By Khoa Ngo
Published by Khoa Ngo at Shakespir
Copyright © 2017 by Khoa Ngo
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III. The Wedding
IV. The Shore of Acheron
V. Cerberus and the Asphodel Meadows
VI. Escape from the Underworld
VII. The Death of Orpheus
How’d one in full define what Love (1) entails
An entity as old as Mother Earth,
A light born of the Night in Darkness’s veil,
From which Life vibrant which to all gives birth?
It asks for much: to love, be loved in turn,
It yearns for much: to give and take in part,
It staunchly pleads: to trust so trust one’d earn,
A simple truth: To bare one’s soul and heart.
Yet while light shines, it, too, can one misguide,
Cast in one’s mind dark shadows lurking deep:
Cursed lack of faith which doomed the hapless Psyche (2),
Or Orpheus for fatal loss did weep.
O Love, profound is that which bears this name,
To one’s existence, either balm or bane.
Ones who are blessed often the Fates oppress,
For gifts endowed, one braves a life of pain,
To Fortune’s judgment, tragedies attest (3):
A talent born could but bereavement gain.
O Muses, let your song once more be heard,
In chorus sing the timeless tale renown’d,
Whose haunting echoes vibrate still on Earth,
For Orpheus, let tragic notes resound.
Son to Oeagrus (4) and a charming Muse,
Whose lips breathed verses as trained hands wove tunes,
Whose lyre once stroked could hardest of hearts move,
To mankind gifted songs and countless boons.
A Thracian royal blood from Pimpleia,
By Calliope and Apollo taught
Arts which at Sirenum scopuli ‘far (5)
To helpless heroes sweet salvation brought.
Yet Orpheus, immortal through his flair,
Was more well-known for tragic romance told
Of tragic unions with Eurydice fair,
Whom he twice lost – to venom and breached oath.
III. The Wedding
Fair Orpheus through music charmed all things,
Inanimate ones and the sentient souls,
With songs from parted lips and well strummed strings,
He’d move the rocks and twist the rivers’ flows.
None could resist the spell his songs brought forth,
Thus swarm, like bees to fragrant bloom, to him,
Yet none alive could make him swear his troth,
But Eurydice, the lovely oak-bound nymph.
‘Twas inner thunder through the heart which struck,
A bond by Eros’ power had them bound,
A god-blest union, lovers joined by luck,
From Hymen’s lips, though, om’nous words resound’d. (6)
With somber features came the nuptial god,
Within whose torch no blazing fire burnt,
And he, in regal saffron garment shod,
Spoke what he from the hissing smoke had learnt.
“Two stars whose courses with the other cross
Each one a rad’ance through the Heaven high,
Though bright at first, with impact shall come loss,
With one in shadows trapped and one in light.”
Delight was on each bright expression paint’d,
With songs and dance which filled the shaken air,
Yet too soon came the outcome preordain’d,
A flick’ring star soon slowly lost its flare.
The jovial days had lastly reached their end,
Yet love in bosoms burnt with flames still fresh,
The gathered left and they then homebound went,
With stars alight in eyes of newly-weds.
But woe would strike at his most happy time,
Like sudden razor tearing bond apart,
A consequence was birthed from passion’s crime
And merriment would end in broken heart.
Bee-keeper Aristaeus (7), moved by lust,
Sent Eurydice from safety’s ward away,
And in her haste, she met demise unjust
By viper’s fangs on careless heel – Dismay!
O callous Fates that severed knot just tied,
By Hymen’s words, one star had lost its glow,
And groom – o groom whose heart grief now confined –
Could but face his loss and incessant woe.
His melodies, once bright and filled with life,
Bled notes, each one a haunting cry exclaim’d,
Heartrending tears from nymphs and gods alike
Mourned one who lived and one whom Hades claim’d.
A notion, sudden as Jove’s fickle roar,
Passed through the groom and cleared his muddled head,
With grim, determined eyes unseen before,
“I’ll free her from the Underworld!” he said.
