Sunday, 4 September 2011

Spring poem to chant for Proserpine

What shall she have,
Earth's youngest daughter?
Green combs of willow wands,
Mirrors in the water.

Where shall we go
To do her birthday honour?
Clematis above the rocks
hangs her silken banner.

Heath lights tapers through the bush -
White, and red for morning;
All the tight-balled wattle boughs
Overnight are turning

Each into a golden fleece
Rich as Jason plundered, 
Where across the shining weir
Winter floods had thundered.

Reedy singers call her home,
Little Proserpine,
Cuckoo's flute, dark bittern's drum, 
and wren pipes fine.

Old as moss in glacier lands -
Earth's youngest daughter -
Clean as worship in the hills -
New as lambs and laughter.

Mary Finnan wrote this poem. She  was born near Geelong in Victoria in 1906. She was an artist, teacher, unionist and Red Cross worker. Her poems aren't in print now. I'm going to the State Library soon to look at some of her books.

I've known this poem by heart since I first found it in an anthology of 'bush poets'.

 Proserpine/Persephone's story is a myth that has always resonated for me, as a child and later as a mother. 
 The story of Jason's quest and the plundering of the golden fleece is a good one to tell in goldfields country. 
Outside Geelong is the little town of Ceres where my mother's family lived and farmed in the 19th century. Ceres is Proserpine's mother, of course.

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