Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Orpheus Rising

An interesting book review caught my eye the other day, which may be of interest to my year 11 class. The book is called Orpheus Rising- here's part of the review:

Ryan's story is a modern retelling of the Orpheus myth: an artist goes to the underworld to retrieve his beloved lost wife but disobeys the gods by looking back and so loses her forever. In his quest to reconnect with his murdered wife, Ryan becomes a medium who can see and talk to dead people, and convey their messages back to the living...

The whole thing is elaborately crazy but in an entertaining, Irish way.

My year 11 class recently read Virgil's version of the myth from the Georgics. This is how he describes the moment when Orpheus looks back at his wife, following behind him:

...subita incautum dementia cepit amantem,
ignoscenda quidem, scirent si ignoscere manes.
restitit Eurydicenque suam iam luce sub ipsa
immemor heu! victusque animi respexit. Ibi omnis
effusus labor atque immitis rupta tyranni

A sudden madness seized the unwary lover, forgiveable indeed, if only the dead knew how to forgive. He stopped and, alas, forgetful of his dear Eurydice, now on the very verge of daylight, conquered in his resolve, he looked back. Then all his work was wasted, and the conditions of the cruel queen were broken...

Virgil, Georgics IV.488-93

It's a sad moment, and Virgil wants us to feel sorry for Orpheus- he portrays him as the passive victim (seized by madness, conquered in his resolve), he repeats himself (ignoscenda, ignoscere) as if to say he understands what Orpheus has done, and he gives us a glimpse of his own feelings when he inserts himself into the story, crying immemor heu (alas, forgetful).

You can watch the story of Orpheus and Eurydice at Winged Sandals, and over at Eternally Cool there are some modern retellings of myths from Ovid's Metamorphoses, such as Apollo and Daphne and Cupid and Psyche.


Anonymous said...

awww they're doing Orpheus and Eurydice :'( ... i missed that dearly. i still remember it:

"Orpheus himself consolling his sick love on the hollow lyre was singing of you, oh sweet wife, of you by himself on the lonely shore..."

but on the lighter side of things, we get to study catullus :)

Anonymous said...

yeh so do they veritas/

Anonymous said...

haha but not livy though!! (i think)