Monday, May 21, 2007

Virgil's Orpheus

I started a project late last year around Orpheus and Eurydice, perhaps because, having just hit 45, the theme of not looking back had taken on a certain attraction if not urgency. However, without a commission in hand, it has been more open-ended research than finished product and often seemed to be going nowheres faster than somewheres.

However, Patrick Swanson came to my rescue and sent me into Virgil's Georgics, that astonishing poem on farming, work, the universe and everything else (Douglas Leedy put it this way: "I'm in there, and you are, too."). Following Patrick's invitation, I quickly set a small passage from Book 1, in part a response to the bellicosity of the present regime in Washington and perhaps some other small songs will follow.

The Georgics, of course, has its own version of Orpheus and Eurydice in Book IV (yes, the book with the bees):
ipse cava solans aegrum testudine amorem
te, dulcis coniunx, te solo in litore secum,
te veniente die, te decedente canebit.
These are lines about singing that ought to be sung; suddenly, the outlines of my older project have taken on a substantial form.

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