8:07 AM Posted by James Owens

Misera sors hominis cum hoc perdidit ad quod factus est. What a miserable fate is man’s, since he has lost that for which he was made.
--Saint Anselm, Proslogion.

The myths of Orpheus and Eurydike and Adam and Eve in the Garden are similar to a deep structural level. Both are about loss. But not a historical loss, i.e., loss of something that might conceivably be recovered outside of myth. Both stories are about loss as perpetual existential state, the past figured as a happy unity (with God and Eve, with Eurydike), the present as brokenness and separation, the irreparable sense that something essential is missing now.

In both, the unity is broken by a serpent’s attack on the woman. (Who isn’t a woman, really; no silly reading about patriarchal degradation of the feminine --- Eve / Eurydike is a personified absence, a cipher for the _________ that is missing.)

Is not Orpheus’s musical power over the trees and animals the exact equivalent of Adam’s naming of them, making nature accessible through language? And, even though the naming of the animals happens before the Fall, is not language (and poetry and music) an attempt (doomed to be forever partial) at regaining something of that lost or virtual felicity?

These are, I know, ancient commonplaces of interpretation, but it is what's in my head today -- in my head, in some form, most days.



Roxana said...

oh I need time to go through all this, and that special mood for poetry, one can't read a poem as one reads the newspaper... for now I just wanted to say I'm happy I discovered your blog, and that Rilke's Eurydike is one of my favourite poems ever.