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Orpheus and Euridice

Updated: Feb 15


Orpheus and Eurydice, by Sir. Edward John Poynter, 1862, private collection



Son of Calliope, the muse of Poetry, Orpheus bought music on earth. He played joyful rhythms that were even capable of preventing wars from happening and he loved his sweet young wife Euridice. One day, she was bitten by a snake and died of his poison, making her way into the underworld. Orpheus was so heartbroken that tears and cries took the place of his joyful playing and singing - all the happiness had left him and he was left only with sorrow. That is when he convinced himself that he had to find a way of bringing Euridice to life again, so that his joyful tunes could fill the earth once again. Desperate he was to find the entrance to Hades, the realm of the dead and, once he found it at the end of the world he did something that no man had ever done before - he went down to beg for the return of his beloved on earth. Once he found himself in Hades, hope came back to him and he sang his way through this realm, bringing music to the underworld. Orpheus’ music was so touching that it moved even the pitiless Hades, the king of the dead, and his wife Persephone. She was so touched by Orpheus' tunes that she begged her husband to let Euridice go back to the realm of the living with her beloved Orpheus. Hades was easily convinced, but set one condition: Orpheus must not look at Euridice before they reached the realm of the living. She would be walking behind him, but he was forbidden to take a look at her while they were still in Hades' realm, or else she would be kept there and the couple would be kept apart. Pervaded by joy and excitement, Orpheus accepted the pact and started his journey back to earth with his beloved walking behind him. The walk was long and as they walked and walked, a doubt started to run by his mind: what if Hades had deceived him? What if Euridice was not really walking behind him, but somebody else was? They had almost reached their way out when Orpheus was so overcome by his thoughts that just when they had almost made it out of Hades, he turned around and saw her beautiful face, but after a second she started fading and whispered "Farewell!" to her lover, knowing that she would not be let out in the world again after Orpheus had broken the deal with Hades. Because of his lack of faith, he had lost his beloved forever.