This short poem in free verse opens with a two-line stanza that implies the speaker has some bavarian gentians (bright blue flowers) growing in his house in September. The poem then turns into an invocation, or prayer written in the imperative mood, in which the speaker calls to the flowers to act as torches to lead him into the dark underworld of Pluto and Persephone’s marriage. “Bavarian Gentians” thus becomes an imaginative journey motivated by the contrast between the somber and unexceptional scene evoked in the opening lines and the vividly described phantasmal underworld of Roman mythology.
The poet’s allusions to Pluto, Dis, Demeter, and Persephone invoke a particular Roman myth that explains seasonal change. Pluto, the ruler of the underworld, abducts Persephone, the daughter of the goddess of grain and fertility, Demeter. Though Pluto makes Persephone his underworld queen, Demeter exacts a compromise: Persephone can return each April to her mother for six months, after which (in September) she must return to her husband and the underworld. During the time Persephone is away from her mother, Demeter mourns her absence and the ground becomes barren; with Persephone’s return in spring, the earth becomes fertile anew.
Thus, the poem’s September setting is significant. The speaker longs to follow Persephone back into Pluto’s kingdom at the very time when the earth is dormant and barren: “even where Persephone goes, just...
(The entire section is 401 words.)