Unusual Harvest

Demeter mourning Persephone by Evelyn de Morgan 1906
Demeter mourning Persephone by Evelyn de Morgan 1906

“I’ve come to love the silence,” she thought and immediately felt surprise. When had that happened and how was it even possible?

She, who would give everything in the world for just one more hour of her daughter’s laughter, how could she have come to relish silence? She remembered the squeals of delight which echoed off the palace walls and bounced up and down the scale of glee. She remembered also the hasty whispers of innocent secrets, the growl of tantrums, the breaths of wishes now left unfulfilled. Oh to hear any of those sounds again instead of all this – nothing! How had she come to love the silence?

Perhaps she had grown weary of the sound of weeping. Her own tears flowed silently. But the cook, the dove-keeper, the maids and footmen, the coach driver and the stable boys – even the palace guardsmen all wept loudly and long. When she could stand it no longer she sent them out again, searching. No matter that everyone had searched for days and days after the girl went missing. No matter that she had sat in her window night after sleepless night crooning all the old familiar lullabies in hopes that somehow her child would hear and follow the sound home. No matter, no matter, no matter. Searching was all they had left. So search they would.

It was the end of the following day, just as the all-seeing Sun was dipping towards his bed, when she saw the shadow of a young girl on the edge of the forest. She stared at it for too long before she realized what it was and turned to question the Sun. He had nearly disappeared before she turned back and watched the story play out in shadow form – Persephone picking narcissus, the ground opening and Hades riding forth in his midnight chariot. His shadow seemed darker than all the rest and as he sprang from the chariot and wrapped his arms around the girl it appeared as if he were the forest itself, entangling the girl in his branches. Demeter could not help a startled groan when the tree-man plucked Persephone’s shadowy form from the hillside and carried her down below the earth. Then the Sun set and all was dark, the story finished.

At that moment Despair walked beside her for the first time and she gave up wanting to live.

She had already departed her body when something began to tear inside it. A surge of feeling without a name washed over her. It was stronger than memory, stronger than regret or fear. She recognized it as the pulse of an enforced loss, delivered by the wrenching away of that which she held most dear. And nothing in the world mattered any longer.

She began walking and as she walked the earth died around her.

Grass shriveled, leaves dropped sullenly from the trees and entire fields of crops withered where they stood. Vegetable gardens and beds of flowers became lush with decay and the bubbling streams and giggling brooks grew silent and dark. She did not notice.

She went into the Palace of the Gods and she shut the door behind her.

This is part two of a retelling of the Persephone and Demeter myth which I started last week. You can find the first part – and a brief explanation – here: https://splendidsass.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/six-little-seeds/

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14 thoughts on “Unusual Harvest

  1. Your imagery is so vivid, your language is so true to the myths. I love your description of Hades as a shadow darker than everything else. The description of Demeter watching the scene as it is reenacted is quite dream-like. This is a beautiful retelling!

  2. You have such wonderful images here, like “squeals of delight which echoed off the palace walls and bounced up and down the scale of glee.” And the paragraph about the searching, the lullabies, is poignant and perfect.

  3. I really enjoyed the many yin-yangs of this story (silence-noise; mother-daughter; light-dark; fertility/growth-wilting/death). It begins, for me, in thoughts and whispers then ends with the resounding slam of a titanic palace door. And although it is bleak, the penultimate paragraph is so lovely, I’ll quote it in full: “Grass shriveled, leaves dropped sullenly from the trees and entire fields of crops withered where they stood. Vegetable gardens and beds of flowers became lush with decay and the bubbling streams and giggling brooks grew silent and dark. She did not notice.” The abduction scene and tree-man descriptors are also fabulous (and fabulistic!). Great story from the opposite-but-related perspective of Persephone’s mother.

  4. I enjoy reading the retelling of myths and classics. This is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a while. Thank You for sharing.

  5. you’re title is spot on, SE, a harvest of grief. Your depiction of the wake of decay that occurred as Demeter walked back into the palace was crystal clear to me. CGI’d even like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie. Because Demeter ponders silence at the beginning of the story, your last line resonates beautifully because it leaves the reader in stark silence. Nicely done!

  6. I’ve just read both parts of your Demeter myth and what I especially like, what makes the stories so touching, is how you humanise the characters. Here, for instance, in the very first line you have: “I’ve come to love the silence,” she thought and immediately felt surprise. Personally, I regularly do that kind of double-take when I’m taken unawares by my own thoughts or behaviour. But it’s not something I’d associate with the Greek gods, usually 🙂

  7. Ooooh, that ending! And I love the title — it triggers so many metaphors. I agree with Blake’s comments above — how wonderful it is that you have humanized the gods. You do this poignantly. Like this: “No matter. No matter. No matter.” I also liked this passage a lot: “Perhaps she had grown weary of the sound of weeping. Her own tears flowed silently. But the cook, the dove-keeper, the maids and footmen, the coach driver and the stable boys – even the palace guardsmen all wept loudly and long. When she could stand it no longer she sent them out again, searching. ”

    Nicely done, Splendid!

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