Folklore: 'The Descent of Orpheus'
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Folklore: 'The Descent of Orpheus'

Lighter 23 Jan 12 - 05:41 PM
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Subject: Folklore: 'The Descent of Orpheus'
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 05:41 PM

Bet you didn't know that Orpheus, the mythic Greek musician, was actually half Irish.

This is from "The Bentley Ballads" (1869), ed. by John Sheehan - the author of the poem. A somewhat less polished version appeared in the English magazine "Bentley's Miscellany" in 1846.

                   THE DESCENT OF ORPHEUS.

When Orpheus descended a long time ago,
To bring back his wife from the regions below,
The row he kicked up with his wild harp down there,
Turned the whole of the Shades into Donnybrook Fair:
Such jigs and such reels, and such going down the middle,
Queen Proserpine joined in the high-diddle-diddle;
Like a May boy the King twirled round on his stumps,
And leathered the boards till he wore out his pumps.

Ixion came down from his old spinning wheel,
And with Tityus and Theseus took share in a reel.
Poor Sisyphus jigged down the hill from his rock,
And set to with Charon—that hearty old cock.
The unfortunate colander-filling Danaides
Found partners again, and with waltzing made gay Hades ;
And even old Tantalus growing quite frisky,
Groaned for water no more, and kept shouting for whiskey.

At last Pluto cried—"A blue blazing bowl mix,
The hottest, the strongest, e'er brewed by the Styx;
If it won't suit this harper so newly to hell come,
Whate'er he likes best he may call for and welcome."
"Then give me," said Orpheus, "a draft of new life;
I'll call, with your Majesty's leave, for my wife."
"Take her off," cried the king, "but remember my order,
You must not look back till she's over the border."

The lovers took leave of the King of the Dead,
Nor once did Eurydice turn round her head;
But when within touch of earth's boundary stone,
Orpheus peep'd o'er his left,—and his charmer was flown.
Stern Pluto's decree!—and no power could shake it;
"'Twas a bargain," said he, "and I knew you would break it;
I've done the most merciful deed of my life,
For you're too good a fellow to plague with a wife."

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