HERE is the yearly festival of Ceres come round again: and my lady has to sleep in a lonely bed. Golden-tressèd Ceres, with thy fine hair adorned with ears of corn, wherefore, on thy feast day, dost thou deny us our pleasure? All the world over, the nations laud thy generosity and no other divinity looks upon us mortals with more favouring eye.
In the earliest times the rude inhabitants of the countryside never baked their bread, and the threshing floor was for them a name unknown. But upon the oaks, the
earliest oracles, grew acorns; these and the tender shoots of grass were the food of man. It was Ceres who first taught him how to plant the seed in the earth so that it should swell and, with the sickle, to reap the golden corn; she it was who first compelled the bulls to bear the yoke and clove, with the plough's sharp tooth, the ground that too long had been lying fallow. Can anyone believe that she delights in the tears of lovers, and that the way to her favour is to lie in lonely misery? Nay, though she takes pleasure in the labour of the fields, she is not coy and awkward, nor is her heart impervious to love. I call the Cretans to witness, and ’tis not all fable that you hear in Crete, so proud of having nurtured mighty Jove. There was reared the Sovereign of the starry realms; ’twas there that with his baby lips he sucked the sweet milk. Here the witnesses are worthy of credence; their foster-child will vouch for the truth of what they tell and Ceres, I think, will confess to a frailty of which the whole world knows.
At the foot of Mount Ida the goddess had perceived the youthful Iasius, who, with unerring aim, was slaying the wild beasts. She saw, and suddenly she felt her marrow on fire with a secret flame. On one side shame, on the other love, were striving to possess her heart. Love triumphed over shame. Thenceforth you might have seen the furrows grow dry, and the earth produced scarcely as many grains of corn as had been sown. When, with the mattock, he had thoroughly turned over the soil and with the plough had broken the stubborn glebe, when he had scattered the seed evenly over his wide fields, the hopes of the husbandman were brought to nought.
The goddess who watches over the crops was dallying in the deep forests. The wreaths of corn had fallen from her long tresses. Only in Crete was the year fruitful and the harvests abundant. Wheresoever the goddess had passed, the earth was thick with crops. Ida, so rich in trees, grew white with corn and the wild boat cropped
the corn in the woodlands. Minos, the lawgiver, wished for many such years and longed for the love of Ceres to endure.
The pain thou wouldst have endured, O fair-tressed goddess, if thou hadst been compelled to sleep away from thy lover, I am forced to undergo on this day that is hallowed to thy mysteries. Wherefore must I be sad, when thou hast found again a daughter, a queen only less exalted than Juno herself? Such a holiday invites to Love, to Song and to Wine. Such are the offerings it behoves us to make to the gods that rule the world.
Annua venerunt Cerealis tempora sacri;