Friday, September 23, 2016

Proserpine by Hendrik Goltzius

Hendrik Goltzius
ca. 1588-90
chiaroscuro woodcut
Princeton University Art Museum

The mother of us all,
the oldest of all,
        splendid as rock

Whatever there is that is of the land
                                  it is she
                                             who nourishes it,
                                  it is the Earth
                                                      that I sing
Whoever you are,
howsoever you come
                                 across her sacred ground
                  you of the sea,
                  you that fly,
it is she
           who nourishes you
           out of her treasures
                                        Beautiful children
                                        beautiful harvests
                                                 are achieved from you
                                        The giving of life itself,
                                         the taking of it back
                                         to or from
                                            any man
                                                        are yours
The happy man is simply
                                     the man you favor
the man who has your favor
                                          and that man
                                                             has everything
                               His soil thickens,
                                it becomes heavy with life,
                       his cattle grow fat in their fields,
                       his house fills up with things

These are the men who govern a city with good laws
                       and the women of their city,
                           the women are beautiful
                                                                           it all follows
                       Their sons glory
                                in the ecstasy of youth
                        Their daughters play,
                                they dance in the flowers
                                        they skip
                                                     in and out
                                on the grass
                                                   over soft flowers
It is you
            the goddess
it is you who honored them

mother of gods,
                        bride of the sky
                                               in stars
but if you liked what I sang here
give me this life too
                            in my other poems
                                                        I will remember you

 Hymn to the Earth translated by Charles Boer in The Homeric Hymns (Chicago : Swallow Press, 1970)

(There are thirty-three Homeric Hymns, currently thought to date from about the eighth to the sixth centuries B.C. The ancients believed (or claimed to believe) that Homer was their author, but living people looking backwards from the pinnacle of the present day do not share that belief.)