They flower not.
Paths meander through the drear landscape. In earlier time lovingly attended, now lie they under gray dust and blowing brown leaves. All paths, in good time, led to the garden gate, its posterns now long whitened by blowing wind and sand.
Dry ditches, ground cracked, dust and sand stretch from the broken gate. The gate, the fence - fallen, twisted, even as the garden.
By day the sun burns harshly the once green grass. By night the chill of winter coats each plant with killing frost. Gusting winds tear and rip where once soft zephyrs blew.
In bygone days bloomed here red roses, and pink carnations. The lilacs' fragrance, the soft beauty of the violets, the brilliant yellow of the sunflower graced long ago this garden.
The bees hummed contentedly, and butterflies floated from flower to flower. Gentle rains caressed the brilliant blossoms, the verdant leaves. Dewdrops glistened on green leaf at morningtide.
Of evening, sang the nightingales. By day, birdsong and happy bird chatter filled the air. In vibrant colors warblers and finches courted here, and yellow canaries darted from tree to tree. Flying jewels, the hummingbirds, decorated the flower gardens.
Always blue skies above, and soft caress of the warm sun. At times, white clouds drifted softly, released the gentle rain. The flowers opened wide, washed their bright faces in the crystal drops. The falling moisture fed the myriad streams, and cooled the noontime air.
Rivulets flowed with delicate tinkling sound amidst the flowers. In the clear waters darted fish of brilliant hue, red and gold. Here grew the waterflowers along the bank, and watercress.
A pond there was, cool water where swam the ducks and wild geese. From time to time awkward goslings there swam, and ofttimes the graceful swan.
Growing there, also, the pure white beauty of the waterlilies. Their beauty hid a message of foreboding. A message, by the Gods' grace, that Persephone could not read.
Here dwelt peace and tranquillity, rest from toil, relief from care.
Here walked, with gentle grace of fawn, Persephone in happier days. The beauty of the flowers faded in comparison to her beauty. Bright eyed, smooth skinned, lips the color and softness of the rose petals she added beauty to the already beautiful. The happy chatter of the birds was lost in the happy laughter of this child. Here she tended her flowers with loving care, dreamed the dreams of youth - and blissfully knew nought of the trials to come.
Bird music filled the air, each performer more talented than the other. Nature painted the garden with hues beyond man's ken. Persephone danced in joy beneath the warm sun, sang with the birds.
Ceres watched with happy smile, her daughter.
Yet felt the chill of premonition.
Such was the Garden of Persephone.
And that, long since.
Not the gentle poetic darkness of a summer evening, softly hiding the courting rites of youth, bringing peace and rest to a tired world. Nor the friendly shadow one finds in the depth of quiet forest, sheltered from the noonday sun.
The darkness of Hades has nought in common with these.
Clasp your hands before your eyes, pressing close against your lids. Open wide your eyes and try to see. Feel the absolute darkness pressing in upon you!
This the darkness of Hades. A darkness that presses on your very eyes. And more! A darkness that envelopes mind and soul! An unending and solid darkness, not of this world.
This is the darkness of Hades! This is the darkness of the damned!
In Pluto's garden, earth's flowers do not grow. Yet grow there plants.
Strange, distorted semblances of earthly growth, they twist and writhe. They search for a non-existent sun, thirst for never falling water. The roses thorns have, yet have they not the blossoms.
Yet is there beauty.
The mystic asphodel here grows. With blossoms seen, now unseen, hues rainbow inspired. Waxlike and translucent they grow in abundance in this, the abode of the dead. They bloom in the deep night of Hades, their aroma rousing hopeless hope, and forlorn memories. The fragrance clashes with the evil ambiance of eternal misery. Trampled 'neath the hooves of Pluto's chargers, yet they ever rise again. Their strange beauty carpets the pastures of Hades. Their gentle perfume permeates the fields and streams of hell.
In Persephone's garden do gentle streams trickle.
Not so in Hades.
