Hades Unto Hecate

(based on an untitled William Blake painting seen in black and white, labeled as "Hecate" in an art book)

The cave is dark.
She sits,
Legs crossed,
Bare, weathered feet protruding from her gown:
Queen of Night.
You seem distraught
As you look away
From pages of the book beside you.
Does its wisdom bring you no comfort?
Do your well-muscled consorts,
Commiserating in silence behind you,
No longer bring you bliss?

An owl sits like a sentry on a rock,
Eyes skull-like, staring,
At what?
Some torch that burns on the opposite wall?
A grizzled donkey
Inclines its mangy neck to chew at
Something unspeakable.
A dog's head pokes itself out of a crevice;
This you regard with strange transport:
It is much like
One of the heads of Cerberus,
And this conjures still other memories,
A host of accusing apparitions.

You could have had me,
A place beside the prince of the underworld.
You understood me like no other,
And I
Saw my fairer self in you,
Adored you far over any of the Olympian goddesses with their
Foolish vanities, frivolous diversions.
But now,
It is strange,
I have captured one of theirs,
Ceres' child,
Brought winter to the world
For her sake,
A star of hope to my pallid, listless people.
Hers is an unparalleled sweetness;
I recall how she wept to hear Orpheus lament for Eurydice,
Her pleas so heart-rending, that I relented,
Giving up the maid to the poet,
Though his happiness was short-lived.
She is
A shard of spring in our dead land,
But you,
You Hecate,
Were my intended,
Sheath to my sword,
Music to my verse.
But the music fled,
Mockingly emancipated itself from the bard,
And the sheath
Has denied the sword rest.
It seems, forever I must scourge the earth,
Slay all that lives and breathes.
See now! You
Have brought winter to the earth,
Your laughter, your caprice and scorn,
Death to the world!
When I extinguish a man,
It is your name,
Three tortured breaths,
Immeasurably bitter,
That gust from my lips.
Another candle dies,
Then another:
So many candles,
But the world grows darker by degrees.

That book beside you—
Aye, I know well what is written there:
The future,
All of the candles are dying;
You shall weep in infinite blackness!

George Chadderdon © 1996