Orpheus and Eurydice
The mythical love story of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld
Orpheus and Eurydice
The mythical love story of Orpheus and Eurydice
by Emma M. Firth
The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice
In the sunny vales of Thessaly lived many happy youths who wandered over the hills and cared for their father's flocks. They were gentle and kind to their friends, but strong and brave when called upon to do battle for their rights. In this pleasant valley, where the blasts of winter never blew fiercely, where the summer winds were balmy, and where the flowers bloomed always, lived Orpheus, the sweet singer.
Apollo, his father, had given him a lyre; and ever since his baby hands could hold it, he had played and sung, making music so sweet that even the rocks were softened, the trees bent their branches to listen, while animals, birds, and even serpents drew near, charmed by the soft music of Orpheus' golden lyre. One day while Orpheus was sitting beside a stream, which ceased to ripple, in its ecstasy, a pretty maiden, her great blue eyes wide open in astonishment, approached, and seating herself, listened. She was the dawn maiden, Eurydice, than whom a maiden more fair and sweet could not be found in all Thessaly.
Day after day, Eurydice came and listened while Orpheus played, until at last he said, " Oh, sweet Eurydice, be my friend and companion always. Come with me wherever I go. Leave me not; for when thou art not near, I am like the lyre with no one to bring forth its 'music." So Eurydice became Orpheus' companion, and they wandered through the vales and over the hills, and together they watched the flocks. But one day, Apollo sent Orpheus on a journey to a far country to which he could not take Eurydice. How lonely it seemed to the poor little dawn-maiden! She could not play with the star-children and be happy as before, so she wandered off by herself.
One day. while she was walking through a field and filling her arms with morning-glories, she chanced to step upon a serpent which was coiled up in the grass. It bit the tender little foot, and presently Eurydice began to feel sick. The bite of the serpent was poisonous, and dropping down by the bank of the stream where she had first seen Orpheus, she died. Here the star-children found her, and they hastened to meet Orpheus on his return, and told him the sad story. Orpheus was speechless with grief. He hung his lyre on a branch and refused to be happy, but wept and moaned for Eurydice. In tones of sorrow, the birds and squirrels told their sympathy; and the nightingale, his dearest friend among birds, perched upon his shoulder, trilling a sweet little song of regret and sadness.
At last Orpheus thought he would try to find Eurydice. Orpheus wandered far away from Thessaly, into the Region of the Blessed, for it was here that he thought Eurydice must have gone. He had first to pass through Hades' regions; and you know this was a difficult thing to do. Upon his arrival at the rock-hewn gates, before which Cerberus kept guard, the three-headed dog rushed forward, growling angrily.
Cerberus, three headed dog of the Underworld
Orpheus sat down upon a rock, and played upon his lyre. There came a change in the ugly monster. One of the heads ceased to look angrily; then the other head ceased to show its teeth; and at length the dog came forward to lick the hands of the sweet player, and Orpheus passed in safety.
When he came to the river Styx, Charon the Ferryman glared coldly at him. demanding how a mortal dared enter the realms of Hades. "'' sad-eyed Charon, you have taken Eurydice across the river Styx; take me too. I pray you. for I cannot live without her." So sang Orpheus, while he played such sad, touching strains that Charon begged him to cease. Tears were falling from the eyes of the dark boatman, as he hastily guided his boat across the river.
Orpheus went on and on through the dark, glittering caverns, heeding not the wealth which was stored in Hades' vast treasure-houses. Hades and Proserpine were seated upon an ebony throne, while their silent attendants hovered around. Orpheus approached, paying no attention to the dark frown of Hades, and began to sing, " King of the Under-world, I am not come to find out the secrets of thy realm or the greatness of thy wealth. Thou hast taken Eurydice, who to me was more than these glittering baubles. Send her back to the light of day. Grant that she come again to the home of Orpheus. Thou hast thy Proserpine. Give me, I pray thee, Eurydice."
So Orpheus sang and played, until Proserpine's tears were falling fast, and Hades' stern face softened into pity. " Return to thy home, Orpheus, and take Eurydice; but look not back until you reach again the abodes of men.' Orpheus passed on in silence, not daring to look back. He passed the river, and the dog Cerberus, and came to the rocky cave in the mountain's side, through which gleamed a streak of light from the upper world. Soon they would have been back to their home, with their friends and their flocks; but, sad to tell. Orpheus, in a moment of forgetfulness, looked back to see that Eurydice was really returning with him.
He saw her gentle face and outstretched arms; but as he looked, she was borne back to Hades' kingdom, and Orpheus beheld her no more, although he tried in vain to follow, and waited for many days, singing songs of grief which melted the rocks to tears, while the wild beasts came and mourned with him. He refused to be comforted. The woods and hills no longer re-echoed his dad strains; but sad, wild notes ' were heard by the little wood-nymphs, who tried to make him forget. " See," they said, " how the lonely Orpheus mourns for sweet Eurydice. Can we not make him happy once more?" But they tried in vain.
The Legend and Myth about Orpheus and Eurydice
The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice
The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is featured in the book entitled Stories of Old Greece by Emma M. Firth first published 1895.