Here flows the Styx, the River of Hate, nine times round the infernal region, dark waters flooded with ancient mysteries. The Acheron, the Mother of Sorrows, carrying in its stream the woes of all mankind, merges with the darker waters of the Cocytus, land of the doomed wanderer. Here even the waves and ripples cry out, and none but Charon dare the fearsome tide.
Phlegethon flows here. Cooling water, water to assuage one's thirst, to cool one's brow?
Fire! Liquid fire! With consistency of molten lava the glowing red stream burns all within its path.
And here also Lethe. The one good gift in all of Hades. A draught from the stream cleanses the mind of all remembrances. The evil acts, regretted, are no more. The rare acts of kindness, bright gems in memory, fade. What was, what might have been, washed away by this one blessed draught. Even, 'tis said, gentle Lethean dews bring blessed forgetfulness, release from love lost, sin committed.
The mighty rivers flow, and in the depth of Hades merge into a thunderous stream. Dense dark fog rises from that surface, more black than gray, then fades to rise again. Here, midst meadows of asphodels, the monstrous stream surges and pounds in a huge moat, guardian to the great castle.
A moat deep and broad, home of fabled creatures, forbidding and dark. From its surface exudes pestilential odors, and a drop of malignant liquid from its depths, extracted from time to time, spreads all repugnant ills upon the world. The misery of cholera, the evil plague, unnamed and unknown diseases are its behest to mankind.
That castle, the centerpiece of the Garden of Pluto, rises high and majestic upon the far shore beyond the turbulent moat. Its design, a strange and fascinating beauty, both attracts and repels. Turrets rise - and yet they waver in one's vision, fade, and rise again. From windows shine light of fire within, replaced at times by grotesque shadows on the panes.
The walls of purest white as though purity dwelt therein. A drawbridge, extending well above the angry waters below. Huge chains, cold and foreboding, wait patiently to lift its massive weight. A door, broad and tall, dark, blocks rather than welcomes the visitor. Above that door gargoyles of weird design look down. Living, or hewn from stone, they cast a spell of evil on all who pass this portal.
Within the guests of Pluto enjoy the viands from the far reaches of earth. Wines to challenge even the nectar of Olympus. Their bouquet ethereal and light, they entice and capture. Food both delicate and strong. Strong meaty tastes, and gentle taste of dainty herbs. Spices, strange and delicate fruits. Music and song and dance, with cymbals, and stringed instruments, and drums. With singers whose beauty rivals the beauty of their song. And dancers nimble as wild goat, smooth and gracious as swan. All these and more - for Pluto has on call the most brilliant of entertainers.
Poets read their masterpieces, novelists theirs. Artists display their paintings, statues. Musicians play with infinite skill. Nothing is lacking, for all are on call in this kingdom. Every art is represented here. Brilliance is not rare. Nor is beauty.
Conversation is gay and never ending. Humor of all sorts is heard. Skits are performed to thunderous applause. Joy and good cheer abound. Laughter fills the halls again and again.
The dances are spirited, with happy couples moving in perfect timing with the music of world famous bands.
Pluto looks on the festivities, notes when interest fades, introduces new diversions, keeps the activity ever moving, ever exciting.
Yet with his best efforts, at times, the sound of revelry fades. From out the walls, from beyond the moat, the moans and lamentations, screams of never-ending pain, weeping. Misery lies without. And all the charades within the castle walls cannot disguise that this is, indeed, the abode of the damned. Always, like a blanket of gloom, reality envelopes that great castle.
And finally, in the early morning hours, the guests are spirited back to their earthly abodes. The musicians put away their instruments, the entertainers retreat to their dressing rooms, the great hall is cleaned, and all who have catered the festivities return once more to their fated punishment.
Only Pluto remains, seated, dour and melancholy, on the great throne.
No bright and lilting music, no gay conversation, no happy laughter masks the lamentations from without.
The party is over!
This is the Garden of Pluto.
The Garden of Persephone, unattended, lies in waste.
The Garden of Pluto endures, tended by slaves who dream of emancipation - and labor eternally.
The Garden of Pluto endures - today, tomorrow, forever!
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