I currently reside in San Angelo, Texas and am a member of the San Angelo Writers Club. Previously, I enjoyed a lengthy residency in Austin, Texas where I pursued a career in technology with the federal and state governments. Preceding that period, I completed four years of service in the Air Force and attended the University of Texas at Austin where I received a BA in Liberal Arts with a major in English Literature. During this time, I pursued the writing of poetry for self-amusement. Now, I have entered a time of life that allows more freedom to write and am expanding efforts into prose. Any works of prose will be published under the pen-name Eugene Stonefield.

In my pursuit of poetic expression, I find that my interest involves elements of history. I like to take something obscure form the historic record and build a poem around that incident or person. The following poem is an example. The inspiration for this poem is defined in the introduction that is attributed to Leonidas of Tarentum that was written prior to 480 BC.

A Time to Die

His mother, being poor, gives Micythus’ picture to Bacchus,
poorly painted indeed. Bacchus, I pray you, exalt Micythus ;
even if the gift be trumpery, it is all that simple poverty can offer
-Leonidas of Tarentum (b. unknown, d. 11 Aug. 480 BC)1,2

So the mother in her simple poverty
Kept aside three obols, hard earned
From gleaning after-harvest olives
From the olive groves of Eurybiades3
On the day her Micythus was due
to join in battle to forestall Persia,
she took the obols to Philo, saying:
“Paint an image of my son, Micythus,
That I might implore the gods to
Protect him from mortal wound.”
Her plea, first received only scorn
For its insulting inference that Philo’s
Skill was not worth a richer reward.
But Sparta was at war, and every
Artist must face the reality that war
Often brought fewer commissions,
So, an obol earned is an obol not owed.
“I will paint a likeness,” replied Philo,
Though the reward is short of value.
“Speak to me of him – his hair, eyes,
Tell me of his chin, his nose, his lips.”
The mother drew from deep memory
The beauty of her son, his well-formed
Chin, soft eyes, dark curls wreathed
Around an ovoid face, enhanced by
Strong cheek bones and strait nose,
A deific virtue surveying comely lips
Caressing handsome teeth of pearl.
“I pray the gods take no offense when
I say, Micythus looked like a god.”
Today, Micythus looks but a hoplite,
In the army of King Leonidas, stalwart4
Foe of Persian Xerxes, son of Darius.5
“Take your image,” announced Philo,
“It is the best I can do without seeing
Micythus myself. Your three obols,
Though insufficient, I will accept.”
The mother handed over the obols
And hurried to the temple of Bacchus.
In passing, King Leonidas observed
The transaction and joined her trek,
But from a distance. Inside, Bacchus
Sat in the regalia of a god with crown
Of golden laurel leaves, cradling ivied
Thyrsus that dripped of golden honey.
Leonidas, waiting for the mother to
Voice her plea and leave her rude gift,
Gave his scribe the words to write –
A request from a king to a god, that
a poor mother’s plea would be heard,
As he left to lead his army of three
Hundred, including Micythus, chosen
Last in a time to die – at Thermopylae.

2017


1 Epitaph from: The Greek Anthology, with an English Translation by. W. R. Paton. London. William Heinemann Ltd. 1916. 1.

2 Leonidas of Tarentum (3rd Cent. BC), Poet, writer of epitaphs
Ref: http://www.attalus.org/info/az.html

3Eurybiades, Spartan military commander who commanded a fleet within the allied navy. Eurybiades was the son of Athenian
Eurycleides: Athenian nobleman and archon who helped restore democracy during his time in office (403-402 BC).

4Leonidas I (b. 530, d. 480 BC), king of Sparta was considered a descendant of Heracles. When Sparta was to engage in the defense from the impending invasion by Xerxes in the Second Persian war, the city consulted the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle answered with a prophesy in hexameter verse:

For you, inhabitants of wide-wayed Sparta,
Either your great and glorious city must be wasted by Persian men,
Or if not that, then the bound of Lacedaemon must mourn a dead king, from Heracles’ line.
The might of bulls or lions will not restrain him with opposing strength; for he has the might of Zeus.
I declare that he will not be restrained until he utterly tears apart one of these

Wikipedia contributors. “Leonidas I.” The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 Oct. 2017. Web.
14 Oct. 2017

5Xerxes (ruled 486-465 BC ) son of Darius. Commander of Persian army in Second Persian war against Greek city-states and allies.Ref: https://www.ancient.eu/Xerxes_I

I can be contacted by email to estonefield@sanangelowritersclub.org

Copyright © 2017 by Stanley Denny. All rights reserved.