Demeter 6

Until, one day, she came to the house of bright-minded Keleos,

who was at that time ruler of Eleusis, fragrant with incense.

She sat down near the road, sad in her heart,

at the well called Parthenion, the Virgin’s Place, where the people of the city used to draw water.

She sat in the shade, under the thick growth of an olive tree,

looking like an old woman who had lived through many years and who is

deprived of giving childbirth and of the gifts of Aphrodite, lover of garlands in the hair.

She was like those nursemaids who belong to kings, administrators of justice,

and who are guardians of children in echoing palaces.

She was seen by the daughters of Keleos, son of Eleusinos,

who were coming to get water, easy to draw from the well, in order to carry it

in bronze water-jars to the beloved home of their father.

There were four of them, looking like goddesses with their bloom of adolescence:

Kallidikê, Kleisidikê, and lovely Dêmô.

And then there was Kallithoê, who was the eldest of them all.

They did not recognize Demeter. Gods are hard for mortals to see.

The daughters stood near her and spoke these winged words:

“Who are you, and where are you from, old woman, old among old humans?

Why has your path taken you far away from the city? Why have you not drawn near to the palace?

There, throughout the shaded chambers, are women who are as old as you are, and younger ones too,

who would welcome you in word and in deed.”

So she spoke.  And the Lady Goddess spoke with the following words:

“Dear children! Whoever women you are among the female kind of humans,

I wish you pleasure and happiness from our relationship, starting now. I shall tell you. It is not unseemly,

since you ask, for me to tell you the truth.

Dôsô is my name. It was given to me by my honored mother.

But that was then. I am from Crete, having traveled over the wide stretches of sea

against my will. Without my consent, by force, by duress, I was abducted by pirates. After a while,

sailing with their swift ship, they landed at the harbor of Thorikos. There the ship was boarded by women

of the mainland, many of them. The pirates

started preparing dinner next to the prow of the beached ship.

But I had no desire for food, that delight of the mind.

I stole away and set out to travel over the dark earth of the mainland, fleeing my arrogant captors. This way, I stopped them

from drawing any benefit from my worth without having paid the price.

That is how I got here, in the course of all my wanderings. And I do not know

what this land is and who live here.

But I pray to all the gods who abide on Olympus that you be granted

vigorous husbands and that you be able to bear children,

in accordance with the wishes of your parents. As for me, young girls, take pity.

To be honest about it, what I want is for you to name for me a house to go to, the house of someone,

man or woman, who has dear children to be taken care of.  I want to work for them,

honestly. The kind of work that is cut out for a female who has outlived others her own age.

I could take some newborn baby in my arms,

and nourish him well. I could watch over his house.

I would make his bed in the inner recesses of well-built chambers,

the royal bed. And I could see to a woman’s tasks.”

So spoke the goddess. And she was answered straightaway by the unwed maiden,

Kallidikê, the most beautiful of the daughters of Keleos:

“Old Mother, we humans endure the gifts the gods give us, even when we are grieving over what has to be.

The gods are, after all, far better than we are.

What I now say will be clear advice, and I will name for you

the men who have the great control, divinely given, of honor here:

the men who stand at the forefront of the city and who protect the citadel of the polis

with their wise counsel and their straight judgments.

And then there are the wives too: of sound-minded Triptolemos, of Dioklos,

of Polyxenos, of faultless Eumolpos as well,

of Dolikhos, and of our splendid father Keleos.

The wives of all of these manage the palace.

Of these women, not a single one of them, when they first look at you,

would deprive you of honor, the way you look, and turn you away from the palace.

Rather, they will receive you. For, right now, you look like the gods.

If you wish, wait for us, while we go to the palace of our father

and tell our mother, Metaneira with the low-slung girdle,

all these things from beginning to end, in the hope that she will tell you

to come to our house and not to seek out the houses of others.

She has a treasured son, growing up in the well-built palace.

He was born late, after many a prayer for the birth of a son: a great joy to his parents.

If you nourish him to grow till he reaches the crossing-point of life, coming of age,

I can predict that you will be the envy of any woman who lays eyes on you.

That is how much compensation Metaneira would give you in return for raising him.”

So she Kallidikê spoke. And she Demeter nodded her assent. So they,

filling their splendid jars with water, carried it off, looking magnificent.  [137-170]


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