Three of Mantineia Muses, No. 217, Wikipedia photo.
Three of Mantineia Muses, No. 217, Wikipedia photo.

Eternal darkness, weight of earth, buried
Since antiquity, we remained unanswered,
Absence of love and light, six muses for
Decades silenced, sisters separated, marble
Images in hand-carved relief, names and
Domains time-forgotten. I remember how
We struggled to endure until our voices
Thinned into merciful, dreamless sleep.

Years passed, waking moments, memories
Of Byzantine church, insuring each sister
Still breathed, safety of marble slabs, faith
Of ancient gods, we endured blackness. O!
How we longed for sun and sea, lofty wind-
Driven clouds passing overhead, anxious
As how and why we toppled face-down,
Dreaded footfalls, abused as flagstones.

Accompanied we were by carved images
Of Marsyas and slave, double flute in hand,
Cursed by Apollon, insult to Athena how
Upon playing, her face billowed. Too easy
To blame the satyr-peasant for our ills,
Falling from mortal favour, until foreign
Voices we discerned, tools taping, joyously
Earth fell away, daylight of Greek Mantinea.

Sappho and Alcaes of Mytilene," Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1881, Wikipedia photo.
Sappho and Alcaes of Mytilene,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1881, Wikipedia photo.

Defaced and abused, one sister of our troupe
Dissolved into aether, her life-song evermore
Silenced. Joined by music and love, we were
Resurrected amongst seashores, surviving
Five, our essence transformed, marble carved
By Praxiteles’ artisans to muses adored on oil
Paintings, Alcæs and kithara, ancient poetry
We recited, purpose and place restored.

Poem of resurrection, this fictional muse account
is based on “Pausanias’s Description of Greece,”
“The Mantinean Reliefs,” p.206. 
During French-led
excavations of August, 1887, three marble slabs
were unearthed in a Byzantine church where they
were found face-down as flagstones within the
church. Through Sir Alma-Tadema’s painting
and this poem, five of the six muses live again.

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