“Apollo’s teachings of the lyre I’ll use
To thaw chthonic ones’ cold hardened hearts,
And verbal charm passed down from mother Muse
Its spell on Kore (8) and Hades so imparts.
Hence Eurydice, o Eurydice, my dear,
Await my entrance to the shadowed depth,
I’ll bring you from the Nether Realm back here,
Release you from the Field where you are kept.”
The gathered gods in sympathy helped him,
Instructions to the entrance they’d disclose,
He’d thus begin his quest for luckless nymph,
And for the feared chthonic gods’ abode.
IV. The Shore of Acheron
In solitude he’d go with lyre alone,
And with his songs to Hades’ hidden door,
Descend into the realm the dead call home,
Whose soils none but great heroes walked before.
At shore of Acheron where gathered shades,
Where newly dead awaited Charon’s boat,
He’d view the waters brimming with dismays,
And spot the distant ferry near the coast.
‘Fore Charon, born of Erebus and Night,
A haggard miser draped in garment foul,
With eyes of furnaces alit with might,
Stood Orpheus whose aim was said aloud.
“I beg, eternal boatman, for one ride,
I’m searching for one who’s unjustly lost,
Thus beg you’ll bring me to the other side,
For shattered heart can’t bear more sorrows wrought.”
A hateful scowl would twist old ghastly face,
With heated eyes aflame with anger born,
For many times in Charon’s endless fate,
He’d heard this same demand out of the norm.
“You don’t belong here, one whom Death’s yet claimed,
Thus nether sights your mortal eyes shan’t meet,”
Wild beard shook as the irate god exclaimed,
“Hence, back to whence the sun glows, guide your feet!”
The bard would not with Eurydice unfound,
No more he spoke; skilled fingers stroked the strings,
All wand’ring shades grew silent, gathered round,
As streams escaped the orbs of lifeless things.
And livid spawn of Nyx with heart of stone
Was moved to tears by tunes skilled fingers wove,
With notes sweet chanted and the lyre alone,
He’d charmed the god with his own grievous love.
The concert ended, much too quickly passed,
Each gathered ghost bore then a longing wrought,
And Charon, broken from his trance at last,
Had Orpheus across the waters brought.
Upon the muddy currents, he’d then ride,
By willing charity of which none heard,
His mind bore thoughts of only Eurydice,
As deeper went he in the Underworld.
Old Charon, once his oar had rested, said,
“O daring bard, revered in lands above,
You’ve won respect from me and from the dead,
A feat achieved by your undying Love.
But know that charity I shan’t give twice,
Nor should you hope for such from my Lordship,
To sway him and his Queen you could but strive.
May Fortune favor foolish one in this.”
The boatman, like the ghostly moon midst clouds,
Was gone from sight to muddy shore afar,
Then Orpheus, to realm darkness abounds,
Filled with determination would depart.
V. Cerberus and the Asphodel Meadows
The Underworld has long the minds intrigued,
With wonders hidden deep in darkness’ veil,
Where creatures dwell within the shades discreet,
And marvels countless have strived to unveil.
The Styx which binds the oath of godly breath,
Round Hades seven times it goes,
Divides the worlds of Life and after Death,
And carries hatred in its dismal flows.
Lamenting waters stem from Stygian bed,
From which eternal murmurs echo round,
The cold Cocytus’ wailing currents spread
Where Stygian lake and shadowed rocks are found.
The Lethe through Hypnos’ dwelling slowly rolls,
Whose waters whisper spells of drowsiness,
Consumed, they wipe the minds of earthbound souls
For one’s rebirth or for obliv’on blest.
And in the kingdom void of hope and light,
The flaming Phlegethon roars, rushing down
Towards Tartarus’ depths of endless night,
Where Time (9) turns timeless; sinners in pain drown.
