Orpheus & Eurydice
Orpheus & Eurydice

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One of humankind's earliest and most influential stories of Love and Death comes from the civilization buried beneath Bulgaria today. This inspiring  Thracian story of revelation and inspiration has been adopted by the Greeks, Romans and anyone with a feeling for the Arts: past, present and future. Countless versions exist, including 'Black Orpheus,'  the story most associated with Brazilian Carnaval. As a tribute to Sofia-Pernik, host of the  FECC XXIV world conference of Carnival Cities, we present some of the most popular and inspired verses and stories.

Orpheus is said to have come from Bulgaria's southern Rhodope Mountains. Here in the sheltered Valley of Roses are grown millions of roses, from which comes the world's purest attar of roses. Over 4000 of the country's caves, some including prehistoric paintings, have been explored and mapped hereabouts. The region is rich in Thracian artifacts.

The Metamorphoses
Latin Text | English Translations | Search Page | The Renaissance Reception of Ovid in Image and Text   

Latin Text ||English Translations // French //
Word-Phrase Search, Latin-English (Garth version) // Cross-linked Ovid-Concordance ||Ovid Illustrated: The Renaissance Reception of Ovid in Image and Text
Other Writings by Ovid
U.Va. only // Elsewhere:
The Latin Library // At Perseus //
A Few Portraits and "Portraits" //
More Links

The Electronic Text Center's holdings include a variety of Metamorphoses resources. The first link directs users to a U.Va.-hosted version of the Latin text (apparently from Ehwald's edition, ca. 1904), while the second points users to five English translations by Golding, Sandys, Garth, Brookes More, and Kline, and to six earlier editions of the Latin, the last two in html-format (1509, 1518, 1540, 1582, 1820, and 1892). The Ehwald Latin text and the 17th-c. Garth paraphrase are cross-linked so that users may browse or search both texts together; via the "New Window" links at the start of each book, you may now browse the Latin with Sandys' 1632 verse and Kline's modern prose rendering as well. The fourth link on this page is to our growing archive of Renaissance pictorial and textual responses to Ovid's great poem, featuring several lavish cycles of Ovid illustrations and a wide range of ambitious Renaissance readings and reworkings in Latin, French, German, and English; click the icons and verse-links accessed through our Notes to view any text and image concurrently.


The Hymns of Orpheus, translated with commentary by Thomas Taylor; London [1792]


"They ascended eminences, as if hoping that thus being nearer God, He would prefer their prayers to those of their rivals. Such is the origin of that superstitious reverence for high places which was universal throughout the whole of the heathen world.
Then Orpheus was born. And he invented instruments which to his touch and to his lips, gave forth notes of surpassing sweetness, and with these melodies he enticed the wondering savages into the recesses of the forest, and there taught them precepts of obedience to the great Soul, and of loving-kindness towards each other in harmonious words.
So they devoted groves and forests to the worship of the Deity.
There were men who had watched Orpheus, and who had seen and envied his power over the herd who surrounded him. They resolved to imitate him, and having studied these barbarians, they banded together, and called themselves their priests. Religion -is divine, but its ministers are men. And alas! sometimes they are demons with the faces and wings of angels."

by Thomas Bulfinch, 1855
Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable

Thomas Bullfinch

Orpheus was the son of Apollo and the Muse Calliope. He was presented by his father with a lyre and taught to play upon it, which he did to such perfection that nothing could withstand the charm of his music. Not only his fellowDownload mortals, but wild beasts were softened by his strains, and gathering around him laid by their fierceness and stood entranced. Nay, the very trees and rocks were sensible to the charm. The trees crowded around him and the rocks relaxed somewhat of their hardness, softened by his notes.

Hymenaeus (the god of marriage, son of Dionysus and Venus) had been called to bless with his presence the nuptials of Orpheus with Eurydice, but though he attended, he brought no happy omens with him. His very torch smoked and brought tears into their eyes.

In accordance with such prognostics, Eurydice, shortly after her marriage, while wandering with the nymphs, her companions (and sisters), was seen by the shepherd Aristaeus, who was struck by her beauty and made advances to her. She fled, and in fleeing trod upon a snake in the grass, was bitten in the foot and died.

