"Dolce Far Niente," John William Godward, 1904, WikiArt photo.
“Dolce Far Niente,” John William Godward, 1904, WikiArt photo.

Brightening glance, sunlight on shimmering
Pool, realization occurred breeze-gentle with-
Out hint or warning, divine voices touched
Ismene, summoning mind and heart, soul
Awakened, pained delight, comfort and
Sorrow, beyond sun and stars, music of lyre
And stringéd lute, her perceptions changed.

Dark eyes startled, face glowing, Ismene rested
Beside lilied pool, mind reeling, she knew not
Herself, verses welling, maiden trembling with
Muse. O! Idle sands no more! Radiant robe of
Day! Where had such visions lingered until her
Enlightenment? To what purpose would she
Serve to gods, numerous needs of man?

Ismene hoped if she lain quietly, heart stirrings
Would drift away amongst clouds on sunny
Days, coalescing and dissolving, yet her mind
Was divinely stretched, never returning like
Child to mother’s womb. She had entered life
Anew, fire burning in her bones, purging pain
And hate with healing poetic refrains.

With hands resolute, Ismene joined poems
To papyri, writing as if ambrosia fed, storms
Of echoed tongues, balms for sick and infirm,
Rising to blesséd gods, hers a relentless fate,
Sacred incantations recited at temple steps,
Mortal frame overwhelmed, face and breasts
Moon pale, fitful throes, she wrote until collapsed.

Lost to deific embrace, Ismene was undone, at
Lily pool benumbed, poetry her strength and
Weakness, petals from a dozen flowers plucked,
Her music was complete, eyes dark and distant,
Earthly chains released, soul buoyant in thin air,
Clouds coalescing and dissolving, hands stilled,
Lips silenced, her final breath exhaled.

What happened to Ismene? Do such ancient muses
exist today?

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