"The Shepherdess," William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1873, WikiArt photo.
“The Shepherdess,” William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1873, WikiArt photo.

What words can enter a child’s heart, stir
Adolescent soul? With parents at Demeter’s
Temple steps, offerings of first fruits, priest
Spoke of “manifestations of divine,” words
Ordained, by chance raising Iola to celestial
Streams, sunlight upon face and eyes, Iola’s
Spiritual awakening, mother discerned, with
Loving smiles dismissed as illumination of
Gathering silver clouds.

“Temples are where gods reside,” priest to
Iola explained, “Demeter we worship in rustic
Rituals, glens and glades, mountaintops and
Fields, sprinkled wine, our offerings for fertile
Fields.” “For divinity is found in all things,”
Iola responded, words welling from within.
“Demeter is present, earth and sky, wheat
Fields and vineyards. Through all life, she
Is manifestation of divine.”

Saying no more, Iola left parents and priest,
Not to temple doors but amongst olive trees
She strove. Child blesséd or accursed, Iola
Wandered Attic countryside. “Beneath this
Stone, spring dwells,” she advised during
Summer drought. Birth of field beasts she
Assisted, her love and gentle guidance was
Reveled amongst Greek farmers, abundant
Harvests, hymns of Demeter praise.

For sleepless months, Iola provided wisdom
Beyond her years, barefoot child rambling
Hillsides, she cared not for herself but those
In need: shepherds, herdsmen, families in
Their fields. Returning to Demeter’s temple,
Parents at her side, Iola collapsed on marble
Steps. In breathless voice she said, “I was
Manifestation of divine.” Driven to mortal
Exhaustion, Iola’s eye-lights turned to shade.

What was Iola’s fate? Was she driven to exhausted
Death or until divinity left her eyes? Regardless,
Iola’s lights were transient, though she endures as
poetic character in seven other poems.

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