 Orfeu Negro

Orpheus sang his grief to all who breathed the upper air, both gods and men, and finding it all unavailing resolved to seek his wife in the regions of the dead. He descended by a cave situated on the side of the promontory of Taenarus and arrived at the Stygian realm. He passed through crowds and ghosts and presented himself before the throne of Pluto and Proserpine.

Accompanying the words with the lyre, he sung,
O deities of the underworld,
to whom all we who live must come,
hear my words, for they are true.
I come not to spy out the secrets of Tartarus, nor to try my strength against Cerberus,
the three-headed dog with snaky hair who guards the entrance.
I come to seek my wife,
whose opening years the poisonous viper's fang has brought to an untimely end.
Love has led me here,
Love, a god all powerful with us who dwell on the earth, and, if old traditions say true, not less so here.
I implore you by these abodes full of terror, these realms of silence and uncreated things, unite again the thread of Eurydice's life.
We all are destined to you, and sooner or later must pass to your domain.
She too, when she shall have filled her term of life, will rightly be yours.
But 'til then grant her to me, I beseech you. If you deny one, I cannot return alone; you shall triumph in the death of us both."

As he sang these tender strains, the very ghosts shed tears. Tantalus, in spite of his thirst, stopped for a moment his efforts for water; Ixion's wheel stood still; the vulture ceased to tear the giant's liver; the daughters of Danaus rested from their task of drawing water in a sieve; and Sisyphus sat on his rock to listen. Then for the first time, it is said, the cheeks of the Furies were wet with tears. Proserpine could not resist, and Pluto himself gave way.

Eurydice was called. She came from among the newly-arrived ghosts, limping with her wounded foot. Orpheus was permitted to take her away with him on one condition, that he should not turn around to look at her 'til theyDownload should have reached the upper air. Under this condition they proceeded on their way, he leading, she following, through passages dark and steep, in total silence, 'til they had nearly reached the outlet into the cheerful upper world, when Orpheus, in a moment of forgetfulness, to assure himself that she was still following, cast a glance behind him, when instantly she was borne away.

Stretching out their arms to embrace each other, they grasped only the air! Dying now a second time, she yet cannot reproach her husband, for how can she blame his impatience to behold her? "Farewell," she said, "a last farewell," -- and was hurried away, so fast that the sound hardly reached his ears.

Stretching out their arms to embrace each other, they grasped only the air!

Orpheus endeavoured to follow her, and besought permission to return and try once more for her release, but the stern ferryman Charon repulsed him and refused passage. Seven days he lingered about the brink, without food or sleep; then bitterly accusing of cruelty the powers of Erebus, he sang his complaints to the rocks and mountains, melting the hearts of tigers and moving the oaks from their stations.

He held himself aloof from womankind, dwelling constantly on the recollection of his sad mischance. The Thracian maidens tried their best to captivate him, but he repulsed their advances. They bore with him as long as they could; but finding him insensible one day, excited by the rites of the Bacchus, one of them exclaimed, "See yonder our despiser!" and threw at him her javelin. The weapon, as soon as it came within the sound of his lyre, fell harmless at his feet. So did the stones that they threw at him. But the women raised a scream and downed the voice of the music, and then the missiles reached him and soon were stained with his blood. The maniacs tore him limb from limb and threw his head and his lyre into the river Hebrus, down which they floated, murmuring sad music, to which the shores responded a plaintive symphony.

The death of OrpheusThe Muses gathered up the fragments of his body and buried them at Libethra, where the nightingale is said to sing over his grave more sweetly than in any other part of Greece. His lyre was placed by Jupiter among the stars.

DownloadHis shade passed a second time into Tartarus, where he sought out his Eurydice and embraced her with eager arms. They roam the happy fields together now, sometimes he leading, sometimes she; and Orpheus gazes as much as he will upon her, no longer incurring a penalty for a thoughtless glance.

Thomas Bulfinch

Thomas Bullfinch (1796-1897)
His pioneering works, recreating the classic mythical stories of the ancients,  showed their central importance to understanding worthy literature, His body of work now belongs to all people.

bulfinch.org maintained by Bob Fisher


Alas, where are we? Ever more free
like dragon kites cut loose, cunningly
shot halfway to the brink of gaiety,
wind tattered. --Harmonize the criers,
melodious god! Awaken them resoundingly,
a current to carry the heads and the lyres.


