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Orpheus:

For reasons I can't explain, a couple of days ago I remembered the last stanza of this poem, so I decided I'd pass it along:

Orpheus

I was a fine musician
When I was back in Greece;
I soothed the very rocks, when we
Retrieved the Golden Fleece.
Folks liked my cool persona,
I played my lute with flair --
My voice rang out with quirky drawl;
I pleased the people, one and all,
With what the critics liked to call
My sad and wistful air.

I met the fair Eurydice
When she was seventeen;
And when I led her out of Hell,
Charmed even Proserpine.
I played, that Ixion's fiery wheel
Stood still, for once, that night.
I strained to hear the muted sound
Of footfalls on the quiet ground --
And she was gone when I turned round,
As I returned to light.

One night, I heard that sound again
For which I often yearn --
The tread of silent footsteps,
And I didn't dare to turn.
I learned that bitter lesson once
Upon the road from Hell.
I felt a blow upon my head;
I tumbled, hurt but not quite dead --
An altogether different tread
Than that I'd known so well.

The man who stole my wallet then
Was scared and ran away;
If only he had used his knife,
I'd be with her today.
We'd stroll around forever
In the sweet infernal spring....
In Hades, where the palms are rife,
We'd afterlive as man and wife --
But I have been condemned to life.
The Fates won't cut my string.

I've known that Hell was beautiful
Since we were first apart;
I can't imagine brimstone
In the dwelling of my heart.
With Sisyphus and Tantalus
I'd drink a glass of beer;
With fingers that would never tire,
Accompanied by Pluto's choir,
I'd play sweet music on my lyre
When she and I are near.

The gods today are strange to me;
My gods are out of reach.
I built a shrine to Jupiter
Last week on Venice Beach.
The flame grew dim and flickered out.
Could Hades be no more?
Apollo sings no more to me.
If they are gone, then so is she.
The Styx flows to a vacant sea
By a deserted shore.

The author is my brother Sasha.

Julie:
Very nice--it sounds like Swinburne. Does Sasha have any particular inspiration for this one?
8.23.2005 4:24pm
Sasha:
I got the idea when I heard a song called "Orpheus" by Phremyl, though the inspiration only came from the title and possibly the opening music, not the words, which I don't recall at all. The formal style is actually from A.A. Milne's "King John's Christmas." Thematically, maybe, very broadly speaking, Tennyson's "Ulysses," a favorite of mine. I've enjoyed some Swinburne, but don't know his work well, so I can't say he's an influence.
8.23.2005 5:15pm
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
Knowing the author, I'm surprised that it's not meant to be sung to the tune of some disco classic.
8.23.2005 6:16pm
Sasha (mail):
See, e.g., this.
8.23.2005 6:21pm
ytterbium (mail):
Thanks, it's good, very good. But best is the term "a vacant sea" WOW! It's an adjective you'd never think would modify that noun.
8.23.2005 7:08pm
Jeff Boulier (mail) (www):
Ytterbium:

I also thought that 'vacant sea' was a clever wording (and in a great poem). Your question piqued my curiousity, so I looked the phrase up on Google. 495 hits, so it's not linguistically unique. But right near at the top was a translation from Catullus

"She would sadly climb steep mountains,
stretch her sharp eyes on the vacant sea surge"


So the phrase fits in especially well with the theme!
8.24.2005 2:31am