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Punishment Meted out for Non-Indulgence to Amorous Passionate Advances

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2007-08-26 17:32:40     
Article by Bhaskar Banerjee

Orpheus was one of the sons by the Muse Calliope. Some suppose him to be the son of Apollo, to render his birth more illustrious. He received a lyre from Apollo, or, according to some, from Mercury, upon which he played with such a masterly hand, that even the most rapid rivers ceased to flow, the savage beasts of the forests forgot their wildness, and the mountains moved to listen to his song. All nature seemed charmed and animated, and the nymphs were his constant companions. Eurydice was the only one who made a deep impression on the melodious musician, and their nuptials were celebrated.

Their happiness, however, was short; Aristaeus became enamoured of Eurydice, and, as she fled from her pursuer, a serpent that was lurking in the grass bit her foot, and she died of the poisonous wound. Her loss was severely felt by Orpheus, and he resolved to recover her, or perish in the attempt.

With his lyre in his hand, he entered the infernal regions, and gained an easy admission to the palace of Pluto. The king of hell was charmed with the melody of his strains; and, according to the beautiful expressions of the poets, the wheel of Ixion stopped, the stone of Sisyphus stood still, Tentalus forgot his perpetual thirst, and even the Furies relented.

Pluto and Proserpine were moved with his sorrow, and consented to restore him Eurydice, provided he forbore looking behind till he had come to the extremest borders of hell. The conditions were gladly accepted, and Orpheus was already in sight of the upper regions of the air, when he forgot his promises, and turned back to look at his long-lost Eurydice. He saw her, but she instantly vanished from his eyes. He attempted to follow her, but he was refused admission; and the only comfort he could find, was to soothe his grief at the sound of his musical instrument, in grottos, or on the mountains.

He totally separated himself from the society of mankind; and the Thracian women, whom he had offended by his coldness to their amorous passion, or, according to others, by his unnatural gratification and impure indulgences, attacked him while they celebrated the orgies of Bacchus, and after they had torn his body to pieces, they threw his head into the Hebrus, were it still articulated the words, "Eurydice! Eurydice!" as it was carried down the stream into the Aegean sea.

Orpheus was one of the Argonauts, of which celebrated expedition he wrote a poetical account, still extant. This is doubted by Aristotle, who says, according to Cicero, that there never existed an Orpheus, but that the poems that pass under his name are the compositions of a Pythagorean philosopher named Cecrops. According to some of the moderns, the Argonautica, and the other poems attributed to Orpheus, are the production of the pen of Onomacritus, a poet who lived in the age of Pisistratus tyrant of Athens.

Pausanias, however, and Diodorus Siculus, speak of Orpheus as a great poet and musician, who rendered himself equally celebrated by his knowledge of the art of war, by the extent of his understanding, and by the laws which he enacted. Some maintain that he was killed by a thunderbolt. He was buried at Pieria in Macedonia, according to Apollodorus. The inhabitants of Dion boasted that his tomb was in their city, and the people of Mount Libethrus in Thrace, claimed the same honour, and further observed, that the nightingales, which built their nests near his tomb, sang with greater melody than all the other birds. Orpheus, as some report, after death received divine honours, the Muses gave an honourable burial to his remains, and his lyre became one of the constellations in the heavens.

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