“Apple Trees in Bloom, Old Lyme,” Childe Hassam, 1904, WikiArt.

Part 3: Rhete, Twigs and Branches

First glimmer of morning light, I awakened
Pain in hands, arms, clumps of hair floor-
Falling  O! Delphale, as priestess Thessala,
What is happening, what shall I do? Alas!
Rhete’s parents were cutting her from lone
Apricot tree, yet they realized not, she was
Flowering tree. Raced on foot, I found with
Axes, large and small, her parents hacking
Rhete into sanguineous twigs and branches,
Ground oozed wine-dark around her roots,
Breathless voice protested until death,
Cippus* remaining to daughter’s memory.

Wrongs committed by loving parents, what
Fate Rhete? At goddess’ altar I prayed,
“Wisdom divine, Delphale, what recourse
Have I, restoring bloodless flower?” At edge
Of flowing stream, as elder peasant woman,
Goddess appeared, eyes of ancient-beaming
Light. “Souls endure as cedar groves, com-
Muning, growing. Bundle sticks of Rhete’s
Tree, smallest portion, single petals, rock-
Weighted, cast into depths of waterfall,
Stygian turbulence, furies will decide.”

Divine duties performed, so much of Rhete
Was mutilated, wind-spread, twigged fingers
Few could find, as many blooms and petals
Collected in my gown, grace and beauty of
Enchanted child, by goddess, Rhete had not
Perished. If her voice and soul were aether
Lost, may they reside in me, for I knew
Delphale’s designs, secrets best unthought,
Revealed not to parents in despair, for
All will be known in coming months,
Second quickening in her mother’s womb.

“Incoming Tide,” Childe Hassam, 1919, WikiArt.

What ineffable words to recite at waterfall
Edge, what incantations for ceremony of
Delphale? “Rheta who fell to death, tree-
Transformed, innocent soul in my hands,
Linen-wrapped limbs to turbid depths
Descending.” Mighty fall she took again,
Mist and rainbows greeted, rock-weighted
Immersion, life renewed by faith and
Prayers, warmth to mother’s womb, falling
Like her daughter but to pallet bed, in
Sleep seed planted. Rheta at water’s edge
Ascended, Ceremony of Delphale.

Passage of flesh and soul, cast again into waterfall, young Rhete,
upward rising, returns to her mother, child born again.

*Cippus: “Originally the trunk of a tree with its branches lopped off…” See this link:
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0063:entry=cippus-cn

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