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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Orpheus and Eurydice


For the full story of Orpheus and Eurydice see here.
The image is from The British Museum via Wikipedia.
Carried - but by what,
if not by dream? - until
I looked beyond the borders of
our time and space, beyond
the end of our continuum
where is the entrance
into Hades,
a lower quantum world
than earth - but made of earthly stock.

My Eurydice, long fallen
to the quick but agonising 
death of serpant bite (though I,
would sure have sucked the wound
of all its poison gladly - yeah,
until the body rotted -
but they pulled me from her,
using, in the pulling, all their
brute strength) and 
being now in sleep and
in that sleep transported hence,

I used the sweetness in my voice,
to move those Nether Gods,
seduce them if you like,
yeah, beg them
to restore my Eurydice
to health, to me and to our world,
deliver her
again into the flesh,
into that time and space,
the serpent stole
who bit my gentle love.

I sang to them
those Nether Gods
of birds in trees,
of trees beneath the stars,
of stars that sew the night together,
of night as balm for day's mistakes,
day harsh of light
and unforgiving,
forgiveness for us all.

So sweet my voice,
beguiling was my lyre,
the Nether Gods relented -
but said this: I was to lead
my Eurydice
across the void between our worlds
and not look back...
and I, fool that I am,
agreed. For understand
the dangers that we faced were legion:
dragons were there, landslips
and broken force fields,
the Goodrons to be crossed
where gravity can rip
a person's limbs away.

To verify that she, my gentle love,
was safe and well, I did look back
and saw that in the cataclysmic
rending of the sky, my Eurydice
was gone and gone for good.
My world sailed on;
my love, alas, was overboard.

And now these women,
Maenads all, have fallen on me.
These I met a mile or two from home. 
Smug bitches who
were first discourteous to me,
still in my hour of mourning, then,
when I retaliated, gouged out an eye,
began to tear me limb from limb
and will not stop, will not be satisfied
until the last of me is torn to shreds.

12 comments:

Ygraine said...

Wow, a truly epic tale!
I felt myself drawn into this nightmarish world that was too real for comfort.
How I willed you to not look back: yet knew it was inevitible.
A deeply disturbing glimpse beyond the realms of myth.
I love it :)

Brian Miller said...

tragic man.....you got to watch making those deals with the gods...they dont play fair at times....first to lose your love...and then be rended twain....it says much though of your devotion...smiles.

Leovi said...

Beautiful poem. Yes, I think a sweet voice can get everything he wants.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

I loved this. In particular "of night as balm for day's mistakes".

Hannah Stephenson said...

This is one of my favorite myths (since I was young).

I love your weird ending....the horror of it.

Mary said...

This poem drew me in and kept me there!

ds said...

My second most favorite myth. "of stars that sew the night together, /of night as balm for day's mistakes," is my favorite coupling in my favorite stanza. Gorgeous retelling, sir. Thank you.

manicddaily said...

You tell the story so beautifully - I hadn't known about the poisonous snake part - so interesting to think of Adam and Eve there - and the end so tragic. You write the song very beautifully too with the stars sewing the sky and the unforgivingness of day, which ties in with the idea of dream and the unforgivingness of the looking back. So interesting that the night allows for looking back but not the day - but at the end it's the nether world where one can't look back.

It's beautifully woven - you'll forgive me if I note some typos as I hate to have something diminishing such a wonderful poem - I think you mean dream in the opening stanza and later bitches -

Thanks much. k.

Cloudia said...

Esp like your early words on the nature of that nether reality and it's location vis ours. Striking.



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haricot said...

It's a regreattable moment for him to look back....and he lost everything. Tragic and somehow metaphorical. Your description about the night is so beautiful and lamentable.

Dave King said...

Ygraine
Thank you so much for these appreciative comments. They do mean a great deal.

Brian
Quite agree. I told my gran when I was but knee high to a grasshopper that the gods played with loaded dice. She was scandalised. I thought by my heresy, but no: it was because I knew about loaded dice!

Leovi
Ha, that's whu I've been missing out, then!

Tommaso
Thanks for saying this. It's one of the lines I was most pleased with.

Hannah
Yes, it was early on one of my favourites, too. I was taken to see Offenbach's opera, Orpheus in the Underworld. That did it! Thanks for your comment.

Mary
Thanks for this.

ds
Thank you so much for these kind and reassuring words.

manicddaily
Thank you so much, both for the wonderful critique and the typos. I have become very poor at spotting my own mistakes, so am always pleased to have them pointed out. Certainly nothing to forgive! (i would be equally appreciative of critical observations.)

As to the snake, there are several versions of the story. Orpheus's descent into Hades, his bargaining with the Gods, their stricture on not looking back, the loss of Eurydice and the attack by the maenad women are the bits common to them all - so far as I know.

Cloudia
Thanks for another valued comment.

haricot
Thank you. I agree about the looking back incident.

manicddaily said...

Hi Dave - I am terrible in spotting typos in my own work - my eye glides over them. (This is something I have to work hard at in my particular day job - attorney!)

I really like the snake version - it does, at least, bring up this comparison to Eve - poor women always getting wrapped up and then stung by the snake (in legend and parable anyway)! It is a very beautiful story. I'm sure you've seen that wonderful old film - Black Orpheus - takes place in Rio at Carneval -