One narcissus among the ordinary beautiful
flowers, one unlike all the others! […] (1-2)
The first two lines emphasize one-ness, singleness. Because the first line is enjambed, the reader is able to believe this refers to Persephone and the flower. Nifty, huh?
[…] No one heard her.
No one! She had strayed from the herd. (7-8)
The speaker repeats the phrase "no one" to contrast with the first two lines. The exclamation point also contrasts with the uniqueness Persephone desired. She's unique all right—she's completely and totally by herself. Now she is isolated, like a vulnerable animal, cut off from the group.
with your playmates. Keep your eyes down. (11-12)
The speaker emphasizes her motherly advice to Persephone and to us, the readers. The imperative verbs command us to go along with everyone else. The mother clearly would rather see her daughter conform than come to harm, but does it always have to be one or the other?
[…] his glittering terrible
carriage […] (5-6)
This quick, vivid description juxtaposes the attraction of lust to our eyes, while still making us uneasy. Dove enjambs the line to let those two words sink into our minds side by side. Lust can make things glitter, sure, but it can also be terrible news.
[…] he claimed his due. (6)
Hades doesn't propose, doesn't persuade, doesn't even buy her dinner. Instead, he "claims his due." What makes lust a pale shadow of love is its nasty habit of transforming people into objects. In Hades's mind, Persephone is property that he is owed. Yuck.
This is how easily the pit
opens. This is how one foot sinks into the ground. (13-14)
Lust is often pictured as a slippery slope to trouble. In Persephone's case, it's that little curiosity, the need to possess that one flower (which, oh by the way, is named after a hunky guy), that leads to her downfall.
[…] She pulled
stooped to pull harder— (2-3)
Persephone is one independent lady. She isn't afraid to do get dirty and do hard work. As the daughter grows older, she becomes more and more determined to accomplish things on her own. But wait—is that good or bad?
[…] She had strayed from the herd. (8)
Any teenage girl knows the power (both good and bad) of the herd. It seems like everyone is desperate to be known as an individual, but also scared of being caught out alone and separated from the group. Persephone, like all girls, is experimenting with that difficult balance.
Don't answer to strangers […]
[…] Keep your eyes down. (11-12)
See, the problem is, in order to be safe, the mom thinks, a girl has to keep her head down. But how can you ever achieve anything, learn anything, go anywhere, or have any fun, if you live your entire life afraid of the world around you?
[…] She pulled,
stooped to pull harder— (2-3)
We don't really see it until the end of the poem, but Persephone is trying to escape her mother's overprotection. Or at least, that's one way to read it. In this quote we see her desperation to be older, bigger and more in control of her life, or at the very least, her flower picking. Really, she's hoping she can pull the future into the present.
It is finished. […] (7)
As much as Persephone wants to make things speed up and experience new things, it ultimately leads to an end to time altogether. The allusion here hints at death, when humans step out of time's flow.
Remember: […] (9)
Yeah, it's only one word, but it perfectly captures the mother's mindset. All she can do is try to keep her daughter in her memory. If she can just keep her innocent, if she can just make her follow the rules, maybe time will stop and she won't grow old.