The Origin of the Cornucopia, Abraham Janssens, c.1619
was assembled by water nymphs. Hercules, conquering the water god,
Achelous—in the form of a bull, tears off a horn. Naiads fill it with
figs, grapes, artichokes, and squash, creating the first Cornucopia
to honor the victor. The Naiads are massive as earth itself.
Round and solid as the hills. Astride jars pouring forth water,
they grasp fat pumpkin and cauliflower and load the horn
with fall’s yield. What if they’d wanted to taunt the water god,
filled the horn with torn leaves, brown apples, broken acorns
and broken cobs? Would that be our autumn tradition, foul vessels
atop dining table and sideboards? Horns of offal? Why not?
The season brings death as well as harvest, rot as well as plenty.
Leaves decay. Rain floods the field and drowns crops yet unharvested.
Mildew creeps root cellar walls. Muck and mud and dark days give
the lie to this plump vision of autumn. In his image of happy spirits,
land of plenty Jansens ignored the hordes of starving masses
peopling his century. Every century. He’d have seen the sod huts,
forlorn, along the road to Rome. Not likely he yearned to paint them,
such subjects unwelcome in the sitting rooms of Dutch merchants.
The high born have always celebrated harvest, the groaning board,
the rest make do with water and bone, thorn and wormy meal.
The author of this piece is Lynn Pattison. Lynn Pattison’s, work has appeared in Smartish Pace, The Notre Dame Review, Slipstream, Tinderbox, The Lake and Moon City Review, among others, and been anthologized in several venues. She is the author of four poetry collections. Matryoshka Houses debuted in 2020 (Kelsay Press).