"Farmer with Folded Arms," Alexey Veretsianov, WikiArt photo.
“Farmer with Folded Arms,” Alexey Veretsianov, WikiArt photo.

Weeks in highland meadows, bell melodies
Of wandering sheep, amongst winding paths,
Sun and shade, rises and declines, Neokles
Discovered granite steps emerging from
Mountain laurels. At first, he ignored tangle
Of overgrown branches until afternoon
Sunlight touched winding course. What
Mischief lies ahead?
He wondered, concerns
Of leaving his summer flocks unattended
When he tested first steps, as many straight
as awkward and uneven.

Perhaps they lead to clear-flowing springs,
Ancient source of drinking water or short-
Cut to grass of higher hills. Straightway steps
Neokles clambered, ascending view above
His sheep, clearing on dusky vista, another
Inviting course opened to tumulus of stones
And marble cippus, ancient writing inscribed
Thereon, touching heart chords, treetops
Singing as he cleaned the edifice with spit
And rubbing fingers, this boundary stone
Or marker of ancient graves.

Beyond Neokles’ immediate view, rolling
Hills turned desolate and bare, few trees to
Horizon’s edge, clear sighting east and west,
Bas figures he found honouring unknown
Gods, rising sun, planets and their orbs, yet
Clear melodies continued aloft, near arm’s
Reach, then amongst the clouds, undulating
Tunes of lute and lyre, choral voices flowing
As wheat in waving fields, until he realized
Soft music arose beneath his feet, from
Adjacent moonlit monument of stone.

Music possessed, Neokles no longer heeded
Shepherd’s duty, removing granite cobbles
One pile to another, sweet tunes lofting louder
For every one removed. Alas, marbled flesh
Female figure stepped from rubble, her music
Lacerating heart, all his senses crazed, songs
Of doom she played, source of mortal tears,
Neokles fell to manly knees, for when she
Stopped plucking lurid notes, torments tore
Him sword and spear, no muse played with
Such delights, such anguished visceral pain.

"Muse," Andre Mantegna, 1497, WikiArt photo.
“Muse,” Andre Mantegna, 1497, WikiArt photo.

When found wandering by nearby shepherd
Clans, Neokles remembered only granite steps
Hidden beneath laurel tangles. His mind
Clouded, family consulted agéd sage, altar
Pilgrimage they made, where inscriptions read:
“Tumulus buried is Sotera, neither deity nor
Muse, but living statue god-accursed, buried
Upon sunlit peak. She plays in darkness, dusk
To dawn, long summer days her scorn. Listen
Not to her tormented refrains.” Once again,
Sotera’s music haunted Thracian meadowlands.

This poem was inspired by Cippi of Melqart. Aside from
Their classical design, they contain inscriptions in several
languages. Prior to advent these stout marble columns,
trees were often so cut, with branches removed, to mark
sites or commemorate deaths and ceremonies.

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