When Orpheus’ music persuaded the gods
to restore his beloved Eurydice to life
they imposed strict conditions on him
for her return to earth.  He was forbidden
to look at her or speak to her at all
as they made their journey upward
from Hades to the life-giving sunlight.

Alas, nobody told Eurydice.
And so as they made their way
back through the halls of the dead
and up from deep under ground
she wondered and questioned aloud
why Orpheus, if he really loved her,
would neither look at her nor speak.

Her questions and complaints
took an increasing toll on Orpheus
until finally, as they neared the surface,
he yielded both to her entreaties
and his own need for reassurance,
turned, and glanced at Eurydice.
It was his last sight of his beloved.

Eurydice was immediately cast back
into the realms of Hades and the dead,
there to remain forever.  And Orpheus
flung himself on the ground in despair,
cursing his weakness for having disobeyed.
the gods’ command.  He sought to die
that he might join the one he loved.

Pity poor Orpheus, for he forgot
that he could use his priceless gifts
to outwit the gods and regain his bride.
If he had made a song praising the gods
for restoring Eurydice to him,
and lamenting the conditions they imposed,
perhaps she would have understood.

Some of the gods would have been angry
at such a blatant subversion of their will,
but I think Apollo would have been amused
and assuaged the wrath of his fellow deities.
And Orpheus and Eurydice, restored to life,
might have wound up on Mount Olympus,
singing to heaven and earth, and to us, still.

Copyright 2009 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf

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