"For many hours of every day, occupied with the details of trade, his real day was given to study, to the highest poetry of the ancients and the moderns, and to the history of the thoughts and deeds of great men and heroes, not as an idle amusement, but that he might gather thence facts and principles for the guidance of the young to the more complete understanding of much of the best of English literature." 
Andrew P. Peabody, 2JUN-1867, at a service celebrating the life and work of Thomas Bulfinch

The Sonnets to Orpheus
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Robert Hunte
This 1993 translation reflects the only fully rhymed sonnets, which would thus approximate the original rhythm. The translator is best known as the main lyricist for the Grateful Dead and
Downloadlong-time close associate of its late leader, Jerry Garcia.  Jerry Garcia, the son of European immigrants, came from the same neighborhood where this web site begins, the San Francisco Mission.
Sonnets to Orpheus -
I acknowledge indebtedness to many previous translators of The Sonnets for guidance in nuance and a variety of perceptions concerning relative weights among the images."
 Similar pages by google

All things wish to hover.
But we go heavy burdened,
lowering ourselves on all, exulting in weightiness;
O, we are wearisome teachers for the myriad
things who dwell in endless childishness.

If someone were to take them into intimate sleep;
slumber rapt with things
-- O how light he'd recover,
different to a different day, out of that mutual deep. -14 -

The Sonnets to Orpheus
Howard A. Landman's translation of Rilke's
"The Sonnets to Orpheus ...
... Rilke wrote all 55 of these sonnets in February 1922, both before (Part I) and after (Part II) the completion of his longer Duino Elegies.  Though dealing with many of the same topics, they are light and playful .By comparison with the more serious Elegies. Arts > Literature >
> Forms
 > Fixed Verse Forms >

html - 11k -
Cached - Similar pages

"Although by some he was held to be a Greek, the tradition of his Thracian origin was most generally accepted. His name does not occur in Homer or Hesiod, but he was known in the time of Ibycus (c. 530 B.C.), and Pindar (522—442 B.C.) speaks of him as “the father of songs”. 
Orpehus by Wikpedia

 footballers ||  Bulgarian musicians and singers  most waiting for Bios to be created.

Wikipedia, the people's "copyleft" encyclopedia & Bulgaria.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


In Greek legend, Orpheus was the chief representative of the art of song and playing the lyre, and of great importance in the religious history of Greece. The derivation of the name is uncertain, the most probable being that which connects it with "dark". "Orpheus" may also possibly be a derivative of "ophruoeis" - which translates to "on the river bank". This may be in reference to his untimely and brutal demise at the hands of the bachanntes, and his subsequent dismembering into the river Hebrus. It might also be a reference to trees along the river bank, as his father, Oeagrus, translates to "of the wild sorb-apple" and both of these things refer to the Hellenic River Goddes, Halys (also known as Elis or Alys) Orpheus may have been originally a god of darkness; or the liberator from the power of darkness by his gift of song. It is possible, but very improbable, that Orpheus was an historical personage; even in ancient times his existence was denied.

Although by some he was held to be a Greek, the tradition of his Thracian origin was most generally accepted. His name does not occur in Homer or Hesiod, but he was known in the time of Ibycus (c. 530 B.C.), and Pindar (522—442 B.C.) speaks of him as “the father of songs”.

From the 6th century onwards he was looked upon as one of the chief poets and musicians of antiquity, the inventor or perfecter of the lyre, who by his music and singing was able not only to charm the wild beasts, but even to draw the trees and rocks from their places, and to arrest the rivers in their course. As one of the pioneers of civilization, he was supposed to have taught mankind the arts of medicine, writing and agriculture. Closely connected with religious life, he was an augur and seer; practiced magical arts, especially astrology; founded or rendered accessible many important cults, such as those of Apollo and Dionysus; instituted mystic rites, both public and private; prescribed initiatory and purificatory ritual. He was said to have visited Egypt, and to have become acquainted there with the writings of Moses and with the doctrine of a future life.

