"Forest from the Mountain," Ivan Shishkin, 1895, WikiArt.
“Forest from the Mountain,” Ivan Shishkin, 1895, WikiArt.

Part 3: Apotheosis Self-Proclaimed

O! Grievous circle, flesh and soul, mercurial and
Oft conflicting, Ilithya on mountain pilgrimage,
By winding path through Cypress forests, by clear
Springs, Apollo’s voice beckoned her, words she
Kept from Dolius. Who should she follow, elder
At her side, helping with cold, stiff legs and arms,
Or Apollo, sun god, healer and oracular deity?
Lo! With every upward turn, Ilithya’s bronzéd
Light flamed radiant, complexion burnished as
To god she prayed, priestess and maiden-daughter,
Ambrosia she sipped daily, honey comb-dripping,
Figs fermented in goat’s milk, with each cup, flesh
And bone, heart and soul transfigured from mortal
To divine, apotheosis self-proclaimed.

"In the Peristyle," John William Waterhouse, 1874, Wikepedia photo.
“In the Peristyle,” John William Waterhouse, 1874, Wikipedia photo.

As witnessed, Dolius did advise, “Fates will lift
You, Ilithya, on golden wings, mortal maiden and
Semi-divine, two metals alloy, blood and æther
Admixed, forget not joys and pleasures of youth.”
To this Ilithya replied, “For whom wings are
Bestowed, obliged is he to fly, to soar on sun-
Eclipsing flight.” On that day, girlish twinkle
In her eyes released to fiery light, thoughts of
Parents and of home faded with each setting sun.
Would Ilithya know romance of suitors, husband,
Infant at her breast? Sons learning plow and
Bow? Wise Dolius knew her beauty was reserved
For fruits of gold, place amongst gods when
Attaing sun-gleaming painted porticoes.

"The Day Dream," Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1878, WikiArt photo.
“The Day Dream,” Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1878, WikiArt photo.

Night before final ascent, Ilithya prayed upon
Elevated ridge, with last light of sun she wept
In chilled air, bronze limbs like stone were cast,
Beyond reach and aid of Dolius. Torment of pain,
Curse of breasts, thighs, and fertile womb turned
Numb from stilling blood. Her heart cold-bound,
Ebb and flow of breath failed, Ilithya died in
Posture of prayer, pale marble maiden in bright
Moonlight, her soul sailed upon the sea, amongst
Antique shipwrecks, distress and grief of war,
Words of oracles unheeded or unheard, no chance
To choose the wiser course, bodies sea-lost or
Burnt on funeral pyres night-glowing, all this
Ilithya experienced in dreamt-reality.

“A poet, you see, is a light thing, and winged and holy, and cannot
compose before he [or she] gets inspiration and loses control of his
senses and his reason has deserted him.” ― Plato  

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