literature

Contemplating Orpheus

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knittingknots's avatar
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Literature Text

Orpheus,
you have haunted me
with your lyre
and your loss
and your sad eyes
and your grief
and your sad end.

Ah, what you had seen --
was it really for love,
the years of sorrowed loneliness
winding round you,
or, after seeing the smile of Persephone
in the kingdom of Dis,
did everything else seem vain?

And when the maenads
surrounded you
pulling at your beard,
your hair,
your skin,
did you embrace them,
ready to return?
More mythic stuff.

The most famous story in which Orpheus figures is that of his wife Eurydice On their wedding day, Eurydice ran into a nest of snakes which bit her fatally on her heel. Distraught, Orpheus traveled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (he was the only person ever to do so), who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and as soon as he reached the upper world he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

Orpheus at the end of his life disdained the worship of all gods save Apollo. One early morning he went to salute his god at dawn, but was rent to pieces by Thracian Maenads for not honoring Dionysus and was buried in Pieria (At least according to one legend.)


Dis is a name for the land of the dead. Persephone is the Queen of the land of the dead for half the year. Maenads were women devotees of Dionysus. In their frenzy, they would tear animal sacrifices (and occasionally human) limb from limb.
© 2010 - 2021 knittingknots
Comments12
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Can1you2see3me's avatar
Kinda makes me wanna cry.
lovelovelove.
knittingknots's avatar
Glad you like it! Yeah, the Orpheus story is sad...it's kind of haunted me since I was a kid...
Can1you2see3me's avatar
Man, me too. :/ I grew up on Greek myths and that one was always one of my morbid favorites.
Hey, I wrote a poem about Hades and Persephone, if you wanna check it out. :D Yay similar interests!

[link]
I thought it was wonderful. I loved it, though I haven't heard all of this, I remember some of it from long ago. :) Fantastic job as usual, I hope that you do more mythology fics, I really enjoy reading them. :D
knittingknots's avatar
I'm glad you are enjoying them...I seem to like to write from myth and folklore...some of my best stuff seems to come out of that matrix...
somnomollior's avatar
I think it would make an elegant and moving song.
knittingknots's avatar
Why thank you, ma'am. Although this was one piece I wasn't thinking of rhythm or songness while I was writing it. Funny how that can work. I'm kind of on a mythology kick right now, I'm not sure why...
SilverWynd's avatar
Beautiful poem!
SilverWynd's avatar
You are welcome!
XshadowfaxX's avatar
You did a really good job portraying the sadness of Orpheus' story. Good job!
knittingknots's avatar
Appreciate that! Thanks!
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