Sunday, December 11, 2005


Yesterday, I went to Stanford and was walking around the Rodin's Sculpture Garden. I passed this one sculpture called Orpheus...and the name just lingered in my mind...I got home and googled some stuff about Orpheus, he was a legendary ancient Greek musician.
This is what I found on one of the websites that showed up in the search results:


Legend has it that the music of Orpheus could move mountains and still running streams. Son of the gods Apollo and Calliope, Orpheus enchanted the gods with his poetry and song. A magic lyre, a gift from his father, became more than an instrument and symbol.

The legend begins as Orpheus sailed with mortal men on the ship Argo, seeking adventure. No one suspected his talents would accomplish more than calming the sailors during a storm or spurring them on during a luldrum. The music of Orpheus saved their lives! For eons, the mythical call of Sirens had tragically lured sailors to steer their ships ashore, resulting in their unsuspecting deaths on the rocks surrounding the island. These men, sailing on a forlorn and lonely ocean, could not resist the beautiful call of lonely women. The song of Orpheus was powerful enough to steer the Argo's sailors through this dangerous passage and onto other enthralling adventures!

The rest of this sad but romantic legend explains the origin of a constellation of stars in the sky...
Orpheus married the beautiful Eurydice. Awed by her beauty and wishing to keep her for himself, the bee keeper Aristaeus tried to attack her. Eurydice escaped harm, but suffered death from a snake bite as she fled away.

Stricken, distraught and overcome with grief, Orpheus resolved to rescue her from the underworld. He gained entry to the underworld by distracting the gods Charon and Cerberus, guards of the gates of hell, with his music. Once there, the gods and judges of the dead were so charmed and mesmerized with his song that he was given a chance to whisk his love away from the tortures of the dammed. He was instructed to leave and never look back, or he would never see Eurydice again. Perhaps he was tempted to witness her safety on the journey back or he distrusted the reprieve of the Judges of the Dead, but Orpheus glanced back. Eurydice vanished! Orpheus lost Eurydice forever.

Orpheus never recovered - he wandered the earth aimlessly, lamenting his loss. Perhaps it was jealousy of his love for Eurydice or further retribution for violating his contract with the Judges of the Dead, but Orpheus's life tragically ended.

He ventured into the territory of the Maenads who killed him, tearing him limb from limb. His head, still singing, was tossed into the river Hebrus, where it floated to an island named Lesbos.
Zeus commemorated the magic of Orpheus's music by turning his lyre into a constellation. To this day, it is said that Orpheus still keeps music and poetry alive as lovers at night gaze upon his stars.

Did you know that Salman Rushdie used the Orpheus and Eurydice narrative as a mythic underpinning to the magical realist novel "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" and U2 in one of their albums (All that you can't leave behind) have a song which goes by the same name and the lyrics are by Salman Rushdie. So then I looked up the lyrics of this song. While, they are not out of this world or captivating, they do potray the love of Orpheus for Eurydice and the second time loss of his wife. The ground beneath her feet refers to "Hell". I also looked up the book on Amazon and am definitely very interested in reading it.

Here's a poem written by Shakespeare on Orpheus:
William Shakespeare
Orpheus with his lute made trees
And the mountain tops that freeze
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.

Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing, die.

It's amazing the way that the sculptures and reading all about Orpheus has left me feeling....
BTW, if you have never been to this garden of sculptures at Stanford, you must go at least once...I also found the Gates of Hell very intriguing.

Lastly, I found this on Amazon ( and heard a few sample clips they have...Oh!!! its really euphonious! I loved it.

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