Within the shadows dwell the ageless gods:
Hecate (10) of the crossroads, mystic moon,
Thanatos, Hypnos–twins of conscious loss, (11)
Erebus, Nyx, and terrors from her womb.
The wicked nether fiends here never rest,
The Gorgons wailed and Harpies shrieked and dined,
Where nameless souls are cut off from the blest,
Asphodel Fields (12) had neutral ones confined.
‘Twas there the hero must next guide his feet,
To realm where naught but nothingness is found,
And at the Meadows’ Stygian Gate, he’d meet
Echidna’s blood–Hell’s awe-inspiring Hound (13).
Feared Cerberus, more dreadful than what’s told,
With triple heads, three nightmares all made real,
Abyssal orbs within burnt powers old,
Malicious fangs to none but one did yield.
Within its shadow, Orpheus was drown’d,
A mass unsightly dwarfed the mortal man,
A rumble thunder-like each throat resound’d,
Which unto hearts dealt fear few could withstand.
Yet Orpheus, whose grief outweighed whose fear,
With eyes like sun-blest arrows true released,
Would stand his ground as hellish jaws loomed near,
With voice and lyre as shields against the beast.
A mellow song streamed forth from god-graced lips,
Its melody a gentle lullaby,
Soft as the Lethe’s obliv’ous hypnosis,
It cast repose upon each fiendish eye.
Thus Typhon’s spawn, with efforts made for naught,
Could not resist the charm of peaceful notes,
Upon unsteady knees, the beast was brought,
With malice gone and strength it’d no more boast.
Thus without harm the bard would onward tread,
With footing steady for what’s yet to come,
For trials lurking in the flow’ry bed
Of Asphodel; his journey was yet done.
The field spread out, void of o’erhanging stone,
Strange pallid blooms and witless shades he’d see,
An ash-gray heaven formed a timeless dome
Where neutral ghosts reap ceaseless lethargy.
To onward move here meant to oneself lose,
If one away from destined path so strays,
To where the inner Hall of Judgment stood,
He’d walk while singing for the flitting shades.
The voiceless, nameless shadows flitt’d about,
Surround’d him as the moths round lamplight swarm,
Although from lips unused, no words came out,
They felt with clarity the lyrist’s charm.
Along the single path they’d lead the bard,
Across the Field whose flowers towards him bent,
From fragrant spells, his wits was left unmarr’d,
One whose heart Eros guided onward went.
Unscathed, he’d lastly reach the Judgment Hall,
Impressive in its ageless majesty,
Where shades await’d their verdict to be call’d,
By kings once mortal with supreme decree.
Upon the eastside throne of onyx wrought
Sat Rhadamanthus, judge of eastern shades,
With features harsh and eyes which showed no thought,
Garbed by a regal robe from shadows shaped.
Upon the westside throne of iv’ry made,
Sat Aeacus, grandsire of Troy’s bane, (14)
The bearer of the Nether Keys, the sage,
Who’d over western shades severely reign.
Between them seated Minos (15), king of Crete,
Who on his blood-hue throne command’d the court,
A mountain to infer’or shades beneath,
Whose casting vote ceased every brought discord.
“Your majesties,” said Orpheus aloud,
“A moment of your time is all I ask,
Please tell this love-led fool where your Lord’s found
Within Erebus’ mystifying mask.
Please guide haunted soul to Hades’ place,
So he may once more find whom he has lost,
Have sympathy, esteemed ones, hear my case,
I now implore you, Judges, spurn me not.”
A second passed where all noise turned to naught,
As breathless silence weighed down every soul,
Until a thund’rous roar above was wrought
The Cretan King’s orbs flashed a wrathful glow.
“What insolence has left your lips uncheck’d?
Though born to royal and the godly line,
Before the Stygian Lord, you’re but a speck,
Thus have no right to glimpse at one divine.
Your loosen’d lips, I’ll pardon just this time,
At once,” king Minos cried, “To whence you came
Return! To Thrace and her translucent clime,
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