Orpheus went down to the lower world and by his music softened the heart of Hades and Persephone (the only person to ever do so), who allowed Eurydice to return with him to earth. But the condition was attached that he should walk in front of her and not look back until he had reached the upper world. According to Plato, the infernal gods only "presented an apparition" of Eurydice to him.
As a professional mathematician with a specialty in Chaos theory, Professor Abraham became interested in better understanding the growing popularity of his branch of mathematics when he found himself increasingly called by journalists for comments. His research brought forth a creation story as old as any known history. The long line of Orphism extends from our paleolithic past into the foreseeable future. Its chief characteristic features are encoded into the Roman fable of Orpheus and Euridice, one of our oldest living legends.

by Ralph H. Abraham
University of California Santa Cruz

"I was surprised because the words Gaia and Eros had also suddenly become popular in the sciences, associated with certain paradigm shifts or revolutionary movements in the sciences. I do not yet understand the reason why these three fundamental principles of a pagan religion of millennia past is suddenly cropping up spontaneously in the sciences."

I'm in the process of investigating this and writing abook about my results. That is how I got into Orphism, and today I would like to speak to you about Orphism and Bach, or Montaverde.

What has survived of Orphism in the modern world and from the time of Christ onward is the myth of Orpheus and Euridice. In ancient Greece it was just a small component of the whole religion of Orphism, which had its roots in the paleolithic past. This article is devoted to the long line of Orphism - the origin of Orphism in the paleolithic past, its representation in the religion of ancient Greece, our heritage of that past in the form of the Orpheus myth, its relationship to opera, and its importance in the present day. 25,000 years of history, or rather pre-history calls for a speculation more or less as vague as science fiction. We do, however, have something like history in the archeology of the past in the form of pottery shards that people have dug up, some with drawings."  


W.W. Reade & ancient history

The Veil of Isis or Mysteries
of the Druids
 "By the bright ... heathen world. Then Orpheus was born. And ...
www.sacred-texts.com/pag/ motd/motd.htm - 101k - Mar 13, 2004 - Cached - Similar pages


Joseph Cambell
Perhaps the most responsible person for bringing mythology to a mass audience. His works rank among the classics in mythology and literature: Hero with a Thousand Faces, the four-volume The Masks of God, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, and many others.

maintained under the dirction of his widow, Jean Erdman show above with her husband.


Carnaval.com has been covering the myth and magic of Carnaval since 1996, fueled for the most part by the inspiration of the mythological writing of Joseph Campbell.

Joseph Campbell Foundation Web Site
features bio- and bibliographical information on the popular mythologist, an excerpt of his work, some other mythological links, and details of the Foundation's activities.


"St. Paul's great insight on the road to Damascus was that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross could be interpreted in terms of the mystery religions' understanding of the death and the resurrection of the savior--that is, as the death of one's purely material, animal existence and the birth, then, of the spiritual life. This is symbolized in Christian terminology by the transformation of the old Adam into the Adam.. Then we have the refrain of O feix culpa, "O happy fault"-original sin-and the notion that the fall of man into the field of time out of the timeless rapture of Eden was followed by the coming of the Savior, who represented a sublimation-a higher manifestation of the consciousness of humanity than that which had been represented in the garden-and so, without the fall, there would have been no savior. Well, all of this is really mystic language from the Greek mysteries."

Joseph Campbell on myth
"Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation..."
"Jesus represents the inspiration to life, I mean the life of the spirit, not simply of physical conditions, but the thing that is life for man, namely the spiritual adventure.  He comes and is the awakener; and if you close your mind to that awakener, he may not come back again.  You can lose it.  I think there are many myths, many epic stories, of the awakening which then passes and you can't even think what it was.  
"Another aspect of the vision quest is the encounter of demons.  Our demons are our own limitations, which shut us off from the realization of the ubiquity of the spirit.  And as each of these demons is conquered in a vision quest, the consciousness of the quester is enlarged, and more of the world is encompassed.  Basically the vision quest involves getting past your own limitations, which are within even as they appear to be without.  They are symbolized in myth as monsters and demons, and in each age the characteristics change; because as a people changes, so do its limitations.  
"myths -- that is to say, religious recitations [are] conceived as symbolic of the play of eternity in time.  These are rehearsed not for diversion, but for the spiritual welfare of the individual or community."
"Chaos, the word, appears for...."the first time in Hesiod's Theogony, one of the roots of Greek mythology and religion. It was the source text for Orphism, which was the the most important religion of ancient Greece. Chaos was not just another word in Hesiod's Theogony, but one of three basic principles, three abstract principles - Chaos, Gaia, and Eros - out of which everything else was created, step by step, in the creation myth of Greek mythology." more


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Last Update: 11 OCT 2005
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