“Acropolis of Athens,” Leo von Klenze, 1846, Wikipedia.

Before sunset, we cast off on receding tides,
Departing Grecian shores, Athens towering on
Alabaster cliffs, evening muted light, reflections
Of azure seas, bathing Neptune’s columned
Temple with pastel shades of rose light, fading
Gradually to pale blues and dusky lavenders,
Night descending upon calming Ægean Seas.

Our sailing ship carried grieving widows of
Fallen soldiers to their distant home of Ægina,
Those self-given to age-old secret ceremonies
Performed in sequestered privacy on ocean
Waves, permitted by the gods, essential for
Our survival, beyond curiosity of prying eyes,
Embittered hearts, and chiding tongues.

We had suffered as a people, as a city state,
Proud Attica, blood spilled, husbands, brothers,
Sons lost on foreign fields, death by spears,
Clang of bronze swords and shields. Funeral
Pyres glowed on distant shores as we, attending
Handmaidens, prepared our widows for loving
Wedding rites before landing on home shores.

A ceremony of life-instilling, purged was wanton
Lust, instead was duty and expectation to replace
Those who had given all, lost generations of our
Men who tonight were reduced to smoldering
Bones, heaven-spiraling smoke, embers dying,
Hearts and wombs of their widows, grieving
For families lost and forsaken by needless strife.

Dressed in diaphanous gowns, we prepared our
Women, herb-scented oils, adoring flowers,
Crowns of laurel leaves, their faces and bodies
Radiant in light of silvered moon. Beneath sacred
Stars, persuasion of rhythmic waves, seduction
Of warrior’s arms, gentle, reverent touches,
Ceremony began whilst adrift on idyllic seas.

“Gathering Almond Blossoms,” John William Waterhouse, 1916.

To music of lute and lyre, wine and fruit, women
And suitors paired, ritual mating dance, decorum
And honour, gradually coupling began, delights of
Cool breezes, welling brine, embraced entrance,
Deliberate thrusts, warmth rising within, deeper
Depths they continued until in twined passions,
The chalice was fulfilled.

To rustling sails and soothing ocean spray, they
Slept or ate amongst purest musical strains, song,
And flickering lantern flame, these noble brides
Of Ægina, motherhood restored, returning to their
Island, bearing families anew, fearing not war’s
Grief, for they were our future, son and daughters
Of Greece, raised beneath almond blossoms.

Whilst no historical references exist to these secret ceremonies, I visualized
them, nonetheless, thus this poetic recollection by an attending handmaiden.
Thanks for reading.

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