Amores III:10

It is the time of the Cerealia, so my girlfriend sleeps in her bed alone. Blond Ceres with your fine hair tied with wheat straw, why do you inconvenience us for your rites? All peoples call you generous, Goddess–a person who wishes to bring good to all mankind. Until your arrival the shaggy rustic didn’t parch grain nor did he have a work for threshing floor. The oaks whose rustling leaves were the first means of prophecy offered the people mast, for acorns and salads of wild greens were all they had to eat. 

Ceres first taught the seed to swell in the ground and first cut the grain with a sickle when it turned golden. She first compelled oxen to bow their necks to the yoke and first ripped up the ancient soil with a plow’s curved blade.

Who would believe that such a lady rejoiced in the tears of lovers? Or that she thought the torments of those she’d forced to sleep alone were a sacrifice worthy of her?

And though Ceres may love those who do the hard labor of the fields, she is no rustic nor is her heart bereft of love. Let the Cretans be my witnesses; they will not lie, for they pride themselves on having nourished Jupiter, the god of oaths.

Jupiter who bends the starry bow of the firmament was a little boy on Crete, drinking milk with his toothless mouth. There can be no doubt of the island’s witness, for the God is fosters praises it.

Besides, I think Ceres herself would testify to a lapse so well known.

For beneath Cretan Ida, the Goddess saw Iasius shooting game with a steady hand. She saw him, and all her senses took flame. Shame drew her one way, but love pulled in the other.

Love conquered her shame. All over the world, the furrows dried up and the sewn grain sprouted only sparsely. Though hoes and the hooked plowshare expertly broke clods, and though the seeds fell evenly across the broad fields, the prayers of the hopeful cultivators were vain.

The goddess of crops instead loitered instead in the deep forests. The wheat fell from the long hair into which she’d braided it, and the only place in the world in which crops grew that year was Crete.

Everywhere the Goddess went brought a bountiful harvest. Crops ripened in the deep woods about Ida, and the wild boar reaped spelt with his tusks. Even lawgiving Minos might have preferred such a harvest to those he knew during the Golden Age. Crete alone wished that Ceres’ love would last long.

Then while you were in love, blond Goddess, you would have found nights apart miserable –but to such your rites now compel me. Why should I be miserable when Proserpina, your daughter by Iasius, rules by the same right as Juno (albeit a lesser kingdom)?

A holiday calls for love and song and wine. These are duties we should offer to the Gods who rule us.

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