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In The Underworld
(13 December 1797 – 17 February 1856 / Dusseldorf)

In The Underworld

'O to be a bachelor!'
Pluto now forever sighs.
'In my marriage miseries,
I perceive, without a wife
Hell was not a hell before.

'O to be a bachelor!
Since my Proserpine is mine,
Daily for my grave I pine,
When she raileth I can hear
Barking Cerberus no more.

'My poor heart needs rest and ease,
In the realm of shades I cry,-
No lost soul is sad as I.
Sisyphus I envy now,
And the fair Danaides.'


II.

In the realm of shades, on a throne of gold,
By the side of her royal spouse, behold
Fair Proserpine,
With gloomy mien,
While deep sighs upheave her bosom.

'The roses, the passionate song I miss
Of the nightingale; yea, and the sun's warm kiss.
Midst the Lemur's dread,
And the ghostly dead,
Now withers my life's young blossom.

'I am fast in the yoke of marriage bound
To this cursed rat-hole underground.
Through my window at night,
Peers each ghostly sprite,
And the Styx murmurs lower and lower.

'To-day I have Charon invited to dinner,
He is bald, and his limbs they grow thinner and thinner,
And the judges, beside,
Of the dead, dismal-eyed,
In such company I shall grow sour.'


III.

Whilst their grievance each is venting
In the underworld below,
Ceres, on the earth lamenting,
Wrathful wanders to and fro.

With no hood in sloven fashion,
Neither mantle o'er her gown,
She declaims that lamentation
Unto all of us well-known;

'Is the blessed spring-tide here?
Has the earth again grown young?
Green the sunny hills appear,
And the icy band is sprung.

'Mirrored from the clear blue river.
Zeus, unclouded, laugheth out,
Softer zephyr's wings now quiver,
Buds upon the fresh twig sprout.'

In the hedge a new refrain;
Call the Oreads from the shore,
'All thy flowers come again,
But thy daughter comes no more.'

Ah, how many weary days
I have sought o'er wide earth's space.
Titan, all thy sunny rays
I have sent on her dear trace.

Yet not one renews assurance
Of the darling face I wot,
Day, that finds all things, the durance
Of my lost one, findeth not.

'Hast thou ravished, Zeus, my daughter?
Or, love-smitten by her charms,
Hath, o'er Orcus's night-black water,
Pluto snatched her in his arms?

'Who towards that gloomy strand
Herald of my grief will be?
Ever floats the bark from land,
Bearing phantoms ceaselessly.

'Closed those shadowy fields are ever
Unto any blessed sight.
Since the Styx hath been a river,
It hath borne no living wight.

'There are thousand stairs descending,
But not one leads upward there.
To her tears no token lending,
At the anxious mother's prayer.'


IV.

Oh, my mother-in-law, Ceres,
Cease thy cries, no longer mourn.
I will grant thee, what so dear is,
I myself so much have borne.

Take thou comfort. We will fairly
Thy child's ownership divide;
And for six moons shall she yearly
In the upper world abide.

Help thee through long summer hours
In thy husbandry affairs;
Binding up for thee the flowers,
While a new straw-hat she wears.

She will dream when twilight pleasant
Colors all the sky with rose;
When by brooks some clownish peasant
Sweetly on his sheep's pipe blows.

Not a harvest dance without her,
She will frisk with Jack and Bess;
Midst the geese and calves about her
She will prove a lioness.

Hail, sweet rest! I breathe free, single,
Here in Orcus far from strife,
Punch with Lethe I will mingle,
And forget I have a wife.


V.

At times thy glance appeareth to importune,
As though thou didst some secret longing prove.
Alas, too well I know it,- thy misfortune
A life frustrated, a frustrated love.

How sad thine eyes are! Yet have I no power
To give thee back thy youth with pleasure rife;
Incurably thy heart must ache each hour
For love frustrated and frustrated life.

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Comments (1)

Might have been better if this bachelor had loved and lost, rather than landed the wrong catch, the moral might be to put a bit more thought into what will make a good wife, instead of thoughtless putting all effort into the chase.