"Harvest Festival," Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1880, WikiArt photo.
“Harvest Festival,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1880, WikiArt photo.

Attracted to flickering torchlights, music on
Evening air, Neokles ventured past grazing
Meadows, familiar hillsides, lure of watered-
Wine and feasts. Two sheep sold-butchered,
Trade for luxuries family denied: pottery,
Lanterns, new sandals, fillets for sister’s
Hair. This night, he left his flocks for rise-
Winding cobble roads, boundary stones
Marked: ΕΛΗΣ, night festival Village of Elis.

Welcomed by humble folk, Neokles shepherd-
Brother returning home, rejoicing songs and
Dance, cymbals and flute, wine swilled elbow-
Dripping, figs, fish, and cheese, shady halls
Of women offered, except another caught his
Eye, eldest of three daughters, Kallidikē, well
Water-drawing, burden of bronze pitchers for
Family villa, dark eyes and hair, olive skin,
Slender body and foot, he instantly adored.

Into night they talked, all that Kallidikē had
Learned and seen, daughter of Ægean Sea
Merchant, heavenly radiance, village summer-
Dwelling, heart-filled smiles and laughter,
Water mint-sweetened she poured, Undone
Gown, full bosom exposed. O! Unsanctioned
Rites, Neokles and Kallidikē, their own starry
Story to relate, perfumed skin, stepping nude
Into lily-floating bathing pools.

Night of impassioned union, immortal heights
Attained, adoring kisses, Neokles’ manly thrusts,
Spurting milky streams, Kallidikē’s chalice filled.
Such comforts given, together sleeping arm-in-
Arm upon her flowing robes and animal skins,
Embrace of cool air on moonlit night, splendor
Of rhythmic breathing, sleep-filled eyes, Neokles
Intoxicated by love’s certainties, beyond dreams,
His life sublimely renewed.

Upon morning light, Neokles was startled by
Sheep-bells, no Kallidikē to be found, no villa,
No bathing pools, nor stone-encircled well. All
Around him was in ruins, crumbled foundations,
Columns toppled, fragmented statuary, scattered
Marble arms and legs lost to vine-entangled time.
Standing were stone burial crypts, one window,
Doors mortar-fixed, mummified bodies seen.
One lintel bore name inscribed: KAɅɅIΔIKΕ.

"Portion of Eastern Portico," David Roberts, WikiArt photo.
“Portion of Eastern Portico,” David Roberts, WikiArt photo.

Alas, Neokles stumbled into lost Village of
Elis, described by Pausanias, founded in 470
B.C., insignificant brick and rubble, wrought
Blocks of stone, founded in prehistoric times
By Oxylus, walls of simple colonnades, temple,
Villas, marketplace remnants of bone-dry well.
Crypt buried were linen-draped skeletons of
Kallidikē and her shepherd son, arising from
Dead, apparitions on moonlit festive nights.

For more on archaeological City of Elis, see “Pausanias’s
Description of Greece,” Book VI, Chapter XXIII, pages 101-
104. With some fictional variation, Oxylus was believed
to have founded Greek Olympics near Elis or Eleia.

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