"Mother of Sisera Looked out a Window," Albert J. Moore, 1861, WikiArt photo.
“Mother of Sisera Looked out a Window,” Albert J. Moore, 1861, WikiArt photo.

Legends of my ancestors, migration across
Deserted Turkish highlands, hardy Asiatic
Shepherd folk, sun-burnished faces, dark
Eyes, thrust into starvation, seeking solitude
And sanctuary of high Thracian pasturelands,
They crossed winding mountain passages,
Entering borderlands of ancient Greece.

Summer grazing meadows they wandered,
Adjacent to our camps, weary nomads, bare-
Foot and broken, few black-neck sheep and
Herding dogs, they fell to knees at rocky
Spring, unaware Teian clans sighted them
As they traversed rambling peaks, destitute
Cousin-tribes, shelter and food desperate.

By hearth-fires, elders spoke of them as blight
Upon our land, to kill by flying arrows, or
Welcome make. Spears, arrows ready, before
Dawn we approached at edge of their dark
Meadow. On escarped hill, man, woman, and
Child, in sacred semicircle of prayer awaited
In reverence for first of rising light.

Songs of my ancestors, descending rocky
Ridges, we met them, laurel leaf adorned,
Stone altar built, worshiping stars and sun,
Origin of all things. Child amongst them did
Approach us, Sema, Divine Voice, with touch
Of hands she conveyed thoughts beyond all
Languages, pilgrimage of suffering, sacrifice.

To mountains of mercy they marched, strength
Of lions, faith in god. Lo, they themselves lions
Became, courage ever-renewed, shepherd tribes
Of Acroria, sheep eaten and sacrificed, pathway
Never lost, Sema given to prophetic verse, her
Mind peak soaring, cloud ascending, no mortal
Man permitted to lift her holy veil.

From first meeting our sheep and tribes mingled,
Wedlock of our races, lute and lyre, for without
Altars and star gazing we could not live, stone
Towers and fire beacons built, from our blending,
Generations of peace as mountain shepherds
Attained, inscriptions of Asian and Greek names,
Now time-worn, scarcely visible.

"Three Wooly Sheep," Rosa Bonheur, WikiArt photo.
“Three Wooly Sheep,” Rosa Bonheur, WikiArt photo.

On towers dedicated to Turkish ancestors,
Bases held deep in mountain soil, archaeolo-
Gists brought bright sunlight upon inscribed
Names to antiquity lost: “Mother and daughter,
Sema and Ayden, Divine Voice and Divine Sight,
Pilgrimage of suffering and sacrifice, merciful
Mountains, to them this tower is dedicated.”

This poem was inspired by passages in “Pausanias’s
Description of Greece,” Book VII, “Achaia,” under the
section of “Teos, page 120:

“Pausanias’s statement that the Carian population
was not expelled from Teos by the Greek settlers,
but that the two races fused peaceably, is confirmed
by an inscription which throws an interesting light
on the social organization of the Teian people. Now
the names of some of these towers are Asiatic rather
than Greek, and these Asiatic names seem to prove
that the original Asiatic population was not extirpated
by Greek immigrants.” Thus, this poem.

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