumfluous night.
Giver of fruits! for such thou shalt be styled,
Sweet Prophetess of Summer, coming forth
From the slant shadow of the wintry earth,
In thy car drawn by snowy-breasted swallows!
Another kiss, & then again farewel!
Winter in losing thee has lost its all,
And will be doubly bare, & hoar, & drear,
Its bleak winds whistling o’er the cold pinched ground
Which neither flower or grass will decorate.
And as my tears fall first, so shall the trees
Shed their changed leaves upon your six months tomb:
The clouded air will hide from Phoebus’ eye
The dreadful change your absence operates.
Thus has black Pluto changed the reign of Jove,
He seizes half the Earth when he takes thee.

47 MS. this isle?— That drooped when
you were lost

48 MS. Look at — the branches.

49 MS. mid

Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:46:07 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.