"Cleopatra," John William Waterhouse, 1887, Wikimedia photo.
“Cleopatra,” John William Waterhouse, 1887, Wikimedia photo.

Maze of dense forests, brow of Pindus Mountains,
Ancient temple ruins unveiled, laid waste by warring
Tribes, shepherdess Ismene drawn to broken marble
Tomb, mummy-containing, grief of ages, mourning
Tears she shed, lock of hair cut and offered, wind-sifted
Into dark crypt, by this self-gift, divine heart within
Rekindled, sacred blood flowed, Ænarte resurrected.

Statue within tomb, seated figure of goddess Ænarte,
Flowing  marble-carved robe, divine eyes discerning,
Hands and feet visible, her reign over shepherd-folk,
Elevated pastures and fertile glens. Gasping breath
Anew, goddess struggled from breached chamber,
Thundering clouds sky scudded, marble womb wept,
Ismene on knees falling, for forgiveness she pleaded.

Ill-omened reawakening, pestilence and evil, swans
O’erhead screaming, decay transformed to radiant
Flesh, time and earth unhinged, temple foundations
Reformed, columns tall-standing, ancient races now
Roamed winding Pindus passages. Swept into antiquity,
Ismene, priestess to Ænarte she became, animal blood
Sacrifices made, each death, goddess life-instilling.

With monstrous heart, Ænarte ruled Thracian plains
And seashores, non-followers to slavery forced, farm
Beasts slain, crops and orchards fire burned, rites
Primitive and ghastly, daughters stripped and ravished,
Household hearths reduced to ash, mountain dawn
Cloud-eclipsed, life within gloomy caves, joyous bells
Of sheep silenced by goddess’ tormenting wrath.

For decades archaic herdsmen were oppressed, lost on
Fog-shrouded pathways, sleepless because of robbers,
Seasons without summer, Ænarte, tiger-skin draped,
Servants enchained by her prowess, her temple of
Purest marble white shining in clouded mountain sun.
As high priestess, Ismene, denied prayerful petitions,
Votive offerings, turning sick pilgrims away.

"Priestess of Bacchus," John Collier, 1889, WikiArt photo.
“Priestess of Bacchus,” John Collier, 1889, WikiArt photo.

From distant heights, cloud-swept Pindus Mountains
Grew somber in descending ages, misery and pain of
Humble shepherd-folk reaching Zagreus, ancient earth
God, mythical hunter, who implanted Ænarte with her
Beating heart. At his word, clouds retreated, Ænarte’s
Dark powers fled, her temple struck by lightning, by
His spear and club, huntress became the hunted.

Fresh light Zagreus threw upon spruce-clothed hill-
Sides, forces primordial he beckoned against Ænarte,
Hard blows she returned in vain, summits shook,
Granite fissure opened, evil goddess cast to crushing
Crypt. Zagreus lacerated Ænate’s beating heart, boars
He fed therewith, time returned as once reckoned,
Temple restored as built, Ismene as his high priestess.

Written ocean-side during coastal storm, this poem reflects dark
feelings of clouds scudding overhead, wind-driven rain, crashing surf.
This poem was inspired by the mythic tale of the “Orphic Zagreus”
where Zeus impregnated Semele
 with a “still-beating heart,” bearing
Zagreus or Dionysus (or 
mythic variations thereof).

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